By Chato B. Stewart
Discovering the Bible turned my life around
I grew up in a Toxic Dump! No, really, in the 50s, before the housing development, the area was a swamp and an illegal toxic dump site.
I grew up in an emotionally toxic environment as well. My father’s uncontrolled rage and anger issues stemmed from undiagnosed bipolar disorder (dad was diagnosed shortly before his death). Along with this undiagnosed mental disorder, he was also heavily medicated on painkillers from a work accident that happened when I was four years-old. Needless to say, this added more pain to an already volatile and toxic home environment.
My father had twisted ways of expressing love. During my childhood he called me stupid, retarded, worthless, and a host of other insults. Best of all he showed me that a belt wasn’t just for holding up your pants…it's a handy disciplinary tool.
I learned hate, rage, and prejudice as part of my toxic education. Escaping, fleeing that toxicity seemed insurmountable! Entering my teens, I already had a nickname in the projects: “Psycho Stew” with a troublemaker reputation during my grooming to be a thug. My lifesaver was Bible study.
When I say the Bible saved my life, I really mean it. Studying with a local religious group for the first time had a purpose and it made sense. Learning that stealing, lying, and hurting others physically and emotionally was wrong seemed foreign to me. Growing up I was taught “deny, deny, deny and lie, lie, lie!” That was part of my toxic education. Learning negative coping skills such as self-injury and violence was second nature. Even though I was studying the Bible, I wasn’t totally getting the concept that stealing was wrong. I think this is where the mental illness took over.
Believing that I was some type of modern-day Robin Hood, I stole and gave everything away. It was my delusion that I was doing something good by stealing. How wrong I was! Through what I learned from my Bible study, I gradually began detoxifying my life. I stopped getting high and stealing, found control for my violent temper and adjusted my attitude towards others, slowly detoxifying myself physically and mentally from my toxic childhood. I did a complete 180 from my old, troubled way of life. And at the age of 18, I dedicated myself to my new biblical training.
Leaving that toxic environment behind, I was on a new road that was cleansing my old ways. You see, my faith was a shield from the world’s toxicity and hate. My faith was the detoxification from my former hate and rage. I was able to keep my self-loathing and self-hatred controlled to some degree. My hypo-manic mood swings and even depression was appeased by my faith. I rely on it. My faith got me through my deteriorating sanity.
Moving forward to my thirties, I had what some would call a major psychotic episode. I totally lost touch with reality and my faith; my shield, was lost and many toxic emotions erupted like a volcano! I sank into a very deep depression with moments of psychosis and attempted suicide multiple times. Ever since then, I’ve been trying to detoxify and recover, making small steps forward on my continuing journey. I kept trying to “recapture” my faith, holding on to it with just my fingertips, often wanting to let go and end the suffering.
What pains me most is what my mental illness has done to my family. I re-created a toxic environment for my own children because, for part of their life, my symptoms went uncontrolled and un-medicated. I’m now working hard to better myself and create a loving, non-toxic home environment for my children.
“If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.” What worked when I was 14 was building an appreciation for the Bible and the practical, life-saving principles found therein. So, ever since July 2011, I implemented a family Bible-study once a week. I can’t tell you how much this has helped our family detoxify and build appreciation for God and spirituality!
Mentally, I continue to detoxify, recover and fortify my faith. Recently, a wave of depression engulfed me with suicidal ideation, negative thinking and self-loathing. After sharing my emotional turmoil with a trusted friend, he shared with me an encouraging biblical verse. I read it and cried tears of joy.
‘Do not be afraid, for I am with you. Do not gaze about, for I am your God. I will fortify you. I will really help you. I will really keep fast hold of you with my right hand of righteousness.’ (Isaiah 41:10)