Getting the kids out the door to school and myself off to work is rarely smooth, but this particular day I really had my act together. I had exercised, showered, and dressed. I had packed healthy lunches. I had filled the crockpot with the appropriate ingredients to come home to the aroma of a dinner that was ready to serve. I had called the orthodontist to make an after school appointment to address the wire that was poking somebody, “Mom, I have to get this fixed today!” I wrote the required school notes indicating that the children would be picked up for a doctor’s appointment instead of riding the bus home as usual. Since visiting the orthodontist would make dinner an even tighter squeeze before baseball practice, I had pokey-wire child set the table for dinner. Yes, all these things accomplished and now the dinner table was set before school…I could hardly believe how efficient I was!
So it’s almost time to leave and I bring my stressed, but proud, self to the bathroom for one last check in the mirror, only to find my youngest daughter digging through the hamper full of dirty clothes. “Um, what are you doing?” was the only logical question. To which she replied, “Oh, I’m just getting some socks for school.” Laundry…that’s what I forgot!
Ugh! Why do I feel like I have to juggle as much as humanly possible? Would my husband and children have survived if I had served cold cereal for dinner? What if I had said the orthodontist appointment had to wait one more day? Or decided it would be okay to arrive a little late (gasp!) for baseball practice?
This scene unfolded eight or nine years ago so I make these observations with a bit of hindsight. The hard reality is that I continued to live in constant overdrive for years without recognizing the symptoms that were creeping into my everyday life until acute anxiety and panic attacks brought my world crashing down. Am I saying that living at a frenetic pace caused a mental illness? No. Low serotonin levels are the culprit there. What I am saying is that I was going too fast to recognize the symptoms before the situation was dire.
“If you are walking in darkness, without a ray of light, trust in the Lord and rely on your God.” Isaiah 50:10
I definitely relied on God during this dark time. The Lord met me in many intimate moments, provided me with a supportive husband, understanding family and friends, resources for treatment, and (thankfully) medication. Yes, mental illness sometimes requires medication and this is one of the ways my God chose to help me. There were many aspects to learning how to manage this illness, and over time the Lord has guided me through each step and continues to do so. In addition to correcting the chemical imbalance with medication, I needed to form healthy habits similar to the way someone with high cholesterol may need to watch her diet in addition to relying on medication. For me, one of those healthy habits involves not over-scheduling my life and my family’s life. This was really hard to come to terms with, especially when I saw women all around me “doing” so much! If I wanted to stay healthy I had to admit that I just couldn’t. Keep. Up. I don’t think any woman wants to acknowledge that.
As I struggled with this idea and worked to establish a new pace in our lives, God changed my heart and my way of thinking through the powerful devotional book “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young when I read this: “Do not compare yourself with others, who seem to skip along their life-paths with ease. Their journeys have been different from yours, and I have gifted them with abundant energy. I have gifted you with fragility, providing opportunities for your spirit to blossom in My Presence. Accept this gift as a sacred treasure; delicate, yet glowing with brilliant Light. Rather than struggling to disguise or deny your weakness, allow Me to bless you richly through it.”
And bless me, He has.
“I love the Lord, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy. “ Psalm 116:1
For more on the struggles with our thought life and mental health issues, check out the eight part series entitled ‘Captive‘ based on 2 Corinthians 10:4-5
Cindy is a blog contributor and board member at Study With Friends Ministries. She is married with three children. For more on the Study With Friends Bible Studies, click here.