TAKE ONE DAY AT A TIME

We are always in a hurry. Everyone’s always rushing around trying to get everything done in a flash, especially this time of year. With the holidays coming, we are trying so hard to send our cards out, buy gifts, plan meals, and wrap gifts. We lose track of things like the meaning of the holidays, the feel of the sun on our face, the meaning of life, the kindness of a stranger, and so on. When you’re working towards recovery from mental illness, you want to rush the process. You want to get better right away, but unfortunately, it takes time. You have to take it one day at a time.

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Recently I have been reminded to slow down and not to push myself. I got sick last month with a cold that turned into a viral infection and into a sinus infection. I worried about work, my writing, and editing my memoir. I didn’t have time to be sick, but my husband told me my health comes first. He sentenced me to the couch to sleep and watch television. The doctor told me I needed to take time off from work and to rest. I hated the idea of missing work, but Lou made sure I stuck to it. I had to take it one day at a time.

Patience was also something I had to learn while working towards recovery. I wanted the sadness to go away over-night, but unfortunately, it didn’t work that way. After my ex-boyfriend threw me out, I went into the hospital, and in the hospital I decided I wanted to get better. I wanted to live a normal life. I wanted to find happiness and live in the light.

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After I left the hospital, I started seeing a new therapist, I went to a therapy group, and I started on new medication. I even began going to church with my parents. After some time off I returned to work. I was doing all the right things, but yet I cried in therapy, I sat alone in my room, and I struggled to stop injuring. I still had so much hurt in me from the abuse of my ex, and my sadness wouldn’t just go away. I wanted it to just disappear, but it took time.

Day by day I worked hard towards recovery. It seemed like progress was slow. My therapist had to remind me to take it one day at a time. Recovery doesn’t happen overnight. I had to change years of negative thinking, I had to heal old wounds, I had to rediscover myself, and I had to learn to love myself. That’s a lot of work.

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I worked hard and over a few years I started to find some happiness, but yet I kept falling into episodes of depression. Each day I wrote in my journal and practiced positive thinking, yet I kept falling back into the hole.

I remembered the hymn, “One Day at a Time, Sweet Jesus.” The chorus sang in my mind,

“One day at a time sweet Jesus

That’s all I’m asking from you.

Just give me the strength

To do every day what I have to do.

Yesterday’s gone sweet Jesus

And tomorrow may never be mine.

Lord help me today, show me the way

One day at a time.”

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That part reminded me I had to take each day one at a time and I need the heavenly father’s help to do it. No one knows what tomorrow holds for us. We have to slow down and be patient. I slowed down and prayed. God introduced me to my husband, we started couple therapy, and with his help and in time the episode of depression went away. In time I reached recovery.

So, don’t rush your days away and don’t hurry your recovery. Slow down and take it one day at a time. Go to therapy, work on your thinking, fight with all that’s in you, but be patient. It doesn’t happen overnight. It may take months or years, but in time you’ll reach recovery. Pray to Jesus for the strength and guidance. Take it one day at a time for we never know what tomorrow holds. Tomorrow the sun might shine even brighter. Pace yourself and learn from the journey.

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Now and again I have to be reminded to slow down and enjoy each day, but since I learned to take it one day at a time, I am enjoying Jesus’s light shining down upon me.

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LIFE IS NOT HOPELESS

Often when you’re struggling with depression and other mental illness, you think life is hopeless. Everything is just a continuous mess. There is no way out of the dark hole you are in. When someone tries to point out possible solutions or the positive side, you can’t see it and you give all the reasons why there is nothing good or no way anything would work. The sick person can’t see beyond the hopelessness. Life to him or her is an endless road back down the hole.

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I told a person I know he should seek counseling and work towards recovery. He told me where he lives there is no good therapist. I told him he may have to try several before he finds the right one.

He replied, “There are no good ones. I’ve tried to get better for years and nothing worked. It’s hopeless. I’m stuck like this forever.”

He couldn’t see anything good or any possible way out of his illness. To him life was hopeless and so was everything. He couldn’t see the light beyond the darkness. No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t reach him. He had his mind made up; there was no hope, so why try but he was so wrong. Hope is out there. You just have to look for it.

