GUEST POST: Though I Walk: a view into the valley of the shadow #nationalsuicidepreventionweek

psalm 23

Hi!

I am a 27 year old female and about seven years ago I was diagnosed with a combination of schizophrenia and OCD. I’m going to remain anonymous BECAUSE of the stigma associated with these conditions (particularly schizophrenia), but I’m writing this so that people who, like me, have or do struggle with mental health issues will be encouraged.

What was it that brought on the symptoms of the illness? Now, I’m no doctor to say that, “oh, it was a deficiency in such and such a chemical in such and such a part of her brain,” but I can recognize the wrong thought patterns, ideas, and obsessions that led to my diagnosis. First of all, I’m pretty sure that I’m biologically susceptible to mental health issues. Although undiagnosed, I know that many people in both my mom’s and dad’s side of the family have suffered from obsessions, neurotic behavior, etc. For example, my maternal grandfather was obsessed with locking things. He locked everything, all the time, whether it made sense or not to do so. So that’s my biological history.

Also, I’ve grown up in a Christian home, with a firm belief in God and His Son, Jesus Christ, all my life. However, there was an element of fear to my life, despite me knowing that “it’s by grace you’re saved, though faith.” I still felt like I was living under the law, meaning that for some reason, I felt that there were particular things I had to DO to be saved, to maintain my relationship with God, when obviously, in scripture it says that no, he who is in Christ is a NEW creation, meaning that the old way of life under the law is dead. Once in Christ, you ARE a child of God; there is nothing you can DO to perfect that. Perhaps being an eldest child with lots of expectations impacted me in this way, but nevertheless, that’s how I felt. I was very fearful that something I would do or not do would throw me off the path of salvation, or that God would ask me to do something that was difficult for me, which led me to walking in a lot of disobedience. My particular brand of disobedience didn’t look like rebellion. There were no crazy hairstyles or referrals at school, anything like that.

I was just refusing to do things God’s way—even if though I was attempting to do what God told me to do, I was wanting to do it in my own way.. That’s why Moses didn’t get to step into the Promised Land; he did what God was asking him to do, but in his own way, not God’s way, striking the rock instead of speaking to it. Disobedience is saying to God, “I know better than you, so I’m going to sit on the throne of my heart instead of you.” Like I said before, another word for it is rebellion, which is something the scripture likens to witchcraft—so needless to say, it’s pretty serious. That’s why Jonah sat in the belly of the whale for three days and nights.

Thus, what led to my descent into the world of the psychotic, was that although I felt a call of God on my life, I had a wrong picture of God, hadn’t quite grasped the gospel, and was therefore unwilling to serve GOd His way, and so though I sought to obey, it was without throwing myself wholly into the service, trusting God with all my heart.

Though technically, once I did trust with all my heart, throwing myself fully on the mercies of God, matters in my mind only got worse. The compulsions became stronger (they were never violent or dangerous, just maybe bizarre, combined with incredible indecision on my part), and the guilt I felt for not following through with them rendered me nearly incapable of socializing, and vise versa. When I did follow through with the compulsions, there was a euphoria that made life seem easy. Daily life was a constant battle.

I did begin to grow in my spirit however, as the Spirit took control. The Lord began to educate me in the act of walking by still waters, where He, by His Spirit, began to restore my soul in paths of righteousness—for His name’s sake. A river of living water began to flow out of my innermost being, as the scriptures say, and I found that while it was me myself that the Lord desired—he wanted time with me rather than the actions I performed in service to Him, the times of communion with the Lord began to result in an outpouring of His Spirit wherever I went, and there was a new power behind my service to Him.

Something that became very evident and dear to me was that God understood everything I was going through. People most certainly didn’t understand. I was weird and awkward and many times inappropriate, but this mental suffering was a furnace that was purifying my heart before the King of Kings. He was making me into a faithful servant in His sight. The Bible says that Jesus, although He was a Son, learned obedience through what He suffered. I, as a daughter of God THROUGH Jesus Christ, have also learned obedience through what I suffered.

I’ve quoted quite a bit of Psalm 23 throughout this testimony, and that’s because that chapter became very dear to me as I walked through this “valley of the shadow of death.” I knew that I would “fear now evil,” because God was with me. When I was kicked off of my college campus in 2008, directed to see a psychologist, and when I was diagnosed with psychosis in the form of schizophrenia, what was my reaction? I told my psychiatrist this later—I knew it wasn’t forever. It was just a season, and this too shall pass.

The healing process took quite a long time—from the time I was diagnosed in 2008 to about 2010 or ’11 when I moved back onto campus at the university I was attending. What sustained me through the process? Prayer and praise—dwelling on the greatness of God rather than on my circumstances, which were sometimes quite dismal. I felt ostracized and misunderstood, isolated, in almost every circle of life, from church, to school, to family life. Another thing was submission to my parents. I’m grateful I grew up with a respect for the authority of the scriptures because they say to “honor your father and your mother,” and that a single, unmarried young woman is not bound by her oaths if her father hears of it and negates it. That definitely kept me out of a lot of trouble! Also, regular medication. I submitted to my doctor and was (and am) on the prescription he put me on. I’ve been tempted to not take it, especially now that I’ve been well, but I figure that if the Lord does want me off, it will be very very very evident. So I’ve stayed on my medication.

So overall I can say that those years, while the hardest in my life, served to produce the most fruit. I don’t think that God caused them, but I definitely think that He allowed them. He’s brought me thus far and will continue to remain faithful. And like Paul said to the Thessalonians, “He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.” To God be the glory!

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