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Royal Treatment

God.hold.us

Someone of great influence is working to extinguish the stigma associated with mental illness (MI). That comes as music to the ears of moms raising kids with MI.  Who is the person? The duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton. Talk about the royal treatment!

Check out the title of an Associated Press article:

Kate Middleton would get her kids mental health help if they needed it

The weight of her words could do much to turn the tide of needless shame millions of moms feel. A portion of that well-written article helps us understand how sincere she is in her campaign.

“She called for change, writing that ‘with mental health problems still being such a taboo, many adults are often too afraid to ask for help for the children in their care.’”

How does it make you feel when you hear that other adults are too afraid to ask for help for their children suffering from MI? I don’t know about you, but it reinforces the fact that I’m not alone in my journey. I’m not alone in trying to shield my son from others, due to the stigma that surrounds MI. I’m not alone in fearing that unkind people might judge, tease, or look down on my son.

Kate’s backing up her words with action. She’s the guest editor for The Huffington Post UK’s recently-launched series called “Young Minds Matter.”  On that site, Her Royal Highness, The Duchess of Cambridge, states, “We know there is no shame in a young child struggling with their emotions or suffering from a mental illness.”

In 2015, HRH The Duchess of Cambridge supported UK’s first Children’s Mental Health Week. She videotaped her support of UK’s charity a Place2Be. Hear her talk about that charity in her own words:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OWYV3zPXx64

In 2016, she created another video for Mental Health Week. In that video, Kate is speaking directly to young children. Listen to how well she relates to children:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=21jqtJ-UB_w

Those involved with the Young Minds Matter campaign hope it will go global. Their goal is to help children around the world feel loved, valued and understood.

That’s what we want for our children also. Not only do we have an earthly royal advocating for loving treatment. But we have a heavenly Royal who wants everyone to love one another.

“Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matthew 22:37-39).

1 John 4:8 tells us that God is love. Our King of all kings not only wants us to share His love, but He will envelop you in His love. Picture resting in the palm of His hand.

“On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night. Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. I cling to you; your right hand upholds me” (Psalm 63:6-8).

 Let Elvis Presley’s song, “One Pair of Hands”, minister to you.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ezF8kteNLIE

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I’m only human.

Vic.only.human

What do you think would happen if you fell apart? Would everything around you swirl into chaos? Is your greatest fear that others would find out you’re not Super Mom? If life became too much to manage for you, would you worry about what might happen to your child with mental illness (MI)?

There is comfort in knowing that if we fall apart, let others down, fail our child with MI, God understands. He doesn’t expect us to be perfect. That’s His job. Christ understands the stress of life and our human limitations. He is all-knowing.

The biblical word for all-knowing is omniscient. Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines omniscient as, “having infinite awareness, understanding, and insight.” This next part of our story illustrates how much I needed someone to understand why I fell apart. God, alone, knew it all.

I had reached my limit and couldn’t remain calm any longer. Like a boiling tea pot, I sounded off. Releasing my frustration. You can imagine how guilty I felt. Like a complete failure. After beating myself up, I remembered God understands everything.

♦♦♦♦♦♦

We waited to see if Chris’s new medication would work. Would it prevent another break from reality? Or would it exacerbate his symptoms and necessitate hospitalization?

At times it was hard to tell if the new medication was really working. Sometimes Chris wouldn’t answer me. I’d consider the possible reasons.

Is he refusing to answer because he’s a typical obnoxious teenager? Is he simply tired? Or is this because the medication is making his symptoms worse? Is he heading to another psychotic episode? Should I call Dr. Newman?

One night after dinner I asked him a direct question. “Chris, are you having trouble thinking?”

He only replied with a silent message. He frowned and shook his head no.

“Chris, are you having trouble thinking?” I repeated. “Answer me. Are you feeling okay?”

“I feel fine.”

“Chris, are you having trouble thinking?”

“If you don’t want to talk, you should at least say, ‘I don’t feel like talking right now.’”

He just glared at me.

Is this some sort of game? I can’t take it anymore.

