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Reaching Out

Reaching out

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

Reaching Out To Other Moms

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

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

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

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

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


 

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

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

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

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


 

Reaching Out to Find Something More

reaching.out.2.God

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

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

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

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

Not Abandoned

Lord.alone.bird

Do you feel you’ve been left to suffer alone? Has no one come alongside you to help you parent a child with mental illness (MI)?

When a loved one dies, friends and relatives flock to the home of the grieving family. When someone is going through cancer treatments, friends offer meals and send get-well cards. When a person has been in a car accident, family members rush to the hospital. It’s different when a child is admitted into a psychiatric unit.

Why do we feel so alone when experiencing a crisis due to MI? Often, it’s because our needless shame prevents us from reaching out. Sometimes others simply couldn’t understand the turmoil that’s in our child, in our homes, and in our heart. How could they? There are no words that could convey the devastation. The whole experience can seem so surreal—even to us.

Dealing with MI can be a long journey. We get so tired of … well, of it all. Especially the loneliness. But, you are not alone. It helps to know others understand.

Paul experienced abandonment.

The apostle Paul was literally abandoned. In the absence of supporters during his time of need, Paul didn’t abandon his faith. He knew God hadn’t abandoned him.

“At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them. But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen” (2 Timothy 4:16-18).

Can you feel God standing by your side, giving you strength to face another day?

Job experienced abandonment.

In the midst of his trials, Job experienced feelings of abandonment. He had suffered the loss of his business, animals, and children. Friends and family didn’t rally around him. They all left him. Imagine his loneliness.

Isolation led him to cry, “He has alienated my family from me; my acquaintances are completely estranged from me. My relatives have gone away; my closest friends have forgotten me. My guests and my female servants count me a foreigner; they look on me as on a stranger. I summon my servant, but he does not answer, though I beg him with my own mouth. My breath is offensive to my wife; I am loathsome to my own family” (Job 19:13-17).

So sad. So pathetic. Can you relate?

Sometimes MI causes our child to behave like one who is betraying us. Can anyone emphasize with that kind of hurt? Once again, we can reach back through the centuries and find someone who knows our pain. God speaks to our heart in the heart of the Bible. Smack in the middle of His Word we find the book of Psalms. There we read about David’s plight.

David experienced betrayal and persecution in the midst of abandonment.

“They repay me evil for good and leave me like one bereaved. Yet when they were ill, I put on sackcloth and humbled myself with fasting. When my prayers returned to me unanswered, I went about mourning as though for my friend or brother. I bowed my head in grief as though weeping for my mother. But when I stumbled, they gathered in glee; assailants gathered against me without my knowledge. They slandered me without ceasing. Like the ungodly they maliciously mocked; they gnashed their teeth at me” (Psalm 35:12-16).

Later in Psalms, David despaired that, Even my close friend, someone I trusted, one who shared my bread, has turned against me” (Psalm 41:9).

Here’s more proof that David endured betrayal and abandonment:

“If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if a foe were rising against me, I could hide. But it is you, a man like myself, my companion, my close friend” (Psalm 55:12-13).

Christ experienced abandonment.

The night soldiers came to arrest Jesus, Matthew tells us that, “All the disciples forsook Him and fled” (Matthew 26:56b).

Is it comforting to know that Jesus understands your feelings of isolation?

Never Alone

The last thing we need is advice from people who have no clue what it’s like to raise a child with MI. However, someone who understands our loneliness would get our full attention if they shared advice. David knew we could benefit from his words of wisdom. He not only shared his hard-earned advice, but he added a promise. He recommended that you, “Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken” (Psalm 55:22).

David could say with assurance, “In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety” (Psalm 4:8).

For David, it was personal. He found comfort and assistance from the One who never left him.

“As for me, I call to God, and the Lord saves me” (Psalm 55:16).

Can you echo David’s words of assurance? Because God is unchanging and all loving, every one of us can make the same statement, “As for me, I call to God, and the Lord saves me.”  We don’t find confidence by mustering up hope. We find confidence by trusting the One who is faithful.

