I am not a tragedy.
I am not incomplete.
The first thing people say to me when they find out I have a mental illness is usually along the lines of “Oh, you poor thing!” or something of that ilk. I smile politely and try to explain that it’s okay; they don’t have to be embarrassed now that they know. They don’t have to treat me any differently… but they do.
I was never what you’d call a normal person. Bright-eyed and energetic, I was always very artistic. I “published” my own books featuring movie characters I knew. I drew constantly and created strange paintings. I even wrote my own poetry from a very young age, and I excelled in math and literature.
I was what you would call “precocious.” I think it was because of this that I learned some things too soon, things I shouldn’t know anything about. I learned the truth behind the politics of a Christian school and how none of the children there knew a thing about how to treat others. I learned how it felt to be fearful of a verbally (sometimes physically) abusive father who was also a pastor. What I didn’t learn, however, was that this was not what the world should be like. I never knew it wasn’t normal until a couple years ago.
When you’ve spent your life being frightened into submission by the bullies both inside and outside of your home, there’s a bitter anger that starts to grow in you. It was this anger that allowed mental illness to fester in my brain for years without realizing it was there, that it wasn’t just a “phase” that I was going through. Everything within me slowly corroded into a dismal depression during my middle school years, and by the time I was done with high school, I had experienced alcoholism, an eating disorder and a fully-developed set of other mental illnesses.
My diagnoses of generalized anxiety disorder, depression and borderline personality disorder came all at once. It was a bit overwhelming to say the least. After spending two weeks in an eating disorder ward and an entire year of having strong suicidal thoughts, I made the decision to try medication. The adjustment period was a tough one, but it muted most of the suicidal tendencies.
Years went by. I ended up quitting therapy due to money issues, but I found myself back again after my dad’s cancer diagnosis and my grandfather’s sudden death. I finished my round of therapy, went back to life as I knew it, and put up with several more years of verbal and emotional abuse from my dad before finally exploding.
It was only through a family meeting that we were able to convince my dad to seek help for his own mental health issues. I, of course, went back for a third round of therapy, this time at a Christian counseling center. This turned out to be the best decision of my life.
Despite the hypocrisy I’ve experienced both from my father and other Christians, my struggle with mental illness has brought me closer to God. To be honest, God is the only reason I’m alive at this point. I also have my mother to thank – without her strength and understanding, I don’t know how I would have ended up. I’ve come to find that people of faith – real people of faith – are the anchor that keeps me grounded in sanity.
My father has come so far in the last year. There is a deep rift in our relationship that is slowly healing. I’m able to talk with him without the fear that he might start screaming and glaring with wild eyes. We’ve been able to meet each other halfway and have the father/daughter relationship we should have had throughout the years. We’ve also both come to terms with our mental illness, and each of us has a strong relationship with the Lord.
You see, I have never felt more broken than I was at my lowest point in my mental illness. But I was never broken. I am not an incomplete person because of what I didn’t have when I was younger, mainly a healthy relationship with my father. I am not a puzzle with broken pieces that can never be put together again. I am whole. I am valuable. I am complete in the love and support that has been given to me.
Had I not gone through what I did, I would have never been able to truly understand what others who are struggling feel. I would have never started a mental health blog, and I probably would have grown up with the backwards thinking that mental illness means you’re “crazy” and should be locked away. Every single bad thing I have experienced has a purpose; it’s part of the bigger picture of my life. I’ve done some amazing things in my life, and although some experiences were painful, almost to the point of breaking me, in the end they made me stronger.
No one should ever have to feel that they’re worthless or be told that they are. Every single person with a mental illness is a human being just like the rest of the world. We are all valuable. We are all whole. Don’t ever let someone tell you you’re not because your life has purpose, even if you can’t see it yet. You are not a tragedy. You are the author of your story, and you determine how it shapes you. Hold on. Stay strong. You are loved.
I’m a 27-year-old freelance writer who loves a good cup of coffee and writing about my passions. I run a mental health blog called My Journey To Freedom From Anxiety and am a mother of two kittens in my spare time.
Amber can be found on her blog, Facebook and Twitter
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