A Personal Testimony
By Charlene M. Ryerson
Why am I like this? What is happening to me? I’m driving by his house late at night with a baseball bat looking for an opportune time to take out my revenge. You see, I caught him cheating on me, and this was the last time any man was ever going to get away with cheating on me again. Teaching him a lesson seemed like the most reasonable solution. Then maybe, just maybe, I will take my own life too. Why not? I’m not good enough. They all hurt me in the end.
But the Lord had other plans. He put it on my heart to confess to my Pastor my intentions. “Pastor, if you don’t get me off this island someone is going to wind up hurt or even worse. I don’t want my daughter having to visit me in jail.” I’m so thankful that my Pastor understood the seriousness of the situation. He had me travel across the ocean to the New Life Treatment Center in California. After some blood tests and evaluation I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder in 1991.
Bipolar Disorder is a mood disorder. I fluctuate between very high manic episodes and debilitating depression. When I’m having a manic episode I’m awake for days without sleep being extremely creative and productive. I even feel like Albert Einstein! My thoughts race, I talk too much and too loud. My energy makes people nervous. But at the other end of the cycle awaits a deep dark depression. I can’t get out of bed and I become very suicidal. This is a huge concern for my loved ones. If I have been working on a project I soon ‘drop the ball’. No, I am not demon-possessed; I have a chemical imbalance. The proper medication and support stabilizes me. I haven’t been in the hospital in years (and I no longer carry a baseball bat around with me.)
Guess what? There are many Christians in the same boat as I am. Being born-again and having a mental illness is not easy. When I talk about Jesus to the mental health clinicians they think I’m delusional, yet when I try to talk to Christians, especially the leaders, they no longer take me seriously. I’ve even heard it preached from the pulpit that ALL mental illness is an unclean spirit. These types of comments leave us feeling hurt, alone and confused. One Christian told me that I had an evil spirit because I was taking medication. So I went to a leader in the church who was also a personal friend of mine and a doctor.
He said to me, “Charlene, do you believe that Jesus is going to heal you?” I answered, “Yes, but in His time.” My friend responded, “Do you still have the symptoms of your illness?” “Yes.” “Then I recommend that you continue taking your medication until God heals you.”
Now I’m not saying you have to take medication to manage a mental illness. Some people do fine without it, but I don’t. Not yet. But we all need strong, healthy support. And I would like to encourage the church and you to become that for my friends with mental illness; Christians and non-Christians alike. That’s why I’m a strong advocate in the Mental Health Community.
Presently I am a Certified Peer Specialist and a field representative for the Mental Health Recovery Coalition of Rhode Island. We are planning a ‘Day on the Hill’ rally at the Rhode Island state capitol this coming spring. Many of us in the Mental Health Community want to share with the politicians our concerns and issues. Let’s show the Mental Health Community that they are loved and accepted just the way they are. Love on them, meet their needs.
One way you can help is to provide transportation for our Peers to the “Day on the Hill” rally. the date will be announced soon. Church vans would be much appreciated.
If you have any comments about my testimony or want to help, you may contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. God bless you and may Jesus reign in your hearts.