A biblical pep talk:

David has these words of encouragement for you:

“Blessed are those who have regard for the weak; the Lord delivers them in times of trouble” (Psalm 41:1).

“A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me” (John 16:32).

A lonely widow shows us how to trust God each day:

“The widow who is really in need and left all alone puts her hope in God and continues night and day to pray and to ask God for help” (1 Timothy 5:5).

You’re not alone.

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.

Why bother?

football.stadium.blindfolded

Picture me standing at center field wearing a blindfold and ear plugs, wondering if any fans are in the football stadium. That’s how I feel as I write this message. Is anyone there to join me in the battle? Is anyone listening? For over two years I’ve been posting messages on this blog, never skipping a week.

Why should I continue? What keeps me going? Having a son with mental illness (MI) can be challenging. At times it’s wearing on my emotions. It’s a daily battle to keep my focus on Him, rather than on the trials in my life. So why bother? What’s my motivation?

If there’s just one who needs renewed hope in the Lord, I’ll share encouraging verses.

If there’s just one who needs to know that someone understands their journey and isolation, pain and shame, I’ll reach out.

If there’s just one who needs to know that God can be found during the darkest times, I’ll tell of His faithfulness to us when our son needed treatment and hospitalization.

If there’s just one who wants to know what it’s like to raise a child with MI, I’ll share my story.

I’m also driven to continue for a personal reason. Writing weekly messages helps frame my thinking. This labor of love forces me to maintain an eternal perspective.  There’s something about reflecting on what God’s doing in my life. I pray, God reveals. I write, God seals the lesson.

But I’m like anyone else. I get worn out and tired of the struggle. MI isn’t contagious but it can threaten a mom’s sanity and disrupt her peaceful emotions. So I cling to Philippians 4:7 and trust that, “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

I find refreshment for my soul in songs like ‘Protector of My Soul.’

“O protector of my soul

You will stand against the foe

In the dark You’ll be a light for me

O Protector of my soul.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GhQ8bQ6r-UE

MI: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly

dog.good.text.2  dog.bad.text  dog.ugly.text.use.3

Can Mental illness (MI) ever be good? One account in the Bible shows how “MI” came in handy.

King David faked insanity to escape the enemy. David, out of fear of King Achish of Gath and his servants, “pretended to be insane in their presence; and while he was in their hands he acted like a madman, making marks on the doors of the gate and letting saliva run down his beard. (1 Samuel 21:13)”

Insanity led to David’s deliverance. “Achish said to his servants, ‘Look at the man! He is insane! Why bring him to me? Am I so short of madmen that you have to bring this fellow here to carry on like this in front of me? Must this man come into my house?’ David left Gath and escaped to the cave of Adullam… (1 Samuel 21:14-15 & 1 Samuel 22:1)”

Other than that story, I can’t think of anything good about MI. Can you?

So that’s the good of MI. What’s the bad of MI? The bad is when it seeps into a healthy person’s psyche. Contaminating thoughts. Selling lies.

A former second grade student of mine, Alex, had exceptional language skills. Rarely had I witnessed such amazing articulation. His verbal expression even impressed his peers.

The time came for students to give an oral book report. As expected, most were nervous. Surprisingly, so was Alex. He faced his classmates frozen. Unable to speak. Why would HE be afraid to do a presentation?

It became obvious the enemy was feeding him a lie. Telling him, “You can’t do this.”

I took him out in the hall to give a pep talk. Thankfully, as a Christian educator, I could use scripture to melt his fears.

I assured him by saying, “2 Timothy 1:7 tells us God hasn’t given us a spirit of fear. What He calls us to do, He’ll enable us to accomplish. Philippians 4:13 promises, ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.’ The truth is that God has blessed you with wonderful speaking skills. He’ll help you give your oral book report.”

Still afraid, he asked, “Can I do it tomorrow?”

I granted him permission to wait, knowing his parents would echo my words from scripture and pray with him. He did okay the next day. And remembered God’s faithfulness. In third grade he sang a solo during a Christmas concert—in front of hundreds of people.

Alex suffered a common fear: public speaking. Never before that day had he demonstrated anxiety. His behaviors weren’t a result of MI.

