These last few weeks have been particularly trying for me as I have been wrestling with some mental health challenges. I have found myself feeling overwhelmed with feelings of sadness, helplessness and despair. They strike without warning and can last for anywhere between an hour or a whole day.
My worst day so far, was yesterday. I found myself feeling very bleak and lost, to the point of tears. I pushed myself to work on activities that have, in the past, brought more equilibrium to my mindset, but they had limited impact. I began to feel that there would be nothing to help pick me up out of this particular black cloud. Hope-less was the best description of this situation.
And then my daughter asked if I could help her with something.
Hannah decided a few weeks ago that she would like to sew a skirt. She has made one before with my help some years ago and we have been working on this new project on and off for a week or two. This particular project has meant that we have had to tackle pleats, pockets, a zip and a waistband.
While I am not a sewing expert, I have made a number of projects over the years, and together we have been able to navigate the construction of this skirt so far. Hannah, however, is not yet confident enough to try to work out the process solo. When she asked if I could assist her yesterday it was the absolute last thing I felt like doing. I only wanted to sit and wallow in the overwhelming negativity I was feeling, believing that was the limit of my capacity for the day.
But my maternal instinct kicked in and I opted to sit with her and offer what assistance I could in her sewing endeavours, and something amazing happened. For the first time all day I found myself feeling lighter and brighter. We laughed together and enjoyed the opportunity to create even if only for 45 minutes.
The contrast between what I had been feeling, and what was now going on for me was significant, to the point where I wanted to know what might have been driving that. I took the time to reflect and assess and I believe I have landed on the answer for me.
You see, by choosing to help Hannah with her sewing project I was given the opportunity to take my focus away from my own situation. My perspective was shifted to the needs of another and it made a significant impact on my mental health.
Straight away I am reminded of one of my favourite verses, Psalm 3 verse 3 which speaks of God being the ‘lifter of my head’. The picture this phrase calls to mind speaks to the contrast I am currently experiencing. When I am able to take my eyes off my feelings of helplessness, and discover I can be helpful to another was enough to lift my spirits, even if only momentarily. That was enough to recognise that there is hope around, even if I can’t quite grasp it yet.
God has the capacity to shift my perspective, but just as with my decision to help Hannah, I need to make the choice to engage with the possibility that He wants to help me see a broader experience. It is way too easy to stay put in my negative emotions which are familiar and present, rather than perceived effort which may or may not bring any reward.
I know I am not quite out of the woods yet, but I feel I have found one of the keys that could help me moving forwards. Helping others can help me ‘lift my head’ and enjoy the blessings that God wants me to recognise.
May you be blessed also.