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Redemption and Mental Health

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I have often wondered at the ways that we are called to persevere, and are subsequently strengthened. I wonder at how this leads us to new and unpredictable destinations, only to seemingly begin again with some new mystery, as though we have known nothing all the while.

As a child, I never expected that I’d have experience with mental illness and health. In fact, as a young adult, I’m sure that I didn’t believe that mental illness was a real and valid thing. I thought that people had hard times, and had some kind of complaint or issue that needed addressing. But, as far as an ongoing condition, I had no understanding of this and was full of doubt. That is, until finally, fourteen years ago, at age 24, I was handed my (first of many) mental illness diagnosis. Though I did know that “something was off,” or “wrong” with how I was experiencing reality, I was very hesitant to accept not only my own mental health situation, but the reality of mental health in general. The simultaneous act of recovery and reconciliation with one’s own mind, in a mind that fights against the very need for recovery, can be very taxing, as you might imagine.

In my present life and understanding, “the world” is a kind of substrate or medium, which can sustain our lives in certain ways. Nutrients, such as relationships and experiences, have been put into place, which we receive and draw our stories and account of life from. How is it, then, that a person should be able to be birthed forth from this, while they are still existing in it? Late night questions like this had me digging deep into my red letter Bible, late at night, in various hospital beds, throughout the course of about ten years of diagnoses, medication, counseling, therapy, and depression.

Before my diagnosis, and extended time with God’s Word (which I had never really dug into before), I was full of negativity and doubt. Clouded and disorganized thinking, distraction, and self-service ruled my life, and in retrospect I was really missing the mark in most of my choices, and my interpretation of God’s feelings toward me. I tried to kind of divine His feelings and desire for me through my life experiences, as though the events of my day were some kind of tarot to be interpreted as signs of love or disappointment. Over time I developed an ideology, or worldview, of how life must work, based on these experiences. I assure you that it wasn’t kind or patient toward myself. Consequently, I was a very depressed individual for a long time, but finally, having a chance to work through a mental illness diagnosis gave me a chance to begin forging my own mental wellness, with the help of God, and I began to paint a more positive spiritual picture about myself, and those around me, especially those I had been jealous of, who seemed to have everything figured out. But first, I had to accept that I was a broken soul, looking for a healer.

With so much trial and challenge in my own mind, over time I developed a strong awareness that we are a forgiven people, constantly working toward righteousness, not vice versa. Repentance is a lifelong process – one that takes years in many cases in order to even begin understanding, let alone begin undertaking. First, one has to come to a confession of a fault or shortcoming, before they can build on that opportunity with the help of God’s word and work. Hurdles in the path towards discovering and embracing one’s direction, meaning, and purpose are abundant, and I count myself fortunate, in retrospect, to have had experiences which challenged the old truths I’d built for myself, and encouraged and nourished me to grow in new and helpful directions, such that I have been able to overcome so many of them by persevering through what total up to weeks of what I initially thought of as a criticism, and which I now see as a healer’s helping hand.

I have found tremendous value in humility, and seeking to connect with others in Truth, and discover what they have to offer, encouraging them to share and develop their own gifts. Over time I have learned to speak the quiet language of the internal experience, of encouragement in the face of fear and doubt, of joy in the face of trials and challenges, and of life and growth where things seem desolate and without hope. And, as you might expect, without the long season of my life where I was faced with my own depression and picture of the world, I don’t know if I’d be able to “set myself aside” in order to find those moments of connections, valuing those parts of another person who needs some encouragement, or a leg up, from time to time.

So, my beginnings are scattered throughout my life, and often I find them in other people. At long last I find myself in a constant process of re-birth, a never ending springtime of the soul, in which I am constantly reminded of how small I am, and how wrong I have been in the past. Perhaps it would surprise me to learn how wrong I still am. In the end, though I find my contentment in God’s word, which has led me to others who need help, in ways that I never could have imagined before that initial encounter with brokenness in my own mind and soul, where I truly began to seek the Lord.

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