Archives

Follow Close

Follow.closely

“No matter where we go on a field trip, there’s one important rule to follow,” I advised my student teacher. “Return with the same amount of students.”

What’s the trick of keeping track of twenty-five eight year olds? Constantly count to make sure no one has wandered away. And appoint a chaperone to walk at the end of the line.

As long as my students followed me, they were safe.

We’re like those young children. It’s necessary for us to follow the One who can keep us safe.

Many of us raising a child with mental illness (MI) can’t see where life’s headed. Sometimes it’s like driving in a blizzard. The white-out conditions make it difficult to find the road. And blind our eyes to the curves ahead. We peer into the distance, trying to find safe patches of road. Holding our breath as we maneuver through unknown territory. Bracing for slick spots—icy patches in the road that would send us spinning out of control.

Suddenly we spot two faint dots straight ahead. Could it be another car? As we inch our way closer it becomes easier to identify the lights. We breathe a sigh of relief. Another car IS driving ahead. Casting light onto the road.

Thank You, God. I’ll just follow those tail lights.

There’s relief in following a leader. Especially when God is the One pointing the way.

But in the midst of our trials, it’s sometimes hard to find God. Job described his search.

“Oh, that I knew where I might find Him. Look, I go forward, but He is not there, And backward, but I cannot perceive Him; When He works on the left hand, I cannot behold Him; When He turns to the right hand, I cannot see Him” [Job 23:3a, 8-9 (NKJV)].

Can you relate? Do you look into the past to see if God left any hints that your child would become depressed, suicidal, psychotic, enraged, or tormented? Do you try to track God in your current circumstances, wondering if He’s working at all? Do you look into the future and try to figure out how God could help your child?

Job was able to endure great losses because he followed God. In the midst of his suffering he stated with assurance that God “knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold. My feet have closely followed his steps; I have kept to his way without turning aside. I have not departed from the commands of his lips; I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread” (Job 23:10-12).

We, too, can follow God’s steps by treasuring His Word. God goes before us as our guide. He speaks to us through scriptures.

In the Bible we all find comfort for our broken heart.

The mother of a child who displays unprovoked anger and rage finds the Source of unconditional love and long-suffering. As she trusts in His powers to help her endure, she looks to the One who can restore perfect peace in her child.

The mother of a psychotic child finds godly wisdom to know where to turn for help.

The mother of an emotionally fragile child finds examples of Bible characters who found inner strength from the Holy Spirit.

The mother of a troubled child without a clear diagnosis reads about a Creator who knows all. He knows thoughts before they are spoken and numbers every hair on heads. She can rest in the knowledge that He will guide experts to finding a diagnosis.

The mother of a suicidal child finds promises of our Protector who can prevent harm.

The mother of a MI prodigal can sleep a bit easier when she reads about our omnipresent and omnipotent Father (who is everywhere and all-powerful).

In the New Testament we find Christ’s desire for us to follow Him. Jesus invited many to follow Him saying, “‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’” (John 8:12).

We also read about how to follow. There was one woman who followed so close to Christ that she could touch the hem of His garment. What led her to follow so closely? Mark 5:25-26 tells us, “A woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse.”

Sound familiar? Has your child “suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors” and gotten worse instead of better? Have you spent all you have on therapists?

No wonder the woman knew she’d get relief from her suffering if she could only touch Christ’s clothes (Mark 5:27-28).

Not only did Jesus heal her, but he sent her away with these words, “Go in peace and be freed from your suffering” (Mark 5:34).

So ‘maintain a safe distance’ when traveling through life. Stay close to Jesus. He still frees people from suffering and helps them go in peace.

 

 

 

Advertisements

More Powerful than Pain

Lord.goes.with.us

If you obey the speed limit, the road will sing to you.

Yeah, right.

Newsflash: Melodies motivate motorists.

It’s true. Musical highways are popping up around the world. Sound unbelievable? Check it out:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LJgCLq4Qo6A&list=PL5kpImGdIpVSiMPZZTUYNJTjT_K7mi8jQ

Drivers will only hear the melody when driving at the correct speed. That’s the point. Curiosity may kill a cat, but it can save a motorist’s life. Maintaining safe speeds to ‘play’ the tune can prevent accidents.

Popularity of these roads is growing because people enjoy the creative prompting to follow speed limits. Wouldn’t it be nice if all warnings could be equally enjoyable?

