Anticipating a future without mental illness 

Written by Kaitlin Dendekker

I have never known a life without darkness. For almost two-thirds of my life, I have struggled with mental illness. My journey has often looked like one step forward; three steps back. And back. And back.

Yet through it all, I have learned brokenness leads to abundance, just not in the way we expect. In this life, my mental health may never be fully restored. Perfection isn’t attainable. But transformation is.

Brokenness brings life. This is what Ann Voskamp taught me in her book The Broken Way. Using her own personal journey as an example, she dares her readers to see the way of suffering as a way towards richer, deeper, life. John 12:24 tells us, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”

The ground breaks to receive the seed. The sky breaks to send the rain. The seed breaks to form a sprout. The grain of wheat breaks during harvest and in the making of bread. And finally the bread is broken to give us sustenance. It’s a strange, beautiful paradox—wholeness out of brokenness.

The thing about redemption is that it is never easy. It hurts. Consider Job. Everything was stripped away from him (his livestock, his children, his health) and yet this same man was transformed into someone who was able to say, “I know that my Redeemer lives” (Job 19:25a).

I often wonder what good could possibly come out of my pain and sorrow. How can God use a broken vessel like me? But the truth is, He already has! By His grace, I have had the opportunity to walk alongside others who struggle with mental health and shoulder some of their pain with empathy and compassion. I can turn to them and say, “Me too.”

I have spent the last five years in the hospital system and received multiple diagnoses, including a borderline personality disorder and a major depressive disorder. My brain is afflicted and fragile. My serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine levels are depleted. There are abnormally high levels of activity in my amygdala and lower grey matter in my prefrontal cortex.

My soul, on the other hand? It is being progressively transformed each day to reflect Christ.

As 2 Corinthians 4:16 says, “We do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.” God’s ultimate goal for my life is to sanctify me. And through his grace, even suffering can become part of the process of molding me into his image. It hurts. But it’s worth it.

For years, I struggled with what prevented God from fully healing me. I prayed each day for complete remission, a stable mind, and regulated emotions. And others prayed the same. As I matured, I came to realize that complete recovery may never happen in this life.

Is he able to heal me? Yes! Will he? I don’t know. But one thing I do know: the moment I enter eternity, I will see and worship the One who will wipe away all my tears and perfectly restore my mental health. All will be redeemed. All will make sense.

A few years ago, I was in and out of the hospital for three weeks straight. Darkness seemed like my only companion as I huddled in the corner of a small, cold cell in the psych ward. But Jesus was there too. A patient in the next cell beside me began to sing “You’ve Got a Friend in Me.” A nurse laid heated cotton blankets on me. And a tiny, white pill gently ushered me into peaceful oblivion.

I sensed that Jesus was with me even through the valley of the shadow of death. I didn’t need to fear the solitary confinement, the wails of other psychiatric patients, the panic of days devoid of light and life. He was with me.

Just as today we are amazed at Job’s ability to praise God amid suffering that doesn’t make sense, so some day my story will also bring praise to God’s glorious grace. On that great Day of Resurrection, I will no longer cower in a corner from anxiety or be bound to my bed from depression. I will no longer experience erratic emotions, unstable relationships, a distorted reality, or a disturbed identity. All that was once broken will be made whole.

Kaitlin Dendekker is passionate about spreading the love of Jesus through her writing. She is in her final year at Redeemer University and will be graduating with a major in clinical psychology and a minor in English writing.