I want to discuss something that so many of us find irrationally uncomfortable because it seems to signify weakness: mental illness.
First of all, if you are dealing with mental illness: seek counsel! God is a great place to start, as well as your pastor, and there are so many amazing Christian counselors that are trained to help! You can find some here!
“Listen to counsel and receive instruction, That you may be wise in your latter days.”
Proverbs 19:20 NKJV
This is going to be a long one but bear with me. My story is crucial in the discussion of this topic.
There is no reason that we should feel uncomfortable with discussing mental illness and having it. Statistically it’s normal.
And if you or someone you know is dealing with mental illness and want more info and/or resources they can click here!
There is a certain stigma in the Christian community that you shouldn’t have mental illness because it means that you want it. I always hear the same thing: “Well you know God can deliver you from it!” Yes, I know that. But He hasn’t. I have offered it up to him. I have gotten down on my knees and begged God to take it from me and to wipe me clean of it. But He hasn’t. I don’t know why. God only knows.
My one wish for anyone that I discuss it with is that they would just listen. Because reminding me that God can take it away usually leans to the misunderstanding that I live in fear of it. I have zero fear of it because I know that my God is stronger than my brain.
I have physical evidence of mental illness and the long battle I fought with it. I have scars. It is another thing people get so uncomfortable seeing. I literally wear my scars on my sleeve. I fought an addiction to cutting when I was hurting and I won! I was victorious because I gave it to God!
So the best way to discuss this, in my opinion, is to start from the beginning:
When I was twelve years old I was bullied so badly that I actually got into a fight with the girl after she began to physically harm me. We both got in school suspension and because I hated the feeling of getting into trouble I never fought with anyone again.
Instead, I fought with myself. At thirteen, I came to the conclusion that it was all my fault. I thought that I was being bullied because there was something wrong with me. I didn’t understand what was wrong and as I began to hit puberty, a mix of emotions hit me severely at different times. One day I would feel overwhelmed with emotions that were out of my control and another day I would feel completely numb. I either wanted to start feeling or stop feeling.
“For kids experiencing intense emotions, it can be used to deaden the intensity. For those feeling a sense of numbness, it serves the opposite effect, helping them feel something” — Wendy Lader, PhD.
What I was feeling was early signs of Bipolar 1 Disorder. Bipolar 1 is characterized by two intense traits: mania and depression. Mania is extreme “highs” and depression is extreme “lows”.
I didn’t cry for help when I was manic because I really didn’t think anything of it. I just thought that for a brief period I felt really really great and like nothing could stop me. But when the depression got bad, I was scared. I would write letters to my mom and cry for help. But I couldn’t actually face the issue. I was terrified.
The counselor just wrote it off as puberty — I guess self harm was a trend in teenage rebellion. I didn’t see doctors and I didn’t know God. I lacked the two resources that could have helped me.
The next year I continued to self harm but I did it secretly and acted fine. However I began to dig deeper into the world. I did whatever I could to keep myself “happy”. I didn’t care what happened to me as long as I could fake happy and avoid facing the reality of what was going on inside my brain. I clouded my emotions with whatever I could to avoid another meeting with the school resource officer and counselor. But nothing actually worked.
I still cut. I still didn’t understand why sometimes I could feel so invincible and the next day I would feel like nothing mattered.
That year was the first year I attempted suicide.
If you or anyone you know is contemplating suicide you can find the suicide hotline number and other resources here!
But I didn’t understand why I wanted to end my life; my life was good, I had everything I needed and wanted, I had freedom most kids would dream of and I was relatively popular.
After it all spiraled, I began to feel normal again. My life felt back on track after I failed to execute my own plans. I didn’t know that I failed because God wasn’t done with me. He had a plan for me all along.
“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
I was still set on my own path.
Fast forward to my junior year of high school. Everything was great. I found God and I was going to church and serving diligently. I was still in the world and trying to be delivered but I wasn’t ready to give God something that I didn’t understand.
And while I had dealt with mania and depression, but really only noticing the depression, for some reason it began to get worse. I felt hopeless and I honestly I can’t even remember why.
I brought pills to school thinking that if I took them there and overdosed it would be easier and I wouldn’t get caught.
I didn’t know why I wanted to die, I just knew I did.
I told my best friend my plan and she told her boyfriend who was also one of my best friends. He went to my school and while normally he wouldn’t have “snitched”, he told the school counselor about my plans and saved my life. God used him to keep me on His plane and going toward His path again.
The second time was in college. I was on medication and had recently been wrongly diagnosed with generalized anxiety and situational depression — meaning that when something bad happened in my life, I fell into depression. I had constant blackouts from one of the medications and found myself having gotten deeply depressed in the span of twelve hours, blacked out and tried to overdose and cut myself. But when I got to the hospital and they asked me what happened, I didn’t know. I didn’t want to kill myself. I blacked out and the attempt just happened. I wasn’t in control.
The third time I attempted suicide, I was in a bad relationship and I didn’t know how to get out of it without being homeless and stranded. I threatened to overdose on cough medicine because I couldn’t handle anymore of the emotional abuse. When I spoke to the doctor at the next hospital, I told her that I didn’t remember much of the episode the night before and that I didn’t want to die.
And then she asked about my past. She noticed patterns. She noticed signs of more than just anxiety and depression. She diagnosed me after two sessions.
It got easier after I began to pray about it, research it and understand the scientific side of the illness; the chemical imbalances that induce certain behaviors that I was all too familiar with.
So after a few months of dealing with it, I prayed to God to deliver me from it.
I was already ready for Him to take it away. I had dealt with it for long enough and I wasn’t afraid of it anymore.
But He didn’t. So I started to pay attention to my behaviors and my feelings. I still had some manic and depressive episodes but I started to see them quicker and learned how to pull myself out of them without anyone else’s help.
But I felt guilty for taking medicine because I had heard from many Christians that if I just trust God I didn’t need medicine. They were the same people that were afraid to discuss it at length with me.
From the nine, almost ten, years of dealing with this illness I have learned that:
- It’s okay to talk about it.
- It’s okay to have it.
- It’s not okay to claim it and live in fear of it.
My last suicide attempt was a success. It happened just about a year ago after I really fully committed myself to Christ and Josue showed me that God will give you people that love you despite what the chemicals in your brain try to tell you.
My last suicide attempt was the killing of my old self. It was the destruction of the girl that lived in fear of bipolar disorder.
I didn’t need God to deliver me; I just needed him to show me that I can trust Him to take me through it.
God can use anything. He will use anything. And the beauty of it is you don’t have to be strong! He will be strong for you and all you have to do is trust him!
“He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless”
My story starts out as a tale of a girl that won’t make it and it continues today as a tale of a girl that gave her weakness to Christ and He gave her strength.
I didn’t have to be strong on my own because God provides strength!
We can end the stigma by seeing what God can do and having faith that He will do it again and again and again!
He will never begin a great work without bringing it to a completion!
His great work is still being done in me and one day I will watch it come to completion as I use my testimony to change a life.
God hasn’t delivered me from it because He is still using it.