Prayer is self-care
During Mental Health Awareness Week, Ordinand Ruth Greenaway-Robbins, on placement at St Fagans Aberdare explores how the U.K. lockdown is affecting us in our own individual ways, and yet the constant presence of Christ in our lives will sustain us.
Perhaps it is very timely that in the midst of a viral pandemic we find ourselves in Mental Health Awareness Week, a time when we all need to take stock of our mental wellness and those around us. Nine weeks ago none of us could have imagined how our world would change so dramatically. Like many throughout the world my life was turned upside down overnight. As COVID-19 rampaged through society many of us were already living with mental health diagnoses, some of us maintaining good mental wellness and others of us in the midst of a crisis, we were all doing our best.
I have lived with compromised mental health for many years and for the last six months I have been managing some underlying issues with my Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD). I was receiving excellent therapeutic help, fantastic medical services and invaluable support from family, friends and my college community. I was making steady progress, knowing I still had work to do but glimpsing the light at the end of a very dark tunnel.
Then like everyone else my world was turned upside down. Suddenly we were all facing images of suffering, fear and helplessness on our newsfeeds and TV screens. I sat in the midst of it paralysed by the enormity of suffering and fear. Suddenly my own mental health concerns seemed selfish and insignificant.
And one day I found myself saying:
“I’m fine, truly, I’ve nothing to complain about, people are dying and gravely ill, I don’t have problems compared to other people, everyone is suffering I need to pull myself together”.
Mark, my ever-patient husband, replied.
Just because the world is suffering right now doesn’t mean your suffering has stopped.Rev Mark Greenway-Robbins Team Rector, Benefice of Eglwysilan Caerphilly
He was right, what I was trying to do was diminish my own suffering. Just because the world was now suddenly in the midst of a pandemic didn’t mean that my own pain had suddenly stopped. So, during these intense times for our world I’m learning that I still need to attend to the contents of my mental wellness even in the midst of other people’s suffering and a global pandemic.
That it is OK, in fact it is vitally important. Because my suffering matters too.
The world has become so strange and unlike what we knew before. My Christian life was embedded with touch and physical closeness and suddenly all of this is gone. It is so painful, and unnatural. My hands long to share the peace, my body longs to receive communion, my voice longs to sing hymns with others. These touchstones were part of how I managed my mental wellness and for now they cannot be. Perhaps many of us relied more than we realised on our Christian lives fulfilled by the touch and closeness of our Christian communities and the sacraments of the church.
My self-care plan
How am I feeling?
I ask myself this every-day. It can help to tell someone. It might be a text message, a phone call, or letting someone we live know.
Each day I do something life-giving, even if I don’t feel like it. But something beyond endless scrolling on social media, something that gives me a moment of joy. I love to play the piano, walk my dogs, or take the time to acknowledge something beautiful around me.
Prayer is self-care.
Sometimes my prayer life looks like a vomit of words, feelings, fears, worry which are as chaotic as my mind. At other times the order returns and the words flow and the conversation with God is clear in all its brilliance. I am forever grateful for the daily offices of Morning and Evening prayer which I pray each day.
Exercise lifts my mood.
It reduces my anxiety and it helps me process thoughts and feelings in a safe way. Exercise has been a challenge with the restrictions on movement so I’ve adapted my regular routine to include online exercise videos and online groups.
If you wouldn’t treat you neighbour like it, why would you treat yourself like it – be kind. Remember to treat yourself with the compassion that Christ treats us with, that boundless and unwavering love.
Love your neighbour as yourself.Mark 12:31
Right now is the time to care for yourself better than you have ever done before. We need to be here at the end of this. It’s not selfish, it’s healthy and it’s because we matter.
Christ did not say, you will not be troubled; you will not be distressed. What he said was, ‘you will not be overcome’Revelations of Divine Love, Chapter 68 Mother Julian of Norwich