The unthinkable happened. I got so sick that I could not think straight. Literally. My mind that had helped me achieve scholastic awards in high school became scatterbrained and paranoid. My psychosis, a broad term referring to a brain disorder in which there is a distortion of or a loss of contact with reality, surfaced the fall of 2005 in my first year of university. The intense mental stress from a heavy academic work load and adjustment to life at a secular university, combined with a biological vulnerability, all contributed to the development of my mental illness. At that time, my parents and I had no idea how greatly this illness would affect my perceptions, my choices, and my life.
I had slowly and softly slipped into a state of mind where my orientation was awry. Where was I? What time was it? What day was it? I didn’t know, it didn’t matter. I lost my way, my glasses, my keys, my sleep, myself, but my thoughts were not slow or soft. My thoughts were racing, rushing and gushing, and they were jumping everywhere. My thoughts became disorganized, delusional, and distrustful; my speech became mixed up, muddled, and marred by thought blocks. (Thought blocks are when a speaker stops mid-sentence—yes, right in the middle of a sentence—and suddenly forgets her train of thought.)
This illness—later officially diagnosed as disorganized schizophrenia—strongly affected my life and relationships even after many of these symptoms ceased after a few months of medication.
In my relationship with God, I swung between the poles of questioning his goodness and seeing him using this as a refining trial in my Christian walk. My bond with God and others was like a rope being pulled from both ends—tested with stress and doubts but made a tougher and tighter bond because of it. I was forced to forget my naïve notion of absolute independence and had to rely on God and the people he placed in my life: a knowledgeable campus nurse, my parents and family, my family doctor, and a wonderful psychiatrist at the Nova Scotia Early Psychosis Program. I struggle with anxiety and a loss of confidence due to mental illness, but it has also provided new ways to relate to and encourage others.
Mental illness has made engravings on my heart—a tattoo on my attitude and identity. I realize that I am finite. I am fragile. I am human. (Ps. 103) Sometimes I get depressed about my limitations, but at other times I am rightfully thankful for the health I do have. This experience has helped me to know myself better and has changed my priorities. Now I love to spend time with family and friends, and I take better care of myself. I love running hard uphill, tasting warm cookies, feeling the wind’s silk kiss on my cheek, and writing (can you tell?)—all because I can, because I have life—precious life that, in a sense, has been given back to me.