It can be hard to talk about our monsters — especially when they are ones where we may feel at risk of being judged or vulnerable. We applaud today’s story for its bravery in mentioning a subject that was long considered taboo, and is only barely beginning to get the attention it merits. Our mental health challenges deserve just as much awareness as our physical ones!

Mental illness is my monster. It is a difficult monster to tame. It is a difficult monster to talk about. It is a difficult monster to understand.  Mental illness is a relentless taskmaster. It takes no prisoners. It leaves nothing behind its path of destruction.

I have included pictures of myself from various ages to show that the mentally ill were once mentally well and that mental illness strikes everywhere and does not discriminate.

Age 3

This picture where I am three years old was taken long before I ever became mentally ill and shows that I was once mentally well.

Cotton field

This picture was taken during the worst years of my life. I look normal on the outside, but I was a mess on the inside.

Swing

This picture was taken during the course of my divorce and when I was very ill as well.

A mentally ill person often looks normal on the outside. 

I grew up fairly normal and never dreamed I would get so sick with a mental illness. It was as upsetting to me to have a mental illness as it was to others that interacted with me when I was ill. Being mentally ill is not enjoyable. It is terrifying to believe that those closest to you are out to harm you. It is so damaging when a person’s sense of reality shifts and the things that the mentally ill can count on become confused and distorted. It is also very painful to watch the way others treat you because you are mentally ill.

It has been 22 years since I became mentally ill. It took quite a bit of consistency and hard work to get well, but I did get well! I had to fight for my health every day and I still continue to fight for my mental health. The great thing is that there are modern medicines that work and the mentally ill are no longer locked away in institutions. 

I have truly learned to love myself through the pain of having a mental illness. I have found that I have a need for a higher power. This higher power is not the same one that I was raised on. He is one that understands my desperation and heartbreak. He is NOT one to say that he will not give me more than I can handle – because we all know this is simply not true. He is one that picks me up and carries me when I am too weak and beaten down to continue. This higher power cares about every tear I shed and every plea for help I offer.

As I have spoken out about mental illness and shared the realities of it, I have found that there are many others that have painful lives that lend well to my being the recipient of their compassion and empathy. I have found friends that I never knew I had and I have found that I am loveable and worth more than others told me I was worth.

As I go about my life, I come across many others that I can see in their eyes and stature that life has defeated and destroyed parts of them in much the same way my mental illness has defeated and destroyed parts of me. I have witnessed mental illness in others and it breaks my heart to see others who suffer like me. If my experiences and struggles can help others who suffer with similar things, then my own suffering will be worth it.

The message I want to share is that there is hope. There is also healing and the opportunity to overcome. BUT this requires the help and love of others and good professionals that are willing to fight for the health of their mentally ill patients.

It is my hope that as more and more of those with mental illness will speak out, that the stigma can go away. We really do need to lend a helping hand to the mentally ill rather than ignoring them and pushing them to their breaking point. 

Jen

Jen

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