This week has been very stressful job-wise. It was one those impossible weeks where too many things had to be completed by an absolute deadline. I think I could have handled it very easily just a few years ago. However, with all the depression drawing me down into the deep, dark pit, I was almost paralyzed with the stress of it. My body, although really NEEDING sleep, would not ALLOW me to sleep. I dreamt about the work that had to be done. Believe me, waking up from a night where one has worked in dreams is very frustrating. It didn't do much for my depression, either. However, equipped with my trusty task list, I was able to finish designing the pens, ordering the pens, the tablecloths, and the pencils, designing the posters, and punch a lot of manipulatives (with the help of a co-worker). Not bad, I finished well, and on time. That's the great thing. The only problem is that the adrenaline keeps pumping through my body, which makes everything else worse.
That was work. Now think about how hard all that was, and just imagine what it's like to come home to a depressed husband, an unstable daughter, and the rest of the household. There is homeschooling to get through, dinner to eat, and a bunch of useless thoughts in my head of all the things I have to get done, worrying about how it's going to happen. I have a son who can't find a job, a budding teenager who is starting to have a lot of attitude, and then there is Arianna. Arianna is a lovely person, but she's not always happy, and she's often hard to deal with. When she's not depressed, and not overly manic, she's very pleasant to be around. When she's overly manic, she's irritable and quite argumentative. My husband takes the brunt of this, and it's very hard for him to deal with when he's depressed as well. This is just a picture of our normal. Well, it's been more intense lately than it usually is. Really, it's the truth.
However, even in the storm, there are the bright lights of friendship and laughter.
Last night, I was discussing with a friend a few of the things I have been going through. She used the analogy I'm relaying(and adding onto) for you all. Most of the populace of we, youngsters quite enjoy video games, aye? Well, this analogy will be on video games. Okay, for those of us who struggle with addictions, depression, suicidal idealization and self-harming. Every time we pull ourselves from that struggle and overcome and victor over it, there is a rejoicing we lift up for but a time. Now, our enemy(in this case) is our said struggles. And our Enemy can use them against us... Everyday, he does.
Okay, we are going to picture this entire world a video roleplay game. You have two sides to pick from. Good or evil... Christ or Satan? When you enter this world, you are in training under your parents/guardians. What they believe affects your training. So, as you pledge your allegiance to your struggles, then you are bound by their rules. But when you break free from that bondage, and you take on the identity of a child of God you bind yourself to the love which he will lavish. So, when you began your walk with Christ, you automatically became a "level 1" Christian. You just entered the Game on Christ's side. Now, a new training has begun for Christ's blood frees you from all iniquity. Alright, so Satan doesn't like that, so he sends all he's got at you... your weaknesses from your past is a perfect place for him to start and continue in.... When you start in level 1 your struggles(that is your "boss") is hard for your level, but soon you find yourself growing stronger through your trials... Soon enough that boss will be easy to wipe off the map...
When you reach level 20 in a game, level 10 bosses are easy-peasy, right? Well, the same can be said of depression, if you've fought it a long time, when the same problems come up, you can overcome it easily, soon enough you've stood victorious. When you think you're fine, that's when you have an enemy whose quite ticked... so they throw the level 20 boss at you. All of a sudden, you're struggling in the fight again, because you're fighting at your own level again. But, that doesn't mean you are weak when you are fighting harder to not give in...quite the opposite, you're getting stronger...
So, when you're back on your knees, crying every night, or fighting strong the urges to self-harm, or partake of your addictions... and you fail once... remember you're building up your endurance and strength, and that always happens after errors in which you begin to learn to correct. But, you are not weak for it at all. Just keep up the fight, dust off when you fail, and carry on and you'll receive the victory. Just remember to celebrate the times you win, and rise up again when you lose. Don't give into your depression. So, game on, mates!
