What I have discovered on this journey of life is that reaching my destiny will require something of me that will necessitate my having to be transparent and vulnerable in order to become transformative. (I learned this from a great teacher.) I also learned that I can impact my family, friends, and even strangers by the testimony of my story. As I have reflected on the world from my point of view, I can see that people really do want to maximize their lives to the fullest. Many just do not have the knowledge, the wisdom, or the opportunity to move their lives toward their destiny and purpose.
I grew up in a clean, loving, and orderly home. However, there was not much money flowing through it. I was being raised by a mother who was 14 years old when I was born and a 16-year-old father. They were young y’all! I knew they both loved me and wanted to do the right thing for my well-being, but there were challenges. It took years for me to understand that they did their best to try and work out their new marriage and life together with a young child. Because of their choice to have premarital sex, their youth and their lives would never be the same. There was sadness and many frustrations that at times affected my state of being. I found myself feeling isolated and sad inside, but I did not know how to explain the sadness that was forming and developing in me, and I had no confidant to share those negative feelings with.
There were some things I tried to fix in my mind, but I did not quite understand what needed to be fixed. Those feelings kept overwhelming me. There were many people who appeared to be interfering with the way my mother and father were managing things and that seemed to create more frustrations for them. So three more babies later, my father felt that he had enough and he left home. I was five years old. What I had experienced with him was his gentleness and his brilliance; he was one of those Cornell West types, but he just could not seem to figure out how to use his brilliance and make his life move toward the destiny for which he was born. He aborted his brilliance through a life of drug addiction that led to a diagnosis of drug induced Paranoid Schizophrenia. He lived in a constant state of fear, mistrust, and double mindedness.
When I had to deal with him after he left our home, I often felt that I was parenting him. I would help him to redirect his thoughts to keep them connected to reality. I had this unusual patience and calmness with him that required me to help him understand that his fears and suspicions had no basis in reality. However, I became angry, resentful, and ashamed of his life and the impact that his selfish addiction had on his family, so I distanced myself from him and only reached out to him periodically. In an effort to handle these feelings of anger, shame, and resentment, I began engaging in unhealthy imaginings to try and put him and my life in a light that made sense. The doorway of those unhealthy imaginations opened other doors to unhealthy thinking patterns in my own life that led to great emotional and mental challenges for me. How could I, as a young child or young adult, tell people that my father was mentally ill and that I was facing some challenges myself? The feeling of shame gripped me, but I found hope and deliverance through a spiritual encounter and relationship with Jesus the Christ. Jesus brought meaning to my meaninglessness and healing to my broken heart and soul. For this spiritual transformation, I am eternally grateful. My father passed away in 2007, and I took the responsibility of managing the last moments of his medical care and to see to it that he was buried with dignity, respect, and love. I held no more anger in my heart toward him. I was able to see him with new eyes and with the understanding that he really wanted more for his life and his family. I will always remember his gentle way and his struggle and desire to have a meaningful and successful life.
Still in our society today, mental illness affects so many families. It introduces an array of emotions into the family that produce feelings of confusion, anger, fear, resentment, frustration, hurt, devastation, and shame. As painful as it has been to go through the process of overcoming the perils of my family and my negative emotions, it has led to the fulfillment of my destiny to become a Mental Health Professional in support of others who struggle with the devastating pain and shame associated with mental illness. My aim in life is to use my story to help others overcome their pain and live the full life that God has predestined for them. In spite of feeling trapped in the unhealthy world of their minds, people with mental illness want to be loved, accepted, and treated with respect. I believe I am on a journey to help them know that they can find communities of people that will love and accept them, and walk them through their challenges into wholeness. It has taken some years for me to rise above the shame of my story of family and personal mental illness. Today, I am free internally and not ashamed of where I started or what I have walked through in my own family and life. My destiny now is to help others to get free and live their lives with purpose. My life is all about destiny!