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Reaching Out

Reaching out

If you really want to find out if others understand your journey, it’s possible. There are other moms raising kids with mental illness (MI).

Reaching Out To Other Moms

Why do we want to know we’re not alone? Maybe it’s because:

  • It helps to know there actually are other mothers who know what it’s like to raise a child with MI.
  • We want to know that there are other moms (like me) who do all they can to help their child with MI, and still have times of turmoil. That tells us that those behaviors truly are challenging. It’s not that we have overlooked something. Caring, attentive mothers still have to face HARD times. There’s a limit to what we can do. That’s the nature of the illness.
  • We need to know other moms face the same struggles and still survive. That gives us some hope.
  • Moms in similar situations can show us other ways we can help our kids.
  • We can find empathy without judgement.

So I searched for like-minded moms. I stumbled on a blog where a mom, Christina Halli, shared her story. For one year she posted messages relating what it’s like to raise a son with numerous conditions. That’s right, throughout the years, her son has displayed symptoms of MANY different conditions associated with MI.

What struck me was how many people visited her blog, and shared their situations. Her blog was filled with TONS of stories, each one more horrific than the next. Each one just as heart-wrenching.

As I read the countless comments posted, my heart filled with sorrow. My eyes puddled up with tears. Because I could relate to their private pain. So could you.


 

Here are a few links for you to read for yourself.

On HealthyPlace.com you’ll find Christina Halli’s personal story calledLife with Bob.

Christina began her story with a brief introduction, About Christina Halli, Author of the Life with Bob Blog.

A sample of one of Christian’s posts: “A Letter to My Son with Mental Illness on Mother’s Day


 

Reaching Out to Find Something More

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My experiences have shown me that horrific details are just part of my story. God is a HUGE part of the picture.

We can grasp what we really need. Just reach out and grasp what God offers.

  • When faced with discouragement, He gives divine endurance.
  • When faced with horror, He loads us with abundant hope.
  • When faced with uncertainty, He uplifts us. The God of the future assures us He’s got it all under control He’s still on the throne.
  • When faced with helplessness, He provides heavenly wisdom and holy promises.
  • When faced with chaos, He responds with compassion.
  • When faced with overwhelming needs, He overwhelms us with His love and protection.
  • In our sorrow, we experience the supernatural peace of God.
  • In our loneliness, we feel the Lord’s presence.
  • In our fears, we find a faithful God.

Think it’s just for me? He’s reaching out to you, too!

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In Knots

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Williamsburg, Virginia

“Grandpa has a sore belly,” our daughter-in-law explained. Our granddaughter wouldn’t have understood pain from a gallbladder attack. But she surely could sympathize with belly pain.  So could lots of us.

The booming gluten-free industry is proof my husband’s not alone in digestive misery. People suffer from Celiac Disease and irritable bowel syndrome. Then there’s the ‘itis conditions’: colitis, diverticulitis, gastritis, pancreatitis, and more. A simple google search of ‘digestive illnesses’ yields a long list of miserable conditions. All of which can make your stomach feel like it’s been through a meat grinder.

Mom’s raising kids with mental illness (MI) know another type of stomach pain. The kind that results from worry and stress. Concern can cripple our digestive systems. Rendering us sick with belly pain. Leaving our stomach in knots.

What can ease that kind of twisted torment? Think about what parents to do ease the belly pain of a toddler. We softly stroke their tummy. Our heavenly Father can unknot our stomach when worry twists it like a strand of Christmas lights. Not only will His loving hand soothe our pain, but He’ll replace it with His perfect peace.

If MI has left you in knots, join me in using Psalm 90:15-16 as your prayer:

“Give us gladness in proportion to our former misery! Replace the evil years with good. Let us, your servants, see you work again; let our children see your glory” (NLT)

Stop and reflect on the phrase, “gladness in proportion to our former misery.” We serve a God who promised to, “turn their mourning into gladness,” and to, “give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow” (Jeremiah 31:13).

He will restore your joy. Because He loves you that much.

 

Waiting for the Payoff

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What’s the point of all we do? No one thanks us for showing unconditional love to our child who has mental illness (MI). No one knows our heartache. Or our loneliness. What keeps us going? How do we continue to support our child with little or help or no recognition?

We don’t see the fruit of our labor like other moms raising kids without MI. There are days when discouragement sets in. Thoughts of our child’s future taunt us.

Will he ever be fully healed? Will joy and peace ever return to him? Will he ever find his place in life?

We’re tempted to shake our fist at God and cry, “Why do you allow this misery to continue?” How is it possible to resist the temptation to lash out at God? By remaining in His Word and clinging to His promises.

How do we face another day? What does keep us going? Certainly we’re driven by our steadfast love for our child. We’re also propelled by the rewards God promises.

Matthew reminds us that there will be an eternal payoff.   He tenderly shifts our focus by saying,

“Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matthew 6:20).

