“Crazy Girl” – Part 2 – The Transformation
“Crazy Girl”: The Transformation
Read Part One Of Natasha’s story here: https://gnrm.org/blog/crazy-girl/
It’s been said that only really bad things happen at night—especially at 3:00 a.m., an hour in folklore that has traditionally been dubbed as “the witching hour.” It seemed to be true for Natasha. On most nights, her subconscious was invaded by horrible images and voices of accusation and doom—casting a grey pallor over her day.
But one warm summer California night, as she lay in yet another mental hospital bed, Natasha encountered something altogether different. Sometime during the early hours of the morning, a Presence broke through Natasha’s usual nightmares and brought with it a sense of unexplainable peace. For Natasha, who had never known a moment’s peace in her life, the experience had broken every paradigm, every experience she had ever known.
“This feeling of comfort and hope was so strong, so real that the moment I woke up from what I can only describe as what Heaven would feel like, I was a changed person,” shares Natasha. “Instantly I went from being always fearful and afraid to knowing, really knowing, that everything was going to be okay.”
When a Crow Says an Intelligent Thing
While we’re used to reading or watching dramatic accounts of “dreams in the night” accounts and even near-death experiences, this testimony is so nebulous that it’s difficult to chock it up to a divine encounter. After all, there was no “thus saith the Lord,” no physical touch, no vision of Heaven—not even a shadowy figure appeared where one could legitimately call this a “God dream.” Instead, it was just a feeling. Natasha, however, has no doubt that what she felt that night was a life-changing event—a gift from God himself.
Excited at what had transpired in the night, Natasha shared her dreams with others in the hospital, though, not surprisingly, none of them believed her. Half the people there experienced hallucinations on a regular basis; either that, or they imagined they were somebody they weren’t—sometimes several people in one! In short, it was a tough crowd.
“When a crow says an intelligent thing, chickens may laugh at it. This is the laughing of the sand castles at the powerful waves!” – Mehmet Murat Ildan
But neither their disbelief, nor the skepticism of the staff, failed to contaminate Natasha’s new-found faith. She knew God had visited her and she would never be the same. That dream was her turning point, her great epiphany. But her journey to spiritual and emotional wholeness had to begin somewhere other than a mental hospital. What she needed was a “soul hospital”—a place where the Great Physician could do what He does best: mend broken hearts.
“A far, far better thing …”
Natasha found that place of healing—or rather it found her. Through a series of divine orchestrations, Natasha ended up at the Good News Rescue. It was, as Natasha puts it, “far, far better than I expected.”
“I thought it was your typical rehab place and given my high failure rate at such places, my expectations were not all that high,” says Natasha. “Instead, I found a house of hope and healing. They talked about Jesus 24/7—how much He loves us and has far bigger plan for our lives than we can ever dare to hope or imagine.”
Natasha jokingly admits that she might have found Jesus a lot sooner—as a teen—had she accepted her grandmother’s bribe of $50 to read the Bible. “I didn’t take the money and I didn’t read it,” confesses Natasha. “But God clearly wouldn’t let me go—my several brushes with death and other traumatic events that would take out most people, are a testimony to that!”
But it wasn’t just one single spiritual experience, or even a series of divine encounters with God that would get Natasha where she is today. For her, it was a “line-upon-line, precept-upon-precept” approach that began to affect her lasting transformation. The dream from On High was only the beginning—representing a shift from darkness to light, from the impossible to the possible. But it would be the daily renewing of her mind to the truth of God’s word—allowing Him to heal the mother wound, and a whole lot of other wounds—that would set Natasha on the road to lasting transformation.
A New Normal
The other women in the recovery program, as well as spiritual mentors, were all part of God’s plan to help Natasha during her 18-month recovery. There was the volunteer mentor who taught a Boundaries class where Natasha learned how to deal with toxic family members and others in a healthy way—including the importance of forgiving those who wronged her. There was also the case manager who would listen, love and encourage her as she battled her demons. Then there were the women who would cry with her—and laugh at themselves in much needed comic relief as together they learned what “normal” looks like.
Natasha’s external circumstances have followed her inner victories. She has a good relationship with her mom. She also recently wed and has a new job at the Mission. For her, working as a guest service assistant at Good News is not just highly therapeutic in that she knows she’s helping others who were once like herself, it’s also a constant reminder of how far she’s come, and how far she can still go. “With God, nothing is impossible,” she likes to say. How far she’s come from where she started is a living testimony of that truth. After all, who could have imagined a drug-addicted, mentally-ill and abused “wild child” becoming the woman you see today: happy, whole and full of hope for the future.
Feet of Clay: David’s Depression, Hannah’s Shame, Job’s Grief
When it comes to her battle with mental illness, a complex condition that Natasha still takes medication for, she wishes that people would understand—or at the very least not judge—those who suffer from mental illness. Those sufferers include those who live on the streets, many of whom are plagued by spiritual and mental illnesses. This was once Natasha.
She classifies these illnesses not as “sins” but as “lies” – lies exasperated or exaggerated by a disorder. She would agree with one author who wrote, “Though the ideas planted in our minds by conditions like depression, anxiety, or PTSD are lies, the felt experiences caused by these disorders are a true reality.”
Unfortunately, as Natasha could tell you, the religious community has often stigmatized mental illness as a “sin” or a sign of demon possession. (It can sometimes be the latter, but it takes training, wisdom and discernment to separate the two.)
“Mental disorders are caused by any number or combination of factors, ranging everywhere from trauma and physical illnesses to genetics and hormonal imbalances. Almost all contributing causes are outside of one’s control and don’t indicate weakness, lack of faith, or grave misstep. God doesn’t judge us for our serotonin levels any more than He judges us for our blood type, and neither should we. We should be reminded that some of the greatest biblical figures struggled through periods of intense mental anguish—including Yeshua (Jesus).”- Rachel Friedlander
Perhaps that’s why Natasha can relate so closely to the stories of Elijah’s despair, David’s depression, Hannah’s shame, Job’s grief and Jesus’s acute sense of loneliness when no one would stay awake and watch with him in the midst of His most agonizing hour. She’s experienced all of the disorders listed above, and, from time to time, still does. But they no longer define her life. She recognizes that they are both feelings that are subject to change, and faulty mindsets—what the Bible calls “vain imaginations”—that slowly but surely are being eradicated by the power of God’s love—and a renewed mind.
For Natasha, He’s becoming both the mother and father she never had. The brothers and sisters are there now, too. She found them while in the program, and after joining a local church—discovering the beauty of godly relationships as God intended it to be. For Natasha, “He puts the solitary in families” is more than a nice, inspirational verse—it’s a comforting and necessary part of her journey to wholeness. And it all began with a visit in the night.
“My father and mother abandoned me.
I’m like an orphan! But you took me in and made me yours.” – Psalm 27:10
Read more about it:
Why We Can’t Be Bad at Discussing Mental Health Anymore, by Rachel Friedlander