Finally I gave into the temptation to show my frustration and anger.

“If you’re feeling fine and can think, then you should answer! Since you’re not talking to me I’m going to leave you. I won’t want to talk to you later. If you do this to other people, you’ll push them away from you.”

I walked out of the room and headed to my bedroom. There I flopped onto my bed. Feeling frustrated and upset with myself.

What’s wrong with me? Now I’ve done it. I’ve probably just pushed Chris deeper into depression. How could I lash out at him when he’s hurting? What kind of a mother am I?

I turned to the only One who understood it all.

Dear Father, forgive me for how I acted. You know how hard it’s been for me to remain calm. It’s only because of Your peace that I’ve been able to comfort Chris when my own heart is breaking. I’m thankful You understand all my emotions: my fears, my sorrow, my insecurities, my anxieties, my hopes … You see all I’ve done to help Chris while taking care of all my other responsibilities. As a wife, as a mother to Robert, as an administrator. You know how tired I am and how I’ve relied on Your strength. Help me. This is such a critical time. Dr. Newman needs us to give him accurate information. To figure out if his medication is working. Now’s not the time for me to give up or make things worse. You know if the meds are working. Give me discernment and Your wisdom. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Chris came into my room and sat down.

“Can we talk?”

I felt like saying, “Forget it! It’s too late now!”

Maybe he really is upset. He’s reaching out. Thank You, Father that Chris is willing to talk.

“What do you want to talk about?” I asked.

“It’s a lot of responsibility to be a squad leader. I’m supposed to call all my squad members and remind them to go to an after school practice tomorrow.”

“Were you able to remind all of them?”

“Yea…I did,” he answered with a concerned tone.

“You seemed worried. What’s the problem?”

He shrugged.

Knowing how demanding his band director was, I assumed Chris was worried of failing him in some way.

“If you’re worried they won’t show up, that’s not your problem. You’ve fulfilled your responsibilities. If a member doesn’t show up and your director tries to hold you responsible, remember that it’s not your fault.”

I’d recently read Steven Covey’s book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.  I had read his very thought-provoking statement, “The problems, challenges, and opportunities we face fall into two areas–Circle of Concern and Circle of Influence.” That gave me an idea of how I could comfort Chris.

“I just read a book by Steven Covey. He wrote about two different kinds of responses to problems. Some people focus on things out of their control. That leads to fear, worry, sadness, and helplessness. Others focus on the things they can control. Those people approach life with courage and optimism. It’s a good message for you. Keep your focus on the thing you can control. You can control your actions. You can’t control what others do or don’t do. What makes you a good leader doesn’t depend on if your members show up to practice. You’re a good leader because you did what you was expected of you.”

That conversation provided an opportunity for me to remind Chris of God’s sovereignty. So I shared my biblical view of Covey’s approach to life.

“Covey’s message left out one big circle. The circle of those things in God’s control. Christians have three circles in their lives: the circle of concern—things out of their control, the circle of influence—things that can be controlled, and God’s circle. I try to remember all things in my life are inside God’s circle—even everything in my circle of concern. That gives me hope and helps me rest in His perfect peace.”

♦♦♦♦♦♦

What a comfort: God controls all and knows everything…even when we act, well, human. He loves us unconditionally and holds it all together.

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

Emotional Pain of Bullying

 

Vicki's Picture Book

Vicki’s Picture Book

“What if my son wasn’t bullied?”

Is that thought among your what ifs? Do you wonder what role bullying played in your child’s mental illness (MI)? Thinking maybe bullying caused it.

Bullying is painful for the target and for the victim’s mother.

Our son, Chris, was the object of bullying throughout school. His ADHD made him an easy target. Other kids knew how to torment him in class without getting caught. If Chris told them to stop, he’d be the one to get in trouble for disrupting the class. His belongings were often taken from him. Kids teased him at recess. Even beat him up. He got so taunted on the bus that I drove him to and from school.