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I was like him when I started college. My cousin was killed my senior year of high school. The only friend I thought I had was overprotected by a mother who tried to keep her from seeing me. The friend started to rebel against her mom and abused me. I moved forty-five minutes away and I felt alone. I had my grandparents who spoiled me, but I still felt like I was the only one suffering. Everything was hopeless. My life was a wreck, my soul was filled with darkness, the nights were endless, and I was lucky to keep my food down.

I thought it was useless to tell anyone what I was going through. I figured they wouldn’t understand and couldn’t help me. I thought God didn’t want to help me either. I thought he had abandoned me. I tried to join a religious group at college. I went to their camp for the weekend. The more they talked about God’s goodness, the more I hated him. I locked myself in a stall in the bathroom and broke down. I told them I was sick and had to go home. So a guy took me back to my grandparents.

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I couldn’t accept that God could give me hope. I couldn’t listen to their words. I couldn’t open my heart to the possibility there was a light above my hole. My heart and mind were closed. I felt all was hopeless. If God wanted to help me, I wouldn’t be in an internal hell.

I started to think my only answer to find relief was to take my life. I swallowed a bottle of pills one day. I was groggy and sick, but somehow I made it through a snow storm to college. My mom found out I was struggling and started coming to visit me each week. She’d take me shopping and out to dinner. No matter how hard she tried, I thought it was useless. She couldn’t help me. No one could. So I told her I was just lonely.

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One day at college I saw a pamphlet about depression. I read the symptoms and they sounded the same as what I was going through. There were also pamphlets with ways to get help and numbers to call. That’s when I finally confided in my mom and moved back home. My mom helped me find a therapist and I started on a road to recovery. I found hope and recovery. Years later I slipped backwards again.

The second fight wasn’t any easier, but I did learn there is always hope. In therapy I learned to find the positive in my life and to see the light within the dark. My life took some bad turns, but I had a mother who went out of her way to get me help, I had grandparents who showered me with kindness and love, I made a friend my first year in college who kept in touch with me for years afterwards, and during my first struggle with depression I made it to college in a snow storm when it wasn’t possible.

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Even though I saw hopelessness, there was hope all around me. Years later I found God and took him into my life. I realized he had always been there for me shining a light. My eyes were just closed to the light. God kept me alive in that snow storm and when I swallowed the pills. He put my grandparents in my life to help me, he led me to those pamphlets, and he gave me a wonderful mother to help me. God gave me hope even when I couldn’t see it.

Even though everything in your life seems like a mess and there is no hope, there is hope. Open your eyes and heart to all that is around you. God opens doors. Recovery is possible and the tools are at your fingertips. If you can’t find the right therapist, talk to your pastor or priest, join online groups, read books, and look for mental health groups that can help you. Hope is out there waiting for you to find it. So start looking and soon hope will fill your heart.

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I found that even though at times things get hard, there is always something good. When I start to feel hopeless, I turn to God and I find my way. My life is full of hope, and because I found it I stand, dance, and twirl within the light.

PRACTICE LOVING YOURSELF

Self-love is more than loving yourself for who you are, but it is also taking care of yourself. To love yourself is to take care of your needs, to pamper yourself, to respect yourself, and to love you as the person God made you to be, not only as a person with an illness. Learning to love yourself inside out is important to reach the road to recovery from mental illness.

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When you’re sick with mental illness, you lose your self-esteem, your self-respect, and self-love. You begin to hate and neglect yourself. You rip yourself apart with your thoughts and you may harm yourself. You don’t give yourself the care, love and respect you deserve. You don’t even know you deserve it. You’re too stuck in self-hate and darkness to see your own worth.

Practicing self-love will help you reach into the light and pull yourself out of that hole. It took me a long time to learn how to love myself properly. When I was sick, I hated everything about me, how I looked, how I acted, my personality, and so on. I had to learn to love me as I am and not the illness that plagued my mind. To love myself I had to learn and practice self-loving techniques.

