Faith, Parenting

Mental health matters

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If I had a pound for every time someone said to me ‘I’m fine, don’t worry about me, don’t make a fuss or I don’t want to be a burden’ I would be a rich woman. In our modern day society that screams ‘I can do it all, all alone’, it is deemed weak or bothersome to require help, support or assistance. We are all supposed to be able to live blissful independent lives, juggle the demands of work/family/life, breeze through deadlines and ill-health and laugh in the face of adversity. Why? Because isn’t that what everybody else does?

Mental health affects one in three people in the UK each and every year, and perhaps because it is an ‘unseen’ affliction that is rarely talked about, it can cause the sufferer to feel even more isolated and misunderstood. To avoid being judged (or avoided) individuals often learn pretty quickly to stand on their own two feet, smiling wide in a defiant display of positivity and independence that belies the turmoil rising underneath their cool calm exterior.

I have always been fiercely independent, to a fault at times, and the first time that I truly realised I could not cope without help was after the birth of my second son. I am not talking about practical help, although this is beyond valuable to new parents who are wading through sleepless nights, sore nipples and soiled nappies, I am talking about mental, emotional support from others. Five weeks in to motherhood for the second time and I found myself sitting on my bed at my mother in laws sobbing as I stared at my new baby. I knew within a matter of days after having him that something wasn’t quite right with me, but I simply kept putting it down to long days with two boys and even longer nights with a newborn.

On the outside I was my normal, bubbly self. I got up, got dressed, put on my make up and went out to face the world with a smile on your face. But on the inside I was dying, confused that I wasn’t enjoying these precious first weeks and terrified as to why. I kept going to toddler groups with my then 3 and a half year old son, nodding and smiling in all the right places as friends cooed over my newborn, when all I wanted to do was to grab someone – anyone – by the shoulders and say can you help me? can you take my boys for an hour so I can get some sleep? can you explain why I just want to run away?

It wasn’t until five months in that I was diagnosed with post natal depression. The overwhelming relief I felt at the doctors words were overshadowed by the shame and stigma that I felt at being labelled as having a mental health issue. I mean, how would I tell other people? What would my family and friends think of me, bubbly, outgoing Rachel who had been going about her normal life without so much as a word of the struggles she was facing, suddenly announcing a mental health condition? So all of a sudden I had gone from capable mom to mentally ill mess that needed medication and support? Moreover, what did I say about my faith in Jesus Christ, that I could have my world rocked so completely whilst claiming to be clinging to the rock of my salvation?

Some of these days were my darkest, yet God never left my side once. As soon as I had been diagnosed He gave me peace about taking medication to rebalance my topsy turvy hormone levels, He showed me that my mastitis and subsequent failure to produce breast milk was necessary in order for me to take the medication that would help me rekindle that spark in my soul again. And rekindle it did. But God needed something else from me, He needed me to share my struggle. He told me right from the start that I need to tell everyone who would listen about my PND, in order to raise the awareness of depression and lift the taboo of talking about it.

Over 2 years on, I am completely depression free and passionate about talking about mental health issues, especially PND. I will happily recount my tales to new and expectant moms, not to frighten them but simply to help them know that PND is not a weakness, it does not make you a bad mom, it is no respecter of age or circumstance, and it can affect ANYONE. My boys were both planned and wanted, born into a loving family with everything they could ever need. I was a positive, outgoing Christian woman, supported by an amazing husband, my family and a network of beautiful friends at my church Renewal, yet I still suffered with it.

Why would God make me go through this you may ask? I have pondered the same thing over the last two years, and then I started to notice that God was bringing many people into my life who had suffered with or were still battling a mental disorder of their own. I don’t write this to glorify me in any way, or suggest that I had any expertise in the diagnosis or treatment of mental health, but what I did have to offer those who crossed my path was empathy. What I could do was understand to some small degree how hard and how lonely it can be fighting a battle in your mind, how embarrassed and ashamed you can feel when labelled with a mental illness and how draining it can be to endure the rollercoaster ride of emotions and feelings each and every day.

I don’t pretend to have any answers. I don’t claim to have the solution to your specific problems, but what I can offer is a welcoming embrace and a friendly face. Seeking professional help is essential, but I would also urge you to seek God. He created you. He knows your innermost being and this situation you find yourself in is no surprise to Him. Just as you would consult the Haynes manual for your car, we need to consult the human handbook, the Bible. You can find peace in God’s promises in the Bible. This book has the power to transform your life and is truly the Haynes manual for every human on the planet.

You are unique, exquisite and valuable. God has a purpose and a plan for your life and He can and will work any circumstance out for good. He can make beauty out of ashes, He can give you peace in your prison and He can give you freedom in your frustration.

