I have struggled with mental illness my whole life. Sometimes it feels like I’m winning the battle, sometimes not so much. When I think of the times I dissolved into tears and prayed to die, or laid in bed all day unable to find the energy to get dressed, I feel beaten down, discouraged, a failure. On the flip side, when I remember that I’ve been married for 28 years, raised two beautiful children, went back to school, got my bachelor’s degree after working on it for 25 years, and then my master’s degree, I realize I haven’t been beaten.
When I think of the term “overcome” I think of a finished state, something in the past. “She has overcome.” But I realized it doesn't have to be thought of like that at all. Overcoming doesn't have to mean the struggle is fully in the past in order to be successful in the present. It can mean you conquered before and because of that you will conquer in the future. I have overcome mental illness not because I no longer battle mental illness but because I haven’t given in to mental illness. I didn’t stop at lying in bed; I got up. I didn’t stop at the tears; I found a way to smile. I may have prayed to God to take my life but I didn’t take my own.
The last several years have been very difficult for me, very discouraging. I have so much going on in my life – good and bad – that my stress level is off the charts. It’s hard for me not to get mired in the mud but I’m still here, I’m still fighting. I may get knocked down, but every time, I get up. I’m stubborn. I WON’T give up!
I frequently use the saying, “How goes the war?” I had a coworker once get upset with me for using war imagery but that’s the way I view my life. I face a battle every day, every hour, every minute. Sometimes I’m actively fighting, sometimes I’m huddled up, trying to protect myself from the onslaught. I’m at war with mental illness and I will win. I am claiming that victory now; I'm not waiting for the day when I no longer cry, when I'm no longer numb. I have overcome so much already and I will overcome so much in the future. I HAVE overcome.
Whatever you’re facing, see yourself as an overcomer. Wherever you are in the battle – a hero claiming victory or a wounded soldier in the trenches – you have overcome. I don’t know when your battle may end. The perfect medication, diet, or exercise plan may come along and you’ll find yourself no longer battling this particular enemy. Until that day, realize you have overcome NOW. The bad times will come but you are stronger than the bad times. You have overcome!
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 (NIV)