Dying To Live {Aware in Mental Health Month}

This is Mental Health Month. A time to be aware. A time to understand. I’m sharing my 25 year journey through mental illness in my book. I’ve shared it on my blog before. People reacted with such love and rejoicing with me now that I am healed of that monster. And others, so very many others, found peace and hope in my story. It’s for that reason I share it. Even though reliving it to share it is sometimes painful, I still share because it’s not the same kind of pain. It’s more like I’m looking back on a life that is so deeply sad that I long to have known then what I know now. It’s more of a mourning feeling. One of loss of life lived. Days wasted. But quickly, and I do mean quickly, I am reminded of His ever resounding presence …

And I hear Him say…

You were always in My Palm and My Heart. I loved you then as much as I love you now.

My soul just knows. These things. It just knows.

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As I share again today, if you’ve read this about me and want to reread please know I’m honored you are here. And if you have not read my story, please know I’m honored you are here too… and know that in the end there is peace. And I’m still living the “end”.

Depression. Oh… the pain of heart pain. None to be equaled.

Depression is a very difficult subject to understand,
to discuss,
to live with,
to handle,
to be around …

Do you ever stop and think about what in your life is a comfort that shouldn’t be?

Is there something that consumes your thoughts in such a way that you know it isn’t healthy or productive but you go there anyway?

BEWARE! That’s a trap. Beware because it can enslave you and affect everyone around you.

I know without a shadow of a doubt that the hole in your heart can only be successfully filled by One.

Let that hole be filled.

Fighting without God is like losing before you even start.

We were not made to be alone.

“Where can I go from your Spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in hell, you are there” ~ Psalm 139

My story may be different from any you’ve ever heard… but parts might be just what you’ve lived. Share with me. I’m ALL IN to love.

-Heather

A COMFORT THAT SHOULDN’T BE

The self loathing was a ‘beyond my control, caught in my throat’ kind of oppression. It led to the most emotionally excruciating pain I have ever experienced. The conversations in my mind were increasingly evil. So loud, yet they somehow made perfect sense to me.

I planned ways to die. I yearned deep in my soul to leave the pain behind forever. I saw no end in sight. I would hear a voice whisper with such evil force, “You are not worth anything.” That was an awful voice, but it was familiar.

Yet, I faintly heard another voice that never left me. Screaming, in the most comforting way, to help me.

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DYING TO LIVE

My life did not start out full of peace and happiness that I solidly know today. It was hard, heavy, full of depression and darkness — even as far back as I can remember. Troubled to the point of destruction, yet cared for the by the protective Hand of God even when I didn’t recognize it or admit it or want it.

The divorce of my parents and suicide of my father all before the age of 10 weighed heavily on my heart and mind. I knew really nothing of the circumstances at the time, except that my mom loved me and my brother and took care of us no matter the sacrifice; and that my dad loved us and he left us. Carefully digesting that in my mind and heart was not possible for me for many years. Because I had very little understanding or direction, my thoughts took me deeper into the pattern that would nearly destroy me. The concern that someone else I loved might eventually leave, too, haunted me day and night.

Have you ever felt that way? Even for a minute in your life? It is a scary feeling, isn’t it? We were not made to be alone.

That thought became demonizing to me as a young girl. During those early years of my life, I dwelled on the memory of seeing my dad with drugs and alcohol — annihilating his life — and seeing him cry on my shoulder with tears large and heavy. That burden, chewing away at my consciousness, drove me deep into a fantasy world that mirrored what virtual reality would look like before it was even invented.

I found myself lying in bed each night exhausted trying to listen to what was going on in the house; listening for my mother’s voice, her breath. On any given night, I could hear the wind slam against the windows, the house creak with settling, my heartbeat racing wildly to stay on alert.

My greatest fear was that she also would leave in the middle of the night never to return. Make no mistake: she gave me no reason to think this. She gave everything of herself to me and my brother. We felt her strong and protective love. It was all just my mind working overtime and the effect of the attack that was trying to destroy who I was to become.

Not an easy way to fall asleep every night — thinking about such things. Deep and dark and tormented. It took every ounce of energy in my tired body and mind to hold myself up against the negative force that was oddly becoming my friend.

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The Battle OF My Mind Was IN My Mind.

This pain and fear worsened as I grew older and found relationships of all kinds to be hard to handle. I was always busy trying to make sure that other people liked me enough not to leave me. I felt in competition with others and within myself. I thought if I could stay “in control” everything would be just fine. Yet, I found my irrational side taking control and ruining everything I held dear. It all was a huge conflict that I wore like a heavy winter coat pushing my shoulders down so that it was hard to even walk.

As I grew into my teenage years, I succumbed to all sorts of abuses. I found myself in very dangerous situations — nearly dying on many occasions — sometimes at the hand of others and sometimes by my own doing. All of these things worried me immensely, but I could not stop. The fear controlled me all while fooling me that I was in control. In some weird way I guess I felt comfortable in my ill-thought ways. Probably because it had become all I knew. It is all very hard to put into words. But the battle OF my mind was IN my mind.

