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 …?”
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).