“When you come out of the grips of depression there is an incredible relief, but not one you feel allowed to celebrate. Instead, the feeling of victory is replaced with anxiety that it will happen again, and with shame and vulnerability when you see how your illness affected your family, your work, everything left untouched while you struggled to survive. We come back to life thinner, paler, weaker… but as survivors. Survivors who don’t get pats on the back from coworkers who congratulate them on making it. Survivors who wake to more work than before because their friends and family are exhausted from helping them fight a battle they may not even understand. I hope one day to see a sea of people all wearing silver ribbons as a sign that they understand the secret battle, and as a celebration of the victories made each day as we individually pull ourselves up out of our foxholes to see our scars heal, and to remember what the sun looks like.”
When I was a child, I remember that my grandmother never said much. Her facial expressions never changed, her eyes always fixed on something faraway like she wasn’t fully present. I later learned that she had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and had participated in shock therapy when it was still being administered. That was the first time I learned that mental illness existed in my family.
I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder when I was seventeen years old. I began to understand what that meant when I started to notice that I became extremely nervous and agitated for no reason. I slept… a lot. Sometimes, I’d sleep for sixteen hours a day, only getting up to use the bathroom. I’ve been admitted several times to mental health facilities, once because of an attempt to end my life.
It has taken my psychiatrist nearly eighteen years to find a combination of medication that finally put me on the road to recovery, and I have remained stable now for nearly a year. But one thing that I believe helped me through my darkest times was my faith. I realized just because you can’t see, hear, or feel God doesn’t mean He isn’t working in your life. My wife stood by me through the ugliest time of our marriage. Our families helped watch the kids for Abby (my wife) and they visited me in the hospital. Friends visited me while I was hospitalized and followed up with me when I got out. The countless doctors, nurses, and therapists that helped me get well had the Spirit flowing through them. Everyone in my life during that time, I finally see, was part of God’s plan to treat me and place me on the road to recovery. As for me, I now understand that God not only surrounds every part of me, He lives inside of me.