When your glass spills over...

Personal testimony by Derek Nichols, Church Mental Health and Wellbeing Contact.

When your glass spills over……

For most of us for most of the time we deal with the ordinary ups and downs of our every day lives. But sometimes, an accumulation of small things, a major event or a combination of the two will tip us over the edge. The glass inside us that usually has space in it not to spill over does just that. And if, as sometimes happens, we can’t control it ourselves it can go on spilling over until something or someone steps in to help, clear up the mess, wipe us down and even hand us a bigger glass that might help to make our lives just that little bit easier.

One of the sad facts of the world in which we live is that anxiety, stress and mental illness is likely to affect something like one in four of us at some point in our lives or in the life of someone close to us. The other, even more alarming fact, of modern life is that amongst men in the age range of mid-twenties to middle to late forties the single most common form of death is, tragically, death by suicide.

What compounds each of these observations is that illness that we categorise as mental illness carries a stigma that can so easily make many of us feel, isolated, unable to be open, unwilling to share and to speak about it and, crucially, to stop us finding the help and support that we need to help us through the rocky times that any one of us might encounter at any time in our own lives.

The first thing to say is that there is help for anyone who might be desperate and also for those who might just need a helping hand for themselves or to offer support to someone else, a relative, a friend, a neighbour, or a workmate. We can all be affected by loss, bereavement, or any event that stops us from feeling in control of ourselves and our emotions.

“Together in Sussex” - is a joint venture between the Diocese of Chichester and the Church Urban Fund whose aim is to share information about mental health and mental illness, to encourage conversations and to get the message across that if you are over whelmed by events in your life it really is OK to talk about it.

There are details of contacts at the bottom of the page but before we go there who else is talking about Mental Health and Wellbeing?

All of the main political parties had mental health in their manifestos so all our Members of Parliament should be out there. Our Archbishop, Justin Welby, has made no secret of the fact that he knows depression for himself and takes medication for this as routinely as he uses an inhaler for his asthma. Others too have taken the plunge but what about you and me. No matter how hard we think we are prepared an overwhelming event can always catch us off guard and when it does, how easily do we try to deny it, to ourselves and to other people?

“Morning Derek, how are you”, “Fine thanks”, was my instant reply, before stepping into church and pausing for thought because on that morning, I wasn’t fine at all! Days earlier I had received a phone call to tell me that my brother had died and my emotions were, to say the least raw. But I was due to read intercessions in the service that morning. Thinking that I had to “pull myself together”, “man up” or whatever the word for it is these days. But I didn’t have to – because someone else greeted me and this time I shared my news and how I was really feeling, in response to which, first I received his condolences and then shared a conversation about his recollections of family bereavement and the loss of a loved one. And it didn’t end there. When it came to intercessions, when our prayers are always offered for those who have died and those who mourn, I felt confident to add my own feelings of sadness and loss to the list that morning and then, after the service, a further three conversations, that gave more support for me and still more opportunities to share other people’s losses at critical times in their lives.

Talking about emotions really is OK and the more we do it the easier it becomes. It is good for all of us to open up from time to time and to feel the release of something painful shared. There really is nothing to fear - let’s not hide it away any more and let us all be a little more aware of the need to listen.

Derek Nichols