Some of our children suffer anxiety disorders. They face overwhelming fears which can be crippling. Or battle worries which are constant. Their symptoms aren’t temporary like those experienced by Alex.

Other forms of MI can be equally debilitating. Our children need help to overcome challenges related to their illness. Sadly, instead of support, we receive judgment from others.

The ugly truth about MI is that some people think our kids are pretending to have anxiety or depression. Assuming their behaviors can easily be controlled. Outsiders jump to wrong conclusions and pass negative judgments. “It’s a character flaw, a ploy to gain power, or manipulation to get out of doing work.” All beliefs are wrong. Anyone who has ever experienced MI would tell you they’d do anything to feel better. Sadly, our children who have MI aren’t faking it like King David did.

Another ugly truth about MI is that some people think the child should “just snap out of it.” The assumption driving such incorrect thinking is that the symptoms are temporary. Outsiders advise, “Just talk to your child and he’ll stop acting that way.” The false belief is that reasoning would be all that’s necessary to improve behavior (like it did with Alex).

God healed Alex from his irrational fear. Can our heavenly Father do the same for our children who suffer from MI? Certainly He’s able. I witnessed an extraordinary miracle in the life of an adolescent. You can read about her transformed life in the message I posted August 21, 2013 entitled ‘Anxiety.’

The wonderful Truth is that God is able to help us through our own challenges, heartaches, and loneliness of MI.

“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:7)”

Another wonderful Truth is that Christ overcame death. May you be encouraged by that reminder of His limitless power. Be blessed by this song as you reflect on His second coming.

‘Glorious Day’ by Casting Crowns

Greater Than World-Class

Hawaii.Le.Mer

Le Mer Restaurant, Hawaii

Ever been to a five-diamond restaurant? I did only once. My husband and I went on the vacation of a lifetime. We traveled to Hawaii and splurged on an extravagant dinner. What made it so spectacular? Superb food. Unobtrusive service. Romantic ambiance. And a breath-taking view. The reflection of the sunset on the ocean, just outside our window, whispered, “Welcome to Paradise.”

How does a restaurant achieve a five-diamond status? Our son, Chris, worked for the AAA Club several summers. Often callers inquired about their Diamond Rating Definitions. Chris could articulate the distinction between different levels of service. For example, at a five-diamond restaurant diners would discover that their needs were not just met, but anticipated.

Our children who have mental illness (MI) require five-diamond attention. We attempt to anticipate their needs.  When Chris finished treatment for his psychotic episode, I wanted to prepare him for his return to high school.

“If anyone asks you why you were absent for so long, just answer, ‘I was sick and now I’m better.’”

I wondered if Chris would be able to handle any stress. So I contacted the principal.

“If Chris feels overwhelmed, I doubt he’d ask permission to leave class. He might not want to face any questioning in front of his peers. Would there be a way for him to leave class inconspicuously?”

“I’ll give Chris a “gold pass. All his teachers will be instructed that if Chris presents the pass to them they should excuse him—with no questions asked.”

The principal even provided a safe place for Chris to go on such occasions. Chris could report to a person who would be available and qualified to help him with his stress. Three staff members were identified: one on each floor of the huge school building.

Was I able to provide five-diamond protection for Chris? No. I couldn’t anticipate all his needs. That reality sometimes led to my own anxiety.

Those of us raising children with MI are keenly aware of our child’s fragile mental stability or of their shaky emotional well-being. We’d love to keep them in a protective bubble. But we’re simply not able to provide for their every need.

What are we to do? Wring our hands in anxiety or fold them in prayer? Folded hands aren’t a symbol of resignation. But a position of hopeful expectation. When we pray for our kids, we’re not giving up; we’re giving THEM up—to Him. It’s relief for our grief. We can rest in His loving care.

In the Hands of God, our child receives BETTER than five-diamond service. His care is more perfect than anything we can provide. Jesus reminds us, “Your Father knows what you need before you ask him. (Matthew 6:8)”

What a comfort to know that the One who created our child knows his needs even before he asks! And He knows our own thoughts too.

