What does mental illness mean to me?

what does mental illness mean

“for God is not a God of confusion but of peace…” 1 Corinthians 14:33

Hi everyone! Until now I have been writing shorter blog entries introducting the Behold Project and what it stands for. In this post I am going to introduce myself a bit, talk about my illnesses, and what they mean (and don’t mean) to me.

My name is Brian, and I have mental illness. 3 to be exact; severe depression, severe anxiety, and PTSD. I had a fairly normal childhood until age 15, when my father died suddenly of a cerebral bleed. Depression was my constant companion thru high school. I unfairly blamed God for taking Dad from me, and felt deserted by Him. I sought to try to live a normal life thru the military, which involved an Iraq deployment. It was after this when things spiraled out of control. I became an alchoholic and had frequent bouts of anxious tension, explosive anger, and deepening depression. I lost many friends and made many poor choices. In the midst of all this God called me back to him thru a postcard addressed to my dead father. By His grace alone I slowly but surely came around to the idea of God loving me. After a 7 year journey back from the depths I am happily married and have a wonderful, loving relationship with God.

For years I was afraid to face the reality of just how severe my illnesses were. Part of the reason was the ongoing stigma surrounding mental illness and particularly PTSD. The stereotype of the “crazy war veteran” permeates our culture and it wasn’t pleasant being treated as such. I was told, among other things, to “get over it” and “it’s all in your head”. However, over the course of therapy I learned several important lessons:

-You are not defined by your illnesses

-You cannot control people’s reaction to you; all you can control are your own actions and reactions

-There is nothing wrong in asking for help or needing medication to function

-It’s ok to take care of yourself

-If you give people a chance, they may surprise you

These were all hard lessons to learn but vital ones. I choose to be defined by the fact that God saved my life and I owe Him everything. Sometimes people will choose not to understand or to even care what is happening to you. And sometimes people will judge you and walk away from you, no matter how hard you try otherwise.

However on the flipside of that coin, my support network is invaluable. I am not too proud to say I would be very much lost without my wife’s patience and understanding. It was with her assistance that I was able to get the help I needed. She is honest enough to tell me when I am screwing things up and need to rethink. And believe me, I still occassionally screw up. I am most definitely a work in progress, which is a topic I will touch on in a future post.

I suppose in a way I can relate to the Gerasene demoniac; Jesus sailed across a stormy sea to rescue that one lost sheep (Mark 5:1-17). In the same way He calls me and you to Him. We are never truly alone.

In closing, mental illness to me is part of who I am, but it is not all of who I am. My illnesses do not define me. Though I am still a work in progress, I am a child of God, and I will proclaim His mercy and love for as long as I live.

Remember that help is always there if you need it. The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is available 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255. It is both free and confidential. Also I would like to reccomend https://rebootrecovery.com as a wonderful course that helped me with my PTSD. Please visit https://thebeholdproject.com/resources/ for additional links. God Bless.

-Brian

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