It has been awhile, hasn't it? I missed you too. Lets have an intimate little chat and rekindle our friendship, sound good? Great! Now that we have reestablished our endearment to one another, we can talk about our deep dark things, right? Maybe not? Well, we are going to anyways. Lets talk about mental illness. Put your big kid pants on because I guess this could be a conversation that makes some people uncomfortable. Okay, maybe it makes me a little uncomfortable. That is precisely why we are going to talk about it in all of it's ugly glory. Because I am choosing not to let "it" own me anymore. Period.
I know I have talked about feeling different before. About owning who I am and being that person. Well, a huge part of who I am and why I am different--or maybe not so different from more people than most of us think--is that I suffer from mental illness. I am not mental, or crazy, or psycho. I have an illness, it does not have me. From childhood I have suffered from anxiety and depression. Throughout my life it has come and gone, lurking in the shadows behind me occasionally showing its ugly face towering over me in moments of darkest despair. For years I have tried to outrun this sneaky beast. Pushing it behind me, closing the door on it, and shoving it deep down inside encasing it in chains and concrete and steel bars. I locked "it" away but with it other precious things became trapped. I held others at arms length as to not allow them to discover my inner dungeon of mystical nasty secret problems. I pasted a lovely smile on my face and taught myself to be pleasant but never attached. I could still enjoy most of life, in fact I did pretty well within the limits I had set for myself. So well that I felt I could probably live my whole life that way and never have to relinquish the prisoner within my mentality. I was in control. There in one simple word, "I", lived the root of all of this evil.
Now, let me take a small break from my dramatic monologue to reassure you that as I refer to "evil" and "darkness" I am referring to my feelings towards my mental illness, not to my feelings toward myself. Is it strange to say that even though I felt that I was hiding something evil within me, that I still knew of my divinity as a daughter of God and my inherent goodness? Like I said, I have mental illness, it does not have me.
Anyways, I discovered this big "I" problem when my life was suddenly no longer about ME. I spent the most important eleven months of my life thus far learning how not to think about myself. I also learned how to let down my barriers. To care deeply about others. To actually LOVE and Feel and Care. I learned to let go of my need to defend myself with sarcasm and biting words. I learned to see others and love others the way that our Savior sees each one of his children. It is a beautiful thing to see another with all of their flaws and scars and ugly pieces and love them all the more for those shortcomings. I learned that if I could feel this way about others, that there are others who could feel this way about me--beginning with my Father in Heaven and my Elder Brother, Jesus Christ. They love me not in spite of my faults, but because of them. I learned that I owe it to Them and to myself to unwrap those chains, and break down that wall and unlock the door that had kept me so safe for so long. I knew that the only way to become who my Heavenly Father knows I can be, I had to face my ugly pet mental illness. I am doing it for Him. I am doing it for me. I am doing it for my family. For my future spouse and children. For anyone who needs to know that they can do it too.
We are all given challenges. It is part of mortal existence. For some it is the challenge of mental illness, or maybe it is an addictive personality, maybe it is cancer, maybe it is a rough family situation, or poor circumstances. Whatever it is that you are suffering with, you are not alone. You don't need to lock it away and pretend like it does not exist. It does. There is help. There is support. Most importantly, there is our Savior, who through His grace suffered each of these challenges for us. "And He shall go forth suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of EVERY KIND." (Alma 7:11). Because He suffered for me, I am not defined by my challenges in life. Are they still hard? Yes. Every single day. But I know that I am not alone. I also know that you are not alone. If you feel alone, I promise that you have a friend.
Why am I sharing all of this? Because I don't know who, but I know that this will help someone. Maybe it will just help me. I am glad we are friends. I am glad that I can open my heart to you now that I am not letting it be all clogged up with icky metaphorical prison-like stuff. I am trying. I know that I can be successful. You can be too. Always hope. Good chat. Goodnight.