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Proof Individuals with MI Can Contribute

HappySadmask

It’s easy to laugh with the comedian, but hard to understand the man: Robin Williams. He was gregarious on the outside, yet tortured on the inside. Why was it such a shock when he committed suicide? He openly revealed his mental illness (MI). The news stunned us because he hid it so well.

The Bible tells us about such concealed torment.

“Even in laughter the heart may sorrow, and the end of mirth may be grief [Proverbs 14:13 (NKJV)]”

The Message translates that verse this way:

“Sure, those people appear to be having a good time, but all that laughter will end in heartbreak.”

Robin Williams’ emotions were like a termite-infested house covered with fresh paint. His delightful demeanor hid destructive pain. People refer to the battle he fought. They say be wrestled with demons. In actuality he struggled with a disease: severe depression. In his mind lived both unbridled humor and inconsolable depression.

Fellow actors speak of his empathy and big heart. Imagine the effort it took for him to give so much in spite of his emotional pain. With his life snuffed out, one bright lesson remains: people with MI can contribute. That should be of some encouragement to those of us raising kids with MI.

But there’s another lesson for all to learn. Something else contributed to his death. What pushed such a seemingly successful man to end his life? He had recently spent time in rehab. But that apparently couldn’t cure him of his depression. Could it be that shame and stigma compounded his inner turmoil?

As mothers who know that shame. Let’s commit to praying for an end to the stigma that surrounds MI.

Dear heavenly Father,

Move in the hearts of people. Build a culture of compassion for those with MI. Restore joy and clarity of thought in the minds of those who suffer with MI. Especially our children.

In Christ’s name, Amen

 

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In Need of a Husband’s Support

Howie and Chris

Howie and Chris

Chivalry came from the most unlikely gentleman.

“Here, let me get that for you,” he offered. The blind teenager had enough vision to notice his teacher struggling to open the door. In one hand I held a heavy metal braille typewriter. The other held my bag of supplies and student files.

My student saw a problem and solved it. Like most males.

Men are wired to repair broken things. The reality is that some things can’t be fixed easily. Like a child’s mental illness (MI). Many fathers try to remedy the problem by explaining it away. Denying the diagnosis can only last so long.

How does that fit with a wife who has moved on in her grief to anger, bargaining, or depression? She needs emotional support from her spouse. When her mate is unable to provide what she needs, anger grows and bitterness can set in. Does that sound like your situation?

How can a husband care for his distraught wife if he’s not yet able to face the illness? If my blind student’s vision had been worse, he would have been unable to see my problem. He wouldn’t have come to my rescue.

What can a grief-stricken mother do when her husband can’t provide what she needs? Allow me to share what I’ve done. I don’t presume to have all the answers. I’m not a psychologist. Just a fellow mom who’s been through what you may be experiencing.

  1. Pray for God’s perspective of your husband. Imagine his need to fix the unfixable. That could only lead to helpless feelings. Think about his desire to protect his family members. Then contemplate what it would be like for him to realize he can’t protect your child from MI. Men love their tools. But no tool can reach inside your child to restore clarity of thought and joy. No gizmo can guard against turbulent emotions.
  1. Pray for your husband’s emotional healing. Look beyond your husband’s avoidance of the whole situation and see a grieving father. Any loving dad will surely feel sorrow. He won’t express it like a woman. But it’ll weigh like a concrete brick in the pit of his stomach. Perhaps your husband harbors guilt feelings. Ask God to move mightily in his heart and mind. So your husband can find forgiveness and peace from a loving Father.
  1. Ask God to provide what you need while your husband is grieving at his own pace. Through scripture He’ll speak words of healing you long to hear. Ask your Father to send a godly woman to support you. To cry with you, pray with you, and listen without judgment.

Let me encourage you. God hears your prayers. He heard mine. Howie has become attentive to my emotional needs regarding Chris. And he is gentle in his interactions with our son. God’s perfect peace has settled Howie’s heart. Yes, he’s sad. But Howie’s calm assurance comes from eyes lifted heavenward. He’s learned to let God carry the burden.