Raising a child with mental illness (MI) can easily lead a mom to dangerous thoughts. Her heart can be filled with fear, worry, and cares. If allowed to fester, worse emotions can result. Like depression and despair. The Bible warns against such contaminated thinking. But how do we resist when life seems so out of control?

God Word is full of loving guidelines. Gentle warnings. Our loving Father couples don’ts with dos, offering us a way out. The biggest warning sign in scripture is hell. But God offers eternal life in heaven through Christ’s death on the cross. All we need to do is accept His free gift of salvation.

There are others:

Don’t fear:

“For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline (2 Timothy 1:7).

Don’t fear losing control of your reactions. Do rely on His power, love, and self-discipline.

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love (1 John 4:18).”

Don’t fear what will become of your child. Do depend on His perfect love to drive out fear.

Don’t worry:

“‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life… But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own (Matthew 6:25, 33-34).’”

Don’t worry what tomorrow may bring. Do seek His kingdom and righteousness.

Don’t cling to cares:

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you (1 Peter 5:6-7).”

Don’t hold onto your cares. Do give them to the One who cares for you.

Too often I plunge into my prayers with countless requests. Then I realized that’s not how I approach my son. I don’t start off all my conversations with. “Chris, take out the trash. Do the dishes. Fix my computer. Move that clutter to the shed. Clean your room…” Instead I say, “How are you?” I enter most conversations with a desire to find out more about him. My relationship with him isn’t based on what he will do for me. So why do I treat God like an almighty Santa Clause?

Christ had a reason for instructing us to begin our prayers with, “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:9-10)’”.

He knew our need to shift our focus to Him. When we first contemplate His power, anxieties melt. Pain shrinks in the light of His greatness.

Come to Him first with love. Then the list.  

Many of us can relate to Peter who seemed to personify attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). No wonder he offers great advice when we mess up. God doesn’t say, “Off to the dungeon with you!”

Instead, 1 Peter 4:8 reminds us, “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”

So all we need to do is love (Ephesians 5:2), put on His armor (Ephesians 6:10-17), resist temptation (James 4:7) and draw near to His presence (James 4:8). That’s my formula for victorious living today.

Focus on Him and you listen to Matt Redman’s song ‘Blessed be Your Name.’

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PnWKehsOXu8

 

 

 

 

 

 

Surviving Loneliness

1.2012.Rachels

Why do you go for a walk? Would it be to exercise, think, relax, or explore? Maybe it’s to take pictures, study creation, or enjoy the scenery?

There are different motivations for walking with someone else. To take a romantic stroll or have an uninterrupted conversation.

Sometimes the walk can be routine or boring. Like walking to get somewhere. Or it could result in a precious memory. Like when my husband and I held the tiny hands of our one-year-old granddaughter.

Aborigines practice a more serious type of walk. They go on a journey—‘going walkabout’—which takes months. The concept of ‘going walkabout’ is new to me. I recently learned about the Australian aborigine ritual from a devotional posted on Rest Ministries by Kerryn. In her message titled ‘Going Walkabout To Be With My Father’ she described the aborigine form of initiation.

Wikipedia explains that a walkabout refers to, “a rite of passage during which male Australian Aborigines would undergo a journey during adolescence and live in the wilderness for a period as long as six months.

In this practice they would trace the paths, or “songlines”, that their ancestors took, and imitate, in a fashion, their heroic deeds.”

I read that and wondered: What are songlines?

The article ‘How Indigenous Australians Use Music to Mark Geography’ by kuschk offered a description of songlines.

“In Aboriginal mythology, a songline is a myth based around localised ‘creator-beings’ during the Dreaming, the indigenous Australian embodiment of the creation of the Earth. Each songline explains the route followed by the creator-being during the course of the myth. The path of each creator-being is marked in sung lyrics.”

I may not believe in their mythology, but it got me thinking. Do I follow the true Creator’s lead in my life? Psalm 89:15 assures me that, “Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim You, who walk in the light of Your presence, Lord.”

How I yearn to find His light in the midst of trials. Sometimes it’s difficult to track God’s lead when raising a child with mental illness (MI). It can be a lonely life. Only someone walking that same desert journey can understand what it’s like. Because of the stigma that surrounds the illness, most moms don’t talk about it. Their hesitancy to reach out compounds the loneliness. Deep sorrow and anguish fill the isolation. We wander aimlessly in an emotional wilderness devoid of understanding companions.

Husbands travel their own wilderness—one of mental wandering. As they struggle to discover the way out…some solution for their child’s pain. A way to fix the problem.

