Saving Graces: Journey from the Pit of Madness
Throughout my high school years life was good. Intelligent and artistically gifted, I was destined, we thought, to have a prestigious career and a bright future. However, another destiny awaited me.
In my freshman year of college, I was terrified when I began to hear voices without any person present to speak them. About a year later, after several long hospitalizations, I was diagnosed with schizophrenia, yet I did not believe it. This denial is a symptom, and it is one of the greatest reasons that this disease is so hard to control.
Medications alone help to control it; medications which make you fat, sluggish, and have a plethora of other side effects. So, if someone doesn't believe they are ill, what possible motivation would they have to stay on these meds? Little to none.
I was living on my own—having left a full academic scholarship at college due to this illness. I almost never took my medications. They were attempts to control my brain; things to make me act the way “They” wanted me to act. I worked when I could, ate when forced to, and wandered through New Haven. The voices in my head were abusive and foul and I struggled with guilt at having such irreverent thoughts. The only prayer I had prayed in all those years was when my heart uttered the words, “God, if you know everything, you know how angry I am at you right now.” And that was a profoundly honest prayer.
After over 30 hospitalizations, and being deemed “hopelessly mentally ill,” I met a man while in one of those hospitals. He was interested in me; something few people were. We remained friends following my discharge. I lived in a group home and faced a rather bleak future. I was penniless, approaching 30 years old and Godless as well, when this man asked me to marry him. I left the group home and we embarked on a rocky yet committed relationship, still intact after 22 years, by God's grace.
I'd first begun to stabilize when I had my daughter in my 30th year. And God blessed me with 14 years of freedom from psychosis despite having life threatening brushes with illness. I was completely dependent on a wheelchair for two years as a result of the necessary but destructive effects of steroids needed for asthma. With a miracle and lots of physical therapy, I did walk again. No longer did I blame God for my problems; rather, I learned he is the light in my darkness.
Eventually, we moved to Pennsylvania. I worked at a local hospital where things once more began to unravel. I was laid off and received the dire diagnosis of Psoriatic Arthritis which was destroying my spine and joints later necessitating multiple joint replacements. But worst of all, my mind once more became infiltrated by voices and paranoia which had, for years, receded. Now, they questioned the motives of everyone.
In terror, believing he would kill me, I left my husband and went in my car on a panicked chase over three states, pursued only by my own fear. The “chase” ended with a failed suicide attempt, which was none other than divine intervention. God has thwarted every psychotic, sincere attempt I made to end this life.
After six subsequent hospitalizations, my doctor told my husband, “Your wife's case is hopeless. The best thing for her and for you is to leave her in a State hospital and to forget you ever knew her.” And the doctor placed me on a waiting list for that state bed. But God had other plans.
Suddenly, I stabilized after a last ditch medication change and was released to the care of my husband. There followed one more medication change, and finally, the light came that pierced that thick darkness. I once more began to bathe and comb my hair. I lost 60 pounds and exercised daily. And God smiled.
I now have several blogs with the purpose of aiding and educating people with mental illness and their families, and am active in my church, despite being severely hampered by the arthritic disease.
God did not abandon me to the caprice of madness, nor to the finality of death. I still struggle, mostly, now, with unrelenting pain. I've had joint replacement surgeries, and more surgeries loom; and there's always the threat of psychosis. I now look forward to the day when I will enter God's kingdom with a healed body and a clear mind.