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Why was I so surprised?

GodsLove

The mom stood speechless looking into her son’s bedroom. Who’d cleaned it so promptly? Her proud son took her on a tour of the spotless room. Such quick obedience was uncharacteristic of him. No wonder his mother looked stunned. Normally he has to be reminded at least five times.

Some parents hope for eager and rapid compliance from their children. But deep down inside they harbor low expectations. Procrastination and delay have been the pattern. It’s as if one simple reminder sparks a battle of the wills. “Clean your room.” (inaction) “I told you to clean your room.” (silent resistance) “Get up and clean your room now.” (slow-motion action)

It’s understandable that a parent would be shocked at a child’s uncharacteristic prompt obedience. But I’m ashamed to admit something. I’ve often been stunned when God has answered my prayers. Why is that? It’s not out of character for Him to show His power and love. Quite the contrary. I know He hears my prayers. Yet I’m frequently surprised when I witness His mighty power in our lives. I suppose it’s because I haven’t begun to fully understand His limitless love, and immeasurable power.

Maybe I should tape the words of Ephesians 3:20-21 to my refrig. They’d remind me, “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”

The past fifteen weeks I’ve been sharing the details of our story. Last week left off with Chris heading off to college. During Chris’s five years away at college God provided in ways I could never have expected. He provided immeasurably more than I could have imagined.

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“In your decades of practice, how many patients with schizoaffective disorder have attended college?” I asked Chris’s psychiatrist.

“Only two,” he answered. Proving what a victory God had already worked in Chris’s life.

In the context of such an accomplishment, Chris faced additional stressors. Some were minor. Like when he lost his backpack which contained all his textbooks, notes, and student ID card. I surprised him by driving to his campus in order to purchase an additional set of textbooks, etc.

“I found my backpack,” Chris declared when he greeted me. It wasn’t a wasted trip. Chris felt supported.

Other situations arose which were much more difficult to solve. Like Chris’s serious back pain. Chris had joined Penn State’s Marching Blue Band. The high-step marching exacerbated his pain. Several epidural steroid injections eased his pain. But only delayed the inevitable. Back surgery would be the only procedure that would end his pain caused by two severely herniated discs.

During summer break Chris had a laminotomy—a procedure that removed part of his herniated discs.

“Can I march in the band this fall?” asked Chris.

“No. You could re-herniate the discs,” warned the neurosurgeon.

Chris marched anyway. God protected his back from further injury. And helped Chris manage the demands of college. The long band practices and studying didn’t overly stress him. He seemed fine until his blood tests revealed elevated liver levels.

“I’m going to reduce the dosage of your medication. That might bring them back into normal levels,” Chris’s psychiatrist said.

The reduced medication caused Chris to unravel. He was in his final semester of his program. Easter break was fast approaching. Soon after, he’d graduate college. But that dream seemed to be slipping away. Chris started calling home ten times or more each day. At all hours of the night. He seemed to be getting worse. There wasn’t much we could do.  It would take hours to drive to his campus.

“Call Dr. Kipley. He’ll know how to help,” I told Chris.

“I already did.”

“What did he say?” I wondered.

“You need to go to the hospital.”

I knew Dr. Kipley was right. But would Chris willingly admit himself into a psychiatric unit of a hospital? Especially after having experienced the horror previously?

Chris kept calling late into the night. Until that final brief phone call.

“Mom I’m in trouble,” was all he said before hanging up. That click thundered in my head. Like a bomb exploding.

What does THAT mean? Is he going to kill himself? Hurt others? Run away?

Howie and I prayed and asked God for wisdom. The Lord directed me to start calling hospitals close to his campus. We discovered Chris had admitted himself into the psychiatric unit in the hospital closest to campus. His heavenly Father gave him the courage to get help. In spite of Chris’s fragile and unstable emotions he managed to call a cab. Undoubtedly with God’s sustaining power.

We spent Easter visiting our son in the hospital. Once Chris was released the challenge remained. Would Chris be able to graduate on time? I turned to God who is able to do “immeasurably more than we ask or imagine.”

Dear Father,

Please help Chris graduate on time. I know there seems no earthly way he can pass his finals. Not without full clarity of thought. But I know you’re able. Please give us wisdom to know how to help.