As he got older, it got worse. In sixth grade Chris became a latch-key kid. My new job prevented me from driving him to and from school. He had to take the bus. When he got off the bus, children harassed him. The school district said there was nothing they could do. The police advised against taking action. Saying it would only enflame the situation. So each day when I came home I’d check him for bruises. Then I’d comfort him and repair his damaged self-esteem.

Just when things seemed like they couldn’t get worse, they did. In high school he joined the marching band. I often watched his peers walk past him as if he didn’t exist. A form of bullying that says, “You’re not worthy enough to be acknowledged.” Someone even pulled a knife on him. In college a teacher whacked him on the head with a book because he slept in class. NOTE: His medication made him drowsy.

Undoubtedly, bullying impacts mental health. The website stopbully.gov addresses the effects of bullying. They state, “Bullying is linked to many negative outcomes including impacts on mental health …”

Some children are bullied more than others. Even just one traumatic event can scar someone emotionally. It’s time to update the old adage: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never FOREVER hurt me.” Emotional scars can last a lifetime.

Ask my mother-in-law, Mary. When she was alive, she frequently told the story of an incident that happened when she was eight years old.

At home, her parents spoke Ukrainian. So, Mary pronounced ‘soup’ by saying ‘zoup.’ In second grade she told her teacher, “I’m having zoup for lunch.”

Her teacher asked her to repeat what she said.

Mary repeated it and the entire class laughed at her. Including the teacher.

Mary told that story over and over again … even 85 yrs. after it happened.

Bullying has impacted my life as a bystander, parent, educator, and administrator. That’s why I wrote a picture book to empower bystanders. Children who witness bullying are often too intimidated to tell an adult. There seemed to be a need for a book to help bystanders. One that parents and educators could use to teach bystanders what they can do to prevent bullying. Heart Eyes: Beth and the Bullies is now available on Amazon in print or as an eBook.

What’s the worst kind of bullying? Would it be when someone is threatening a person’s life? Imagine if your best friend’s father was trying to kill you? In the Bible we read about David. His best friend’s father, Saul, repeatedly tried to kill David.

David didn’t understand why he was so persecuted. He asked his best friend, “What have I done? What is my crime? How have I wronged your father, that he is trying to kill me?”  (1 Samuel 20:1)

Later in 1 Samuel 30:4 we read how things got so bad that, “David and his men wept aloud until they had no strength left to weep.”

Have you ever cried that much over the tragedy of your child’s life?

The same God who protected David’s life can minister to you. David strengthened himself in the Lord his God (1 Samuel 30:6). Find inner strength in the Lord your God.

We can praise God in our storm because we know He’s with us. ‘Praise You in the Storm’ by Casting Crowns reminds us of that truth.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vCpP0mFD9F0

 

 

Needless Shame

pout2  pout

A pouting child is a picture of….How would you finish that sentence?

Rejection. Isolation. Exclusion.

“What did I do?” “No fair.” Children understand when they are unfairly judged or excluded for no apparent reason. But that doesn’t make them feel any better. Those emotional scars can last a lifetime.

Throughout history entire groups have been unfairly ostracized and persecuted. The Israelites, Jews, and blacks.

Perhaps you feel ostracized. Excluded, ignored, banished, left out. Has mental illness (MI) made you feel like a cast away. Discarded. Shunned.

Like victims of bullying, you feel shame. Convinced you did something to deserve it. Taunted by unfair thoughts:  Maybe if I was a better parent.

But deep down inside you know you’re trying the best you can to help your child who has MI. You’re struggling to keep peace in your home and love in your marriage.

In the midst of all you’re dealing with, shame needn’t be one of the challenges.

According to the online Oxford Dictionaries, shame is defined as: “a person, action, or situation that brings a loss of respect or honor.”

MI: the situation that robs us of respect or honor. We feel shame because society still misunderstands MI. We feel judged by people who have no idea what we’re enduring. Shame on them!

Oxford Dictionaries also defines shame as: “a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior.”

Surely, our shame can cause us to feel humiliated. Others make us feel like we’re to blame for some reason. Shame on us for believing that lie.

