Hope for People with Mental Illness

October 9, 2017

I’ve started reading more books again now that my mind is healing. It’s been so wonderful to actually be able to read and comprehend what is being communicated. Not only can I understand what I’m reading, I can also remember it.

During my sickest years, my brain was a chasm of hazy chaos where I couldn’t find anything. I couldn’t see my own thoughts clearly and new things that went into my brain often just got lost. It was a mess of disjointed thoughts and exaggerated feelings. My mind was like dirty clothes, toys and half-eaten food strewn all across a floor in a house that was in flames and thick with smoke.

Moving through a mind like that to formulate words and sentences took so much effort. Like moving through a swimming pool full of molasses. Everything was so slow, inefficient, confusing and volatile.

It feels so good to return to a mind that is buzzing with rational energy again. There’s clarity, logic and distinct thoughts. There’s appropriate emotions. Joy and sadness and anger and delight in just the right quantities to fit each situation.

I can see my own thoughts and understand other people’s thoughts. I can mix and match thoughts in an orderly way. I can learn new things and fit them into old knowledge. I can change my opinion about something. I can reconcile two perspectives that seem to contradict each other. I can evaluate whether my emotional responses are proportionate to a situation and adjust accordingly.

I finally feel like my mind is capable of observing and interpreting reality. It’s not that it does it perfectly… but it is now able to perceive reality and try to make sense of what actually exists. Rather than being so clouded that it cannot perceive anything or so confused that what it’s perceiving is not reality at all but something fabricated by a diseased brain.

The rational mind is such a beautiful thing! I’m not an exceptionally smart person but after living with an inflamed brain for so long experiencing a healthy mind is thrilling. I love learning and reasoning and discussing! I am so glad God made us to be rational creatures with beautiful minds.

So, if your beautiful mind has been hijacked by a dysfunctional brain please don’t despair. There is great hope. I met the diagnostic criteria for multiple different mental illnesses over the last 14 years of my life and came very close to literal insanity. After all, disturbing psychiatric changes were the very first signs of my illness. It started with dreadful night terrors when I was 10 years old and morphed into other forms of mental torment. My symptoms were all psychiatric until I started experiencing chronic pain and weight gain at age 18.

The good news is that treating the illness and avoiding mold has resolved my mental and psychiatric symptoms. They were never part of who I was. Though the symptoms made a deep impact on my psyche they were not me anymore than the raging physical pain was me.

I believe in my case it was the Lyme infection and mold toxins causing the inflammation in my brain. I can’t know for sure what it is in your case. But I urge you not to settle for a diagnosis that leaves no room for hope.

What if… by digging a little deeper you could identify a treatable cause? What if you didn’t have to live with crushing torment for the rest of your life? Would it not be worth exploring that question before you resign yourself to a lifetime of adjusting and switching medications?

I am not claiming that all mental suffering can be alleviated on this side of heaven or that every kind of brain injury can be reversed. However there is great potential for healing in our bodies and brains, and as my friend Sara Mattson likes to say, “Hope abounds.” Yes, it does. Hope abounds.

By the way, Brett and I made a beautiful PDF of my favorite resources for suffering souls. I created the content and he made it look fancy with his superduper graphic design skills. It’s available for free to my email subscribers. Click here to sign up and receive 5 Resources for the Suffering Soul.

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  • Grandma Zimmerman

    Praise the Lord, Ana!! We are so happy to see how far you have come in
    your recovery journey! Praying you will soon be able to find a church you can
    attend without reacting. Love you and miss both of you.

    October 9, 2017 at 3:29 pm Reply
    • Ana Harris

      Amen! 😊 Thank you so much Grandma! I really appreciate the prayers. We really love and miss you too! πŸ’•

      October 10, 2017 at 9:52 am Reply
  • James

    You may not consider yourself an “exceptionally smart person” (which I would disagree with) but you are without a doubt an exceptionally talented writer.

    October 9, 2017 at 11:04 pm Reply
    • Ana Harris


      October 10, 2017 at 9:53 am Reply
  • Jen

    Praise God for leading you to the underlying cause! I also have brain inflammation from both lyme and mold and haven’t been able to read much in many years along with extremely irrational anxiety and other symptoms. I’m just starting avoidance and can’t wait to be able to read and think straight and feel appropriately!

    October 10, 2017 at 7:29 am Reply
    • Ana Harris

      I’m so sorry Jen! That’s exactly how it was for me too. I can’t wait for you to get to reading again. It’s so wonderful! 😊

      October 10, 2017 at 9:54 am Reply
  • Olivia

    Since mental illness abounds in my family, this post caught my attention. Loved the post, and I love seeing God’s grace in your journey of healing πŸ™‚

    October 10, 2017 at 8:17 am Reply
    • Ana Harris

      I’m so glad Olivia! I pray it inspired some hope. I’m so sorry that your family is suffering with this. It’s hard for everyone involved. πŸ’•

      October 10, 2017 at 9:55 am Reply
  • Ruth Meyer

    Love this, Ana. I remember a time I was having such vivid nightmares and on the verge of hallucinations, and with my near-photographic memory, I thought I would never forget those horrid things. At the same time, I would not sleep for days to avoid the nightmares, and I started loosing large chunks of my memory, days, months, most of 2014. I thought I would only remember the bad, and had lost so many good memories for good. In the last few years I’ve been able to move past the trauma of those nightmares (not an overnight process), and have slowly regained nearly all of my other memories (the ones I really wanted). There were days I thought I was losing it, but thankfully my health is on a steady upward turn. As I’m healing, my mind and memories are also healing. It is a blessing to see God work, and I’m so thankful for the people in my life who have been there for me, and patiently guided me through those extremely trying times when I just didn’t know what the future held. Thank you for sharing your journey, Ana. It really does encourage us!

    October 10, 2017 at 12:12 pm Reply
    • Ana Harris

      Hey Ruth! I’m so sorry your comment got caught in spam and I missed it.

      This is such an encouraging story. I’m so glad your memories are coming back as the trauma from the nightmares heals. I can definitely relate to the desperate fear that comes when you feel like you’re losing precious memories. I don’t know about you but I was so sick that I felt memories were all I had left. So it was really disconcerting to feel like they were slipping away, like I was forgetting what it felt like to be healthy and be able to do things in the world. I’m just so happy you’re getting your memories back! So special! πŸ™‚πŸ™‚πŸ™‚πŸ™‚πŸ™‚

      October 12, 2017 at 9:11 am Reply
  • Jason Zimmerman

    I agree with James. You most certainly are an exceptionally bright and talented person. I’m excited to see how God is healing every part of you.

    October 22, 2017 at 7:54 am Reply
    • Ana Harris

      Aww! πŸ˜ŠπŸ™ˆ

      October 23, 2017 at 12:11 pm Reply

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