My Struggle With Mental Illness

The only thing that truly understood my pain and hatred for myself was the thing that was telling me the only way out was to die.
I still laughed. I still smiled. I still hugged my friends, and I still went to church. But I was drowning. I was numb. I was too weak to go on.
The only way I can describe it is darkness. Everything was darkness.

Two years ago I was going to kill myself.

It was the outcome of a lot of different factors, many of which had begun when I was a child.

My childhood memories are fraught with angry screaming, a drunken and paranoid mother, numerous police visits, hospitals, confusion, loneliness, and many tears. It was also filled with horrifying dreams and thoughts, intense fear, and dark shadows – I was sexually abused, more than once.
So while there is a chance I may have come to suffer from mental illness anyway, because it is not selective, my struggles definitely started from a young age.

Despite this, however, I never believed that I suffered from depression or anxiety. In my mind, yes I had a rough childhood, but I worked through it. I have always been a deeply reflective person, so spent much time coming to terms with what my family had gone through. By all standards, I had done everything ‘right’ to avoid mental illness: I was fit and active, I was spiritually active, I was mentally reflective and emotionally intelligent, and had good friends. This is why, later in life, counsellors and psychologists would only frustrate me – everything they were discussing with me were things I either already knew or I had already tried.

I was bullied when I was 12, and even though it was resolved after about six months, my confidence subtly grew weaker, and my motivation for life dulled with every passing year. And each year, pain and self-loathing grew stronger. I hated school, and spent most of my time daydreaming. I found that there was a desperation in my heart to just be loved; to be wanted. I was so scared that there was no value in me, and I was silently screaming for someone to prove that there was.
I knew, knew, that God valued me and loved me. There had been multiple occasions when that love had met me so powerfully. In fact, all throughout the darkest years, I still had experiences of the power of God. I still had strong faith and relationship with Him; Jesus was the only one who had never left me and who had always loved me, and knew every tear that I cried. I knew the truth of the gospel, I was in active relationship with God, and I was passionate about His kingdom; but darkness still overwhelmed me. That’s important for me to reiterate, because there is still such a profound stigma (especially in charismatic circles) surrounding Christians suffering with mental illness. They are still subject to criticism about their faith, their practise, their ‘sinfulness’, or any other number of things. Sometimes, a Christian can do and be everything ‘right’, and mental illness still takes hold.

After starting tertiary education, I began having panic attacks mid-lectures, and then at any given point of the day. I had no idea why. I wasn’t an anxious person. Everything in my life was going well; I even had a 5-year plan!
My GP suggested I see a psychologist. The psych didn’t help, so I tried the Uni counsellor. He didn’t understand how deeply my faith was connected to my life, so I didn’t go back to him either. I felt completely alone in this.

After I was injured and had to stop doing any physical activity (and Uni) for six months, I spiralled, and kept spiralling – for two years. All these dark, ugly thoughts kept on surfacing; and sometimes the only way to relieve myself of my inner pain was to inflict outward pain, or to numb it with alcohol.
I tried crying out to God. I received prayer. Three times I had an experience of joy and peace, and truly believed God had ‘broken the chains of depression’ over my life, as every preacher kept on ‘prophesying’. Only to have the darkness return, three times, after a few months of respite, bigger and more powerful than before. I didn’t understand why God wasn’t healing me. No one told me it wasn’t my fault. Everyone kept making me believe it was because I wasn’t trying enough. I wasn’t trying to think positively. I wasn’t trying to live life. I didn’t have enough faith.

There are only so many times you can keep trying to get up, only to be slammed back to the ground. And there is only so far you can crawl before you’re too tired to keep crawling.
I started to grow bitter and hateful; of the world, of humanity, of society. But far above anything and everything else, I hated myself. The ‘rational’, ‘scientific’ side of my brain begun to analyse the pointlessness and complete foolishness of life without God; and my life seemed very much without God. Every time I cried to Him, He seemed far or unresponsive. I tried to believe He was an angry God; I even tried so hard to convince myself that He wasn’t real. But I knew that He was, and I knew that He was love; and that made everything so much worse. Because, in my mind, if God is real and if He is love, and if I am trapped in this pit of darkness, never able to claw my way out, then it must mean that God has forsaken me.

Around the same time, I had a job that offered me no security. The instability of work increased my anxiety which spurred on the hopelessness. I wasn’t eligible for government assistance, but wanted so badly to study… but couldn’t afford to stop working. It weighed me down: I kept thinking that I would never break free of this burden of low income; always fighting just to be paid enough to live.
I was already so tired, fighting mental battles; fighting struggle after struggle and loneliness after loneliness. The thought that my life would only continue in striving was an insurmountable burden. I wanted the struggle to end, and the pain to go away. Suicide began to be the only perceivable way out.