Thankfully Howie was able to tutor our son. Chris was released from the hospital into our care. While at home recovering from his near psychotic episode, Howie helped Chris study for his finals. Amazingly Chris passed all his tests and graduated on time. To God be the glory; great things He does!!!

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R & R

Morris Arboretum Phila., PA

Morris Arboretum
Phila., PA

If you could escape, where would you go? My perfect escape would be back to the Land of Normal Livng. Wouldn’t you love to be treated to a trip to Normalcy? A place where you could spend carefree days soaking in relaxation. A place with no violence. No unexpected outbursts. No mental healthcare visits.

Thankfully God led us to a temporary oasis in our desert of mental illness (MI). This next chapter of our story demonstrates how God provided a season of rest and restoration. He revealed Chris’s resilience. Life seemed to be getting back to normal.

♦♦♦♦♦♦

In order to get released from the hospital, Chris did what he had to. During group sessions all the patients had to state how they wound up in the hospital. So Chris regularly told the staff he had assaulted his parents.

His three-week stay ended. It was time for Chris to go home. I wanted his bedroom and home to look warm and inviting. Our house had never been cleaned so thoroughly! We were thankful to have our son home again.

The summer after Chris’s junior year we traveled to Colorado. We had a wonderfully relaxing time. It was as if nothing had ever gone wrong. As if Chris hadn’t been sick at all. We went horseback riding, hiking, panning for gold, and mountain biking. Everything was perfect. Except when Robert was missing for a brief time. He had taken a wrong turn biking down a mountain in Vail.

“Where’s Robert?” I asked, bracing myself for the worst.

“Oh, he fell off the side of the mountain,” Howie explained casually.

Before my panic turned into hyperventilation, Robert appeared. Slightly scratched, but fine.

Shortly after our Colorado trip, both boys attended a music conference. They stayed overnight at a local college with 500 band leaders. Many of those attending the conference were drum majors. Chris had attended the training the year before. But this year would be different. This time he’d have to take his medication on his own.

I knew it would be a temptation for Chris not to take his medication. But he understood how important it was for him to take it. We trusted him to be responsible. And he was. Thankfully, Chris handled another major step in his recovery.

Chris had hoped one day he’d be the drum major of his marching band. He had a good chance to accomplish that goal …until he got sick. Even with his MI he still demonstrated all the necessary qualities of a drum major: excellent musical talent, remarkable marching skills, and strong leadership abilities.

But Chris’s breakdown didn’t just disrupt his life. It also shattered his dream of becoming a drum major. Yet, he still wanted to attend the conference. It made me so proud to see his resilience.

One of the events at the conference was a march off. That’s kind of like “Simon Says” only with someone calling out marching commands. If someone carries out a command incorrectly, he is eliminated. The competition continues until there is one winner left standing. Out of 500 drum majors Chris lasted until the last six. Only five others remained longer. God blessed him by letting him see he still had superior marching abilities.

After the boys returned from the music conference Chris had to fulfill his duties as a squad leader. I marveled at how clear thinking he was. He thought of every detail for the meetings. That involved offering rides to our house, planning refreshments, and preparing the agenda. Chris even organized a pizza party at a local restaurant for the freshman members. Senior band members were also invited to help the lower classmen get acclimated.

Chris’s senior year was fast approaching. We spent several days during the summer visiting colleges. Sometimes I wanted to continue on with our plans as though nothing had happened. But then I’d force myself to remember that something significant did happen.

We prayed for wisdom to know which colleges to investigate. Chris was very clear in what he wanted. His decisions made perfect sense. He wanted to go to a college with a fairly small campus that was about an hour and a half from home—far enough to live away from home, but still close enough to visit home frequently. He also wanted to attend a state university because that would be more affordable. He was especially interested in Penn State because of their famous Marching Blue Band. He hoped to join it during his junior year of college. Penn State also interested him because of their excellent business program. Chris planned on becoming an actuary.

Chris also applied to Kutztown State University. By October of his senior year he’d been accepted to both colleges.

What an awesome God we serve!!

During three weeks in the fall we hosted a German exchange student. Each weekend we took him to visit local tourist sites. It was a wonderful experience for all of us. We learned a lot and had a good time. The best part: life seemed so normal.

