A few years ago, someone that I love dearly suffered a death in their family as the result of suicide. This death affected me greatly as the individual was a member of the body of Christ. This person knew the Lord and attended church on a regular basis but yet suffered from such deep personal pain and anguish that suicide appeared to be their only option.
I took his death personally because I too have been at that point of desperation in my life; smiling on the outside yet suffering greatly on the inside. I too am a member of the body of Christ. I attend church on a regular basis. I pray, fast, tithe, believe His word, take Him at His word and yet, I live with Major Depression. I have lived with it for over 20 years. Despite my best effort, sometimes the pain simply doesn’t go away. I can’t pray it away. I can’t fast it away. I can’t rebuke it away. Trust me, I’ve tried. Like the Apostle Paul, I asked the Lord thrice (at least) to take this condition away from me. He responded, "my grace is sufficient for you."
I never spoke of my condition because of stigma and shame. However, when this intelligent, beautiful, charismatic person died, I made the decision to remove my masks and admit that I too hurt, so that those who struggled would know that they are not alone. I made a promise that his death would not be in vain. I decided then to take up the mantle and join in the fight against the dreaded disease of mental illness.
God has blessed me. He continues to strengthen me. I am not hopeless. I am not powerless. I am a VICTOR, not a victim. I know that ALL things work together for my good. I have been called to spread the "good news" that we who live with mental health issues are no different than of us who live with physical illness. God loves YOU. YOU are not damaged. YOU are needed in the kingdom of God. There is room for you at the cross.
When I finally told the Lord “Yes”, He gave me the name of this ministry, “I Survived”. What this means to me is that yes, I have dealt with many difficulties in life, but I Survived and I will go on to achieve great things in Jesus name. The scriptural basis is 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 “ We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned. struck down, but not destroyed.”
God has opened doors that no man can shut. I am privileged to share my story of recovery in the Chicago Public School systems as a Lead Presenter with NAMI. My story is two-fold. It touches on topics such as domestic violence, childhood sexual abuse, homelessness, but it also highlights components of my recovery: my faith, proper nutrition, daily exercise, importance of getting adequate sleep, medication, and yes letting everyone know that in spite of it all, I survived!
I Survived will partner with existing agencies to reduce the stigma related to mental illness, participate in public education forums and health fairs, educate and inform others of the importance of managing their mental health. I Survived will assist churches as they seek ways to minister to congregants who are living with mental health issues.
I Survived to let others know that they too can survive! God is leading me to spread this message everywhere I go: schools, churches, hospitals, prisons. I survived and so can you. I am a witness. What He has done for me, He can and will do for you.