Step 5 – I & F… “IF”

So after a few Christian single lady rambles and a bit about living for now, I’m back into the whole ‘how to help your friend’ series. Step 5 is basically all about the word IF. So much of my time I spend worrying about what my friends think of me, or what my family think. What if they leave me? What if they don’t love me anymore? What if those horrible nightmares I’ve been having are actually going to come true? Over and over and over again, it’s just on a horrible, horrendous loop in my head. On my bad days, these IFS become realities. I phase out the truth; I phase out what my friends actually think and feel, what they actually say, what they actually do. I don’t see the glimmering light of their love for me anymore. It’s just dark, and I’m all alone.

BUT, thankfully, as I’ve said before, “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has NOT overcome it” (John 1:5). God is still good. And God provides us with a network to help us out of these horrific IF situations. Firstly, by providing people to include us, and for different things for us to include ourselves in. Look at your friendship group. Look at your family. Look at your church, look at your job, look at whatever. It could be that society you’ve joined at uni or the sports team you’ve just joined on Thursday nights. Either way, it doesn’t matter. People with any kind of mental health problem need community. Your friend needs to feel involved, they need to feel safe, and they need to feel like they matter. As selfish as it sounds, they need to feel like if they didn’t make it to that cricket match or they didn’t come to church for a few weeks that it would matter and people would be concerned. Now please, do not take this the wrong way. I am not saying that people should do this in order to get attention. Attention seeking is not a mental illness, but it is a problem. But this isn’t about that, it’s about people who are genuinely struggling with some mishmashed chemistry going on in their heads. All I’m saying is that by creating a community with your friend, it means that if they weren’t a part of the community, it wouldn’t be the same without them.

However, this is also a kind of lecture time for your friend too now. I’m only writing this because I’ve done it time and time again and I figured if I wrote it then I can read it back and make sure I’m not doing what I’m about to tell you not to do. Otherwise what kind of person would I be? I don’t want to be that blogger. ANYWAY. Anti-hypocrisy moment over. You need to include yourself in stuff too. You can’t have a community made around you, you have to be involved in the creation and upkeep of it. So my advice is, and I know how hard this is because I’ve dipped in and out of this – do not avoid your friends. I know how easy it is to pick up a text message asking you to go to the cinema and you deciding that sleeping for the rest of the day to avoid everyone and any kind of feeling seems like the better option. Well, its not. Because you end up feeling separate and like you don’t really have anyone to turn to or lean on. If your friends and your family are making the effort with you, you need to try and find the strength to make the effort back. Recovery is a two way street. You can’t do it without support, but you also can’t do it without letting yourself be supported.

This is where family comes in (see what I did there? Changed the IF to something a little more beneficial than a land of make-believe). This is also where church comes in too. If you’re not a churchgoer, KEEP READING because this is still so relevant to you and what’s going on with you at the moment. Family comes in different shapes and sizes, and in different forms. I’m well aware of how different families can be because mine is different to anybody else’s that I’ve ever met EVER. Stepbrothers and sisters coming from every direction, aunts and uncles and cousins scattered across the country – and a latest edition is my gorgeous little nephew (turning into crazy obsessive aunt but I don’t even care). Some people have a family that is made up of friends. And that is also absolutely fine. Whatever your family is, they love you. They love you, they love you, they love you. And guess what? They couldn’t be a family without you. So include yourself, and let yourself be included too, okay?

This is the churchy bit. Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians, says this:

“The way God designed our bodies is a model for understanding our lives together as a church: every part dependent on every other part, the parts we mention and the parts we don’t, the parts we see and the parts we don’t. If one part hurts, every other part is involved in the hurt, and in the healing. If one part flourishes, every other part enters into the exuberance. You are Christ’s body—that’s who you are! You must never forget this. Only as you accept your part of that body does your “part” mean anything” (1 Corinthians 12:25-27 MSG) 

Your church cannot be a church if you are not a part of it. Church is not the building, it is the people. And whether you know it, believe it, understand it or even want to think about it, you are a part of a huge family, and it couldn’t be the same without you in it. Jesus has called all of us to church, because he knows that we all have a vital part to play. For a long time I thought that my depression would hold me back from anything useful in church. Remember my post about empty worship? I thought that if I couldn’t even stand up to praise my Saviour how on earth am I going to be any use in making the church better or making it feel like home for someone else. These thoughts reoccur as I think they always will, but I’m deciding to remember now that I am part of Christ’s body, and I am meant to be a part of it. Depression or no depression. But I can’t feel like part of the family if I don’t let myself – or “accept my part” as Paul puts it.

You’re important, okay? You’re chosen, you’re loved, and you are worth it. So next time you think What IF, think What Includes Me, What am Included in; who are my Family, and which Family am I a part of? Let the worry fall away. Your life is not based on maybes or uncertainty. You are meant to be. So let yourself be.

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