Divinity In Mental Illness

“The Savior saw more in those humble fishermen whom He called to follow Him than they initially saw in themselves; He saw a vision of who they could become. He knew of their goodness and potential, and He acted to call them. They were not experienced at first, but as they followed, they saw His example, felt His teachings, and became His disciples.”

-Elder O. Vincent Haleck

At 21 years old, I was diagnosed as having Bipolar Disorder. To those who don’t understand or who are unfamiliar with the nature of mental illnesses, this could be a terrifying thought, and initially it was. However, for me, “mental illness” has become a term that invokes power, strength, growth, and knowledge in me.

At 16 years old, I started to feel a significant change in the way that I was feeling. Emotionally, I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I have always imagined it as feeling as though I was standing on the edge of a roof, all the time.

I started feeling secluded, even though I knew those around me loved me. I felt as though I was falling deeper and deeper into a dark abyss, not knowing when or if I was going to hit the bottom. I felt lost. I felt lonely. And even worse, I couldn’t help it. There was no stopping it.  These feelings of disconnect started to affect me in ways that I couldn’t understand at first. The thoughts of me being useless, helpless, and even unworthy started digging vigorously deeper and deeper into my mind. I couldn’t let go of the thought that my Father in Heaven had abandoned me, and that somehow this particular trial of mental illness made it so that I was exempt from feeling the joy and the peace that the Atonement gives. I felt crazy. I felt ugly.

I didn’t know how to cope with these unfamiliar emotions and eventually, they took control. In order to find some kind of release, I started to self-harm and starve myself by only eating a few hundred calories a day. I was just looking for a way to understand what was happening to me. I tried to regain the control that I felt I had lost.

For five years, I silently suffered. I went through episodes of pulling away from my friends and family while falling deeper into the pit of darkness that had now consumed me.

I felt as if I wasn’t worthy of the love and nurturing that I read about in the scriptures. I thought that because I wasn’t being emotionally, spiritually, or physically healed, I must not have enough faith. I must be forgotten and insignificant, and it was all my fault.

That wasn’t true then, and it isn’t true now.

What is true, is that I have a Savior. He is my Brother, and my dearest Friend.

I have two Heavenly Parents that are involved and aware of who I am, and aware of the unending potential that I have because I am their child. They nurture me daily.

As I came to be more and more comfortable with my divine identity, I came to realize that having a mental illness isn’t intended to be a punishment or a hurdle built impossible to climb. This is an opportunity, generously given by my Father, to strengthen us and make us into more than we could have possibly imagined on our own. Yes, it is a fight…but He knows that we are just that strong, because He has us in His hands. We are being shaped and molded into the divine beings that we have been destined to become since the beginning, and as divine beings, we are designed and built to excel. We are imperfect and the Lord knows that. He knows that there are times when we fall short, and there are days when we simply can’t bring ourselves to muster the strength to make it through one more day, but it is in those times that we are given power from on high, whether we acknowledge it or not. Live worthy of that power. Those beyond the veil love us dearly, and are here to help us find our wings.

Make every moment a matter of prayer…every hurt, and every emotion. Only through an open, sincere, and pure dialogue with our Father in Heaven, are we able to find the strength and knowledge possible to not only endure but to conquer. He is our rock. We are divine daughters of divine Parents. That fire of divinity burning inside of us is intended to make us feel closer, and of relation to the Father. We are His children. He wants to hear from us, and hear from us often. He has given us this opportunity  that we may become more like Him. His wish is that we take these illnesses and the trials, weights, hardships, and suffering that come with them, to fortify our divine and royal character, that we may be instruments in His hands.

Attend the temple often. Abide where He is. Dwell where His Spirit dwells. We will find no greater strength and confidence than in the place where we make sacred covenants. His house is our sanctuary.

Partake of the sacrament. Our Father and Savior desire that we be whole, and despite the illnesses that we may be faced with, we can become completely whole when we take the sacrament. Living worthily and participating in the ordinance of the sacrament heals to the core.