In the fall Chris got his driver’s license. He feared getting into a car accident. I worried that if he got into an accident he might not be able to handle it emotionally. Being in a car accident is upsetting enough for anyone, let alone someone who’s experienced MI.

If I were God, I’d make sure Chris would never have an accident.

Thankfully I’m not God. He chose to allow Chris to have a minor accident. He forced Chris to face his fears. There were no injuries. Chris hadn’t broken any laws. So Chris didn’t get a ticket. The car had plenty of damage, but Chris was fine emotionally. God reassured us Chris had become stronger emotionally.

Thank You, God, for protecting Chris and for helping us see his resilience.

During this time when Chris was feeling better he was able to articulate his experiences with MI. He could explain what it’s like to be paranoid and to be on Haldol.

“What’s it like to feel paranoid, Chris?”

“When I felt paranoid I hung onto one particular part of what someone was saying and focused on just that.”

“What’s it like to be on Haldol?” I wondered.

“It’s like having my body frozen or moving in slow motion while my brain was moving at a much faster pace.”

When it came time for County and District Band auditions Chris wanted to try out again. The year before was the “straw that broke the camel’s back.” The level of stress proved too much for him.

How can I tell him he shouldn’t audition? He’s a gifted musician. If I tell him he shouldn’t try out, he’ll think I’m trying to control him or treat him like a child. Or he might think I doubt his ability to handle it. He’d feel flawed emotionally. What if he tried out and lost it again?

We decided to let him try out. Soon our oasis would be gone. But God would see us through the next trial. Just as he does for all of us.

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.

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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).”

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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.”

Look for the Light

Light.end.tunnel.use

My college training prepared me to teach children with visual impairments. One of the courses required students to perform tasks blindfolded. Walking without vision scared me the most. I felt insecure and terrified in the darkness. What relief when I removed the blindfold! Light comforted me.

Those of us who raise children with mental illness (MI) experience those same feelings. During our darkest days we search for Christ—the true Light who comforts us.

Last week the account of our story ended with Chris’s hospitalization. I shared how God transformed that horrible memory by using it as a reminder of His love. Our dark days were about to get darker. Thankfully, Christ’s light shined brighter during those days.

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A few hours after we got home I received a call from the hospital.

“Mrs. Chandler, Chris is refusing medication. Will you give us permission to give him an injection?”

“Okay. If it’s necessary.”

When I called later I found out Chris had been put in isolation. He had put up such a fight when they tried to give him the medication. Images filled my head of Chris in isolation. Sedated. Confused. Alone.

“When will he be taken out of isolation? When can I visit him?” I questioned.

“We’re about to take him out now.”

When I arrived at the psychiatric ward, reality hit. The unit was locked. In order to gain entrance I had to ring a bell and announce my name. Then a nurse let me in.

The information provided by the social worker (when Chris was admitted) helped me understand some of the procedures.

It explained that guests were to visit patients only in the lounge areas, not in their bedrooms. But a nurse ushered me into Chris’s room. There sat a woman talking to Chris. When I entered the room she didn’t introduce herself to me. It was a very sensitive moment for Chris and me. This was the first time we had seen each other since the terrible scene at home. We hadn’t seen each other since we had him committed.

Chris sat hunched over. His head bent downward.

“Hi Chris. It’s Mom.”

He raised his head in slow motion. His eyes seemed to be searching for something. As if trying to focus through a fog. He made no attempt to speak. Through his heavy sedation I could detect his emotional turmoil. A mother can just sense when her child is hurting.

“It’s Mom,” I repeated.

“I’m sorry,” he managed to say.

“There’s no need for you to apologize. I know you’re just sick—”

“Do you think Chris has been under a lot of stress lately?” The unidentified woman asked, intruding on our private moment.

“Who are you?” I asked.

“I’m Chris’s psychiatrist,” she answered, still not giving me her name. “Chris has been contradicting himself,” she continued.

“Of course he’s contradicting himself; he’s psychotic!” I shot back. “Why are you talking with him in his bedroom? It’s against the policy for anyone to meet with patients in their bedrooms.”

“I just started working in this hospital and am not familiar with the procedures of the ward,” she explained.

Is she kidding? I read the procedures booklet immediately after we returned from the hospital. What kind of professional doesn’t prepare herself for her job? I wonder if she’s even qualified at all!

