Last week, I attended an informational workshop on Youth Mental Health. The sessions were informative to say the least and eye opening in so many ways. One of the biggest takeaways for me was what people with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia go through on a daily basis and what it’s like to hear constant voices in your head telling you that you should harm yourself or others.
One man’s account via video was so intense that I wanted to leave the room at some point and cry. His name is Keith and he had been suffering from bipolar disorder for years when the voices in his head finally convinced him that he should throw himself off of the Golden Gate Bridge. At one point he recalled that while he was on the bus on the way to the bridge, he decided that if one person asked him if he was okay, one person, he would tell them his whole life story and what he was planning to do. He didn’t want to die but he felt immensely outnumbered by the voices in his head.
Not one person asked him if he was okay that day. The voices won and Keith threw himself over the side of the bridge, shattered the bones in his legs all the way up to his torso because of the impact from meeting the water…and did not die. He did not die. In fact, a sea lion brushed up against his legs as he was rising to the surface of the water. After being rescued, Keith now had to figure out how to live. It would take much therapy, medication and counseling but he’s alive to tell his story today.
This man now lives to tell others about what it’s like to have bipolar disorder and how to live with it. The bonus, he met his wife (who was visiting a friend) while he was in the psych ward. They are a dynamic couple that travel and speak on the subject together.
At one point during the workshop we had to break up into groups and act out what it’s like to have voices talking to you constantly. Three of us were carrying on a conversation while one person “the whisperer” had to whisper negative words in one person’s ear. Words like: “don’t trust her, she’s lying, they’re trying to get you…” I opted out of being the whisperer or its victim both times that we did the exercise. Although it was a powerful demonstration, I couldn't take part in those particular roles personally.
I know what it’s like to hear negative voices in my ears. And if you’re telling the truth, so do you. I believe we all do. It’s common to have to fight off lies and accusations and put downs on a more constant basis than we care to admit. It doesn’t necessarily mean that we are all bipolar. It simply means that we are dealing with the manifestation of negative seeds sown into us at one point or another. It’s so common that we have self-help books, seminars and life coaches to help us overcome such negative voices. While it is true that the majority of people have not experienced suicidal or homicidal voices (and if you are reading this and you have, there is much help for you) most of us have heard negative put downs and self- deprecating noise throughout our life.
In my own experience, I have fought off three words for as long as I can remember: “You are unlovable.” That’s it, plain and simple. I know where it came from, I know when it started but I didn’t know how to overcome it on my own. So on my best day, I was not okay. With family or friends surrounding me, I was not okay. Having a significant other in my life did not change the mantra, it only intensified it and made me try harder to be what I felt I truly could not be, lovable.
The month of October was an intensified cleansing of the heart mind and soul for me. It was painful and devastating. I started losing weight, more than usual (not a bad side effect) but my sleep was sporadic.
Why? Because my relationship with God as my father had finally come to the place where he wanted to take me back to the beginning of where those negative seed-words were planted. He wanted to dig through the soil of my soul and uproot them but it would cause enormous distress at times. I knew this had to be done if I ever wanted to be fully emotionally healthy and also, if I ever wanted to be a light in someone else’s darkness.
So there we went, God and I, to the basement of my soul, digging beneath the cracked foundation in the dirt of my early beginnings. We would make this journey several times during that month and each time something different would be dug up and revealed. I would cry, shake, wake up in the middle of the night calling out to Him and each time, His peaceful presence would be there reassuring me that all would be well. God was silencing the voices of shame, rejection and accusation at a very crucial time in my life, the time when I truly want to be lovable.
The other side
Today, approximately 30 days later and about 1,000 pounds lighter on the inside, being “okay” never felt so good. The sense of peace, freedom, joy and curiosity about my future that I’m experiencing is unprecedented in my life. I have never been here before. It’s a good place, a warm and natural place and I am forever grateful for the pain that it took to get here.
Sometimes I’m by myself but I’m okay. Sometimes I’m tired and have too much to do in one day but I’m okay. I don’t feel like life is going to break me or steal from me anymore. I don’t sense that my walk with God has to resemble me in a wheel chair while He’s pushing me. I’m okay with the ups and downs that come my way. If I need to cry or grieve a loss, I can do so knowing that while weeping does endure for a night, joy will come in the morning. I don’t have to pretend to be fine anymore, I am fine and when I’m not…fine is not far off.
I know that it’s only been a short time but I can finally handle life on life’s terms and that is something that I have never been able to do. The sense of heaviness from feeling alone in the world has lifted. I feel God’s presence on a deeper more intimate level. I am not invincible, I’m simply accompanied by God’s strength and peace in a more tangible way.
I’m still sensitive, tender hearted and full of compassion for the suffering that we witness in the world but I know that the suffering won’t always overcome me. I’m okay with my directive to intercede and exhort. The prophetic is not a debilitating cloak but a mantle that I honor in humility. I don’t know the details of my future word for word but I’m okay with knowing that God has planned my life without the aid of my micro-management.
Most of all, the thing that I’ve longed to feel for a long time is AMAZINGLY evident to me now…
I am lovable and worthy of honest, giving and fulfilling love. Nothing else will do.
If that doesn’t cause my soul to do cartwheels, nothing else will…
Thank you Abba
One of the most important things that you can do when suffering from depression or signs of mental health issues is to reach out. Life can be traumatic but you do not have to suffer alone in silence. If you can see yourself in Keith’s story of bipolar schizophrenia, reach out. Ask for help from the closest person to you and don’t stop until you get what you need. Fight to live because you are needed in this world. You may be the answer to someone else’s problem one day. But first take steps to take care of you.
If you can relate to my personal story of feeling unlovable and rejected throughout your life, know this: You are divinely loved by a living God who calls your name and reaches for you daily. Answer Him, it will change your life. Tell people that you trust that you need love, prayer and support. Watch the miraculous happen in the midst of a common struggle.
Feel free to contact me through this blog if you need to. I’m here.
Peace be with you…