Seek truth through studying the words of the prophets, both ancient and modern. These great men are here to give us much needed guidance, and direct us through our journeys that we may return home. Trust them. As long as we follow their counsel and direction, we will never fail.

We are capable of more than we know. We are asked to do hard things, and we are asked to trust in the One that is leading us carefully to victory. Often, is seems as if this is an impossible burden to bear. It takes courage, day to day, and sometimes minute to minute, to face the effects of mental illnesses. It’s a long road ahead, but we have a powerful Savior who wants to travel this path with us. Our Father has faith in us. He is proud of who we are and proud of our decision to continue on, and trust in His perfect understanding. He is proud of our noble choice to choose Him. To Him, we are priceless…and so the price we must pay to be refined in this mortal life is nothing compared to what we will be given once we have returned home to those Heavenly Parents who love us so perfectly. He is making us glorious.

 -Cassidy Anson

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  • Becky
    May 14, 2016 at 7:31 am

    Thank you for sharing your story and insights!

  • Catherine
    May 15, 2016 at 9:56 pm

    Thank you for sharing this. Thank you thank you thank you.

  • Elizabeth
    May 19, 2016 at 5:46 pm

    Thank you for your post. I can relate. I too have Bipolar Disorder, though not diagnosed until in my 30’s. It can be rather stigmatizing and something that only the person with the illness can truly understand. And yes, it takes work, daily, to stay mentally healthy. Getting enough sleep, eating well, exercising, having good support from friends and family, keeping all Dr., therapist and lab appointments,taking medication as prescribed and calling on that higher power when you are at your lowest, to help lift you up when days are rough. The adversary works so hard to make us feel like we are not worthy, especially when cycling through mood episodes.
    Continue to share your story. It will encourage those around you that suffer in silence or fear being stigmatized, to gain courage.

    • Cassidy Anson
      July 7, 2016 at 5:54 pm

      I am so glad that you were finally able to be diagnosed, and were able to find some of the answers that you are looking for. It can be such a discouraging thing to feel unsure, but I love that you are doing everything necessary to take proper care of your body. That makes such a difference! It’s no secret that our bodies are temples, and it sounds like you are doing well at being your own temple president! Thank you for your inspiring comment. I hope you are doing well!

  • Kelly Smith
    June 12, 2016 at 4:43 am

    Last year soon before my 57th birthday I discovered that I might have ADHD and since that time I have tried to learn more about it and find a “cure”. I’m still looking. At least you are young when you discovered your issues and this may help you the rest of your life. I am certain that I will find the answers I am looking for as I am still looking for a way to “cure” this without medication. Your story has helped me with a number of things and I want to thank you for it. Best of luck and God bless you.

    • Lily
      July 24, 2016 at 7:11 pm

      Research Trudy Scott, “The AntiAnxiety Food Solution” and John Gray- I think his book is “Staying Focussed in a Hyperactive World.” It’s all awesome!!!!

  • Suzie
    June 13, 2016 at 9:49 pm

    Thank you so much for writing this. I needed this. I’ve struggled with depression off and on all my life, but have had severe postpartum depression the past two years. Some days are better than others. It has been the toughest battle of my life, and honestly I have been at the point of just wanting to give up, to stop trying and let it take over me, to stop going to church because I have felt like I just do not belong there and do not matter to God. I know those things aren’t true though. Thank you for helping me to see my struggles through a different perspective.

    • Cassidy Anson
      July 7, 2016 at 5:59 pm

      Suzie,
      I am so sorry that you have had such a rough go with your battle with depression. I too, have felt like giving it all up, and surrendering my life to something less than what Heavenly Father has asked me to do. How UNBELIEVABLY grateful I am that I have given Him the space in my life where He can bless me more than I could have imagined. I am glad you have been strong, and given Him that chance to lift you. He is so proud of you. Thank you for opening up and leaving that sweet comment. Good luck with everything you do!

  • Rachel
    June 30, 2016 at 10:43 am

    This was beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing, it’s exactly what I needed to hear.