Saving Lives

What the Bible Has to Say About Suicide

Depression is subtle. It has a way of sneaking up on you. You’re not quite sure when, how, or why it comes, but you can’t seem to get from under it. It’s more than sadness. More than disappointment. Depression is a shroud of darkness around you, even though the sun is shinning. It’s a thousand weighted blankets on top of you holding you captive to your thoughts. It’s quicksand. The moment you step in you feel trapped, and the more you move the deeper you sink.

Matt Adler, a successful attorney, husband, and father of two young children found himself sinking in the sands of depression. The winter of 2011 was plagued with great economic peril causing Matt great anxiety, sleepless nights, and reportedly, a “crumbling loss of self-esteem.” Seeking help from both a psychologist and a psychiatrist, his wife Dr. Jennifer Stuber, a public health expert at the University of Washington, recalls how “No one took the signs seriously. The psychiatrist seemed almost annoyed.”

Matt drove himself to a local gun shop. He’d never owned or fired a gun in his life. With no record of criminal or violent behavior, Matt passed the legal background check. A couple of hours later, Matt used that gun to kill himself. He was 40 years old.

The Morning News

On Tuesday, November 17th Roni Caryn Rabin’s article “‘How Did We Not Know?’ Gun Owners Confront a Suicide Epidemic” was published in The New York Times. Rabin reports how “according to national health statistics, 24,432 Americans used guns to kill themselves in 2018, up from 19,392 in 2010.” In fact, while statistics estimate that gun violence kills approximately 40,000 Americans, causing us to focus on issues like murder, mass shootings, and accidental deaths, Rabin writes that “these account for little more than one-third of the nation’s firearms fatalities. The majority of gun deaths are suicides — and just over half of suicides involve guns.”

While researchers are adamant about the fact that suicide attempts and completion have not increased during the pandemic, particularly in response to Jake Tapper’s recent error in tweeting an inaccurate report claiming “suicide figures are up 200% since lockdown, they do acknowledge that there has been an increase in the number of Americans reporting symptoms of depression. Julia Musto reports in an article for the New York Post that “Forty-seven percent of people with a household income of less than $20,000 and 41 percent of people with household savings under $5,000 said they had experienced symptoms of depression.” In addition, the FBI, according to NPR, reports of “a new record of 3.9 million background checks to purchase or possess firearms in June. That eclipsed the previous record set in March of 3.7 million background checks.”

With a steady rise in gun sales, coronavirus deaths, unemployment, and the disappointment around not seeing family for the holidays due to travel restrictions or death, we must be more aware of those around us struggling with suicide. Rabin reports of how researchers like Dr. Stuber and former Marine, gun owners like Brett Bass, are teaming up to save lives. Bass and Stuber believe that everything from gun retailers asking more questions of first-time gun buyers to gun owners putting locks on their firearms could give someone “enough time to maybe change [their] mind.”

What Does the Bible Say About Suicide?

After reading these news reports, the question that came to my mind is: what does the Bible have to say about suicide? Public Health researchers like Dr. Stuber and gun owners like Brett Bass are doing everything they can to disrupt the link between gun ownership and suicide. But, does the Bible have anything to say about it? Can the Bible help save a life contemplating suicide?

The Seven Suicides

There are seven accounts of suicide or attempted suicide in the Bible. The first is found in Judges 9:54 where Abimelech, after wounded by a woman who crushed his skull by dropping a millstone on his head, cried out saying, “draw your sword and kill me, or they’ll say about me, ‘a woman killed him.’” So, Abimelech’s armor-bearer killed him.

King Abimelech was not the only leader in the book of Judges that displayed suicidal thoughts. In Judges 16:21–31 we find the story of Israel’s strongest Judge Samson. After being deceived by Delilah, Samson is captured by the Philistines, they gouge out his eyes, bind him with bronze shackles, and force him to grind grain in prison. While worshiping their god Dagon, the Philistines bring Samson out to mock and taunt him. Standing between two pillars, Samson prays, “Lord, God, please remember me. Strengthen me, God, just once more. With one act of vengeance, let me pay back the Philistines for my two eyes.” Pushing against the pillars of the temple Samson concludes declaring, “let me die with the Philistines.” And the judge dies with his oppressors.

