Sarah's Everyday Faith


Revd Sarah Wright is a Chaplain based at Glenfield Acute Hospital and The Bradgate Mental Health Unit. She spoke to us about her experience of mental health problems, her journey with God and how her faith is part of her every day.

Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder was only recognised as being a separate diagnosis related to PTSD a few years ago. I was finally diagnosed 3 years ago and this means I now have a better understanding of why I am like I am. Importantly, it also means I am on the right medication on repeat prescription, so I can function well enough to hold down a job as a Hospital Chaplain.

However, a diagnosis and medication are only part of the story. I am 55 and the long term traumas that caused my mental health problems started in childhood and continued until I was in my 40s. I have along the way been homeless, been diagnosed with anxiety and depression, and seriously attempted suicide twice. I have had to make decisions between really limited and awful options, I have faced rejection, discrimination, and repeatedly had to leave jobs because of my mental health - including the priesthood for 11 years. I have had counselling, been supported by friends, and more recently a support group for PTSD and CPTSD. So what have I learnt by struggling through this process which informs my Everyday Faith and how I support patients?

Psalm 139:13-16: “I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” As I keep visiting patients I have watched them slowly move from expressing a negative view of themselves to begin to see themselves as being of value, worthy of help, and of being fearfully and wonderfully made. How hard do we find it sometimes to look at another and see them as made by God, let alone loved by God? The best I can hope to do in the wider world is challenge the prevailing attitude, raise awareness of mental health and treat everyone as equally precious in God’s sight.

I Kings 19 starts with Elijah under the broom tree wanting to die. I have been there and so have a lot of my patients so it is always very powerful to look over this chapter with them. What does God do? He does not get angry or shout at Elijah at any point. God first lets Elijah feel the full extent of his pain, in safety under the broom tree. God then sends an angel with food and drink. The first time this is rejected and without arguing the angel leaves. The angel returns with food and drink for Elijah, this time explaining that Elijah needs sustenance for a journey. The following 40 day route march and mountain climb might not be something you or I are called to do every day, but when you are struggling with depression going out of the house to get milk from the corner shop can feel equally as gruelling. Elijah might have grumbled and kicked stones but step by step he made the journey, and so do we. God then reminds Elijah of who He, God, is and who he, Elijah is. Elijah is a prophet; he always has been a prophet even when he couldn’t see it for himself. To be fair, he is not the only prophet with depression in the Bible. The big truth I had to learn was that wholeness encompasses our ill health, so I am whole even with CPTSD, I am a priest with CPTSD, my patients are whole with their mental health problems and God is OK with that and works with it.

Luke 22:39-44: “Father if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will but yours be done.” One of the consequences of having any mental health problem can be shame. Shame can make us feel we can never be forgiven – at worst, that we are unforgiveable and should be punished. Talking with my patients we often end up not being able to define exactly what it is we did that leaves us feeling this way. So we imagine sitting with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, we feel his recoiling from the sight of every sin ever committed by anyone, ever. Can he really agree to take all sin on himself to the cross and destroy it? Can everyone really have been forgiven already? Somehow our minds just want to argue, not my sin! A friend once said to me, ‘That’s a bit arrogant, do you really think you are more powerful than Jesus?’ I looked shocked. ‘No!’ I said. My friend said, ‘So how come you think you were able to commit a sin that Jesus could not face, take on himself to the cross and destroy?’ It is hard work letting yourself be forgiven. Then there is the process of forgiving others, those who we cannot even name, those out of our lives and those very much still around. Buddha said, ‘Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.’ By struggling with forgiving the people who caused my trauma I stopped drinking the poison that was making - let’s face it - only me ill.

Finally, Proverbs 3:5-6: “…and He, (God), will make your paths straight.”  At which point I roll my eyes. In no possible way can my life be considered ‘a straight path’. What is the writer of Proverbs on about?  Maybe it is not about a straight path like a Roman Road but more about God making sense of every twist and turn, every hold up, and wrong road taken. Looking back on my life, I can see now how useful it is in my current job to have done all the other jobs, had the training, lived my life experiences and met the people I met who God used to guide me. So each morning I ask God to guide my path, to walk with me, so we will be where people need us, no matter the circuitous route to get there.

Everyday faith: We are all fearfully and wonderfully made by God. God’s wholeness encompasses our illness, our brokenness. Jesus has forgiven all our sins, and everyone else’s sins, so stop drinking the poison. God makes sense of our path and will walk every twist and turn with us, helping us and others along the way.


For information on PTSD & CPTSD see the Mind Website

https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd/complex-ptsd#.XdJnQVf7Tcu

How to contact Chaplaincy

Phone:

  • Leicester Royal Infirmary: 0116 258 5487
  • Leicester General Hospital: 0116 258 4243
  • Glenfield Hospital: 0116 258 3413
  • LPT Community Hospitals and Mental Health Service: 0116 229 4055

Email:




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