My Mental Illness Recovery Story: Chapter 8

 “Often the test of courage is not to die but to live.” (Vittorio Alfieri)

Tri-State University

Completing my associate’s degree at JCC, I decided to transfer to Tri-State University to pursue a bachelor’s degree in computers information systems. If it wasn’t for the persuasion of a JCC instructor, I would have looked for employment and not have transferred anywhere. That decision to go to TSU changed my life radically.

Just like in the Navy and at JCC, I greatly struggled again with fear, low self-confidence, and my unknown mental illness. The problem, though, in contrast to JCC, the curriculum at TSU was very intensive and difficult to get good grades. My negative thinking intensified my mental illness, as well as creating much conflict with TSU instructors and students.

I remember the first day of school at TSU as I had Dan Matthews for my C programming language instructor. He was a good man, but similar to other TSU teacher, wouldn’t take any crap from any of his students. Matthews was also often reluctant to give answers to our questions, but rather, to force us to independently problem-solve so we can hopefully be self-sufficient someday in the workforce. These two facts did not mix well with my “learning disability”.

My OCD and bipolar problems immediately caused conflict with Matthews and other TSU teachers. My obsessions of not getting good grades produced reassurance compulsions in me – thus, I would countlessly interrupt the teacher’s lectures to ensure I understood properly what was being said in the classroom. These interruptions led Matthews, on the first day of class, to send me to the school chair in hopes of having me removed from the university. Thankfully, I was allowed to continue my schooling at Tri-State University.

Karl Largent was my English instructor. My manic depression as well as my OCD created conflict with him. He also didn’t seem to like the fact I was a Christian. Largent allowed people in the class to make fun of me, and at times, he participated in the activities. When it was time for me to re-enroll for next semester’s courses, he told me “not to take any more of his classes, because he didn’t want me in there”. The fact, I had “three of the class’ top ten worst English written sentences” perhaps influenced him to tell me “I might as well give up writing, because I don’t have what it takes to be a good writer.”

In spite of the rejection, my mental illness, my fears, my wavering self-confidence, and the enormous pressure I continued to place upon myself, I remained strong and got good grades at Trine University. In fact, I made the National Dean’s List for two straight years. However, it was an enormous struggle and the power of Christ to make that happen for me. However, classes that had assignments that lack structure became very difficult for me to accomplish. And there was many more moments where my peculiar behaviorism, resulting from my mental illness, caused conflict and agitation to classmates and teachers.

When taking a timed test, when I needed to ask the teacher a question, I would often try to save time by getting out of my chair and then sprinting to the teacher’s desk, ask the question, and then sprint back to my chair, to continue the test. Obviously, that caused disruptions, especially when one time, I tripped over a desk, making a loud noise. That is one reason why some students asked Professor Brillhart to have me removed as a student of the class.

In spite of enormous rejection I received from students and teachers, I still made friends in school. Some of them were members of men’s basketball teams. During their games, I would cheer very loud and shout exhortations to them, in order to inspire and motivate them play hard and to believe in themselves, especially when facing adversity. Sometimes I would get real excited, and people would laugh, including some of our players on the bench, but I didn’t care. I remembered how bad it felt not to do well in basketball, so I desperately cheered, so they wouldn’t experience what I felt before. Because of that reason, I didn’t care as much as looking like a fool.

Each semester I watched Braveheart, for inspiration in hopes of me someday finding freedom from my problems. In my classes and in life, I strove to be brave like William Wallace. I even imagined some of my rejecting teachers and students as being Longshanks and the Englishmen.

In spite of all successes in school, I still struggled greatly with my unknown mental illness. The more I failed and felt rejected, the greater then intensity I dreamed and obsessed of experiencing success and freedom. Mania’s grandiose thinking made me believe “I had the ability to change the world” until other areas of my mental illness made me fail, and thus, believe, “I was incompetent as hell”. Like a teeter-totter, my confidence and abilities fluctuated greatly, due to my untreated chemical imbalances, as well as my negative thinking.

Bipolar disorder was like a “roller coaster going up and down rapidly and out of control”. Trying to rectify the past – Kelly Cook, Navy, job firings, and the abuse – only made it go more violently. If I only accepted what happened before, and self-accepted myself, a lot of the momentum of “roller coaster” would go away. But I didn’t, and I consequently emotionally suffered.

During my senior year, I was driving home from college one night, and my mind was in the depression cycle. Listening to Satan’s lies, I started to believe suicide may be the best option for all my troubles. Desperately needing hope and encouragement, I was entertaining thoughts of driving my car off the road and into death. However, when I need Him the most, God played the song, “The River” by Garth Brooks, which inspired me. I felt God telling me: “Don’t be afraid. Just trust me.”

My economics and psychology instructor, Duane Dobbert, saved my life. In my struggles, Dobbert took an interest in me and eventually led me to the university counselor, who steered me to a physiatrist, who diagnosed my bipolar disorder. This was approximately six months after God played that song.

God never lets go of His children. When you feel like giving up, please read 1 Corinthians 10:13:

1 Corinthians 10:13: “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”

“You are never alone or helpless. The force that guides the stars guides you too.” (Shrii Anandamurti)

Listen to this inspirational song, related to the theme of this chapter:

Hope Darst – Peace Be Still (Official Lyric Video)


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