In the heat of war, 1 Samuel 31:4-6 records how King Saul was losing to the Philistine army. So he turned to his armor-bearer and said, “draw your sword and run me through with it, or these uncircumcised men will come and run me through and torture me!” The Bible says that Saul’s armor-bearer was too afraid to complete the request. So “Saul took his sword and fell on it.” After seeing that his leader was dead, the amor-bearer also fell on his sword killing himself.

In 2 Samuel 17:23 we read the story of Ahithophel, an advisor to King David’s son Absalom, who once Absalom rejected any more of his counsel “set his house in order” and hanged himself.

Even King Zimri, a man who was king for seven days in Tirzah, once realizing the Philistines would soon over power him, set his palace on fire with himself inside dying amidst the flames.

There is only one clear example of suicide in the New Testament found in Matthew 27:3–10. There, the writer shares the story of how Judas hanged himself over the immense grief and remorse felt for cooperating in Jesus’ execution.

Jonah’s Suicide Attempt

If you were counting, that’s only six stories. The last I’d like to draw your attention to is found in Jonah 1:11–15. In these verses we read about a prophet who God has given the command to go and preach to the people in Nineveh so that they may repent and turn away from their evil practices. Jonah refuses and flees to the city of Tarshish.

While on a ship to Tarshish God sends a storm on the sea with great winds that almost break the boat. Upon realizing that he is to blame for this great storm, Jonah asks the men to throw him overboard. Initially, the men refuse and simply keep trying to row to dry land. With no reprieve, the men prayed, “Lord, don’t let us perish because of this man’s life, and don’t charge us with innocent blood! For you, Lord, have done just as you pleased.” And they threw Jonah overboard.

Some Bible scholars count this story in Jonah as a suicide attempt. For example, Geoffrey Bromiley’s International Standard Bible Encyclopedia defines suicide as “The taking of one’s own life, or causing it to be taken by another, regardless of motive, circumstances, or method used.” Based on this definition he cites the six examples I mentioned above, along with Jonah.

In the story of Jonah’s suicide attempt, though, what is encouraging for us to know is that God intervened and prevented the completion of Jonah’s attempt. In fact, the Bible says in Jonah 1:17, “The Lord appointed a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.” In other words, Jonah attempted to reject God’s will for his life either by detour or death. But Jonah’s suicide attempt did not anger God. Instead, it caused God to step in and save him.

Live For God

I believe God saved Jonah because in the Bible we learn that God does not desire His followers to die for Him. On the contrary, He wants them to live for Him. Paul writes in Romans 12:1, “Therefore, brothers and sisters, in view of the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your true worship.” During the time of antiquity many of the cultural religions taught that the gods required a blood sacrifice. So, many sacrificed women, children, anyone deemed necessary killing them on an altar as a sacrifice to the gods. Paul is countering this by declaring that the God who made the Heavens and the Earth, He does not require a blood sacrifice. He is not wanting you to die for Him. He actually wants you to live for Him.

It is in living for God that your life is a daily act of sacrifice and worship. In this sense, suicidal ideation and even suicidal attempts do not anger God. What God sees is someone who is overwhelmed like Jonah; someone who is filled with guilt like Judas; someone who is overcome with fear like Saul; even someone who is overcome by purpose like Samson. And when God sees this in us He is not angered He is moved to compassion.

In the story of Jonah we see God send a big fish to save Jonah, but in the story of Jesus we see God Himself walking amongst humanity seeking to heal and restore. See, when God sees broken people, He seeks to save. When God sees broken people, He seeks to restore. When God sees broken people, He seeks to make them whole. God wants to save and heal you so that you have the strength and courage to live for Him. That is God’s response to suicide.

