So, you’ve been diagnosed with a mental illness, and you’re wondering, “Why me?” It doesn’t seem fair that you should have to deal with the symptoms of your disorder while others walk the earth with the ability to produce their own serotonin and dopamine, regulate their own emotions, and live in a peace of mind that you feel like you’ll never know. It makes sense that you want to understand why, or for what reason, you were dealt this blow. Were you born with mental illness, or did it develop over time? Did you or your family cause it in some way? What causes mental illness in the first place?
What Causes Mental Illness
The question of why you have a mental illness can be answered in part by what we know through medical research. Evidence shows that there are a number of causes for mental health disorders like anxiety, depression, bipolar, and schizophrenia. Most of them fall into the categories of biology, genetics, environment, and experiences. From those perspectives, there are a number of reasons why you might have a mental illness:
1. An imbalance hinders your brain’s neurotransmitters from properly communicating, resulting in a chemical imbalance that makes it difficult for certain parts of your brain to function.
2. Mental illness runs in families. If your parents, siblings, aunts and uncles, or grandparents have the same disorder, it’s likely that you were actually born with a genetic predisposition to developing that particular mental illness.
3. What your body has been exposed to matters. If your birth mom abused substances or worked a job that exposed her to toxins while she was pregnant with you, that may have put you at higher risk for mental illness. If you’ve been exposed to toxins or abused substances in the past, that puts you at higher risk as well.
4. Stress and trauma have an impact as well. If you’ve been through particularly difficult life events or experienced prolonged periods of instability, that could be a factor in why you developed a mental illness.
Research also reflects that woman are more likely than men to develop certain mental illnesses and that the brain goes through such significant changes in early adulthood that most mental illnesses manifest during your mid-twenties. If that isn’t enough to answer your question, then you can simply look at the statistics… 61.5 million Americans struggle with mental illness year after year, and you’re one of them. As you can see, the answers are myriad when you simply ask the question why.
Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?
If the question you’re really asking is, in fact, “why me,” then you might be struggling with a much larger question. Why does anyone have to go through life with mental illness? Why does anyone have to endure that pain? Why does pain, or any suffering, happen? And what in the world does it all mean? People have come up with a lot of ideas to explain or find meaning in suffering.
The Pew Research Center recently published a survey of how Americans explain why bad things happen. They report that a whopping 35% of the Americans they surveyed simply believe that “life happens” at random–in short, it’s inevitable, there is no explanation, and you simply have to live with the cards you're dealt. 13% of those surveyed believe that suffering and evil are part of God’s will, either because He is using suffering to test our faith and bring us closer to him, or because He is angry with us for how we’re living. 6% blame other people, governments, and society for most suffering, saying that we’re set up to fail from the beginning by flawed systems created by the men and women who came before us. The other beliefs reported in the survey include that suffering and evil come from fate/karma, free will and its consequences, and the idea that all suffering is meant to teach us a lesson.
Most of us are overwhelmed by suffering at some point in our lives, whether it's our own suffering or the suffering of others. In the midst of that overwhelm, it makes sense that we try to find meaning and purpose in the suffering itself, a way to justify it, an answer to the question why. Why was I born with mental illness?
The truth is: nobody knows for sure. This leaves you with a decision to make.
The Christian Perspective
Christians believe that, in the beginning, everything including mankind was created by God. It was whole, perfect, and beautiful, exactly as He intended it to be. Then sin came into the world–you’ve probably heard the famous story about Eve and the serpent. When sin came in, it didn’t just mean that men and women suddenly became capable of doing terrible things. It also meant that suffering became possible. Anything that is imperfect in this world is a result of sin itself. Without sin, there would be no cancer, no suicide, no racism, no wars, and no mental illness. In short, Christians believe that the answer to your question is: sin. You developed a mental illness because we live in a broken world where pain and suffering happen every day.
But the good news is, Christ-followers also believe in redemption. We believe that a broken world can be made new. We believe that because of His love for us, there is hope for a time when “there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain.” It’s not that “everything happens for a reason,” but that anything and everything can be redeemed. Your pain and struggle with your mental illness can be redeemed if you choose. It can be part of a story with a happy ending, even if the plot is thick with trials along the way.
What Are You Going to Do with Your Mental Illness?
So now the question is no longer “Why was I born with a mental illness?” Now it’s “What do I do now?” Will your story have a redemption arc? The road ahead won’t be easy, but there is hope. Lean on your friends and family, seek professional counseling, carefully consider any medications your doctor recommends for your particular disorder, and do whatever you can to set yourself up for success. If you need help finding resources that can help you, reach out to TheHopeLine, and a Hope Coach will be happy to walk through this tough time with you. There will still be days when your mental health challenges you, just like there are days when a diabetes patient struggles to manage their blood sugar. The important thing is that you can live an abundant life, full of purpose and struggle with mental illness at the same time. Your mental illness is just a part of you, and you are “fearfully and wonderfully made” by a God who loves His children.
Are you struggling with an anxiety disorder? Read our blog on, How to Deal with Anxiety, You Can't Just Toughen Up.