Archive | September 2013

Power to Cope

power.of.God

What’s wrong with bolstering someone’s self-esteem? It’s full of empty promises. Like an infomercial.

“Just invest a bit of belief in yourself and you too can become a super parent. In exchange for your effort, you’ll overcome all odds. No challenge will overtake you. No trial will defeat you. Call today and request your supply of positive thinking.”

A parent once called me seeking support for her daughter, Susan. She attributed her child’s academic failures to Susan’s poor self-esteem.

“Susan is failing in school. It’s because she doesn’t believe she can achieve success. She’s given up. She has poor self-esteem. Will you please tell my daughter that she’ll get better grades if she tries harder?”

“No,” was my blunt reply.

Silence on the other end told me my refusal shocked the mother. As Director of Instruction, it was my job to support teachers and parents. The baffled parent finally spoke.

“I know you can help her improve her self-esteem. Why won’t you tell her she can do it if she tries harder?”

“Because that’s a lie,” I explained. “Self-esteem relies on self. Believing in our own efforts can fail. The Bible offers something more reliable and powerful: God-esteem. We have assurances of His power working through us.  In Philippians 4:13 we’re promised, ‘I can do all this through him who gives me strength.’”

“Does that mean Susan shouldn’t try hard?” questioned the mother.

“No. The Bible tells us diligence is rewarded. The point is to help Susan choose a greater Source for help when things are difficult. When children learn to substitute God-esteem for self-esteem, they’ll feel more empowered. Turning to Him for help will become automatic.”

That conversation left Susan’s mother with greater hope for her child than any self-esteem pep talk could offer.

Many of us feel like Susan. There comes a day when our efforts fail. A trial hits that’s too large. A challenge engulfs us. A challenge that’s too great to overcome. Like dealing with our child’s mental illness (MI).

When faced with Chris’s MI over the years, there were many occasions when I felt my resources were depleted. I had no mental or emotional energy to handle one more crisis. Couldn’t summon any more patience to deal with mental health professionals. Wondered how I’d face another day of unpredictable behaviors. Doubted my ability to hold it together one more day.

In desperation, I ran to the Bible. Thankfully, God’s Word transformed my thinking. I realized my discouragement resulted from a belief in myself. My loving Father led me to verses which assured me of HIS POWER to help me cope.

Here are a few of those verses that became my lifeline.

“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid (Psalm 27:1)?”

“Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the Lord (Psalm 27:14)!”

“Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart, all you who hope in the Lord (Psalm 31:24).”

“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might (Ephesians6:10).”

Do you fear you’re a failure as a parent? That’s another lie. You know how hard you’re trying. Lack of improvement doesn’t diminish your efforts.  Plug into the divine Source of power. God will strengthen you, renew your hope, and provide guidance.

Hillsong’s song  I Will Run To You reminds us to live in the glory of His grace.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UdWGLm4zxEA

 

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Surviving a Child’s Suicide

Rick and Kay Warren

Rick and Kay Warren

Mental illness (MI) is once again in the news. Sadly, another mass shooting took place at the hands of someone who apparently suffered from MI. The shootings at the Navy Yard in our nation’s capital rocked the nation. Left us all grieving, stunned, and angry. Why does this keep happening?

Rick Warren, author of “The Purpose Driven Life” and pastor of Saddleback Church, knows what it’s like to have a child with serious MI. They faced a parent’s worst nightmare: the loss of that child to suicide. In April 2013, Matthew killed himself.

Matthew Warren

Matthew Warren

Last night, Pierce Morgan used his show to interview Rick Warren and his wife about MI and gun violence. The entire hour-long interview sounded like a message from the pulpit. Rick and his wife shared about pain, sorrow, grief. Yet their responses were sprinkled with unshaken faith in God, and words of hope. They spoke of seeing their son once again in heaven. And honestly admitted to nagging unanswered questions.