The Takeaway

And so no matter what is going on in the world. No matter what has you feeling overwhelmed, afraid, filled with guilt, grief, or worthlessness, know that God desires nothing more than that you live and as Jesus says in John 10:10 “have life more abundantly.” Please don’t take your life. Know that there is a God in Heaven who loves you in all of your uniqueness. He believes that the greatest gift you could ever give Him is to live and live more abundantly.

*If you or someone who know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, depression, or anxiety encourage them to get the help they need. Be with them. Talk with them. Love them. Recommend a counselor. And always share the Suicide Prevention Lifeline number, where a counselor is available 24/7 to help: 800–273–8255. Also check out the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention to learn more about how you can help save a life. Click here for the link.




#WhatsTheMessage EP 009: The Psychological Effects of a Pandemic

In this episode, Carmela and Claudia welcome psycho-therapist Shivon Massenburg to discuss some of the positive and negative affects this pandemic is having on so many of us. They discuss best practices during qurantine, how you can connect your psychological coping mechanisms with your spiritual practices, and even provide resources for those struggling with anxiety, depression, OCD, or those who are quarantined in abusive and unsafe environments. This is an amazing and important episode that you do not want to miss!
 
Check out the article they mentioned entitled “Pandemic Spending” by Ruthven Philip by clicking on this link: https://www.messagemagazine.com/articles/pandemic-spending/
 
Here are some of the mental health resources Shivon Massenburg mentioned:
 
Crisis Text Line: https://www.crisistextline.org/
 
Disaster Distress Helpline: 1-800-985-5990
 
Domestic Violence Helpline: https://www.thehotline.org/help/
1-800-799-SAFE (7233)
 
Make sure you’re getting our weekly newsletter and our bi-monthly print magazine. You can subscribe for both at our website www.messagemagazine.com
 
Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @Message1898



Your Crisis Care Kit for Coronavirus, and Everything Else.

What do you do when storms come? How does one make it through tough times? These and many more are the questions some have during this coronavirus crisis and global pandemic. As fear and anxiety loom in the air, so many fret about the future, and worry about how we will get through this crisis.

Let me assure you there is a word from the Lord. This did not catch God off guard. His promise is, “Lo, I am with you always, even until the end . . .”

Two Crisis-Management Strategies

First, let me remind you that God has not left you. “Never feel that Christ is far away. He is always near. His loving presence surrounds you” wrote 19th Century, prolific writer Ellen G. White in the Ministry of Healing. The fact of His nearness truly is key to a sense of well-being. Jesus knows us individually, and is touched with the feeling of our infirmities. He knows us all by name. “He knows the very house in which we live, the name of each occupant. He has, at times, given directions to His servants to go to a certain street in a certain city, to such a house, to find one of His sheep” White wrote in the Desire of Ages. You have a friend in Jesus, and even in the storm He can bring peace!

Second, we must make sure we are rooted and grounded. The Bible says it this way, “Blessed is the man that trusteth in the LORD, and whose hope the LORD is. For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit” (Jeremiah 17:7-8).

We sometimes wonder why some trees are down and some are still standing after a storm. Was it the wind? No, it was because the roots of some trees extended deeper than others. Storms may build us. It is more likely, though, that they reveal us. During this time while some resent isolation, I heard someone say it’s time for consecration. It is spending time with God that builds us, and this is a time for us to evaluate on what we build our lives.

Storms may build us. It is more likely, though, that they reveal us.

Perspective in Vulnerability

“Notice how fast the whole world can fall apart?” someone asked me the other day. “In the blink of an eye toilet paper runs out. In the blink of an eye college campuses close, and the NBA stops playing. In the blink of an eye plane stop flying. In the blink of an eye you’ll be quarantined to your homes, but fired if you don’t show for work. In the blink of an eye every nation trembles.”

Humanity is so frail that a tiny, little, invisible virus could disrupted so much. This life is temporary.  In the blink of an eye we can step in to eternity.

Underground Strength

Jesus is standing at the door of your heart and knocking. Will you let him in? That is why He said everyone who hears His word and builds on it is like the wise man who built his house on a rock, and when the storm came his house did not fall because it was built on a rock. Question, is Christ your solid Rock?

