In Episode 40 of the #AskSteveAustin Podcast, Steve Austin shares some encouragement from his own life for folks who feel hopeless. If you’re ready to give up, tired of running, or feel like you’re drowning, please listen to this very personal bonus episode.
I cohost the CXMH Podcast, along with my friend and fellow mental health advocate, Robert Vore. This week, we've had the honor of sharing our perspective on mental health and violence with Charisma News and Relevant Magazine.
Mental Health and Violence: The Truth
“This is a mental health problem.”
Every time another tragic act of violence sweeps our country, some variation of this statement gets tossed around. In 2017 alone, there have been 385 shootings in which at least four people were injured or killed. In response, politicians and faith leaders alike shift the conversation toward mental health. Pat Robertson, for example, announced on his popular television program, The 700 Club that we need to investigate links between antidepressants and violence:
There’s got to be a thorough investigation into the effect of antidepressants … There’ve been so many of these mass killings and almost every one, as I said before, has had some nexus to antidepressants. So, we need to see what we are giving people.
The problem with statements like this? They’re wrong.
Doctors, psychiatrists and researchers have repeatedly stated there’s no evidence of a link between mental health medications and higher rates of violence.
Other statements from politicians and leaders are less specific, linking mental illness with violence and mass shootings overall. Again, the problem here is that there’s simply no basis for these claims.
The truth is, there are many people in church with you every week who are faithful followers of Christ and who also have a mental illness. People with mental illnesses are singing in your choir, teaching Sunday School, keeping your children in the nursery, sitting in the pew next to you and even preaching from your pulpits.
People with mental illness are real people with needs and burdens, as well as gifts and talents and love to offer God and church community. Most of us aren't violent. Like you, we're just looking for a safe space to lay down our burdens and find rest for our souls.
And to read our article, "Dear Church, Stop Saying Violence Is a Mental Health Problem," just click here.
For more on this very important topic, check out the latest episode of CXMH: A Podcast at the Intersection of Christianity and Mental Health.
I am a fledgling sabbath-keeper. Though I’ve written a book about it, embraced my 52 chances per year to practice it, and have even preached it, I am a less-than-perfect sabbatarian.
And that’s OK.
But Americans think we have to be the best at everything. As my friend Rev. Elizabeth Hagan writes, “I’m a better do-er than rest-er.” Like her, we thrive on the “go big or go home” mentality. “Good enough” equates to mediocre, which is why our bookshelves are lined with tomes on mastering a craft and becoming our best selves.
I’ve spent the last two years trying to perfect the art of shabbat,or “ceasing” from labor. I researched it from both a scholarly and lay perspective; I interviewed countless clergy and a rabbi on scriptural wisdom and sabbath theology. Combining all the knowledge I gleaned, I wrote a 144-page how-to guide on keeping the fourth commandment. When For Sabbath’s Sake headed to print, I was confident I had mastered this spiritual practice.
But then it came time to talk to real-life folks about how to (realistically) keep sabbath in a noisy, 24-7 world. I had to boil down two years of research and writing into bite-sized bits of “be still” that a frenzied culture and community could digest. Nobody had time to hear me pontificate about how to “master” or “become” a sabbath keeper. In truth, I realized I hadn’t “mastered” or “become” a perfect sabbath keeper, anyway.
So instead of becoming, I decided to “be.”
I decided to invite others to catch glimpses of sabbath rest, devotional practice, and community whenever, wherever, and however they can. I call these “sabbath moments.”
We don’t have to wait for the calendar to bestow these “sabbath moments” upon us. We only need to be open to the Holy Spirit’s movement, and be willing to “see” the sacred among the ordinary. God has given us all the tools we need to catch eternity in a minute (or 15). Here’s how:
- Put away your phone. Research indicates that having a smartphone within sight drains your cognitive capacity. Stowing it for even 15 minutes gives you the opportunity to just sit, think, and engage your brain (and soul) in a meaning-making or thoughtful ritual.
- Get more sleep. There’s no shortage of data on how sleep deprived we are. A delicious 15-minute sabbath nap can feel like an entire night’s sleep. Remember: “resting your eyes” on the couch with People magazine also counts. The point is that you lie down and relax sans screens.