I told Howie this post would pertain to husbands raising kids with MI and asked him for any message he’d like to share. Here are his words of experience:

“It makes it easier when you realize there’s nothing you can do. It helped me when I realized it’s out of my hands. You still show love but you know you can’t fix it. That takes a long time to get to. Years.”

Howie hasn’t given up on Chris. He’s just given Chris over to God. Not given up…given over. When he seeks help for Chris, he doesn’t run to our tool shed; he goes to our prayer closet.

The centurion in Matthew faced an impossible situation with his suffering servant.  As a man, he understood authority. So he pleaded with Jesus to heal the servant.

“‘Lord,’ he said, ‘my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.’

“Jesus said to him, ‘Shall I come and heal him?’

“The centurion replied, ‘Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.’”

“When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, ‘Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith (Matthew 8:6-10).’”

What got Christ’s attention was his faith. Ask the Lord to increase your husband’s faith. To help him understand the power of the greatest Contractor of all. The Repairer of lives is accessible. Just a prayer away. When pipes are leaking a man gets a plumber. When wiring is frayed he hires an electrician. When his child is ill God can provide healing and comfort. Free of charge!

Not Alone

Not.alone

Whoa! I didn’t see THAT coming!!!

Our lives had become less stressful and more uneventful. Chris seemed more stable. Life felt somewhat normal. The turbulence of Chris’s mental illness (MI) had disappeared. Or so I thought. It simply took up residence inside me! I never expected inner turmoil to hit me. Not when things seemed to be resolved. Chris had appeared to have recovered from his psychotic episode. God had helped me hold it together during the time Chris needed me. It made no sense that I’d start losing it for no apparent reason.

This part of our story illustrates how God met my personal needs. When loneliness and torment hit, God provided: freedom from my anguish, strengthening of my heart, restoration of my soul, protection of my sanity, assurances of His presence, and healing as a result of His comfort.

♦♦♦♦♦♦

MI had shaken our lives. But our household seemed to be recovering. We were picking up the pieces of our lives and moving on. Just like the calmness that follows an earthquake. But just like with an earthquake, I experienced aftershocks.

Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines ‘aftershocks’ as, “an aftereffect of a distressing or traumatic event.”

My mind, body, and emotions were reacting to the traumatic events surrounding Chris’s hospitalization. Painful reactions hit unexpectedly. Without obvious provocation.

December 1997 was a tough month for me. The holiday season brought many reminders of the previous year. Buying gifts, baking cookies, addressing cards, and … band rehearsals.

Something would trigger a memory and I’d experience a flashback. Before then, I didn’t know much about flashbacks. I had mistakenly thought flashbacks only happened to soldiers who had witnessed horrific things in battle. Suddenly they became very real. Too real. My mind and emotions would instantly be rocketed back to the Christmas season of 1996.

Like the time I attended a faculty meeting. Teachers were meeting with the music teacher to discuss details of the upcoming elementary Christmas program.

“First graders will be singing ‘Joy to the World’,” she explained.

She began playing the carol. Memories of Chris playing that song sabotaged my thoughts and emotions. All I could hear was his trumpet playing the tune in a distorted way. His voice, almost audible, echoed in my mind saying, “When I sound the trumpet by playing the song the right way, the world will end.”

The flashback unleased suppressed emotions. My heart began pounding. The dam, holding back months of tears, started to leak. Before it erupted, I quietly excused myself and headed for the nearest bathroom.

Obviously the year before I hadn’t processed what I’d seen. Hadn’t dealt with my emotions. No wonder. I had been consumed with helping Chris return to reality.

Flashbacks caught me by surprise. Causing my emotions to spill out. I found myself falling apart at unexpected times and inopportune places.  The more my mind periodically replayed awful scenes, the deeper my depression grew.

The enemy taunted me with fears that I might lose my own mind. But I trusted in the promise that, “The peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7).”

Dear Father, Your Word says, “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you (Isaiah 26:3).” Oh how I need Your perfect peace! Help me through my grief and flashbacks.

I rested in my firm belief that, “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind [Timothy 1:7 (NKJV)].”

A sound mind. That was my goal. God was the Glue that held me together. My divine Sanity Preserver prevented me from tumbling into a deep pit of inconsolable despair.

