Saturday, April 29, 2017

In Suffering, Hope

“What do you do when you have anxiety and depression?” she asked. I’ve heard this question many times before but this time I was especially touched. I had just concluded a presentation on mental health and wellness for about 90 students at an area high school this past Monday. The student appeared to be very fragile; almost like a piece of porcelain,that if mishandled, would immediately shatter.

“How long have you been experiencing this?” I responded.

“I’ve had it for 18 years,” she replied. “Hmmmm,” I thought. She did not appear to be any more than 17 (or 18 at the very least). I surmised that what she was trying to say was that she has lived with this condition most her life.

“Are you seeing someone for this?” I asked.

“Yes,” she replied, “I have a therapist and a psychiatrist.”

“Good,” I said, “That’s very important.”

At this point I was trying to find something to share with her to help her; you know, the typical things like exercise, mindfulness meditation, relaxation techniques, deep breathing, and so forth.

“I’m sorry but she has to catch her bus,” a teacher said. And that was it. She walked away.

I recall how the student looked: concerned, and simply just sad. I felt so bad for her. This isn’t the first time I’ve encountered a young person who is looking for answers to a question that so often does not have a simple answer. In fact, one out of 4 youth between the ages of 13-18 lives with a diagnosable mental health condition. Each time I try my best to offer a word of encouragement and inject a sense of hope into the conversation. But try as I might, I often feel like I fall short of being able to provide the youth with what they are truly looking for: a sense of relief and the knowledge that they are going to be okay. For someone so young to be living with any kind of mental health condition, life is filled with uncertainty. “Will I be like this all my life?” “Why do I have to take this medication?” as well the feeling that this battle is theirs alone and that no one truly understands their condition.

I know this feeling all too well because I was once that person too. But one thing that I had that some young people lack is a sense of a Power greater than themselves. For me, this was God. Now, I’m not so naïve to think that it was God alone that has helped me in my recovery. There have been many elements: family, friends, support groups, therapists, psychiatrists, exercise, and other self-care activities.

I’ve learned both from my own personal experience, as well as from others, that recovery is very personal. And what works for one, may not work for another. But there are certainly many common elements. In the end, once someone finds what works it’s imperative that they stick to this, as long as it continues to provide positive results. Mind you, changes happen and adjustments may be needed. This is often the case, especially over time.

When I met the young woman at the high school, I wanted more than anything to tell her that things were going to be okay. I know that this is what Christ would say to her. For this is the message that was given to so many he encountered in his short life. While he never promised that things would be easy, he did provide his followers with a sense of hope for an existence that would be better than the one they currently had.

Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

You see, Christ is a source of never ending hope. Hope for a better life. Hope for relief. Hope for the knowledge that things are going to be okay.

I so want to let the young woman I met know that things can get better. Not that things would necessarily be easy, but that with the proper care, support, and measure of work, her condition can improve.

As she suffers, Christ shares in her suffering. For it is through her lived experience that a better life is possible. It is my sincere hope that she finds relief from her suffering. She deserves nothing less. 

Photo Credit - coming

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