Born in Saskatoon, we are a Canadian nonprofit organization that functions to reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness through personal stories featured here on our website.
Our mission is the following:
1) To give individuals who have/had mental illness a platform to tell their story.
2) To deconstruct inaccurate and prejudicial perspectives of mental illness.
3) To equip communities to better love, serve, and understand those who have/had mental illness.
There were so many questions to wrestle through when I first received the diagnosis of bipolar disorder. I had experienced two hospitalizations in the last year—how much time would I have to spend living in rigidly structured psychiatric wards? I now had to take medication morning and night. I must really ill to be so young and to have to take so much medication. My family and boyfriend had seen me acting in such a bizarre and frightening manner so different to the Justine they knew. How can my mental state change so drastically from so irrational to rational again? Do they still accept me? Are they afraid of me? How are they going to cope with this? And then there were those overarching, haunting questions of my identity. Who was I now? What was I capable of now? How would this limit me? What would my life look like?
I have lived with Type 1 Bipolar Affective Disorder (BPAD1) since I was 11 years old. This means since I was a young boy I have been required to overcome innumerable difficulties brought on by this horrible disease: ravaging psychological agony, terrifying delusions, disturbing hallucinations, permanent nerve damage, memory loss, restraints, severe suicidal ideation, unemployment, lack of formal education, hospitalization, stigma, discrimination, prejudice, broken relationships, isolation, and the list goes on. I will continue to overcome as long as I can.
The summer after my second year of university I found myself unemployed, broke, living out of my car, and suicidal. Although I felt I couldn’t bear to go home and face my parents, out of sheer desperation, I finally wound up on their doorstep. I cannot imagine what I must have looked like to them, but I remember the panic emanating from my mother—this was not her daughter. In response to this wraith-like person standing before her, I was taken on a car ride where the final destination, unbeknownst to me, was the hospital. Thus began my six week stay in a psychiatric ward. How did I get to this point of destitution, despair, and hospitalization as a young adult? And what became of me after those six weeks?
“My life really isn’t that bad, how can I feel this way? How dare I feel this way when other people have much more difficult life circumstances? How could this happen to me? I’m such a happy person…” I have been experiencing the illness of depression for about 6 years now episodically. “I shouldn’t need medication to get through this, I should be stronger.” This is a small glimpse into what that has entailed for me.
Depression and anxiety had entered my life, fastening themselves with robust and unrelenting talons. I became dangerously close to writing life off as a not-so-hilarious joke and I wanted to get pragmatic: was there a point to life or not? I kept to God’s word and those who write about Him because of the Hope they described. I didn’t realize it then, but God had planted a seed of something very strong. It deeply doubted, but it did not die.
In the beginning of it all, I had voices talking to me constantly; they would tell me that I was worthless, that no one really cared about me, that I had no future, and that I was going to feel this way forever. They mockingly would laugh, “If God is really a God of love he would stop your pain! If he is really a God of peace he would calm your anxiety!” These voices would never stop reminding me that if I told anyone I would be labeled as crazy and probably involuntarily admitted to a psych ward. I believed I had some combination of schizophrenia, anxiety, and depression.
I think our responsibility is to be vulnerable and authentic with one another about the suffering and trials that characterize our stories. Although we still have to be careful in certain contexts of what and with whom we share, I am lead to the following question: how can we bear one another’s burdens and brokenness if we always hide them from one another? Personally, anxiety has contributed greatly to the burdens and brokenness I carry in my life.
I lie on my bed, arms outstretched, each hand clasping one of my parents’ hands. Tears flow freely—as they have for months now—and a strange question escapes my lips: “Do you want to be alive?” Of course. Yes, of course. Incredulously I ask, “Why?” I believed that for the first time I saw life for what it inherently was: demented, cruel, and meaningless. Happiness, satisfaction, and contentment were an illusion that I was no longer privileged to be deceived by—they had vanished from my life. My faith in Christ brought me no consolation. Through the lens of my illness, suicide was not a tragedy; it was a completely rational response to the meaninglessness and agony of my suffering. In the words of Ann Voskamp, “you don’t try to kill yourself because death’s appealing — but because life’s agonizing. We don’t want to die. But we can’t stand to be devoured.”