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Winners vs. Losers

I hate failing. I absolutely loathe the feeling when I play a game of scrabble with my mum, and she absolutely decimates every opponent, including me. I remember once, I protested in disbelief that she defeated everyone. The rest of the players had accepted that they lost but I struggled to gracefully lose.

If you want to see another example of a bitter loser, then look no further than across the pond, at the contested results of the US Elections.

Even though I was dejected by the defeat at scrabble, I recognised that it didn’t change the circumstances. My mum won, I lost. It was an uncomfortable reality that I had to become accustomed to.

Recently, I came to the realisation that I viewed life from the same prism with which I viewed the game. Hence, I felt as if I was losing in life whereas others were winning. The difference is, life isn’t a game, and it can be detrimental to view it as a race against others.

The ideology of winning and losing that I developed was based on societies standards of success. Success in quantifiable achievements i.e. completing my Honours Degree, acquiring a house, passing my practical driver’s test and having a full time job.

I understood that these accomplishments wouldn’t get me to heaven and I would never be satiated by comparing myself to others. However, I couldn’t change my mindset.

Comparison

Then, the penny dropped when I had my therapy session. I spoke to my therapist about my debilitating thoughts and she reminded me that

Comparison is the thief of joy.

As soon as I heard that proverb, I mentally time-travelled to the past, when I listened to a sermon about God ordering our steps. The sentiments of the sermon were that God has placed each one of us on a unique path because He wants to build our character and He has set us apart (ordained us) for a specific purpose.

In the sermon, the preacher used the quote “Comparison is the thief of joy” and related it to the children of Israel, who were encouraged to follow the “cloud” not the “crowd”. The cloud represented the glory of God and the crowd represented human beings. This resonated with me as, at times, I felt like it was easier to follow the crowd rather than follow God.

When I recognised that my therapist and the preacher used the same maxim, it reinforced the importance of applying the message to my life. If I wanted to overcome the feeling of lack of fulfilment and worthlessness, I had to cease comparing myself to others and see myself through God’s lenses.

God doesn’t look at us the way we tend to look at others – by their actions and the way they are in that moment. Rather, He looks at our potential [through Him] and believes that we have the victory because He already won the battle for us. He won when He sent His only begotten son, Jesus, to die for our sins.

Focus on the process not the outcome

Another gem that my therapist shared was,

Don’t focus only on the outcome, focus on the process.

This was something that I needed to hear as I was tunnel visioned with regards to achieving my goals, to the extent that I would not consider the journey to accomplishing my hearts desires.

I have learnt to appreciate the journey that God has placed me on. Even when I think that it isn’t where I expected to be, it is exactly where I need to be.

There is a Proverb in the Bible which says, “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps.” (Proverbs 16:9).

Sometimes it seems like you are taking steps backwards, but remember that you are exactly where you need to be. The journey to your destination is not linear. It isn’t easy. It will include some highs and lows but you have to keep pushing forward.

Where is your destination?

So we have comprehended that life isn’t a race and we should focus on the process. But the question still remains, where are we going?

Some people hate formulating goals. Others can’t function without them. Regardless of whether you love or hate goals, the fact of the matter is that we all have aspirations of some kind. The aspirations could range from being a data scientist to possessing a peace of mind.

It is natural to aspire to obtain something that you don’t already have. However, we need to recognise that we already have a great amount of blessings.

Having a sound mind, good physical health, knowing that you are loved by God, family, friends, and the list goes on. There are so many blessings in our lives that we often take them for granted.

My challenge to you is to count your blessings each day and see how your perspective changes. Once you’re perspective changes, you will be content before you even reach your final destination.

Blessings x

Identity Crisis

Hello all,


I hope you are well.


This blogpost is inspired by some questions that I saw today, whilst at work (I work in a primary school).


When I went into the classroom this morning, written on the board were these three questions:


Who are you? What makes you, you? What is our purpose as human beings, in this world?


These questions caught my attention. They got me in a pensive mood, hence me writing down my thoughts today.


The first question struck a chord with me, as I had a conversation with a close friend this week, about how my perception of myself is evolving.