Later that day I typed a letter to the chief psychiatrist requesting Chris have a different psychiatrist. Chris was immediately switched to the care of the head psychiatrist.

Chris’s stay at the hospital was as bad as I imagined. He had to be strip-searched and all his belongings were taken from him. He was included with troubled teens (who were either suicidal, drug abusers, or violent). There were very strict rules about when he could call us, what he could wear, and what belonging he could have. Each time he had to use the bathroom a nurse had to unlock it.

No wonder Chris informed me, “I’m in jail, Mom.”

Howie and I visited Chris every time there were visiting hours. We stayed the entire time. Chris began to appreciate our unconditional love for him.

“Mom, PLEASE get me out of here,” he’d beg.

“Not yet, Chris. You’re here to get better.”

It was hard to witness him desperately trying to figure out how to get released.

He’d lay his head in my lap and ask me to stroke him. When my boys had grown up I missed doing thing like that. It was bittersweet to be able to nurture Chris in that way once again. I was happy to be able to comfort him. But it ate me up inside to see him so pathetic, so broken.

Howie passed the time by playing cards or chess with Chris. Robert didn’t want to see his brother in such a place. For a while I respected that. I knew Robert was dealing with lots of questions from curious students at school (some caring and some nosy). He was also struggling with getting around school on crutches.

Finally I asked Robert to visit Chris.

“Chris needs to see you, Rob,”

Being very compliant, Rob agreed to go.

During the time Chris was in the hospital there were several things that were hard to hear. Like what he said in one phone conversation.

“It was a good plan to put me in the hospital so I could see that life can be even worse than I ever imagined.”

In another phone call he said, “They took my Bible. God’s not in this place. I’m in prison.”

“Oh Chris. God IS in that place. He’ll let you know how much He loves you. You’ll see,” I assured him. Those words were spoken in faith, believing God would show Chris His love. I had no idea how, but was sure He’d be faithful.

The very next day Chris shared how God revealed His love in that dark place.

“One of the nurses is a Christian, Mom. She gave me back my Bible and said she’s praying for me.”

Many look for the light at the end of the tunnel. We need not wait for the end of the darkness. There is Light in the tunnel—His love shines brightly.

Turn to Him in your darkness and ask Him to hold your heart. Listen to Tenth Avenue North sing ‘Hold my heart.’    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ry6udsW9leA

Transformed Memories

Power Up OR Up Power

Power Up OR Up Power

Beauty and ugliness captured together. One picture—two kinds of power. Black branches shroud the power plant. God’s artistry illuminates the darkness. Revealing His colorful sunset. A symbol of God’s power.

Can pain and love be captured in one event? Can one experience create two vastly different memories? Can a traumatic memory become a reminder of the Father’s love? Yes. But how?

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could transform our worst nightmare into a symbol of love? We can’t. But God can. He did it for me. He healed my most traumatic memory.

Here’s the next part of our story (see previous four weeks for the background).

♦♦♦♦♦♦

Chris had already assaulted my husband and me. Confirming the psychiatrist’s warning that Chris had become violent and unstable—clearly in need of hospitalization. Thankfully God protected Howie and me. Concerns still consumed me.

How will we get Chris to the hospital? When will he explode again?

The very next night, Chris assaulted us. This time, Chris hit Howie first and then me. When he turned his back to Howie to hit me (in the jaw again!), Howie got hold of him. I quickly left the bedroom to call 911. As I started walking downstairs I thought, Are you nuts? How is Howie supposed to hold Chris down alone?

I went back upstairs. As I entered our bedroom, I could see that Howie was losing his grip on Chris. If Chris got loose, there was no telling what he’d do to us. My presence in the room distracted Chris. Howie got a better hold on him. Quickly, I helped Howie hold Chris down on the floor.

I managed to close the bedroom door so our other son wouldn’t witness his raging brother. Robert didn’t need to see us restraining Chris, who growled like an enraged animal.

“Robert, call 911! Tell them to send an ambulance,” I screamed.

We calculated later that it took at least ten minutes for the police to arrive. That was the longest ten minutes of my life. As we held Chris down on the floor, his nose started bleeding. Blood poured from his nose onto our carpet.

