And yet it begins with an almost complete lack of hope. As 2007 dawned, I had pretty much given up on the idea that the year ahead would hold anything to hope for.
I’d become a christian at the age of five, been baptised aged thirteen and by the time I was sixteen I was acutely and chronically depressed - and yet, it was when I was hospitalised for a night that God planted a seed of my calling.
It was one of the worst nights of my life, the screams of agony from other patients, their sometimes strange and scary behaviour. My guilt at the pain I’d caused my family. I pushed the earphones of my iPod deep into my ears to block out the noise and selected a recent sermon given at Church called “Love in a Cold Climate”. I listened to it on repeat for hours through the night and one part reverberated around my mind, staying with me ever since:
“The Christian faith is utterly useless...if what it says about God - says nothing whatsoever to the real world of people - for our living and for our dying -especially when life should deal the most dreadful and cruellest of blows...[John 1] tells us us what God is like and how God can be known. It’s a word which sounds as if it recognises the pain in me - and the pain in you - in the real flesh and blood world of our lives.”
And amidst the blinding pain of my depression, I felt a flicker of something. How can we bring the light of God into this place? How can we get people to understand what others go through every day?
It was a spark that lay dormant and often forgotten about as I fought to recover. Recovery was, and is a long and difficult road - but the glimmer of hope I saw that night in hospital remained, as the years that followed continued in a cycle of getting sick, well, sick, well, sicker and well again.
It was not until I joined London School of Theology that I began to think about that spark. It was ignited by people who loved and believed in me as I started to consider a future. The desire to make a change in Churches and communities in the way mental illness is perceived was strong in me. The pain and memories morphed into a force, sparking my imagination. The image of a butterfly came to symbolise something beautiful emerging from the darkness. It is how ThinkTwice was born.
Because what had been my darkest night - ignited my hope - in the God I serve, His mission and the part I am called to play, amongst those suffering in the darkness of mental illness.