Dealing with Trauma, Anxiety, and Shame

This year, for Mental Health Awareness Month we asked Disciples to respond creatively to this question: Where do you see God in your mental health journey? We received recorded songs, poems, essays, and other reflections from people across the denomination. This post has resources and content that center anxiety, trauma, and shame. To watch our intro video about this series, watch it here.

Poems by Sarah Renfro

Mental Health Part I

I used to have stomach aches
Maybe you did, too
They manifested when I was in stress
Since I have aged, I call it anxiety
Depression arrived in high school
She moved in and made a home in head and heart
And didn’t allow me to get out of bed
Or find joy
And encouraged me to make poor choices
Few understood
I heard whispers under their breaths
And straight up verbal slaps to my face
“Do something!” was a voice from within and without
The ability to fix it
Did not exist
Without help
A team of doctors, family, and friends rallied to care
Even when the darkness threatened to last forever
A light shone
A cocktail of pills that continues to be refined keeps me in a safe space
Movement is vital to my mental health
Counseling helps me to claim the brain disease with which I live
Difficult to explain to those outside of my body
Who have never experienced such pain
I am free to share and fight stigma and shame
Though I will never be rid of the rollercoaster
I know better days than bad
Thanks be
And still they show up to make their presence known
When I numb or ignore their existence
Pay attention they demand
For they are in me, part of me, who I am
An embodied, beautiful, beloved Child of God

Mental Health Part II

When I couldn’t get out of bed
To go to school
And face those who were once my friends
But were no longer
My mom diagnosed me
I had known sadness and even unspoken anxiety before
This was different
With counseling, an altered class schedule, exercise, and time, I got better

When I was repeatedly told to lose weight
I tried by almost any means available
The pointing out of my “rolls” and some gaslighting by my boyfriend
Led to lots of tears
When I couldn’t get off the floor
I was called home
With some counseling, church, eating, and exercise, I got better

When I got married (the first time)…
When I got divorced…
When I fought against injustice and lost…
When I was trying to survive and advance…

Unable to function
Finish my work
Complete my assignments
Show up or shower
Get out of the recliner
When the troops were called in
I ate and had accountability
Got help and got better

I worried about being pregnant and depressed
It was delightful
Postpartum was pain-free physically
Work was what put me over the edge
When I couldn’t be a parent and a pastor
We had to make a difficult decision
Another place, another position
Forbidden to be fully me
Fear over freedom
When I couldn’t get out of bed
We were scared
For different reasons

Networking in a fog
Seeing counselors in network
Crying at every session
Trying through my tears

A new call
Continuing to move my body
Constant CBT and companion medications

Depression subsides
Anxiety takes up residence
Shows up in the car, at night, in irritation and tone of voice
Visceral reactions
Silence exacerbates the issue
And yet
Allows for reflection

Lifetime of more and less
Mental health and illness
A state of fine-ness
In search of more

No shame
No stigma
Who I am
Made of Love
Made for Joy
Embodied, beautiful, beloved Child of God

Webinars Dealing with Trauma, Anxiety, and Shame

Mental Health, Wellness, and My Faith Journey, A Reflection by Joselyn Spence

As a holistic wellness specialist, mental health and faith have always been a major part of my life. In being asked the question, “What role does mental health and wellness play on your faith journey,” I thought of the relationship between the two. While many may see them as opposing, for me they have always been in a reciprocal relationship, working together and informing one another, in order for me to have the abundant life Jesus came for.

I define my faith journey as one of knowing God and connecting with God. I attend to my mental health and wellness by making sure I feel healthy and balanced by going to therapy, getting proper rest, exercising my physical body, reading to exercise my mind, and allowing myself to be loved and cared for by others. Attending to my mental health and wellness impacts my faith journey by allowing me to connect deeper with God. I have had some of the most powerful experiences with God while standing in tree pose on my yoga mat. I have felt a depth of the presence of God during my own past mental health challenges.

Read the full reflection here.

Additional Resources

Information on Anxiety Disorders, National Institute of Mental Health