Discharge selfie! 😉

I’ve written and rewritten this post in my head several times, and it may be one of the hardest posts I’ve written. But a wise friend advised me to “proclaim boldly of God’s strength and humbly of your own weakness” as I draft my thesis, and I hope to do the same with this post.

***

Ivan and I have written about my traumatic brain injury (TBI) deficits a few times over the years. We spelled them out explicitly at first, then mentioned them less frequently as time passed and my symptoms plateaued. They include irrational anxiety, fear, and sometimes anger, and typically surface in open-ended situations or overstimulating environments. 

Put a different way, part of my brain is like a severed telephone wire: The logic parts of my brain stop “talking” to the emotion parts when I’m stressed. As you might imagine, this disconnect can put a strain on Ivan’s and my relationship, and I’m thankful for grace he extends when I panic during a “TBI episode.” 

During my initial recovery, we’d developed strategies to work around these deficits and have coped reasonably well for the past five years. But this year I grew more volatile and less resilient, and even took multiple blogging breaks as my TBI episodes began interfering with my ability to handle everyday life. These episodes were no longer the brief anxiety flare ups Ivan and I were used to navigating. Now I felt hopeless and worthless every day, in addition to panicking when things went wrong. I assumed my mood would lift with prayer and Bible reading, but the “broken connection” between my knowledge and emotions meant I continued to get worse.

I lost weight and hair. In October, I started running away from home every day without knowing why. Then came the voices and visions inside my head.

Mental illness is a sensitive issue and the current healthcare model prioritizes treating symptoms instead over the diagnosis, so I’ll summarize by saying that I’ve undergone two multi-day hospitalizations in the past six weeks. At first doctors were puzzled since my symptoms are serious and I have no  history of mental illness, but they finally traced them back to an imbalance caused by my traumatic brain injury. 

The past few months have been a lot to absorb, but I’m grateful for a clinical answer – and treatment – for a constellation of symptoms that have been an added burden for an entire year. This treatment will be ongoing for the foreseeable future, but the outlook is positive, and I’m blessed to have a team of healthcare providers I trust. I’d like to close with a passage from Psalm 139 that I memorized during my first hospital stay. It’s given me hope during my worst moments and continues to bring me joy every morning: 

“I can never escape from your Spirit!

I can never get away from your presence!

If I go up to heaven, you are there;

if I go down to the grave, you are there.

If I ride the wings of the morning,

if I dwell by the farthest oceans,

even there your hand will guide me

and your strength will support me.

I could ask the darkness to hide me,

and the light around me to become night –

but even in darkness I cannot hide from you.

To you the night shines as bright as day.

Darkness and light are the same to you.”

16 thoughts on “Darkness and Light

  1. Great Bible verse, Grace. I know what it’s like to suffer with the darkest despair from mental illness. I thank God for medication and therapists and more importantly for Gods loving and powerful hands. I always pray for you, but now know how to hold you up to the Lord. Stay strong in Him. The Lord bless you.

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  2. Hello Grace and Ivan
    I find the reality of Psalms 139 very sobering and joyful at the same time

    sharing a miraculous moment:
    It was about two weeks ago. I was in the lobby of my home and church. Yes it is Hillside. Hallelujah! I was standing at the left side, looking up at the screen that was streaming the 9:30am service. My lower peripheral vision viewed two people passing by. I looked. And oh my GOD, it was two walking miracles, Grace and Ivan! Hallelujah!!! ❤️ Hugs to you two, you’re not defeated. Glory be to GOD!!!
    Thank you FATHER in heaven!!!
    YOU are the Best!!!
    Keep us all!
    brother in CHRIST JESUS
    Joe Talamante Jr

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  3. God’s Word is very therapeutic and I know that as you store up verses in your mind, they will revive and give you the added strength you need to make it through each day. I have had some minor issues with depression due to a relationship issue and found that God’s Word has been my strength. I wake each morning with this verse in my heart:

    Lamentation 3:22-24, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. His mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning. Great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in Him.”

    May God continue to give you strength for each day and joy in His tender mercies. I will lift you up to the Lord each day for your healing and recovery.

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  4. I am so sorry to hear that you have not been doing well. Like Job, you are going through such a difficult time but I see the smiles on you and Ivan. The Lord is truly your strength as you deal with more issues. I just pray that the Lord will heal you and touch your brain to be clear and back to a more normal brain. You have endured SO MUCH over these past years. “God, be merciful to Grace and give her your ultimate healing so she can serve you again in music. You gave her the talent and now she can’t make music with her violin. Thank you for Ivan and his loving care of her and give him strength to be her rock. In Jesus name, Amen.

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  5. Dear Grace & Ivan,
    Thank you for being so vulnerable and sharing with others your struggles. You definitely are the light in the darkness. You may never know how many people you have helped by sharing your mental illness. Part of the way to overcome this terrible illness, is to share with others who can empathize and fight in your corner with you.
    It takes an extreme amount of courage to have endured the life you have been given through no fault of your own. May God’s words continue to give you hope and be the light in the darkness.

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  6. Dear Grace and Ivan, this photo is one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen of the two of you. There is such joy and relief in your eyes! Thank you, thank you, thank you for saying what you have shared about mental illness. So many of us suffer from its effects, but your example of seeking treatment while fully relying on God‘s word is the path to healing. Even as there may be ups and downs as the medication is adjusted, you know that God is 100% faithful! Thank you so much for letting us know how to pray for you!

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  7. Grace, you may feel darkness around you as you go through these very difficult times that are hard to share and even harder to live, but your light still shines as you glorify God with your faith and trust in Him. You are doing an amazing job of even putting into words what you are experiencing. As others have said, the picture of you both is lovely and the smiles reflect God in you! Many prayers are going up to the Father for both of you.

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    1. Thanks so much for your encouraging words! It is truly God’s grace that gets me through each day. My hope is for this chapter of my story to encourage those who may be ashamed to reach out and ask for support.

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