Writing Away the Stigma


Encourage one another & build each other up. -1 Thessalonians 5:11

In the words of Catherine Zeta-Jones, “I hope I can help remove any stigma attached to it, and that those who don’t have it under control will seek help with all that is available to treat it.”

I used to be silent about by my illness. I rarely spoke up when the topic was introduced, and I especially did not mention my own battle with it. It was my biggest and most painful secret. I typically painted on a smile to hide what was truly going on with me.

Being diagnosed with a mood disorder as a sixteen year-old flips your world upside down, let me tell you. My life was disrupted, and I could no longer continue as a student-athlete. Bipolar disorder happened to me when my life was just beginning.

After my diagnosis as a teenager, I would spend countless days wanting to die, being glued to the bed and spending hours on end on an old, lumpy mattress. My days consisted of me slowly shirking away from the responsibilities of the “real world.” As I went on with life, I felt like an alien living inside a world full of humans. I felt as if I could never lead a normal life.

~ ~ ~

About two months ago, I started realizing that I was getting sick again. At first it was more of a come and go kind of sickness, followed by idle moments of agitation, frustration and overall general sadness. I felt hopeless and as if nobody could understand my situation. I was in denial for awhile that there could be a possibility that I was getting sick again. I could not accept that it was happening again; I had been doing so good without having had a relapse in three years.

Unfortunately, I could not deny it any longer. The feelings came rushing in all at once. My sleep was sporadic, and I would wake up feeling exhausted. The line of work I once had a deep passion for now felt burdensome and dreadful. I did everything I could to try to shake the feeling, but I couldn’t. I had been in treatment for years filled with countless visits to the doctors and therapy sessions. Of course no one was going to suspect I was getting sick again. I didn’t know who to reach out to. I soon began to bear that weight on my shoulders and I even avoided talking to God about it because I felt so alone.

This time around, though, my sickness differed from previous times I had relapsed. I was angry that this old nemesis of mine decided to resurface and show its face. More than anything, I felt fear. Fear of what could happen and fear if anyone found out I was getting sick again. I was consumed with shame, not wanting others to know of my secret suffering.

For many years I was mad at God, mad that He would make me endure such hardships. Reflecting back on the trials and tribulations I faced as a young teenager, I can attest that God was working within me. Since having this lifestyle adjustment as a teenager, I have grown a lot personally. The situations I encountered helped grow my faith and draw me closer to God.

Living with this battle has shown me that God is indeed real and the importance of a community with other Christians and a constant prayer life. I no longer question the happenings of my past and the occurrences that I endured. Instead I have decided to rest in knowing that God is who He says He is. He has constantly reminded me again and again the importance of relying on Him and trusting in His plan for my life. Yes, it is excruciatingly difficult, but it is in the depths of my despair and loneliness that God has reminded me He has been there all along. If anything, through this battle God has shown me that He will do the pulling in my life, and I do the work. Hope in Jesus and remember that Jesus is more than enough. There is always healing for the broken spirit. Jesus did not promise a journey without suffering, but He has promised to endure the hardships with us side by side. Let us rejoice in that.

Reflection

1. Am I struggling with any of these emotions?

2. Who do I know that may struggle with mental illness that can I pray for?

Prayer

Heavenly Father, I pray that You lift my spirits and assure me that I am not alone. Lord, fill my heart with peace. Be with me, fill me with joy that only You can give and give me renewed strength. Amen.

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Art by Katie Humphress. See more at www.katiehumphress.com

#mentalhealth #depression #anxiety #adversity

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