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Here are some self-loving techniques you can practice:

  • Get help with your illness. Find a therapist you feel comfortable confiding in and a psychiatrist whom you trust. Good therapists and psychiatrists may be hard to find. Try different ones until you find the ones you feel the most comfortable with.
  • Go to the doctor when you need to. Don’t ignore your health. If you’re sick, don’t push yourself to work until you collapse. If you’re having health problems, go to the doctor. If you love yourself, you will take care of your health and not let it go until something major happens. You will also do annual physicals to make sure you’re staying in good health.
  • Pamper yourself. After a hard day of work, take a soothing bath. When you feel down, treat yourself to something special like a movie or that shirt you’ve been wanting. When you accomplish something, treat yourself to something special like a piece of cheese cake or just do something to help you feel good, like get a haircut or get a massage.
  • Practice positive thinking. Keep a journal of the positive things in your day or in your life. Use your journal to turn negative thoughts into positive. Practice complimenting yourself.
  • Ask three people four things they like about you. Take those things and put them on index cards. Post them around your home where you will see them. Read them over and over again until you begin to believe them.
  • Write self-affirmations. Write one each day and slowly increase it to two, then three, and four a day. Don’t write something you don’t believe in. An affirmation like, “I am a strong and beautiful woman.” Look deep within yourself and find the positive behind the sadness.
  • Find God. Go to church, go to a Bible study, or sit down and pray. God made you and he is the one who can guide you and show you how truly unique you are. Loving God will help you love yourself.

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When I was working towards recovery, I struggled with many of these techniques, but in time they became natural. When I find myself dipping into self-hate, I turn to these techniques. Loving me is an important part of staying in recovery. Practicing self-love taught me how to not only love myself, but how to take care of myself, and this helps me stand tall within the light.

BE THANKFUL

I’m still struggling with sickness so here is another older post and perfect for the holiday. Have a Happy Thanksgiving!!

 

Many times while we’re depressed, we forget to be grateful for the things we do have in our life. We often think we have nothing good in our lives. We see the worst side of everything and we believe there isn’t anything to be thankful for. How can we be thankful for the darkness that blankets our souls?

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There is more to our lives than the illness that plagues our minds. We need to open our eyes and look at what we do have, and I don’t mean just material things. God placed many people in our life to help us survive.

When I was depressed, I felt as if I was being tortured. How could I thank God for that? My mom often said I saw the glass half empty. I did. I saw the negative side to the world about me, and when Thanksgiving came around I felt more depressed. What did I have to be grateful for? I was sick with anxiety, I was depressed, my emotions were out of control, I couldn’t sleep and my existence seemed hopeless.

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What I couldn’t see was I had a lot to be thankful for. I had and still have loving parents, wonderful

grandparents, caring siblings, a home, friends, food to eat, and much more. Most importantly I had lots of love surrounding me.

My grandpa always said the richest people in the world  are people who have family, friends, and love. It took me a while to let those words sink into my dark soul and see he was right. In the process of recovery, I had to learn to see the glass full. I became very grateful for just being alive. If I actually had taken my life, there is so much I would have missed out on, like my nieces and nephews, finding my true love, and finding happiness.

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This Thanksgiving I am thankful I am still in recovery, I have a aunt and uncle and cousins on my husband’s side who have opened there hearts to me, I have my parents, my grandma, a wonderful husband, my many nieces and nephews, my dog, my sibling, my happiness, friends, love and much more. With all I have, I believe I am one of the richest persons in the world. I might not have much money, but I’m rich in love.

So this Thanksgiving season stop looking at all the bad things you have in your life and look at the precious gifts God has given you.  Write a list of the things you are thankful for. Tell the people around you how grateful you are for them. Remember, family isn’t always the one you were born into. Family can be really good friends who love and support you.

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This Thanksgiving and all year long, I thank God for all I have. Being thankful helps me remember what I could have missed out on if I had taken my life or never reached recovery. I thank everyone who supports me, who loves me, and who care for me. Being thankful helps me stand within the light.

 

YOU’RE NOT THE CAUSE OF YOUR BAD THOUGHTS

We all think bad things at one time or another. Sometimes we scold ourselves for them and sometimes we just ignore them. What if the thoughts become constant and out of control?  With mental illness, the mind becomes plagued with bad thoughts, thoughts you can’t seem to stop. You start questioning yourself. Do I cause myself to think such things? Do they mean I’m going crazy? Do they mean I’m a bad person? Why do I think such things?

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When I was sick, thoughts raced through my head. They tore at me and haunted me. They confused me. They were not thoughts that usually popped up in my head. They were bad thoughts, angry ones, hateful ones, and hopeless ones. Thoughts like I am evil, God hates me, I hate God, I have the devil in me, I hate everyone, everyone can go to hell, my life is doomed, and so on. I didn’t know if my thoughts were real or not. I thought maybe I was putting them in my own head.