During my teenage years, I got to the point where I disliked the person I was. I felt like I was becoming my worst enemy. For example, when I was a lot younger, I loathed fake, two-faced people. Then later on in my teenage years, I acted like I was meek and kind, but it was a facade. I was as fake as the people I once detested.


However, when I discovered Jesus’ love for me, through a series of intense events, this new discovery changed everything! I stopped attempting to be a good person in my own strength. Instead, I allowed God to work in me “to will and to act in order to fulfill His good purpose” – Philippians 2:13 NIV.


Now, I view myself as a sinner saved by the grace of God, through faith. I am loved. I am blessed. I am a child of God. I wasn’t surprised anymore when I messed up. Whenever I struggled to do what’s right, I went straight to God and asked Him for help. Over time, I realised that the things I used to struggle with, I struggled with no more.


Although I experienced this transformation when Jesus came into my life, I still had to come to terms with accepting my past. This was the most difficult thing to do. It was the hardest thing to forgive myself for the mistakes I had made, knowingly and unknowingly. For a long time, I felt guilty for past circumstances and battled daily with various negative thoughts.


I lacked faith in God’s promises such as, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” – John 8:36 NIV, and “He will again have compassion on us, And will subdue our iniquities. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea” – Micah 7:19 NKJV.

Over time, I realised that in order to accept God’s love and His plans for my future, I had to address my past and let God throw it into the depths of the sea. This didn’t mean that I forgot or disowned all my past experiences. It meant that the past no longer had power over me to dictate how I would respond to future experiences. For example, the person I was before wasn’t going to stop me from becoming the person who God intended me to be. Letting go of my past was a prerequisite for true peace.

So, I started talking about my past with people I trusted. It was painful at first; but it became easier over time. Due to praying to God and talking therapies, the mental and spiritual scars began to heal. I started to realise that I am only human. I was immature. I didn’t understand who God really was. However, God still loved and worked everything together for my good.

This brings me back to the original question – Who are you? Even if you think you are the most abominable sinner, that doesn’t matter, because there is a God who can give you a completely new identity in Jesus.


I pray that you chose Jesus Christ today and allow Him to be the King of your life.

Lord, renew my heart

Scripture reading:

Create in me a clean heart, O Lord, And renew a steadfast spirit within me. David, Psalm 51:10
To whomever is reading this, I hope and pray you are well and you are blessed by this blog post.


What does it mean to “renew your heart”?

I looked up the word “renew” in the dictionary and the definition is “to resume (an activity) after an interruption.” When I think about Christ renewing my heart, I think of three applications – the physical, mental and spiritual (in other words, on a holistic level). I believe that Jesus wants to work on every aspect of our lives and in order for that to happen, we need to be willing to be vulnerable with Him and come to Him without holding anything back. In this blog, I will focus on two aspects of renewal: physical and spiritual renewal.


Physical Renewal

Did you know that it is possible to renew your heart through various healthy lifestyle choices? Some of these include: the way you eat, how much you exercise, how you manage stress and your exposure to environmental toxins. These lifestyle choices can help reduce the likelihood of getting heart disease or even reverse it if you have already been diagnosed. Amazing, isn’t it!


A man in his 60s found out that two of his coronary arteries were 100% blocked and he would need immediate coronary artery bypass surgery. Imagine how he felt when he received that news! He didn’t want to have bypass surgery, as it only helped reduce the symptoms (it didn’t cure the actual disease). So, he researched alternatives to bypass surgery and found out about a Doctor named Dr. Esselstyn, who promotes plant-based diets.


Dr. Esselstyn encouraged him to eat fist size portions of greens, six-times a day. He also went for walks daily. Four months later, the man went to a heart hospital, and the doctors couldn’t find any problems with his heart! A link to his story can be found here.
This true story is a great example of how your heart can be renewed under the right conditions. It is necessary that you sacrifice your desire to eat unhealthy food and your unhealthy habits (e.g. a sedentary lifestyle). Instead, great substitutes are: healthy food, drinking water, and physical exercise.


