By:  Judy Moore

By: Judy Moore

Judy Moore is the Associate Pastor at Riverside Church.

Created On: 30 August 2020

All Being Well? – Session 5: Interview with Erin Turner

Teaching Series Introduction:

The Series: There is no doubt about it. For many of us, these last few months have been pretty tough. So, how are you, really? This summer teaching series helps us take a deep and refreshing look at how you’re really doing. And, we’ll begin to discover what true wellbeing looks like for your life right now, regardless of the chaos around.

Bible Focus: Using the stunning words of encouragement from the book of Hebrews in the Bible (Chapter 12, verses 1-3) as our backdrop, we will consider some incidents in the life of the first disciples as we do a summer health check and unpack how to stay spiritually and emotionally fit for the journey ahead.

Session 5

Title: Interview with Erin Turner
By: Judy Moore
Date: 30 August 2020 (Online Service)
Transcript:

Judy Moore:

Well, hi, everyone. I’m here in the beautiful garden of the very lovely doctor Erin Turner, who’s a great friend of mine, but also a really good friend of Riverside Church as well. So, Erin, it’s great to have you with us. We’re at the end of a series on wellbeing and looking after our wellbeing, sort of coming out of lockdown and beyond. And I just wondered if you would share a bit about what you do as a job, and as I know, it is your calling really, and your worship in the role that you play. So do you want to tell us?

Erin Turner:

Yes. Well, firstly, thanks very much for inviting me, Judy, to do this, to talk about something that is, like you say, very close to my heart and very passionate about and any opportunity to talk about mental wellbeing I would grab.

Erin Turner:

So, firstly, I am a psychiatrist. I work with young people in the Birmingham Solihull region, and these are people with more severe end of the spectrum of mental illness, people with psychosis and schizophrenia. But of course I deal with the whole spectrum of mental disorders, ranging from anxiety, depression, OCD, et cetera, right up to sort of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. So yeah, it’s a busy job, but I love it.

Judy Moore:

And you mentioned quite a few things that will resonate with everyone there. I think particularly things like anxiety and depression, which many people even tuning in today will experience in their lifetime. What helps you? I know you’re a woman of faith and a believer in Jesus. What helps you with your own mental health before you look after everyone else, I guess?

Erin Turner:

Yeah. I mean, what I would say is that anxiety is common. It is part of the human condition. It is human to do to become anxious, and not all anxious, anxiety is bad. I mean, a small dose of anxiety can be really healthy and helpful for functioning performance in certain activities.

Erin Turner:

Anxiety becomes a problem when it becomes extreme, when it starts affecting our functioning, affects our sleep and our appetite and our concentration, and maybe affects our ability to socialize with others or even go out of our house.

Erin Turner:

And so anxiety disorder is very common. Many of us will have experienced it. I myself have experienced anxiety. So I know what, what it feels like to be anxious. And I think that probably helps me with patience because I can kind of talk to them about things that I personally have found helpful.

Erin Turner:

So what are some of those things I find helpful? Well, firstly, I, as you said, I’m a woman with a faith, and I find the scriptures really, really helpful. Any of you who’ve experienced anxiety will know that we can play very unhelpful tapes in our mind, very unhelpful thoughts, which actually perpetuates the anxiety and makes it worse.

Erin Turner:

And to replace those anxiety-provoking thoughts with something that’s calming is really, really helpful. And you will have heard the Taizé chant at the start of this interview. And I personally find Taizé really, really helpful. Taizé… They are a Christian monastic tradition, and their chants are based on scripture. And by just repeating scripture in music form, it actually sort of becomes part of your thoughts and part of you. Yeah, I find it’s very therapeutic.

Erin Turner:

So I, and I picked that, the scripture from John 14:27, where Jesus says, “My peace. I leave you. My peace. I give to you. Trouble, not your heart. My peace, I leave you. My peace I give to you. Do not be afraid.”

Erin Turner:

And I love the fact that he talks about trouble, not your heart, because the heart is often talked about when we talk about love. It’s a symbol of love, but it’s also the symbols of anxiety often. And that is because our heart is a very sensitive organ to emotions and to anxiety. And any of us, when we’ve felt anxious, we will be really aware of our heart beating very rapidly. I mean, we call it palpitations, and it’s a really unpleasant feeling. And, unconsciously, our heart will be racing, but also our breathing rate will increase and that can make us feel more anxious. That can make us feel nauseous and can make us feel lightheaded. So being in a state of acute anxiety is a really uncomfortable place to be.

Erin Turner:

So I talked about how you can help your thoughts. You can replace some of the negative catastrophic thoughts with really lovely sort of scripture or positive thoughts, but we can also look at how we can change our bodies, our… So we feel that we don’t have control over our heart when it’s racing, but actually we can get control over our heart and our breathing by doing controlled breathing or mindful breathing.

Erin Turner:

And that’s really just trying to find a quiet place and sitting in, it’s really lovely if it can be outside so you can be aware of your environment and start to be aware of your senses. So what you can hear, what you can smell, what you can feel. And then start to be aware of your breathing, and just slowing down your breathing.

Erin Turner:

And if you can even make your breath out longer than your breath in, then that actually physiologically slows down your heart. And it’s lovely because it gives you control over your body. So you’re trying to control your mind. And then you’re also bringing control back to your body.

