Throughout my journey with a mental illness, I had hopes I would wake up and find myself free of it. Dreams of waking up and miraculously not having to take any medication, and all of my problems related to my illness gone, filled both my waking and sleeping hours. Who wants this thing called “mental illness” in the first place? It is ugly, shameful and well quite frankly not a label anyone wants to wear. In fact, the whole thing made me want to hide in a closet, at times I actually did.
Once in awhile I would share with someone about my experiences, but only when I felt safe or when I knew they might be going through something similar, an effort to try to comfort and encourage them and their pain. But for the most part, I kept my disease between me, my talking doctor and my husband. For the rest of the world, I wore a mask, one that I thought made me seem acceptable, yet inside I was a frightened little worm.
“What if they find out my secret?”
“What if they already know and that is all they are thinking about?”
However, in my heart, I longed for realness and authenticity. More than anything I just wanted to be known, illness and all, yet accepted anyway. I was fearful of what this disease said about me, and even more fearful of the lies I’d grown so accustomed to hearing, mostly ones coming from inside my head.
The enemy wants nothing more than to have us wearing our masks and even believing that is our true selves, and to look just like the rest of the world. But God has a different plan, the apostle Paul says:
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:2
What does conformed to this world mean? It means “look the same,” it means “stay with the crowd and keep up with the Joneses,” it means “different looks bad.” All of these are lies the enemy tells to keep us in captivity to our sin and shame.
“Look more like her,” the lies whisper.
Well friend, the enemy may have you there for now, but it does not have to be forever. The truth found in God’s Word says we are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14) and that we were made in His image (Genesis1:27), each of us made in His likeness, yet uniquely “gifted” in order to give Him glory and reveal a piece of who God is to a lost world. What an awesome task!
As I began to realize and be “transformed” by the renewal of His word, I found safety in removing my own mask. I even embraced my illness as being a part of me and my experience, yet not anything that defined me. God even gave me new perspective on my illness, that although there was a lot of pain, there were actually “AWESOME” things that came from having it, too. Here are just a few:
- God developed compassion in me and a love for others.
- God protected, cared for and loved me through others, including my family and friends.
- Significant growth in my relationship with the Lord.
Some of these may not seem that amazing to you, but in light of eternity, they are gifts that I would not trade for anything. Seriously! But had I stayed in my mask and not seen what was underneath – the real me, I’d still be existing and not really living.
What or Who are you letting define you? Is your “definition” of yourself one of conforming or transforming? Are you being renewed in you mind or remaining stagnant? You know friend, God doesn’t make junk. He may have allowed your illness or struggle so you too could see the beauty of what is underneath.
Remove your mask and feel the breeze upon your face. Like a splash of fresh water, experience the refreshment of seeing who God made you to be, struggle and all, and know He loves you.
Defined by Him,