Today I’m going to go directly against my friend, Norm’s advice. I’m not going to “keep it short” and I’m certainly not going to “keep it light.”
I want to talk about mental illness. A fun, light topic, right?
The past few months I have been silent on the blog front. Not only due to work commitments, but because I have been fighting depression and some mild mental health issues. I came home from work at night having nothing left to give. I gave a lot of time to sleep. And when I wasn’t sleeping or working I was distracting myself – movies, books, etc. – I’m sure most of you can relate. Most of us can put ourselves somewhere along the mental health spectrum. Or if not personally, we know someone whose life has been affected by it.
And what is “it” exactly? Not easy to explain. The DSM-V (The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) is 5 inches thick and spans Anxiety to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder to Schizophrenia. For me, it’s about depression and Tourette’s syndrome. A wicked combination of issues which on the surface seem like ‘no big deal’ – yet affect my daily life.
Depression? It isn’t sadness. It’s hardly ever circumstantial, yet it can grow out of events. For me it does, anyway. I get myself into a shame situation and instead of forgiving myself I allow the pain to grow far past it’s power. Or perhaps I look at life and feel disappointed. The expectations have fallen through. Again – not depression, but it can give it a shove in a dark direction. Then there are the times when it doesn’t make sense – there is no reason for depression. I think this is the hardest. When there is no cause for the low. It just is.
Tourette’s syndrome? Hereditary. Rarely presents like you see in the movies, FYI. For me it’s closely related to OCD. A desire for things to be just right. So, you echo words until they sound right. You blink your eyes continuously, not even knowing you’re doing it. Clenching fists. Twitching nose. Rolling wrists. All increased in severity by anxiety. Control, control, control. And when control isn’t possible? Self-abuse. Fits of rage.
But blessing upon blessing! There are drugs for these issues! Yay!
However, it’s no panacea. Side effects: Weight gain. Lack of emotion. Lack of drive. Loss of dreams. Complacency. Yet, the relief is so great you’d rather be fat. Be dull. Be boring than have to deal with “it” all again. And the realization and resolution: you may be dependent on this chemical for the rest of your life. Exhausting to think about. (Let’s not even start to talk about withdrawal).
Mental illness is suffering. Make no mistake – it can steal, maim or even, kill.
What would I be without it? Well, thinner for one. (Thank you, Paxil). All kidding aside, I would have possibly achieved more in terms of personal goals and gains. I would be more disciplined. I would have more energy. I would handle people better…
But, would I be as compassionate? Would I rely on God as deeply as I do? Would I trust in Him or myself? Would I become arrogant? Unbelieving, even? Would I obey Him?
Strange as it sounds, I wouldn’t trade my scars for anything. Sure, looking back I can imagine a different outcome without mental illness. So much life disappointment has been rooted in my mental frailty. Yet, I believe God took my disease and created something beautiful from it. And He continues to do so.
This is a topic I believe warrants a deeper “unpacking” in the next few posts. As I wrestle with my light and my dark, I pray you will join me and pray for me as I submerge myself into this journey.
As for my friend, Norm – don’t be hard on him. He means well. 😉
Blessings to you, my friends.