The Silent Fighter…

Whitney OpdahlI came across Quiet Little Voices when a colleague with another ministry shared the post we’re about to share on Facebook. I read some of Whitney’s other posts. Her writing represents one of the most authentic depictions of the experience of mental illness that I’ve run across. She graciously allowed us to reblog this post.

Whitney describes her blog with this summary…”I’m a girl. I have mental illness. Let’s talk about it. Honestly.” Check it out. Here’s Whitney…

Treading water is a fact of life. Everyone does it at some time. But not everyone treads in the same ocean and one ocean does not mirror another.

The ocean of mental illness is not an easy one to weather. Nothing brings this to greater light than hearing of someone else’s reality in this expanse we share. Sometimes so closely similar it’s staggering and for a few moments, you find yourself in that same ocean but experiencing a different location…or perhaps reflecting on the path behind you. The depth of the water and the struggle to survive wax and wane, but you tread, or, in the good times, perhaps you swim.

At first, you most likely find yourself staring down the deep, black, dense waters that turn your soul to a lead weight. Hard, painful, confusing times. The sea is so big. It’s so big. And you are so small. So very small. A swell could easily topple you into oblivion. An endless expanse. An Immensity of unknown, pain, emptiness, and hopelessness.

Why do you keep treading? It’s so big, dark, and raging with storms and hurricane winds. The swelling realization of this endless reality begins to loom; the doctor appointments become too many; the pills accumulate like driftwood fished from the water, examined, discarded. The leaden weight in your chest could easily carry you under, a casualty to the chaos.

But you keep treading.

Even if there is no explanation, something, just something, leads you to believe there’s a sprig of hope floating somewhere in this Immensity. But it’s just…somewhere. A hidden, teasing treasure.

The work is hard and your legs are weary. The water is cold and storms brew and crash against you. You are ship-less, sail-less. A waif in the Immensity. So tragically voiceless as the thunder drowns your words and the cold numbs and makes you too weary to attempt explanation.

And the beach is so far away. Leagues and leagues away. How could one ever reach it? Hopelessness seeps into the winds that whirl around your sinking head.

The deep draws closer. You almost welcome it. To just let go and sink…freedom. Or is it loss? Do you have things to lose? You cannot decide which it would be, but it is choice only once made and you have no comfortable answer. So you tread.

Then one day, an unexpected day, a wave pushes you up toward the surface instead of pulling you down into the dark. Just one day. Just one wave. One breath where hurricanes are simply storms and the darkness swallows you a little less. One day. One wave.

Time passes and the waves float by, most dragging you but still some lifting. The clear, free air loosens your souls weight slightly and a thought begins to form. A crazy, harebrained idea only a madman would entertain…but it nags.

You will never have a ship. You have no wood, no cloth for a sail. But what if you could…

…swim?

A positive wave every few days does not a hopeful treader make, but the possibility of pushing toward tamer waters…it lingers like the smell of roses passing by your nose.

Time is insignificant and a pointless gauge of success, but a puzzle is forming piece by backbreaking piece in your mind and at some startling moment, you feel a shiver of heat run through your veins. Fight. Just a teaspoon. Your exhausted legs still plead to simply let go, but even just the teaspoon is too much to ignore. It has gone to your brain. Maybe it’s not enough to swim, but it’s enough to test your waters.

A teaspoon every so often, steady, like the upward swells, and your weight lightens, your legs energize, the rain is not as cold and the winds are almost pleasant at times. Fight.

The depths still loom. They threaten. They seduce. They fight back, grasping at your feet. But your fight, the teaspoons you have gathered into your body, says, “I cannot let you take me. I cannot.” No explanation, just blind trust and hope that your fight and your faith will lead you to better waters.

And they do. Your fight grows. It spins tendrils through your mind. You become A Fighter. A Gladiator in your arena of mental demons. The Immensity has lost some of its power over you.

As fighters do, you will lose rounds. You will stumble backward and have to gather your fight teaspoon by teaspoon again.

But you will know that the depths, the darkness, that thing that calls to you and promises release from it all, cannot overcome the whisper of hope you have seen grow in yourself. You are A Fighter now.

You will never beat back the Immensity completely. It is the ocean into which you were born. You will weather storms and battle tsunamis. You will swim in shallower waters and breathe sweeter air. Hope, though, that sensation you felt at the first upward swell, the first free breath, will remind you of your fight. It promises you better times in bad and greater strength in good.

So await your teaspoons and gather your fight. Because we who started out so beaten and weathered, so ship-less and imprisoned, so agonized and voiceless, we are Fighters now. No matter the distance you swim, or whether you swim at all, you have cleaved to your hope and clawed your way from darkness and have been given a medal forged of blood and tears.

Few will see it and few will acknowledge its worth, but wear it. Because you have fought the invisible battle and even if you are feeling overtaken by the Immensity right now, you have still won because your hope has not let your head sink under the waves. You are A Fighter.

Never Lose Hope. Never Stop Fighting.

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KM Logo UpdatedKey Ministry has assembled resources to help churches more effectively minister to children and adults with ADHD, anxiety disorders, Asperger’s Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, depression and trauma. Please share our resources with any pastors, church staff, volunteers or families looking to learn more about the influence these conditions can exert upon spiritual development in kids, and what churches can do to help!

About Dr. G

Dr. Stephen Grcevich serves as President and Founder of Key Ministry, a non-profit organization providing free training, consultation, resources and support to help churches serve families of children with disabilities. Dr. Grcevich is a graduate of Northeastern Ohio Medical University (NEOMED), trained in General Psychiatry at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation and in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at University Hospitals of Cleveland/Case Western Reserve University. He is a faculty member in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at two medical schools, leads a group practice in suburban Cleveland (Family Center by the Falls), and continues to be involved in research evaluating the safety and effectiveness of medications prescribed to children for ADHD, anxiety and depression. He is a past recipient of the Exemplary Psychiatrist Award from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Dr. Grcevich was recently recognized by Sharecare as one of the top ten online influencers in children’s mental health. His blog for Key Ministry, www.church4everychild.org was ranked fourth among the top 100 children's ministry blogs in 2015 by Ministry to Children.
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