Nell Goddard

musings of a clergy child

06 Feb

Time to Talk

Can I tell you a secret? There's something about me that you probably don't know.

You probably wouldn't guess, if you looked at me. If you spoke to me, you probably wouldn't notice. If you asked, I probably wouldn't tell you. I don't want you to think I'm weak, you see. I don't want you to treat me differently from how you treat your other friends. I don't want to burden you, or for you to pity me. 

But I'm telling you anyway. I'm telling you because it's time to step up and step out. It's time to start conversations. To start friendships built on something more than pretending we're all okay all the time. It's time to stop being British and start being real.

Mental illness was a part of my everyday life. For 18 months, I struggled against it. I fought hard and more than once, I was close to giving up. I was battling every day with something that I could not see, but which was bigger and stronger than I was able to cope with. It told me to do things. To wash my hands continuously, because otherwise I'd get sick. To give up now, because nothing was ever going to get better. To always be the best at everything, because anything less was complete and utter failure. To not eat, because hunger was easier to control than food. To stick to a routine, because if I didn't, something bad was bound to happen.

It pursued me, relentlessly.  It enveloped me, and consumed me. It painted things black and made me stare at them unceasingly. It made me despair, but most of all, it made me ashamed.

Shame. That heavy burden which everyone carries but no-one speaks of. The pervasive, oppressive gag that silences even the most open of people. That tells you no-one will understand. No-one else struggles. You're all alone. If you told anyone, they'd hate you. Judge you. Blame you. Pity you. Ostracise you. Never, ever forgive you.

But the shame lies. In any given year, 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health issue. You are not alone. It is dark, and it is scary, and it is big, and it is heavy, but you do not have to face it alone. There are people who will walk with you. There are those who will help you. Who won't blame you, and won't judge you. Who will still love you. Who will fight for you.

And there is One who does all this and more. One who hung naked, on a cross, ashamed and abandoned, so you do not have to feel shame. So you do not have to be abandoned. Who forgives all that you have done, have thought, have said. One from whom no secrets are hidden, but who loves you anyway. Those who look to Him are radiant, their faces are never covered in shame. He will not condemn you, but will call you to Himself. And, at the times when it feels like the light at the end of the tunnel is no longer there, there will be the source of all light shining right beside you, holding your hand and leading you to the place where there is no longer any darkness. Carrying you when you are weary, picking you up when you fall. He may not take you out of the darkness, but He will lead you gently through it.

It's time to talk about mental illness. It's time to acknowledge that for many, it is an everyday reality. For many, it is a daily battle. It's time to break the barriers of shame and condemnation, and love people no matter what. It's time to tear off the gag which stops us from sharing, and speak openly and honestly. For shame is broken the moment someone says 'what, you too? I thought I was the only one.'

'The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.' - Isaiah 9:2

Nell Goddard

Hi, I’m Alianore. I used to be known as 'Nell Goddard', but then I got married and changed my name. I’m an author, blogger, and speaker. A theologian, on a good day. A Christian, a storyteller, and a friend. I tweet as @alianoree and you can find more of my writings in my first book, 'Musings of a Clergy Child'.