- Talk with someone. I mean really talk—like face-to-face. When’s the last time you attended a community gathering (worship, civilian club, or activism event) and chatted with someone you knew or didn’t know well? Scientists have uncovered the correlation between increased social media use and loneliness. Being online tricks us into thinking we’re connecting in meaningful ways, but it actually leads to FOMO (fear of missing out) and the feeling of being alone.
That’s my 1, 2, 3 broad-strokes key to keeping sabbath: think, sleep, connect. Repeat.
There is a right way to observe sabbath—Jesus taught us this. Christ fought against the legal fiction that declared folks needn’t be healed or fed on the holy day. Instead, Jesus was “Lord of the Sabbath.” He worshipped, he prayed, he gathered people, and he served. Each sabbath looked a little different, but the core themes remained: rest, worship, and community.
If we follow his lead, we would be wise to try these baby-steps. Then, we just might catch a glimpse of eternity in the ordinary moment.
Think. Sleep. Connect. Repeat.
Rest. Worship. Community. Repeat.
The Rev. J. Dana Trent is an ordained Baptist clergywoman, award-winning author and World Religions faculty member at Wake Technical Community College in Raleigh, NC. Her work has appeared onTime.com,Religion Dispatches,Religion News Service, The Christian Century, andSojourners. Her second book,For Sabbath’s Sake: Embracing Your Need for Rest, Worship, and Community,is available now. She loves naps with cats, vegetarian food, and teaches weight-lifting for the YMCA. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram @jdanatrent on Facebook.
Interested in a deeper conversation about sabbath?
Listen to Steve and Dana on Episode 36 of The #AskSteveAustin Podcast. Just click the "play" button below:
I've written extensively about the day I was supposed to die. I've told my story—the pastor who nearly died by suicide—countless times over the past several years. People are amazed, dumbfounded even, that a "man of God" could get so low that his desire for Jesus could only be equaled by his desire to end it all.
Today is National Suicide Prevention Day. So, I'm speaking up about my story once more.
People love to hear about the time Jesus showed up in that ICU room, during the days when I couldn't feel my legs. They weep when I share about how God whispered to my soul, "I'm not finished with you yet." Everyone loves a good redemption story. But what I haven't talked much about is the day I started living again—the day I didn't die.
Maybe I haven't covered the day I started living again as concisely because it isn't really a day, but a series of days. There have been 1,814 of them, to be exact. The first seven days were the hardest. Choosing to get out of that hospital bed. To take my meds as prescribed. Not to overdose again. Not to escape again. Not to run away to the grave and hide until Judgment Day.
Each day, I have to make a conscious effort to tell the truth. To go to therapy. To confess my mess. I'm not sure if you've noticed, but the church doesn't handle long-term healing very well. We don't do a great job with chronic illness. We expect people to recover from a hospital stay within a matter of weeks, because that's what we're told faith is all about.
But the truth is, I have faith. It's gritty and comes with claws, but if I didn't have faith, I would have given a long time ago.
The stigma surrounding mental health is worse in the church than just about anywhere else. The church lacks education and, unfortunately, compassion when it comes to those suffering with mental illness. Lack of compassion and education is met with an abundance of dangerous theology. What you're left with is a poison that is literally killing weary travelers, seeking refuge.
Bad Theology and Mental Health
Today on The Preacher's Forum Podcast, I have the honor of sharing my story of recovery from abuse and a suicide attempt, plus my frustration with the Christian Machine that continues to pummel people in the name of God.
Click here to check out my conversation with Clint Heacock and leave your thoughts in the comments!
If there's going to be any hope for the church today, we've got to continue to have these vital conversations.
I'm so excited to announce More Than Leftovers: An Online Self-Care Community! But before we get into those details, I want to give you 3 reasons why you need better self-care.
3 Reasons Why You Need Better Self-Care
- You're too busy. How do I know? Because I'm a human, too. Being a self-care expert and a life coach doesn't make me immune to the chronic busyness that plagues our culture. If you're anything like me, you are probably married to the calendar on your smart phone. (And those are just the work appointments.) Then add in the social engagements, household chores, and more. And if you're a parent - yikes! When is the last time you disconnected and gave yourself permission to be first for half an hour?
