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Mental Illness 101

A friend of mine told me the story of a woman she knew who lost her husband. This woman was so angry at God that she railed at Him constantly but when she got past the anger she realized that the entire time she was angry with God, she was still going to God day after day.

I’m angry at God. For some those are blasphemous words but they’re true. I’m angry that my brain has betrayed me. I’m angry that I get hit with trials so often even prayer warriors say things like, “Wow! You keep me busy!” I’m angry that I lost the first job I really loved because I had to have treatments just to gain some semblance of sanity. And I’m angry that just a few months later I’m looking at having more.

If you don’t have a mental illness – or relate to someone who does – you probably don’t get it. You try to find simplistic answers: pray more, confess more, give more. If you just do A, B, or C you’ll be fine. It doesn’t work that way. Let me try to explain some basic tenets of my mental illness.

I have delusions. That means I believe things even when all evidence points to them not being true. The thing is, they make PERFECT sense to me. Logic doesn’t fight them. You telling me they aren’t true, doesn’t change anything. The only thing that fights the delusion is when my brain is clear enough to be able to understand logic. That doesn’t happen often.

I hear voices. This is not just the voice in your head that calls you stupid – I have this, too. These are voices that I believe are distinct from me, outside of my own head which, for some reason, gives them greater power. I can’t “self-talk” because I’m not talking to myself. I’m talking to another authority that argues with my self-talk, is completely derisive of my self-talk, and really could care less about my self-talk.

I experience severe depression. It is not sadness. It is not the “blues”. It is like living in mud which makes the simplest movements difficult. It is like the flu where you feel like you’ve been hit by a truck and you HURT. It is like a head cold that makes your thinking all cloudy. It is all that at once and it won’t last a few days or a week, it becomes a lifestyle. And people just tell you to “get over it”.

I also experience mania. Mania sounds so fun and it feels so good – especially after a bout of depression – but it is just as damaging. You stop understanding consequences. You take irresponsibility to new heights. You spend money you don’t have on things you don’t need. You’re like a tornado running through your world with no understanding of the damage you’re leaving in your wake.

This is the world I live in. It is frustrating and scary, exciting and challenging. It is forever changing. Despite all that, despite the anger, I am like the woman railing at God day after day. I pray that the next round of treatments work and I can feel His love again. Until then I will keep going back to Him, begging for relief, waiting for the end of this round of trials.

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