Mental Health Awareness Month: Room For Healing

Photo of Lacey Sturm, text reads Room for Healing Mental Health Awareness Month

Content Warning: Topics including suicide, anxiety and depression

GFM bassist and vocalist CJ English started a trend on social media, challenging people to share their testimony. I was challenged to share my story by Jessica Walker, a fellow contributor for Rock On Purpose.

I have been sitting on it for a couple of months, mainly because I have been avoiding posting anything on social media. I have gone weeks at a time without even scrolling through Facebook posts, I haven’t been on Instagram in 3+ months and I am pretty sure I’m not missing out by not being active on socials.

All that to say, I think it’s important to share our stories (and not necessarily only about faith) because we are all works in progress, and our stories are being written as we speak. As Lacey Sturm says, “If you wake up today, it’s on purpose, it’s a gift.”

I am going to share my story from this past year, which is a continuation of what I shared nearly four years ago.

2021 and 2022 have seen their share of spirals, peaks and valleys

This year has been, as my mental health coach likes to say, a gnarly roller coaster ride of a year. In particular, I want to reflect back on how music has been integral throughout this year.

August 21, 2021 is really when this gnarly roller coaster ride left the station. That day was the first day that I felt hyper-focused and really stuck, unable to even concentrate on the fact that my wife and I were celebrating our anniversary. At that time I was completely locked in and ruminating on one specific thought. Rumination on one specific subject tends to lead to a spiral and thought trap. The more focused you are on it, the more it spirals and the harder it is to move forward.

Throughout the course of that weekend, my wife was so patient with me and helped me to see things more clearly and snap out of the cycle. She also encouraged me to get connected with a psychiatrist to talk about medication. I’ve learned that our bodies and brains are science in motion, and sometimes chemical imbalance requires medication to resolve.

The day that I was going to meet with a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner for the first time, I hit what felt like rock bottom. I still vividly remember that September afternoon, paralyzed lying on the living room floor, a hot mess. I made it to the appointment to begin the first step in recovery.

As I battled dark thoughts and continued thought cycles, I was listening to quite a bit of Skillet to get me through and keep me from falling into a deeper pit. “Not Gonna Die,” especially the music video, was really speaking to my situation as I felt worthless at times and on the brink of a panic attack last fall.

Fast forward to November of 2021. One of my best friends from my hometown passed away right before Thanksgiving. I had been questioning everything about my faith since 2020 because of how people were so bitter towards one another about nearly everything on social media. My cousin told me about Annihilationism, which is one of the three Christian beliefs about afterlife.

Challenging my core beliefs required some digging into the history of the church all the way back to the 1st century church. I studied the early church and their Universalism belief that all creation will ultimately have an opportunity to see God clearly and repent. A lot of those manuscripts and studies were destroyed in fires. I am still undecided what that looks like. My family and I continue to attend a local church, and I have an open mind about the possibilities that whatever we think, is “Infinite.”

In January 2022, I began work with a therapist and a mental health coach in an app called Sanvello. I’ve been to counseling before, but I’ve never had a coach to interact with on a regular basis, and I’ve never had comprehensive care with CBT techniques being applied and practiced each day. I experienced a period of growth during an intensive 8 week therapy regimine. I was also able to reconnect to my purpose and reason for being here. Lacey Sturm’s “The Reason” includes a line that has stuck with me.

And there were times I’d cry myself to sleep at night
Only to wake up (wake up) wishing that I didn’t
.”

Those two lines in that song feel incredibly heavy, and if the song is paused there it would be a solemn song. Instead, it is an uplifting song declaring that there is purpose for each new day.

After my counseling with Sanvello came to a conclusion, I was able to connect with a local therapist for ongoing care, continuing my coaching and adjusting and tweaking my medication.

For a time, I felt like I had turned a corner. That is when I learned how quickly a flesh wound can be opened up by not giving the right time to heal into a scar.

In April and early May, I made some choices that created significant challenges and severe depression and anxiety in my life. During the few weeks that I was feeling incredibly low, I occasionally had passive suicidal thoughts, to the point of having at least an idea on what I was going to do. My family and idea of what it would feel like for them if I was gone kept me from making specific plans. Having a therapist and a coach to turn to definitely helped as well.

Green Day and Linkin Park were added to my life soundtrack.

In “Boulevard of Broken Dreams,” Green Day declares that “I walk a lonely road, the only one that I have ever known.” The chorus explains that “My shadow’s the only one that walks beside me / my shallow heart’s the only thing that’s beating.” Along with “Basket Case,” these words summed up how I was feeling in that moment incredibly well.

Linkin Park “Numb”

At times, I simply didn’t want to feel anything. I wanted to curl up and hide myself away from reality.

Instead of staying under a dark cloud, I have increased my counseling to twice a week and honed my focus on self care. As I was able to process this grief I was experiencing, I was able to see a wider perspective that framed my perception. GFM has a really powerful video out for their song called “Framing My Perception.” That video added so much depth and meaning for me.

Another song that I’ve been clinging to during this healing process is Ledger, “My Arms.” I mentioned flesh wounds above, and her lyrics here are so incredibly meaningful in that context.

When did the scars over your heart
Become your hiding place?
When did the stars become so dark
You couldn’t find your way?

I share this story to raise awareness about mental health. If you or someone you know is in need, seek out a therapist and find an app that guides you along the way. If you’re in crisis, call the suicide prevention hotline. You can learn more about this at suicidepreventionlifeline.org. I have the suicide prevention hotline in my contacts on my phone. Calling that is part of my safety plan if no one else in my circle of support is available or if I’m at serious risk of self-harm.

I recognize and have more clarity that each day is a gift, and I’m lucky to be alive. My story is still being written, and while there are chapters in my story that will include hard plot twists, there are also chapters of victories and good times.

The most important takeaway that I hope you’ve heard in this space is that there are others who are navigating really gnarly mental health challenges. Remember, You’re Not Alone.”

If you or someone you know is in need of support, you can visit twloha.com/find-help to discover support in your area custom-tailored to your needs. If you are having suicidal thoughts or simply need someone to talk to, you can call the suicide prevention lifeline at 800-273-8255, or chat online at suicidepreventionlifeline.org/talk-to-someone-now.

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