The true testimony of Dot McGinnis
I can’t help but remember one of the most trying experiences of my life–my bout with severe mental depression. I once heard a woman on a Christian talk show describe her experience with mental illness by saying, “I’ve walked the streets of hell.” I can find no better words to express what I’ve experienced than these.
My hell began in 1971, when my father died. I was nineteen years old at the time. It was the first time death had ever touched our family, and we were all devastated. I didn’t realize then exactly how devastated I really was; or that this was to be just the beginning of what was to become a horrible nightmare for me.
Four years after my father’s death, I experienced a near nervous breakdown. The doctors said that I just wasn’t accepting the fact that he was really gone. To add to my sorrow, my fiancé, a man I’d been dating since I was 17, decided that he was unable to cope with my illness; so, he broke our engagement and within a year married someone else. I was crushed. I remember thinking, “Oh God, how much more can I possibly stand?”
A few months later, my grandmother died and within six weeks of her death my grandfather followed. (They said that he died of a broken heart.) My fiancé’s leaving and my grandparents death sent me even deeper into depression. To add to my misery, one by one, I watched as all my friends deserted me. They just couldn’t stand to see me the way I was. They found themselves unable to cope with my inability to cope. My spirit sank even lower still.
Within a four year time period, I had lost my father, almost had a complete breakdown, lost the man I was planning to marry, lost both of my grandparents and all of my friends. My world had come to an end. Reality–sanity–seemed just beyond my reach. I had to see a psychiatrist three times a week and was unable to work for nearly two years. Some of the memory of all that happened to me has been erased from my mind and for that I am grateful. But periodically it comes back, and I remember.
I remember how I would sit and stare for hours, or would sit and cry. My mind was ruled by tormenting thoughts; unrealistic fears took control of me. All I wanted to do was die. I remember that my family had to hide all of the knives and scissors from me because they feared that I’d try to commit suicide.
My psychiatrist kept threatening to send me to Somerset State Hospital because I was so preoccupied with death. But even though death would have been a welcomed relief for me, I just didn’t have the nerve to do it. I used to pray and ask God to please let me die. There were so many people who wanted to live but were sick and dying. I used to ask Him to let their sickness fall on me so that I could die in their place. Still, death escaped me.
I can relate to many of the sentiments Job expressed when walking through his valley of despair. “Why is light given to those in misery and life to the bitter of soul, to those who long for death that does not come, who search for it more than for hidden treasure … Oh that I might have my request, that God would grant what I hope for, that God will be willing to crush me, to let loose his hand and cut me off!” (Job 3:20-22; 6:8-9).
There just didn’t seem to be any light at the end of the tunnel for me– at least, none that I could see. I had no hope–only a constant tormented feeling and a sickening dreadful fear that it would never ever end.
My family was my one source of comfort during this time. Their continual reassurance that I’d be well again was a strength to me. The words of hope they spoke helped to bring me through. I remember how I used to ask my mother why God was allowing all of this to happen to me. I’d felt that I must have surely done something terribly wrong to make Him so angry. She’d answer me with tears in her eyes saying, “I don’t know why God is allowing this. I only know that He must have something special planned for you someday. I just know that He does–He just has to!”
I found myself, in my tormented state, being drawn to the Word of God. My sanity began to be restored whenever I started saturating my mind with the Word of God. Reading the Word brought peace to my heart and healing to my mind.
Little by little, I found myself growing stronger until I was once again able to function and to lead a normal life. That’s what God’s Word did for me. But that’s not all that it did. It also birthed within me a hunger to know more about Him, a hunger that eventually resulted in my becoming a born again spirit-filled believer. My mother was right. God did have something special planned for me.
Since my conversion, the blessings of the Lord have never ceased to rest upon my life. At times, I remember all that I went through and think of how differently it might have been if I’d known then what I know now. I was ignorant then of Satan’s attacks and knew nothing about spiritual warfare. I never even considered that he was behind all that I suffered.
The Bible says that Satan came to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10). That’s what he tried to do to me. Isn’t it strange though that the very thing Satan tried to destroy (my mind) is the very thing God is using now to bring glory to His name (through my writing)? If someone would have told me when I was struggling to keep my sanity that someday I’d not only be writing for a Christian newspaper but would be assistant editor as well, I would have told them they’d lost their mind!
And if I’d known then that the Lord would one day send me to our outreach church in Somerset, the very town I dreaded, to help establish a children’s church there, I would have really been amazed! Especially since they’re planning to build a new fellowship right next door to Somerset State Hospital! Ironic, isn’t it? Yet God often does things like this in His restoration process, brings us around full circle.
Since my battle with mental depression, there have been many trials and tribulations that have come my way and there probably will be many more for me to endure tomorrow. As Job said in chapter 7, verses 1 and 3, “Is there not an, (appointed) warfare and hard labor to man upon earth? So am I allotted months of futile (suffering), and (long) nights of misery are appointed to me” (Amplified).
We all have our seasons of sorrow to bear. Remember that even though weeping may endure for a night for you, there’s a morning joy coming that will be far beyond anything you could ever even begin to imagine. I know–look what happened to me! (Psalm 30:5b, 126:5-6.)
© 1986 by Dot McGinnis