Mental illness is one of the most perplexing of all diseases. The stigma of this illness continues in contemporary society although attempts have been made to educate the public about this dreaded disease. This is my own story.

I nearly ran from the Los Angeles County General Hospital in the l980's. My voluntary reaction to the realization that I had recovered from mental illness was, “I MADE IT! I MADE IT!” In the midst of celebration, my father and I recalled, as we walked away, the horrible events that had made this hospital a dungeon of despair for me 28 years before."

At age 16 an episode in my life changed my perception, upset my goals, and plunged me into hopeless despondency. I had completed my sophomore year of senior high, a near straight A student with high goals and aspirations. I could not understand when physical and emotion exhaustion began nipping at my heels. The changes that were occurring in my body and psyche were further enigmas, added to my exhaustion.

Within a short period of time, I experienced rejection by a former girlfriend at youth camp and walked in a trance for the duration of camp. But, I had to plod on. The following week, I was employed as a camp counselor for a cabin full of preteen bombshells at junior camp. I was frightened by this awesome responsibility, my first camp counseling experience, and the campers had me climbing the walls.

I went home before the close of the camp with a great sense of failure at my inadequacy as a counselor. At home, I withdrew into a shell and remained alone in my room. I was afraid to see anyone; especially those at church who had been at the camp.

My parents were alarmed at the sudden change in my emotional behavior and arranged an appointment with our family doctor. After a thorough examination the doctor expressed concern about my physical and emotional condition. He advised immediate treatment for hypertension and injected medication to reduce my blood pressure and slow down my system; "to avert a possible heart attack or stroke," he said.

Immediately on our return home, I suffered a reaction to the medical and went into convulsions. I was rushed by ambulance to the Los Angeles County General Hospital, examined in the emergency room, and transported to the psychiatric and jail ward.

Three days and nights of a living "hell" followed. I was the only teenager in a ward of 50 shouting, screaming, cursing males, making verbal threats to'get me.' I was terrified. I neither left my bed or room nor engaged in conversation with anyone. I withdrew, like a turtle in its shell, into a near catatonic state.

My parents visited me and seemed to me like angels. I wanted to be with them, yet felt strangely separated from them. Although aware of my situation, I felt at the same time as though I was in a dense fog observing a videotape of myself, not able to control what was happening to me.

After 72 hours of primitive therapy and observation, the psychiatrist met with me and my parents. He advised that I be transferred to Camarillo State. His diagnosis was a "nerve blockage," which would require long-term treatment.

My parents chose instead to take me home and arrange for outpatient treatment with a Christian psychiatrist. In both treatment and ultimate recovery, this decision turned out to be most significant in determining my future and career.

After a few months of treatment, loving and supportive car from my family, and prayers of hundreds of Christian friends within our church community, I began a gradual recovery.

I returned to school, after missing a semester. Yet, with summer school, I graduated with my class. I was chosen as the bass singer to sing with a mixed quartet at the graduation ceremony. This achievement was the beginning of my career as a musician for more than forty years.

In the years, following graduation from college, I entered a full-time ministerial career. After a dozen years as a missionary representative and
pastor, I entered chaplaincy ministries in nursing homes and hospitals. All of these experiences brought fulfillment and led me into clinical chaplaincy residency training.

During this residency program, I became acutely aware of my intense pain in my teenage years 25 years earlier. I was afraid to make contact with patients on the psychiatric unit as it was a constant reminder of my own history of mental illness.

Yet, through the help of my supervisors, peers, and patients I encountered on the unit, I was able to affirm my past history, not as a dark shadow or weakness in my life, but eventually as a strength in my ministry.

I could readily identify with patients in their pain of depression, fear, isolation, loneliness, and rejection, which I had encountered in my past.
I was also able to affirm to them the hope of recovery evidenced by my own experience.

In the subsequent years, following that initial experience, I have ministered to hundreds of youth and adults through encounters in acute health care, community mental health care and residential centers. I have literally been able to change my shadow and scars into `stars.

It was on a family vacation in California in the mid-'80s when I joined my father in visiting again the L.A. County General Medical Center. We walked with the chaplain through the psychiatric wards where I had been a patient 28 years earlier! Is it any wonder that my excitement and exhilaration nearly overwhelmed me? ‘I MADE IT! I MADE IT!’ Thank God for his Healing grace!

Paul writes these powerful words,
"For when I am weak...I AM STRONG!" (II Corinthians 12:8)

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This article was originally published in the Herald of Holiness (Church of the Nazarene, 1985) and in the "Your Faith" section of the Newark Advocate, OH, 1998.


Twenty-two years later I have been recovered or what I term "Healed" from Depression for more than 50 years. Within the past 30 years I have ministered to hundreds, maybe thousands of depressed and mentally ill persons in varied settings as a Chaplain and/or Social Worker – acute care psychiatric, geriatric care, community mental health center, MR/DD and Youth Treatment Centers – proclaiming hope and freedom in Jesus Christ.