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10 September 2020
Focusing on helping others can be a key to overcoming sadness and despair.Photo Olesia Buyar on Unsplash.
Words Belinda Davis
These past few weeks have been particularly trying for me as I have wrestled with some mental health challenges. I have been overwhelmed with feelings of sadness, helplessness and despair. These feelings strike without warning and can last anywhere from an hour to an entire day.
Recently, I had my worst day so far. I was feeling bleak and lost, to the point of tears. I pushed myself to work on activities that have, in the past, brought equilibrium to my mindset, but they had limited impact.
I began to feel that nothing would lift me out of this black cloud. Hope-less was the best description of this situation.
And then my daughter asked if I could help her with something.
Hannah decided a few weeks ago that she would like to make a skirt. She had made one before with my help, and we had been working on this new project on and off for a couple of weeks. We had already sewn in pleats, pockets, a zip and a waistband.
While I am not an expert, I have completed a number of sewing projects over the years and, together, Hannah and I had so far been able to navigate the assembly of this skirt.
When she asked if I could assist her, it was the absolute last thing I felt like doing. I just wanted to sit and wallow in the overwhelming negativity I was feeling, believing that was the limit of my capacity for the day.
But my maternal instinct kicked in and I opted to sit with her and offer what assistance I could. Then something amazing happened. For the first time all day, I found myself feeling lighter and brighter. We laughed and enjoyed the opportunity to create, if only for 45 minutes.
The contrast between what I had been feeling and what was now going on for me was significant. I wanted to know why. I took the time to reflect, assess what had happened, and I believe I landed on the answer.
By choosing to help Hannah, I was given the opportunity to take my focus away from my own situation. My perspective shifted to the needs of another and it made a significant impact on my mental health.
One of my favourite verses in the Bible came to mind, Psalm 3 verse 3, which speaks of God being the one who “lifts my head high”. This mental picture spoke to my contrast of feelings. Taking my eyes off feelings of helplessness and discovering that I could be helpful to another person was enough to lift my spirits, even if only for a short while. It was enough to recognise that there is hope, even if I can’t quite grasp it fully yet.
God has the capacity to shift my perspective, but just as with my decision to help Hannah, I need to make the choice to engage with the possibility that he wants to help me experience something broader. It was way too easy to stay put in my negative emotions, which are familiar and present, rather than put in perceived effort, which may or may not bring any reward.
I know I am not quite out of the woods yet, but I feel I have found one of the keys that could help me keep moving forward. Helping others can help me “lift my head” and enjoy the blessings that God wants for me.
May you be blessed, too.
Belinda Davis is a Salvation Army officer (pastor) in Victoria.