I received a comment recently from a young woman who said she thought she might be depressed but didn’t know for sure. She also mentioned that her culture frowns upon mental illness.
It really got me thinking.
My family were embarrassed when I was diagnosed first with clinical depression and then a few years later with manic depression (now called bipolar). When a medication mistake caused me to go into first a severe manic high and then euphoria, I heeded the words of voices inside my head telling me that no one cared. The result from that can be found here “Bipolar – I’m An Overcover” if you are interested but it does have trigger warnings.
I had to fight to have even the doctors and nurses believe that I was not in control of my actions, but my family would not accept it. To them, it was one more way I was “acting out”. They weren’t alone. I worked at two companies during the 12 years before having to go on disability. Both companies “phased me out.” So-called friends backed away from me as well. Even church friends treated me with kid gloves.
So, that is when I decided that I wasn’t going to hide in a corner anymore. I was going to let the world know my frailties and if people were uncomfortable, at least they would be informed as to what was going on.
I spoke up in a sharing session at church, telling people that I suffered from bipolar and that I had a triple fracture in my back which was starting to lead to other physical problems. I spoke to our youth group about being bullied and “not fitting in.” I was amazed when a couple of teens came up asking questions. Others thanked me very much for being honest and open. I also spoke to the young adults’ group – here I was planning to give a talk similar to the youth; however, God intervened and I ended up telling them all the details of my bipolar and other mental issues. Again, I had a couple of people come up and wanted to share their experiences while others thanked me for being open. Not everyone at church was so willing to embrace me. You can’t please everyone all the time.
I went through a very abusive marriage, a family that really couldn’t understand me, bullying from kindergarten right into my 30’s. I have been diagnosed with OCD, bipolar, depression, anxiety, panic disorder, claustrophobia, paranoia, and that is just on the mental side of things!
Physically I have osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, triple lumbar fractures, total knee replacement, asthma, chronic pain, possible diabetes, and other things that are just getting diagnosed.
So, after all that, why am I proud of my mental illness?
I am currently wearing a shirt that says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” Philippians 4:13. This is my life verse. A friend marked it in the bible they gave me on my baptism.
I fully believe that God wanted me to go through all that I have and more because He knows I can handle it. How? Because He is the one who gave me the strength to get through it all.
Why have I survived when others haven’t – either losing through death or just not being able to break through the challenges of illness? Not because I am special, I would never be foolish enough to think that.
It is simply because God needed to help the families of those who didn’t make it through their battle with depression, etc. Or people who had questions about their afflicted family member. Or others who have been diagnosed who want to talk to someone who has “been there”.
I think that is an honor. I never ever let myself think for one second that I am cured or better than others. That is just not cool.
I also recognize the hard work I have put into getting stronger mentally and physically. I know God is in control; however, I have to be a willing subject and I am. When told I had a 50% chance of not walking again, I said “NO.” When I was told I could never work again, I got jobs as a “Nanny”, web designer, and even went to culinary school to become a caterer!
I will continue to be open about my health issues as long as there is someone who will listen.