Trusting a Higher Power in My Struggle With Mental Illness
So I was in the mental hospital. Again. For suicidal ideation. Again. I wanted to be done with this life, wanted it so badly I could taste it.
I’m feeling much better now. Something about focused time alone, group therapy, meeting other people with the same struggles and feeling less alone, medication adjustments and one-on-ones with counselors and doctors, makes all the difference.
I met many fantastic people. People with so many various sorrows. So many diverse difficulties. People heartbreakingly young and heartbreakingly old. I was truly humbled to be in their presence. They taught me a lot about being human, about being real, about being me.
There are no walls in the mental asylum.“What are you in for?” is a normal, even expected, question, and one that is almost always answered with brutal honesty. Compassion overflows. It’s a (hopefully) safe space. Some people talk to themselves, and to invisible entities. Some are volatile and noisy. Some are withdrawn and quiet. Some become friends. All have something to teach. All are worthy of grace.
How do I carry what I have learned into my daily life? It is a legitimate question, and perhaps one with numerous answers. For me, it is to focus on each day and its daily issues, and not to dwell on the past and what I cannot change. It means to examine each thought and emotion and ask, “Is this true? Is this beneficial?” and if it is not, to toss it away. It means not living in the future either, where nothing is certain and fears have fertile soil in which to grow.
Some of the best people in the world have struggled with mental illness. Mine is bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder. Yours may be called something else. The most important thing to remember is: you are not alone.
As a Christian, I look to the Bible for some semblance of comfort in my illness. I didn’t think the word had much to say about it until I looked closely at the story of Nebuchadnezzar. Did you know that this pagan king actually wrote an entire chapter in a book of the Old Testament? He ruled Babylon, and went “mad” towards the end of his life. As the Bible puts it, he ate grass like a cow and grew his fingernails out like claws. In the end, however, he was restored to health by miraculous means, and he praised the Lord as a result (Daniel, chapter 4).
Can I do the same? Can I see the Lord’s hand in my healing, even if it comes via pharmaceuticals and therapy and modern medicine?
Yes. I can.
I can bless the Lord’s name in the thick of it, in spite of everything and with the comforting knowledge that I am in the company of kings. Even when I don’t understand what’s going on, even when my sanity is tenuous, I can speak God’s name, for it is the very sound of my breathing.
That’s me. I freely admit it.
Is my God big enough for me to throw myself in his lap and pound on his chest in frustration and fury?
Is my God big enough to cover me while I thrash and wallow and gnash my teeth? In the ashes? In my brokenness and anguish?
Can I admit that I am broken? And be OK with that?
Can I open my lips and thank him for all this life offers?
I can. And I will. My very life depends upon it.
If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.
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