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The Journey: the UCC Mental Health Network Blog

Welcome to the United Church of Christ Mental Health Network (UCC MHN) blog, The Journey. Our weekly posts will explore mental health and addiction through the lens of our Christian faith. We will write about how our personal experiences affect our lives and how our spirituality supports our journey. Everyone who is living with a mental health or addiction disorder, or has a loved one who is affected by a mental health challenge or addiction, is on a journey. Together we can connect with each other and share some ways to travel the path of hope and wholeness.

Nothing Feels Right About Today by Lisa LeSueur

written by Lisa LeSueur

The Road Ahead

Nothing feels right about today. It’s a beautiful spring day. The birds are singing, and the skies are clear blue, but this is far from a normal Saturday in Miami. My usual non-stop schedule of meetings and places to be, has been drastically altered this week as the country has virtually shut down due to Covid-19. It’s been a week of adjusting to new social norms of distancing and creating space between others. My kids are having to adjust to their new normal of online education.  My wife and I are both adjusting to our new normal work routines, as we worry about our economic future, which seemed so certain only a month ago. Most of all, we have all had to learn to be patient with each other and recognize that we are all scared and hurting in our own way. 

I admit, when the house grew quiet and everyone had fallen asleep last night, I was hit with overwhelming wave of anxiety as I began to truly grapple with how life has changed over just the past week. This was not the normal anxiety that sometimes keeps me up on a Sunday evening as I contemplate all that needs to be done in the coming week. No, this was the kind of anxiety that can only come from having all that you held as certain in your life, turned upside down. It is the type of anxiety thar robs you of perspective, making it difficult for you to see that there is indeed a road ahead. It is similar to driving through the mountains on a foggy day, when the road ahead is obscured, and you find your foot more on the brake than on the accelerator, out of fear that you will go over the edge.

Thankfully, today is a new day. The anxiety that gripped me last night was melted away by the warmth of the sun that greeted me as I walked out the door. I looked up to see the bluest sky, filled with clouds that would normally pass unnoticed in my schedule filled days. As I paused, I heard the birds singing as if to get my attention, while squirrels chased each other through the majestic oak trees that fill my yard. God was at play right in front of me, in a moment I would most surely have missed before. How many times have I walked by God without noticing God’s steadfast presence? 

As I paused to soak up God’s warmth, I was filled with gratitude for a new day embraced by God’s love and steadfast care. While I suspect the road ahead may be obscured by uncertainty for some time to come, I know the day will come when the fog will lift, and the road ahead will become clear again. With God at my side, I know that I will once again find the courage to take my foot off the brake and travel on my way. 
Lisa LeSueur is the Minister of Congregational and Staff Care at Coral Gables United Church of Christ and a member of the Board of Directors of the UCC Mental Health Network. She recently graduated with her Master’s in Divinity from Chicago Theological Seminary. She lives in Coral Gables, Florida with her spouse and their two children. 

Do Not Fear by Karl Shallowhorn

written by Karl Shallowhorn

So do not fear, for I am with you:
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
Isaiah 41:10

The events of the last week have changed the course of life as we know it in the United States. In the end, it isn’t about who’s to blame or what could have been done. It’s too late for that now. We have to all work together to prevent what is quickly becoming something that is proving to be a very formidable enemy.

One thing I do know, however is that many people, including myself, have had their anxiety heightened by the virtual uncertainty of the future. Now, I’ve never been one to have anxiety (although I do live with bipolar disorder) however the situation we are in has even got me more on edge.

But this is where, as I told a friend today, I need to use my tools. First and foremost, I need to remember to breathe. Deep. Breathing can do wonders to alleviate anxiety and help reduce stress.

Secondly, I need to have faith. Faith can not only move mountains, it can help to provide a deep sense of assurance that things will be okay.

Third, I can use my supports to provide support to each other amidst the tide of turbulent waters we are in. There is nothing quite like having someone to talk to, to just let it all out.

Fourth, I need to reach out to those less fortunate and who may be in need. Most of us probably know someone who may be more isolated as a result of the current environment we are in. Not only does it help them, but it also helps me to get out of my own head. When I help someone else I know that I am doing what I, as a Christian, have been asked to do.

Next, I need to attend to my self-care. Sleep is a big one as is physical exercise. The combination of the two can be very beneficial in helping to regulate my system. And I cannot forget to meditate. Even just being still and quiet for as little as ten minutes can do wonders for the mind, body and spirit.

And last, but certainly not least, I need to pray. In the course of my life I have faced incredibly difficult situations, all of which I’ve been able to get through by actively praying. Not only with words but also with action. When I pray I co-create with God thereby allowing for the process of becoming the person I was intended to be. In terms of today, I need to pray to let God know that I need God’s strength and guidance to be able to maintain my mental and emotional stability.

If I practice these simple tools, I have a much more likelihood of weathering the storm of uncertainty we are all facing.

While the days ahead are going to be very hard for many, if not most of us, it is important to know that with God in our lives there truly is nothing to fear.
Karl Shallowhorn is the Education Program Coordinator at the Community Health Center of Buffalo. Karl is a New York State Credentialed Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Counselor and also serves on the Board of Directors for the UCC Mental Health Network, the Mental Health Association in New York State, and the Mental Health Association of Erie County. He is also a contributing writer and blogger for BP magazine as well as for The Mighty. Karl is a 30-plus year member of Pilgrim-St. Luke’s-El Nuevo Camino UCC in Buffalo, NY.