I recently met for brunch with a highschool friend. A couple of times during the past ten years she has felt compelled to reach out to me and we were finally able to connect. Once you read her story you will understand like I do now, that she is a product of our God who is so merciful to those who are in capivitiy and His desire is for our freedom.
She was rescued and released from a life full of heartache and torment. God, has released her to a very happy ending… Below is her Cinderella Released story:
I Now Can See The Colors In A Crystal – Janice Conley
shared with her permission
Sharing my story with others is something I always hoped I would do. When I felt like I was losing control of my mind, ending up in ICU from an overdose and ending up in a psychiatric unit twice at two different hospitals, I could not imagine anyone being encouraged by my testimony!
As we all know there is a stigma attached to mental illness. 19 years ago I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. This brain disorder causes severe mood changes, elevated activity and extreme anxiety. People with this condition experience episodes of heightened energy followed by low energy and depression. The depression can last for weeks, months or even years. This is part of who I am today. I am not ashamed of it and I don’t let it define me or get in the way of living life. With the help of God, my husband, my family, my therapist, my psychiatrist and my close friends, I have learned to manage this illness. It takes a village!
I grew up in Sanford, Florida and accepted a job with a family owned business at the age of 22. This company was exactly where I needed to be. I received support and understanding from the owners and my co-workers during my difficult days. Early on, no one including myself, understood my illness. Being in a supportive environment and feeling accepted and loved is critical to healing. I worked 30 years for this company. 22 of those years I was in a management position. I have always believed in God, however, during my teenage years and career I did not have a personal relationship with Jesus. Looking back, I see His hand in everything.
Due to manic highs and depressive lows, life can be chaotic with bipolar disorder. Often times relationships and careers are destroyed because of the irrational behavior that is displayed. This illness is often misunderstood by family, friends and co-workers. It is common for those who suffer to deny they have it or to resist treatment. I desperately wanted to feel mentally healthy and it took 11 years of determination and persistence to find the right help. My life is so different now that I have learned to manage it with correct medications and occasional therapy.
At the age of 32, during my first marriage, we built a house. During the construction process I became stressed, not sleeping and filled with anxiety. I felt like I was losing control of my mind. I made an appointment with my family physician who referred me to my first psychiatrist.
She diagnosed me with anxiety and depression and prescribed an antidepressant. When there was no improvement she prescribed another set of medications. These medications didn’t work so I quit taking them. For the next 11 years I felt anxious, depressed and empty, I knew there was something terribly wrong with me. My world was black and my spirit was dark. In sharing my concerns with family and friends, no one understood.
During this difficult time a friend invited me to church. Worshipping in a Pentecostal church was very different from my Lutheran background. It was there at the age of 34 that I walked the aisle to accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior. However, I did not grow as a Christian at that time. Due to the nature of my illness, I struggled with sadness, negative thoughts and difficulty focusing. “Negative thoughts deplete your faith, your energy and your enjoyment for life.” (Joel Osteen) It took all of my energy to just get by day to day.
At the age of 37 I divorced my first husband. I continued seeking counseling, hoping with each therapist my quality of life would improve. I was on and off medications during this time and nothing seemed to take away the depressed, anxioius empty feelings. Some days were more tolerable than others but I knew that people were not supposed to feel this way. I became frustrated. I was persistent in searching for help but couldn’t find the help that I needed.
One of my best friends, Cheryl, asked me if I could see the colors in a crystal. I explained to her that I could not see the colors in a crystal. Everything in my life was dull. She had never had a depressed day in her life so she could not understand the feelings that come with depression. I explained that in the morning when I opened my eyes I felt a gray cloud over me. This gray cloud followed me throughout the day. I would smile and laugh on the outside but I was dying on the inside. My only relief was sleeping. This was not the way I wanted to live my life.
At the age of 42 my life became intolerable. I felt alone and desperate. I did something totally out of character. I went to dinner at a diner by myself and sat on a stool at the counter hoping to meet someone. The only person who acknowledge my presence was the server. I left feeling more alone and desperate. That evening I made a very serious attempt to take my life with pain pills (prescribed for dental work) and alcohol. Fortunately, when I did not show up for work the next day a friend/co-worker had a concern and dame to my home. I was rushed to the emergency room. I spent nine days in the hospital. Four of those days in ICU in a coma. Three days in a regular room and two days in the psychiatric unit.
