I have found God.

Some people reading this will rejoice. Others will wring their hands and wonder what the fuck happened to me. I neither know nor care.

My entire life has been spiritually bereft, and it turns out that hasn’t been entirely beneficial for my mental health. I grew up without any type of faith – something I am, and will always be, extremely grateful for. Whatever beliefs I carry and develop from this point forward have been developed in adulthood and with full cognisance of all the pros and cons of taking on a spiritual belief housed within the confines of a traditional religion. I have no past experiences to colour my beliefs – merely a four-year journey to find comfort and healing from my own mental struggles. Something I have come to realise cannot be done without a spiritual grounding. For some that is a higher power, others seek answers in the universe, nature, or community, and many people find spirituality in God. I have become one of those people.

My astonishingly intelligent husband and children question how I believe in something without concrete proof. I want to – that’s all I need. I feel that’s the definition of faith – believing in something for which there’s no concrete evidence. I believed in angels even when I was a little girl. My grandmother said I can’t believe in angels if I don’t believe in God. Why not? Who makes the rules about what’s acceptable or unacceptable in a personal faith? Not grandma – I’m quite certain of that.

I’ve learned loads of recovery tools – for depression, anxiety, self harm and disordered eating. But for numerous reasons, I’m still floundering more than four years down the track. I don’t need more tools and tips, tricks and resources – I need belief in myself and in a future I can’t picture. And that requires faith.

I don’t like blind faith.

Blind faith requires outsourcing – grounding spiritual and religious belief and practice in external forces. I’m not comfortable with that. My core moral values have been developed, honed and consolidated over 53 years. They won’t suddenly back flip because I’ve found a faith in God. I prefer a softer approach – looking for beauty, strength and love in God, as the many millions of people who have found comfort and solace over the generations have done.

Spiritual awareness is very new and unfamiliar to me. I was raised to be pragmatic and practical. Useful and helpful. There was no room for emotional expression, and as someone with an abundance of emotion, this was problematic. My solution was pragmatic – don’t feel anything and don’t display emotion.

Bury everything and get on with being useful.

As I began the slow decline into a complete unraveling, all those suppressed emotions started rising to the surface, like a thousand beach balls I’d valiantly endeavoured to keep pushed below the surface of the water. Eventually it was impossible. That’s when I started searching for answers. And coincidentally, that’s when I had my first really spiritual experience.

Many moons ago I saw a hypnotherapist who claimed to specialise in weight loss. It didn’t help my weight or eating, but I had an unforgettable experience. As part of the hypnosis I found myself descending a large spiral staircase, and at the bottom was a passageway and a door. My recently deceased mother was facing the door with her back towards me and she paused a moment as I said I was sorry and that I loved her. I desperately wanted her to turn around – fearful I’d forget what she looked like. She walked through the door without looking back. I’ve never felt her presence since, but I’ve tried valiantly to reproduce the hypnotic effect of descending that staircase in the hopes of seeing her.

On Easter Sunday, I went to church.

Church is a very new, mildly uncomfortable experience – I feel like a fish out of water. But I want to find the presence of God – as I’ve heard described so often – and church seems like a good place to do that. I’ve traveled a very rocky road for quite a few weeks – finding myself in active relapse – so I’m emotionally quite vulnerable. I felt like the pastor was speaking directly to me – his message one that spoke straight to my heart. I kept looking over my left shoulder, sure someone had walked up behind me. There was nobody there, but the sense of a presence wouldn’t leave me. A presence that wanted to say, I’ve got your back. And not in a creepy way. So I’ll keep going back in the hope I feel that presence again.

I have no doubt many people would say I’m reading into things that aren’t there. That’s okay. It’s not about them – it’s about me. That presence at my shoulder gave me comfort and that’s all that matters.

Receiving mental health diagnoses is a very lonely road. I am indeed fortunate to have a wonderful group of people who have supported me. But now I need to be all grown up and stand on my own two feet. Finding strength in the divine is a faith I choose to have – because I want to.