This has been a distressing month for me. It seems to be the month of disappointments. When given the news that I would not be going to see my best friend, Savannah in Indiana, a couple of months ago, I was discouraged greatly. Shortly before September, my loneliness wound me up in a psych hospital due to some bad circumstances, where I was taken advantage of by a man, online. I participated in inappropriate behaviour with said man. Also began reading erotic stories on wattpad and looking at inappropriate images on tumblr. Now, that I am out and September has arrived, my loneliness is coming back in full force. Often I am thinking about how I absolutely need fellowship with true believers in Christ, so I reach out to my friends, and then when the day of our time together arrives, they reschedule abruptly. Today basically snapped the backbone I tried to force on myself... I had just one disappointment too many. For several times this week I've tried to make myself wake up for each day, and find a reason for waking up-- for that matter this entire month was like that. This past Thursday, the disappointment was that I'd not have a really close friend over and I had been really looking forward to it... then today, I was really looking forward to an outing with another friend to get some frozen yogurt. After I received the text, I kinda sighed at first and tried to force my backbone right back in and I went into the house, and let my mother know that I wouldn't be going. Next thing I knew, my voice cracked and tears flowed down my cheeks and I didn't understand why I was crying at all. The thoughts raging through my mind was all surrounding around how I could no longer be strong now, how selfish I was for crying, how I had been strong for so long so why couldn't I be then?, how I wanted to go "Home", how I wanted to see Savannah, or any friend and then it landed on how I wanted to see my Grandmother Jeannette, my Papa Bud, my cat, Galadrial (all 3 resting in peace), then how I wanted out of my hometown and so on and so forth... So, having had already been struggling with these same thoughts in a milder form, it was today's disappointment that made it grow, and brought me to my knees...
I began to feel like I was being eaten away, because I wasn't getting the Christian fellowship that I knew I desperately needed after helping ungodly people to find the Lord. Loving those who were pretty weak in the faith. And spending time with those who just didn't know where to stand. Forgiving those whom I did not wish to forgive. It was beginning to drain me out, and having had giving up Wattpad and tumblr, I was finding it hard to go through all this without it. I felt as if I was running on empty. So, my countenance grew dark and filled with despair. Now, I'm not saying that this small thing was what was doing this to me. It was big things, small thing, and any size in between having been stacked on me, and having just completely crashed down, with me buried beneath it. The problem with depression for me, is I constantly beat myself over the head for crying for "no reason" which tends to worsen the feelings of having fallen into the depths... The first thing I did this time was let the tears fall, and cried myself to sleep. When I awoke, I continued to cry... I wrote a prayer in my journal and doodled my emotions down as well, listened to calming music... went back to my parents and talked it out, apathetically for a moment and then cried once more, mum prayed over me and then requested others to pray. After a while I did some laundry, and my kitchen chores...I felt better after that. Now why am I telling you guys what I did? It's seemingly everyday stuff right? Well(to those who wouldn't understand), when one is depressed... they struggle with doing such things in times like these. The point being is when you are depressed you do not wish to do anything productive at all, but it's that productiveness that is going to save you from the pit.
When I was praying, I just kept thinking to myself that I really just wanted God's Presence by my side. I knew I couldn't go up to Him, so I desperately wanted Him to just come to meet me where I was. I wanted Him to touch my pain. To those suffering with depression or mental illnesses, ultimately, it's the Lord who will be the One to heal and rescue us. But, more times than not we all will be in the process of healing until we arrive to our Heavenly Home. But, in the meantime, that doesn't mean we don't do things here on earth towards our healing and recovery. In the time I struggled today, I wrote a poem that helped me see God's love for all(including myself) even more deeply and it went like:
Red is the colour of that redemption which cleanses
And red is the rose that springs forth from the ash
The true beauty of that singular rose
Oh, yes how beautiful it is to Me
Though rain overwhelms it to drown, it shall not perish
If you just abide in Me, bountifully will I give you life
My love and grace is all-sufficient for you
--Single Rose by Arianna Scriptsmith
So, in light of understanding the Lord's love this way, I was able to be honest with Him, even if I sounded like a selfish child. I just wanted Him to meet me right where I was. He did it for me. He will do it for you, because He remembered your name on that day He took on all our sin on Calvary's tree. He remembered your tears in Gethsemane, and He remembered your loneliness and fears when He said "I AM here." So, will you remember Him during your time of trial?
As far as I can remember, I've been an outcast, especially in the church. I sensed it even at a young age, but I didn't grasp it enough to know why... I was a freak of nature-- at least I was in the company of mirrors and in my bedroom, alone... Hey I'm Arianna. That daughter of Valerie's, the one with bipolar disorder NOS. I was already struggling with my mental illness by the age of 3yrs. I was like a lion caged in the body of a little toddler, which grew with me even to and through my teen years. In my early teen years, I believed my disorder was a monster inside me and could never be tamed. I often wished I was "normal", as my mother sometimes wishes she had a "normal" family. But, with that out the window, I had-- and still have to learn to live with and embrace this monster that lived inside of me... I began to befriend it.
There are times it still leaps out of me and almost swallows up family and friends. Also, my days of living through the years have been filled wishing I was someone else, never born, or worse..... dead. Mental illness has been, and is a struggle that I have fought since birth. And though I began cutting at the age of 14... I have been self-harming much longer. I often beat myself up over mistakes I've made-- even the ones that happened in my childhood. With shame being the trigger of it all, and all this self-inflicted abuse being a punishment for just being myself. To be honest, I often struggle to understand why I do these things, and often don't know why I even have these problems... If anything I wish I could stop these things... but, when you are addicted to something, you are dependent on it, and it is not as easy to break lose as most Christians believe.
