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Voices for Recovery

Melanie Brander (08/23/2013)

I used to think having a mental illness was a curse. Now I know it is a gift. Only someone who has lived with an illness that tells you almost daily, “You should just give up and die", has the recovery heart to speak to those who wonder why they haven't give in to this very frightening thing. I have battled major depression since I was 8 years old. I lived in a home that was very dysfunctional. My father was my hero but he was a Special Forces soldier, so he was gone a lot. My mother was very abusive, and although bad parenting doesn't cause mental illness, it certainly doesn't help. When I was just a teenager my mother told me that my father wasn't my biological father. My biological father had committed suicide shortly after I was born because I was so ugly. Now this could and did hurt me, but the man I admired, the only father I ever knew, loved me. He taught me, my older sister and two younger brothers to know your enemy. So I studied everything I could about depression. It has taken years and a serious apology to my son, because I know I wasn't the mother he needed or deserved for most of his childhood. But now I have found my purpose and know why my 8 suicide attempts failed. I am a TN Certified Peer Specialist and I live in a military community. Our soldiers and their families come to my townhouse to talk about their battles with mental illness. I provide a safe place for them to talk about the dark and scary thing that threatens to end their military career. We find ways to cope and they come up with their own problem solving methods. Each time a soldier sits in this rag tag little group of neighbors, I see recovery and a brotherhood of men and women that is stronger than the secret they have to hide. I am proud of our soldiers and their families. I wish our leadership could understand these wonderful people are trained to leave no one behind, and that doesn't stop just because they come home. They are the reason I am still here: I still have a mission to do. Thanks to my dad for being so brave and loving me as his little girl, and thanks to all who decide not to give up but live to know their mission in life!

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