Faith That Began as Small as a Mustard Seed
How Nursing and My Spiritual Strength Helped Save My Life and Others
My name is Luanne. I am a 52-year-old from Lexington, South Carolina. I was first diagnosed with mental illness in 1996. When I look back now on my life, I believe that my mental illness began in high school and got worse during my first marriage. I was emotionally and physically abused, which resulted in a very nasty divorce and custody battle over my two children. I was diagnosed with bipolar, anxiety, depression and dependent personality disorder. I believe that my mental health diagnosis is due to genetic factors as well as trauma. I believe that my mother had bipolar but was never officially diagnosed. I did inherit an alpha protein deficiency, which has been shown to cause bipolar and epilepsy (I have both).
In high school, I suffered from extreme depression because of the dysfunction I was living in. Even though I grew up in a dysfunctional family, I still must give credit to my mom, who took me and my sister to church at a young age. I was introduced to Jesus, and had the seed of faith planted at an early age. It was my faith that got me through the darkest times of my life. In high school, I put all my time and energy into my studies and the marching band. I preferred to stay at school and away from my dysfunctional family. I knew from a young age that I wanted to be a nurse. My dream was to go to third-world countries on medical missions, but I soon learned that my mission would be at home. I found some old nursing magazines in the garage of my neighbor’s house, who had moved. Reading them reinforced my dream to become a nurse. In 1980, I enrolled in a local technical college and began my studies to become a licensed practical nurse. I then got a two-year degree and continued on to get a four-year degree to become a registered nurse. I found my purpose in life as a nurse, and I had dreams to save the world. My nursing career lasted over 31 years. I saved many lives and went on to become RN of the year for the med-surg department at a local hospital and was also included in Who Who’s in Nursing several times. I gained confidence in nursing with my educational degrees and the initials behind my name. One day I lost it all and found myself without any self-worth. I had to learn the hard way that my self-worth comes from God.
In 1996, I had my first admission to the psychiatric hospital. I had three admissions; more voluntary admissions because of suicidal thoughts. The first trip to the hospital in 1996 was by the police when my husband tried to cover up his emotional and physical abuse by claiming I needed psychiatric help. Even though my psychiatrist said he had no reason to commit me, I stayed at the hospital for a week just to get away from my husband. Shortly after the first admission, my husband and I separated and I filed for divorce. My husband won the first custody battle and the home which I had bought. He simply won because he had a better attorney than I did. The next year without my kids was the worst year of life. My days were filled with anxiety and panic attacks over losing my kids. I also lost the job that I had simply because I was honest and told the director of nursing that I had bipolar. It was my first taste of discrimination and stigma related to having a mental illness. My ex-husband married again and physically abused his second wife. I remember coming home and turning the whole mess over to God. When I did, with my new attorney’s help, I got my kids back. I went on to experience stigma and discrimination from people who seemed to have the mentality that those with a mental illness were second class citizens.
In 2007, I went back to school and earned my master’s degree in mental health counseling. I was determined to offer hope to those with a mental illness. I also became a peer support specialist and a South Carolina Share Mentor. At this time, I am awaiting and battling the broken system of social security disability. Although I am not currently employed, I still believe that God has a purpose for my life, despite my mental illness.
Having a mental illness has brought challenges in relationships, occupations, and other areas that most people do not have to face. Despite these challenges, I have become a better person and have learned many things on my journey through life. Most of all, my faith has increased.