I felt exhausted all the time. So I ate foods with carbohydrates, hoping they’d give me the energy needed to face each day.

During this time of flashbacks and depression, sound sleep eluded me. I needed rest. Like God’s people who wandered forty years in the wilderness. God knew they were tired and fearful. So He gave Joshua the perfect words of encouragement for them. Joshua relayed the message and said, “Remember the command that Moses the servant of the Lord gave you after he said, ‘The Lord your God will give you rest by giving you this land.’”

When I read Joshua 1:13 it felt like God was speaking to me.

Thank You, Father, for Your promise to give me rest.

The familiar twenty-third Psalm offered new hope for me. It guaranteed my soul would be restored. And promised me His presence and comfort.

“He restores my soul;He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; Your rod and Your staff they comfort me [Psalm 23:3-4 (NKJV)].”

Each flashback threatened to break my heart once again.

“God, help me!” is all I could utter. Offering up the prayer of a drowning person. God threw me His Life Saver in the shape of Psalm 31:23-24.

“Oh, love the Lord, all you His saints! For the Lord preserves the faithful … Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart, All you who hope in the Lord  (NKJV).”

Yes, Lord, my hope is in You. Thank You for hearing my cry. I praise You for strengthening my broken heart.

My carbohydrate diet led to weight gain. I gained lots of weight. That motivated me to go to Dr. Kent (the physician who first treated Chris when he became out of touch from reality).

“What can I do to deal with my fatigue?” I asked.

Knowing what I’d been going through with Chris he asked, “Is it possible you’re depressed?”

“I guess it’s possible,” I replied.

“I’ll write you a prescription for Prozac. That should help remove the cloud and help you sleep better.”

Reluctantly, I took the medication. If I’d learned nothing else, I’d learned to take MI seriously. Even my own depression.

Once the holiday season ended, I began feeling much better. As Dr. Kent predicted, the medication lifted the cloud and helped me sleep better. So I stopped taking the Prozac. There were a few more months before the next critical period. During those winter months, things remained uneventful with Chris.

Work got busier for me. In addition to my usual responsibilities as Director of Instruction and Director of Special Education, I was planning a Math and Bible Olympics for the school. Applications for new students began pouring in. With not enough time to do everything at work, I read the applications at home. I was back to spending time working at home. But this time I was careful to spend a more reasonable amount of time. Mindful of my need to stay focused on Chris’s well-being.

During that winter the Lord led several parents my way who had children with some sort of MI. Many of the mothers expressed trouble dealing with their situation. I wasn’t alone in my struggles.

One of our neighbors told me her daughter had symptoms of a head injury.

“Kelly has suffered a head injury. We don’t know what caused it. And we don’t know what the future holds for her. Life has become so uncertain.”

“I have some idea what you’re experiencing. Chris suffered a psychotic episode a year ago. His MI turned our lives upside down,” I confided.

My news helped the mother feel safe to admit the truth.

“Actually, the doctors told us Kelly’s symptoms are psychosomatic. They didn’t find any evidence that she suffered a head injury.”

“A psychiatrist would know what’s best for Kelly. Let me know if you want the name of a good psychiatrist.”

“I’m not convinced she didn’t have a head injury. Please don’t tell anyone what I’ve told you,” was her only reply.

Apparently the mother couldn’t deal with the thought of her daughter having MI. It seemed easier for her to continue believing the cause of the symptoms was related to a head injury.

Another mother told me she had to take medication to treat panic attacks.

“My son’s MI has caused me to get panic attacks,” she confided.

Several parents asked me for advice. Many wanted to know how to get their children with MI to agree to speak to a psychologist. One father of a teenage son with MI asked a slightly different question.

“My son isn’t happy with the psychiatrist he’s going to. His MI prevents him from going to school. If he discontinues treatment, he’ll never get back to school. What should I do?”

“Find another psychiatrist,” I answered.

He answered in an exhausted tone, “Yeah, I know that might help. I just can’t seem to find the time or the energy to even begin looking for another doctor.”

I completely understood.

