“The Savior saw more in those humble fishermen whom He called to follow Him than they initially saw in themselves; He saw a vision of who they could become. He knew of their goodness and potential, and He acted to call them. They were not experienced at first, but as they followed, they saw His example, felt His teachings, and became His disciples.”
-Elder O. Vincent Haleck
At 21 years old, I was diagnosed as having Bipolar Disorder. To those who don’t understand or who are unfamiliar with the nature of mental illnesses, this could be a terrifying thought, and initially it was. However, for me, “mental illness” has become a term that invokes power, strength, growth, and knowledge in me.
At 16 years old, I started to feel a significant change in the way that I was feeling. Emotionally, I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I have always imagined it as feeling as though I was standing on the edge of a roof, all the time.
I started feeling secluded, even though I knew those around me loved me. I felt as though I was falling deeper and deeper into a dark abyss, not knowing when or if I was going to hit the bottom. I felt lost. I felt lonely. And even worse, I couldn’t help it. There was no stopping it. These feelings of disconnect started to affect me in ways that I couldn’t understand at first. The thoughts of me being useless, helpless, and even unworthy started digging vigorously deeper and deeper into my mind. I couldn’t let go of the thought that my Father in Heaven had abandoned me, and that somehow this particular trial of mental illness made it so that I was exempt from feeling the joy and the peace that the Atonement gives. I felt crazy. I felt ugly.
I didn’t know how to cope with these unfamiliar emotions and eventually, they took control. In order to find some kind of release, I started to self-harm and starve myself by only eating a few hundred calories a day. I was just looking for a way to understand what was happening to me. I tried to regain the control that I felt I had lost.
For five years, I silently suffered. I went through episodes of pulling away from my friends and family while falling deeper into the pit of darkness that had now consumed me.
I felt as if I wasn’t worthy of the love and nurturing that I read about in the scriptures. I thought that because I wasn’t being emotionally, spiritually, or physically healed, I must not have enough faith. I must be forgotten and insignificant, and it was all my fault.
That wasn’t true then, and it isn’t true now.
What is true, is that I have a Savior. He is my Brother, and my dearest Friend.
I have two Heavenly Parents that are involved and aware of who I am, and aware of the unending potential that I have because I am their child. They nurture me daily.
As I came to be more and more comfortable with my divine identity, I came to realize that having a mental illness isn’t intended to be a punishment or a hurdle built impossible to climb. This is an opportunity, generously given by my Father, to strengthen us and make us into more than we could have possibly imagined on our own. Yes, it is a fight…but He knows that we are just that strong, because He has us in His hands. We are being shaped and molded into the divine beings that we have been destined to become since the beginning, and as divine beings, we are designed and built to excel. We are imperfect and the Lord knows that. He knows that there are times when we fall short, and there are days when we simply can’t bring ourselves to muster the strength to make it through one more day, but it is in those times that we are given power from on high, whether we acknowledge it or not. Live worthy of that power. Those beyond the veil love us dearly, and are here to help us find our wings.
Make every moment a matter of prayer…every hurt, and every emotion. Only through an open, sincere, and pure dialogue with our Father in Heaven, are we able to find the strength and knowledge possible to not only endure but to conquer. He is our rock. We are divine daughters of divine Parents. That fire of divinity burning inside of us is intended to make us feel closer, and of relation to the Father. We are His children. He wants to hear from us, and hear from us often. He has given us this opportunity that we may become more like Him. His wish is that we take these illnesses and the trials, weights, hardships, and suffering that come with them, to fortify our divine and royal character, that we may be instruments in His hands.
Attend the temple often. Abide where He is. Dwell where His Spirit dwells. We will find no greater strength and confidence than in the place where we make sacred covenants. His house is our sanctuary.
Partake of the sacrament. Our Father and Savior desire that we be whole, and despite the illnesses that we may be faced with, we can become completely whole when we take the sacrament. Living worthily and participating in the ordinance of the sacrament heals to the core.
Seek truth through studying the words of the prophets, both ancient and modern. These great men are here to give us much needed guidance, and direct us through our journeys that we may return home. Trust them. As long as we follow their counsel and direction, we will never fail.
We are capable of more than we know. We are asked to do hard things, and we are asked to trust in the One that is leading us carefully to victory. Often, is seems as if this is an impossible burden to bear. It takes courage, day to day, and sometimes minute to minute, to face the effects of mental illnesses. It’s a long road ahead, but we have a powerful Savior who wants to travel this path with us. Our Father has faith in us. He is proud of who we are and proud of our decision to continue on, and trust in His perfect understanding. He is proud of our noble choice to choose Him. To Him, we are priceless…and so the price we must pay to be refined in this mortal life is nothing compared to what we will be given once we have returned home to those Heavenly Parents who love us so perfectly. He is making us glorious.