National Alliance on Mental Illness
page printed from FaithNet NAMI

Just Like Your Father

By Brenda S. Baranowski

In 1992 when I became ill, I did not know I was struggling with a mental illness. All I knew was that my perceptions had changed.

I worked as a dental assistant in the Air Force and my workplace had become a hostile environment. I began to feel as if I were being investigated. Things that never seemed connected before now seemed to take on new significance. It was as if I would ask a question in one room and receive the answer as I walked into the next room. It felt like people were listening to my private conversations. I began to trust no one. I also refused treatment because being a Christian, I believed Jesus was enough to handle my problems.

At home I argued daily with my husband about reality. I told him what I believed was happening and he could in no way validate what I was experiencing. There was extreme tension between us. In one of those regretful angry moments, my husband blurted out, "You're crazy! You're just like your Mother!". During those days, I agonized in prayer, "Lord, am I crazy? What is going on? Why do I believe I am being investigated? Why do all these things feel connected? What is wrong with me?" It was also during this time that I felt extreme anger at a family member over a sin I felt he was continuing to commit.

One day as I lay down for an afternoon nap, when I fell asleep I had a dream. In the dream I could see someone in a white robe sitting knee-to-knee with me. I could not see the person's face. These are the words I heard, "You're just like your Father. You were made in my Image. There was a time in my life when I felt angry at sin too. I felt so angry that I destroyed the earth by flood. But I had to make a promise not to be angry anymore…" When I awakened from my dream, I knew that I had a conversation with my Father in Heaven. I now knew Him as my Father. Can you imagine my joy? He never said I didn't have a mental illness or that I didn't need help but He did restore my worth and value. I was made in His Image.

After a total of about 10 years struggle with my mental illness, I met a doctor who prescribed a regimen of medications that restored my life. For so long the medications I had been prescribed made me feel sleepy and slow. On this new medication and with a final diagnosis of bipolar I disorder (I had 5 diagnoses up until this time), I began to put my life back together again.

I went back to school and became a psychiatric nurse. I feel that not one day of my illness was wasted. Those years give me empathy for others struggling with mental illness. My advice to others when they are down is "You're just like your Father. You were created in His Image. You have value and worth".

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