There has always been a hurdle in my relationship between spirituality and mental health.
I grew up an active member in my church. A good church. One that taught me great life lessons and shaped me into the person I am today. I learned how to serve and help others, to show kindness and compassion, and many other things. I made friends and had outstanding mentors who helped me through some difficult times.
Along with that shaping came an unrealistic, and what seemed like an unattainable, expectation of what I was supposed to do with my life. My path was already chosen for me. I was to be the ideal church member and adhere to the rules that I was taught as a child. I was to be “perfect.” If I did just that, I would be happy. If I did what I was told, I would feel joy beyond belief.
But struggling with depression and anxiety made my relationship with spirituality difficult. I grew up believing that if I wasn’t feeling happy, I wasn’t spiritually doing my part. I was unhappy because I wasn’t praying hard enough, seeking out scriptures enough, going to church enough—and that all meant that I wasn’t trying hard enough. And because I wasn’t trying hard enough, I myself wasn’t enough.
That belief grew and grew until it was all-consuming, and that mindset befriended my depression and anxiety. It made me feel surrounded on all sides, with nowhere to turn. It destroyed what I had left of my spirituality and my hope that there was good in the world.
When it comes to spirituality, we may all hold different beliefs. We may believe in a god. We may believe in many. We may believe in science. We may struggle with discovering what we believe in. Sometimes these beliefs can make us feel divided from one another, but somehow there is one thing we can all believe in…
Love is kind. It is providing acts of service and ministering to those who need help. Love is hopeful. It is a light that gives us the belief that things are good. Love is vulnerability. It is learning to accept others and everything that encompasses them. Love can unify, even when we might feel divided. Love can heal, even the deepest of wounds and most intense feelings of pain. Love is so many things and can have different meanings for each individual, but it is a force that binds us together and makes us human.
We can find love everywhere, whether that is love from a higher power or from those around us. It can be a hug. It can be an unexpected phone call. It can be the laughter of a child. It can be a home-cooked meal. It can be looking in the mirror and saying something kind to the person you see. Love can take many shapes, and we can use those shapes to fill the holes of when we feel lost and alone.
I had to step away from spirituality to understand this lesson. I had to separate myself from something that was telling me that I wasn’t enough. I decided to cut out trying to be perfect and focus solely on what already made me deserving of love. It was a difficult decision to make, one that I live with every day, but because I believe in love, I have hope that I can one day make peace with my spirituality. Because of love, I can believe that wherever I am, whoever I am, whatever I decide to be, I am enough. It’s time to bring that to light, because love, from any power, is enough.