Do you ever stop and think about what in your life is a comfort that shouldn’t be?

Is there something that consumes your thoughts in such a way that you know it isn’t healthy or productive but you go there anyway? That’s a trap. Beware because it can enslave you and affect everyone around you.

Sadly, I believed I could continue to handle it all silently. My mind was being beaten and I didn’t know the depths to which it would sink.

We were not made to be alone.

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SCREAMING TO GET OUT

I had terrible thoughts constantly of hating myself, of how no one liked me, really of how everyone hated me. I would hear a voice whisper that I was not worth anything. That was an awful voice — but it was familiar.

Yet I faintly heard another voice that never left me. It was screaming, in the most comforting way, to get out and help me.

I felt I had no where to turn.
I didn’t want to burden my mother or the new father in my life because they loved me.

I didn’t have many friends and was bullied in school, so I hated going to school.

I longed to be the center of attention to gain approval.

I wanted to please everyone but seemed to please NO ONE.

I had so much anger and I cried much of the time, yet felt invincible and elated other times.

I developed an obsessive compulsive disorder for a while — obviously a cranked up way of control.

I didn’t even want to get out of bed most of the time because the attacks were relentless.

Do you see the pattern there?

I … I … I

Until I learned that it was not ‘I‘ but ‘We’, nothing would change. Nothing. Not ONE thing.

I was in my very own ‘day in — day out’ life — just harsher than normal.
Always looking for the answer to THAT question.

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DYING TO LIVE

At age 15 I turned to a friend and trusted teacher for help, and that took an immense amount of courage and energy. They persuaded me to talk to my mother, because even though it would be painful for her they knew I was dying to live — freed from the pain. I did just that, and eventually was told I had Manic Depression – what is now called Bipolar Disorder – because of the dramatic alternating mood swings. Some were of extreme happiness or mania and others were of hopelessness and despair; back and forth with a dash of normal in between.

But as all medical knowledge evolves, I can look back now and see it was probably Borderline Personality Disorder because the episodes were often minutes apart, not months apart. The things I was perceiving in my environment would greatly affect the mood I experienced. The fact is that the diagnosis only matters from a scientific standpoint, because most of the same medicines and therapies are used for both diseases. And, does it really matter what they tell you that you may have when all you are looking for is peace of mind? Although I needed the medicine at the time, I am still not convinced that medical science has it all right. Getting help at the time is, however, extremely important. Help from all good methods.

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THE DARK SHADOWS THAT LURKED

The dueling voices in my mind were fighting a battle before I even realized it. I would sit completely alone staring at the wall noticing every crack on it as if they were every problem I had in my cracked up life. I could feel the overwhelming presence of evil — lurking, trying to draw me in. It was brutal and inhuman. It was hard to breathe, all around me like a fog. The dark shadows possessed something that was trying hard to make me lose control completely. I would have bouts of sitting in the corner of my room crying incessantly and pulling my hair out of my head because I could not get the demonic thoughts out. I felt trapped and it was the scariest thing I had ever experienced, even after going through the years of anxiety. The thoughts of hatred, shame, and wanting to die were so consuming that I felt like I was living inside another realm screaming with every ounce of breath “LET ME OUT!” Fear was all I knew — and it almost became a comfort to me. Had that happened I know that I certainly would not be alive writing this. The demonic feeling was far worse than any horror movie. They really can’t capture that experience on film, and I am having a very difficult time recounting it on “paper”.

I was being bombarded constantly with morbid thoughts beyond comprehension. I hated myself even more because I felt disgusted and depressed. I felt unworthy of anything and everybody. Even in the midst of that anguish, I knew that if I didn’t get help I would end up taking my own life to end the pain. I found myself at a point in which I was planning my own death with intricate details. I felt myself slipping gradually into a pit of darkness falling not hard and fast, but so slowly in a spiral that it was sucking the life completely out of my soul.

After going through these horrible things for years, I went searching. You see, I was desperate. Desperate for answers, for sleep, for love, for help. Desperate for peace.

I cried out to God, “Why are you letting this happen to me?”

I had to cry out — even if I didn’t really know God.

I had gone to church now and then when I was young. Not often. But enough to know a little about God. I had been reading a Bible my mom had given to me, in hopes that God was real and would answer me. I was searching for an answer to get away from the nightmare.

I looked toward the New Age attitude of “Peace Within Yourself” — the “I’m Okay, You’re Okay” mentality. Epic failure that was. No one is really Okay. And why would anyone strive to be just “okay”?

I turned to all the “self-help” gurus. You know the ones. They are still on television and writing books today, because so many fall into the trap of believing they can do this all on their own.

I tried the “religion” thing. Do this and that so you can get this and that.

