My Anchor: Christi’s Story

(Trigger Warning: Suicide and substance abuse)

I started drinking when I was 14. I displayed symptoms of mental illness from a young age, but I had no idea what it was or why I acted, thought, or felt this way. It was only much later that I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. For years, prior to my diagnosis, I just simply believed that there was something deeply wrong with me.

From this belief stemmed a years-long battle against drug and alcohol addiction. Substance abuse was my way of self-medicating. Little did I know that the path God had for me was one full of the unexpected.

I was pregnant with my first daughter at 18. Since my family thought it was the right thing to do, I married her father. I was only 19. He was 14 years older, didn’t share my values, and dealt drugs. We went on to have my second daughter. Knowing that my first priority was to keep myself and my children safe, I left the marriage when my kids were young.

The obstacles came one after another. There was a time I was rendered completely homeless. I attempted suicide on several occasions, usually under the influence. Time after time, there were very real possibilities when I would not have made it alive.

The only explanation as to how and why I am still breathing today—granted I didn’t see it then—was that God had a real purpose for my life. He has me on earth for a reason.

When I was 23, I received Jesus and I meant it. I got baptized at 27. I quickly learned that a walk with Jesus does not mean a life without troubles. In my early thirties, I was pregnant with my son and welcomed his birth in 2007. He was diagnosed with severe fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD). Truthfully, I struggled to raise three kids as a single mother.

Then came 2012, the year that will be marked as the most difficult year of my life.

It was the year I lost custody of my son.

I don’t think I will ever forget the day. I was sitting alone, outside of the courtroom waiting for my session to begin, tears streaming down my cheeks. I sobbed as the song “Peace” by Jason Upton played in my ears.

In midst of my deep sorrow, through this song, I felt the Holy Spirit clearly say, “Let him go.” 

The verdict was final: I had to give him up. As a mother, I felt defeated. As a believer, in spite of the greatest heartbreak of my life, I knew that God was in this.

My cousin lovingly adopted him. I couldn’t see him for a year, but gradually, I got visits. Now, I get to see him on a regular basis. We FaceTime. We play online games. We love to spend time together and I don’t take any moment with him for granted.

All these difficulties I’ve been through have drawn me closer to God—sometimes I’m angry at Him, sometimes I’m comforted by Him. But because of Christ, I’ve accepted who I am and where I’m at. I know that I know that He will never leave me or forsake me, not only because the Scriptures say so, but because I have experienced this promise over and over.

Anyone struggling with mental health shouldn’t suffer alone. It can be hard to reach out. Sometimes, reaching out is the hardest thing to do. Having been in and out of rehabilitation programs and treatments my whole life, a way that has immensely helped me stay sober has been not only participating in support groups, but intentionally journeying alongside other people. Sharing our struggles. Encouraging each other. Laughing and crying together. Passionately praising and earnestly praying to God with one another.

My past is not a shameful thing anymore. It is all part of my story—a story that I have surrendered to God. I still have depression and anxiety, but not like it was before. I have learned healthier physical and spiritual habits to combat the tendency to isolate: I can read the Bible; I can talk to my husband; I can confide in trusted family and friends; I can listen to a message, and I can worship.

I can ask God for strength, even a prayer as simple as: “God, I don’t have the mental or physical strength. God, could you help me? Could you give me the strength for today?” And He is always faithful. He always hears us. He may not answer us in the way we expect, but He never leaves us alone. 

A passage that often encourages me is Proverbs 3:5-6:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to Him,
    and he will make your paths straight.

Healing is a lifelong journey, but with God as your anchor, it is a journey worthwhile.

– Christi has participated in our Renewing Hope Ministry and now she and her husband have stepped up to serve as facilitators. We thank her for sharing her story of finding God in midst of navigating a life-long journey of healing. 

You may also be interested in …