The Sheer Hopelessness of Mental Illness

Please bear with me. This was written in March of 2012. Right or wrong, it was where I was at with my illness. I hope it will bless, and bring hope into that situation that seems very hopeless:

“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
    and saves the crushed in spirit.”

Psalm 34:18

Depression can feel hopeless.

I’ve seemed to have settled down into a blackness that defies all explanation. I’m dodging being hospitalized, and they can’t put me where I don’t want to go. I don’t want to be locked up again.

It’s the hopeless/helpless thing, a “one-two punch” that is the most devastating to me. It crushes and pulverizes until I lie in this sad pathetic mess I’ve become. Dante had it dead-on when ascribed the gates of hell with the words, Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.” In hell you’ll know what despair is really like. Perhaps heaven and hell really do start here?

And there was another writer, just as clever, said something along these lines,

Shut up! Unless you have been lost in this particular section of hell before,  just be quiet.”

And perhaps we should? Nothing can trump personal experience. The survivors, if you can find them, will understand what I’m saying. It seems that that hard book of Job is finally starting to make sense.

How is it,
People fear the dark?
Not me, I’m reconciled
as every day I see
the blackness grow,
I’ve come to terms with it,
it knows I know.

–Rod McKuen, Alone

Hopelessness swirls me around and I feel like a bug going down a drain. Thoughts of suicide are becoming more concrete and despair is becoming a frequent visitor.  Mental illness is frightening. Those who have experienced it, will learn not to say anything, but pray.

Durability may ultimately prove to be the most significant factor in this “mixed state” of Bipolar Disorder that I am wandering through at the moment.  Can I outlast these demons that plague me? My irrational mind plays tricks on me, I see mirages of wholeness and peace, but they don’t seem  real. It is a big, fat lie. It is nothing but a delusion, or a trick of the brain.  And yet something inside of me steadfastly hopes for God’s grace and mercy. 

I know that Jesus has conquered the dark. I must cling to Him. I must let this darkness go. He’ll need to work this out.

Up and down, side-to-side, where it stops, no one knows?  But God…and right now He isn’t saying. Jesus hold on to me. I hold on, by faith to the promise given to me—

“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”

Philippians 1:6

I don’t mean to be this raw. Sometimes I just let it “all hang out.” I hope you’ll forgive me if I’m too open. I just wanted you to have a picture of a “broken believer” and more so of the grace that saves me. I know He does love me.

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Author: Pastor Bryan Lowe

Studying God's Word is my joy. I want you to understand that there is nothing greater than a life given to Him. I'm an ordained pastor who lives in Alaska.

16 thoughts on “The Sheer Hopelessness of Mental Illness”

  1. Thanks, for sharing Pastor Bryan. When I feel this way way too often, I thought I was being selfish, attention seeking and negative. So I just kept everything in. Until a whole hell broke loose, and it hurt other people (because of what I said). Now I know, its a disorder I need to take care of and need to take precautions on. It was hopeless. It is still kind of hopeless. But I am not going to let this darkness take hold of me. I pray that God will keep holding you strong if you still suffer from this struggle.


  2. My dear friend you are who you are, tears, laughter, smiles and silence…you are ALWAYS loved and true friends understand every thing about you… There is something special inside all of us that we have to share and to give, but we never have to share it all..unless it helps you in some way..we all have a side we don’t want others to see, but those of us who do see and never utter a word are right beside you.. <3


  3. Today was one of those endless tears days for me.
    Inexplicable. A deluge of tears and weeping… reason unapparent.
    I just let them flow …knowing that somewhere they would end and I’d see His Light.
    I can give no reason. Life has been beautiful and I am so blessed. Yet sadness was the order of the day. Finally I called my husband and asked if he’d be home soon… the blessing is that he knew and lovingly understood. One of the greatest blessing from God has been this man who patiently encourages and listens without judgement… he gives all with simple love. Over the years I’ve learned that he just accepts my mental foibles as just another thing that he loves about me. Am I blessed?


  4. Altogether, this is me. I get the whole thing of not saying anything. No one I know responds well to my requests for help. Trudge on. Wipe away the tears when they fall before someone sees them. Pray. Get frustrated with God. Pray. Get frustrated with people. Pray. Cry when I’m alone. When will it end? It is comforting to know I’m not the only one.


  5. I know you said to not say anything–but I’ll just repeat that I am with you, distant–but close in prayer. God bless you and bring you through this quickly.


