Driving through the Yorkshire Dales. Enjoying a film in the cinema. Coming back from a successful conference. Lying in someone’s arms. Stuck in a car park. Waking in the night. Watching over a poorly child.
If you’ve ever had a panic attack you probably remember exactly where you were and what you were doing at the time. Sometimes totally unexpectedly, they can happen in good times as well as in difficult times.
While the ‘what if’ thoughts rise up occasionally, thankfully mine all happened some years ago now. But I still remember them. The most uncontrollable and frightening feelings I have ever experienced. Anxiety is, as a film once put it, ‘like a bird of prey getting its claws in to you. It takes you to places you don’t want to go to.’
A panic attack is just one aspect of anxiety. When your body experiences a rush of intense mental and physical symptoms. The consequences often lead to then avoiding going somewhere for fear of having another one. Life starts to close down and the anxiety gets worse.
This week is Mental Health Awareness Week and it’s so good that attitudes towards anxiety as well as depression (which is also very common as this film describes), bi-polar disorder, psychosis, body image and other forms of mental ill health have improved considerably – especially over the last two decades. (If you want to know more about mental health conditions don’t ‘Dr Google’ it – go to where the reliable, evidence-based information is such as at NHS Choices.)
Despite those improvements, there are still difficulties for those who experience such issues, not least, alas, in some areas of the church. ‘It has…been the experience of many sufferers that the implicit message in church is that depression is “laziness”, anxiety is a “lack of trust” and that mental health problems can be resolved by greater “obedience to Christ”,’ observed Will Van Der Hart, director of The Mind and Soul Foundation. Thankfully, the church too is responding with initiatives such as the Mental Health Access Pack.
As a previous post considered, feeling anxious or depressed at certain times is perfectly normal. But it is right to be concerned when those feelings or symptoms affect our ability to function. When they affect our ability to live well.
Asking for help in such times is not a sign of failure. Although the act, or even the very thought, of seeking help can feel frightening. We may be scared of ‘what will come out’ or worried about ‘what’s wrong’ or what other people will think. But as Jo Swinney put it, ‘Depression, anxiety and mental anguish are not signs you are a bad Christian.’ Or a bad person, for that matter.
Asking for help is a sign of strength. Seek help, don’t let it get worse. Recovery is possible.
It does take time and effort, though. So, here’s some links that may be helpful…
- Tools in the Toolbox
- Time for a Good Rest
- When it all gets too much
- Success of Fulfilment?
- Time to Talk
- Listen to a talk about living well
- Avoiding Burnout – a superb blog post by Paul Ward
If you work for a church or Christian organisation, there are some free workshops to help explore what it is to live well and work well mentally – and also to help managers and supervisors support their staff team. If you don’t work for the church then get in touch with MINDFUL EMPLOYER, an NHS initiative which specialises in this area.
And why not share this post with someone you know who’s struggling? Simply send them this link: http://workrestpray.com/anxious-times