Another husband and wife were contemplating putting their seriously depressed son in foster care. A mutual friend shared the news with me and added this judgmental statement:

“Can you believe they would even consider abandoning their own son?”

“Unless you’ve experienced what they’re going through, you can’t begin to understand what it’s like. You can’t possibly imagine what it’s like to have a child who is suffering from an illness you can’t see or measure. You can’t know the pain of having a child who rejects your love or attempts to nurture and comfort. And there’s no break to the misery. Because of the nature of MI, parents can’t get out together. They go months without any respite time for themselves.”

It helped to discover I wasn’t alone. Knowing others who were experiencing MI comforted me some. Not nearly as much as the realization that God was with me at all times. His constant presence comforted me. I found true rest and perfect peace in His presence.

His steadfast companionship yielded great strength and courage. I faced each new day with the assurance He’d be with me. When I started to feel emotionally fragile, Deuteronomy 31:6 restored my confidence. Reminding me to, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” And He never left me.

♦♦♦♦♦♦

You may be experiencing flashbacks or struggling to recover from bad experiences with your child’s MI. Ask God for His grace by praying the words of Psalm 25:16-17.

“Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. Relieve the troubles of my heart and free me from my anguish.”

 

 

The Hearing

GodsWord.comfort

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God (John 1:1).”

Words and air are alike. I need both of them to live. Oxygen helps me breathe. God’s Word helps me survive trials like mental illness (MI).

Countless times I’ve read all of Psalm 119. Not just because it’s easy to find (smack in the middle of my Bible). But because the psalmist echoes my pain and helps me reflect on His Word.

Dear Father, “This is my comfort in my affliction, for Your word has given me life (Psalm 119:50 NKJV).”

What do you do with words? Whisper them to a despondent son? Yearn for them from a depressed daughter? Ignore them from well-meaning people who offer advice?

Words can be powerful. They can also be difficult to understand at times. Especially if MI clogs comprehension. Like when Chris was hospitalized for his psychotic episode.

I’m usually not at a loss for words. Except when grief grips me. Watching Chris suffer in the hospital made me mute.  Desperation silenced my speech.  In languishing there is no language. Tempting as it was, I couldn’t go into a cocoon and cry. I needed to speak. It was crucial that Chris understand my words. At the upcoming hearing he’d have to agree to stay in the hospital. If he didn’t, he’d face a court hearing—a hearing where we’d testifying against him.

This next part of my story demonstrates how God moved mightily in Chris’s mind. And opened his mouth to speak words I doubted Chris could say.

The past seven weeks I’ve been sharing details of our story. When mental illness (MI) struck Chris, it thrust him into emotional turmoil and mental confusion. It impacted me (and our entire family) as well. Like any other mom, I hated to see my son suffering. During those troubling times, God ministered to me.

My heavenly Father provided peace, protection, and provision. He gave me endurance, wisdom, and guidance. I felt His presence and experienced His faithfulness. As He eased my grief.

This week I’ll share how God’s Word comforted me. Even as I faced the hearing.

♦♦♦♦♦♦

The day of the hearing approached. I discovered a new level of sadness.

I knew how to deal with mild sadness. That’s cured by a good dose of chocolate. I’d learned what to do with moderate sadness. That’s soothed by a compassionate word from a friend and a good cry. I’d even experienced extreme sadness. That’s replaced with perfect peace when a heart cries out to the Lord.

Extreme sadness and stinging sorrow struck when Chris was in kindergarten. His teacher didn’t understand how to manage a child with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Chris’s hyperactivity blinded her from seeing his superior intelligence and love for the Lord. She only noticed his “bad” behavior. Each day she’d ask me to stay after school. She’d relate every minor infraction of her rules. She’d tell me every little thing Chris did wrong. And never added something positive. As if she didn’t even like him.

Other parents picking up their children heard her daily request, “Mrs. Chandler, could you please stay a minute?” They knew what that meant. No doubt, their children were telling stories of how Chris got into trouble.

The teacher’s sweet expression and superficial smile didn’t dampen the humiliation. Her regular reports pierced my heart. Day after day she defeated my spirit. So I cried out to the Lord.

