Understanding Your Value In Spite of Mental Illness or Other Trials
“Knowing you’re loved no matter what is a miracle” – Mwati Mwila
Have you ever felt so miserable because of your mental illness that you didn’t feel loved and appreciated?
You are not alone. Most of my life, I experienced times when I felt worthless, unloved, and unappreciated. I felt like someone without human value who could not bring value to the world.
One thing my illness has taught me is the value of love from family and friends. As I look back at my life, I’m more thankful for my expereinces now than ever before. I’m particularly thankful for my family. I came to appreciate them the most during my darkest times. My understanding of the value of my life came after I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. It took me a long time to recognize my life’s unique importance.
My relationship with God has also strengthened me, although I am still working on it. There are moments when I am tested by the devil, but I feel God’s voice echo through me like a flowing stream. It calms me down to know that something greater than me saved me at birth and took me out of my country to a place where my mental illness could be better managed. That was a miracle within itself.
My life itself is a miracle to me…
My mother told me I nearly died after birth. I weighed a mere four pounds when I was born, and I suffered many complications in my early years, such as epileptic seizures and a hernia. I call my life a miracle because I was blessed to have educated parents who worked hard to get my siblings and me to a better place. Their efforts also taught us the value of hard work.
I don’t have any memories of my illness as a child. But as a baby, I was in and out of hospitals because of my hernia. My mom would explain to me years later that I would often throw up whatever food I had consumed. My sister Angela, my mom and my late grandmother would take turns caring for me, taking me to the hospital and staying with me there. At that time, Zambian hospitals were behind in technology, so there wasn’t much they could do. The doctors advised my family to tie my stomach with a piece of clothing to suppress the acid coming up after I ate, which they did. Eventially my hernia went away on its own.
I was born March 3, 1985, in Lusaka, Zambia, in south central Africa. We were a middle class family; my parents owned a home, of which I have fond memories. My father worked as an aeronautical engineer for Zambian Airways, and my mother worked for Zambia National Commercial Bank… life was and still is tough; you have to be strong and smart to live comfortably. Today, Zambia remains a Third World country with the majority of people living below the poverty line, despite it being one of the world’s largest exporters of copper.
At the time I was born, as my parents explained to me, the gap between the rich and poor was widening, and it continues to widen today. The middle class is a small percentage of the population, and my parents were among them, caught between the rich and the poor.
I was grateful to come from such a hardworking family. My maternal grandmother could not read or write, but she worked hard as a farmer to send her five children to school. My parents could write a book of their own about their life journeys and all the great adversities they overcame.
When my siblings and I were older, my mother told us how, as a teen she had to escape the national service, which was similar to the army here in the United States. My mother explained how in the national service, the soldiers would carry heavy artillery and walk though swamps filled with snakes, crocodiles, and all kinds of dangerous creatures. The soldiers living conditions were terrible.
One thing I know about my mother is that she is a fighter and a leader; I believe that’s where I get my strength – from her and my grandmother. I listened carefully as my mother explained to us how she strategized and led herself and her friends from combat to freedom. She organized an escape plan from the national service because she thought she would not survive the harsh conditions if she stayed in it. She and her friends spent a week walking through a forest filled with pythons, cobras and all kinds of animals. My mother says she never saw any of the snakes while she was in the forest, but it was then she realized there was something greater than herself, which made her walk through the forest and survive. She says her faith is what saved her; she wanted freedom so much that God gave her the strength to find it. I have been looking for that same faith she possesses and brings forth as a force field against the enemy.
It’s important to adapt…
Another thing I learned from my parents is that to survive on this earth, no matter what you are facing, you must become a chameleon. You must learn to adapt to your surroundings quickly; that’s how you stay afloat. I had to learn to adapt quickly since I grew up in four different countries. Being a chameleon was necessay for survival, not only for my parents, but for us children; we all learned to adapt to our new and changing environments because adaptation was crucial to our survival.
Everything wasn’t happy for me though, When I was four, a neigbor child mosested me. For years, that experience haunted me. I suppressed it for so long that I started to believe it hadn’t happened and I had just dreamed that horrific event. For about twenty years I kept that experience a secret; not even my family knew about it. Over the years, I felt the secret was sufocating me, and if I didn’t tell anyone, I wouldn’t have to deal with it. It took me twenty-five years to tell my mother and another four years to tell my counselor.
Little did I know my future would be filled with so many challenges, life lessons, and healing moments. They would mold me and make me change and shift my paradigm forever.
Reflection Question: Do you recall any good memories from when you were a child? Maybe they happened with your family members or friends and made you realize the strength you gained from being loved? Write them down now. Then think about those moments whenever you feel undervalued.
Do you have any secrets that are suffocating you? If you feel safe doing so, write down your secrets. If not, who is a safe person you can talk with to help you begin healing from that pain.
It’s so important to realize that each life is of value, no matter what it is you have to deal with, I have learned this through the love and strength of my family.
My book is my personal journey with bi-polar disorder…it is not medical advice…for that you should consult with your doctor.
I wish you strength, courage and joy in your journey to learning to live with your mental illness or anything you struggle with in life.