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The Wrong Way?

Wrong.Way

Is it wrong to keep your child’s mental illness (MI) a secret?

Friends or relatives may offer the common social inquiry: “How’s …?” or “What’s new with …?”

You wonder:

Does she really want to know about my child? If I told her how he’s really doing, would she judge my parenting abilities? Would she blab it to others?

Perhaps you refrain from telling others out of shame, or because of your desire to protect your child.

But, how can we answer? What if we can’t provide a fairy tale answer? Maybe you’d love to boast, “Oh, his soccer team won all of their games this season.”  But, your child’s been barely motivated to take care of his basic hygiene. Perhaps you’d love to brag, “He made the honor roll again.” But, he’s been receiving home-bound instruction.

Surely, it would be wrong to unload all the sordid details. It would be wrong to provide an answer like, “His medication isn’t working. He’s been deep in depression and anxiety for weeks. We can’t find a good psychiatrist. I don’t want to even think of hospitalization. But, it seems inevitable if we can’t get him stabilized. I can’t take any more days off from work without losing my job. I don’t think I’ve slept fully in weeks…”

Yes, that response would be the wrong way to answer a casual question. So, what’s the right way to respond to, “How’s …?” If you’re like me, your go-to response is, “Oh, he’s fine.”

We silence the truth and protect our child. We know others don’t always respond with compassion to MI. Does that fact cause you to sometimes feel like an outcast? Is there a right way to handle feelings of isolation? The Bible gives us some examples of those who were isolated due to a health condition.

Outcasts in the Bible:

Levitical laws of purification identified conditions which priests declared unclean. People having certain conditions like leprosy or extensive bleeding, suffered consequences. A person branded as unclean might be isolated from the presence of God and His people. Surely, such separation led to humiliation and shame.

An Old Testament Example:

“King Uzziah had leprosy until the day he died. He lived in a separate house—leprous, and banned from the temple of the Lord” (2 Chronicles 26:21).

A New Testament Example:

Luke tells us about a woman who, “had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her” (Luke 8:43).

When Christ came in her area, she pushed through the mob to get to Jesus. We’re told that, “She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped” (Luke 8:44).

Jesus made a statement that caused her to tremble. He said, “Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me” (Luke 8:46).

“Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed” (Luke 8:47).

What caused the woman to fear? Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible  explains why the woman trembled.

“She came trembling; for fear of the anger and resentment of Christ, and lest the favour would be revoked, and the penalty of the law inflicted.

The word ‘law’ in that commentary’s explanation referred to the Levitical law of purification (Leviticus 15:25). A woman’s excessive bleeding was viewed as a deplorable condition. She was required to remain separated from her husband during her time of bleeding.

Christ’s Response to an Outcast:

So, did Christ react in anger? Here’s what He said to the woman who was courageous enough to touch His garment in public:

“Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace (Luke 8:48)”


That woman knew the right thing to do with her private suffering. She went to Jesus. We’re not like those under the Levitical laws of purity who were banned from His presence. So, the right way to handle our isolation is to go to Jesus. No illness, not even MI, can separate us from His love. During our secret silence and sorrow, Christ sees our faith. He offers us the same peace He extended to the woman.

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

To find more verses that will encourage your heart: click on ‘verses about peace’ (below).

verses about peace

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Speechless

SPEECHLESS

Silence fell over the college dining hall. Everyone savored each bite of the roast beef. Back in the day, such a meal came only once a year—at final time. Usually we had to choose from one form of “mystery meat” or the salad bar. Entrees often tasted like hospital food. So roast beef was a real treat. We didn’t want to interrupt the taste sensation with casual chatter. We were speechless.

Other things which delight our senses can leave us speechless. A breathtaking sunset which could never be captured. An unmatched athletic fete which would appear impossible to duplicate. An orchestra performance which could only be rewarded by a standing ovation.

The temporary inability to speak is usually caused by strong emotions. Either good or bad. Horror can render one speechless. Like news of the death of a loved one.

Often there are no words to describe secret pain suffered. A mother watching her child struggle with mental illness (MI) doesn’t even attempt to explain what’s in her heart. The carefree smile on her child’s face has been replaced with a dark stare. The young head that used to tip backwards in bubbling giggles now hangs down like a heavy wet rag. Her child once used to be the life of a party. Now she’s an empty shell of a person. Lifeless.

No words can explain the sorrow.

Mothers aren’t the only ones left speechless in the wake of MI. Sometimes our children with MI don’t speak. Clinical depression robs them of any desire to communicate. How their parents long for happy conversations!