I turned to the metaphysical and paranormal for answers. Let me assure you of something here and now that I know for a fact:

You call the demons… they will answer.

I fought them hard, but mostly by myself. If only I had turned to God. I did not put my full trust in Him. None of what we try on our own works and fighting without God is like losing before you even start. Nothing gave me the Peace of MIND that I was looking for so desperately. Nothing.

I found no answer in the religion and new age studies I was trying to focus on.

I continued to make choices that were just stupid and ill-conceived even as I sought help. Really — hear me carefully now — it is all about CHOICE. I don’t mean to say that the diagnosis and medical treatment were wrong to seek out or even not needed at that time, nor am I trying to minimize anything similar that anyone experiences, because it is a hell on earth to which some feel they can never return. BUT, what I am saying is that every day we all wake up faced with choices, some tiny, some huge, but choices which will likely impact us greatly and also those around us. It was not until I started to view every single choice I had to make as one that would set the course for the rest of my life that everything started to change, especially my heart.

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NOT OF THIS WORLD

I grew to know that the battle was certainly not of this world. I would cry out to God. IF ONLY HE’D HEAR ME! But each time the depression and pain took me over. This disease that crippled my mind made me feel frightened for my life either way I looked at it. I realize now I was not looking for how God was in it. He was. Oh, He certainly was.

Although I didn’t understand much, I did understand one thing. I believed, with only a tiny amount of faith, that God had shown me that He was in fact real — and if that was true then I kept hope that He might help me. That choice to have that tiny bit of faith was a pivotal point in my life. I had asked and accepted Jesus into my life at age 16, but it was not until my late teen years and early twenties — the peak of all that I have described — that I started to focus on Him.

The only thing that had kept me alive during that time was the promise I made to God and to my mother (although she was unaware) that I would not take my own life. I believed He had given it to me and so I did not want to hurt Him, and I did not want to hurt my mother. I turned to God just enough.

Let me say that one more time. I turned to God – Just Enough.

It is a sad thing I have learned: that so many people give God “just enough” when we could experience all He has for us if we would just give Him all we’ve got.

At times, I had wondered if He really cared because my pain didn’t end when I became a Christian. I just didn’t GET IT like I did later and certainly not like I do now. He got it though. And that my friends, is all that mattered. He never abandoned me nor left me. He is always faithful. Jesus had me for eternity, and Satan knew it, but that was not going to stop him from trying to destroy my life. What I went through was not human. I made it human with my choices however and the battle raged on. The saddest part is that I continued to let that happen. No one could convince me that Satan was not a real force in this world after what I had experienced. Call evil – it will answer.

But God was there – and bigger.

I now know that Jesus had in His Will to never leave me and watched thoughtfully, knowing He would prevail. He waited patiently, hearing and answering my prayers to just stay afloat. That is all I prayed for at the time. To just stay afloat. I eventually learned — God didn’t cause the pain. He doesn’t want us to hurt. We cause so much pain ourselves.

He wanted to bring me through it for His plans. They are greater than my own. When I asked him with even a small amount of faith, He reached His hand deep into the pit of despair I was in and He grabbed my stretched out hand to pull me to peace and love and life. All that I had been searching for, He had in His hand.

I reached out. He loved. I loved. I chose.

If I could shout one thing for every human being to hear it would be this:
God has a plan for you. He wants to have a relationship with you. He loves you. YOU.

God completely healed me of this disease and depression in June of 1997. In a prayer, in an instant, I was healed after 25 years of the pain. I intend to write more about that in my book and on my blog, but just remember if you are going through this and you are not healed yet… DO NOT STOP looking to Him. He has a plan and in the end, you will see it. He loves you right through it.

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You (I) + God = We

Don’t go through it alone. Please.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. – Isaiah 55:8

I know without a shadow of a doubt that the hole in your heart can only be successfully filled by One.
Let that hole be filled.

Fighting without God is like losing before you even start.

Live Blessed,

Heather

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8 thoughts on “Dying To Live {Aware in Mental Health Month}

  1. passagethroughgrace says:

    Oh dear, Heather! You are brave, you are beautiful and you are loved by the One True King. I pray that your willingness to share your story touches many and their own hearts open to what an #allin relationship with Jesus is all about! Happy weekend!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Heather Mertens @ 40YearWanderer says:

      I so appreciate your prayers for this, Mary! That is exactly why I feel called to tell my story. For hope. For love. For bringing others closer to God.

      I really appreciate you reading and joining the conversation! I’ve been feeling so behind because of not feeling well the last several days. I read your comment right away though, and it quenched my heart with love. 💕

      Like

  2. Simply Beth says:

    You are beautiful and oh so brave, friend. Such a powerful story and testimony to the love of our God. Thank you for sharing again. I pray God uses your story to touch the lives of many. They have touched mine. Much love. xoxo

    Liked by 1 person

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