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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.

♦♦♦♦♦♦

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

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What’s the Difference?

whats.the.diff

We’re not much different than kids. We all do it. Grab the last one. We race to the only empty parking spot at the mall. We snatch the final electronic sale-priced item on the shelf.

Kids squabble over the last piece of cake. Their arguments can get nasty. What’s the solution? Have one cut it into two pieces. Let the other choose his piece. That ensures the cutter will slice it into equal pieces. Yet, the chooser often examines the two pieces like a scientist examining evidence under a microscope. Searching for any evidence one is larger than the other. Seeking an incremental difference.

Sometimes the difference isn’t so subtle. If you have several children, you know each one is unique—vastly unlike the others. Mental illness (MI) magnifies the differences. Your child with MI requires more time, attention, and prayer. No wonder the lower-maintenance kids feel left out.

While our boys were growing up, I did the best I could. Each day consisted of the usual responsibilities: teaching, making meals, taking the boys to practices, running errands, ensuring homework got done, and grading my students’ papers. All in the context of my having multiple sclerosis.

Some days also included dealing with Chris’s MI, finding out how Chris managed during the day, picking up medication or making a doctor appointment, talking to one of Chris’s teachers…

Our other son, Rob, lost out on much of my attention. I wished things were different.

When Chris went away to college, he called home often. One day Rob said, “When I go to college, I won’t be calling that much.”

His remark had a hint of judgment to it. So I replied, “What’s the difference between you and your brother?”

Silence.

“The grace of God,” I gently pointed out. In hopes of restoring his compassion for Chris.

Chris didn’t choose to have MI. He did nothing to deserve it. It wasn’t his fault.

When Rob was in high school, I heard a teaching on Christian radio on the importance of affirming your children. I assumed Rob knew how much I loved him, but just wanted to check. “Where do you think you fall in my list of priorities?” I asked him.

“After Chris,” he replied.

His answer stunned me.

How could he not know how much I love him? Has MI stolen Rob’s sense of belonging? Has it masked my affection for him? Has this wretched disease inflicted pain on both my sons?  

I decided to make a concerted effort to assure him of my love. I wanted to convince him that I loved him more than the air I breathed. I seized every opportunity to remind him of my love.

One Friday night, Rob and the other drum major were scheduled to play the national anthem at a basketball game. Sheets of rain made it difficult to see as I drove to the high school. When we arrived, Rob hesitated. “I don’t want to walk in wearing this uniform before Kristen arrives.”

“Do you want me to see if she’s in there?” I offered.

“Would you?”

I returned (fairly drenched) with the news she’d arrived. Before Rob left the car I stopped him.

“Do you feel affirmed? Chris isn’t here. I went in there for you. Because I love you.”

How is it possible a teenager can underestimate his mother’s love for him? Same way we underestimate God’s love for us. That’s why Paul prayed on behalf of believers saying, “And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”  (Ephesians 3:17-19)

Dear heavenly Father, help us to comprehend how much You love us. Help us recognize the many ways You reveal Your love in our lives.

In Your Son’s name, Amen.

Reflect on how much God loves you as you enjoy this YouTube video I made (photographs by me and the song ‘Draw Me Close to You’ by Michael W. Smith):

http://youtu.be/x2r5Y-F64wQ