Refraining from speaking isn’t always a bad thing. The best response often is silence. Whenever Chris fires unprovoked anger my way, I shoot a quick prayer heavenward. Asking God to help me remain silent. Whenever Chris makes an odd statement, Howie listens without response. Withholding our anger or judgment delivers an unspoken blessing to Chris. Silence conveys our unconditional love.

Poets and leaders have written about the value of silence.

Thomas Hardy (1840-1926), the British novelist and poet observed, “That man’s silence is wonderful to listen to.”

Winston Churchill (1874-1965), the British politician, pointed out, “When the eagles are silent the parrots begin to jabber.”

Mark Twain (1835-1910), a man known for his words, touted the benefits of silence. He chose strong descriptors to convey his passion about a pause. “The Pause; that impressive silence, that eloquent silence, that geometrically progressive silence which often achieves a desired effect where no combination of words however so felicitous, could accomplish it.”

What about the Bible? Does it tell us anything about silence? Christ often didn’t respond. He used silence to convey a powerful message or to make a point. Sometimes His silence was coupled with a look. Peter experienced one of those.

“Peter replied, ‘Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!’ Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: ‘Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times (Luke 22:60-61).’”

We find biblical warnings associated with talking in Proverbs. Verse nineteen in chapter ten tells us that, “In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise.”

That’s what moms raising kids with MI need. Wisdom. Scripture emphasizes the importance of investing serious contemplation before speaking.

“The heart of the righteous studies how to answer (Proverbs 15:28  NKJV).”

Knowing how fragile our children are, we choose our words wisely.

Proverbs 17:27 instructs us to use words sparingly. It provides a formula for a calm spirit. Knowledge + understanding + few words = a calm spirit.

“He who has knowledge spares his words, and a man of understanding is of a calm spirit.”

As we minister to our children with MI we seek a calm spirit. For our children and for us. We not only find serenity in carefully chosen words. We find peace in God’s glory. His creation leaves us breathless and reminds us of His power. In Him we have an all-powerful King who offers unlimited hope.

Phil Wickham, in his song ‘This is Amazing Grace’ sings about how God’s glory which leaves us breathless.

“Who shakes the whole earth with holy thunder

And leaves us breathless in awe and wonder

The King of Glory, the King above all kings”

Reflect on that breathless wonder as you listen to, ‘This Is Amazing Grace’ Phil Wickham    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cgsbaBIaoVc

The Value of a Warm Welcome

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I wished I could be eight again so I could be a student in her class. That’s how I felt each time I visited Kim’s classroom. Kim respected me as her administrator and also treated me as if I was the most important person in her life. Whenever I popped into her room she’d stop everything. Her face would beam with a sincere smile.

“Well hello Mrs. Chandler,” she’d say as if seeing me for the first time in months. “Boys and girls, isn’t it wonderful Mrs. Chandler had time to stop by and say hello?”

Her heartfelt greeting made me feel as if she’d been waiting all day for me to arrive.

Kim had a passion for people and made everyone feel that way. Everybody who entered her classroom benefitted from the same loving affirmation. Her greeting wasn’t a fake formality but a genuine validation of the person’s value.

Can such a simple reception impact a person? It sure made me feel appreciated and special.

We all need to know we’re important to others. Especially our children who have mental illness (MI). But they may not receive a warm welcome from others. Facial expressions that appear lifeless, tense, or sad don’t invite happy responses.

When our son Chris passes me in our home he often doesn’t make eye contact or smile. Sometimes my happy greeting is met with silence or a grunt. Training me to keep my smiles to myself.

But just as smiles are contagious so are frowns. The typical reaction to a sad demeanor is to avoid the person. The typical emotion of a mother who sees her son downcast is to feel sadness. For a long time my face reflected the helpless condition of my heart. My mind provided the directive to my response: “Nothing can be done to spark his smile, disengage your smile.”

One day it dawned on me that my sad expression only contributed to Chris’s dreary emotions. It occurred to me I could at least give him a warm greeting. Instead of contaminating his mood, I could celebrate his life. Simply by offering a loving smile and this upbeat reception: “Hi Chris.”

Nowadays I seize every opportunity throughout the day to let him know he’s important to me. Each time we cross paths I have the chance to let him know he’s loved.

Can a warm welcome really have a positive impact on our loved ones who suffer with MI? Think about the power of a look. The glare from a bully, the frown from a teacher, and the scowl from a drill sergeant strike fear in the receiver. On the other hand, the loving glance of an admirer, the proud smile of a parent, and the approving nod of a coach all inflate one’s self-esteem.

I often imagine what kind of look Peter received from Christ when he denied Jesus three times. Luke 22:61 tells us, “The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter.”

