Hockey Night in Vancouver features mental health and why we need to care about it.

It was a terrible loss for the Canucks on January 25 but a victory for mental health awareness. The between period breaks featured an interview with Trevor Linden, current players and mental health organizations. The main message was “Reach out! You are not a burden to society, you don’t need to be “tough guy”. Hard times are not worth losing your life over.”

I don’t want to make light of this but it was rather ironic and perhaps very timely to be speaking about depression and how to process it at such a disappointing hockey game.

In a culture where players are bought, sold and traded, pushed hard and given too much money; where coaches are frequently hired and fired; where the lights are bright, the beer flows and the fans scream, I am glad that the need for mental health awareness and care is emerging to the surface.

It is highly doubtful that any young NHL player expects to or imagines struggling with mental illness or desiring to take their life.

I didn’t expect that either. Some of my friends had mental illness, some of my clients, not me.

The reality is that stressful situations, life changes good and bad, environmental factors (physical, spiritual, social) affect our brains.

I used to think that resilience meant I could push through anything without being affected. Just smile or grunt and push through. I could give out without being replenished or so I thought. I could say yes and never say no. Sometimes burnout scare can push me to to be afraid of serving or giving which isn’t helpful either. A river has its source and its output.

It took me spending 2+ months in the mental health unit to learn this. For the first time in my life I didn’t have to do anything other than live. I didn’t have to smile, sing, write or share. I didn’t have to impress anyone. And it was safe to admit “I am not doing well.” “Living is really painful.” In that place a beautiful community emerged. Community so beautiful that I didn’t want to leave and later made a few attempts to be readmitted.

Why was it beautiful? Because it was normal that we were broken. I ended up singing and writing and sharing and blessing others because I could, not because I had to. (And there wasn’t much else to do other than play Vancouver-opoly, which was really fun).

I couldn’t stay at the hospital forever. I have fond memories. I received much from the staff and co-patients and now I want to “go and do likewise”.

If you don’t feel like you “fit in”; If your brain spits out really bizarre thoughts; If you find it hard really to like yourself sometimes; If your stories of pain are shouting louder than your successes; If you beat the Kings with 4 goals in one period and then two days later gave the game away (sigh); know that you are loved and yo are in good company.

Yes, even you Canucks.

Your brain, your mind, body and spirit are absolutely astonishing and beautiful and incredible. Fearfully and wonderfully made, knit together in your mother’s womb (Psalm 139).

I am starting to enjoy my quirks and am giving up the idea of fitting in or trying to live up to everyone’s expectations.

My mental struggle is being terrified of doing the “wrong thing”, overthinking, and becoming paralyzed. My mind goes into such a frantic tailspin that I become exhausted and don’t want to do anything.

In my last post I shared a hard story where I seriously doubted the goodness of God. “Trusting in the Lord with all of my heart and leaning not on my own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5-6) does not come easily.

Making a good pros and cons list and moving forward with my best judgement in unity with my husband in the midst of inevitable unknowns is not easy either.

So for me mental health looks like doing both of those things: planning, researching, using wisdom and trusting beyond the limits of my wisdom. Ie. starting to try for pregnancy now, realizing that minor day surgery can be done with a baby, and pregnancy usually doesn’t come with the first try. And knowing that God’s timing is perfect.

I feel great liberation and joy to be able to fully embrace my maternal instinct and desires. I feel joy in seeing Forest get excited about being a dad. I look forward to writing a “baby post” sometime hopefully soon. But there are also the nagging fears and still waiting.

Mental health for me in this situation looks like being honest about the emotional ups and downs, hopes and fears, possible scenarios, receiving support from community, receiving Divine love and peace and…. breathing. Happy Friday everyone.

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