At the root of a mom’s loneliness is her need for someone to understand. Christ understands. He experienced times in the desert and even welcomed lonely places. “But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed” (Luke 5:16).

So we can meet Him in our lonely places.

My research about ‘going walkabout’ shed new light on my walk with the Lord.

Tourism Australia promotes the modern-day benefits of going walkabout. Their article ‘Walkabout’ stated, “Today we can learn from the Aboriginal concept of ‘walkabout’ and leave the pressures of everyday life behind to re-discover what is important to us. For the majority of us, going ‘walkabout’ means taking a holiday and using this time to escape the pressures of daily life and to get back in touch with ourselves.  Going ‘walkabout’ restores a sense of magic and wonder to our lives.  It enriches our spirit.”

I like the part about escaping the pressures of daily life. But disagree with getting back in touch with myself. True spiritual enrichment can only be found in Christ. Salvation through Jesus provides me with the gift of the Holy Spirit. I can think of no greater wonder than to benefit from the indwelling power of God in me.

Raising a child with mental illness (MI) can be painful. It’s a long drawn-out grieving process. Great sadness comes from desiring a better life for our child. Denial teases us on good days.

He seems to be doing so well today. Maybe he’ll be able to handle future stress.

But familiar symptoms return. Reality hits. Grieving returns. Where do we turn?

The world offers solutions. Tourism Australia points out that, “Contemporary understandings of ‘walkabout’ remain true to the concept’s Aboriginal heritage. To go ‘walkabout’ in the 21st century is to escape from the pressures of everyday life and to reconnect with yourself, with loved ones, and with the natural world.”

Escaping ‘from the pressures of everyday life’ sounds enticing. But reconnecting with myself sounds empty. I’d rather retreat and reconnect with Christ. He alone knows my secret pain.

My walk with the Lord should parallel an aborigine walkabout in one way.

Tourism Australia explains that, “a ‘Walkabout’ is not an aimless activity but a deliberate and focused journey connecting Aboriginal people to their traditional lands and spiritual obligations.”

My walk with the Lord should be ‘a deliberate and focused journey.’ What would that be like?

I’ll imagine Christ joining me on my private walkabout. I’ll picture Him joining me when I withdraw to pray for my son who has MI. I’ll ‘watch’ Him wipe away tears from my face and fears from my mind.

I’ll visualize him holding my hand as He guides me through each day. I’ll listen to the songlines He marks along my path. Worship songs will help me be alert to signs of His leading.

Heavenly Father,

Forgive me for not having a closer walk with You.  How I love spending time in Your presence!  Help me to keep my focus on You, walking with you each day.

School Pressures

wisdom

What’s worse: the terrible twos or the temperamental teens? Many parents would contend that it’s tougher to raise teenagers. That stage of development can leave a parent wondering what happened to their peaceful home. Like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, parents of teens can feel like the tornado of life has whacked them on the head. Leaving them muttering, “There’s no place like our old home.”  Homework and hormones and cars, oh my…Homework and hormones and cars, oh my. Yikes!

Raising a teen with mental illness (MI) can be even more challenging. How does one interpret a grunt? Is it the normal teen code for yes? Or is it the sound of an emotionally turbulent teen expressing garbled depression?

MI complicates everything in the life of a teen. How does one counsel a troubled child about peer pressure issues? When should the teen be allowed to drive?

In this part of our story, life seemed to be getting back to normal. The new medication had stabilized Chris. I was grateful Chris didn’t have to endure another psychotic episode. Though relieved, I still felt ill-equipped to discern how Chris was thinking or feeling. The Lord provided wisdom along the way.

♦♦♦♦♦♦

During Easter vacation Chris seemed happy and relaxed. He was more talkative, much like the old Chris.

“My stress level is only a two,” Chris informed me without prompting. On a scale of 1-10, ten was the most stressed. So a two indicated a normal level of stress. Good news.

Rob and Chris rehearsed a skit to show the family on Easter. They memorized the “Who’s On First?” skit by Abbott and Costello. I loved hearing them so happy and carefree. Their play practice assured me Chris’s new medication was working.

All too soon Easter vacation ended. The night before we all had to return to school I became concerned. Chris was wandering around the house aimlessly. I was trying to get myself back into the swing of things. I focused on my regular school night routine: get lunch money, check dinner plans, review my school schedule…

I went into the dining room to get lunch money for the boys. Chris followed me.

“Here’s your lunch money Chris,” I said and quickly turned to move on.

In the kitchen I checked the upcoming menu I’d planned.

