Our Stories That Heal

With over a decade of emotional and psychological trauma as a child, my mental health struggles began to visibly surface at the age of 13. For the next 14 years, I desperately fought to survive the chaos of my own mind and the unhealthy environment in which I lived. Those years were riddled with severe emotional ups and downs, hospitalizations, dramatically lost jobs and relationships, drug and alcohol abuse, unfortunate medical misdiagnosis, high doses of psychiatric medications, and several suicide attempts. By the time I reached my 27th birthday in November 2012, I had become exceedingly devastated with the path I was on. I was completely lost and convinced in my mind that I would never be anything other than miserable. And I knew in my heart that the medication was only making it worse. So I vowed to get off the medications, get to the bottom of my illnesses, and truly begin to heal.

In the Summer of 2013, while halfway through the year long process of weaning off medication, I had a dramatic spiritual shift that forever changed me. It forced me to shed the chains of my destructive lifestyle and propelled me forward in my spiritual formation at a tremendous pace. An awakening of this nature is something one simply cannot go back from.

Breaking free from the clutches of mental illness and abuse has been a painful process. I have been forced to learn humility, patience, and forgiveness, shed the grasps of my pride and accept that ultimately, I am responsible for my own self-control and wellbeing. But looking back at the many years I suffered, I can see I held the ability to heal all along. It was only a matter of accepting who I truly was, taking responsibility for my own internal condition, and living up to my full potential in every moment. But even more than that, it meant surrendering it all to God.

I may not be a doctor by most societal standards, but I can honestly say that I am a professional in my own right. Having spent years dealing with the intricacies of my broken mind and body, studying them with intensity, and surviving all the chaos of my sensitive soul, it’s something I’ve become quite adept at. I don’t know if I can even begin to describe the things I have felt, the emotions, the intense passions of my life. My story is not always beautiful or happy. At times it has been a like a blissful dream, while others it has felt like a tragic nightmare.

Quiet in the Chaos

Through the many trials I’ve faced over the years, one of the most helpful tools I’ve found were the stories of others in similar situations to mine. In those darkest of dark times when I felt like no one else in the world could possibly feel the way I did, knowing that maybe one other person had been there and survived was a blessing. Most of the stories that have helped me are far from light reading though and carry many heavy feelings with them. I’ve even been warned on numerous occasions that reading such detailed descriptions of life at its worst would only dredge me deeper into despair. But I’ve only found the contrary. Those people and their stories, they were the quiet in the chaos all those years, they were gifts from God working through the hands of humanity to remind another broken soul that she wasn’t alone.

Many sleepless nights I laid in the dark, angry and fuming with self-pity, unintentionally stopping myself from healing. But reading those stories of recovery and transformation helped me understand that I could change my own patterns of destruction. They taught me that it was alright to speak about my struggles out loud and that I must accept my own story in order to be whole again. Although my writing here may not delve into all the deep dark places of my past, it is evidence that breaking free from the prison of sickness and living in peace is possible.

My writing is first and foremost a very personal and ongoing form of medicine. I use it to heal my broken pieces and regain balance when I’ve stumbled. But it is also my sincere desire that it may be a breath of fresh air for someone else, enough to turn them around on their own path of destruction in the way so many others have done for me. While plenty of professionals and concerned acquaintances have tried to help me cope with the instabilities of my mind, many could never personally relate. It’s the words and hearts of others who have tasted this sort of pain first hand that have helped me the most.

Healing the Broken Child

Over the past thirty plus years I have seen the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. I have gone days without sleep and days where I could do nothing but sleep. I have walked around feeling like I wasn’t even real, like I was watching the world on television or trapped behind a wall of glass. Some days I wanted to die and others I’ve felt invincible. I have seen countless therapists, psychiatrists, and doctors, experimented with dozens of medications, and tried many less conventional methods of treatment. And more recently, I’ve been living with no medication at all, but instead exploring much deeper and longer lasting methods of healing.

Like so many children growing up with mental health challenges and traumatic home lives, I’ve been a guinea pig to the psychiatry industry for a good portion of my life. But I no longer blame anyone for the misfortunes of my treatment because in truth, everyone is doing the best they can from their own level of awareness. But sadly the lack of compassion and understanding from many medical professionals often leaves their suffering patients in worse shape than when they started.

My mind has grown and expanded greatly these past few years. When I finally found my way to Christ on May 22, 2016, everything changed inside me in an instant. I’ve become far more aware of the complexities and connections of everything inside me, finally letting go of all the pain I held onto. And I’ve began to see the connections between everyone and everything around me as well. I’ve let go of resentment and greed. I’ve desperately fought to free myself from the clutches of pride. But these concepts were far from my mind until I began to truly heal in 2013. I have done some terrible things in my life that I know were wrong. I even wondered at times in the moment why I was doing them at all, yet feeling powerless to stop them. For many years I was clouded by extreme emotions, rage, and the euphoria of my ego while all the while cloaked in a cape of depression. I was once a dark and violent person, angry at the world, myself, and at God. But a change is possible. And my testimony is only a single story of this kind of miraculous transformation that can and does occur.

 The Surrender

Although I know I will always have to live with the challenges of being a highly sensitive person with chronic illness, it’s these broken parts that help me to soar to the places I never thought possible when I was younger. They have helped me accept that there will always be pain and struggle in life, but that I can still choose to thrive regardless by choosing God at all times. I truly believe that every hardship I’ve ever faced in my life or that I will ever face are blessings. The joyful times and the painful times are God’s tools to help our souls grow and draw nearer to Him. And even though it may feel awful some days to even get out of bed, God lets all things happen to draw us nearer to Him and for His purposes that are far greater than anything we could imagine. If we do the hard, internal work of surrendering our own will and putting full trust in Him, at the end of this life, there will be no more pain. But it’s all in the surrender. And it means putting all your trust and faith into Him. Trusting in the Truth of Christ crucified to forgive our sins and resurrected so that we may have eternal life.

I’ve had some harrowing and remarkable adventures that are sealed in time and cannot be rewritten. But I have no regrets or shame about my past in all it’s beauty and ugliness. Because of this I strive to be as brutally honest as I can about my journey. The Truth of Christ has set me free and as difficult as it may seem, it is always a choice to speak and live in truth.

During all the desperate times in my life when I saw no light at the end of the tunnel, I found peace in writing. I’ve always wanted to help and minister to people and I’ve tried in many ways to manifest that, but due to the nature of my health struggles, my ability to function in the so called “real world” ebbs and flows quite often. Writing has been my only constant safe outlets all these years.

Sharing this journey of mine out loud is really the best way I’ve found to serve in a capacity I can manage. It’s my heart and soul poured out on paper and a computer. It is for every child out there, confused with their life, desperate for an end to their suffering. For the teenager, troubled with peer pressure and school who cries himself to sleep each night and drinks himself silly on the weekends. For the college student trying to stay afloat each quarter and some days just wanting to throw it all away. For the girl trying to make love stay while trying to stay true to herself. To anyone and everyone, I hope my words and images bring strength and comfort to a soul in need, if even for just a moment. Whatever you do in life, you should do it with all your heart. And this is my heart.

So my dear friend, it’s time for YOU to write your story as well. Even if you never share it, write it down. Even if it’s messy, write it out and see how far you’ve come! And if you ever do decide to share it with others, it just may be YOUR story that changes a life and turns someone else around on their own path of destruction. It’s time to live loud because your story is a beautiful masterpiece!

May the peace of Christ be with you.


Joanna Rae

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