The word ‘demonic’, I imagine, would cause mostly one of two reactions: either a cringe, or a sneer. But I think many who have faced the oppression of suicidal thoughts could agree with me when I say there was something intensely evil, powerful, and yes, demonic, about the entire ordeal.

Every day that I was alive, I felt like I was drowning. I wasn’t really alive. In my mind, I was both on the brink of insanity and the sanest that I had ever been. I knew that I needed to get help, but I was long past the desire be helped. No one really helped, anyway. They just talked at me. Suggested medication. No one listened. No one cared.
The only thing that truly understood my pain and my hatred for myself was the thing that was telling me the only way out was to die.
I still laughed. I still smiled. I still hugged my friends, and I still went to church. But I was drowning. I was numb. I was too weak to go on.
The only way I can describe it is darkness. Everything was darkness.

I figured out the best way to take my life. I didn’t ask God to forgive me for what I was about to do. I scornfully spat at Him, ‘If you don’t want me to take my life, then you save me. But I sure as hell am going to do a good job.’
I was angry at Him for forsaking me. I was so, so angry and hurt. I couldn’t understand how this God I had given everything to could suddenly be so absent in this immense, consuming agony.
Being alive was excruciating pain.
The process I had chosen would take about two weeks, and then in one night it would be over. The pain, the fear, the struggle; it would finally be gone. So, I started doing it.

It’s so strange to think, even now, that either no one realized, or no one cared enough to say anything in this whole time. I was still attending Uni, and I was still hanging out with friends. But I had stopped even trying to hide my pain. I was despondent; but no one really said anything. They would tentatively ask if I was okay, and I would give a weak smile and reassure them that I was tired, or that I would be better in a few weeks. Then they would smile back and leave it alone.

That is, until one friend started to catch on. I remember seeing the moment it clicked in her mind, and she asked me – demanded from me – if I had made a plan. I broke down into tears and silently nodded. She asked me if I had set a date. I told her, ‘Next week.’
We talked more; she had some experience of these kinds of situations. By the end, she made me promise that I would find a new doctor, make an appointment, and follow through with one more try. One more attempt at getting help.
I agreed, but made another agreement with myself that this truly was one more attempt at life. If the doctor didn’t help, and if God didn’t come through, I would finish it.

Miraculously, the doctor I decided to try turned out to be the single best GP I have ever known. She took me seriously without making me feel like a charity case. She put a plan in place and talked me through the process of finding the right psychologist, and it went from there.

The next 18 months would be a process of healing, and some more pain, and more healing. My body is yet to recover from the damage I did it. The three months immediately after were a time of unbelievable spiritual recovery; but I will save that for another post.

If anyone is reading this and has ever contemplated suicide, or is even now moving slowly to the edge of that cliff, I am begging you to give life another go. Don’t wait until it gets that bad – because by then it might be too late. Do whatever it takes: one more try – a real try. Find the right doctor and the right psychologist. Talk to someone. I know it’s hard; trust me, I know how terrifying, how awkward, how shameful, and how uncomfortable it can be; but this is your life. Call lifeline. Message Beyond Blue. Do whatever it takes to give yourself one more good chance at life, and accept the help that comes from it.
You are not alone; and there is another way out of the darkness. One more try.

The truth, if I’m being completely honest with everyone reading this, is that the only reason I am still breathing today is because God did come through in the end, after I committed to Him the ‘one more try’. About a year afterwards, the thoughts and darkness started getting loud again, but God stepped in. He did save me, over and over again, despite the way I had so spitefully and mockingly challenged Him to. If you don’t believe in God, even if you hate God, your life is no less valuable to Him than mine. I can promise you this: when all else has failed, and when every other bridge has burned, Jesus will save those who earnestly call on Him.

The world may be pulled out from under you, and everyone you know may fail you, but God never fails. Jesus knows, deeply, every pain you have felt, and He is waiting to be called upon, and to embrace those who are hurting. He is the truest hope I can offer to those who have none. All my hope is in Christ; and that is why I am still here.

2 thoughts on “My Struggle With Mental Illness

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  1. Thank you for sharing your story! This will help someone, I have no doubt. I lost a dear friend to suicide and another old friend from my youth, both in the past couple of years. The more we share, the more we talk, the more we understand, the more we can help others.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your encouragement Terri; I’m so saddened to hear about those you lost and the pain they must have been fighting. I hope that together, and with everyone else who has or is still fighting their own battles, we can prevent such heartbreaking losses.


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