The song writer says,

My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness; I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand; All other ground is sinking sand, when darkness seems to hide His face I rest on His unchanging grace; In every high and stormy gale My anchor holds within the veil. His oath, His covenant, His blood support me in the whelming flood; when all around my soul gives way, He then is all my Hope and Stay.

If during this crisis you don’t have a sure foundation let me invite you to give Jesus your heart and He will uphold you and carry you through.

“Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).




An Antidote for Anxiety

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 4:6-7

Have you ever felt anxious? The American Psychology Association (APA) defines anxiety as, “an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure.” Few people are immune from feelings of anxiety because most people are familiar with the unpredictable nature of life. While we understand the seasonal nature of life, we are still gripped by our limited capacity to predict every transition. Because we live within the dynamism of life, or life’s ebb and flow, we are susceptible to surprises. Consequently, we are frequently frustrated by the fact that all of our planning, organizing, saving, and positioning cannot prevent tragedies, avoid chaos, elude challenges, or eliminate aggravations.

As Christians, we are acquainted with the interplay between good and evil. We know that trouble is a part of this life (see John 16:33). Yet, at times, wickedness seems to prosper and evil conquers good more than we’d like. If we are honest, sometimes we are bothered by the inequities God permits, how He handles circumstances, and why He moves in the ways that He does. Our inability to completely comprehend the nature of God, His patience in a world of sin, His goodness in a world of bad, and His faithfulness in a world of fickleness can make us downright anxious.

Answers For Anxiety

Although we cannot always prepare for the unexpected, prevent the unwanted, or prohibit the unsolicited, there is an antidote for your anxiety. The apostle Paul shares it in the fourth chapter of his letter to the Philippian church. The church of Philippi was located in Macedonia. Macedonia was a major trading center, welcoming seafaring merchants and land-trodding tradesmen for various types of business. The Philippians would have known the feelings of anxiety because they are not much different than you or I. Your biblical family members would be able to relate with the yearnings of your year, the moans of your month, the weeping of your week, and even the disappointments of your day. If they could, they might say, “Although we speak a different language, live in a different part of the world, and have different customs and norms, we still get anxious!”

But, they would not stop there. I believe they would move from confession to consolation, saying, “Brothers and sisters, Pastor Paul wrote us a letter. He said we did not have to be anxious about anything because we could pray about everything.” This is our antidote for anxiety! What was true for the Philippians is true for you and me. Prayer still works! This week, practice the discipline of pausing to pray. In return, God promises to give you peace that passes all understanding.




Recovering From Overwhelming Grief

A friend of mine drives a technologically advanced car. Recently, she told me about experiencing car trouble. While driving she rolled over a nail and punctured one of her tires. However, one of the features of her technologically advanced car is that it alerts her when air pressure is depleting from her tires. Thanks to this new feature it did not take long for her to notice a problem existed.

Before upgrading her car, she had a similar experience. Rolling over a nail and driving with tire pressure depleting, her older car lacked the ability to alert her of what happened. As a result, she continued to drive her car like nothing was wrong. Things were seemingly ok until she experienced a massive blowout! Thank God for technologically advanced cars!

Grief Without Signals

If the truth were told, most of us operate like the older car instead of the technologically advanced car when experiencing grief. It is not that we do not know that grief exists, but sometimes it is complicated identifying the signals that show up in our lives emotionally, physically, and spiritually. We are routinely hit with some of life’s biggest punctures, but oftentimes we are completely unaware of its devastating effects. Unfortunately, many of us do not notice we’ve been punctured until we experience a massive blow out.

