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As She Fought Mental Illness, She Found Love Along The Way

Craig and Amanda Farrell in September 2017.
Courtesy of the Farrell family
Craig and Amanda Farrell in September 2017.

Amanda Farrell struggled with mental illness for much of her life.

When she was 18, she jumped in a lake because a voice in her head told her to. EMTs pulled her out and treated her for hypothermia. She was later placed in a psychiatric ward and committed by the state.

"Living in a cemented room with nothing but a pad on the floor, there was absolutely no hope," she said. "I was told that I was a lifer."

Today, Amanda, 38, lives in Appleton, Wisc., with her husband Craig, 46, and daughter Elorah, 8. She works for a local chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

It was a long road, however, from the psychiatric ward to her loving family.

The psychotic break came the summer after she graduated from high school. Voices in her head brought her to Weyauwega Lake in Wisconsin.

"I can just remember, like, the TV was talking to me personally," Amanda told Craig in a StoryCorps interview in July. "And then I felt this pull to go outside. I went out in my pajamas. It was raining. And there was a church that was across the lake and I saw a big cross and I felt like God was calling me. And the best way to get there was to swim "

Eventually, Amanda was placed in various group homes, where she received treatment and antipsychotic medication. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, medical records show she was on as many as six heavily sedating drugs at once.

In 2004, Amanda was allowed to live on her own. She met Craig six years later through a dating service and they immediately connected.

"Your smile just seemed so sincere," Amanda said. "I could just see the teddy bear in you from the very beginning."

Craig and Amanda Farrell with their daughter Elorah in July 2019.
/ Courtesy of the Farrell family
Courtesy of the Farrell family
Craig and Amanda Farrell with their daughter Elorah in July 2019.

Amanda felt herself falling in love but was nervous. She wanted to warn Craig that a life with her would require work.

"When you told me about that I didn't give it a second thought," Craig said.

They've been married for eight years.

Living with mental illness has brought its difficulties. There have been skipped doses of medication, nights spent crying and visits to the hospital.

"But even though we went through those hard times I truly believe that the things that we've been through together have made our relationship stronger," Amanda said. "And as long as I'm going through this life, I just wanna go through it with you."

Audio produced for Morning Edition by Aisha Turner.

StoryCorps is a national nonprofit that gives people the chance to interview friends and loved ones about their lives. These conversations are archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, allowing participants to leave a legacy for future generations. Learn more, including how to interview someone in your life, at StoryCorps.org.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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