There is a scene in a movie where two brothers, riding in an elevator, share an honest conversation as they prepare for an impending battle. The senior brother reveals his fond admiration for the junior, but since they have led completely different lives—one utterly selfish, the other, extraordinarily selfless—they both agree that their paths will never again cross once the battle has ended. A moment of silence passes between them, and then the elder brother suggests that they do, “Get Help.” The junior brother is hesitant, unwilling to agree to perform this maneuver, and emphatically states they are not going to do “Get Help.” In the next scene the elevator doors slide open, and the junior brother, feigning injury, is leaning the weight of his body onto the elder. The elder brother cries out, “Get Help!” which immediately captures the opposition's attention and gives him just enough time to propel the junior brother into enemy fighters. The blow effectively knocks the opposition out of commission for the battle.
Can you imagine that a very similar struggle is often taking place inside many of us that are hesitant about seeking mental help? The natural part of us, the flesh, the id, (picture the younger brother from the above description), is saying, “No, I don’t want to get help. To do so would mean that I have to admit something is wrong with me, and that will make me look weak to others. The image of how I think others will view me will be damaged and I will be humiliated.”
The spiritual part of us, the superego, (or the older brother), is saying, “The battle we’re fighting is going to be more than we can manage alone. Let’s face this thing head on so we can beat it once and for all.” The spirit recognizes that regardless of our circumstances, the value that we possess is God-given, and neither the trauma that damaged us, nor the request for external help to restore us, diminishes that value in any way.
If you have never done it, take a break from reading this article and Google images of “gruesome broken legs sports.” Look in particular for pictures where the bone is protruding through the skin or where the foot is dangling from the end of the leg. If your stomach can tolerate it, look for videos of the footage. Pay close attention to what happens before, during, and after the injury. Usually the roar of an excited crowd, pumped in anticipation of an upcoming play, is abruptly silenced as a startling shriek spurts from the sports announcer or the team members surrounding a player who has just suffered the bone-breaking injury. He or she is seen writhing in pain, and doctors and nurses rush to administer immediate aid. Work is done to stabilize the wound, all the while players on both sides of the field of play “take a knee” to offer emotional support. The player is then fitted with an air cast and carted off to seek further medical aid, waving a feeble hand as friend and competitive foe cheer him on.
When we undergo any type of trauma, whether physical or mental, this is exactly what should happen to us. When we experience something excruciatingly difficult and painful, those nearest to us should recognize the severity of the trauma. They should rally around us in prayer and support, and then to prevent further damage, we should be immobilized until we are evaluated and treated by a trained professional.
It should be that way, yet we do not treat mental trauma with the same level of urgency and significance that we give to physical trauma. We often self-diagnose and self-medicate mental trauma, effectively forcing the mangled appendage of our minds into a makeshift cast as we try to convince everyone, including ourselves, that we are ready to get back in the game. Though it is evident to nearly all whom we encounter that the broken limb is sliding out from under us, unable to operate as designed—making a mess all over everything it touches—we continue with life as though nothing has even happened.
For many of us that have endured mental trauma, the act or the series of acts that caused it was so vile, so repulsive that it forced us to experience a cataclysmic mental division. Perhaps the thing that happened to us, or the thing we did, was so impossible to comprehend, that the only way we saw to move forward was to create some space between us and it: there is the “me” that could not have been subject to the trauma, and then there is the “me” that was affected by it. Try as we might to run from that other part of us, dodge it, hide from it, we cannot, because it’s still us. When there is no sling, no cast, no bandage, no doctor’s prognosis to point to that validates our incapacity, we convince ourselves that so long as we can keep that undesirable part of us in the past, and leave it there, we will eventually get over it.
That rejection of self (even the unhealthy parts of the self), that shame, is a tool from the enemy, very effective in its ability to trap us deep within the confines of mental and emotional incapacity. Shame splits us up, makes us think that if we can “quarantine” the trauma, its dis-ease will not spread to any other part of us—not realizing that the key to overcoming mental illness requires just the opposite. It requires us to confront the trauma so that we can both replant uprooted truths and dig up rooted untruths about ourselves and about the world we live in. This tilling of the garden of our minds is a job too big to manage on our own—we simply cannot assess the damage from our viewpoint. Couple this with the fact that we have a natural disposition to guard ourselves against pain—even temporary pain required for healing—it becomes unmistakably clear that seeking help is the only way to create a successful course of action for restoration.
When you ask for help, you are releasing the bonds of shame and you are winning the battle over the mental dis-ease that may plague you. You are unifying yourself back together and coming to terms with the fact that the part of you that experienced the blunt force of the trauma which broke your heart, broke your mind—though a strange and complex part of you—is still you. It will help explain how you arrived at your current destination, but with wise counsel, you will come to know the mental trauma you faced does not have to dictate where you go next.
Along my journey of mental restoration, God was gracious enough to put a few good men along my path that gently said, “If you want to talk, I’m here. Stop by my office; give me a call when you are ready.” It took over a year for my spirit to win over the flesh, to overcome the feelings of humiliation to say, “Enough is enough. I have tried to do this thing on my own, and my decisions are not leading me to the happiness I so desperately seek. I know I should not feel this way about my life, but I do not know how to make it better. There are people that know how to deal with these types of things. I am no longer going to be held captive by my shame. I’m going to get better; I’m ready to seek outside help. I am ready to face my trauma and do the work that the healing requires.”
Those were the words that concluded my long and painful chapter book of shame. Maybe it is about time yours came to a close as well, but you are not yet ready to pen those final words. We all grieve in our own way, at our own pace, but there comes a point in that grief when we accept the fact that though we wish desperately that the breach never happened, we cannot go back in time to undo what was harmed, mutilated, perverted. If we experience the highest form of healing—spiritual healing—we will learn that perhaps the trauma came with a purpose far greater than anything we could have imagined it would. We come to realize that since the thing did not kill us, we must not be finished with the work we were called here to do.
And so we live.
We learn to live with the wound, and once healed, we learn to live with the scar tissue, we learn to live with the altered functionality as our hearts and minds have undergone serious changes, all thanks to the trauma we endured. We live, as watered gardens, to share our stories, awakening courage in others so they too can come to terms with their own traumas. We’re different. We’ve hurt. We’re exhausted.
But baby, we live!
Go ahead and do the Get Help thing today. Trust a licensed spiritual professional to mend the broken pieces of your mind as you would trust a medical doctor to repair the broken pieces of any other part of your body. Don’t think you can afford it? Churches offer free counseling, and some therapists have a sliding scale fee based on income. Check with your job’s Employee Assistance Program to see what services they can provide, often at little or no cost to you. Colleges offer free counseling services to attending students. GiveAnHour.org is a wonderful organization that provides free help for military personnel regardless of status, and to both victims of mass shootings and natural disasters. Truth be told, we should be willing to pay whatever the cost presented to get the healing counsel that we need. I believe that just as God placed good men in my life who continue to help me confront the mental dis-ease I face, so too will He provide similar resources for you to get the healing your mind, your heart, your soul so rightfully deserves. Just ask for it earnestly. It may take some time to find a right fit, but that’s ok. Keep talking to a licensed professional until the following truths are entrenched deeply within your heart:
I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
There is a plan for my life. God knows it, because He created it.
If I spend quality time with God, He will put the plan in my heart.
If I acknowledge that it is His plan, He will straighten the path set before me.
It will be because of Him that regardless of any circumstance I may encounter, I can do the things my heart desires.