- You lack boundaries. In nearly every coaching session I have, people lack boundaries. Whether it's a co-worker, a boss, or an issue with the in-laws, most people really struggle with the basics of self-respect and direct communication. What self-care tools do you have that empower you to set clear boundaries, even when it's uncomfortable?
- Shame is eating you alive. Shame is a five-letter word, but there are plenty of four-letter words to describe what shame does to us. Brene' Brown says that the ideal ingredients for shame to thrive are: secrecy, silence, and judgment. Do you have a safe community, where you can shine light on the lies of shame?
My book, Self-Care for the Soul, has helped countless people create a lifestyle of focused emotional health and purpose. If you're ready to discover the powerful combination of self-care and a safe, inviting online community, join me at MoreThanLeftovers.com!
As we sit around the table, you'll learn the importance of putting yourself first for a while. You deserve more than leftovers!
Registration Deadline is August 12th and group begins August 22nd.
Want some even better news? If you sign up before August 1st, you can use discount code SELFCARESAVESLIVES to save $38 at checkout! Better self-care has never been this affordable!
This safe and encouraging online self-care community includes:
- Weekly video calls (via Zoom)
- Signed copy of Self-Care for the Wounded Soul
- Access to the closed Facebook group
- Exclusive mailing list
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6 Ways to Defeat Discouragement
We talked about what life might look like for me in 10 years, and I was coming from a fear and shame-based mentality that told me life wouldn’t look any different in ten years than it does today, other than an extra five pounds around the middle and some more gray hair.
I was sad.
I felt defeated.
My own entrepreneurial efforts have seemed to have fallen flat lately, and I’ve been in a major season of discouragement.
It’s been about fifteen years since I walked away from a full-ride scholarship to pursue Christian ministry, and the day I told my Dad what I was doing, he expressed his disappointment clearly, saying, “You’ll look back on this in ten years and realize this was the biggest mistake of your life.”
As I processed my current financial state and the way I perceive my career on Monday day, I thought, Dad was only off by about five years.
What about you?
Have you ever been there? Ever thought, “This maybe all there really is…”?
Have you ever found yourself discouraged, disheartened, and defeated?
Me too, I hear you.
In Episode 13 of the #AskSteveAustin Podcast, I dive into 6 simple but powerful ways to defeat discouragement today. As a bonus, I'll take you through a few minutes of guided meditation.
Want more resources, tips, and tricks? Get my 21-day self-care journal today! Order Self-Care for the Wounded Soul at myselfcarebook.com today!
Not ready for a full 21 days? Take my FREE 7-day self-care challenge at jointheselfcarechallenge.com
I have a mental illness, but I'm not crazy.
I will never forget meeting the psychiatrist before I was transferred from ICU to the psych ward. I was nervous as he entered the room, clipboard in hand. He gave me my diagnosis, then gave a brief overview of what to expect in the coming weeks. But I didn’t hear his plan. All I could think was, I’m now officially crazy.
The Power of Self-Care When You Feel Crazy
My palms were sweaty, my breathing shallow, as I remembered my Aunt Missy, who died by suicide when I was a teenager. I remembered the way people whispered about her when she was alive, both around town and in our family. I feared life would be exactly the same for me.
I was convinced a diagnosis meant I would never be able to find a respectable job. My kids would have to grow up with their friends talking about their crazy dad. Everyone would think I heard voices and belonged in a padded room. It made me feel less than a real human. I believed I would never find full acceptance in any community again. Except, of course, with other mentally ill people. As the doctor’s voice droned in the background, I stared out the window, wishing for any kind of escape.
The stigma of mental illness sucks. But not getting better sucks worse. Those of us with a diagnosed mental illness just want our lives back. We want to get better. For me, one of the biggest hurdles was learning to focus on getting better, instead of the label.
I am more than my diagnosis.
