by Stories of Renewal
October 8, 2015
3 min read
I was only 8 when my life took a turn for the worse. My mother was addicted to drugs. She was self-medicating her depression and bipolar disorder. My father remarried a woman who physically and verbally abused me. Every night I would hear her screaming about forks levitating out of dishwashers. She had a severe mental illness. The result was that I thought that I was an extremely bad, unlovable person who didn’t deserve to live. Lying in bed at night, I would dream about taking my own life – just to have peace and quiet.
I started my lifelong battle with depression, anxiety and PTSD when I moved out. Even though I was in a safe environment, I felt absolutely horrible. But I thought I was making a big deal out of nothing and tried to block it all out. Years later, my mother passed away from having a heart attack at 44 years old. Her mother (my grandmother) took her own life a few years later claiming that my mother was talking to her all the time from the grave. We tried to get her help but she wouldn’t talk about mental illness. This is when I started to take mental illness very seriously.
I went to a doctor and I was so relieved to hear that what I was experiencing had a name. My feelings were finally justified and I could put it all in context. The doctor told me that depression and mental illness can be both environmental and genetic – I have the genes for mental illness but I also grew up in an extremely unstable environment. I might have dodged mental illness if I grew up in a safe home but chances are I’d still have it.
Today, I have a wonderful family including a caring, loving partner and three wonderful kids. I visit with my doctor every 6 – 8 weeks and take medication for depression, anxiety and PTSD. My therapist taught me how to deal with daily stress through Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). I used to view the world as against me and I assumed everyone had an agenda – today, I know this isn’t the case.
Finding Jesus kept me going. For the longest time I didn’t feel like I was “good enough” to be a Christian. But my community at St. Pete’s has taught me that you don’t have to be perfect to be a Christian. Permission to be imperfect and still loved and brought a lot of healing in my life. I wanted to share my story so that other people know there is help out there. Mental illness isn’t something to be embarrassed of – it took me a long time to learn that. You don’t have to suffer alone.