Mental illness: an insider's journey

By Ruth Eleos  ·  Apr 22, 2021

I had been exhibiting bizarre behavior for a few weeks, but the day I asked my husband to shoot me, he knew he had to find help.

He had two men from church drive us to a mental health treatment center. As he put his arm around me, he gently asked, “What do you see?”

Relieved he wanted to know what I was experiencing, I responded, “I see fire and brimstone raining down from Heaven, but it’s bouncing off our van.”

He lovingly replied, “We must have made it.” I relaxed in his arms.

The peace didn’t last long though. I became angry when, just before he admitted me, he said, “God will use this somehow. He is faithful.”

Then, a few minutes later as I walked into my room, my new roommate yelled, “I don’t like cats. Get that cat out of here!”

“That’s not a cat. It’s Aslan,” I replied, referring to the lion from The Chronicles of Narnia, “and he’s good. It will be OK.”

She was pacified, another sign that God was with me.

Quest for peace

It’s been roughly 23 years since that experience. My husband was very patient and supportive. This was just the beginning of a lengthy, turbulent quest for peace and stability. Over the following eight years I had to be admitted to a mental health facility three more times. The doctors first called it postpartum psychosis because it was related to giving birth. However, the condition did not go away, so they labeled it bipolar disorder.

Dealing with a mental illness is very frustrating for all involved.

One time I was standing in my parents’ bedroom and thought I heard them dispatch my name over the police scanner. The police were coming to get me! I felt terrified! My mom didn’t hear it, not because she wasn’t in the room, but because at the time I was out of touch with reality, and it hadn’t actually happened.

She sensed my fear and got in my face.

“You have three beautiful children who need a mother. Get better!” she said.

The next day, I was committed to a mental health facility.

​If it were as easy as simply “getting better,” I would have declared myself “healthy” and gone on with life. Believe me, I was trying.

If it were as easy as simply “getting better,” I would have declared myself “healthy” and gone on with life. Believe me, I was trying.

In actuality, I spent the first eight years of my illness seething with resentment, highly medicated, and angry at God and at everyone I encountered. I struggled to be a good wife and mother and wasted a lot of time playing the blame game. In one heated discussion with my husband, he blurted out in frustration, “You can’t think your way out of this!”

The words stung. I had a lot of pride. Looking back, I see this as a turning point in my journey with darkness.

Help from the Church

I was an exceptional student when I was young and hadn’t done anything to consciously destroy my body with the use of drugs, alcohol, or tobacco. In addition, I had memorized many Scripture verses in my youth. I knew God was aware of my struggle (Psalm 139:1-6), and Christ could help me face any circumstance (1 Corinthians 10:13). I was facing mental health issues and needed to deal with them. Something wasn’t working well with my treatment. This is something I was struggling with and needed help for without blaming or thinking my way out.

One doctor said, “Take the medicine—the first one may not work, but we’ll keep trying until something does.” He even admitted it is not known why medications do or don’t work, because we don’t yet have enough knowledge of the brain.

Great, I got to be someone’s laboratory rat!

The medicine I’m taking now helps, but it only slows down my mind so I can succeed in taking my thoughts captive. However, like most bipolar patients, consistently taking my medicine is challenging. Either life gets too boring, or I become convinced someone is out to poison me.

There have been a variety of responses from friends.

I have church friends who are on top of the health trends. They insisted my diet was partly responsible for my mental instability. I have increasingly tried to eat healthier but noticed little difference in my overall mental health.

I have other friends in the Christian community who have questioned my salvation, in essence communicating that if I were really saved, I wouldn’t be like this. Talk about feeling like Job. Seldom have I heard someone make comments that degrade the dignity of diabetics or cancer patients. Why is my condition looked down upon?

My Christian counselor learned of the sexual abuse I experienced as a child and wanted me to attend group therapy. I attended two 13-week sessions after I was first diagnosed and two more a few years ago. I learned much. Open, safe dialogue within the church community is very refreshing. Although it hasn’t alleviated the war raging in my mind, it has been helpful in understanding the effects of sin on and in my life. We live in a fallen world. It stands to reason all diseases are a result of sin entering the world.

There are multitudes of variables in each person’s life that make dealing with a mental condition a sensitive issue. While we must admit there is much we don’t know, the Church has much it can offer: faith, hope, and love. My faith was greatly strengthened once by a man who freely admitted that life is full of unanswered questions, but that God thought the Bible was enough to guide our actions. I don’t lose sight of the hope of eternity. In Christ’s presence, my whole spirit and soul and body will be blameless and at peace (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).

I still struggle with waves of mania and depression, and feel anything but “normal.” But I think my husband was right and God will use this if I let Him, because I know His grace is sufficient for me and His power is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Wings of Victory: Mental Illness and Our Walk with Jesus by two Samaritan Ministries members writing under the pen names of Ruth and Joshua Eleos is available online.

Read Ruth Eleos’s suggestions on how you can respond to someone with mental illness. 

Samaritan Ministries shares up to $50,000 of bills for psychiatric care in some situations. See Guidelines VIII.B.30 for details. We also encourage those facing such situations to consider working with their local church leadership, our pastoral care team, or a certified Biblical counselor to get help. You may also want to consider seeing your medical provider or a licensed therapist.