Spiritual Renewal

Similarly, sacrifice is a product of a genuine spiritual revival. For example, I will want to sacrifice my debilitating thoughts, carnal desires or idols as a result of Christ renewing my heart.


There are many examples of people who sacrificed everything to follow Christ. However, I will touch on only one individual: John Newton, the writer of the well-known hymn “Amazing Grace.”


John Newton was an English Anglican cleric (priest) and a former captain of slave ships who later became an abolitionist (find out more about his story here).


In 1748, during a ship voyage, Newton’s ship was about to sink. In response, he prayed for God’s mercy, and the storm began to die down. This experience marked the beginning of his conversion to Christianity.


He began to read the Bible and other religious literature. By the time he reached his destination, he had accepted the doctrines of Christianity. From that point on, he sacrificed his unhealthy habits of gambling, drinking and swearing. Moreover, some years after experiencing a conversion to Christianity, Newton renounced his trade of slaves and became a prominent supporter of abolitionism.


Newton allowed the Holy Spirit to completely transform his identity, and he experienced the real-life application of the verse, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26).”


How does this apply to me?

You may be wondering how the story of the man with the heart condition and Newton’s story relate to your life.


Although I may not know you, there is one thing that I do know – you are not perfect. I know this because Isaiah 64:6 states, “When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags.”


Therefore it is plausible to come to the assumption that you have sinned and felt distant from God before. This may or may not be your current circumstance, however, I am experiencing this at the moment.


I pray that this blogpost encourages us all to realise that we can come to God no matter how dreadful the situation looks, and He will renew our hearts.


Consequently, we will need to sacrifice some things that we hold dear. However, as the classic hymn says, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus; Look full in His wonderful face. And the things of earth will grow strangely dim; In the light of His glory and grace.”
May you be blessed and I hope that you experience a holistic renewing of your heart, by the grace of God.

Birthday Reflections

I’m so grateful for life today! Today is my birthday and there’s a lot to be thankful to God for.

Over the past 20+ years of my life, some days have been amazing whilst others were unpleasant. However, through it all, I’ve still been able to breath, I can see with my two eyes, I can hear with my ears, I can smell with my nose, and I can walk with my head heald high (you get the point).

Today, I encourage you to focus on what you have rather than what you don’t have. God has blessed you with an abundance of gifts that you can use to glorify Him. So don’t worry about the barriers, instead, shift your attention to the world of opportunities you have because our limitless God has blessed you with the with countless gifts and abilities.

This week, I read a Bible plan about grand plans with a close friend and one of the days discussed the idea of starting small.

The writer expressed that we often have every excuse for why we can’t reach our goals. Many a time, it’s because we believe we’re not qualified, we don’t have enough money, or time. But what if we were looking at the wrong entry requirements to get started in the direction of our destiny? What if the requirement is simply to have faith?

Quoting from the Bible plan, it states, “If you’ve ever felt like you don’t really have enough to get started, you’re in good company. Moses also started out this way. Called to liberate Israel from under the tyranny and might of Pharaoh, all that Moses had at his disposal was a stick!

What Moses had was so small, it was laughable to think he could ever make a difference! 

But if we track the story of Exodus, using just the stick in his hand, God caused Moses to be able to confront the sorcerers of Pharaoh’s court, work ten plagues, part the Red Sea, bring water from a dry rock and lead Israel to victory over their enemies.”

If God enabled Moses to accomplish His purpose with just a stick, then He definitely can use what you have (even if it is little) to accomplish His purpose for your life.

My prayer today is that we say no to the lies in our heads that tell us we’re insignificant, unqualified and unworthy, and say yes to the fact that we can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens us.

Stay blessed x

Life Update – 2020 Recap

If I could describe 2020 in three words, I would use the words – uncomfortable, growth, and gratitude.

Uncomfortable

The uncertainty of the pandemic, loss of family friends, racial injustice, managing my mental health, changing jobs, not visiting family, just to say a few.

All these experiences have tested me to the core, however, I can now say that I’m thankful for what I’ve learnt through the situations.

The uncomfortable events have encouraged me to exercise love and kindness to myself and others. Also, I learnt that although I can’t control what happens, I have power to chose how to react.

