Life growing up was great! I was born into a Christian family, had two older siblings and parents who loved me unconditionally, but as I grew older I started to notice that there was something different about our family. We didn't go on holidays, we rarely went to the movies and we never really had people visit. Weird things started to happen, a lot of which I can't really remember but my older sister and brother would tell. One day I sat down with my dad and asked why we didn't do what other families did. And he, in the best way he could, explained that my mum was schizophrenic bipolar. That alone was heartbreaking and shaped so much of my childhood and life. What I thought was the norm was actually very out of the ordinary, but I didn't share my thoughts with anyone. Growing up with mental illness in my family had become my life.

Around the time I turned 6, I started to get unwell for no reason. My dad would take me to see a doctor but nothing appeared to be too serious. Little did I know this would start a journey of something I never thought would happen to me. Weeks later I was very ill and my dad rushed me to the hospital. The doctors performed tests and kept me in for observations over 6 weeks to try figure out what was going on. Then it happened, I was diagnosed with a rare form of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis which had spread to every joint in my body. This started a 9 year journey of losing my childhood and being confined to a wheelchair for most of my child and into my teenage years. It had its affects, trust me. I became depressed, suicidal, lost all sense of self-worth and wanted to end it all. All the while I was still going to church and praying that God would do something!

While having my personal health challenges, and then still having a mum battling mental illness, life became really hard. Year after year I would ask God to heal me and nothing ever happened. I eventually hit a point where I had tried everything until I felt like giving up. Later down the track we had a miracle offering night at youth. On that night I said, "Jesus, I can't do this anymore, please take this from me" and over the next two weeks a miracle happened. I went to the doctors for a normal check up and was kept in overnight. Two weeks later I walked out of that hospital and life hasn't been the same. People always think if God heals, it's instant but for me it was a journey and I'm thankful everyday I didn't give up.

A couple of years later life started looking like it was going to get better. One night after coming come from youth I saw my dad andsister on the lounge crying, this scared me. I asked them what was was going on and my dad said, "Darren, I have something to tell you. Your mum has been diagnosed with cancer." Are you kidding me! My mother's mental condition was still not 100% and now this. Years had passed and we kept praying and believing in God to heal her.

Just a couple of weeks after my 18th birthday I came home from a trip and mum's condition had deteriorated so much that she could barely talk. A couple days after the doctor told us that she had a only few month left, then less than 24 hours later we were told that she only had days. That started the hardest week of my life. Everyday from the time the hospital would let us in to the time we needed to go, I sat and prayed that God would heal my mum. Then on that Friday night I couldn't take it. I came to the point I said, "God, if you heal her or take her home, I leave that to you but we can't do this anymore". Then on the 6th of September at 6:30am I got the call from my dad telling me that mum had passed away. This is the hardest thing I have ever faced in my life and the challenges of grief and loss that came with it hit me hard. I slipped back into depression, had extreme social anxiety and felt I couldn't get close to any of the females in my life as I could lose them.

I'm here today as a result of one thing. Jesus was with me every step of the way. Even when I didn't feel it or see it, He was there and helping me. If it wasn't for the people God had placed in my life, and the peace and strength that He gave me I wouldn't be here today - full of joy, happier than I've ever been and so willing to talk about these struggles and how they affected me. Jesus will and always will be the answer to what you face in life. He is the best thing for you, I can promise you that.

True Story of Darren Illicic, a boy in a wheelchair who can now walk.

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