Depression, anxiety, panic disorder, and PTSD. Those were just a handful of my mental illnesses; what’s yours?

Don’t be shy. It’s just you and me here right now. It’s ok to admit what mental illness you’re suffering from. Bipolar disorder? Anorexia? OCD? How about alcoholism? Narcissism? Maybe ADHD, along with acute stress disorder? There’s about a 99% chance that you battle with at least one mental disorder internally and, or you suffer from watching a loved one fight through their own. Am I right? Because I would LOVE for you to prove me wrong.

If you google mental illness, you’ll find a nearly endless list of disorders that are sure to pop up wherever you turn in life. Read the list once and if you don’t find something you’re suffering from it is almost guaranteed you’ll know someone who suffers from a bleak diagnosis of some disorder that can potentially run if not ruin their entire life. I remember the day my therapist gave me my top four diagnoses, followed by a pharmacy of prescription medications to make my interaction with the world more acceptable. And oh, what a day it was.

Since I was recently widowed with two very young boys to care for, I followed my treatment plan religiously. Weekly therapy, biweekly counseling, three support groups, and loads of meds. After about six months, I realized that none of it was working. I’d never felt more alone, less like myself, and I couldn’t really find a reason to live. Sure, my baby boys were my world, and they motivated me to stay alive as long as I had, but when you’re as f*cked up as I was, it’s easy to think the world would be a better place without you.

If I could just gain the courage to drop out of life, my kids would have a shot at having a perfect Mom, and maybe, if they were lucky, a Dad too. The more these thoughts ran through my head, the easier it was to convince myself that I was worthless, and it was time to stop taking up so space in the world.

Within 6 weeks of the most intense therapeutic program, I’d ever been on, I found myself on the floor of my bedroom closet with a gun pointed against my head.

Had things gone as I planned, I would have been dead over a decade ago, leaving my children parentless, my parents childless, and you with one less piece of proof that shows, you CAN heal your life. 

Now, more than ever, we need to tune into our mental health. In one of the most remarkable years of all time, every one of us is at risk of being compromised. A global pandemic, social isolation, economic recessions, racial injustice, political mayhem all happening at the same time is like a cyclone ravaging our hearts and minds. And for the already diagnosed, it’s even more confusing and cataclysmic.

In this three-part article, I’m going to share my story on how I healed my life and became one of the happiest people I know. I hope that it will bring light to your mind and heart, inspire you to stop dealing, start healing, and to love yourself more than you ever have before. 

 Big breath…here goes:

I kissed the boys goodbye as they left with their Grandfather for the morning. No one paid attention to the tears in my eyes since grief regularly gushed out of me. It was just another day in their minds, but in mine, it was the last day. As I closed the door, my shoulders sunk, and I looked up to the top of the stairs. The hallway was dark, but I didn’t care because my whole world was dark. If the boys weren’t in my arms, there was no light whatsoever. 

I climbed the stairs, went straight to my bedroom, turned into the closet, and pulled a gun from the top shelf. It was a gun my brother gave me and taught me how to use just before he passed away. Even though I knew how to operate it, I was scared, so I sat down on the floor, turned off the safety, and started to beg God for the power to pull the trigger.

Squeezing my eyes shut and clenching my jaw, I brought the barrel to my temple and said, “Please, God, please help me.” Less than one second later, I felt a blow to my shoulder, and the gun fell from my hand, making a loud thump onto the closet floor.

In shock, I gasped for air and whipped my head around to see who was there, but there was no one to be found. Then all of a sudden, out of the clear blue sky, I heard five words. They said: Lisa, it’s time to heal. 

What? I thought? Are you f*cking kidding me? It’s time to heal?!?!? As if I’d been sitting in the tropics with an umbrella in my drink basking in the warmth of the glorious sun listening to tiny waves wash against the shore? It wasn’t like my days were full of fun and games but rather a rigorous mental health, parenting and work schedule that even the best multi-taskers in the world would have struggled to keep up with. I was doing EVERYTHING in my power to heal.

Paying no attention to where the words came from, I started to throw a fit like a child. I kicked my legs and pounded my fists on the ground, screaming: What the F*ck does that mean anyway!?! It was rage that I’ve never felt before in my life. Then, as if something was entering my body, I felt a tsunami of calm wash over me. It was as if I was being possessed by something, and in one fell swoop, I went from insanity directly into the present moment where I stated simply in the most even-keeled voice:

 “What does healing mean, anyway?”

Oh my God, I thought. What if they’re wrong? What if everything I’ve done so far doesn’t even mean healing? Wait. And, in awe, I asked again:

“What does healing mean, anyway?”

Somehow in the midst of complete lunacy, I formulated the most intelligent question I’ve ever asked, even to this day. And that’s when my whole life changed forever.

continue to part two

This post is written honor of Mental Illness Awareness Week.