One year ago today, I was admitted to inpatient mental health treatment. My stay led to finding a medication that actually worked for me, giving me my life back and sending me on the path of recovery.
Before all of that, I struggled with undiagnosed mental illness for years. Looking back, I am fairly certain my chronic depression developed in late elementary or early middle school. Despite persistent and chronic symptoms, with so little frame of reference I had no idea that my experience strayed from what was usual and healthy. For a young female with an early puberty, chronic fatigue and oversleeping are attributed to the growth spurt, and moodiness is explained away by PMS. Only when these issues persisted into adulthood, growing worse instead of better, did I seek out answers on my own and reach out to the health center on campus for medical help.
Consequentially, I’ve lived more than half my life in the shadow of untreated mental illness. After having my experiences and perception affected for so long, I have spent most of this past year rediscovering who I am. Some things, the things that carried me through the dark years, have stayed true and steady, but other things that I had forgotten brought me joy have emerged from the shadows. Some dislikes faded and changed as I redeveloped the energy to invest in life beyond survival, and others proved to be facets of my personality. It’s interesting and challenging and scary all at once.
Sometimes I feel frustrated that while others spent the decade figuring themselves out, I spent it trying to survive. But I am trying to focus instead on celebrating my becoming in the now. I have fought battles few can understand, and by God’s grace I have emerged victorious. I am triumphant, I am strong, and I am becoming new.
“But now, this is what the Lord says—
he who created you, Jacob,
he who formed you, Israel:
‘Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.’
‘Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.'”
Isaiah 43:1-2, 18-19