Hum. Beef stroganoff. I’ll need to put the meat in the crock pot in the morning.

I moved the beef cubes from the freezer and placed them in the refrigerator to defrost. I spun around to grab the noodles and seasoning from the cabinet. And knocked into Chris. He had followed me from the dining room.

“Excuse me, Chris.”

I scurried to the living room to check my date planner.

What’s on my schedule for tomorrow morning?

Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted Chris sitting near me. He had followed me from the kitchen.

“Chris, are you bored or are you nervous about getting back to school tomorrow?” I snapped.

Chris glared at me and walked away.

Perfect! I’ve just added to his stress and made it difficult for him to talk to me. I know I should have been more compassionate. But I’m so busy. Father, help me know if Chris is feeling stressed.

Surprisingly, Chris returned.

“I’m having a difficult time just thinking about going back to school,” he reported.

“Let’s watch a movie to keep our minds off it,” I suggested.  “You might even be able to fall asleep watching the movie.”

“Sounds good,” Chris agreed. “Could I sleep in your bedroom?”

“Sure Chris,” I replied.

His question concerned me. Certainly Howie and I would have no objection to him sleeping on our floor. We were happy to do anything to help him relax. But his question made me wonder.

Why does he want to sleep in our room? Is this an indication that he’s feeling stressed? I can’t keep imagining his MI is getting worse. But what if he is becoming emotionally fragile? Dear Father, please give me wisdom to know what to say. Help me know if he’s in trouble.

Chris asked to sleep in our bedroom for three consecutive nights. He also asked me to call his psychiatrist.

“Mom, can you call Dr. Newman? Find out if I can take a tiny bit of my new medication at school when I’m feeling extra stress. Like I did with my old medication.”

It didn’t surprise me Chris was feeling more stress. The Spring Arts Festival was fast approaching. There would be many rehearsals. Chris’s schedule would become busier. Pressure would build.

College added to that pressure. Many high school seniors become apprehensive about going away to college. Chris was no different. But he had made a wise choice to minimize his adjustment to college living. He had selected a small college fairly close to home. The small campus would be conducive to finding rooms and offices easily. The close proximity to our house gave Chris the option to go home on the weekends. That would alleviate any anxiety.

In the spring we visited the college Chris would attend. We planned to travel to the college on a day other than orientation. That way, Howie and I could support Chris privately. We visited the nurse to share helpful and confidential information. After that Chris led the way as we went to the bookstore. He selected his textbooks. Then we headed to the Student Affairs office to inquire about Christian organizations on campus. Getting involved with fellow Christians would provide support for Chris.

Chris walked through campus with a spring in his step, his head held high, and a smile on his face. It was reassuring to see him so happy and confident. Chris was looking forward to living in a dorm. He embraced the challenge of living on his own. He had always been a risk taker. And always super focused on achieving his goals.

Around that time Chris joined the church’s bowling team.

“What can bowling teach us about life?” Chris asked. He had a way of asking philosophic questions. And expected a profound or theological answer. As usual, he asked the question while I was involved in some mundane activity. I was unprepared to ponder a spiritual response.

Oh Father, give me the words to answer Chris. Help me respond with an answer that will help satisfy Chris.

“Paul tells us in the Bible that we should be like athletes and keep our eye on the goal. In life we should always have goals. But we need to keep our focus on the smaller steps that lead to accomplishing the larger goals.”

Chris smiled and nodded in acknowledgment. My answer satisfied him.

Thank You, Lord, for giving me an analogy he can relate to bowling. Whenever Chris uses the marks on the bowling alley to aim, help him remember the message You gave me for him. Fill Chris with the assurance that life won’t seem so overwhelming if he takes it one step at a time. 

In May Chris could see the finish line. Final exams came before graduation. Chris excelled in math. English was harder. Especially since he was taking an Advance Placement English course (a college-level course). The remainder of his grade would be comprised of the last marking period and two exams (the midterm and the final exam). If he failed the last marking period and either of the major exams, it was possible for him to fail English for the year.

“My English teacher assigned a project that will be counted as a final exam,” Chris shared.

As the days clicked down, I prodded Chris with casual reminders to do the project. In spite of my reminders, Chris waited to the last minute to work on the project. The night before it was due, he came to me asking for help.

I reviewed the assignment. Students were to demonstrate what they had learned about English literature for their four textbooks—their four HUGE textbooks.

“Chris, summarize what you’ve learned.”

He couldn’t tell me anything!

