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Book review: Tending to My Thoughts by Sharon Hastings

28 June 2024

Anne Holmes applauds an account of mental illness by a qualified GP

THIS deeply Christian book (Features, 19 April) is aimed at those who suffer from mental-health challenges. The author avoids past tendencies to separate faith from medicine, and records her own journey from a debilitating to a more manageable experience of her diagnosed schizoaffective disorder. Her medical training is undoubtedly central to her capacity to bring together an intelligent and co-operative attitude to professional help and a thoughtful deepening of her faith, as she works through the recovery model offered to her.

There are eight chapters, which record her personal experience, offer useful explanations of medical terminology, and suggest relevant biblical passages that she has found helpful. Each chapter ends with two questions addressed to the reader. Reading the book is something of a journey, which mirrors the author’s own experience.

Crucial to an understanding of the text is the explanation of what is meant by the recovery model. It is not to be confused with cure. Timing was important, as well as a decision to try it out, however she was feeling at the time. The structure of the Wellness Recovery Action Plan allowed her to develop behaviours and rhythms that gradually helped her to take responsibility for her recovery. A compassionate approach helped her to factor in the non-linear pattern of her behaviours and to develop a mindset that allowed her to focus on both the needs of her husband and baby son and her own individual needs.

Central to the author’s success in changing her mindset is the importance of both personal and professional support, and her acknowledgements reflect that. The achievement of having written an earlier book: Wrestling with My Thoughts (Books, 11 September 2020) gave her the confidence to write this book, and there may well be a further book in due course.

Although aimed at others who have a parallel struggle with a diagnosed mental-health condition, this book could help pastors and others who seek to find a Christian approach to responding to those who struggle in this way. I have encountered sufferers who have been wounded by mindless comments such as the need to pray harder for a cure; this book is an antidote to such attitudes. I welcome the thoughtful way in which the author reflects on her situation and is prepared to adjust her expectations according to her experience. She is full of hope despite times of deep despair, and finds comfort both in the Bible and her local church community. There is much to learn here.

The Revd Dr Anne C. Holmes, a former NHS mental-health chaplain, works as a psychotherapist and SSM in the diocese of Oxford.

Tending to My Thoughts: A doctor with severe mental illness finds recovery
Sharon Hastings
IVP £11.99
Church Times Bookshop £10.79

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