Living with Mental Illness

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During the week of June 5, 2006, a door was closed somewhere inside my mind. My eyes acted like a video camera. From time to time I talked to the screen like I was part of the scenery, yet I knew I was not an actor of any consequence. I was way back behind the last row seats, just watching.

I was numb. I was emptied of all feeling as though each separate emotion had been dropped into a creek moving away from me. I felt nothing, except the vague notion that I had failed, that I was a disappointment, and that I was abandoned, alone, and no one cared.

Many people call it burn out or a nervous breakdown. My wife, our children, and I call it “The Crash.” My counselor urged me to call it a breakthrough. When he said that to me on my first visit, I laughed a mirthless bark. Now I thank God for this painful time of my life, because through it he showed his great love for me by putting a stop to very unhealthy behavior patterns on my part.

At the time, I was occupied with panic. I breathed in fear and breathed out calamity and disaster. There was terror on every side (Jer. 20:10). What surprised me most was how tired I was; as exhausted as if I'd worked on a roof all day in sizzling Southern Ontario summer heat. If this was depression, then why did I feel it physically? We are body and spirit and mind, combined and connected fearfully and wonderfully. All I could see around me was a valley of very dry bones (Ezek. 37:2). If anyone had asked me then if those bones could live, I would not have said, “I doubt it.” I would have said, “That matters as much as stepping on a crack in the sidewalk.”

The door that closed in June began to open again in November, and then only by squeaking a little. Since then God has taught me much. Most importantly, I have limitations; I can't do everything. He brought healing to me through my counselor who helped me see it was all right to say, “NO!” to certain requests that come my way. (What a relief that is, to realize it is not a sin to say that!) He helped me grieve through contemplating books like Jerry Sittser's A Grace Disguised. He showed me how to stand up for myself, to act from my own compulsions instead of the demands coming from others. 

More and more I am noticing beauty around me. Some scenes cause such intense delight, as though the gladness is bubbling up from a well deep within. God gave me an elder and a church who supported me in my time of recovery, praying with and for me. Most of all he gave me a wife and children who helped me find my way back to safety. 

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