Here’s a portion of that interview:

http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-pastor-rick-warren-talks-about-sons-suicide-20130917,0,3592656.story

Here’s another link:

http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2013/09/15/rick-warrens-slow-walk-back-to-the-spotlight/comment-page-8/

When we’re going through a trial that seems like it could defeat us, it helps to turn to someone who’s experienced it and survived. Rick Warren is one of those people. He had to live what he’d been preaching. Now when he speaks, people can’t say, “That’s easy for you to say.” He’s living proof that God is faithful. Our Father upholds the weary. And comforts the sorrowful.

Spend some time listening from Rick yourself. On his church’s website, he has a series entitled “How to Get Through What You’re Going Through.” Pick one of those that would most meet your current needs. Here’s one:

http://www.saddleback.com/mc/archives/

 

 

 

Needless Shame

pout2  pout

A pouting child is a picture of….How would you finish that sentence?

Rejection. Isolation. Exclusion.

“What did I do?” “No fair.” Children understand when they are unfairly judged or excluded for no apparent reason. But that doesn’t make them feel any better. Those emotional scars can last a lifetime.

Throughout history entire groups have been unfairly ostracized and persecuted. The Israelites, Jews, and blacks.

Perhaps you feel ostracized. Excluded, ignored, banished, left out. Has mental illness (MI) made you feel like a cast away. Discarded. Shunned.

Like victims of bullying, you feel shame. Convinced you did something to deserve it. Taunted by unfair thoughts:  Maybe if I was a better parent.

But deep down inside you know you’re trying the best you can to help your child who has MI. You’re struggling to keep peace in your home and love in your marriage.

In the midst of all you’re dealing with, shame needn’t be one of the challenges.

According to the online Oxford Dictionaries, shame is defined as: “a person, action, or situation that brings a loss of respect or honor.”

MI: the situation that robs us of respect or honor. We feel shame because society still misunderstands MI. We feel judged by people who have no idea what we’re enduring. Shame on them!

Oxford Dictionaries also defines shame as: “a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior.”

Surely, our shame can cause us to feel humiliated. Others make us feel like we’re to blame for some reason. Shame on us for believing that lie.

The truth is MI is an illness. Behavior management techniques employed by other parents won’t work with a child whose actions are a reflection of unstable thinking or fragile emotions.

It’s not so easy to just…

  • Tell a clinically depressed child to, “Snap out of it.”
  • Expect an anorexic child to, “Sit there until you finish your meal.”
  • Require the explosive child with a bipolar disorder to, “Calm down and relax.”
  • Punish a child experiencing a psychotic episode for his violent and bizarre behaviors.

My resolve: to fight feelings of needless shame. And to seek encouragement from God’s Word.

“I have chosen the way of faithfulness; I have set my heart on your laws. I hold fast to your statutes, Lord; do not let me be put to shame (Psalm 119:30-32).”

“May the arrogant be put to shame for wronging me without cause; but I will meditate on your precepts (Psalm 119:78).”

“Because the Sovereign Lord helps me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore have I set my face like flint, and I know I will not be put to shame (Isaiah 50:7).”

I’ve learned to ignore assumptions made by others whose lives aren’t touched by MI. I no longer care what others think. Years of judgment from others taught me to be a God-pleaser. God sees the long-suffering, gentleness, and unconditional love I extend to Chris. My heavenly Father cares more about the fruit of the spirit in my life rather than the dust on my furniture. He knows I’m doing my best to honor Him in my parenting.

Bottom line: Christ knows the truth. And He experienced shame.

“…fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart (Hebrews 12:1-3).”

Call on Him to rescue you from needless shame. Fall on the throne of God and leave it there. May Hillson’s

“Came to my Rescue” be the cry of your heart.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yAMbEPZfWCY

The Dreaded New School Year

school.supplies.worry

When purchasing new supplies and new clothes for your child with mental illness (MI), did you buy some new worries too? I did. Chris would have to face changes in his senior year of high school. He’d have to trust new people. Would he be able to handle the stress? Would I?

My greatest fear: another breakdown. With God’s help, Chris finished his junior year of high school on time. His studies were interrupted by hospitalization, followed by out-patient care, followed by home bound instruction. Yet, Chris successfully completed eleventh grade. I convinced myself things would be smooth sailing for Chris from then on. That happy place of denial didn’t last long.