I started to think I was creating these thoughts. I made myself think bad things. I had to be truly crazy to do such a thing to myself. If I could do this, then what kind of person am I? Am I an awful person? God must hate me. I hated myself for my thoughts, and I punished myself for them. I’d curse myself and get mad at myself. I believed I deserved to suffer. If anyone could think like that, then he or she deserved to be punished or to go down instead of to heaven.

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I struggled with my negative thinking and then I added to it with self-hate and anger. I was in a battle with myself. It was a full blown war and I felt like I was losing. It was hopeless. There was no way I could win. There was no room for anything good to enter my head, and when it did sneak in, my mind seemed to squash it like a fly.

I started losing sleep and getting sick. I could barely keep food down. The thoughts hurt like someone was squeezing my insides into a vice. How could I stop this? I wanted it to end, but it was impossible. God was punishing me, but for what? The pain became unbearable and I tore at my skin. I wanted to curl up in a ball and pretend I didn’t exist. For some reason the nights seemed to bring the worse thoughts out. They sped through my mind like a motor-cycle racing down the back roads. My chest tightened. I rolled from side to side. I placed a pillow over my head, but nothing turned them off.

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When I was stressed out, the negativity increased and so did my anxiety. Lack of sleep stirred them up, too. Nothing seemed to make them better.

In therapy I learned that my mind was sick, and my bad thoughts were caused by my illness and by the repetition of negative things my classmates and teachers told me in my school years. My therapist taught me ways to combat my thoughts like journaling about them, turning them into positive thoughts, and each day repeating something good. I took index cards and wrote something good on them. Then I placed the cards around my house like on the bathroom mirror, by my place at the table, on my computer, and other places where I’d see them. Each day I read them aloud.

If you have thoughts that are bad and out of control, don’t think you are the cause. You have a mental illness and it likes to play games with you. It taunts you and steals the best parts of you if you let it. You did not make up your illness, and you didn’t do anything to cause it. No one knows why some people suffer with mental illness and others don’t, but you can fight it. Instead of your mind declaring war on you, you declare war on it. Fight it with all your strength. You can stop negative thoughts. Get help, practice positive thinking, change your thoughts around from negative to positive, and stand up to your illness.

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Instead of my mind declaring war on me, I declared war on it and I declared war on my illness. I fought with everything in me and I stood up to those thoughts. The bad thoughts became less and less. I can’t say I never have those thoughts, but they no longer control my mind. Because I decided to fight them and get help, I bathe within the light.

JUST ONE CUT

Due to illness I am re-posting one of my old post. Hopefully by next week I will be well enough to post a new one. Enjoy!!

When the pain within me became unbearable I looked for ways to find relief. Emotions ripped at my insides, they weakened me and I needed a way to ease them for even just a few moments. I felt this way in college and years later as an adult. I turned to cutting myself in order to find  relief. It was temporary, but it gave me an escape from my inner hell.

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When self-hate, anger, frustration and anguish burned within me I tore at my flesh. Just one cut and I was free. I couldn’t feel anything, not even the sting of my wound. I floated above my body, staring down at the sad mess. Then I plummeted back into my body. Tears streamed down my face, the pain returned. I felt the sting of my wound and I began to regret it.

Thoughts flooded my mind. What have I done? How can I hide the cut? How would I explain my wound if someone saw it? I sat alone in my room, where I always injured, once again overwhelmed by emotions.

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Injuring became an addiction just like drugs.

I needed to hurt myself to ease my pain. I tried different methods such as burning myself and punching a wall till my fist turned black and blue. Cutting gave me the most relief.

It became a craving. When the negative thoughts rushed into my mind and my feelings burned within me I suddenly needed physical pain and I had to cut. I fixated on it and planned to cut when I was alone. I never hurt myself in public places. I couldn’t let anyone find out what I was doing. No one would understand. It had to be my secret.

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I started therapy and began to discuss my addiction. A friend told me about the book The Scarred Soul by Tracy Alderman, Ph.D. I stared doing the exercises in the book. The book and therapy gave me alternatives to self-injuring such as journaling, developing a support system, not spending a lot of time in the place I hurt myself and reminding myself of the negative effects injuring had on my life.

