Written by: Rebekah Frylinck
Article source: JOY! Magazine

“I want to speak up and share my story in hopes of spreading awareness and to let those out there know that whatever they’re struggling with can be resolved. That they’re not alone and that Jesus can completely heal.”

It all started during lockdown. I was struggling with anxiety and fear (something that has always been a struggle of mine.) However, this time it was the last straw. On April 1st 2020 – the 6th day of lockdown – I was playing my guitar and worshipping to try and take my mind off the anxiety and fear that I was facing. In that moment, I stopped and prayed and asked God that during this lockdown period, He would shake me of all the things in my past and in my present life that I hadn’t dealt with or wasn’t dealing with, everything that was the cause of my constant stress and anxiety. I proceeded to play and started writing a song. I called it ‘Unshakeable.’ The words of the chorus are as follows: “You are unshakeable, but Lord you shake me with your truth that sets me free.”

Severe anxiety
At the end of July, I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis (a chronic, inflammatory bowel disease that causes inflammation in the digestive tract). A flare up can be brought on by stress or anxiety, as well as many other factors. In my case, I believe it was mainly caused by severe anxiety.

‘I felt light headed and dizzy’
On the 31st of September my body and mind said: “Enough is enough.” I was at home with my family when, suddenly, I felt a wave of nausea come over me. I felt light headed and dizzy. I fell over, fainted, and started convulsing. My stepfather, who was once a paramedic, put me on oxygen as I was hyperventilating and tried to calm me down. He kept asking me when my birthday was, but I physically could not speak. I remained conscious and was aware of my surroundings. This episode went on for approximately 20 minutes. Physically, I had no usual signs of a seizure and we narrowed it down to a panic attack. The next day, I went to the doctor and he did not seem too concerned. He told me to take an Ativan whenever I feel a panic attack coming on and to try and reduce my stress levels.

Conversion Disorder is a rare condition in which your brain converts mental stress/trauma into physical symptoms.

A seizure at work
I was fine for 2 weeks until the 16th of October. I was working on a client doing eyelash extensions and my hands started shaking. I calmly got up and took an Ativan, but it didn’t help immediately. My second seizure started, and all my colleagues started to panic. I was transported to the hospital via ambulance. I kept on having one seizure after the next. My MRI scan showed that there was absolutely nothing physically wrong with my brain – they just could not explain it. I remained in ICU for the night, heavily sedated.

An unknown diagnosis
The following day I was transported to Constantiaberg Medi-Clinic where I was treated by a neurologist and put in an observation ward. I was hooked up onto an EEG monitor to detect the electrical activity inside my brain. By this time, I was having approximately 6-10 seizures per day. Initially they thought I had epilepsy, however the scan showed no physical damage to my cerebellum and epileptic medication did not stop the seizures. The doctor came and gave me a form explaining what was wrong with me. I was diagnosed with Conversion Disorder (also known as Functional Neurologic Disorder.)

A rare neurological condition
Conversion Disorder is a rare condition in which your brain converts mental stress/trauma into physical symptoms. The symptoms cannot be explained by a neurological disease or any other medical conditions. There are multiple symptoms. My symptoms, however, were displayed through non-epileptic seizures.

‘I kept asking God why’
This diagnosis took a while for me to process. I kept praying and asking the Lord why this was happening to me. After five days in hospital, I was transported to Helderberg Clinic, a psychiatric hospital, for three weeks. During my stay, I had to undergo psychotherapy and cognitive behavioural therapy with a psychiatrist, psychologist as well as occupational therapists.

Jesus can heal in many miraculous ways. Sometimes He heals instantly. Other times it is a process.

Dealing with bottled up issues
The time had come to deal with all my issues that were just bottled up in my subconscious mind. I worked through everything and my seizures became less and less. I learnt what triggers them and how to control them when I feel one coming on.

Finally, it all made sense
I started to remember the prayer that I had prayed and the song that I wrote at the beginning of lockdown. I went back to the recording and re-listened. Finally, this all made sense. I had asked God to shake me of all the things that I had not dealt with and He literally shook me!

There shouldn’t be a stigma around mental health
Our mental health is so important, and many people are suffering in silence due to the stigma attached to it. I know that there are still many people out there who do not believe in mental illness and do not see the importance of psychologists, psychiatrists, and most importantly self-care.

Jesus is our Healer and Protector
Jesus can heal in many miraculous ways. Sometimes He heals instantly. Other times it is a process. I believe that He uses doctors and medication to help us along. I believe that each person that came along on my personal mental health journey was placed there by Him to help me on my road to recovery. I am grateful for this journey God placed me on. He introduced me to many different people who were also struggling with their mental health and some who are far worse off than I am.

I would really love for people to understand mental health better and to get rid of the stigma attached to it.

It is okay not to be okay
I hope and pray that those reading this who are struggling with anxiety, depression, or any other mental illness will take heart for He has overcome. Do not suffer in silence. It is okay not to be okay. To those who have not suffered with mental illness and might not understand what their loved ones are going through, be supportive and kind.

Be careful what you pray for
My advice to you is to be careful what you pray for or ask God to do in your life. He might just take you quite literally as He did with me (lol)! “I keep my eyes always on the Lord, with Him at my right hand I will not be shaken.” – Psalm 16:8

Be like a sunflower
Lastly, to all reading this. In times of trouble, fear, or doubt – be like a sunflower and face the Son. For a sunflower to stand tall and stay bright it needs the sunlight. For us to stand tall and stay bright, we need the Son of God who is Jesus Christ!


Feature image: Rebekah Frylinck
Rebekah Frylinck can be contacted on rebekahanne.f@gmail.com

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