Grief Triggers

Grief is defined as the emotional process of reacting to affliction or loss. According to Swiss-American Psychiatrist Dr. Elisabeth Kūbler-Ross, people experience the five stages of grief in this order: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. In our sinful world, everyone inevitably experiences grief in some form or fashion. The most common way of experiencing grief is in the death of a loved one. However there are many other ways that people experience grief. Some experience grief over:

  • Divorce, or the end of a relationship
  • Oneset of a chronic or terminal disease
  • Job loss
  • Delivering a child with a birth defect
  • Disability from an illness or severe accident
  • Loss of independence
  • Surviving an act of violence or natural disaster
  • Discovering your child/teen has a learning disability, behavior problem, or is abusing drugs or alcohol
  • Having a miscarriage or still birth

Grief Alerts

Having a theoretical understanding of grief is often not enough to move people to action. In fact, no clear knowledge of what is causing the grieving process is what causes the most damage. It is when we are not aware that various experiences in life have punctured us that we begin to experience emotional, physical, and spiritual depletion. And grief left unchecked slowly, but surely leads to deterioration. But there are some grief alerts that can let us know something has punctured us and we are depleting:

  • Crying
  • Headaches
  • Isolation from family and friends
  • Insomnia
  • Questioning your belief in God
  • Stress
  • Fatigue
  • Guilt
  • Anxiety
  • Loss of appetite

Any one of the above mentioned systems are overwhelming to carry. A collection of them are destructive, and often indicative of a greater issue. Leaving our grief triggers unresolved and our grief alerts ignored leads to mental and/or emotional illness along with a host of other medical conditions. The good news is that this does not have to be our reality. We don’t have to continue limping through life with a nail in our tire.

Paul’s Grief Recovery Program

As believers in Jesus Christ we have an advantage working in our favor. That advantage is the Word of God. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 says, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” In these verses the Apostle Paul offers us two powerful principles concerning grief. The first, and most important principle, is that God is able and willing to comfort us in our grief. He is patient, compassionate, and gentle in how he comforts us in times of need. What better example is there of how to support others than in the example God shows us Himself?

God does not put a timetable on our grief. He does not dictate how we should feel. In His compassion He comforts us until we are once again able to stand on our own two feet. However, there is another piece to this puzzle. The second principle to Paul’s grief recovery program is that God comforts us so that we can comfort others. In other words, one of the best antidotes to grief is community. When we have people who sit with us, pray with us, cry with us, talk things through with us, and simply bless us with their silent presence those grieving experience a powerful healing and restoration. And after you’ve reached the other side of your healing you now can be to someone else what others were to you in your time of need.

Seek A Grief and Loss Professional

Additionally, consulting a grief and loss professional can be beneficial during the recovery process. The good Lord in all of His grace and mercy has equipped individuals with the necessary skills and expertise to treat mental and emotional illness in our communities. There is no shame associated with asking for help. The good news is that God is in the business of figuratively removing life’s nails from our tires and help us manage the wounds that from the puncture.

Grief does not have the final say, God does! 

There is life after grief, but it requires intentional and consistent work. But what’s great is that God has the ability to console, reassure, and even deliver us out of our grief.




My Struggle With Mental Health

These Are My Confessions

I am a pastor, husband, father, and a writer. I love Jesus and I am excited about what He is doing through me and in me. Yet, there are two issues that I have dealt with my whole life: ADD and anxiety. I became aware of them pretty early on in life. The anxiety manifested itself in two ways, especially:
  1. Public speaking
  2. Dark, lonely places
I’ve always said God has a sense of humor because he called me to be a pastor: a job that requires a lot of public speaking and also a lot of traveling and staying in dark places alone. And truthfully I must confess, traveling was very difficult for me for the longest time. The anxiety got so bad that I couldn’t fall asleep. And I will never forget how my anxiety took over when I preached my first sermon. I was so overwhelmed that even though I had 10 pages of written material I only spoke for 5 minutes. My girlfriend at the time was so unimpressed with my sermon she broke up with me soon after.

You Are Not Alone

The reason I’m sharing my experience is because I find so many leaders and members alike struggle with mental health issues. And to make matters worse they’re getting terrible counsel. Unfortunately, many of us are dealing with everything from anxiety and depression to bipolar disorder and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) by ourselves. Anyone facing these issues alone knows that isolation only exasperates the problem.