After I was released from the hospital my mind and body were fragile. Every aspect of my life was rocky, however I knew I had to walk back into my life. I had to face family, friends and co-workers and try to put the pieces back together. It was not easy but I knew this had to be done. Most everyone was understanding and supportive which allowed me to begin to heal.
I finally realized to have a good life I needed to be mentally healthy. To manage mental illness there are two types of doctors needed. A psychologist for counseling and a psychiatrist to prescribe medications. At this point, a team was crucial for me so I found a team that I felt comfortable with. As a signle working girl, I knew this was going to be expensive. My insurance plan covered medication but not therapy sessions. I also realized it was important for me to establish a relationship with these doctors early on so that they will be readily available to me when I needed them. Even though it was expensive, I comitted to weekly therapy sessions. This was an important step to getting my life back on track.
A manic or depressive episode can occur without warning at any time and at any age. Sometimes during an episode I need the help of my doctors. It is important to have a relatlionship established to get an immediate appointment. One could wait up to a month to get in to see a doctor. Even in my later years I will need to keep a relatlionship with my doctors current.
A year after my suicide attempt, I had a manic episode that left me feeling totally out of control. I believed I was making a movie about my life. This movie was to help others with bipolar disorder. My friend, Hamp who is now my husband, came over for an early morning jog. I suggested we have coffee and visit instead of jogging. I had a sleepless night and my energy level was heightened so he knew something was wrong. When he left my home, he called Cheryl and asked her to check on me. As soon as she saw me she knew something was terribly wrong. My behavior was totally out of character. Hamp returned to my home. My conversation that morning was focused on the movie that was to be made. I had not been diagnosed with bipolar disorder so this conversation alarmed them. They called my family in. While we were all together, Hamp called my therapist. She said that I was not the person she had counseled the past year and I needed to go immediately to the psychiatric unit of the hospital. She said if I would not agree to go call the police to escort me. It was imperative that I be admitted that day. This was my second stay in a psychiatric unit.
This manic episode was the turning point which allowed my therapist and psychiatrist to correctly diagnose me with bipoloar disorder. It is not uncommon for a correct diagnosis to take many years, sometimes decades. For 11 years I was diagnosed incorrectly and was prescribed wrong medication. It was a relief to finally get a diagnosis. I currently take two medications. The combination works well for me. I have been on these now for 19 years. In the beginning I had a few side effects but they went away after a little while. The only lasting side effect was some weight gain. Correct medications have made a huge difference for me. I realized early on how important it is to take my pills daily. I accept that I will be on medication for the rest of my life. The pills help balance my moods and provide me with a mentally healthy lifestyle.
Even though I am on the right medications, I will occasionally get out of balance. It is important to have a good support system. When I begin to experience a manic episode, my husband can see a change in my eyes. Once I recognize my elevated mood, I meediately adjust my medications before my life spins out of control. To his day, when I am in a manic state my sense of urgency to help others by sharing my story becomes my main focus. Together Hamp and I have learned to manage these episodes. He is always there to watch my back when my world gets rocky. My life will continue to get rocky at times and it is comforting to know he is always looking out for my best interest.
Mos of us have famlily members or friends who suffer from a mental illness. If you know someone who has been diagnosed with a mental illness be sympathetic and understanding and know that it is challenging for them. Signs of the illness can occur at any time and without warning. With each episode I experience, I learn more about how to manage my change in moods and stay in control.
With therapy, prayer and reading books on healing I have been able to work through most of my issues, including child sexual abuse. I finally feel whole! I have seen God’s goodness in amazing ways. He has richly blessed my life with a loving, supportive husband and family.
In 2010 we became part of a wonderful church family. This is when I began my relationship with Jesus. I now look back on my life and see God’s hand in everything. He brought me out of the dark days into the brighter days. When your life is dark, know that it is temporary. In His time, He will bring you back into the light. The sun will shine bright again for you someday. Do not lose hope. Isaiah 40:31 “But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow wearly, they will walk and not faint”.
God is a God of second chances and it is by His grace that I am alive today. My life is rich and full of His many blessings. This awareness is new to me and I feel like I have been born again! I am trusting God to lead my path. Proverbs 3:6 “In all of your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.” My part is learning to trust Him.
I love sharing my story because I believe God will use it so that others ………..can see the colors in a crystal.
Janice has a program and visits churches with others who have been rescued from bi-polar disorder. If you would like to connect with her please email me at CinderellaReleased@gmail.com.