My first eleven years in this world were marred by physical, emotional, and an instance of sexual abuse, mainly at the hands of my father. He was one of the two people I should have been able to trust most in life, yet he left a very broken child in his wake. What made things more conflicting was being a part of a family who brought me to church on Sundays, lived like nothing was wrong in around the congregation, but lived another way apart from the church building. At such a young age I didn’t understand the impact those events had on my perception of life and faith, and how they would cause deeply embedded trauma.

After my parents finally divorced I was forced into counseling. Through unraveling my story in the sessions, I received the labels/diagnosis of depression and post traumatic stress disorder. I was quickly brought to the doctor and started a course of medication because I was becoming increasingly angry, and vengeful (mainly toward myself.) With all the brewing emotions, and even while on medication, I contemplated suicide almost on a daily basis. It got so bad I began cutting myself while sitting at my desk in my high school math class. In reality and all honesty, I was doing so in hopes of getting attention, however, all my cries for help fell on deaf, inattentive ears. The rage inside of me was swallowing me whole. Flashbacks and fears consumed me. Yet, who could blame me for feeling as hopeless and lonely, as I did, as I had very few people that expressed any type of concern for the loss, grief, and pain I was going through?  Not even my mother, teachers or friends noticed the scars on my arms until I directly pointed them out.

One day, the same God who I had been taught about as a child became real to me. He was no longer confined to a church building, rather He used different ways to show me He was pursuing a personal relationship with me. However, prior to digging deep into my journey of faith, He impressed upon me to forgive my father and others who had inflicted such sharp emotional and physical injuries. I began the daily process of forgiving, sometimes reminding myself multiple times during the day, and choosing to do so even when it felt like the most foreign thing I was capable of. It was over the process of nearly a year of doing so that I began to crawl out of the shackles of bitterness and hate that held me tightly. While medication was able to even out some of the neurological bumps through this journey, forgiveness and a personal relationship with Jesus was what made the most difference for me. I was able to experience happiness, and see joy in life, as well as to view my childhood and the trauma I had suffered from a different perspective.

The recovery I have experienced through forgiveness has reached past my own life, and has impacted others. See, behind the scenes of the “issues” you are facing is an opportunity to make someone else’s life better. We can use our stories of struggle to encourage and mark the territory, showing that just because we have suffered with a mental illness it doesn’t have to control you. There is hope and there is also beauty in the brokenness of our lives.