Dear Father, calm my anger. I can’t believe Chris waited ‘till now to ask for help. I want to yell at him. Rebuke him for procrastinating. But I know that could push him over the edge. I need Your wisdom. I have no clue where to begin. Help me to know how to guide Chris.

God gave me the idea to use the contents of each book to formulate questions. Those prompts helped him remember what he had learned. Amazingly Chris received a ‘B’ for that project. To God be the glory!

There were only a few days left of school. I could tell Chris was cherishing every day he had with us. Soon he’d be going abroad. Four days after graduation he would leave to go to Germany. He would spend a month with a family as part of an exchange program. Then he’d be home for only several weeks during the summer before leaving for college. We would all need to trust God even more.

What’s it like?

peek

Here goes. I’m going to share some of the most horrible details of mental illness (MI).

Why would I share such intimate details of my life? What would motivate me to re-live painful memories? To let other moms raising kids with MI know they’re not alone. Other families experience similar struggles.

Our trials are both alike and unique. The details of your journey with MI may be different. But many of us share the experience of an unpredictable life. We all have access to the unchanging, reliable Father. God’s faithfulness is the thread that holds us together and connects our stories.

“What’s it like to have a psychotic episode? What’s life like for a mother whose son is out of touch with reality?” people wonder.

For me, it seemed endless … all-consuming …overwhelming … daunting … surreal. I needed endurance, wisdom to manage odd behaviors, and comfort to remain calm.

The last two weeks I’ve shared details about our journey. In the first part of our story [‘When Mental Illness (MI) Hit Home’] I shared how Chris had begun to unravel in 1996. His reality had given way to unstable thoughts and fractured emotions. My heavenly Father provided guidance and started helping me through my grieving.

Last week’s entry (‘Unprepared & Sad, but Unflinching’) showed how God provided peace and protection for me and medical care for Chris. This week I’ll continue the story and explain how God provided endurance and wisdom.

♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

For ten days, I didn’t sleep at night. I only rested. I took very brief showers in the evening when my husband was home. I hid all our knives, scissors, matches, medicine, and anything else I thought could be a weapon or harmful to Chris or us.

It was important for me to keep track of where our dog was at all times without Chris realizing it. I had to maintain a calm demeanor no matter what Chris’s emotions were. One minute, he’d hug. Minutes later, he sob and say, “Why me? I didn’t do anything wrong.”  Suddenly, he’d explode. He’d shout, break walls and mirrors, and slam doors.

I recall one incident when Chris karate-kicked a mirror. As I sat on the floor cleaning up the broken glass, I sobbed. It felt like I was picking up the broken pieces of his life.

Watching my son so broken was heart wrenching. It didn’t seem real to witness his bazaar and violent behavior.  His explosion of emotions seemed like years of pain were being unleashed.

Those days were difficult for Rob as well. Life was anything but normal. He had to go to school and act as if everything was fine. Robert thought the brother he knew was gone. I couldn’t guarantee Chris would return to reality, or ever be like he used to be.

There was no way for me to shield Robert from what he had to see at night. As Robert got ready for bed that night, he had to step around the broken glass and his weeping mother.

We witnessed Chris destroy other things. He’d pick up something, break it, and say, “This is evil.” He took Robert’s Casio keyboard and totally destroyed the controls.

God helped me endure the constant playing of “Jesus Christ Superstar” (the opera). Chris played it over and over and over until I thought I’d lose my mind. I couldn’t take the CD away until I felt sure Chris wouldn’t become violent looking for it.

After I hid the CD, I heard Chris playing the opera on the piano. Robert begged, “Do something to make him stop playing that music.” Hiding the piano wasn’t possible.

Chris also played “Joy to the World” in a dissonant tone. That song was always coupled with his warning, “The world is going to end.” One day, he got his trumpet and yelled, “Turn on the TV. Here it comes!!! Get ready! The world will end now!”

What does that mean? What does he intend to do?! Oh Father, please protect me.

Thankfully, nothing happened. Oddly enough, his musical abilities never left him. He played the piano and the trumpet all day. Always in a distorted, dissonant tone. Reflecting his tormented emotions. It was as if he found a creative outlet for his misery. I heard it. All. Day. Long.

Chris made the strangest comments and barraged me with questions. He constantly asked me what the Bible said about certain things. His racing thoughts caused him to demand the answers immediately. I couldn’t find the verses fast enough. Even though I was extremely frustrated, I couldn’t yell at him or give up. Either of those responses would have gotten him angry or violent. God filled me with supernatural calmness.