Oh Father, hear my cry!!! Help that teacher see Chris as You see him. Prevent Chris from feeling unloved when he’s in school. Protect my broken heart.

God heard my cry. And filled me with His peace that passes understanding.

When Chris was in the hospital I experienced a deeper sadness. Tears didn’t soothe my heartache. I had no appetite. Talking didn’t rid me of sorrow. I felt like the psalmist who said, “I am so troubled that I cannot speak (Psalm 77:4).”

My son was hurting and I needed to help him. But I was unable to protect Chris from torment. Nothing mattered except seeing Chris get better.

Because we committed Chris against his will, a hearing was scheduled. Chris was assigned a lawyer from Social Services. The hospital had their lawyer. We were told we could arrange to have our own lawyer. But we didn’t see the need.

I’d lost weight and needed something to wear. None of the dresses in the local Dress Barn seemed appropriate.

What does one wear to a hearing against her own son?

On the day of the hearing the hospital’s lawyer explained what would happen.

“Chris will be asked if he agrees to remain in the hospital. If he doesn’t agree to stay, then we will have to go to court. In that event, witnesses would have to be brought in. The police who came to your house would be questioned. Even your other son might be questioned. In all likelihood Chris would lose the court case. So, it’s in his best interest to agree to remain in the hospital.”

How will Chris understand all of this in his condition? Even if he was clear-headed and not on any medication, I can’t imagine how he would agree to stay in such a place. He’s been begging to get out of here. How can we convince Chris to do the opposite—to say he’ll stay?

The lawyer continued to explain the procedure.

“Prior to the hearing you and your husband will be able to talk with Chris briefly.”

During our brief conversation with Chris, he struggled to understand what we were explaining. He desperately wanted to do the right thing. But also wanted to get out of that hospital.

How can we get him to agree to stay in such a place? How can we make him understand? Father, Your words are powerful. I know You’re able to do what we can’t. Please clear his thinking so he’ll willingly speak the words necessary to prevent worse pain.

God heard my prayer. Chris agreed.

“Okay. I’ll say I want to stay.”

That was only the first step. He had to repeat that statement to the judge at the hearing.

We were ushered into a room. Howie and I were seated behind Chris (not even at the table with the others!). Chris was seated next to his lawyer.

I can’t believe this is happening. Chris looks so vulnerable and helpless. Why couldn’t we sit next to him?

The judge read the official report from the psychiatrist. Everyone heard him say Chris assaulted Howie and me.  Chris had to hear the judge proclaim what was wrong with him. Then the judge asked the all-important question.

“Chris, will you agree to remain in the hospital for your treatment?”

Chris hesitated. His MI and medication made it difficult for him to respond.

“Okay. I’ll stay.”

I was so proud of him and grateful to God. But sad he’d still have to endure being in the hospital. The psalmist had taught me to shift my focus back to God when sorrow threatens to consume me. So I remembered the one tiny word ‘but.’

“But I will sing of Your power; Yes, I will sing aloud of Your mercy in the morning; For You have been my defense and refuge in the day of my trouble (Psalm 59:16 NKJV).”

♦♦♦♦♦♦

God’s Word can comfort. It can restore joy and renew hope.

My prayer is that you’ll join me in saying, “Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart (Jeremiah 15:16 NKJV).”

Romans 15:4 (NKJV) promises, “We through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.”

Silence is Golden

silence

When words don’t seem to help our children with mental illness (MI), what can we do? Keep quiet. Silence is powerful. I learned that the hard way decades ago.

In college, my friend, Dave, got one of THOSE middle-of-the-night phone calls. The caller delivered heart-wrenching news.

Dave’s first reaction: he called me.

“Vicki, my best friend was killed in a car accident. I need to see you.”

Why is he calling ME? I suppose it’s because we share a strong faith in God. But I’ve never experienced the death of a loved one.

I sought advice from my roommate.

“Karen, the roommate you had for three years died suddenly last year. What should I say to Dave?”

Karen advised, “Nothing. Let him talk. Or just sit quietly with him. Share a hug and a tear.”

After college, my husband and I kept in touch with Dave and his wife, Trish. We were closer than friends— more like family. They had their first child, Ryan, around the same time we had Chris. Soon after, they had Kevin and we had Bobby.

