Mental health is often a subject considered taboo or one that is haphazardly associated with a negative connotation. It seems this is exacerbated by the notion that people of faith should not have any need for support outside of their religious community. To make matters worse, in far too many homes, the mere mention of counseling is perceived as a sign of weakness.

I used to harbor such ignorant thoughts myself. However, I was only suppressing my true emotions.

The fact is, I needed counseling long before I actually began receiving it. But I denied myself this service because of what I allowed myself to believe. It does not matter how someone appears on the outside; suppressing emotions can lead to depression or much worse. Life throws curveballs at you, and sometimes you find yourself on a journey you would not have anticipated. If these situations are not handled appropriately, and if you refuse to tackle the root of the problem, you will find yourself going through the motions and pretending to be as OK as you think others need you to be.

I remember always reading and admiring a quote on the wall of my high school leadership class. Though I do not know the quote’s exact origin or author, I remember it as follows: “Be who you choose to be, not who others choose to see.”

Well, somewhere a long time ago, I lost sight of that. Professional accomplishments and personal achievements allowed me to mask what I had really been struggling with. Adversity has its place. It is actually extremely beneficial. However, some trials in life take years to reveal their true effect, while others immediately shake you to the core. Whether it is the absence of a biological parent throughout childhood, growing up around domestic violence, navigating the unexpected death of a loved one, or the abrupt contemplation of divorce, these twists and turns in life’s journey can be mentally and
emotionally exhausting.

I would like to believe it is not necessarily the adverse situation that defines a person, but rather how they choose to respond—and who they become—once they deal with the severe emotional distress.

No one should avoid introspection, because it is essential in identifying how you process your thoughts and emotions. Ultimately, it helps you determine healthy ways to remedy what affects you. Scripture reminds us that “Faith without works is dead.” I consider receiving counseling as a part of the work which allows my faith to be activated.

A wise friend and local pastor once told me, “If you want to go fast, go alone; but if you want to go far, go with others.” I would not be where I am today without the love and support of my family and circle of close friends. Sometimes, you have to experience what appears to be significant loss in order to gain the maturity to accept responsibility for what your life has become. Service remains its own reward, but loving that service is something I almost lost sight of.

The conclusion of one chapter in life only creates a pathway for the commencement of another chapter. Though I do not know nor can I presume to anticipate what will happen in this next chapter, I am relying on the author and finisher of my faith, my Lord and Savior Jesus, to continue to lead me in the way I should go. 

Author

  • Patrick Miller is President of the Amarillo Branch NAACP and assistant principal at Eastridge Elementary. In 2021, he completed a 6-year term on the Amarillo College Board of Regents, to which he was elected at the age of 25. He has earned Master’s degrees in both teaching and educational leadership from WTAMU and has served in a variety of leadership roles within the Amarillo Independent School District.