I remember the first time I heard my diagnosis. I had a mental health disorder. I sat there and let it roll around, refusing to believe that there was really something wrong with me. I had a mental health disorder? No! That couldn’t be! I left there feeling defeated. I felt like I had that diagnosis tattooed on my forehead for the world to see. What would people think? Would I be treated any differently? Does this mean I’ll have this forever? These questions and thoughts consumed my mind on the long ride home. I felt ashamed and guilty that I wasn’t “normal” anymore. God, why did you let this happen to me? Why me? Following that diagnosis they wanted to make more appointments, having to talk to more people, and having to listen to them. Why would I want to sit in a room and listen to them tell me that I wasn’t normal and that there was something wrong with me? It wasn’t fair.
I was in Celebrate Recovery. I thought that by going to CR, that it could fix me and I could just give it to God and not have it anymore. I was so ashamed of my label. In fact, when I started my first step study, I did not want to say my struggle out loud. They were all normal, and I was the one who was messed up with a mental disorder. They wouldn’t want to be around me if I told them, right? Well, I figured that if I just went ahead and said it out loud that the worst that could happen is that they tell me that I’m too messed up to be in CR. I took the risk and admitted my mental health struggle. And I waited for the crash and burn. And then, it happened.
Instead of condemning me, they embraced me. They said, “me too.” I was so shocked that someone else could struggle with what I was struggling with! As time went on, I followed the steps. My CR family loved me and they accepted me for who I was. I learned that I was in the right place for accountability and support as I started my journey to recovery and managing my mental health issue. I eventually got up on stage in front of hundreds of people and I confidently stated my struggle. “Hi, my name is April, a grateful believer in Jesus Christ who struggles with depression and anxiety.” I was one of the first people who got on stage the night we launched and admitted my struggle. What followed amazed me. People began coming up to me and thanking me for saying what I struggled with. I listened to story after story of people telling me that they couldn’t tell others their struggle or say it out loud because of the stigma that surrounds mental health.
God does love me, and through my mental health struggle I am able to reach out to others who struggle as I do, and let them know they are not alone. My friends, we are not alone. I learned that struggling with a mental health issue does not define me. I am not my mental health issue. I am a child of God who is loved and whom God is using to reach others. Having a mental health issue is not a curse, and it does not change the fact that I am worthy of recovery, worthy of love, worthy of purpose. My challenge to you is to open up about your struggle. Others are listening. The more we open up, the more others will open up, and we will help erase the negativity surrounding mental health and let society know that we are normal people too.
I am so blessed and honored to be a part of the CR Mental Health Initiative. Celebrate Recovery accepts all people, even those who struggle with mental health.
April Brantley, CR Mental Health Team X-Factor