As part of #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek I wanted to take the time to reflect on the struggles with my own mental health and what has ultimately made the difference to enable me to cope with life.
The Wilderness Years…
For over seven years I suffered from deepening depression that led me closer and closer to the edge; such dark times, oppressive, little hope, little sleep.
Within these years I became increasingly desperate to find help from somewhere, anywhere – I bought countless self-help books, hoping that the next one would provide the answer, unlock the door to finally escape the mind’s misery.
And some seemed to offer a glimmer, at first at least. I would be buoyed with enthusiasm that only desperation could fuel. Yet after a few days or weeks that early promise would begin to fade, and I would slip back, worse than ever. I turned to medication and to meditation – each offered something, but at my core I was still empty, emptier than ever.
And then one evening, in the upstairs bedroom at my parents house, where I was staying at the time due to being unable to properly care for myself, I cried out to God.
In that moment, a wave of peace swept over me. I had been brought to the brink, literally to my knees, and God had answered my desperate, tearful prayer. I was experiencing the “peace beyond understanding” that only Jesus can bring.
Finally peace. Finally lasting. Finally reality. Finally healed. Finally whole.
A New Direction…
This experience and the wilderness years that preceded it have profoundly shaped my life. I have been left with a deep, heart-felt desire to reach out to others and express myself creatively in ways that will matter.
Shortly after this experience I began volunteering with a homeless charity, Catching Lives, in Canterbury, Kent. My heart broke to see the suffering and anguish etched on so many faces.
Over 90% of all homeless clients seen by the charity have significant mental health problems.
God was leading me gently and beautifully into this new phase of my life. He had given me an empathy and heart for these people. I know, but for His grace and the loving support of my parents, I could so easily be where these desperate people found themselves.
The Harbledown Project
Shortly after work with Catching Lives I heard of a new project they were about to embark on with EU Erasmus+ funding – a writing project to help build the self-esteem of the homeless clients. The Harbledown Project was born. In 2017 the first book in the series, Harbledown Hope was published. We are currently working on the sequel, Harbledown Heal.
This work enables the homeless clients to pour out their experiences through the eyes of a young fox, Harbledown. As one commented, “Harbledown is one of us”.
It is wonderful to see lives being transformed, changed and impacted by this. It is a powerful motivator for life.
Over the last year God has led me to work with another local charity, Canterbury Christian Schools Work Trust (CCSWT) to develop a new seven-book series to improve the confidence and mental health of young children. These seven Confident Rhymers books will be shared as part of a new course designed to show children how much they are loved, unique and special. Children will be equipped to work with their worries, share their feelings, use their gifts and be good friends.
I am so excited that the skills God has given me as a writer, illustrator and publisher can be used in such worthwhile ways.
I am so grateful that God pulled me from the darkness. When I was deeply suffering in those darkest moments I could never imagine I would be where I am today, motivated by hope, love and joy.
If you are in that dark place today, I encourage you to hang in there, cry out to God. There is a hope. There is a future. And it’s eternal.