Howie was on one side of Chris and I was on the other. I couldn’t see what was happening to Howie. All I heard was Howie making grunting sounds as if he was getting hurt.

I learned later that Chris was head-butting Howie, while trying to bite me. As we wrestled Chris, my finger got caught in his mouth. I jammed my fist farther into his mouth to release his grip. It worked!

Shortly after, it happened again. Chris bit my hand. Again, I shoved my fist into his mouth. As I removed my hand, my baby finger got caught in the strong grips of his teeth.

Just at that moment, I heard a different sound from Howie. I heard him moan.

“Is it your heart, Howie?”

“I think so.”

Later, I found out Robert thought his father was having a heart attack. I did too.

As I looked at my finger in the clutches of Chris’s teeth, I considered my options. I could leave it in so I could maintain my strong hold on Chris. Or, I could use my other hand to get my finger free. If I moved my other hand that was restraining Chris, he would surely get loose and hurt us. If I didn’t move my other hand, I thought I’d watch Chris bite my finger off.

I don’t remember what happened next. All I know is my finger got out of Chris’s mouth and we both had a more secure hold on him. It was an eternity of silent agony.

An army of police officers came to our house. I never thought I’d be relieved to have my son handcuffed. But, I was. I knew we would all be safe and Chris would have the best chance of getting better. Howie and I were exhausted.

The police took Chris away in an ambulance. Howie and I rushed to follow it to the hospital.

We arrived at the hospital just as the police were escorting Chris into the emergency entrance. We caught up to him. The dark, empty look in his eyes was replaced by a pathetic look. I saw the helpless, pleading look of a son who needed his mother.

“I’m sorry, Mom.”

“It’s OK, Chris. We know you didn’t mean it. You’re just sick. That’s all.”

At the admissions desk the nurse asked me the routine questions.

“Patient’s name?…”

After a series a questions, she reached out and touched my hand. Then embraced my eyes with a compassionate stare. Her silence spoke volumes. When she spoke again, her words sounded softer and sincere.

“You’ve done the hardest part, Mrs. Chandler. You got him here,” she assured me.

“How do you know that?”

“I had to admit my daughter to this psychiatric unit recently,” she confided.

Thank You, Lord for giving me another mother who understands what I’m feeling. 

“What do you think of the care in this hospital?” I inquired.

“It’s excellent.”

In the waiting room, Howie and I noticed our injuries. The inside of Howie’s lip was raw and bloody from being hit repeatedly by Chris’s head. There was a large cut on his face just under his eye. I had no cuts. Only bruises. All over my arms and legs.

During the six hours we waited, doctors and nurses tried to get Chris to admit himself. But he refused. He would have to be admitted against his will.

A crisis management person was assigned to our case. He explained the law. Legally, involuntary commitment can be initiated if someone is a threat to themselves or others. Chris had proven to be a threat to others. We were informed of the steps in the process. First, a thorough evaluation would be done to determine that Chris was truly incompetent. Then, there would be a hearing.

After a while, Chris fell asleep. He was taken to a room in the adolescent psychiatric ward of the hospital. God was gracious to provide a way for Chris to get treatment in a regular hospital. That way, his peers wouldn’t have to know exactly what was wrong. They’d simply know he was sick and in the hospital. Not in a psychiatric hospital. The hospital was only five minutes from our home. Our insurance covered all of the expenses.

As we left the hospital, we were given a packet of information. It contained all the rules and regulations of the psychiatric ward. A lot to read after experiencing such an ordeal.

We returned home at 6:00 AM. Robert got ready to go to bed. Howie began to clean up the dog’s mess on the steps. I entered our bedroom and immediately noticed the pool of blood on our rug. I feverishly began scrubbing the rug before Robert saw it.

Then, I went to check on Robert. I noticed him standing near Chris’s bedroom door. The door was slightly opened.

Pointing to Chris’s door Robert said, “He’s in there.”

The past two months prepared me to expect anything. So, I assumed Chris had somehow escaped from the hospital. I peeked into his room and caught a glimpse of legs in the bed. The shocked and puzzled look on my face told Robert I thought it was Chris in the room.

“It’s Dad,” he explained.

I pushed the door open. Enough to see Howie lying in Chris’s bed sobbing. I’d never even seen Howie cry before, let alone sob!