A friend gave me a goal of going a year without cutting. Having a goal gave me the willpower to fight my urges.

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Now I have gone 12 years without injuring. At times It crosses my mind, but I remind myself I am much stronger than the urges and have other alternatives.

MY ROCK AND INSPIRATION

It’s important to have someone in your life who supports you, encourages you, believes in you, and refuses to let you give up no matter what. Sometimes there is more than one person who can do this for you in different forms and ways. When you are working towards recovery from mental illness, you need people or a person who will give you that gentle push to go forward and a person or people who will refuse to allow you to give up when you feel like you can’t fight anymore.

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In my life I have had many people encouraging me to follow my dreams, telling me to never give up. People like my parents, grandparents, and some of my high school teachers. My mom always told me there is no such word as “can’t.” She said I could do anything I put my mind to. I believed her; I strived for good grades and I followed my dream to become a writer. My high school English teacher helped me enter contests and submit to magazines. My writing became my passion. I dreamed of publishing my first novel or book.

Then my depression took over. I began to doubt my ability to write and succeed. I started to think I was a failure as a person and writer. I tried many times to write book length manuscripts, but I couldn’t complete them. So I gave up. I told my family and my husband, Lou, all I could do was write short stories. Lou refused to believe me.

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I thought my illness ruined my life, my dreams, and my ability to push forward. I thought I couldn’t do anything, but sit at the bottom of my hole. Lou encouraged me to strive for recovery. While I worked towards recovery, I still doubted my abilities to do more than a short piece of writing, but my husband was determined I was going to make my dream to write a book come true.

I toyed with the idea to turn a column I wrote for a local newspaper into a book, but I feared I couldn’t do it.

Lou looked into my eyes. “You can do it and I will not let you give up.”

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So I started writing it. Each time I’ve become discouraged and told him I’m going to quit, he made me promise I would not quit. Each night he would ask me if I was going to write. When I’d said no, he would bug me until I agreed. He works in the mornings and goes to bed early. So when I came to bed, he’d wake up and ask me how many pages I wrote. With his encouragement I finished the first draft of my memoir.

He has done more than just encourage and support my writing. He has been my rock. When I want to give up my fight against my mental illness, he reminds me how strong I am and how far I have come. When I get depressed, he picks me up. He’s always there for me no matter what. He is my strength when I feel like I have none, he is my biggest fan, he is the voice whispering you can do it when I stop believing, and he’s much more. Without him I wouldn’t still be in recovery, and without him I wouldn’t have finished the first draft of my memoir.

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We all need someone to stand behind us no matter what, and it doesn’t just have to be one person. Sometimes others can see something in us we can’t. Our illness can be blinding and we lose touch with our abilities and strengths. We need other people to see what we can’t and to push us to reach for recovery, for our dreams, and for much more. When that person comes into your life, cherish him or her. If you can’t find just one person, turn to a support group, friends, or family.

Set yourself goals and share them with others and have them help you reach those goals. Don’t let your illness stand in the way of your dreams and your road to recovery. There is always a way around the obstacles that stand before us. It’s up to you to find a way around them. It helps to have supporters who will help you, encourage you, support you, and give you a boost.

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I worked around my learning disability and mental illness to graduate high school with scholarships, to get my associates degree, to work my job for 22 years, and now finish the first draft of my memoir. My family encouraged me when I was younger and now I have my husband and friends.

I thank God for Lou. He keeps me going no matter what. With his help I can get my memoir published, and I can continue to stand in the light of recovery.

LIFE HURTS

There are no bandages for emotional pain. You can’t put a cast on a broken heart, and bandaids cannot cover a cut on the soul. When you break up with someone, you lose a loved one, you lose a friend, or someone says something mean, you hurt inside. It’s hard to explain internal pain, and it’s not easy to patch up wounds you can’t see. When you suffer with depression and other mental illnesses, living becomes painful. It hurts all through your soul, heart, and very being to face another day. It’s nearly impossible to explain to others how bad you hurt inside.

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When I was sick, I was filled with many awful feelings that I couldn’t explain. They tore and sliced at my heart and soul. Nothing seemed to ease my agony. I wanted to tell my family how I felt, but I feared they wouldn’t understand. Each day I ached inside. Just waking up in the morning was a struggle and I had to push myself through the day. How could I tell anyone that living each day hurt?