Eye on the Prize:

MI tempts us to abandon our faith in God. For those who trust in God, Jeremiah offers encouragement.

“… ‘your life shall be as a prize to you, because you have put your trust in Me, says the Lord’”  [Jeremiah 39:18b (NKJV)].

For those who earnestly seek Him:

I can’t imagine dealing with MI without access to a real and living God. When earthly reality gets shattered, I can rely on the Truth that God exists. He not only invites us to turn to him in our distress, but He promises to reward us for doing so.

“Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him” (Hebrews 11:6).

For those who persevere under trial:

When things get tough, it helps to have someone cheering us on. Teaching was especially tough for me when multiple sclerosis (MS) hit. My husband kept assuring me, “You can do this.” God reassures us that we can endure with His help. He doesn’t say, “See if you can make this for one more year.” That would sound IMPOSSIBLE. He calls us to trust Him one day at a time. Just like when He told the Israelites wandering in the wilderness to trust Him for manna for each day. For those of us who trust him afresh each morning, He promises a reward.

“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12).

The online Oxford University Press dictionary defines “persevere” as to, “Continue in a course of action even in the face of difficulty or with little or no prospect of success.”

Is that a picture of your efforts? Do you continue to do all that is within your power to help your child, even though deep down inside you suspect it won’t make a difference?

James tells you that you will be rewarded for persevering under trial—for ministering to your child in so many ways and for such a long time.

For those who run as God’s athlete:

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever” (1 Corinthians 9:24-25).

Running the race God has set before us involves strenuous effort, self-control, and concentration.

In the face of MI, we focus solely on fixing our child’s problems. Like a marathon race, our track requires strenuous effort. We can say we ended the day victoriously if we devoted strenuous effort to seek God in the trial.

Ours is a daily battle of fighting fears, self-pitying thoughts, and anger.

When circumstances take a turn for the worst, I’ve had to deliberately interrupt my own negative thinking.

Why must I have to face this AGAIN? I’m just so tired of—No! Dear Father, put a hedge about my thoughts and emotions. Block out any negative thoughts. Help me deal with this situation. Give me steady emotions and Your wisdom.

We can exert self-control. Self-control that will be seen in our gentle responses to our child, regardless of his actions. Restraint that doesn’t come from self-will, but from the Holy Spirit in us.

We can demonstrate a constant concentration on our goal. Many of us function with a clear focus on heavenly matters, in addition to life’s pressing concerns. Yes, we help our child find good treatment, compassionate therapists, and a purpose for their life. In the midst of it all, we also remember to invest Truth into his heart. We share verses and pray with him. And we remind him that God’s power is greater than any problems. We reassure him that God is still on the throne.

Run your race with renewed confidence. God will enable you today and reward you for all eternity. He’ll give you treasures in heaven and a crown of life. That will truly be the best payoff ever!

Sharing Tips

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I’ll bet you’ve discovered ways you can survive raising a child with mental illness (MI).

In addition to clinging to God and His Word, I’ve found ways to validate God’s faithfulness. And ways to help me abandon my unnecessary guilt trip.

Watch the video I made. “Join me” in a park and connect with me in a more personal way. Here’s the link to the brief video titled ‘2 Tips for Moms Raising Kids with MI’:

https://youtu.be/SW0BRUx2mM0

What practical strategy could you share with others?

Surviving Survival Mode

Tyler Park Newtown, PA

Photo taken by Vicki Chandler at Tyler Park Newtown, PA

How would you describe your life raising a child with mental illness (MI)? Have you ever witnessed your loved one’s sweet personality engulfed by psychosis? Could you even begin to explain what it’s like to see that loved one in a psychiatric unit? How would you describe the impact that had on your life and your family?

A close friend’s four-word description spoke volumes: “We’re in survival mode.”

How would you convey that message? What details would you share to help someone understand ‘survival mode’? Here’s my attempt to further clarify those two words:

Survival Mode

It’s a minute-by-minute existence.

An emptiness filled with despair.

Trivial cares swallowed by mental illness.

Secretly crying, “This isn’t fair!”

There ARE no adequate words to describe what it’s like to see your own child in a psychiatric unit. Broken and in torment. No wonder our hearts break when we learn of friends enduring the same anguish.

That’s precisely why my heart is breaking. Just thinking about their ordeal brought it all back to me (the times our son endured a psychotic episode). Their news filled me with empathy. Empathy led to pain. Pain thrust me to a local park. There, I found a temporary escape from the distractions of the world. There, I found the oasis of God’s creation.

Just two side notes:

The park is located in a very congested Philadelphia suburb. So, if you feel drawn to escape distractions (for a short time), I’ll bet you could find a quiet corner of your world. If it’s not possible for you to escape your home (while watching your child), perhaps a video I made will offer you a virtual escape.

