My Story: Jacob McGowen

This post is from Jacob – a member of Mill City Church who was impacted by the “What’s Your Secret” series in the Spring of 2018. 

This quote really stuck out to me from one of the messages Pastor Aaron gave in our What’s Your Secret? series.

“You are only as sick as your secrets.”

There is darkness alluded to in that statement, that your secrets can bind and overwhelm you, and that the Devil can use them to attack you and destroy you.

Yet, there is also hope.

Ever since I was a little kid, I have found it hard to keep secrets. Sure, I can from some people, for a time. However, there always comes a point when I choose to reach out and tell a loved one, and then all the weight of keeping my secret slowly fades away.

Yet, in all of my nearly twenty-nine years on this earth, I have only had one secret that has interwoven itself with all my others, influenced all my fears, and that has been a part of my daily decision making for over a decade. In fact, it was nearly half a decade before all of my friends, family, and social media all knew of this burden of mine.

For thirteen years now, I have walked this earth as a schizophrenic.

You may have many ideas about what schizophrenia is. Many of you have no doubt seen the movie A Beautiful Mind, in which Russell Crowe plays John Nash, a brilliant mathematician yet also troubled schizophrenic of the 20th century. Others of you may have taken one or more psychology classes, heard references to schizophrenia in movies or television shows, or perhaps you may have described someone as “schizophrenic” without any regards as to why.

I will not write you a paper or give you a lengthy description of schizophrenia and its related mental disorders. That is something that can be provided by way of Google or a quality college education. I will simply tell you about my journey with Jesus and what living with schizophrenia has taught me. Here are just a few of the things I’ve learned.

1. Life is hard, and that’s not just a saying.

Living with schizophrenia, you face daily battles. It can be a struggle to wake up and focus, for example, due to the effects of medication. Budgeting your time, not getting too stressed, taking your medication as prescribed, every good and bad decision can affect the outcome of your day, and at times, your week. You can feel tempted to believe you are more “like a machine” than a human being.

Yet, in whatever circumstance you face, without allowing friends or family to support you and remind you daily of the reality of who Jesus is, schizophrenic or not, you will leave yourself open to a world of chaos and sin.

2. People will disappoint you.

No matter the number of relationships you may have, you will not be excused from the brokenness of those around you and the lies of the Enemy. In my case, with schizophrenia, I instantly feel low if I feel someone is talking about me or being cruel, even if I don’t really knowing if they are. I can be disappointed when people don’t approve of me, when they don’t seem to understand or if they are, for a season, unavailable. When I have felt there was no way out, when I have relied only on my broken mind and my sinful nature, I have learned that I only distance myself further from Jesus. Standing alone like that is highly dangerous for me.

3. The battle never ends.

Every day, as a schizophrenic and as a Christian, I have to choose: whether to believe the lies, be overcome by delusions, wallow in severe isolation, or whether to open up to friends and loved ones and experience true and abundant life. It is in choosing to have community and the support of loved ones that I have found true healing and growth. I know the same can be true for you as well. This radical truth brings life and freedom, no matter how many times you walk away from others, and choose to return.

4. You need others.

Every day, living with schizophrenia, you know three things: life is hard, people will disappoint you, and that the battle never ends. You can cite many instances and bring up a wealth of old grudges to prove your points. Yet, it is through family and true godly community that you can discover freedom, that you are more than your diagnosis, that you are not your sin, that you are a son or daughter of the King, and that His plans for you are great and without fault or error.

Reading these things I have learned on my journey, hearing my perspective, you may simply see this blog as just another blog and nothing more. Yet, looking back thirteen years ago, if you were to tell me that I would write blogs, songs, tweets, social media posts, telling everyone about my schizophrenia and how God was working in it, I would have said you were even crazier than I was.

“I can’t even tell my whole family, much less all my friends and classmates,” would have been my murmured reply to you. I would not have even looked you in the eye.

Well, I can tell you now, nearly at the end of my twenties, that I have looked people in the eye. I have kept a job, graduated college, kept a blog, been overseas and back to Uganda three times, been a part of Mill City Church and life-giving city groups at Mill City as well.

Learning to open up to others at first, about my schizophrenia then everything else, has taught me that releasing everything to God, then sharing those things with friends and family, allows the truth of God to take root in my life, and forces the “voices” and lies of the Enemy to be silenced.

I am only here today because of Jesus and because I have allowed Him and others into the darkest areas of my life. If you are burdened by secrets of any kind, I encourage you to submit everything to Jesus and find community, share your secrets with others you trust, because after all, as Ephesians 6:12 says, we do not “struggle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

As you go, know there is a place for you here at Mill City, and more importantly, that Jesus is pursuing you. He loves you dearly.

-Jacob McGowen