by Amber Johnson
I received a diagnosis of bipolar I with PTSD when I was twenty-one years old. Until that point in time, I had developed suspicions about the root cause of my state of mind but the only concrete conclusions I had drawn was that life was unbearable.
Altering my mood was a steady and pervasive pursuit, whether by means of alcohol, drugs, self-harm, or binging and purging, I could not sit still in my own skin. It was a constant crawling, a bug that had burrowed its way into my mind and sucked dry my will to live. I cried out to God, but when I turned my gaze upward all I could see was the void. The aching emptiness inside me, consuming me. It kept me in bed for days on end, paralyzed by a nameless fear, so that I could not even leave my room to use the bathroom. It found me in dangerous situations, each more destructive than the last, trying to catch a greater high. The cycle could not stop, and each day I had to choose to continue, I reluctantly chose life. But that resolution was waning, I could not see a way out rather than to end it. As I understood it, there were two options, life or death, and I could not bear another day of the former. Then one day someone from Journey reached out to me to have coffee and presented a third option, treatment. Treating the underlying issues, processing the trauma, addressing the problem rather than hoping it will dissipate. I checked into a rehabilitation center June 14th, 2017.
Since then I have been on medication, which I take three times a day, attend therapy once a week, and AA meetings regularly. I have also been sober ever since, free from self-harm and bulimia. I have discovered a will to live and redefined my relationship with God. No longer am I angry, lonely, and bitter, I am loved, valued, and have intimacy with God.
I believe so often fear limits our vision, keeps us from seeing the whole horizon, our full potential. By leaning on our community, others can see in us, what we cannot see in ourselves. We can find encouragement on our bleakest days, love when we are hopeless, and strength when we cannot feel our own. Battling mental illness alone does not have to be your story, inviting others into it casts light into the picture. A great lie I struggle with is believing I am a burden to others when I share my experiences, but I’ve found that it is an honor to love those in their darkest times, never a burden. Sharing about our experiences and connecting with each other is critical, expanding our community and finding accountability. To escape the shame and fear is a pursuit we can follow together.