God's Mercy

How I Broke My Brain.

December 16, 2016

Yes, you read right, I broke my brain.

I had a pretty wonderful and settled childhood. We moved to the country, lived by the sea, played in the hills all day. I remember thinking as a young teen how lucky I was, and I couldn’t imagine a future where our family wasn’t together.

And then, at fifteen, my parents broke up in pretty unusual, and very painful, circumstances. My life took a dramatic turn, andย I had to learn how to cope with all that had happened, all that was going on inside me, trying to sort out my emotionally dysfunctional family, and dealing with being a teenager.

I didn’t know it at the time but, in doing all of the above {that is, coping with what life had thrown me}, I broke my brain.

How I Broke My Brain.

Yeah, apparently you can do that. Break your own brain. Who knew?

I only found out yesterday, actually. Remember how I wrote how I had gone off my anti-depressants? Well, I’m back on them again. As much as I want to feel like a failure about that, I’m not going to. Because, actually, this anxiety disorder isn’t something I can “fix”. My brain is a bit broken and, no matter how much I try my best and work hard to be my best, at the end of the day, I’m a bit sick and need medicine.

Anyway, how did I break my brain?

In part, it’s genetics. And that is something you definitely can’t do much about. The other bits are personality and family. {It’s the whole born vs. raised thing, which really, isn’t either, it’s both.}

When my family world fell a part, I had to deal with a lot of revelations, burdens of other people’s hurt and sin. I had to cope with living in different places, I always had a suitcase. I had to cope with my own trauma and emotional pain. I made bad choices as a young woman – as a way of taking control of my own life – but it made it all so much worse.

I kept everything inside. Some things I pushed down, deep down – and kept doing that even when those thoughts/feelings/memories kept rising up. I was faced with repulsion and a side of human nature I had not known before. I tried to think about it and process it all.

Somewhere, in those few years, something happened. All the pressure, all the pain, all the intensity of emotion must have broken some neurons or brain “switches”, because the chemical make-up of my brain changed. I did not know it at the time but, instead of talking to a counselor or someone I could trust, all that internalising damaged me.

I was very unstable. There was not a rational thought in my mind. If there was one amongst the crowd of thoughts that were constantly going through my mind like factory-line, it was drowned out by the louder voices of fear, condemnation, lies, pain.

I was emotional all the time. I would cry or feel like something terrible was going to happen even if nothing indicated that it was. I expected bad things to happen to me, like it was my due. And despite being saved at nineteen and God helping me get my life on track, I was a mess.

By God’s grace, He sent me my husband who came from a family with strong, solid theological roots. For the first time, the Bible made sense to me. Truth started pouring into my broken self and God started freeing me from certain ways of thinking and feeling. In the almost nine years we have been married, I am a far cry from what I used to be. Having a loving husband has healed me. Growing in my faith and knowledge of the Bible has healed me. In many ways, becoming a mother has been the making of me.

But my brain is still broken. And, in all likelihood, will always be.

I am not depressed. Anxiety gets lumped into depression, but can be quite different from it. As my doctor told me yesterday,

“Some people get depressed so bad they get into this hole that is hard to get out of. You, on the other hand, are a little bit bad all the time. And you need help.”

When I came off my medication, I was great. I had felt normal for three years, and felt it was time. But I’d forgotten that this broken brain of mine is not something I can make better by shear force of will. I would love to make myself better. The perfectionist side of me feels like a failure for not being able to “pull my socks up”, as my mother-in-law would say.

But the truth is, this anxiety is part of me. One day, when life is less hectic and busy and sleepless {yep, we still have those times}, I may be able to do it through cognitive therapy. But right now, that is so much effort. And just another thing I have to work on in my list of all the things to do. So I’m back on my pills, and I am accepting that in God’s grace.

And to my readers who have broken brains, too: We’re okay. We’re not nutters, even if there are periods of time when it feels like a crazy person is living in our brains. That’s just wiring gone a bit haywire. It feels real, the fear is overwhelming – but it is not Truth. The Truth is you are loved, cared for, held in the hands of an Almighty Father who, in His wisdom and mercy, enabled medicines to be made that can help us. So don’t be afraid to seek that help. You’re not a failure. It is wisdom. It’s wisdom to get help so that you can wake up one morning and think, “Oh yeah. This is what it feels like to be me. Life is good.”

For more on my journey with mental illness, read this series.

 

  1. Thank you for sharing your story. You are helping to break the stigma of mental illness and that is to be applauded. You are brave! I appreciate your authenticity. My husband has bipolar disorder and I totally agree that’s not something you fix. Why is it that we would never tell someone who has been on diabetes medicine to try going off of it since they have felt better for awhile, but we do say that to someone on an anti-depressant?
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    1. I totally agree. I think we have to help Christians see that the BRAIN is something separate, though connected, to the MIND. The brain is the physical machine that works the body, the mind is the seat of the thoughts of the soul. And, when someone’s brain doesn’t work properly, the mind is affected. If we see it this way, there would be less stigma. And you’re right, it would be ludicrous and deadly for a diabetic to come off medication, why the different attitude toward mental illness? It’s a real illness, but because we can’t SEE it, and we think we should just conquer our thoughts, people struggle to understand it, and therefore, fear it.

  2. Bless your dear heart, Sarah. This is just a precious post chock so full of wisdom. I can’t thank you enough for being transparent and honest. Your testimony will bless many. We are all very broken, and the things we have gone through have left us battered and bruised and forever altered. I appreciate the way you reminded us that it is okay, and God loves us so much anyway, regardless. You are a dear soul, and the love of Jesus just flows through your words. Keep up the great work. God is surely smiling upon you.

    1. Cheryl, you are just so kind. Thank you. I really pray that Christians can be more open about mental illness because it is so prevalent, perhaps now more than ever. I think we need to be more understanding too, about medications and not see them as a “cop out” if they are genuinely needed for a person to lead a fairly normal life. I pray God uses me for His glory.

      And, thank YOU for your deep thoughts recently. I feel like there is a movement being established of people who are not going the way of the culture – even Church culture – a “remnant” of sorts. Just a feelin’! ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Sarah, thank you so much for being brave enough to share this. And wow! It was almost like reading my own story! I have always known that I “broke” something to help me deal with the pain and chaos of my dramatic life change, but never told anyone because I thought it was “crazy”. While my long-term effects are different than yours, they are permanent. And it is okay. And God is good, and gracious, and loving – all the time. He has done great things for me. And like the broken pots I still use in my garden, He still loves me and uses me. Thank you, again, for the encouragement of your transparency.

    1. This was so encouraging! Thank you! I hope you share your story too, so we can encourage others and enlighten those who don’t share our thorns. Merry Christmas!

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