It’s like mental illness declared war on not only my mind, but also on everything within me. My emotions were out of control and they hurt. Each day I struggled with anguish, deep sadness, hopelessness, anxiety, and helplessness. At night those feelings, mixed with racing thoughts, kept me up. I thought I was also causing my family grief. I just wanted to end my pain and everyone else’s. I injured myself because physical wounds felt better than what was happening within me. Then I planned out my death. If I were dead, my agony would be all gone and I wouldn’t harm my family anymore.

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Having Borderline Personality Disorder intensified my inner pain. Often I burst out into episodes. I screamed, I cried, I broke things, and I injured. Living hurt, and during my episode my emotional pain burned through me like an inferno. I lost control of myself and my actions. The feeling of having no control scared me, and knowing I hurt others during my episodes cut through me like a knife. I hated myself for my actions and for not being able to handle them. I hated hurting the people I loved. I hated being in such pain.

I believe my mental illness was a chemical imbalance in my brain and also brought on by bullying in school. My classmates’ and teachers’ insults cut my heart and soul deeply. There were no bandages to fix up my wounds, and there were no casts to hold my broken heart together. What were left were open sores that created Borderline Personality Disorder, depression, and anxiety. Instead I was left to struggle many years with the hurt of living with a mental illness.

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In time I found ways to ease the hurt. I started journaling about my feelings. I also found healthy ways to release my pain instead of self-injuring, and I started going to therapy and learning coping techniques. Some techniques were turning my bad thoughts into positive, taking care of myself, taking medication, going to therapy, using a punching bag or pillow to release my anger, building a support system to turn to when the pain got too much, and doing crafts and activities to keep my mind busy.

When living starts hurting and you feel like there is no way out, turn to someone you can trust like family or a close friend. Get help. Instead of giving up on living, find coping techniques and healthy ways to ease your aching soul. Find a way that works for you to express your feelings. Build up a support system you can turn to whenever you need to. I had a friend I called night and day when I need someone to help me through the darkness. I even called her at two in the morning when my emotions were so painful I couldn’t handle existing. Not every friend will be there for you at that time, but be respectful of the times he or she is available.

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Living no longer hurts for me. I now have my illness under control. I’m not cured and there are bad days, but with coping techniques, my support system and my husband, I get through them without hurting myself, going into an episode, or contemplating taking my life. Life hurts at one time or another and there is nothing we can do to stop it, but when life hurts, I cope and I go forward. Because I can cope with my pain I can stand in the light of recovery.

LET YOUR LIGHT SHINE

We all have a light inside of us, a light that engulfs our souls and shines through us by the grace of God. The light in us is what puts a smile on our lips and keeps us going each day. It’s a part of who we are, the special qualities that make us unique. When you become depressed or struggle with mental illness, the light becomes hidden behind a dark cloud. A person who is ill is so blinded by his or her sadness that he or she feels like the light has gone out and forgets who and what it is that makes him or her special.

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When I was depressed, I thought the person I was had died and all that was left was a dark, lonely, and hopeless shell. I thought God had abandoned me. Whatever it was that made me smile, laugh, feel joy, and made me who I am was blanketed by my deep anguish and sadness. There was no more light left in me to shine. Nothing could shine through the pitch black that encompassed my inner being. I thought it was useless to try to look for the light that once was within me. It was gone. I was gone. I was no longer myself.

I couldn’t see beyond my illness. I couldn’t even remember what it felt like to be happy. What did a smile feel like? What special qualities made me who I am? Who was I? I had nothing to look forward to but more days and nights stuck at the bottom of my hole. How could God make me a person and take away everything that made me who I am? How could he turn the light of my being out?

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Blaming God was easy. I had to have someone to blame. He gave me this sickness, didn’t he? He put the light in me and he just as easily took it away. What did I do wrong for him to punish me with total darkness?

What I later learned was that the light within me never went out. It was there the whole time. I just couldn’t see it or feel it. God never allowed it to fade. He kept it shining, because he knew in time I would find it again and it would glow brighter and stronger than before.

In my recovery process God whispered to me, “Let your light shine.”

I turned to him and asked, “How Lord? How do I let it shine when you turned it off?”

“It’s still in you. Look deep and hard and you’ll find it. Let it shine for everyone to see,” God replied.

