My Illness & My Faith- Part IV

I love words. I do. I love reading them, writing them… I LOVE learning new ones. I even have a board on Pinterest dedicated to words believe it or not. I enjoy learning in general and words feed right into that obsession.

As of late various scripture readings have stuck out to me. Two passages particularly:

Jeremiah 29:11- “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, give you a future and hope.”

(and)

Colossians 1:11- We pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need.

Not only verses, but individual words have popped up several times recently. EVOLVE would be one of those.

The two verses up top and “that word” (I’ll give you the definition I’m using in a minute- I promise) combined create definition of where I’m at right now. This past month marked a year that I returned to church, but it can’t just stop there. And it hasn’t.

Ready for the definition I’m going to give you? To EVOLVE means “to come forth gradually into being.” Evolve is a synonym for “grow.” I have been evolving throughout the past year. There has been growing pains as well as a stagnant period in the evolutionary process. The evolving has taken place in both my mental health as well as in my faith. I’m going to start with my mental health because I think it’s important to disclose that in order for me to fully articulate my faith in the scheme of my life.

Anxiety is a push and pull. I have felt like I’ve been in an involuntary game of Hide and Seek. I’m hiding, but I REALLY don’t want to be found. My brain is oh so bad at the game. My anxiety is a floodgate that opens and brings forth the waves of OCD and mania. When the waters leave the depression and guilt are left behind to be cleaned up.This past May variables came together and unleashed said waters.

I have come so far and yet remained standing still when it comes to my mental health. I am SO bad at admitting when something is making me upset in any way. Whether it be stress inducing, anger provoking, or despairing. I go right to the feeling of anxiety and stay there. Focus there and I can ignore the causes (that is what I have learned from my therapist over our past two sessions). That evolution has not started yet. That isn’t to say I haven’t gone forward at all. I am FAR more open with both my therapist and psychiatrist. That has led to earlier treatment of episodes that have come and generally longer periods in between major bouts of illness. I have begun reaching out to more people. Directly and/or indirectly. This has led to a small growth in my support system.

Remember: evolution is constant.

My anxiety never gets extreme due to a single factor. It’s usually multiple that need to be dealt with and I have chose to ignore. My therapist says I put things in a box and want to store them away. The boxes always fall and open. A main trigger was one that I insistently packed away over and over. One that I have slowly worked on coming to accept as a trigger. That and the other [triggers] added together to make the perfect storm… my anxiety reached a peak… My therapist and I worked together on finding the source(s) of the anxiety and for about two weeks I was on the mend. I don’t even know if it was that long. Next thing I know I’m on an upward slide toward the lovely (my eyes are rolling so you know) state of mania. The mania was in full force for a little over 20 days; and took that and then some to fully recover from.

Mania is a topic in and of itself for another post. It is, however, a good example as to one of the reasons I became so angry with God all those years ago. The beginning of what I knew was a rise to mania is what did me in. It was the catalyst to it all. I had been taking my meds, seeing my doctor, attempting to avoid triggers… what happened? I was STILL going manic. That was the straw that broke the camel’s back, but it wasn’t the only straw. It was one of many.

Mental illness is a thug. It takes things from you. It eventually took not only my dream school but schooling completely (of which I hope to get back at some point). There are times when it takes my nieces and nephews- I don’t get to see them when I’m manic. It has taken my grandma at times- she worries and when I’m stuttering (a result of my anxiety) I don’t talk to her so that she doesn’t worry even more.

Mental illness forces you to make choices for reasons that are beyond hard to face. For example, having children. It isn’t that I don’t want them (I even know at least one name). I ADORE my nieces and nephews… BUT I wouldn’t always be able to be a good mom. There are times I can’t take care of MYSELF. So, I decided a long time ago that being a mom isn’t an option.

Mental illness is invisible. It is a hard thing for others to sympathize with let alone empathize with. Mental illness is often times very lonely. It is something that others don’t understand or have a very wrong understanding of. OCD for example. People always think of the Compulsive part. Assume that all sufferers wash their hands incessantly, clean nonstop, or check a lock ten times. There’s another part to the illness- Obsession. Obsessive thoughts. Obsessive behaviors. Mine… My OCD manifests itself in various ways. Some are minor and don’t intrude on everyday living at all. I’ll give you this one to illustrate- I need things in 5s. Five is the perfect number. Others become severely disruptive at times and have to be dealt with with the help of my doctor and therapist. Lists get out of control. I make a list to make a list to make a list. I rewrite the list to make a list. My therapist and doctor want me to stay away from even making a shopping list if possible. I won’t even get started on the arrangement of my bookshelf. And then their is the dangerous manifestations of my OCD. The obsessive thoughts. That’s when the self-harm happens. The cutting.

I said in my first “My Illness & My Faith” post that I had put my Bible on my bookshelf. I did. I was done; and being told “You just have to pray harder and it will go away” and “You’ll be fine if you just have more faith. It will go away” helped me lift my arm to put it there. It has taken a long time to say to myself and to others- although I don’t know that I am strong enough yet to say it when someone makes a statement like ones of those- that mental illness is not some moral punishment that God is giving me.

I can’t tell you an exact date as to when my faith evolution began. I can say that it was around six years ago when I began assisting with the Bible Study at work. I enjoyed the lessons and looked forward to not only helping put the lesson sheets together but the actual study itself. I did not start talking to God again right away. I was VERY slow in coming to do that. Mental illness taunts you. It makes you doubt everything. Your self-worth takes a nose dive. Your self-esteem gets sucker punched over and over. It makes you question every choice you make. The decision whether or not to return to God was in front of my face. It shouldn’t have been as scary of a proposition as it was, but making so many wrong decisions when sick makes you leery of even the brightest path.

It took some time. Then, last year I made the long time coming decision to return to church. I’d go every other Sunday when I was off. I did that and it was enough. Soon I was listening to the podcasts from the Sundays I couldn’t be there. Then to podcasts of sermons past. This past Spring, when I couldn’t work because of my speech, I was attending every Sunday. If you read “My Illness & My Faith- Part III” you will find out where I was with my faith during that. There were some roadblocks in continuing my Sunday ritual. Because that’s what it was. A ritual. It wasn’t until I began continually going to sit in either the sanctuary or prayer room each Wednesday morning did I begin to crave those times. I know God is walking beside us with every step of our day; but I did not feel as close to Him as when in those rooms.

I have been contemplating this post for a few days now. I was positive I wanted to do it after my therapy appointment yesterday. I was talking to my therapist about the training that I did for NAMI and a question that someone (that will be speaking as a family member) asked during the training session. He asked if it (meaning faith) is really a main point and is it really that important to talk about faith and dealing with mental illness. My therapist’s answer was “You could have answered that.” Which I did there and hope to be doing here.

Faith hasn’t destroyed my mental illness. It hasn’t made it go away. Becoming frustrated hasn’t stopped. Guilt still looms whenever I fail and let my illness have a win. What my faith HAS given me is a new way to look at things (when I can see clearly). It has given me a peace of mind when my world is coming apart at the seams. My faith has given me Someone far bigger than I am to go to. If for no other reason than to simply talk. Someone that makes sense of my mind even when I can’t.

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