It had been a long and stressful week.
I was physically and mentally exhausted.
“What if this flops or what if it's a horrible tragic failure?”
These thoughts were racing through my head as I got ready for one of the most important nights of my life. I became almost catatonic as I moved slowly through the room to get ready for the launch of a new magazine that I had founded.
Only just a few weeks ago when I announced the launch of the magazine, someone had anonymously predicted its demise. Actually, they had taken it upon themselves to start a fake account to viciously attack me and my co-founder. This person called us names that I wouldn’t even repeat to my worst enemy. And as I much as I hate to admit it, those were the words that came back to my subconscious as I started to get ready that night.
Suddenly I was filled with so many bad thoughts and tears flooded my face. I just sat on the edge of the bed and didn’t move, not wanting to face anyone at that present moment.
When my friend, Rosie, came into the room to check on me, she knew something wasn't right and immediately started praying. I can still hear her words right now, “Papa, we pray peace over Yoyo…”
Slowly I felt the peace of God rush over me as she prayed and interceded for me that night. That evening turned out great in spite of how it began in that upstairs bedroom. The magazine, which you are reading now is now in its eighth month and our team is growing in so many ways.
Yet, that wasn’t the first or last time that something like what happened in that room has happened to me. The first "attack" happened when I was 16 years old. I remember feeling overwhelmed and hopeless all at once and I started crying hysterically in the vestibule of the church I was attending at the time. Over the years, similar incidents would occur when I was stressed, sleep deprived and overwhelmed. I've written about them here and here. I also began to notice that these events were always tied to a church or ministry-related activity so one could easily conclude that "the devil was out to stop me from doing God's work."
Depending on your worldview, you may call that a spiritual attack or mental breakdown. But whatever you call it, it was a serious incident that had the potential to alter my life if not dealt with appropriately.
How do you know when a situation like this calls for prayer, meditation, medication, or all of the above? Is there a difference between a spiritual or demonic attack, an emotional or mental breakdown, and mental illness?
What used to commonly be called a “nervous breakdown” is now being called an “emotional health crisis” or “mental health crisis.” According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness:
- 1 in 5 adults in the U.S., about 44 million, experiences mental illness in a given year.
About 16 million adults had at least one major depressive episode in the past year.
18.1 percent experiences an anxiety disorder such as posttraumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder or specific phobias.
Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S., the 3rd leading cause of death for people aged 10-14 and the 2nd leading cause of death for people aged 15 – 24.
In fact, Prevention.com defines a mental breakdown as “a period of mental illness during which intense feelings of depression, stress, or anxiety result in an inability to function in daily life. The person suffering is emotionally overwhelmed. They might feel that life is hopeless, that they are ‘going crazy,’ and that they will never be able to get back to normal.”
Having a mental or emotional health crisis is nothing to be ashamed about, as anyone can experience it and it is more likely when the following things are present, according to Healthline.com:
persistent work (or school) stress
a recent traumatic event such as a death in the family
major life changes such as a divorce or financial crisis
poor sleep and relaxation
personal or family history of anxiety disorders
recent injury or illness that makes daily life difficult to manage
In my case, I had had very little sleep that week and had taken on new responsibilities at work in addition to the magazine launch. This was also coming off a very busy first half of the year when I was juggling work and graduate school. While prayer helped me to get through that night, I had to take very practical steps over the next few months to safeguard my mental and emotional health and well-being such as developing a self-care routine.
My self-care routine currently includes:
Prayer. I have been journaling my prayers for the last few years and it helps me to really wrestle with my emotions and thoughts and give them to God. I notice the difference in my emotional health when I am intentional about praying about the things that can cause stress or anxiety in my life.
Reducing the number of things that I have on my proverbial plate at any moment. That includes saying no to ministry, career, or personal commitments if it’s more than I can handle. As someone who is known as a “busy” person, I’m working to change this narrative in my life.
Spending less time on social media. This isn’t always easy because my full-time job includes managing a social media advocacy platform. However, when I notice that I am, even subconsciously, playing the comparison game on social media, I know I need to take a break. That means putting down the phone for a few hours for either self-reflection and affirmation or connecting with a friend off of the ‘gram.
Reading books that strengthen my emotional and spiritual core. The books that I have read recently are:
The Emotionally Healthy Leader by Pete Scazzero – This book and The Emotionally Healthy Woman by Geri Scazzero (formerly titled “I Quit”) have been instrumental in helping me designate a “Sabbath” or “self-care” day each week.
She Is Free by Andi Andrew – sometimes you just need to know that you are not alone and that is what Andi does by sharing her story about breaking free from the lies that hold you captive.
Rising Strong by Brene Brown – I highly recommend anything by Brene Brown and this book is just one way that she helps us tackle our stories of hurt, shame, and rejection to overcome defeat or loss.
The Bible – There are so many truths and affirmations in the Bible that have helped me to fight through daily struggles. Here are some of my favorite:
1 Peter 5:7 – “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
Romans 8: 26 – 39 – “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”
While these are some of the things that have helped me in the past, this is by no means an exhaustive list of treatment options for someone who is dealing with an emotional or mental crisis. In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, we will continue this conversation by sharing more stories from our team and highlight when you should seek professional help, how to connect with a therapist and when medication may be appropriate.
Remember, you’re not alone.