  6. Please seek professional help! There is no shame in going into a good hospital that will give you the help you need. I was like you, avoiding the hosptial and caring people brought me there a few weeks ago and I am so glad for it! I am doing much better. There are people who care and can help you. I was so suicidal. I understand. I am not one of those people who don’t know what its like to be in your side of hell. I was just there. I thought there was no hope. The hospital was the right thing for me to do. Please consider it. I’ll pray for you.


  7. Bryan, I nearly cried tonight when I read this blog about the hopelessness of mental illness. I am a 52 year old Methodist Minister from Belfast, Northern Ireland, and I have struggled with mental illness since I was 16-agoraphobia, generalised anxiety, depression, OCD. I understand completely the horror of your life at the moment. I have read your articles in moments of darkness in my own life and you have no idea how much you have reached my soul. I know instantly when someone knows what it is to suffer and your site is one that I visit frequently! And I am so sad that this is a black time for you! Can I just remind you my dear friend, that dark times do ease. When we are in the middle of hell we forget the times when it eased before, but nevertheless, there are times when the darkness recedes and we don’t feel so hopeless. Five years ago I thought my life was over. I was in a pit so deep, and a darkness that lasted so long that I thought there was no escape for me this time! But medication and time have brought me to a place today where I am thankful that I am still alive. Those times will come again for you Bryan if you just endure (and I know how hard that is!). Thank you for your courage in posting your struggle. I have felt so alone in my life and it is brave and honest people like you that have given me the courage to live another day. Thank you!
    Pauline xx


  8. ….And the raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
    On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
    And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming,
    And the lamp-light o’er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
    And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
    Shall be lifted – nevermore! –Edgar Allan Poe

    One day, I pray, you will come to terms with your darkness. Though it may never leave you completely, I pray it will be quieted and relieved of its pompous air and reduced to a trophy representing your victory over it.


  9. I’ll pray to my God and write to you from my experience, and let’s see which one helps first. Dear Heavenly Father, there’s no time to loose. Can I have you heal Bryan’s mental torment and accompany that healing with immediate relief?

    Brain, I’ve walked a few years in boots similar to yours. Voices, suicidal tendencies, 24/7 mental torment with delusions. At its worst, I lived moment to moment and I know what you mean about clinging to determination. No tactics really helped, it was all about grinding it out. My words may not help you any more than God’s words helped prevent you from being in this tough place right now. But, here goes: Your torment is self inflicted and you can learn to dismantle the bonds your mind has created for you. No demons are at your door, its just your mind doing what you’ve programed it to do in this situation. The occupants of Dante’s hell were in a hell of their own design. I believe we designed our own hell and the key to our prison cell is to turn the tables back on God. Our lives, our delusions, our torments are not our own–they belong to God. Nobody hates their own body. If they do mistreat it, they do so for a reason. Trust Gods reason, tell him you’re willing to go all the way think whatever ludicrous thoughts he wants to send your way and make up a few more of your own if he wants your help doing it. Death, pain, disappointment, and failure are all relative. They are relative to some goal, whether that goal is life, comfort, hope, or success. But we are “goals” ourselves–“goals of God.” We are what he called “good” and apparently wants to become “perfect as He is perfect.” So, just go with it. Let him crush you under the rollers. Dream on, God. Dream until your dream comes true!

    your brother in suffering and at least half-bro in Christ (as I’m a half-hearted luke-warm closet Christian)


  10. Things always change. Our moods, the weather, the seasons…


    He PROMISED to Always Be With Us


  11. Get yourself in a Mental Health Unit of your hospital.

    Suicide is a permanent solution, to a temporary situation.

    It is also anger at ‘it’, that we direct to ourselves.


    “I can do all things through Christ, Who strengthens me”

    “My Grace is sufficient, for My POWER is made perfect in weakness”

    “I will never leave you or forsake you”

    May the Lord Heal you,



  12. I am praying for you Bryan as you find yourself Gethsemene. I am praying that you hold tight to God’s sufficient grace. God is near…
    I hope this following poem encourages you as you cleave to the torments of Christ.


    Gethsemane, Gethsemane,
    Quiet garden of prayerful agony
    Asleep with disciples watching over me

    “Abba, Father,
    All Things are possible unto thee;
    Take away this cup from me:

    Nevertheless, Nevertheless,
    Not what I will, but what you wilt.” (Mark 14:36)
    Heaven sent angel strengthens me as I knelt.

    Cup of Horror, Cup of Separation,
    Is mine alone now to drink
    Ungraspable anguish turns sweat to blood and prepares to break His co-eternal link.

    “Get up, Get up,
    And pray so that you will not fall into temptation.” (Luke 22:46)
    Lest you scatter like sheep from the approaching persecution.

    By Chris Clody 1/14/07


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