One More Word on Mental Illness

Earlier this month, I posted some thoughts and information for Mental Health Awareness Month. Today is the last day of the month and I hoped to speak to the issue of mental health/illness one more time.

its time w ribbonMaking my own efforts to educate people about mental health/illness issues is one of my passions. I’ve known so many people who struggle with some sort of illness. I’ve shared the pain of many of those people; I don’t speak from observation only.

My post Not A Unicorn told a little of my own story because I wanted to ‘come out’, so to speak. I felt a need to be honest about another aspect of who I am. Today I want to simply give more information so those who read my blog can be better educated about issues regarding mental health/illness.

Whichever illness is named, from anxiety to schizophrenia, those who have a mental illness need others to understand as best they can. We can learn the difference between one illness and another. (Schizophrenia isn’t multiple personalities for instance.) People need to know that having a mental illness isn’t sin. The brain is a mysterious organ and even experts don’t know everything there is to know about how it functions. We can, however, try to get insight so we don’t put people in boxes.

Boxes end up being like cages.Do you honestly think...

In a recent Facebook post, I included a link from Ed Stetzer’s blog. Stetzer is one of my favorite bloggers because he doesn’t tend to be a Fraidy Cat. He speaks truth and speaks it well, without throwing stones. His post addressed how the Church needs to better handle mental illness issues inside and out.

Last week, I had the privilege of listening to my pastor preach on depression in the sermon series Insomnia: What Keeps You Up at Night? Pastor Bray interviewed a local Christian counselor, a member of our congregation. I can say there have been few times in the almost 18 years I’ve attended my church when I felt as grateful as I did that day for God speaking through his people.

I hoped that from their interview, which was grace-filled and educational, everyone present would take away at least one fact that would help them to better understand depression and other mental illnesses.

My church isn’t so unique. I’m sure there are others that extend grace to people who struggle with mental illnesses.  We need the Church to come alongside us.

If you want to educate yourself on mental illness, the Internet is a fount of information. Simply do a search on mental illness or a specific topic you have questions about. Listed below are some links to help you get started.

BringChange2Mind

Mental Health America

National Alliance for Mental Illness

 

 

Not A Unicorn

Advice to Young Poets
Never pretend
to be a unicorn
by sticking a plunger on your head
from The Republic of Poetry by Martin Espada

When I started writing this blog and was confronted with creating an “About” page for the blog and for myself, the idea was more than I wanted to consider. I played it lazy and kept it short. In fact, when I read them now, I sound silly to myself.

I’m like anyone else, I suppose; I can talk about myself all day long. If we’re honest, we can admit that we–or something about our life–are own favorite subject. Both of my “About” pages are as vague as can be. Now I give you Mr. Espada’s poem as an adjunct to getting to know me and as advice to follow. Truly.

I’m sincere by writing that in my blog I hope to share my journey in finding joy and contentment with Jesus Christ. I also hope to sometimes encourage, comfort, offer consolation, teach, break through spiritual obstacles or propel someone toward God’s purpose for them.

If a post brings someone closer in intimacy with God, that’s great too. I’d be humbled by that for sure.

But I haven’t been totally honest yet. I’ve been wearing a plunger on my head, so to speak. Unknown to some of you, I’ve been trying to be something I’m not and it’s time to reveal my secret. I have manic-depressive illness and it’s not totally controlled even though I take my medications as directed and also try to do all the things my doctor prescribes.

I know this revelation sets me up for criticism immediately. It’s okay. I don’t like being criticized for something I can’t help; but I think I can take it. Criticism coming from one of you, or a “follower” of this blog deciding to stop following will be fine. You certainly can’t call me anything worse than I’ve called myself.*

Life with manic-depressive illness, also called bi-polar disorder, can be devastating to the one diagnosed with it. Depending on the severity of our individual diagnoses–and there are many–it can also make life hard for the families of those with it. We don’t always act like we ‘should.’ We don’t respond the same way as people who have what I call “respectable” illnesses like asthma or heart disease or diabetes. People with those illnesses have some physical manifestations if things get out of synch. But with a mental illness the manifestations are behavioral. Always behavioral.

Maybe you’ve witnessed those manifestations. We just don’t act right. We can’t control our conversations (there’s no filter and we talk really fast). We get truly depressed, not just ‘having a bad day.’ We yell, have panic attacks and make you wonder what on earth you did to make it happen.

I’m not writing today to go into my story from the day I was diagnosed (and before) until now. This also isn’t a pity-party. Most of all, I can’t educate you in a short blog post. I decided to write for a couple of reasons.

  • If you decide you want to continue reading my blog, it should be based on my honesty. You don’t have to be honest, but I need to take the plunger off my head. Then you’ll see me as I really am.
  • Honesty about who I am in this regard will also help us both see how blessed I’ve been so far in my journey. God has been holding my hand through so many difficult times. Inpatient and outpatient.

And that’s something people who walk past me in the hallways at church aren’t even aware of. **

The Church–and our culture–as a whole is becoming more aware of its role in meeting the needs of those in their communities who are mentally ill. It’s encouraging to see this. Some of the awareness has come as a result of family tragedies that hit the news and our very own senses like tsunamis.

Yet, there it is. I don’t pretend to know God’s ways, but I do know he invaded my life like never before through manic-depressive illness. His voice has never been heard so sweetly to me as when he whispers, “I love you” when I’m crawling the walls or sobbing like a lost child.

It’s his voice that crowds out all the others. The lies, the taunts, the ones telling me to put that plunger back on my head.

Almighty Father, thank you that when we realize our identity in you we no longer need to pretend to be something we’re not. Grant us the ability to love one another no matter what physical, spiritual, emotional or mental affliction is with us now. Heal us and sustain us as you see fit. Extend grace to us in our weaknesses for your glory and in the name of Jesus. Amen.

*Although I have yet to call myself a unicorn.
**Until now.

For more information about Mental Illness awareness and diagnosis (your own or that of someone you love), contact National Alliance on Mental Illness or Mental Health America .