The truth is MI is an illness. Behavior management techniques employed by other parents won’t work with a child whose actions are a reflection of unstable thinking or fragile emotions.

It’s not so easy to just…

  • Tell a clinically depressed child to, “Snap out of it.”
  • Expect an anorexic child to, “Sit there until you finish your meal.”
  • Require the explosive child with a bipolar disorder to, “Calm down and relax.”
  • Punish a child experiencing a psychotic episode for his violent and bizarre behaviors.

My resolve: to fight feelings of needless shame. And to seek encouragement from God’s Word.

“I have chosen the way of faithfulness; I have set my heart on your laws. I hold fast to your statutes, Lord; do not let me be put to shame (Psalm 119:30-32).”

“May the arrogant be put to shame for wronging me without cause; but I will meditate on your precepts (Psalm 119:78).”

“Because the Sovereign Lord helps me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore have I set my face like flint, and I know I will not be put to shame (Isaiah 50:7).”

I’ve learned to ignore assumptions made by others whose lives aren’t touched by MI. I no longer care what others think. Years of judgment from others taught me to be a God-pleaser. God sees the long-suffering, gentleness, and unconditional love I extend to Chris. My heavenly Father cares more about the fruit of the spirit in my life rather than the dust on my furniture. He knows I’m doing my best to honor Him in my parenting.

Bottom line: Christ knows the truth. And He experienced shame.

“…fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart (Hebrews 12:1-3).”

Call on Him to rescue you from needless shame. Fall on the throne of God and leave it there. May Hillson’s

“Came to my Rescue” be the cry of your heart.

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

I blew it.

failure

I’d reached my breaking point. I managed to keep my composure when Chris was in the psychiatric unit. And then held it together when he got treatment in the partial-care facility. He was on the road to recovery. But, my emotional stress built as he transitioned back into school.

Chris started going to some band rehearsals after school. When it came time for a performance, I was concerned.

Will he be able to handle the pressure? Will he act normally in front of everyone? Will his peers ask him why he wasn’t in school?

I sat in the auditorium waiting for the program to begin. Not relaxed, but uneasy. Days leading up to the performance, we had Chris practice what he’d say if curious students asked him why he wasn’t in school. He would simply reply, “I was sick and now I’m feeling better.”

Where is Chris now? What’s he doing back stage? I hope he doesn’t do or say anything to embarrass himself or his brother. I hope he remembers what to say if anyone asks him why he was absent.

My thoughts were interrupted by a parent I didn’t know well. She bluntly asked, “What did you think of Chris’s partial-care facility?”

How does she know where Chris was? Does everyone know? What a rude and insensitive question!

I mustered up the strength to respond. As casually as I could I answered, “How did you know Chris was receiving treatment in a partial-care facility?”

“A friend of mine had a daughter there when Chris was there?”

Great! Just perfect! I guess everyone knows our business. I suppose it’s impossible to keep Chris’s friends from finding out.

I responded without looking at her, “It was okay.”

Maybe she’ll get the message I don’t want to talk about it. Just leave!!!

I couldn’t believe I actually answered her intrusive question. Instead of politely telling her she shouldn’t have asked me.

People just don’t understand how upsetting it can be to have a loved one who is mentally ill.

It wasn’t possible for me to simply enjoy the band performance without someone reminding me Chris was recovering from his illness.

Several days later, Chris and I were in the car. He brought up the partial-care therapy. For the millionth time! Chris needed to process the experiences. I wanted to just forget it. Our needs collided that day.

“When I was in the partial-care unit, they didn’t care about the patients. It was horrible. The counselor was mean to me. We had to sit there all day and talk about drug abuse. Even though that wasn’t my problem.”

In sheer frustration, I lost my temper. I yelled, “I got it, Chris! I know it was a nightmare for you! I’m sorry you had to go there! I’m tired of hearing about it.”

The three months of stress had taken its toll on me. I spoke harshly to Chris. Afterwards, I felt tremendous guilt.