For I have not given you a spirit of fear, but of power and love and of a sound mind. 2 Timothy 1:7 NKJV

The battle for your mind is a real one, and so we need to make sure that we fill it with God’s word, His truth and His promises.  Paul said in Philippians;

Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies. Philippians 4:8-9 The Message

If you are battling depression or any mental illness, or know someone who is, then fear not my friend. God is with you, He has gone before you and He will bring you out of whatever situation you are facing today. Get into His word today and allow Him to shape your tomorrow.

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Faith

Time to write His story…

In my very first year as a Christian, a respected woman in my church (then Kings Community Church, Wolverhampton) prophesied over me that she saw a pen in my future. She could see me wielding a beautiful marble effect pen and she asked me if writing was something that was important to me. I replied that I had always loved writing from a very early age, penning hundreds if not thousands of poems and short stories, not to mention documenting my childhood in my much-loved diaries. However, at the time of receiving this picture from God I was a practising Veterinary Nurse with little time for writing, save for the medical notes on my patients’ hospitalisation charts. I thanked her for the prophecy, and endeavoured to make an effort to continue my personal journalling whilst quietly parking the picture and getting on with my life.

Ten years on I am now starting to fulfil the prophecy. This was quite a surprise for me, and came about after many twists and turns in my journey with God. The past ten years have brought me some of the greatest pain and greatest joy that I have ever known, and, true to form, I have chosen to share my story with you in writing.

I became a Christian in May 2006, shortly before qualifying as a Veterinary Nurse, after a painful relationship break up. Needless to say, where my first love moved out God moved in and He filled me with a love so strong, so deep and so unimaginably wide that it soothed my soul. I found that my faith in Jesus brought me into the family of Christ, the church, and I was suddenly inextricably linked to and with hundreds of like-minded people at my local church, not to mention the millions of believers worldwide. I had found a spiritual family to which I would belong forever.

Like any new Christian, my journey with God has not always been easy, as I faced overcoming nicotine addiction and some serious attitude adjustments, but I have never once felt alone or unable to cope thanks to the Holy Spirit and the network of Christian friends that God placed in my life.

Only two years after finding Jesus, I found my soul mate. David Edwards is without a doubt one of the most amazing people I have ever met, and not least because he chose to spend his life with me! His generous heart, discerning spirit and strong values bowled me over equally as hard as his dashing good looks and impressive 6’6″ stature did. I had prayed for a husband and my prayer was very specific. I love the fact that our heavenly father is so concerned with our requests that he answers them to the letter, and in my case he literally ticked every box on my prayer list, plus adding in a few bonus features such as being a Welshman.

Just two years later we were married and I was starting a new chapter in my career as well as my personal life as I left the nursing profession in favour of an administrative ‘9-5’ job working as an Executive Assistant. Suddenly I found myself immersed in reports, minutes and marketing, and as I revelled in my new role I rediscovered my passion for writing. Shortly after my first son was born in 2008 I began writing a blog. It started off as an online diary documenting my love of singing as part of the worship band at Renewal Christian Centre coupled with an interest in crafting and my adventures as a new mom. The blog has continued to evolve as I have dipped in and out of it over the years and is now in the present day format as my musings as a mom in ministry who loves Jesus and wants to share his love with anyone who will listen.

Following the birth of my second son, and after trying my hand at various self-employed ventures, a friend, Jess, from my old church in Wolverhampton (LifeSpring) happened to tweet about the fact that her editor was looking for freelance writers and would anyone be interested in the role. This was like a lightbulb moment for me. I felt my spirit leap and thought ‘I could do that, wow that would be a dream job for me.’ I replied to her tweet and she messaged me the editors details and I began writing articles for the editor the very next day! Such was my enthusiasm and eventual success, that I realised I could actually write for a living, and in 2013 my business Rachel Edwards Writes was born.

I have now been self-employed as a writer for almost two years and can honestly say I have loved every minute, writing everything from strap lines and songs through to website content and articles on subjects ranging from fragrances and forklift trucks to digital marketing and SEO. When I first began to write, my CEO (Chief Encouragement Officer) Dave said ‘You should write a book’. I scoffed and said I had a long way to go before I reached that stage in my writing career, and besides what would I write about? Writing a book takes time and energy, something that was somewhat lacking in my busy life as a mom of two boisterous boys, running my own business. However something shifted in my spirit, and God whispered into my heart ‘You have a story to tell’.

So here I am, over five years since first putting pen to paper (or fingers to keys!) as a blogger, and two years in to my professional career as a writer, I am starting my first book. I feel that the phrase first book is rather ambitious as it suggests a second (or maybe even a third!) but the stories that are in my heart are not just mine, they are God’s. He continues to use every day situations to speak into my heart about his will for his sons and daughters, how much he loves us and how much he has in store for us. God has given me the gift, not to mention the amazing privilege, of writing that I might glorify Him, and I want to thank him and exalt him with it. So my first book is mapped out, the subject inspiration in my heart and God’s message downloaded in my head ready to pour out on to the pages.

Here goes nothing…..

Can I Tell You A Secret?

New Book

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