Jesus had told Peter he would deny Him three times. So I’m thankful we don’t read, “Christ rolled his eyes and said, ‘I told you so.’”

We don’t have any details describing Christ’s look. But we have plenty of details about His love. It’s forgiving, unconditional, and long-suffering. We can extend that same kind of love to our kids who suffer with MI. We do love our children with unconditional love. But how can we offer a warm greeting in the face of depression? By relying on the One who gave Peter a loving response to His denials.

What’s it like?

peek

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Breathe out of your mouth, Chris.”

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

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

Please, Lord, stop his nose from bleeding.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Unprepared & Sad but Unflinching

eyes.Sofies.to.side

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

♦♦♦♦♦♦

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

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

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

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

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

At school, I explained my situation to the headmaster.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Because I’m mentally ill.”

Chris’s answer shocked both of us.

“Is that right?” she asked me.

I nodded yes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

MI: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly

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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

Real or Unreal

Macaw

The Macaw caught my eye. Was it real or stuffed? Soon I found out.

The aisles in the tropical bird store were crammed with supplies for bird-lovers. I stepped back to snap a picture of the feathery creature and knocked into a shelf of feeders. “Uh-oh,” flew out of my mouth proclaiming my fear that they’d all topple over.

“Uh-oh,” echoed back.

Did I just hear that? To confirm my suspicions, I repeated my reaction. “Uh-oh.”

“Uh-oh,” bellowed back the refrain from the perch. That parrot, asserted itself by honking, “Uh-oh!”  As if mocking my clumsiness. Proclaiming my private mistake to the entire store.

Thankfully, a parrot can’t repeat unspoken words. Ideas hidden in peoples’ minds are safe.

“A penny for your thoughts.”  Would you reveal your most intimate thoughts so cheaply?

That phrase won’t necessary buy accurate information from a child with mental illness (MI). You might only get silence or a glare.

Years ago, when I attended part of Chris’s appointments with his psychologist, the doctor would ask, “So Chris, what are you thinking?”

Chris often looked at me as if to say, “I’m not gonna say anything with her here. My thoughts are private.”

Can you blame him? Would you willingly reveal your every thought? Certainly not the ugly ones.

Thankfully, most of us can suppress vindictive, angry, impure or judgmental thoughts. We put the mental brakes on opinions that threaten to contaminate our conversations. We resist the temptation to blurt out impressions like, “Wow! I can’t believe she …” We stifle our speech when feeling, “I wish he would just …”

Foreign thoughts that invade our thinking are annoying. It could be worse. What if we couldn’t trust our thoughts? That would be horrifying. That’s what it’s like for individuals with MI who hear voices. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to distinguish real from unreal.

We can help children who hear voices by suggesting how to distinguish between real and unreal. Those that spew hurtful or hateful messages are most likely not real; they’re symptoms of MI. The best offense is to fill their minds with undeniable Truth. God is real. He loves them.

We need to remind ourselves of that fact. God is real. And His love for us is very real.

Troubles seem to stalk our families. Bazaar behaviors become the norm. We seem to stumble through dark days searching for an ounce of hope. Praying for normalcy.

I don’t know about you, but there were days I thought I’d simply ignore the reality of MI in my life. As if I could will it away with positive thoughts.

Today, I’m going to be at peace.

But anxious thoughts would ambush my plan. Worries would pounce on my artificial peace. And pound away at my awareness of His presence. Sometimes I’d experience more subtle attacks. My focus would meander throughout the day. Carefree thoughts would focus on this chore and that errand. Then curiosity would lure me down dark paths in my mind.

I wonder if Chris is sitting alone at lunch. Did he remember to ask the teacher for testing in a quiet setting?

Such seductive contemplation would suddenly entrap me. I’d find myself snarled in my own deception.

Chris can’t be okay because no one is there to help him.

Then I’d come to my senses and remember God wouldn’t abandon Chris. At those times, I refused to allow concerns to trample my trust in Him.

How could my trust in God be unshakable? Because of who He is.

In my training to be a vision support teacher, I had to experience what it’s like to be blind. The professor instructed me to wear a blindfold and follow a sighted guide. My level of trust depended on the person leading. If I knew he’d protect me from injury, I relaxed. If my guide had difficulties paying attention, I peeked under my blindfold. Knowing I had to depend on myself.

The more I know of God and His love for me, the more I can rest in His care. I assure myself: “Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. (Psalm 62:5-6)”

Thank You, Father, that You’re very real. Your Word is true and I can depend on Your love. Make Your presence known to me today in greater ways. Align and synchronize my thoughts with Yours.

God answers, “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)”

Rejoice in His strength as you listen to Hillsong’s ‘Believe.’

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kbIXoPblF8Q