Growth

When I realised that I could control how I react to situations, I started to look into how I can take on challenges in a way that makes me more resilient.

One of the ways was by viewing my “obstacles” as “opportunities” for growth, always finding out what I can learn from the uncomfortable feelings or experiences.

Growth has definitely been a priority this year. I’ve prioritised it by reading more, setting goals in therapy, having thought-provoking conversations that lead me to action, and trying out new things (even changing careers).

Gratitude

Finally, I can testify that Paul was right when he said, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

When I remember where God led me from, and how my life has changed dramatically over the past 5 years, I have nothing but praise and gratitude to God.

It’s easy to take for granted the blessings you have in your life today but it’s good to be intentional about reminding yourself so that you can cease from seeing yourself as unlucky but see yourself as a blessed and highly favoured child of the King.

Life Update: Story Camp Experience

Hello all, it has been a while since I posted on this blog site.

Today, I’m going to focus on the positivity rather than the negativity. There has been a lot of chaos and confusion taking place in the world. Although we are living in unprecedented, uncertain times, there is still hope and reasons to smile amidst the storm.

So, let’s get straight into the life update. 

This summer, I had the privilege of taking part in an online StoryCamp by TimeToChange, a mental health organisation/movement that aims to end the stigma of mental health through campaigns, surveys, resources, etc. 

StoryCamp 2020 was about sharing your experiences with mental health and other aspects of life. There were themes each fortnight that covered different topics from “how to support someone with a mental health condition”, to “the other side of mental health”. 

In my opinion, it was an educative, exciting and edifying experience. I found it educative as I learnt a lot about how to structure my writing. I realised that it’s more about quality over quantity. I used to be set on writing an elongated piece but neglected the attention to structure. Now, I write shorter pieces and people are more receptive to the message.

When I shared the creative piece, I was pleasantly surprised with the reception I received from people on Facebook. I made an infographic with 8 practical mental health tips. The feedback I received was amazing and made me feel like I had come a long way from the beginning of StoryCamp when I was extremely timid with regards to sharing my mental health knowledge or experiences. 

StoryCamp was exciting because we were encouraged to allow our creativity to aid our storytelling. You may think this was a simple task however, I found it difficult initially. I had to push my mental boundaries and go outside my comfort zone to discover how to create content that I was ultimately comfortable with sharing.

Last but not least, I found the whole StoryCamp edifying because I was able to get exposed to a community of wonderful people who have their own lived experiences with mental health and I read about how they managed their mental illness and how they persevered. It was great to read their inspiring blogs and I definitely hope the community group will stay active. 

In summary, I am grateful for the experience I had in taking part in StoryCamp. Furthermore, I would absolutely recommend checking out the @TimeToChange website and joining StoryCamp2021.

Love and peace to you all 🙂

How to Persevere

Another inspirational blog from Life lessons with Clare! This one is a must read!!

Life lessons with Clare

Role Models

don't give upHave you ever been in a crisis that seems never-ending? Or a circumstance that seems to ruin your plans, and you feel like you can’t keep going anymore?

Thanks to many people, who’ve chosen never to give up in their crises, we have so many examples of how to persevere when we don’t know what the future holds. I’d like to share a story with you below that inspires me to keep going.

Stopping At Nothing!

Born into a family of surfers and living in Kauai, from young, Bethany Hamilton’s dream was to surf. At age 8, she started competitive surfing and got her first sponsorship at 9 years old. bethany young

She won her age group and older surfers at the Local Motion-Ezekiel Surf Into Summer contest in 2003 and came second in the open women’s division of the National Scholastic Surfing Association (NSSA) National Championships in California. She…

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The Other Side Of Mental Health Part 2 – The Link Between Spiritual and Mental Health

Introduction

As part of @TimeToChange’s StoryCamp, I am writing about my experiences that might be less understood.

My last blog was about how my mental health affected my university situation. Today’s blog is about how my mental health effects my spiritual health.

Spiritual health is very significant to me as my faith has always been a big part of my life. I was born into a Christian family, and over time, I developed a personal relationship with God.