His distorted view of God’s Word resulted in peculiar actions. One day, he ripped the back of a white shirt and tied it around his neck to represent wings. He declared, “I’m the archangel.”

He carried his Bible everywhere and preached nonstop. We had to stop speaking about the Lord because that would just feed his twisted thinking. I never realized how much a part of my everyday conversations were about the Lord. I hid all our Bibles. We had more than I imagined!

One day, the mother of a girl from Chris’s school called to let me know he had called their home at 2:00 in the morning. To prevent future mid-night wake-up calls, we hid all our phones.

During the day, I couldn’t turn on the radio or TV. I didn’t want to risk Chris hearing something that would feed his distorted thoughts. I struggled to find something to do. Household chores lent themselves to calm and productive activities.

Chris’s blood pressure remained high as long as his mind raced. Often, his nose started bleeding. As a child, I had endured numerous nosebleeds. So, I knew what did and didn’t work to make the bleeding stop.

When Chris got his first bloody nose, I began to tell him what to do.

“Breathe out of your mouth, Chris.”

Chris perceived that as controlling and he resisted. He did the opposite of what I told him to do. In my frustration and sorrow, I cried.

Chris responded by shaking his head from side to side. The blood flew all around the bathroom, splattering it on the walls. It looked like a murder scene. I knew if I didn’t leave the bathroom, his nose would never stop bleeding. I had to walk away.

Please, Lord, stop his nose from bleeding.

Each day I kept anecdotal records and documented what was going on. This helped the professionals identify what was wrong with Chris. I administered his medication (Risperdal). It was important to follow the doctor’s specific instructions. The dosage had to be adjusted each day. We quickly spiked the dosage during the first few days, and then gradually lowered the dosage as he became more stabilized.

Twice every day, I gave Chris his medicine. It slowly restored some awareness of reality. But, Chris’s mental illness remained. His distorted thinking led him to believe the pills I gave him caused his strange thoughts. He thought I was intentionally trying to cloud his mind. So, he threatened my life.

He found a screw driver. Holding it two inches from my face he’d say, “I’ll kill you if you give me that pill.”

Each dose became a life and death experience. I’d look lovingly into his tortured eyes and calmly whisper, “Take your pill. It will help you.” Miraculously, Chris took it each time. Sometimes after first growling at me.

Thank You, Father, for protecting me every time I give Chris his meds.

One day, without my knowledge, Howie gave Chris some over-the-counter medication. The doctor said it would help calm Chris down. The problem was I had just administered an increased dosage of the Risperdal. I took Chris in the car to see some Christmas lights. Suddenly, he began to get extremely agitated. He started pounding the dashboard. Then he put his head back and said, “My tongue is swollen.” He began shouting and crying. It was extremely difficult to drive while calming Chris.

Thank You, God, for helping us return safely home. 

My heavenly Father provided endurance and gave the wisdom needed to manage Chris’s bazaar and violent behaviors. He helped me face the unthinkable. He’ll do that for you.

“Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us (Ephesians 3:20).”

God’s love never fails. He lifts us up when we’re weak. Join the Afters as they praise God in their song, ‘Lift Me Up.’

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i6UAGhJHmOw

 

Unprepared & Sad but Unflinching

eyes.Sofies.to.side

Fans don’t flinch when a soaring hockey puck rockets towards them. Why? Because of the protective glass separating them from harm.

That gives us a picture of God’s protection. When mental illness (MI) takes aim at our lives, we can envision the invisible hand of God enfolding our family members … our hearts … our minds.

How can we face our worst fears? By trusting in the One who can protect and provide. That’s the key to inner peace when an incoming strike from MI looms on the horizon.

MI can discombobulate our life and throw us off-balance. Leave us feeling torn apart and sad. Worn out and worried.

Torment doesn’t have to saturate our soul in the midst of tremendous sorrow. Peace will replace anxiety as we trust Him more. We hold onto the promise that, “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” Isaiah 26:3

Last week I shared the first part of our story [‘When Mental Illness (MI) Hit Home’]. In 1996 Chris had begun to unravel. His reality had given way to unstable thoughts and fractured emotions. My heavenly Father provided guidance and started helping me through my grieving.

This second part of that journey demonstrates my need for God’s peace and protection. Chris needed medical care. God faithfully provided.

♦♦♦♦♦♦

“Howie, Chris is having a breakdown. He needs help. I can take him to school tomorrow. The school psychologist, Jack, will know what to do.”