One day, I got another call from Dave.

“Vicki, Ryan went to be with the Lord today. He drowned in our pool. We’re coming over.”

Ryan was only two years old.

My roommate’s wisdom helped once again. When they visited, we simply hugged, cried, and prayed. And listened to what they had to say. Dave shared even more disturbing information.

To add to the horror of it, we learned that Trish’s and Dave’s mother and father lost a child when they were young parents. Both sets of grandparents were reliving their own nightmare.

So when Ryan died, Dave sought advice from his father. “Dad, you’ve been through this.  What advice can you give me?”

He simply answered, “Son, you speak of your faith.  Now it’s time to use it.”

Another opportunity came for me to practice silence in the presence of someone grieving. I was the assistant director of an overnight week-long Christian summer camp for children with disabilities. One of the campers, Bruce, experienced a tragic loss just weeks before camp. His single mother died, leaving his aunt to raise him. The aunt chose to send Bruce to camp. Our staff had training and experience with children with intellectual disabilities. She hoped we could minister to Bruce.

Alex, Bruce’s counselor, sought my advice. “Bruce is having trouble getting to sleep at night. He just cries. What should I say to him?”

“Nothing. Just spend time with him. Silently pray for him.”

Those of us raising kids with MI sometimes feel helpless. We’re unsure how to help our vulnerable and fragile children. It’s comforting to know that our silence speaks volumes. It says, “I’m here for you.” Our gentle touch says, “I understand and care.”

What about our grief? It’s hard to see our loved one suffering. Why does God delay in helping our children?

The death of Lazarus provides an answer. Mary and Martha sought the Lord to heal their brother.

“Therefore the sisters sent to Him, saying, ‘Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.’  When Jesus heard that, He said, ‘This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.’  Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was. (John 11:3-6)”

The word ‘so’ can lead to some confusion about this story. The strange thing about the events in this scene is that Jesus remained where he was for two more days apparently because of His love for Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. If Jesus loved them so much, why didn’t he rush off right away? Jesus gave them a hint of the great work He would do and the reason for His delay: so ‘that the Son of God may be glorified through it.’

Jesus explained his delay again to his disciples.

“Then Jesus said to them plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead. And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, that you may believe. Nevertheless let us go to him. (John 11:14-15)’”

When Jesus finally arrived on the scene, Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days.  Both his sisters struggled with a common torment many of us struggle with: If only…

“Now Martha said to Jesus, ‘Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.’… Then, when Mary came where Jesus was, and saw Him, she fell down at His feet, saying to Him, ‘Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. (John 11:21, 32)’”

But Jesus gently reminded them of the reason for His delay:

“Jesus said to her, ‘Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God? (John 11:40)’”

God is working out His perfect plan in His timing. He’s still in control. Even of the weather. Eastern US has gotten record amounts of snow this winter. Each snowfall is a reminder of our forgiveness. We stand before God ‘white as snow’ because of Christ’s blood. Reflect on His love as you listen to ‘White As Snow’ by Maranatha Singers.

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

Death of a Dream

fall.leaves

In a matter of days these trees will look dead. When the leaves are gone, I’ll miss their beauty.

In winter, I’ll stare at bare branches and know they’ll come alive again in the spring. Green leaves will adorn them once more. Months later, fall will return. My favorite season. So I won’t mourn the loss of autumn.

Wouldn’t it be nice if the seasons of life could be that predictable? Perhaps we could endure tough times with our child who has mental illness (MI) if we knew in three months things would get easier.

What season are you in with your child who has mental illness (MI)? Maybe you’re enjoying the springtime of an easier phase. Or perhaps it feels like you’re enduring the doldrums of winter.

Has your child’s joy withered away?  Do you long to see his eyes sparkle again? Do you wonder if his spring will ever return?

It’s as if your child is there, but not there. He’s alive, but the former happy-go-lucky child is gone.

We need to grieve the loss of our former child. We mourn because we’ve experienced the death of a dream. We envisioned a certain life for our child. Those hopes are gone.

I don’t know about you, but I can be tough on myself. Impatient with my own emotions, I chastise myself.