There are many families dealing with similar unspeakable trials. The details may vary, but the sense of loneliness is the same. If that’s you, I wanted to share my heart in a more personal way. So, I grabbed my video camera and tripod. And headed to the park. The brief message I recorded (below) isn’t a professional-quality movie. It’s just sincere words of encouragement, from my heart to yours.

https://youtu.be/DBID02_zNJ8

Encouragement

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What would help you through the day? No matter what your situation, my guess is that you could use some encouragement. That’s what I’ve needed while raising a child with mental illness (MI).

I remember several times during my journey with Chris’s MI that the future wasn’t simply uncertain; it seemed hopeless. Normalcy had halted. Routine activities weren’t possible. I wondered if mental stability would be restored to Chris. Or if he’d ever feel joyful again.

Those were times when Chris struggled most to regain mental stability. Times that left me facing a battle in my own mind.

I don’t know if I can endure this trial. How can I minister to Chris when I’m feeling so discouraged, sorrowful, and afraid? How much more of this can I take?

Verses like 2 Thessalonians 2:16 helped me hang on. It promised that God, Himself, would encourage me.

“May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.”

‘Eternal encouragement’: imagine that! God has given us everlasting encouragement. What a surplus!!!  Surely, He could provide a portion of that to me today.

I faced a relentless onslaught of worries. My solution was to listen to one particular song which assured me that God was still in control. Don Moen’s popular song “God Will Make a Way” reminded me of the promise in Isaiah 43:19.

“See, I am doing a new thing! … I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland” (Isaiah 43:19).

Here are some of those lyrics:

God will make a way

Where there seems to be no way

He works in ways we cannot see

He will make a way for me

 

He will be my guide

Hold me closely to His side

With love and strength for each new day

He will make a way, He will make a way

What seems impossible to me is possible to God.

It renewed my hope to believe that God would make a way, when there seems to be no way. So I listened to that song over and over and over. Until that Truth echoed in my mind and until the promise filled my heart with encouragement.

What seems impossible to me is possible to God.

 Listen to Don Moen’s popular song “God Will Make a Way.” Let the lyrics minister to you and give you God’s good hope and a portion of His eternal encouragement.

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

Standing Together

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I had selfish reasons for asking my friend the question. “Is your daughter still dealing with depression?” Truly, I wanted to know if her daughter’s medication was helping her deal with the demands of life. I had been praying for her. But, I also needed to hear how my friend was dealing with her daughter’s mental illness (MI). If she could hang onto her faith, then I’d find renewed confidence in my own faith. An encouraging word from my friend would remind me that God is able to help us in the midst of a very dark time.

Happily, I found that the new medication was helping. What’s more, my friend expressed unwavering faith. Her strong trust in the Lord bolstered my faith.

If she can keep her eyes on the Lord through this trial, I can do likewise.

Godly friends can show us the way to handle great sorrow. When the enemy tries to saturate our soul with fears, they serve as living examples of how it’s possible to rely on God’s peace.

It reminds me of Paul’s inner struggle when he wanted to see his fellow believers in Thessalonica. Satan had been hindering Paul from going to them.

“For we wanted to come to you—certainly I, Paul, did, again and again—but Satan blocked our way” (1 Thessalonians 2:18).

Has your child’s MI made you feel like Satan is blocking your way, keeping you from moving on?

How did Paul respond?

“So when we could stand it no longer, we thought it best to be left by ourselves in Athens. We sent Timothy, who is our brother and co-worker in God’s service in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith, so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. For you know quite well that we are destined for them. In fact, when we were with you, we kept telling you that we would be persecuted. And it turned out that way, as you well know. For this reason, when I could stand it no longer, I sent to find out about your faith. I was afraid that in some way the tempter had tempted you and that our labors might have been in vain” (1 Thessalonians 3:1-5).

He got to the point where he couldn’t bear it any longer.

We can relate to that, can’t we?

What did Paul do? He sent Timothy to go to Thessalonica. He needed to know if his fellow believers had been under similar temptations. He needed to know that their faith remained strong.

Timothy’s encouraging report comforted Paul.

“Therefore, brothers and sisters, in all our distress and persecution we were encouraged about you because of your faith. For now we really live, since you are standing firm in the Lord (1 Thessalonians 3:7-8).

We gain strength from each other when we stand firm in the Lord. It’s uplifting to hear that a fellow believer has remained strong in the midst of dark trials.

Those of us who have lived many years supporting a child with MI can encourage others who are new in their journey. We can share how God revealed Himself in the midst of trials. And those starting their journey can be encouraged to persevere.

We can relate stories about how God has been true to His promises. And bolster a fellow mom in her faith walk.

We can tell about God’s faithfulness, and others will gain strength to carry on.

We can endure our own trials when we know others are finding strength in the Lord. Because we share the same living God. Who cares for us, helps us, strengthens us, provides for us, protects our children, and comforts us.

We’re connected in raising children with MI. And we’re connected in our faith. We can carry on by encouraging each other in our unwavering faith.

Remember, Paul needed to reach out to fellow believers. And so do we.