I grew up in a very religious household. Most things were viewed as sins, or rebellion of some kind and growing up I often found people in the church wanting those with mental illness to get off of their medication. It was viewed as weakness, as if they somehow could simply choose to be “normal”. They believed it made you someone else and that you couldn’t truly find redemption if your mind was clouded by a substance that alters it. After all, didn’t they think God could save them? Clearly using medication meant that they relied more on man made medicine than the holy power of God. I never understood, but I didn’t question it. Even when my cousin moved in with us and my parents required her to get off of her antidepressants, I didn’t understand it. But I didn’t question it either.
I was never a happy kid. Over the years I’ve pleaded with doctors and church leaders and my parents to hear me when I said “Something is wrong with me”, but I never got much in the way of help.
Maybe you should try meditating.
God will deliver you.
You’re just a teenager, this is normal.
But it wasn’t normal. My mood swings were so drastic and so fast that sometimes I wouldn’t even know what triggered it. The depression was all consuming, and I often found myself wanting to cease to exist. But I was afraid of death, and that made me feel even weaker.
Happiness is a choice.
But it wasn’t a choice for me. I couldn’t just choose to be happy no matter how hard I tried. It just didn’t work like that for me.
As I got older the symptoms got worse. I had my hormones tested several times, but nothing ever came back abnormal. So I lived with it. I lived with the constant turmoil inside my head, because I was raised to believe that medication was scary and therefore it wasn’t an option. After I left my ex-husband, the symptoms subsided some. Leaving an emotionally abusive relationship will lift some anxiety. But it wasn’t long before I realized that it was still there, and I desperately started seeking permanent relief. I read self-help books, I learned about my ego and embarked on a journey of self improvement and it helped. But it didn’t help enough. I fought with my boyfriend over the smallest things, I still yelled at my daughter for trivial annoyances, I couldn’t control my mood. I was still destroying everything around me.
When I realized that I had a mental illness, I immediately decided I didn’t want live like this anymore. I sought professional help, this time from a doctor who finally heard me and I was put on a mood stabilizer and an antidepressant, and suddenly for the first time in my life I didn’t feel crazy. I woke up in the morning, and it didn’t feel like a brick was laying on my chest. I looked forward to going to work, I found the motivation to actually live. For the first time in my life my mind didn’t feel like a destructive force threatening to devour everything that I loved. For the first time in my life I was happy.
At first, I was bitter. If someone had listened to me when I was teenager, would I have gone to college? Would I have still gotten married? And if I did, would I have been able to save my marriage? It dawned on me that my illness was the root of so many of my problems. I felt guilty and I had to learn how to forgive not only myself but all of the people in my life who ignored my cries for help. All this time and I could have lived a normal life if someone had just heard me. But then I realized that someone did—and he pushed me to get help. It wasn’t a pretty process, but he stood by me as I tried different medication and when things didn’t get better right away, he stayed by my side despite how difficult it was. Instead of feeling shame and bitterness, I felt lucky. I decided that the things I went through were necessary. I’m an incredibly resilient human being because of them. And if I had never gone through them, I would never have found someone who loved me enough to want better for me. I guess in some ways he saved my life as much as the medication did. I couldn’t do it on my own, but I didn’t have to. And that meant I was blessed.
My journey looks different today than it did when I began, but choosing medication doesn’t make me weak. It makes me strong. It requires a lot of courage to admit that you have a problem, and I’m proud of myself. Just when you think the tree has died, it sprouts new life. Do not be afraid of new beginnings. You may just find yourself exactly where you need to be.
“Courage is the resistance to fear, mastery of fear—not the absence of it.” –Mark Twain