Get Counseling

You know what helped me? Counseling helped. At some point we have to be honest and admit that sometimes you can’t just pray depression away, or anxiety, or _______________ (fill your mental health challenge here). “Pray harder” may not be the best solution.
In fact, when you pray and the problem continues it can create a false sense of guilt and shame. Many begin to believe that either God doesn’t want to heal them, or that they don’t deserve to be healed. And neither of these things are true. The fact of the matter is, mental health issues are not exclusively spiritual issues. They are illnesses that require medical attention in the same way a broken arm or a heart attack requires a physician. So if you’re struggling with mental health go see a counselor.

Prayer Really Works

But in addition to the counseling, prayer really did help a lot. There is a calming effect to prayer. This calming effect is really why I believe talking to God is such a blessing. I can truly say that through prayer i’ve experienced the promise of Philippians 4:6-7: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

Work With the Weight

I also found that doing my job regardless of how I felt helped. In spite of the anxiety, I continue to speak and travel. I’ve taken God’s instruction to Joshua to “Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9). It’s verses like these that teach me to trust in God’s calling more than in my issues.

Talk Through It

And finally, I learned that talking to people also helped. Because there is a stigma attached to mental health issues it is oftentimes hard to open up. But when we share our stories with others it allows people to feel comfortable saying “that is my story too!” Vulnerability breeds community.
I want to invite you to seek help. The Father says, you are worthy. Jesus says, you are loved. And the Spirit say, you are special.

 




10 Ways to Overcome Bullying in your Mind

As a kid, I hated walking down one hallway at school because I feared two mischievous seventh-grade boys. These boys had me so convinced their words were true. When a guidance counsellor attempted to console me – she told me I was “pretty” – I didn’t believe her.  I distinctly remember laughing as if she had made a joke.

Even as a young adult professional in the workplace, I battled depression and anxiety. This caused me to be hugely resistant to correction. As I wallowed in numerous insecurities, I came to believe that that no one liked me. I thought that I was nowhere near good enough.

Ten Rounds with a Powerful Bully

Though, I was no longer a bullying victim, technically,  a bully remained in my mind and  I constantly found myself going up against her. I went into the ring every time I ran into a “bossy” co-worker, or a friend who poked “harmless” fun at my expense. Or every time I was discriminated against, or crudely dismissed for a job or ignored by a not-so hot crush.

Bullying is not just something that plays out in one scene of our (childhood) and disappears the rest. Research (2013) has shown that being bullied as a child or adolescent leaves you at a higher risk of developing psychological disorders as an adult, such as depression and anxiety. While it may not be possible to completely undo the damage of the past, here are some ways you can counteract against the psychological effects bullying may have on you now as an adult.

Standing Up to Yourself

Confront your Past 

The taunts you endured in high school, could be affecting you still. Leanne Prendergast, founder and president of an anti-bullying organization called Love Our Lives, says that one of the biggest ways the trauma from bullying manifests itself later on in life, is through our language.

Frozen in time: Childhood taunts still ringing in your ears? It is time that you rewrite the script.

“There’s a script in our minds that we’ve allowed to rule our thoughts. But the moment we start to rewrite that is when we’ve taken our first step to restore ourselves. Then, we begin the process of letting go of the negativity that we’ve been carrying for so long.”

Don’t Play the Victim

We play the victim every time we blame whatever problems we are dealing with, on someone or something else. No matter what challenges may arise, we’re good at shifting blame away from ourselves, at all cost. While there is no denying the severe impact, you may have experienced as a result of distressing past events, at some point we have to look within to find what part we had to play in our own messes. Though, please don’t use this as an opportunity to fall into the trap of guilt and self-deprecation. You’ve taken a hard beating, so go easy on yourself. Use this time instead to learn from your mistakes and grow into a better version of yourself.

Recognize the Triggers 

Maybe you find yourself getting worked up when someone challenges your authority. Or, perhaps you begin to feel insecure around narcissistic personalities. Their persistent need for control may remind you of those bullies from your past. Whatever the situation, try honing in on it. You can’t resolve a problem if you don’t know it’s there.