“It’s all my fault. It’s all my fault,” he kept saying.

“No it’s not. Chris is sick mentally. He’ll get better,” I assured him and myself.

Later that day, Howie and I compared notes. We shared what we were thinking as we held our son down. What we felt as we waited for the police to come and take him away to a psychiatric ward. Our overriding emotion was one of tremendous sorrow for Chris.

The Lord replaced that dreadful experience with a beautiful symbol of Christ’s love. Howie and I were careful not to hurt Chris as we held him down. Neither of us minded the blows he gave us. Even though Chris cursed us, we loved him unconditionally. That’s how it was with Jesus. He died for us because He loves us unconditionally. He was wounded for our transgressions. No matter how much we curse Him or stray from Him, He loves us just the same. He understands us.

The most horrific story in the Bible is Christ’s crucifixion. He experienced agony on the cross. For those who have accepted his death as payment of their sins, that picture of brutality has become a beautiful symbol of His unconditional love.

What’s your worst experience with your child who has mental illness (MI)? God can heal that painful memory. Pray this prayer:

Dear Father,

Please transform my painful memory. Give me an eternal perspective of that awful experience. Remove the horrific image that plagues my thoughts and replace it with a picture of Your love. Thank You for the promises of Your love. My heart still sings, ‘Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.’”

“The Old Rugged Cross” (sung by Alan Jackson) reminds us of God’s unconditional love.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fa1afzmDL1Q

 

Don’t Underestimate Your Influence

PositiveInfluence

Do you ever wonder if you’re helping your child who has mental illness (MI)? His illness may prevent him from thanking you. Your spouse may not acknowledge your efforts. When we near our breaking point, we’re tempted to give up.

This message is dedicated to the countless moms who privately provide support. No one sees all you do. No one could know how you minister to your child, in spite of your broken heart. You’d much rather crawl into bed and cry … for a week or two. But there’s no time for you to grieve.

Recently, I witnessed beautiful motherly care and attention. My good friend sat beside her adult son in a mental health care facility.

She had recently totaled her car, which left her with some back pain. She and her husband had settlement the day after her son was admitted into the hospital. Her husband had paper work to do. So she went to visit her son alone (not knowing I’d come alongside her).

In spite of fighting a cold, she asked all the right questions. Presenting each one lovingly.

“Did you eat last night?”
“How did you sleep?”

“Do you like your psychiatrist?”

“Do you take a walk in the hallway sometimes?”

“Did you have group?”

“What are you thinking?”

Periodically, she gently stroked his arm. Sometimes, she allowed silence.

She reassured him without promising something that may not happen.

“Do you think I’ll be able to go to my Bible study’s Christmas party on Friday?” her son asked.

“Maybe. Hopefully,” was her honest reply.

My friend held it together while in the hospital. Until we stepped outside after visiting hours. The exit door became a faucet for her tears.

I tried to comfort her. “Are you okay?”

“I’m numb,” she said as she softly cried.

I gently stroked her back.

Will her son be released before Christmas? That remains to be seen. Will his new medication restore him to his sweet self? Time will tell.

When is it a good time to be hospitalized for MI? Certainly not at Christmas.

Seventeen years ago Christmas wasn’t a time for celebration. Our son, Chris, had to be hospitalized. Those memories mercifully have begun to fade. Visiting my friend’s son threatened to arouse painful emotions.

“Are you sure you want to go?” asked my husband lovingly. Wondering if it would be too difficult for me to relive reminders of our son’s hospitalization.

“This will be healing for me,” I answered. “I know how much it would have meant if someone sat by me when Chris was hospitalized (if you couldn’t come). Especially if that person knew exactly what I was feeling.”

So I went. And was blessed by what I saw in my friend’s compassionate care of her son.

Her son also impressed me. There he sat in a psychiatric hospital speaking about God’s Word. He quoted verses from the Bible and discussed some of his favorite stories. His shattered cognition didn’t dampen his determination to focus on the Lord. His inner turmoil didn’t rob him of his love for God. My friend can take credit for investing Truth in him. God’s Word promises that His Truth will not come back void.

