Managing My “Gifts”
Self-Acceptance is the Key
At the age of 16, I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety. I was suffering long before being formally diagnosed. In 2014, I was diagnosed as a schizophrenic, which I discovered was the answer to all my questions and problems as a child and young adult. It seems I was always this way. Once this became the reality I could no longer run from, I “freaked out.” I was so tired of being a statistic that I tried to deny that I have a mental illness even though it was obvious. I even learned there is a direct line that connects my family background to mental instability. I guess I caught the recessive trait.
I am my mother's namesake, Ondina Hawthorne, and I carry her name with honor now. Ondina Hawthorne was someone I didn’t always identify with. When I started to change my name, I did not realize this was my schizophrenia exposing itself to the masses. I never knew that this wasn’t what the average child goes through. From time to time, my emotional state would fluctuate between very erratic and calm. I would converse with myself and have conversations with what I considered my “imaginary friends.” I suffered physical, verbal, emotional and spiritual abuse, but it was the sexual abuse that introduced me to the more dangerous voices within. There was always the calm one, the gentle one and the thunder. I was scared, I didn’t know how to control what was going on and I didn’t even fully understand what was happening within me. The voices in my head got louder and louder. I felt like I was on fire and I no longer identified with my mirrored self. I attempted suicide many times to stop the burn and to shut off the noise. I thank God He had favor on my life and I am here to share my testimony. I survived.
Fast-forward. After the completion of high school and college, I made very poor choices. Somewhere on my journey, my schizophrenia, depression and anxiety took full control of my life. I was drowning and just wanted to disappear. Dying was my only option according to thunder. I contemplated suicide again. I was 21 years old. I asked God to show me a sign that he was real by asking Him to remove the burden that I was carrying. He did. I didn’t grasp the full understanding that when I was calling on God to help me, I was also asking Him to show me who I really am, what I’m dealing with and how to manage what makes me different from others. Since then I have gotten married to an amazing supportive man and have two wonderful, little, adventurous, vivacious boys. However, there was still much work on my part that needed to be done.
I started to acknowledge that I have a mental illness. I said it aloud to myself. It took me a while to feel comfortable saying it aloud and owning it. I remember telling my husband, “If you no longer want to be with me, I understand, because you didn’t sign up for this.” He replied, “I love you and we are going to get through this.” I revealed to him the names of all the personalities I converse with. I told him that I was institutionalized as a child and had been battling my mental illness for a long time. I explained to him that I needed to be mentally healthy, not just for myself but also for our children. He agreed to help me through my journey toward a sound mind. I opened up to my immediate family members for their support. I never thought that taking the first step to admitting and accepting I have a mental illness was going to be so painful.
My mother told me, “Baby girl, ‘schizophrenia’ is your gift. It is who you are. Don’t try to control it, manage it. Don’t fight against what is, but accept what is. Depression and anxiety will always be there, but once you learn to manage it you will be alright and your story will inspire others to take that leap of faith.” We cried together and I accepted the challenge to start managing my mental illness. I currently sit with a counselor. I pray and I have my medication on standby. I do still feel the burn from time to time, but I am grateful I know how to manage my gifts.