Essays on Mental Illness.  Today’s story is from a dear friend of mine who has a passion for bringing awareness to the issue of mental illness. Jane Alexander experienced trauma at a young age, and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder as an adult. But Jane persevered and wants us to know that peace is possible, even with the challenges we face in life.  Caroline S. Cooper 



by Jane Alexander

As a teenager I remember our mother saying,  “don’t we have a nice family?”, as she smiled at my father,  my siblings and me. This took place during dinnertime, while she stood with her hands on the back of the kitchen chair. Because of our father’s work schedule, or his illness, our mother became the disciplinarian in our family. She was a loving, nurturing person to all of us, and probably the strongest woman I knew. She held the family together, even after our father had started to battle addiction and depression.

Our father had enlisted in the Army Air Corps (at age 18 or 19) during World War II, as a bombardier. He was in the 8th Air Force, flying 25 missions over Europe. I am convinced that this experience was a contributing factor in his mental illness and addiction.

When he was 49, our father took his own life. I was 16, my sister 18, and my brother 14.  He was in such great emotional pain, he could no longer endure it. This traumatic event impacted my life and possibly contributed to my own emotional trials as an adult.

“Traumatic experiences can have a significant impact on a child’s future behavior, emotional development, mental and physical health.”
Missouri Department of Mental Health, Early Childhood Mental Health

After I had worked for nearly 20 years as an x-ray technologist, I started experiencing low back pain. At six feet tall, this can be a disadvantage in the hospital business. I decided to try steroid injections. The first injection was of no benefit, but the second one resulted in a steroid rage (while I was on the job). I felt I had superhuman strength, and I could say or do anything.  The rage became a psychosis, and there I was in the emergency room. After a few hours, I was transported by ambulance to Cushing hospital in Leavenworth, Kansas. Never in my life, have I been through anything so harrowing. I woke up in a psychiatric ward, wondering where I was, and all I could do was recite the 23rd Psalm.

Psalm 23: A Psalm of David.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Psalm 23, New King James Version (NKJV), The Holy Bible

After five days at Cushing hospital, I was released, and back to work a few weeks later.  My behavior was very erratic; from manic, to depressed, to an occasional rage. No doctor at that time, could seem to prescribe an effective medication. Four months later, I was terminated. I lost my job because of a mental illness (bipolar disorder). With the exception of losing both of our parents, I have never known such anguish.

Ten years have gone by, and a lot has changed in my life. I survived through the pain and am sharing this story to encourage others. There are resources that offer help. Mental health professionals, support groups and some Christian support groups are available in most areas. There is hope for people to recover and be sustained in recovery. Peace can be found even through trauma and mental illness.

And the peace of God which passes all understanding ,will guard your hearts and your minds through Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:7, NKJV, The Holy Bible

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
National Association of Mental Illness (NAMI)
Mental Health America (MHA)

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