Unforsaken by Jalen S.

As I think about the definition of restoration and renewal, I think of being brought back to self, of returning something back to it’s former or original state. For me, I have experienced recovery and renewal. But my journey hasn’t been comfortable. And even though I’ve gained a better sense of humility from my growth and from a tragic situation, it wasn’t easy.

It was the beginning of my fall 2019 semester at Morehouse University in Atlanta, Georgia, and I was beginning my sophomore year of college. I was very confident that this year would be unforgettable. I had the perfect room, a roommate I trusted, and a self-esteem that led to a positive outlook on life. Despite all these great qualities, mentally, I was suffering. The worst part is I didn’t realize this until the first weekend of the school year on Friday, August 23, 2019.

After getting back to my dorm that night from attempting to go to a party with my roommate and his friends, I had experienced unexpected symptoms of bipolar depression and mania. I started to feel severely depressed. I started sobbing and crying various times without any reason or explanation as to what was upsetting me. Overnight, my symptoms worsened, I experienced insomnia and couldn’t sleep well at all. Through Saturday, I continued to feel depressed and overwhelmed with racing thoughts and emotions. By Saturday night, I would find myself broke down and crying in a way I never had before in my teenhood. I couldn’t understand why I felt this way. The next day I was still in a bad mental condition. Despite running on little to no sleep, all I wanted to do was go to church. By the time I got to the church, I had experienced the mania again. I still felt spiritually present, but the symptoms were more present. While singing in the choir, I was way more joyfully involved than I had ever been before. During the sermon, I felt the preacher had been speaking directly to me and my situation. It was all a shock for me. I had been praying so profoundly, the person holding my hand, told me after that they had felt the spirit when we prayed. These events made no sense to me at the time, but reflecting back to what I truly believe, that though I was mentally struggling, God was with me.

I left the church and went back to my dorm. It was almost immediate, the arrival to a very low point of depression. It was a feeling of sorrow that craved death. Sleeping felt like the last thing I would ever do as if I would die if I slept. I called some of my family, and they became terribly worried about me and my current condition. Not to my surprise, they called the school. Now Morehouse, my dream University knew about my suffering. I didn’t sleep at all Sunday night, I stayed up all the way until my next class at 10 AM. I wasn’t even ten minutes into the period before I was pulled out by a campus police officer accompanied by the dean and taken to the campus psychologist. Not only was this session not helpful, but the psychologist cut it short due to a meeting he had to attend. I wasn’t sent to the hospital to receive help, and I wasn’t diagnosed with any mental condition. So after this happened, I went back to my dorm. But the exhaustion, anxiety, and fear remained. I didn’t know what was next for me. I was worried about my education at Morehouse being cut short due to my mistakes and behavior. I continued to carry out my day by attending some of the classes I had left on my schedule. But my ability to focus was gone due to a severe lack of sleep for the past three days. By Monday night, I had decided I should leave Morehouse, and so I did.

I contacted my family, and in little to no time, I was on a flight to my father’s house in Chicago. I left Morehouse at one in the morning with most of my belongings. I got to my dad’s house at 7:00 AM. We immediately had an intense conversation about everything that was going on with me. And once our conversation was over, I finally got to sleep, even if it was just a quick hour nap. But once again, when I awoke from my rest, I was met with my mania. I tried to shower and get ready to go with my dad and uncle to eat food, but I was suddenly engulfed with the motivation to walk out of the house and leave. So after getting dressed, I left my phone and wallet and simply walked out of the front door.

I went missing until the next morning.

From what I can remember, I took the bus that was on the closest main street to the end of the line, and then walked all the way to another city called Evanston, Illinois. I wasn’t found until Tuesday morning because I tried to break into someone’s car, and the cops were called. I had the illusion that I would be able to drive home if I got in that car. Soon enough, the cops showed up to where I was and arrested me. As they questioned me, looking back, I feel grateful that I could articulate simple things like my name, where I lived, and the names of family members.
For this reason, the police were able to figure out that I had been missing because I matched the missing person’s photo that had gone viral. I was taken straight to the hospital. It was there that I became overly anxious and concerned that my family didn’t know where I was or how to find me. But sooner than later, I was met there by them for a very emotional reunion. I started crying, especially when I saw my grandma, who I hadn’t seen in person since I was two years old. I felt ashamed that my bad decisions, like drugs and partying, had led me to lose my mind. I didn’t want to be seen in that way, for the first time in more than a decade. My mom and aunt soon came from California to see me; they were crying a lot, it was all very emotional for me.

Soon I was examined and diagnosed with Bipolar disorder and quickly admitted to the psychiatric inpatient hospital. On the first night of my stay, I became enraged. I wanted to leave the hospital. I wanted to go home, so the doctors had to sedate me and strap me down. For the next two weeks, I was kept in that hospital. There were ups and downs, especially with the hard psychiatric drugs they were pumping into my system. I made bonds with a lot of the patients, which helped us all deal with the boredom. We often joked around, played games, ate together, and talked about the experiences in life that brought us here. I tried to bring light to everyone’s day so that we could all feel less alone and isolated. My dad would visit me as much as he could, bringing me food, which made me happy. I was discharged from the hospital on September 9, 2019, and finally allowed back into the world.

I stayed at my dad’s house for two weeks, and then I decided to come back to California. Coming back home for me was hard, I was embarrassed. At times, I became very depressed and suicidal because I felt I had lost all hope and purpose. But for the next few months, I continued to grow and heal through my relationship with God and the humility I gained through my struggles. For some aspects of this process, my family believed I was improving and doing well. However, they still believed I needed to seek continuous professional help. I would sometimes disagree with them because I felt that by growing spiritually in my faith, I would be healed mentally at the same time. I still seek professional help, but I truly believe that through God’s grace and power, I will continue to be healed and restored. I believe it’s enough. My family sees a lot of changes within me due to my revelations of God’s plan for me. Still, sometimes they think I’m not genuinely healing but rather running from my past. Even though they think this way, I do my best to remain patient and trust God because my transformation can only be understood by God and me. I am overly thankful for this journey that I have survived to tell. No matter what my family thinks, I know that evolving is the best way for me to grow and to battle the obstacles that I will face in the future.

Personal growth is about doing what is best for me, not others. I think I made bad decisions so that I could learn to change and become a better person. Striving for righteousness has caused me to be criticized at times, but it’s worth it because I stand in my convictions. I am thankful for the journey I’ve survived to endure. I thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for dying on the cross and resurrecting for me to be forgiven for my sins and poor decisions. My personal connection to God has grown so much from this trial. One of my favorite scriptures that helped me understand and trust Jesus through this experience is 1 Peter 5:10:

“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm, and steadfast.”

1 Peter 5:10

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