Isaiah 55:11 tells us, “So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.”  (KJV)

Can anyone relate to the thankless care you provide for your child with MI? Certainly the Lord can. He healed ten lepers, but only one thanked Him. He died on the cross for the sins of all mankind, but men mocked Him as He hung dying. Spewing anger in return for His unconditional love. Countless still ignore His free gift of salvation.

Christ surely knows what it’s like for you. He sees your faithful labors of love. So seek His approval. He’s well-pleased with you. And know this: you’re having a positive impact on your child even though it can’t be measured.

Hang in there, with your focus firmly fixed on Him.

The song “In Christ Alone” (from the Secrets Of The Vine CD) reminds us that, “Here in the power of Christ we stand.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ExnTlIM5QgE

 

A Trip to the ER

magnifyingglass

“Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together.”  Psalm 34:3  (NKJV)

When life includes mental illness (MI) how can having one more complication be good? Those are times God uses other people to magnify His love for us.

We headed off to the ER. Thankfully, it was for me and not our son, Chris. I’d rather endure my physical pain than relive any emotional pain of Chris suffering.

It all started a week ago with me vomiting on Wednesday night. So I only ate several tiny crackers on Thursday. Which I vomited Thursday night. The pain in my abdomen didn’t feel like a typical intestinal bug. So Friday I drove myself to the doctor, ignoring the searing pain of each bump and turn.

The doctor prescribed antibiotics and anti-cramping medicine. “If you don’t feel any better by tomorrow, go to the ER,” he instructed me. “They’ll run tests to determine the cause. It could be anything…food poising, diverticulitis, a gall bladder attack…”

Friday I followed the doctor’s instructions to drink colorless fluids, take my meds, and eat a bland diet.

Saturday morning I tried eating some applesauce. My loss of appetite prevented me from finishing off the snack-size container. Could only manage about a tablespoon.

By 10:00 AM Saturday morning, my condition hadn’t improved. Howie and I decided to head to the ER.

We provided necessary information. They did some tests. We waited for results and provided more information. Eight hours later they admitted me and had a diagnosis. My enlarged gall bladder, complete with a gall stone, caused all the pain and discomfort.

The decision was made to remove it. IV antibiotics had to be administered to reduce the size.

My first night in the hospital proved to be exactly what others joke about. The constant interruptions. Time to wake up and take meds. An hour later, time to check vitals. Next hour, time to see if the IV is okay. I was well-taken care of and weary.

Sunday morning Howie came to visit. Soon after, Chris arrived. What a blessing to have him come! The sweet time we spent together in the hospital almost made my pain worth it. Chris was so caring and compassionate.

“Are you okay, Mom? How are you feeling? I’ve been in hospitals and I know it’s hard to get a good night sleep.”

“Yeah, Chris. You can say that again. Nurses coming and going…the IV machine beeping and then sounding an alarm when the tubing had too many bubbles… …announcements on the intercom…and even a lullaby song played over the intercom announcing the birth of a baby born in the hospital.”

Howie and Chis left after a short visit. Later Sunday afternoon Howie called.

“When Chris and I were leaving the hospital, Chris asked the doctor if he could do anything to stop the announcements from being made on the intercom outside my room.”

What a considerate gesture! Chris made an effort to guarantee me better sleep. Even though the doctor had no power over the  intercom, Chris’s thoughtfulness made my day.

Sunday night Howie came for another visit carrying a beautiful yellow vase full of flowers. He showered me with small gifts. Things I didn’t even know I’d need: warm footies for my feet, Chapstick, the recharger for my cell phone…

That second night in the hospital I still endured pain and interrupted sleep. But my heart was full of the love shown by Chris and Howie. God used my enflamed gall bladder to magnify His love in my life.

During trials, I’ve learned to be on the lookout for God’s love messages sent through others. He surely sends them because He’s surely there. And surely cares.

Yesterday when I arrived home from the hospital another of God’s love messages greeted me. This time sent through the loving hands of former colleagues. On their first day back to school, those dear friends and Christian educators took the time to sign a get-well card for me. Their card was like a bouquet of blessings filled with promises of prayers.

Thank You, Father, for magnifying Your love for me through family and friends. Help me make it a priority to magnify Your love. To open Your Word and closely examine how You show Your love. How beautiful You are the closer I am to You!

Magnify the Lord as you listen to Great Is Thy Faithfulness By Cece Winans

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=60o3UP4Kjwg