Love, Forgive, and Never Give Up!

Young Bill Hargenrader - Trapped in the Mental Institution

I come from a big family. I’m one of 7 kids. All boys and one girl (my poor sister I know). Life early on could be viewed as tough for my parents with my dad working tons of over time, and my mom contending with all of us unruly kids running around. But they made it work. We had big Christmases and big birthday parties. I remember Captain America and Rocky action figure presents for my birthday, and dressing as Mr. T for Halloween. Though I remember the good times, there were plenty of times that were not so good. And then something happened that changed the course of my life forever.

When I was 8 years old I was sent to a mental institution for 3 years for a crime I didn’t commit. 

There was a house fire I didn’t set, but received the blame for. The more I protested my innocence, the more my parents, the doctors, and the police didn’t believe me.

The first night I spent alone in the padded cell was pure mental and emotional torture. The room was covered from floor to ceiling with rug that was dirt brown in color, and the smell of mold permeating throughout. There was one small wire mesh window on the door where the occasional face or two would look in at me like a lab rat.

An old worn out punching bag lay on the ground for those denizens that had pent up rage. Well, I had plenty to rage about. And I punched, and beat, and kicked that bag, with spit and snot flying from my mouth and nose, until I collapsed on top of it exhausted.

It was then that I had a very clear thought and prayer.

God, please get me out of this. Get me out of this and I will do whatever you say. Please god. And if you don’t I will stop believing in you, and I will know that I am all alone.

I awoke the next day, and I was still there. And at that young age something hardened in me, resolve, determination, death of innocence, and a realization that this was going to be very, very difficult. But realizing that I was on my own gave me strength. It said no one is coming to help me. It is up to me to figure this out.

I’m still figuring things out to this day, always improving and learning and growing. I’ve dedicated a good portion of my life to figuring out how we can change our lives based on a vision of where we want to go, a vision of the Next Level Life.

At the time, this experience of my first night in the mental institution was extremely painful, and when I relive the experience in my mind, it still is.  A boy whose mom, dad, brothers and sister all thought he tried to kill them in a fire… a god who would not answer his prayers. There were cops, firefighters and doctors who believed I was an arsonist that hated my family. But I was able to consciously use this moment to give me strength.

Love, Forgive, and Never Giving Up

It took me many more years to realize this truth: “Your darkest moment can be the source of your greatest strength. If you choose for it to be so.” There were three guiding principles that acted as lifelines along the way: Love, Forgive, and Never Give Up.

The love of my parents sustained me through these difficult times. I knew in my heart that they were doing what they thought best for me. That there was some twist of fate that had me trapped here. My parents got me the best care they possibly could, despite it being a huge financial burden to the family. One of my primary drivers was to get back to my family because they gave me the love I needed not give up all hope.

When the truth came out around the time I was 15, with tears in their eyes my parents asked for forgiveness. I told them I forgave them, and I truly did, and that was crucial for us to come together and heal. Forgiveness frees us up to heal ourselves, heal others, and to move forward. “Forgiveness is a gift we give ourselves” is a great quote from Tony Robbins that captures the power of the act of forgiveness.

Never give up. This is critical. Never give up on yourself. If you’re a parent never give up on your child. Every situation is different and every choice one makes is personal, and sometimes the choices are painful, but never lose faith that a better day is possible. Never lose hope that things will get better.

It’s true, not all things we hope for come to pass, but we have a greater chance of experiencing better days if our minds are open to the possibility of them. We have an even better chance to get to those better day if we expect and know in our hearts that we will get there. Never give up.

I’ll go more into my story of how I ended up in the mental institution and how I got out, but for now, leave a comment below letting me know some of the ways you were able to turn adversity into strength.

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Your Darkest Moment Quote from Trapped in the Mental Institution

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