I fell in love with The Truman Show when I was about eight years old. I would watch it on repeat so many times that I had the words memorized. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the movie, it’s about a man who loses his father at an early age in a mysterious drowning, and he spends the rest of his life living the American Dream, unaware that the whole world is watching. There are hidden cameras everywhere, and he doesn’t discover the truth until his late thirties, when he sails the ocean all the way to the “fake sky” wall that he’s been trapped in. I was captivated by the creativity of the plot, and I thought about it constantly.
At nine years old, my stepmom told me that I could never hide anything from her because she was “always watching.” Suddenly, I became aware of a truth I created in my own head: I was in The Truman Show! I knew there were cameras hidden everywhere. I thought all of my friends were just actors, and I would tell the mirrors that I knew they were watching me. I hid in my room all the time, afraid of getting caught saying or doing something stupid. I know the idea seems so irrational, and it was, but that’s how my brain works. At 9 years old, that type of paranoia was a terrible bought of insanity to go through. I lived in constant fear.
When one irrational fear faded, it was always replaced with another one. The worst one I remember happened when I was about 16. I had just watched a “real” exorcism on T.V., done to a man who had been damned because he somehow blasphemed God: The Unforgivable Sin. I sat on my bed and wondered if I had ever accidentally committed THE sin, and I was sure I somehow had. I began to believe that God had permanently forsaken me, and that I was going to hell. All of the sudden, I became engulfed in a sea of darkness, fully convinced that there were demons latched onto my back, watching me sleep. I think the more I convinced myself of it, the more it became true.
The fear faded after a while, but at 20 years old, it returned with a vengeance. I never slept because I was afraid that the demons would drag me to hell, and I cried every night to God, begging for forgiveness that I believed I could never again receive. I couldn’t eat, and I lost about 15 pounds in a matter of three weeks.
I would go to church groups as much as I could, confessing every dark, secret sin I could think of, but nothing could change my mind. I was doomed, devoid of all hope.
One sleepless night when I was sitting up in bed, I could hear the demons whispering in my ear, telling me that God hated me, and that I should just kill myself now. I wanted to so badly, but I just rocked back and forth until the sun came up,, humming to keep the voices away.
The worst part about all of this was that I was going to school and working, so I had to act normal all of the time, smiling and conversing, all the while contemplating my suicide and fighting off my demons.
One morning, I couldn’t take it anymore. I busted into my moms workplace and told her everything, and she immediately sent me to a psych ward.
Let me tell you, it was not a place for healing.
They brought me in, stripped me down, wrote down every mark on my body, and gave me a dirty white gown with buttons in the back. They sent me into a room about as big as a gymnasium, with 50 beds lined up side by side. I was naked underneath my thin cloth, and strange men kept coming up to me and whispering dirty things in my ear. I couldn’t do anything about it but cry and insist I wasn’t insane; that I didn’t belong here.
“That’s what they all say,” the nurse mumbled. Of course they do, I thought. Of course they think I’m crazy.
Maybe I was.
They assigned me to a bed in between a girl with a bible and a girl who was rocking back and forth. The girl on the right kept telling me that it was okay, that God loved me, while the girl on the left kept yelling that she was the devil and she was there to get me. Awful things came out of her mouth, things I will never repeat, but I was stuck in the middle of good and evil. It felt like a dream. I didn’t know who to believe.
I watched people scream profanities at me, people who claimed they were sent by the devil, people who were pinned to the wall and force-fed medication. It was a nightmare, and after 8 hours a real-life hell, I was released.
Now everything was worse. My family was paranoid about my well-being, but all I wanted was to be alone and suffer in peace.
I was given a couple of different medications that numbed my brain a bit, but I still felt shattered.
My mom let me go home the next day, and I started looking to the Internet for solutions. I came across a hymnist named William Cowper, and something he had written that perfectly explained how I had been feeling. He was plagued by the same bouts of insanity:
(I was struck) with such a dejection of spirits, as none but they who have felt the same, can have the least conception of. Day and night I was upon the rack, lying down in horror, and rising up in despair.
After more research, I found that he had tried to commit suicide four times (and failed), yet he had written some of the most beautiful hymns my eyes had ever seen:
God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm
Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.
Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.
His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.
Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.
He was so depressed and convinced that God had condemned him, but was still able to write with such hope, despite his bouts of insanity. I believed I could, too, but I also knew I needed more help than self-therapy could provide.
At the time, I was unaware that I had Huntingtons Disease, but I knew something in my brain was abnormal. I had always believed that medication for anxiety and depression was a joke; a way for the government to make money, but I was desperate and weary.
Now, three years later, I’m as medicated as can be, but I still have my wits about me. I haven’t felt my “dark shadow” since, and I now believe that God has blessed me in allowing medical miracles to take place within me. Some people say it’s all in my head, and maybe it is, but it’s my head and I’m stuck with it.
Sometimes I stop my medication just to see-just to make sure that I do need it, and the answer is always yes. I still suffer from depression and anxiety, but it’s not crippling like it used to be. Now, I see the irrationalities from my past fears, but I thank God for allowing me to see that I can praise Him no matter what, like William Cowper did.
Blest proofs of power and grace divine,
That meet us in His Word!
May every deep felt care of mine
Be trusted with the Lord.
Wait for His seasonable aid,
And though it tarry, wait:
The promise may be long delayed,
But cannot come too late.