Seek Support 

Research released from The Center for The Developing Child at Harvard University, reveals that supportive, solid relationships with adults and caregivers from early on can actually reverse some of the damaging effects of toxic stress. Though, you are no longer a child, the benefits that come from having a strong support system still apply. Shelly Wiggins, a licensed professional counselor with Driftwood Counseling, says that recognizing the value that comes from a therapeutic relationship process, is highly important. Whether this be a “mentor, coach, or therapist,” there’s something incredibly rewarding about having “someone that can walk alongside you through a process; it doesn’t have to take years.”  So, as you seek to access healing in your life, be open to having someone support you in this new pursuit.

Take your Time

When you’re dealing with deep-rooted issues, you will need to set a grace period for yourself as this will no doubt take a lot out of you. Sometimes people have this story of bullying that’s so far back in their memory that they may not want to talk about it or they think its so insignificant that it doesn’t matter,” says Wiggins. “It takes some time to work with a person to unravel the story.”

Believe you Can Overcome 

Despite the fact that studies show that being bullied can lead to significant mental health problems such as depression later in life, there is still hope. A study published in JAMA Psychiatry found that the detrimental effects of bullying decreased over time, which the authors say indicates the potential for resilience in children exposed to bullying. This is good news, because it shows people can do better, no matter what they might have experienced in the past. It starts by letting go of the pain from previous years and then choosing to cherish a resilient spirit. No matter what you’ve had to endure, believe that restoration is possible.

Speak Up About What Happened 

Confront the bullies now: Speak, write and keep a journal about the abuses you suffered. You may empower someone else.

Ignoring traumatic events does not support us in our journey to recovery. After you have acknowledged what has happened to you, the next step is to free yourself from the fear that is paralyzing you and speak up about it. Depending on where you are in your passage to healing, this could look like sharing in a private manner, with a trusted friend or family member. Or, it could mean choosing to become a public advocate at the appointed time, in order to help others come to terms with their own hurtful experiences.

Take Up Journaling

A study in 2002 found it to be a useful practice for those undergoing trauma or stress, which may be why so many therapists recommend it for their clients.

Wiggins explains this point further. ”Just the process of writing out your story can be therapeutic in of itself,” she says. “The purpose of doing this is to get the story out of you that might be stuck inside. It also helps to validate your own feelings and dispose of the negative emotions that might be hanging on, so that it doesn’t inhibit your daily functioning and current relationships.”

As an additional measure to encourage the release of painful thoughts and emotions that may be blocking you from accessing true healing, Wiggins recommends writing a letter to the person who bullied you in one of your private sessions. Though, she does not encourage seeking the person out with the intent of sending the letter, neither should it be posted on a public platform.

Head Outdoors  

A breath of fresh air can do wonders. Remember that the next time you find yourself in a toxic situation or lagging under the weight of heavy emotions. Some possible ways you can use your time outdoors well, can be a brisk walk, a cardio workout session, or a cool, refreshing swim. If you’re looking for an even quieter option, you might even choose to settle down under the shade of a nice tree with a book. “I have found significant value in taking people out to be in nature,” says Wiggins. “It gives [them] a place to be able to express [their] emotions in a complete safe environment which is different from traditional talk therapy.”

Forgive  

As the popular saying goes, Not forgiving someone is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” When you choose not to forgive, you unconsciously feed into a never-ending cycle of bitterness and resentment, which does more harm than good.

Yet, according to the John Hopkins School of Medicine, the biblical principle of forgiveness has substantial health benefits too. Not only does it lower the risk of heart attack, improve cholesterol levels, and reduce pain and blood pressure, it can also decrease levels of depression, anxiety and stress.

“Nine times out of ten when people walk into my office, I am going to have to deal with one of two things, one of which has to do with forgiveness,” Wiggins says. “We can all benefit from learning what true forgiveness is.” If you’re seeking to recover from inner wounds previously inflicted by the bullies of your past, then maybe it’s time you tried forgiving them. Believe me, you’ll be better for it.