During the night, I didn’t sleep well. I heard Chris go in the bathroom a lot. He turned on the shower about five times. When everything became quiet, I got up to check on him. The bathroom door was closed. I assumed Chris fell asleep in the bathroom.

The next morning, somehow I got Chris dressed and in the car. As I drove, I explained what was happening. Even though he seemed incoherent, I felt the need to prepare him. Maybe it was my way of pretending the whole thing was normal.

“Chris, you’re probably mentally ill. You need some medicine to feel better. You’re going to talk to someone who is trained to help.”

Memories of my own childhood flashed in my mind. My father experienced a breakdown. He took medicine for depression and led a successful and happy life. That provided some comfort.

At school, I explained my situation to the headmaster.

“Chris’s mind has snapped. He’s lost it. I brought him to see our school psychologist,” I bluntly reported.

“Take Chris home. I’ll call when Jack arrives,” Bill replied.

I returned home with Chris. When we walked into our home, I noticed something alarming. Our dog’s eyes looked totally bloodshot, swollen, and almost bleeding. My mouth dropped open when I noticed her wet fur. Frozen in my tracks, I stood staring at her in disbelief. As if Chris read my mind, he explained what happened.

“I put her in the shower to get the blood off. I slapped her. She wouldn’t sit when I asked her to. She kept going for the dog treats.”

I realized Chris kept Zelda in the bathroom with him during the night. He harmed the dog he loved. The dog that comforted him many days after school. I gently stroked Zelda while waiting for Jack to call. Tears streamed down my face. Chris continued pacing. Mumbling to himself.

Soon after, the psychologist called. I explained the situation.

“Bring Chris to school. I’ll talk with him and find out what’s going on,” Jack instructed.

After a short visit with him, the psychologist concluded Chris was having a psychotic episode (commonly referred to as a nervous breakdown).

“I know a good physician who can evaluate Chris.”

We drove to Dr. Kent’s office. Once we arrived, the nurse ushered Chris and me to a treatment room. Jack briefed Dr. Kent in another room.

The nurse asked the routine question, “So, why are we here today?”

“Because I’m mentally ill.”

Chris’s answer shocked both of us.

“Is that right?” she asked me.

I nodded yes.

She took Chris’s blood pressure (which was soaring) and rushed out of the room.

Dr. Kent and Jack came into the room. Each of them locked onto my eyes with their stares. Dr. Kent pressed his lips tightly together. As if trying to keep the bad news from escaping his mouth. Jack shifted his gaze to the floor. As if searching for some other way to deliver the message. Their silence spoke volumes. I knew Dr. Kent agreed with Jack’s initial diagnosis.

After a brief observation, Dr. Kent explained the plan.

“First, we need to stabilize Chris. Bring him back to reality. After that, we can deal with what caused the episode.”

His soft, quiet word conveyed compassion. As he spoke, I could tell by his expression this was serious. Although I understood his words, it all seemed surreal.

Dr. Kent continued. “Chris should be hospitalized. But, we’d like to avoid that if at all possible. Would you be willing to try to stabilize him at home, Mrs. Chandler?”

“Yes.”

I knew it would be risky to have Chris around people—even his own family. But during the day, Howie would be in work and Rob would be in school. I’d do anything to keep Chris from being hospitalized.

The assurance of God’s presence always comforted me. So I gave myself a pep talk.

Shift your gaze, Vicki. Trust Him. God’s promised His protection and guidance. He’ll be with you. He’ll show you what needs to be done.

It would be important to create a safe environment. Deep down inside, I knew I couldn’t protect myself from a young man who was bigger, stronger, and smarter than me. Chis had a black belt in karate. I hid all our knives and scissors. The rest would be up to God.

Oh Father, keep us safe. Protect me during the day. My mind is tempted to panic. My heart is aching to scream out. I’m struggling to keep my composure. Chris needs me to remain calm. Fill me with Your perfect peace. Help him sense Your peace.

I had no idea what would happen each day. No idea how bad things would get.

In the most trying times, many of us tend to fear the worst. “How will I ever get through this?” we worry. “This situation seems so horrible—so impossible to solve … I don’t want to think about what will happen next.”

In the midst of uncertainty, we can be sure of God’s care. When MI hits, God provides people who can help. Our loving Father can help us remain calm in the midst of the crisis.

We may not know what the future holds, but we know Who holds the future. The song ‘He Already Sees’ by The Collingsworth Family has such an assuring message, with encouraging words: “He sees the rainbow when we see only clouds.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=25ryU9Jbt0Q

 

 

Prodigal

Prodigal.father

Most mothers who have an adult child with mental illness (MI) and young children share the same fear. Losing a loved one.