The only thing worse than watching your son “lose his mind” is noticing some warning signs that indicate it’s about to happen again.

In October of Chris’s senior year that’s exactly what happened. From my first experience with Chris’s breakdown, I learned to notice early warning signs. When I realized Chris getting close to the edge again, I felt very helpless. I didn’t know if anything could be done. He already was on medication.

At the same time, I felt confident the Lord would sustain me as he had before. But I dreaded having to watch Chris suffer like that again.

When I picked Chris up after school he acted differently than normal—especially on days he had band practice. He either talked incessantly or fell asleep immediately. He started getting some nose bleeds, which indicated his blood pressure might be unusually high again.

I knew we had to do something, but worried there was nothing that could be done. Worry led to shame…I felt ashamed I wasted emotional energy worrying. God tells us in His Word we shouldn’t be anxious because it can’t add one day to our lives. In my mind I knew worrying wouldn’t accomplish anything (except maybe cause me health problems!). In my heart I believed God was able to do beyond all I could imagine. Yet, I feared the situation would only get worse. Sometimes our imagination is our greatest enemy.

When I took Chris to see his psychiatrist, Dr. Newman, I learned there was a very simple solution.

“We can give Chris a tiny bit of extra medication at the time of day when he experiences the most stress,” explained Dr. Newman.

“How will that help? Most of his medications cause him to be drowsy. Won’t that just make him sleep more?”

“No. When Chris experiences additional stress, his brain produces adrenaline. Adrenaline reduces the effectiveness of his medication for psychosis. The adrenaline makes his mind race so he can perform under the stressful conditions. That’s why he’s more
talkative when he first gets in the car after school.”

“Why does he fall asleep sometimes?”

Dr. Newman went on to explain. “Once the stressful condition is over, Chris experiences a “bounce” which is a sharp decline in his mental energy. That’s why he falls asleep so suddenly. It’s the way his body allows him to recover from the stressful experience.”

It started to make sense to me. It seemed like what happens to infants when they get an injection. Sometimes they cry a lot and then fall asleep after the ordeal ends (the sharp decline in mental energy following a stressful experience).

We agreed to try administering just a tiny bit of medication as needed, at just the right time of day. I was still worried. I thought it could be dangerous to increase the dosage of a psychotropic medication with a teenager who was on the brink of another breakdown.

I needed to know, “What if this doesn’t work? Could this bring on a psychotic episode?”

“That would be a mini-crisis and you should beep me. Say it’s an emergency,” Dr. Newman replied casually. His casual demeanor didn’t reduce my level of concern.

Chris would be the one who would determine when he needed the extra pill, based on elevated stress. I knew Chris wouldn’t go to the nurse to get his medication. That could make him late for band practice. Being late for practice would just add more stress. Having the nurse show up at band practice to give Chris his extra pill would be an option either. What teen would appreciate that?

The best solution: Chris would carry his own extra pill. The school nurse initially wasn’t willing to let Chris do that. The school’s zero tolerance policy against drugs was the issue. But Chris was entitled to a reasonable accommodation. A compromise was proposed to have Chris also carry a note from the nurse giving him permission to carry the pill and administer it to himself.

When I picked Chris and Robert up from school, Robert got into the car before Chris.

“How did Chris act during band practice?” I asked him.

I never realized Robert had grown tired of my asking him how Chris acted in school (all during Chris’s junior year). Robert’s response was a wake-up call for me.

“Please stop asking me how Chris acts!”

“I’m sorry, Rob. I won’t ever ask you again.”

As soon as Chris got in the car I could see for myself how things went. He wasn’t talking incessantly. He didn’t fall asleep at all. It seemed like the problem was solved and the crisis was over.

Peace returned to Chris and to me. But there would be more critical periods that year. Times when I’d succumb to worrying. Occasions for God to reveal His faithfulness once again.

God can always make a way when there seems to be no way. Let Don Moen’s song “God Will Make a Way”  remind you of His unending faithfulness, power, and love.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1zo3fJYtS-o