Snap out of it, Vicki. Deal with it. Don’t add your emotions into the mix.

Like anyone going through grief, we need assurances things will get better. We find hope in passages like Ecclesiastes 3:1, 4.

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity … a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.”

God has ordained a time for us to laugh again. Joy will return.

We need comforting as we go through the stages of our grief. The Bible promises God’s comfort. Isaiah is just one book of the Bible where we find reasons to be comforted.

God will restore our joy: “The Lord will surely comfort Zion and will look with compassion on all her ruins; he will make her deserts like Eden, her wastelands like the garden of the Lord. Joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the sound of singing.”  (Isaiah 51:3)

God’s Word is reliable. We can depend on its promises: “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.” (Isaiah 40:8)

God provides strength: “…The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary … He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.”  (Isaiah 40:28-29)

God is with us: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”  (Isaiah 41:10)

God’s Son knows what we’re going through: In Isaiah 53:3-4 we read, “He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief … Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows.” (NKJV)

We look forward to the ultimate end to grief. “He will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces.”   Isaiah 25:8

Be comforted dear friend.

Your grief cannot sabotage the serenity you have in the Lord as you focus on Him. Reflect on His steadfast love for you as you listen to “Steadfast Love” from Scripture Lullabies.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BdT1XQ5ZRuk

What must it be like?

wonder.contemplation

What would it take for others to understand what you’re going through?

My career in education began 36 yrs. ago when I taught students with multiple handicaps. My training prepared me to provide appropriate instruction for them. Nothing could prepare me to completely understand the challenges they faced. Until I got multiple sclerosis (MS).

Nowadays, I feel the frustration of not being able to think clearly when I’m tired. I struggle with challenges encountered when out in public. Climbing stairs never used to be so exhausting.  Greater insight brings more sympathy. Now I can empathize with my former students.

I’ve found that greater insight into mental illness (MI) helps me sympathize with our son. I often wonder what it must be like for him.

A common side effect of psychotropic medications is weight gain. So Chris chose to go off his meds. He now manages his illness himself. By limiting stressful activities. By remaining physically active.

I’m amazed at how he’s able to function without his medical treatment. He’s goal-oriented, works on computer projects, and stays active in his church. All a testimony to his determination.

It helps me to reflect on the effort he must invest to engage in routine activities.

When any of us are tired, we find it difficult to be pleasant. When we feel sick, we don’t want to interact with anyone. Reminding myself of that helps me build more tolerance. Instead of getting annoyed with his behaviors, I’m able to focus more on how he must feel. Then compassion replaces frustration. Suddenly I realize how hard Chris is trying to live a normal life. Then I know how to pray for him.

We can use the same selfless thinking to understand our spouse. What must it be like for a husband to have a child with MI? Men need to fix things. But MI seems impossible to repairable at times.

We have to assume our husband is grieving. He deals with his grief differently than a woman would. Pausing to remember that helps build compassion.

Our motherly instincts compel us to care for everyone. We identify a need and meet it. We see a problem and fix it. We’re so good at caring for others. Little time is left for us to reflect on how we’re coping.  Rarely do we stop and consider our needs.

But what about me? Who understands MY needs? Does anyone care what it’s like for me?

The good news is that Christ did more than ‘walk a mile in our shoes.’ He came into our world.

Does He know what it’s like for you to have children and a husband all vying for your attention? Yes, He felt throngs clamoring for His attention.

Does He know what it’s like for you to collapse into bed at night, fully drained of all energy (physical, emotional, and mental)? He experienced physical exhaustion. He endured the pain of the cross.

Does He know what it’s like for a husband to let you down? He gave His life for the church and suffers when His bride/people deny him or refuse His unconditional love and free gift of salvation. He knows what it feels like to be betrayed by his followers, those He loved.

Christ not only knows what it’s like, He knows how you feel. He knows your every thought and sees every tear. The best part is that He has power to do something about it. To provide just what you need.

He knows what it’s like for you to have a child with MI. Let the words of Tommy Walker’s ‘He Knows my Name’ minister to you.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gBmtGSuw04Y