Disclaimer

Some of the subjects discussed in this blog are sensitive and may distress people. However, I want to end on a positive note because I believe there is always light at the end of the tunnel, especially pertaining to spiritual health.

Delusions

Some people who are diagnosed with psychosis experience religious delusions. I am one of them.

Delusions are defined as fixed, false beliefs that conflict with reality.

These delusions attack my belief system. They cause me to question what I have confidence in, such as the origin of life (which I believe comes from God).

Hallucinations

Hallucinations are defined as the “perception of a nonexistent object or event” and “sensory experiences that are not caused by stimulation of the relevant sensory organs.”

Hallucinations can also cause people to believe that themselves or other people aren’t who they say they are. This can make people feel insecure about their beliefs.

When I was in hospital, I heard auditory hallucinations that made me think my dad was the devil. I was perplexed and petrified at the idea that my own father could be associated with such evil. This affected how I interacted with him and others. It ultimately impacted my relationship with God and skewed my view of my religion.

Faith Tested

When someone is recovering from psychosis or any other mental health problem, their faith in what they hold dear may be tested. My faith was tested countless times when my perception and cognition adversely affected my belief in God and my belief in myself. Sometimes it was because of vivid nightmares, racing thoughts, or something that occurred during the day that triggered my psychosis.

I developed grounding techniques that could help me stay rooted in what I believe and love. I would quote my favourite Bible verses or say a positive affirmation.

One of my favourite verses is:

Psalm 23:4 – Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

This was a great soothing technique for me as it reminded me that’s God comforts me in my darkest moments and I don’t need to fear anything.

Holistic approach

From my experiences and knowledge, I believe that mental health and spiritual health are inextricably linked. Hence, a holistic approach to recovery is the best approach. It covers all aspects of a person’s wellbeing (mental, spiritual, physical, emotional) and helps improve our quality of life.

Ever since I took a holistic approach to my recovery, I noticed significant improvements. I am not where I was before. I’m able to distinguish between reality and fiction. Although I sometimes have nightmares, they don’t leave me in despair and feeling hopeless. I can truly say I am pleased with my progress.

Conclusion

If there is anything I want to you to take away from this blog it is this: Keep on going. Don’t give up. Hang in there. One day your mess will become your message.

I didn’t think that from my mental health experiences, I would encourage others and have opportunities to share the lessons I’ve learnt.

Yes, spiritual and mental health is misunderstood. However, you have the choice to learn more about what works for you and you have your life experiences that will aid you to get to the point where you are content with your wellbeing.

The Other Side of Mental Health part 1 – Leaving University

Did you know, data reveals that 1,180 students who experienced mental ill health, left courses early in 2014-15, up 210% from 2009-10? Shocking, right?

As part of @TimeToChange’s StoryCamp, I am writing about my experiences that might be less understood.

One of the things I feel isn’t understood or isn’t talked about so much is how mental health problems can affect your studying/work situation.

When I was first diagnosed with psychosis, I was studying psychology at university and I was on a positive trajectory. Then I was sectioned under the Mental Health Act, meaning I was hospitalised against my own will. So, I left university in January 2018. Then in June 2018, I was sectioned again.

After leaving hospital and coming back into the community, I had to live with the uncomfortable reality that I may not go to university for a while. To make matters worse, I received emails from the Student Loans Company in the UK, saying that I owe them grant overpayments. This increased my stress levels. 

More recently, I have sent complaints to the organisation that asked for the payments. It’s a shame that some organisations aren’t empathetic towards individuals who have been through a lot with their mental health. However, I hope that I can challenge them to change their policies and regulations, so that they don’t discriminate against people with mental health problems.

I have spent many nights crying because of my thoughts that my mental health hindered my prospects of getting the dream career or finishing my studies. But over time, I’m starting to shift my perspective and look at my mental health condition as something that can be used to my advantage. 

Because of my mental health experiences, I am able to empathise with people and show them more compassion. It also enhances my passion to pursue a career as a mental health social worker, because I have received support from mental health support workers and I see the opportunities for me to support and give back to my community. 

Please share with me how your mental health experiences have affected your work or studies.