Breaking Through the Shame of Mental Illness (Interview 4)

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Thank you all for tuning in to our Thankful Thursday Interview series. Joining us today is one of our fellow SWAPs who will be graciously speaking on the topic assigned for this month, Breaking Through the Shame of Mental Illness. She has chosen to remain anonymous, yet has decided to give her story a name!

Today, we’re on the SWAP couch with: I Found Jesus

S.W.A.P: Hi I Found Jesus! Thanks for joining us for our series this month on Mental Illness.

I Found Jesus: It’s my pleasure to share my story especially here with you ladies!

SWAP: Wow, let’s get started then! What comes to your mind when you hear the words “mental illness?”

I Found Jesus: When I hear the words mental illness, I immediately think, “hush, that’s something we don’t discuss in the black community.” Growing up in a very privileged family, mental illness, particularly, “my” mental illness was not discussed unless it was to bring some form of positive attention to my parents for their ability to be able to “handle” me. As a child, I was diagnosed with ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder), and although most don’t realize it, ADD is classified as a mental disorder. So imagine being this extra happy, bouncing off the walls little girl, who oftentimes would embarrass her family because of her unconstructive behavior. That was me. And the interesting thing is, I didn’t even know I was different until my parents told it to me over and over and over again.

SWAP: Have you ever or are you currently battling feelings of shame?

I Found Jesus: Shame lived in my backpack as a child and rode the bus with me, sat in my desk, ate lunch with me, and even followed me home. I didn’t understand shame in the sense of how I understand it today, but when I look back over how embarrassed I was and how hopeless I was made to feel, shame became my identity. I was put on medicine in elementary school because I was having difficulty staying focused, couldn’t answer questions when called on, never completed my work, always misplaced things, and was disciplined for it both at school and at home. My classmates often laughed at me when I would stumble over my words, so I got into a good habit of not raising my hand to answer questions. Shame followed me to high school and a little bit into college because I struggled through both. Imagine being held back in the 9th grade when all your friends are advancing to the next grade. Total embarrassment. Imagine even more coming home to hear, “we need to take you back to the doctor because something is wrong with you.” My privileged family was embarrassed of me and that shame followed me all the way until I gave my life to Christ my sophomore year of college.

SWAP: Have you found a way to give thanks to God for your diagnosis or is it still a struggle for you?

I Found Jesus: I do thank God for creating me, but I don’t think I’ve ever said, “God I thank you for giving me ADD.” But now that you’ve asked me that question, I actually am thankful. But I’m thankful not so much for the diagnosis, but for the struggle. Because today when I start zoning out, have difficulty making friends, or understanding adult conversations, or when I hear people say, “I thought she was much younger than she actually is,” (based off the way I act), I thank God that I have something to work on. I thank God that He gave me something to keep me humble. It’s not always simple to find the thanks, especially when you are being looked at as immature, weird, overly active, or just plain dumb in some cases, but somehow I manage to do so. As an adult, I still have the diagnosis. I don’t know if or when God will release me from having ADD, but in the meantime, I’ll continue to find ways to thank him for my struggles because as you all posted one day on your Facebook page, that’s where I will find my strength.

SWAP: What words or thoughts of encouragement would you like to share with someone who may be going through something similar?

I Found Jesus: My encouragement is two-fold, one to those living with ADD, and the other to the parents. Many of us with ADD ask God “why?” but never think about the fact that it could be worse. There is someone out there that wishes his or her diagnosis was ONLY ADD. I know that does not take away the sting and the stigma that comes with our diagnosis, but it should give you some hope that you are not alone. So when you find yourself questioning God, switch it to thanking him instead. 

To the parents, please practice patience with your children who have ADD. See, my parents wanted me to be their perfect child, and it cost them so much. I shut down when it came to discussing life’s issues with them because I ALWAYS knew I would never measure up. In my high school years and somewhat into college, I isolated myself from them because I didn’t want to deal with the nagging, the complaining, and the constant corrections and comparisons. My parents said they were patient, but in actuality they were looking for perfection and when I couldn’t provide that, not only did I feel as though I disappointed them but I constantly lived trying to please them, and never could. Don’t get me wrong, my parents cared for me, but at times I feel they cared for the perfect family perception, more.  We went to church every week, yet I did not know God. Then I found God in college. I found hope. I found guidance. I found love. I found respect. I found my worth. I was able to forgive my parents and began dropping the shame and living for Jesus. I’m so glad I was introduced to Jesus through a college ministry on campus, because I don’t know the direction my life would have gone otherwise. So parents, please show support, nurture, and be proud of your children and don’t put your expectations of what you didn’t get to do as a child onto them. We are all going though something; yes, children have struggles too! 

SWAP: Thank you I Found Jesus for sharing your testimony and thankfulness with us. We hold your testimony sacred and pray for your complete healing daily! We know, through you, God has shined a light on the mental illness of ADD and has given someone hope because of your boldness in swapping with us!

I Found JesusOh oh oh wow! I made it to the end! Thank you for allowing me to be freely honest. You both are wonderful and I pray for your work in the vineyard. Keep praying for me please.


We would like to lend our personal thanks to all the SWAPs who shared their stories with us! Also, whether you’re a contributor, sharer, or follower of SWAP, we want you to know that as you daily Break Through the Shame of Mental Illness, we are here; to pray, offer advice, support, and to give resources. We know that the journey is sometimes hard, yet we hope you realize that you are not alone. We love you! ☺ 

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  1. I too struggle with ADD/ADHD,and the things that you have shared are exactly how I felt/feel from time to time as well. Believe me when I say that it is truly an endless encouragement to read this post and I am truly thankful to God for it!

    As I look over my life, I truly am thankful to God for having ADHD. I am thankful because of thing's I've learned from it.

    If its one thing I've learned its PATIENCE! You must have patience and so valuable is patience to have.

    Another thing it has taught me is tenacity... you cannot give up! It took me 12 years to get through college (thats 6 years for Associates Degree, 6 years for Bachelors Degree... and 12 years of "what is taking you so long?") but I hung in there and I made it. It's not an option to give up, you must hang in there and you must love yourself and see the good in it and you must keep God in the forefront of your mind at all times (and isn't that what being a christian is all about).

    It took me what seems like forever to realize that ADHD is not some terrible monster but it has its perks and it is and can be a blessing for both you and others. I have a lot of energy... so I can bring energy to every situation... and certain people and my friends love it! I cannot always do the same exact thing twice in a row so I constantly find new ways to do things that work for me. The biggest perk I've found is that having to find new ways to do things actually helps other people. (ie: there's "bible study" and then there's "bible study family feud addition" and who doesn't like a good challenging game now and then). I say all this to say that it is a gift, yes frustrating as it may be, and I am thankful to finally see the gift in it.

    1. Thank you for sharing your testimony and encouraging others as well! This is how healthy dialogue opens the door to healing! May God continue to bless you on your journey as well!

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