Years ago, I asked my second graders to write their worst fear. Most of the eight year old children were afraid of losing a parent. I can relate to that fear. My worst fear is that my son, who has MI, will be missing.

If your child with MI is a prodigal, you may feel that no one understands your pain. But any parent would have some inkling of the trauma you experience every day. Just the thought of losing a child can elicit a gut-wrenching response.

That’s why the news of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370’s disappearance and Washington’s massive mudslide is so riveting. We’re captivated by the mudslide tragedy and follow CNN’s coverage of the missing airplane. Expressions of distraught loved ones convey the horror they feel. Tears seem to bleed disbelief that their loved ones are gone. We shudder to think of them enduring such sudden loss. Any parent, who has lost a child even for a few minutes, can imagine the horror. We can understand their desperation. So we pray for an end to their nightmare.

I experienced the terror of a missing child when Chris was only five. His teacher had chosen me to be one of the chaperones for their field trip to the zoo. As we strolled past all the animals, my hand stayed locked onto Chris’s tiny hand.

We spotted the birds of prey. The northern bald eagle captured my attention. It seemed safe enough to release Chris’s hand for just a second to snap a picture. But I was wrong. While focusing on the eagle, a huge mob of children and parents surrounded us. Chris got swallowed up in the crowd. When he didn’t see me, he thought I’d left him. So he went looking for me.

I took the picture and reached out to grab Chris’s hand. A sea of unfamiliar faces surrounded me. None were Chris’s!

Sheer panic instantly set in. My heart began to pound. I desperately searched for him, screaming his name. “Chris! Chris!”

Tears clouded my vision. Thoughts of what may have happened to him assaulted me.

Please God, please let me find my son.

Miraculously, I spotted him hiding behind a bush. He had been afraid that a stranger might take him. So he hid. My son was safely reunited with me. What relief!

Twelve years later, Chris was missing again. This time it happened during his first psychotic episode.

Chris’s fractured emotions caused him to have mood swings. His negative mood swings usually had a sad or depressed tone. But one week that type of mood swing was distinctly different. Chris seemed very angry and full of rage. It seemed like he wanted revenge. Things quickly escalated.

We were returning home from a trip to the mall. When I pulled into the driveway, Chris stepped out of the car and ran away.

I sprinted into the house to get help. “Howie, Chris is missing!!! Help me find him!” I screamed.

We drove off in different directions. As I searched in our neighborhood, fears tormented me.

This can’t be happening! This is a nightmare. Why didn’t we get him to the hospital? At least he’d be safe there. If he kills himself, he’ll be with the Lord. Oh, I can’t bear to think about that. I’ve GOT to find him.

Praying aloud pacified me enough to hold it together.

“Oh Father, please help us find Chris. Protect him. Guide me. Help me know where to look.”

I decided to stop home to see if he had returned. And found evidence he had come home briefly. Long enough to knock over his brother’s drum set and trombone. He’d also taken a computer off the desk and placed it on the floor.

I hopped back in the car to resume my search. Emptiness filled the pit of my stomach.

How is this ordeal going to end?

Once again I stopped home. A message on our answering machine revealed his location. A neighbor called to say he was there. Chris had been accusing us of abusing him. Thankfully, the neighbor called us and not the police. It must have been evident that Chris wasn’t in his right mind.

Gratitude filled my heart for his safe return. A sense of peace replaced the emptiness in my stomach. But that wasn’t the happy ending. Only brief relief from the chaos of his MI.

The parable of the lost son gives us a picture of a parent’s pain. In the story, the prodigal son came to his senses and returned home. Luke 15:20 hints at the father’s vigil.

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.”

How did the father see his son while he ‘was still a long way off?’ He’d been staring into the distance, scanning the horizon every day hoping for his son’s return. Can you picture him straining his eyes? Spending endless hours peering into the distance? Do you know what he felt?

Many parents don’t know what’s become of their missing child—their vulnerable child who has MI. Can there be any comfort?

During my two experiences, I found comfort in the knowledge that God was with Chris. My heavenly Father knew Chris’s location and had the power to protect him. God also protected me emotionally and mentally. While Chris and I were apart from each other, nothing separated us from God’s love.

“For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39

Steve & Annie Chapman sing of a parent’s prayer when their child is a prodigal.

‘Turn Your Heart Toward Home’

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rNvafd0FzGc