Raising a child with MI can be a lonely journey. Often we wonder if anyone understands. Even our own spouse can’t seem to comprehend how we need to be supported. We wish someone would know our deepest thoughts. Thankfully, we can turn to the One who knows better than we know ourselves. How many of us offer this as our prayer to God?

“You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. (Psalm 139:1-6)”

It is difficult to comprehend His love. When I contemplate my status as His child, I begin to understand.

“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! (1 John 3:1-3)”

May you be lavished with His love today.

Reflect on His love as you listen to Scripture Songs’ ‘Behold What Manner of Love – 1 John 3:1.’

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3U9GJf6B7mc

All I Want for Christmas

Manger

Is Christmas a time of drowning for you? Not in debt, but in the quicksand of life with mental illness (MI). You may be thinking, “All I want for Christmas is that it will quickly end.”

Christmas lights, gifts, and baking can be reminders of times before your child had MI. The Hallmark TV channel has already begun airing Christmas movies. Plots which contain scenes of Norman Rockwell families. None seem to show how to celebrate the season in the context of MI. Stores have started selling Christmas decorations. None that can silence sadness.

It can feel like life is passing us by. We tend to believe everyone else lives ‘normal’ lives (whatever that means). Life appears to be so easy for others. People don’t know how complicated life is for us—too complicated to participate in favorite holiday traditions.

Oh, how we yearn to feel the joy of Christ’s coming to earth as a babe!

Chapter nine in the book of Matthew tells us about a lady who got caught up in the hustle and bustle of Christ’s visit to her town. Many probably didn’t even notice her. She was the one who endured a bleeding disease for twelve years. No one knew the courage it took for her to fight her way through the mob of people just to get to Jesus. Surely people stepped on her foot, accidentally jabbed her arm, or knocked her down. But she persevered. She needed a Healer. She sought a Lifesaver to rescue her from drowning in the loneliness and isolation of her disease.

Jesus felt His power go from Him. He noticed her and healed her.

Is there a way for us to celebrate Christmas while we deal with MI? Can we view the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season in a new way? A way that will lift our spirits? Can that lady inspire us to say, “All I want for Christmas is Jesus.”

The message of Christ’s birth is sweeping through our towns. We can face the mob scenes just like that lady. A woman who suffered adversity for many years knew how to keep her focus on Christ. Jesus entered her world and she simply wanted to touch the hem of his garment.

We share similarities with the lady in Matthew 9:20-22.

  • She endured a disease which caused her to hide herself. We often hide ourselves in shame.
  • Her disease weakened her and most likely kept her in anguish. We, too, are tired and worn out by MI. In anguish we watch our child with MI deal with life.
  • Surely, she spent all her money on cures – to no avail. We often spend lots of money on psychiatric care for our fragile or tormented child. And wait for restored joy and clarity of thought.
  • She touched Christ’s garment by faith and in secret. We approach Christ by faith and in secret.
  • She needed Christ’s comfort. We, too, seek His comfort—for those in our family who are troubled.
  • Christ called her daughter, speaking tenderly to her. Christ calls all believing women His daughters. We hear Him speak to us tenderly from His Word.
  • Christ honored the faith of that humble woman. He honors our humble faith.
  • Society shut her out, calling her unclean. But that didn’t shut her out from approaching Christ. Society shuts out those who struggle with MI. But that doesn’t stop us from entering into Christ’s presence. In prayer we bring our concerns, hopes, and requests to Jesus.
  • Jesus entered her world. Christ left heaven to enter our world. He made a way for us to get to heaven. He’s acquainted with all suffering. Those are Truths worth rejoicing!

Outdoor Christmas lights don’t have to mock our struggles. They can be beautiful reminders of what we celebrate: Jesus’ presence in our lives.

Emanuel, God with us, is more than a Christmas greeting on a card. It’s a Truth we cling to. We rely on the promise of His presence. He is with us every minute, every day, all year long. Providing renewed hope, perfect peace, heavenly wisdom, and constant protection.

Reflect on the fact that Jesus left heaven for YOU as you listen to O Holy Night sung by Josh Groban:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Zh-yR0pbmU