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So I went on a search for my light. In the hospital I read the Bible, I started journaling, and I participated in therapy. I soon realized that God may not always work miracles, but he gives us tools to help ourselves. So I found those tools. I started therapy, got on medication, and prayed for guidance.

I looked deep inside me. I did some serious soul searching. I found that I was still me. I had never died. I was just hidden behind my illness. I had to look beyond my illness and find my light. How could I let my light shine beyond my illness? I listed the special qualities that made me who I am such as I’m kind hearted, I’m a good listener, I’m a fighter, I’m loving, and I’m a dreamer. So how could I let those qualities shimmer? How could I let my light shine once again?

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First, I worked on changing my negative thoughts, I asked God into my life, I began to fight my illness, and I began to rediscover myself. In time I found not only my light, but a whole new me.

If you feel as if your light has gone out, look beyond your illness and you’ll find it’s still there. Use the tools God has given you to reach recovery and let your light shine. Turn to friends and family for help. Get therapy and, if needed, take your medication. Rediscover yourself, find the positive in your life, and do something kind for yourself or for someone else. In time your light will shine brighter than ever.

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A customer left this painted stone on my register and it inspired this post.

Now that I have reached recovery, my light shines brighter. My light still sometimes gets pushed aside by my illness, but with God’s help and determination, I find it and I let it shine. Because I allow the light to shine within me, I stand within the light of recovery and within God’s light.

COULD MY CHILD INHERIT MY ILLNESS?

Many illnesses can be passed down the bloodline of a family, like cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and so on. When we go to a doctor, we often have to fill out questionnaires of illness that members of our family have or had, but there is no questionnaire for mental illness. Some types of mental illness are caused by environment and can’t be passed on, while others can be inherited. An important question you might want to ask your psychiatrist before having a child is, “Can my illness be inherited?” It is something you must consider when you decide to start a family.

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I always thought I would have children someday. I thought about having a couple of children if I found the right man, but when I was diagnosed with depression, I started questioning whether or not I should have children. What if my child inherits my illness? Could I allow my own offspring to suffer like I have? Could I handle a kid who is also suffering with mental illness? Would it be selfish of me to have a child knowing he or she may struggle like I have? The questions swam in my head.

I started seeing a man who wanted children and had plans for a big family, but I had my doubts. I wanted to give him children if we were married, yet I didn’t want to pass my illness on. He thought up all kinds of possible ways we could make sure the child wouldn’t receive the gene that caused mental illness.

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I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t allow a child to suffer with a deep sadness that ate at her or his insides, feel so hopeless that he or she wants to die, suffer with an internal pain that nothing could relieve, or feel alone at the bottom of a dark hole. I also considered my ability to handle a sick child while struggling with my own illness. Could I handle the stress of being a mom to a kid who was suffering? Would I be able to help him or her through the darkest days of his or her life? I talked over these and other questions with my therapist and I decided motherhood was not for me.

My mom has felt some regret for my illness because her own mother had mental illness. She thought it was her fault I was sick. I never once blamed her or even considered it being inherited from my grandmother. It took my mom some soul searching to accept that no one was to blame for my illness. While my mom struggled with her guilt, I put myself in her shoes. What if I were the mother with a child who was deeply depressed? I probably would also struggle with guilt.

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So if you have mental illness, find out if your illness can be inherited. If it can, then ask yourself, “Do I want to pass my illness on to my child? Can I handle a child with a similar illness? Can I live with myself if my child suffers?” Discuss it with your therapist, and if you say yes to these questions, then by all means have children, but if you say no, then maybe children are not for you. This is something you cannot jump into. You have to consider it carefully.

There are also other reasons that may make being a parent difficult, like handling the stress of parenthood, postpartum depression, the status of your own illness, and your limitations due to your illness. These are all things you must think over carefully and discuss with your therapist and partner. Not everyone is strong enough to be a parent, and for those who are, I applaud you.

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I found a husband who doesn’t care if we have children or not. All he cares about is having me in his life. Sometimes I wonder what kind of mother would I have been, but I enjoy the freedom of not having children. My nieces and nephews have given me the joy a child can give you. They are the children I’ll never have, and our dog is our baby. I’m happy with my decision. My family is my husband and our dog. They keep me standing within the light.