With this post we are kicking off the Act Locally Waco mental health blog. We hope to post something once a month or so with a focus on mental health. Stay tuned! — ABT
By Bonnie Goree
Major depression has been a familiar struggle in my adult life. I was just completing junior college when my first episode occurred. I noticed that I could not focus and complete a term paper – my brain felt ‘frozen.’ I had difficulty sleeping and my cognitive skills and mood continuously declined. Another episode occurred in my late thirties, after having major surgery. The surgery was a shock to my system and drastically upset my chemistry, which led my mood to decline again. Between 2006 and 2011, I experienced multiple episodes of major clinical depression, requiring hospitalizations, medicine changes, and Electroconvulsive-Therapy (ECT). My struggle with this disorder reached its peak in 2010, when I had to leave my job of almost twenty years as an Early Intervention Specialist at Heart of Texas Region MHMR. Although I received amazing love and support from my coworkers, at one point I was so depressed that I stayed in bed for 3 days and had thoughts of ending my life. I was feeling so discouraged and hopeless. I had never thought these things would happen to me.
During that difficult time, a friend told me about Mental Health Grace Alliance (MHGA) here in Waco. I met with the founders of this organization and cried throughout most of our visit. But, their support and unconditional acceptance gave me a glimmer of hope that day. I knew all too well the emotional effects of depression. I would sometimes blame them on my difficult childhood or even see them as a spiritual flaw, but it was not until I was connected with MHGA that I really learned about the physical and medical components of this disorder. I had never allowed myself to truly believe that a chemical imbalance could be a major contributor to depression and to other mental health diagnoses. In my experience ECT’s had been more helpful than medicine. Since 2011, however, my psychiatrist has found a combination of two meds that thankfully have worked well. In addition to the medicine, I also became involved in the Living Grace Groups through MHGA. There I met others who had been in the same boat as me and were experiencing hope and recovery.
How did God and my faith fit into my times of hopelessness? I had to wrestle and gradually come to terms with this question. I read in the book of Psalms multiple instances where David described ‘dark, hopeless’ days. I learned that there are many other people in the Bible and in our society that have experienced mental health difficulties. Mother Teresa, for example, wrote in her diaries about her struggles with depression. I also had amazing support from my church family. The bouts of depression have forged some deep, meaningful relationships that continue to this day.
The last part of the story is my favorite. Since 2012, I have been back at Heart of Texas Region MHMR as one of the first three Certified Peer Specialists of the organization. We have had the opportunity to create the job from the ground floor as a new service to adults struggling with mental illness. What an awesome opportunity and privilege I have to offer hope to others! I can relate and say “I’ve been there and done that.”
My journey to regaining life, hope, and healing has been hard but it is happening! It has included multiple vital pieces of the recovery pie: staying connected to supportive people, counseling, medical care, healthy eating, exercise, and giving back to help others. Do I ever have bad days? Yes. There are bumps along the road, but I have tools to get me through those days now. My faith continues to be a place where I find comfort, as I sense God tell me “We will make it through today together. I am holding you and loving you every step of the way.”
In closing, I would like to encourage those in our Waco community who are struggling with mental health difficulties. Know that there is help available: Don’t be afraid to seek it! If we get sick with the flu, we go to the doctor; so why not get help when facing a mental health challenge? Finally, if you have not suffered with mental illness, be assured that you know people who have. I especially urge those in our local congregations to get educated and seek out resources to offer members who are struggling, as I am aware that not everyone shares my experience of finding support in the church. May Waco be a community where mental health topics are not kept a taboo and where everyone can access the needed support for their own journeys of life, hope, and healing.
This Act Locally Waco blog post was written by Bonnie Goree. Bonnie has lived in Waco for 24 years. She is from Hurst, Texas. She received her B.A. from Howard Payne University in Brownwood, Texas. She loves animals, and has 2 kitties, Mickey and Jerico. She has 2 nephews, 2 nieces and 2 great-nephews. She loves the outdoors, bike riding, music, and spending fun times with friends.
The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email [email protected] for more information.