PLEASE NOTE: I will be sharing six or eight excerpts from various parts of the book. I Will not Hide awaits editing and publishing.

A VISION FOR FAITH-BASED SUPPORT IS BORN 

In 2005 I was attending a group support meeting at the Mood Disorders Association of BC. (MDA). My turn came to talk about what best helped me cope. And I wondered to myself, were the fifteen in this room going to be embarrassed if I told them how much God means to me?

But how could I not? God is more important than anything to me.

And yet…I didn’t like making people feel uncomfortable either. It was then that I realized something different was needed. Christians need to have a place of their own where they can talk about both—the difficulties of living with mental illness as well as the importance of their faith.

For too long people with mental illness had been misunderstood by the church. Denied the kind of support that would be helpful. Individuals with mental disorders were often blamed, told that their suffering was their own fault. Told they had allowed themselves to wander too far from God.

Those who lived with mental health issues were missing the kind of spiritual care they needed. Care that would help them accept their disability as a natural part of their make-up. Care that would help them seek comfort and encouragement from their faith. They needed a message of assurance that God would walk with them through their ups and downs. They needed others like themselves to join them on their journey. To know they weren’t alone.

I felt God’s gentle but firm hand push me to make a faith-based approach to mental health care happen. He was to lead me to start a group for individuals who, like me, needed God as part of their wellness plan.

I never dreamed I would do anything like this. I hadn’t even managed to have a job! Nevertheless, I heard God’s unmistakable call and I was determined to obey. How could I not?

As I worked towards making Christian peer support a reality, I frequently doubted myself. “Who am I anyway doing something this big?” I had never heard of faith-based groups addressing mental health problems. This was a brand-new thing I was undertaking. Where do I start?

I became a pioneer, traveling unknown territory. With God my only guide.

From 1993 I’d been fighting the stigma of mental illness, mostly addressing Christian audiences. Now I would be giving direct help to those with such illnesses. I would be giving spiritual care to people who had for too long been misunderstood—even ignored—by the church. My work was expanding, no longer was I only speaking about them, I was working for them.

But it was a huge task for a person who was herself living with severe illness. Anxiety was no stranger as I prepared. How I needed God! I needed my church’s support.

I made an appointment with my pastor.

marja