Minister Monique Tarver shares how she first discovered she had mental health issues and the roles her faith and family played in helping her through hard times. Tarver is a leader in building bridges between the mental health and spiritual communities by encouraging the two systems to work together in supporting the whole person.
As a young mom with very young children, I didn’t feel as if they had the best mom for many years. It was hard to play with them. There are things that I don’t fully remember about my daughter’s life for the first year and a half and I would say that was the most difficult.
I don’t remember the first time I experienced signs of mental health concerns. I would definitely say as a teenager not really knowing how to have the conversation. Not really realizing how to address what I was feeling because I didn’t know there was really something to address, if that makes sense.
As I became an adult and had what we often call in the mental health community a “break” -- that’s up to individual interpretation -- but I really call it a really dark time for me was shortly after the birth of my last child and that was a healing process that took place over the course of about 18 months; just getting out of the deepest, darkest time. And I went to my faith leader first and sort of said, “Something’s not right” to which I was encouraged to seek medical attention.
And there were at first it was a lot of physical ailments. There’s a commercial that talks about how depression hurts and some of the physical things that come as a result of living with depression. And as I continued to go sort of from doctor to doctor, about the third time that it was suggested to me that I really consider that this was more of a mental health issue, I was actually really open to that idea because the doctor who finally sort of reached me, reached me by tapping into something familiar to me which was my faith; and then referred me to a therapist that I saw over the course of a year and have since moved into see a different therapist, but I do speak with a counselor often.
My family is great and I believe that it is important for individuals to be able to have a great support system. Mine happens to be my husband as the bulk of my support. My children whom we’ve also had very courageous and honest conversations with, and I think the most amazing thing about my family is that they have always made a conscious effort to communicate to me that they recognize what I struggle with but that my mental health diagnosis is not all of who I am. And they are always unconditionally loving me however I show up in a process and encouraging me to look within myself and giving me the strength to improve every day.
My path to recovery really began when I started to realize that I wasn’t a bad person. I didn’t do anything wrong, that mental health is a medical issue that does not discriminate. There was nothing that I did in particular to deserve it but that I did deserve to live a full life in spite of it. So I did that in the way that I knew how, which was to receive the help from the professionals and to know and give myself credit for knowing me better than anyone else and for knowing that what works for me really is a connection to my faith. And that I would trust the medical community to do what they needed to do and then where their expertise left off, and where it ended, that there were other supports that would begin for me -- my family support, the support from my spiritual community, the awareness that needed to be increased in my spiritual and faith community as well as any other wellness tools that I could come up with that would help me to be the best me.
Recovery is possible.
>>Yes, thank you. Recovery, five thousand points for you for responding so loudly.
Recovery is possible. It does happen. People thrive in wellness and recovery and one of the greatest ways to support them is to support them in the ways that are most important to them. When we surveyed consumers and family members across the state of California close to 80 percent said that spirituality and faith was important to their mental health and many believed that there was no way to fully and truly recover with the absence of faith and spirituality in their recovery plan.
Mental wellness and mental health concern is a part of my life journey. I think that a lot of times because I won’t deny that living with a mental health diagnosis can at times be very difficult and very hard, that it still is a part of my journey and it is not all of what it is but that it is a piece of who I am that basically pushes me to become the complete person that I am. It is a part of my experience. It is difficult. It’s hard. Out of that difficulty, out of that pain, out of that process did some great things come about? Absolutely!
I mean I think, if you look just in nature, you know forest fires often start and they come out of nowhere. I’m pretty sure the forest doesn’t want to be burned down but the truth of it is that the intensity of that fire that burns releases in the soil minerals that are essential to continued growth and so in a lot of ways, yea, that is how I see my diagnosis. I wouldn’t ask for a fire. I wouldn’t ask for a diagnosis. Now that it is here, it has released some things. And so now where I am is taking each moment, appreciating it for what it is, living in it to the fullest, enjoying my husband, loving my children and thriving.