Most of the beliefs of my being a monster were formed from several phrases that, I'm sure anyone with mental illness has heard...
"True believers cannot be depressed."
"You must be in sin."
"You must not have enough faith."
"Mental illness is demonic possession."
Do any of these sound familiar to you guys? To the young children who grew up to adulthood with these things being said of you as gossip, or directly at you, or even said to your parents... I want to tell you this one thing; you are not in the wrong to be depressed. Your depression, your mental illness is NOT you. Would you point to a handicapped man on a wheelchair, with an amputated leg, and tell him that his disability is his identity? If not, then do the same for yourself, and realize you are not your disease. You're not necessarily faithless, in sin, or possessed just because you have these problems... I grew up believing the voices out of the home and I never trusted the Lord for his wisdom and truth to pierce through, so you guys aren't alone in your experience...
I'd love to say I'm used to my illness... if I told you I was then it would be a lie. I can be terrified of myself. Afraid I''ll self destruct... hurt others,or I'd soon kill myself. I've been so unpredictable that I was terrified of the idea of even stepping outside of my room. I don't always have control over my thoughts... and actions, and at those times, I'd do anything to regain that control. I never chose to be this way. And if I could I would pray it all away... but, sometimes God lets you go through this flame of refinement to build your faith, and perfect you... I have often went through this refining fire, and sometimes it held the illusion of hell to me... But, unlike hell's fire, this fire was there to design me into the person the Lord made me to be... It's a process, a war, and it can take a long time to overcome, and more times than not, it continues untilwe are 6-feet below... But, still God can use it. And He continues to use it for His purposes.
"Be at peace with yesterday. Be wise with today. And be secure with tomorrow."
In Christ Alone,
And I mean that in a good way. Well, mostly. Sometimes I mourn and envy the "normal" family. You know, the one where all the kids are well-behaved, clean, and very compliant (at least in public, anyway). Hi, may name is Valerie, and I live in a family rampant with mental illness. Sometimes we call ourselves a "special needs" family. A lot of people have heard the Italy versus Holland story. Well I live it, and have been living it for, oh, 21 years. I've mourned, and felt sorry for myself, and mourned some more. I'd like to say that I'm over it, and that I've accustomed myself to this life perfectly. I haven't. Every new roadblock tears the healing flesh that isn't even scar tissue yet. It's hard. I have to admit it. It's super hard. Most people I know that have 20-something old children have sent them off to college, or the kids at least have jobs, and are embarking on their careers. Me? Well, I mourn almost everyday. Not because my kids aren't unique and without speccial gifts, but because I planned for Italy, and got Holland instead. (Not that Holland is inferior to Italy at all, since I've been to Holland really, and it's a great place - just going along with the Italy versus Holland story about special needs kids.) I have three special needs kids, all with different disabilities. I can't tell you which disorder is worse. They are all worse to me. However, this website is devoted to the mental illness which afflicts my daughter, Arianna. Therefore, we will stick with that particular "special need" and forget about the others. (And, yes, I have her permission, and yes, her name is really Arianna, and I'm really Valerie). Arianna suffers from Bipolar Disorder, which manifested itself quite early in her life. It has been a roller-coaster ever since.
I became a single mother when Arianna was a babe in womb, much to my distress (single motherhood, not being pregnant with Arianna). I had a very hyper 3 year old at the time, and I was in the midst of a very difficult pregnancy to begin with. I was recently reading The Female Brain by Louann Brizendine. In the very first chapter, she talks about how a baby girl's brain can be affected by her mother's stress hormones while in utero! I was appalled to read that. Not that I could have changed the stress hormones that coursed through my body during that difficult pregnancy and difficult marriage, but maybe if we knew, we could have done something about it. As it is, 21 years later is not the time to second-guess your mistakes, I suppose, and I can't really be to blame, or can I? I don't know. I'm sure that I was not in my right mind during that pregnancy. I was actually a bit psychotic toward the end. However, bad everything was, however, I stayed alive because of my daughter. I tell her now that she saved my life because I wanted to end my life, but being pregnant with her kept me from doing so. By the time she was born, I no longer wished to harm myself. She saved my life, and she continues to be a blessing, even when her disorder is out of control. It doesn't make it easy, but she is worth the effort.
For those who have children with mental illness, in what ways does the MI affect your family? We'd love to hear your stories. Leave a comment below.