I’m such a failure. How could I speak to Chris so meanly? He’s still so vulnerable. But, I just can’t take it anymore.

I couldn’t allow myself to wallow in self-pity.

I need help. Maybe, I’m not the worst parent in the world. I’ll talk to Chris’s out-patient psychologist. He’ll give me his honest opinion on how I’ve handled our crisis.

The psychologist assured me, “You’ve been handling things amazingly well considering the circumstances. You’ve persevered for a long time. You need to take time out for yourself. Get some rest and relaxation. Find some time for entertainment for yourself.”

Soon after, God provided some needed encouragement.

Chris and I spent some time walking by a creek. As we strolled along, I reminisced.

“When I was younger, I used to sit for hours on a rock in a creek near our house. I marveled at God’s creation. When surrounded by God’s creation instead of the world (man-made thing and earthly troubles), I found peace. It was comforting to see God’s power and love demonstrated in His beautiful creation.”

We walked closer to the water.

“Look at that water before the boulders. See how calm it is. As long as it’s perfectly still, it can reflect the sunlight. Now look at the rippling water falling from the boulders. See how the light sparkles in that water? Listen to the soothing sound of that gurgling water. It’s so soothing.”

I went on to relate it to our lives.

“The creek is a picture of our lives. There are calm times, followed by turbulent times. During calm times, if we can remain perfectly still, we can reflect the Son’s love. Even during turbulent times, we can reflect His love. But, in a more vibrant way. God can be found in our difficulties. And glorified the most through our trials. See farther down the creek? The water is still again. Your life will be calmer again, too. God is helping you pass through this turbulent time.”

I’ll always cherish that day with Chris. The analogy I shared with him, reassured my heart as well.

Did you ever feel like you blew it?

Decades ago, Simon & Garfunkel sang “Bridge over Troubled Water.” Listen to the words to the song and imagine God singing them to you.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jjNgn4r6SOA

Friend

funeralcards
Does it help when people attend the funeral of a loved one? Do sympathy cards make a difference?

My husband and I were comforted by all the people who came to my mother-in-law’s funeral.

It’s amazing how much cards and flowers softened my grief. The prayers and sympathy meant so much. Because of who sent them. Sorrow was soothed by friends who care. Each gesture brought some relief from my hurt.

I reread the sympathy cards and blessings swelled my heart. How I cherish the relationships I have with godly women! Ladies I call friends.

A friend stands by us when times are hard. No words are needed. Just their presence says, “I’m here for you.” Pain dissolves at their gentle touch and warm hug. Shared tears let us know their heart weeps with ours.

Who stands by our children who have mental illness (MI)? Few people want to be around someone who is depressed. Many don’t know how to handle someone else’s anxiety.

A mother’s care is constant. She reaches out to her son when emotional pain engulfs his heart. Sometimes, he welcomes her listening ear. Other times, he recoils at the sight of her open arms. That’s when her teen would prefer a friend. A faithful companion who would console him.

Some individuals with MI are blessed to have a good friend. Others aren’t so fortunate. It’s hard for a mom to watch the isolation and loneliness. It’s difficult to hear some of the unkind names used when people refer to a person with serious MI.

Who will call our children “friend”? Jesus. We can count on Him to see the person, not just the MI.

In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus called Judas, His betrayer, “friend” (Matthew 26:48-50).

Satan had entered Judas (Luke 22:3). Yet, Christ’s perspective was on the person.

God knows our need for friends.

“The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend” (Exodus 33:11). Abraham was called God’s friend (James 2:23 and Isaiah 41:8). Christ called His disciples friends (John 15:15. And He expressed His love for us when He said, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). He demonstrated that love for us on the cross (1 John 3:16).

We can count on Him to be our child’s true Friend.
Dear Jesus,
Please send godly friends into my son’s life. Thank You for your ultimate expression of friendship when You willingly died for my sin. Praise You for blessing me with women who weep with me. Help me be a faithful friend to those You have placed in my life.

Let the words to this song “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” minister to you.