Our story is about one family’s personal experience with mental illness. Over ten years ago our lives were turned upside down as we watched Janet (our beloved wife, daughter, sister, and aunt) be gripped by the pain, frustration, isolation, fear, loneliness, and earth-shattering diagnosis of a mental illness. And yet—in that place of brokenness and fear—God entered and began His work of healing.
We prayed for a cure and for this awful disease to be taken from Janet, but a cure did not come. What came was a healing. It came in an acceptance of the disease and a realization of how important the spiritual journey is in the healing process along with medications, doctors and therapy.
The journey has been long and difficult and, of course, it is not over. But in God’s remarkable goodness He has placed in Janet’s heart and in the hearts of her family a burning passion. A passion to provide leadership and guidance to communities of faith to fulfill the spiritual needs of persons with mental illness and those who love and care about them.
One Mind Mental Illness Ministry (The Ministry) has grown out of our story and the passion placed in our hearts. It is our deep desire and prayerful hope that through this ministry lives can be touched, hearts can be opened, support will grow, people will be comforted and healing will take place.
Our Individual Stories:
It was December 1999. I was happily married. I had just finished my first semester of graduate school at Case Western Reserve University. I was looking forward to becoming a Nurse Practitioner/Midwife. When I found myself in the hallway of our home crying to the point of dry heaving, screaming until there was no sound and hitting the floor like it was a punching bag. I was so distraught, confused and unhappy. Everything in my life was going very well. So, why was I feeling so sad and anxious? After talking with my mom, I realized that my tantrum in the hallway was a sign of desperation. It was my response to many months of feeling hopeless and sad. I began to understand that what I was experiencing was not temporary. I was not going to get better without seeking help. It was February 2000. I immediately took an indefinite leave of absence from school. Two months later I had my first appointment with a psychiatrist. I was 27 years old.
Blog with Janet
A Husband’s Story
What’s wrong with my wife? What’s wrong with my full scholar-shipped, double-majored, college graduate wife? After four years of marriage, I am getting a tear-soaked, cross-country phone call telling me she is dropping out of Grad School and I do not understand why. I need to understand why. Things seemed to be okay in our lives. We had recently moved to be closer to our families and this was a unique graduate school program that she was attending. Why now? Why us? We had a plan. This was messing up our plan. She would graduate; we would move to Arizona and she would deliver babies. Everybody would be happy. And now? Would anybody be happy? It was February 2000.
A Mother’s Story
I remember so very well that call from Janet. It was so very difficult to listen to Janet describing so desperately, through a flood of tears, how she was so distraught, lost, hopeless, unhappy and so very anxious. I felt helpless. I was in shock and overwhelmed with what she was sharing. What could I do? How was I going to fix this? Why God?—Why not me God? Why this beautiful young woman who was doing so well and planning such a bright future? What is mental illness? What’s the cure? I can remember so vividly sitting with Janet on the step down into the family room. We were crying and asking those same questions. Why was this happening? Through her tears and sobs, Janet looked at me and said, “Mom, I don’t know why this is happening to me, but someday I am going to help others because of it.” It was February 2000.
A Father’s Story
At the beginning of Janet’s journey with mental illness, I was in denial. Everything in her life seemed “on track.” She and her husband, Doug, moved to Cleveland in April 1999 after a few years in Nashville. Doug had started a new work career. Janet was in a nursing doctoral program at Case Western Reserve University. Suddenly the news of Janet’s breakdown. My most vivid memory of those early days of living with mental illness is a talk with Janet at our house in Toledo. I was in problem-solving mode. I asked Janet a lot of questions about how she was feeling. Her shocking response to my question about how long she had felt depressed and anxious was….”I don’t ever remember feeling joy in my life.” I couldn’t accept her answer. I thought she would snap out of it. That was more than ten years ago…it was February 2000.
The Journey of Faith and Recovery
Like many others, when we first received the news of our daughter’s mental illness diagnosis more than ten years ago, we were devastated. We prayed that God would take this terrible disease from her. How could God let this happen to our beautiful, loving and deeply caring 27 year old daughter—the nursing doctoral student? Other people were cured of their diseases. They took medications or had surgery. They listened to everything the doctors told them and they prayed for their disease to be gone….and for many of them it was. There was a cure. Couldn’t there be a cure from our daughter’s mental illness too?
We went in search of education and support through NAMI and the Family to Family class. We read books, talked to people, and gathered information. Our daughter was taking her medications, listening to her doctors, going to her appointments…she was doing what she was supposed to do. All of those things helped but she was still suffering from mental illness. Where was the cure?
Five years into her illness, our journey changed. As an answer to prayer, we realized that OUR DAUGHTER WAS NOT BEING CURED…SHE WAS BEING HEALED. Instead of fighting the illness, there was the beginning of acceptance and even the start of embracing of it. We can call it the journey to recovery. We recognized how important the medical treatment was but also that the spiritual journey was vital to healing. We are so much more than just chemistry and therapy we are also spiritual beings---and all of “who we are” must be connected to be healed and reach recovery.
From one of Janet’s writings:
I was lying in the grass, staring up into the blue sky. I was smiling and I had a lump in my throat. I found myself talking to God. I was not yelling at Him because I was angry with Him, again! I was just talking to Him. God encouraged me to go into the yard this morning, when I was about to take another plunge into depression. Now it is the end of the day and it is a lot easier to look at life as a glass half full. I am grateful for this day’s cycle. If my day had not started out with me standing at the edge of a downward spiral, I would not have experienced the journey. I learned that God had built our dream home on a yard that provides me a `quiet’ place—a place of peace, revelation, rejuvenation, and inspiration. And as I lay here in the grass, I know that my yard has also become the place where God and I talk. I feel blessed today to know that God has been with me, He has been waiting for me, and He placed me here to build our relationship together! I am looking forward to the journey!
The story continues….