Mental Illness Doesn’t Get the Last Word

With the start of a new year it seems everyone is reflecting on new goals and aspirations for 2020, and leaves 2019 in the past. They look at what 2019 brought, and focus on the hopes and dreams they want 2020 to bring. Now don’t get me wrong, I felt this way last year. At the start of 2019, I felt hopeful and excited. I felt like my life was just getting started and we were “getting to the exciting stuff now.” Graduating college, getting married, moving states away, figuring out graduate school. Yes, it all seemed like it would fall into place.

But what do you do when instead your world comes crashing down? When it feels like everything you hoped for and dreamed of gets shattered into a million pieces and leaves your heart broken into just as many. Then what?

I did graduate from college. I did get married to my best friend. I did move states. I am figuring out graduate school. But there was one thing that wasn’t in the plan. One thing I thought wouldn’t happen, I thought it was in the past and we were safe from it. One thing I prayed to never happen. On what seemed like a normal day on August 1, 2019, that one thing happened. My brother died by suicide. There’s now confusion, physical pain you didn’t know your heart could feel until something like this occurs, and the constant ‘why?’…

But suicide doesn’t get the last word. Mental illness doesn’t get the last word. 

I refuse to live the rest of my life having people think of my brother as the guy who had schizophrenia and committed suicide. I refuse to live the rest of my life not doing anything about it, not telling his story. I refuse to let the devil win. He doesn’t get the last word- God does.

In the midst of this pain, I know I have to tell my brother’s story. I knew it before all this happened. I can remember thinking how powerful his story is, how strong he is, and how much of an inspiration he is to others. And that is still true now- my brother is still the strongest person I’ve ever known and I’m going to use his story to help others. Some how, some way.

This may take a while. When I sit down to write posts, I don’t know where to begin. I have a handful of drafts with topic ideas but no clear thought of where to start. My mind goes in a million different directions of things I want to say. Things I need to say. I pray for God to show me what to do, but at the same time I feel like I can’t pray. I know I need to, I want to. But prayer isn’t just about how you’re feeling. Even when I don’t feel God’s presence, He’s still there. 

Today’s sermon at church hit home and was exactly what I needed. It was titled, ‘Why is there pain and suffering in the world?’ and talked about the four lights to navigate the fog of pain/suffering: God is not the author of pain and suffering, God infused pain with intrinsic value, God uses pain for our good, and God trumps pain with his redemptive purpose.

Genesis 50:20 says, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” Every time I read this verse I imagine saying it to the devil- what you intended to harm, I will instead use for good. Pastor Randy said, “what satan intends to discourage, depress, and deprive–God uses for His purposes!” You can grow bitter and hold onto the pain, or grow better and allow God to use it for His glory. I choose the latter.