Labels are important, especially from a medical standpoint. They give us a plan of action. They show us a lot about our limits. They teach us which medications may help and what substances or situations to stay away from. But when we focus more on the label than the person behind it, a human being in need of love and belonging, we miss the point. And we miss an opportunity to live a full and meaningful life.
In the psych ward, I learned I needed to define my triggers: those things that cause my anxiety to increase or my depression to worsen. For me, it’s as simple as black coffee and as complex as not spending days alone at a time. (Isolation can be a real son of a bitch for someone with a mental illness).
I had to create a plan I could follow. My short-term strategy included intense therapy with professional counselors, psychologists, and psychiatrists during the first couple of years of my recovery. Eventually, the intensity tapered off, but I know I can still make an appointment any time. My plan also included medication, which was much stronger in the beginning than it is now. The truth is, I will always take medication of some type. When depression and anxiety descend like a fog, medicine clears the sky so I can find myself again. It makes me more of who I am, not less.
Another part of my plan was to name my support system, the people I can lean on in hard times, the ones who could handle my needs. In the five years since my recovery, I have experienced various reactions from people. Some can handle the recovery process. Some aren’t at a place where they can handle it. Some friendships are seasonal and some are for a lifetime. During recovery, I think you should expect people to come and go from your life. And that’s ok.
Each segment of my recovery plan has carried me a step further down the road to healing.
While I have learned to accept my diagnosis, it doesn’t define me. It gives me boundaries and forces me to embrace self-care. I have depression and anxiety, but it doesn’t get to determine who I am. I am much more than a label or the stigma attached to mental illness.
-from Self-Care for the Wounded Soul, by Steve Austin and Kate Pieper, LMFT
Abuse, addiction, and a suicide attempt weren’t the end of Steve Austin’s story. In fact, a suicide attempt is where his life began. Steve hosts CXMH and the #AskSteveAustin Podcast, in addition to being an author, speaker, and life coach. Read more at iamsteveaustin.net.
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A new article out by the Telegraph states that there is an astonishing rise in exorcisms for the mentally ill.
Mental Illness and Demons
Somebody help me. When will this damaging theology end? Will the Church ever awaken from her ignorant slumber and see just how destructive this bad theology is?
Well, maybe this response from Charisma News will help. I sure hope so.
I was honored to give my 'two cents' on the matter and I hope you'll read the full response by clicking right here.
More Christianity and mental health resources:
Many of us have scars. Some are internal, and some are visible. Bad things have happened to us. People and institutions have wounded us deeply. And many of us walk around under a heavy blanket of shame due to the awful experiences we have endured. But in the past five years, during recovery from my suicide attempt, I have learned that scars are just grace tattoos.
Over the past year, I've given away more than 100 copies of my Amazon best-selling book, From Pastor to a Psych Ward. Pretty exciting, right? The sad news is, I'm down to only 10 copies remaining. Keep reading to see how you can get a really cool shirt and help me give away more free books!
Scars are just GRACE tattoos!
Until July 10th get your "Scars are just GRACE tattoos" t-shirt and support the fight for suicide prevention.
I was a pastor when I nearly died by suicide. Mental illness is no respecter of persons - it doesn't care if you're a Christian, a Muslim, an atheist, or none-of-the-above. Anxiety and depression are sometimes ruthless, causing a person to feel completely overwhelmed and without hope.
My book, From Pastor to a Psych Ward, offers hope and help for those who have found themselves in a desperate time. Would you help me purchase more copies of this powerful memoir to put into the hands of those who cannot afford their own copy? It's really a win-win! You get a cool shirt, and you help me help others. What could be better than that?
- Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States...
- Each year, more than 44 thousand Americans die by suicide...
- For every person who dies by suicide, 25 more attempt...
- Suicide costs the United States $51 billion per year...
- On average, there are 121 suicides per day...
- Surveys suggest that at least one million people in the U.S. each year engage in intentionally inflicted self-harm...
Not interested in a t-shirt? You can sponsor boxes of books, instead! A box of 50 books is $130 and a box of 100 books is only $260. Can you imagine saving a life for less than 3 bucks? If you're interested in sponsoring a box of books, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org today!