Erin Turner:

Because anyone who’s experienced acute anxiety or panic attacks knows that you feel out of control. And what you’re doing is just bringing that control into your body and your mind. So that’s something that I find very helpful and what I will share with patients, and many of you will have heard of mindfulness. And that’s really what mindfulness is about. It’s just being present in the here and now.

Judy Moore:

Yeah. And is… It’s sitting with people in their pain rather than trying to fix it, isn’t it? In many ways, just being there with people?

Erin Turner:

Yeah.

Judy Moore:

With mindfulness, and I’m always conscious that the Bible always gets there first with these things. And I was reading in Job at the end where Job has suffered greatly and is asking God why really, and wrestling with faith. And in the end, God answers him through creation, and says, “Are you the one that controls the sea or was there at the beginning of the creation of the world? Now I am, and I’m in control.”

Judy Moore:

And I find that really, really reassuring actually in troubled times that we see God’s ordained creations here in this beautiful garden. Is that something that helps you personally? I mean, you’ve created a lot of this beauty around here with God’s help. So is that something that helps you getting outside, being creative, those kind of things?

Erin Turner:

Yeah. It absolutely is. I mean, we’re very fortunate that we’ve got gardens, and… But we also have a lot of parks and we’re not far from beautiful countryside, and I think it really is no coincidence that people do feel that being outside and being with nature can actually really calm your senses, can really calm your anxiety.

Erin Turner:

And a lot of people, a lot of my patients will tell me that, that maybe just going for a walk on the canal or going fishing or just taking time out can really calm yourself. And I think there’s a lot of… a lot of my friends will say to me also that they’re just enjoy socializing outside, going for picnics, or going for a walk where maybe they’d have gone to the gym before.

Erin Turner:

And I think hopefully there are things that we will take out of this time in lock down, that sort of change in lifestyle that we can sort of carry through to a new way of doing life, actually, that is less stressful because, anxiety is at an all time. Well, it was before COVID. Anxiety was almost like an epidemic. And I think life was just too busy and stressful. And I think a lot of people are rediscovering a new rhythm to life, enjoying things that they might not have enjoyed before, maybe time with family. Or, like I say, just meeting friends outside for a walk, just slowing down. It’s really good for your mental health.

Erin Turner:

And, actually, there’s a lot of, a lot of my patients, actually, where I thought maybe their mental health would get a lot worse. Some of them found through COVID that their anxiety levels came down. A lot of time when people have got generalized anxiety, they’re kind of almost hypervigilant. You’re scanning the environment for threat. And then when something comes that you can focus on, it actually helps-

Judy Moore:

Yes, that’s a named threat.

Erin Turner:

Anxiety. Yeah. And because we’re in the community, we’re doing it together. We’re meeting this threat together. That can be really helpful for people. But, yeah, no, absolutely. I think nature is, it’s very therapeutic-

Judy Moore:

Healing.

Erin Turner:

And healing. Yeah.

Judy Moore:

Yeah. And I guess, finally, Erin, I know you’ve given us a few things to pray for, for the city of Birmingham really, which some of our young people are going to lead us in prayer for in a moment. But what would you say to anyone who’s perhaps tuning in? I know there are a number of people that will be tuning in who are struggling right now with depression or anxiety. How do we love them? How do we help them? And what hope can you offer them?

Erin Turner:

Well, I think one of the hardest things is when you’re suffering with anxiety, depression, is a sense that you’re alone, that nobody else is going through what you’re going through. And that is a really common feeling.

Erin Turner:

And I think, I know Riverside is really good at that, is walking with people through difficult times. So I think just the, yeah, just reassuring people that you’re there for them, that they’re not alone. And I… And the scriptures will tell us that repeatedly. I think that I read somewhere that there’s 365 mentions through scripture of anxiety and fear and reminder that you are not alone.

Erin Turner:

So that, that is a really, really important message to get out to people. Me, my heart is particularly for young people. And I know you’ve got a lot of young people in Riverside, and I think this is a really uncertain time for them. And particularly people going back to school or people who are going to university or facing a really difficult employment sector. And I think as a church, it’s a sort of really coming alongside them and supporting them through this difficult time. I know Riverside that does that really well.

Judy Moore:

Well, we can learn an awful lot from you and what you’ve shared with us, Erin, thank you so much. It would be good actually at this point, just to mention that we do have a team of chaplains, brilliant chaplains, who are there just to chat to you as Erin said.

Judy Moore:

If you’re feeling alone in some of the more destructive mental health thoughts that you might be having, then love to just talk to you, to listen to you, to chat to you. And we’ve got about 14 telephone chaplains who I know would be glad, just one of them to give you a call.

Judy Moore:

So why don’t I just close by praying for you, Erin? I think it’s a fantastic job. We have many, many chats about this being an incredible work of healing in our city that Erin is involved with. It’d be lovely to pray for you. So let’s just pray for Erin and people across Birmingham in similar roles.

Judy Moore:

Lord, we thank you for that reminder today through Erin’s words that you say do not be afraid, and you say it multiple times to reassure us that you are with us. Thank you, too, for those words, such simple words from John that you spoke, Jesus, when you said not to allow our hearts be troubled, that you leave your peace with us every day, but that as a deposit of your spirit.

Judy Moore:

And I pray for Erin as she treats her patients that every day your grace would be sufficient for her and that your peace would be in her mind, in her heart as we’ve had today. And, Lord, for all those involved in care for mental health across the city, we pray blessing and strength and the resolve of your spirit as they go about their work each day. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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