Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness
(c)2013 Nancy Virden
Once dead emotionally, it is difficult at best to rise again. Chattering voices and stone silence, pleading eyes and cold stares, feeling loved and then unloved – all of these and more are part of what challenges us as we float through recovery trying to reconcile living and the battle in our brain. At least some of what brought us to the point of following through on our death-wish remains a part of our lives. Ambivalence is important when we flirt with the idea of death, because we are also flirting with a desire for life.
Our first step is to choose to believe for hope. Maybe it is out there in great measure. Maybe it can be grasped. As we look to mental health care professionals, we can hear the hope in their voices, see it in their compassionate eyes. Maybe we are worth something after all; maybe life is a gift. It is an option to cling to their hope when we have none; it is always a choice to decide, this is not going to be the end of my story.
If the past could be changed, what would we modify? Each of us can dream of absence of pain, nonexistent guilt, and trauma being erased from our histories. If we had a magic wand I suspect many of us would heal relationships, and forgive ourselves. We would be more confident, better-looking, successful, and dare we say it – happy.
An architect has the privilege of walking inside his or her art. Think about it, the creativity, time, personality, skills, training, everything that has been poured into his or her craft is now existent. It is not just on canvas, but real and touchable. City planners can also walk down streets that were once a dream and observe people responding in real-time to their designs. I would love to walk into one of my collages one day, be surrounded by the colors, and actually feel my art.
We all create. Moments, conversations, and families are three examples of what we participate in shaping each day. Even when they seem out of our control, we design our responses. It is our art, our craft to make our lives worthwhile. Do we need help? Absolutely. Support is not a temporary lift, either. It has to be built into our structures, woven in the cloth. I look to Jesus, my ultimate designer, to help me know where to lay the bricks, what colors to apply, and when to add more details. In my striving for completion and wholeness, it is important to me to know this life is not all there is. I have hope for these limited years to matter for eternity.
We are walking inside our art. What has occurred in the past has been done. It is up to us to dismantle thoughts that bring us to despair, to reshape our emotional framework, and to learn how to add little touches to make our lives beautiful. This is difficult and doable. Scary and promising. Unimaginable, yet… what if?
When suicide ends a creation in progress, the art remains unfinished and short of what could have been an amazing gift to loved ones, friends, and the world.
Resurrection from despair is possible. This next moment is ours to design.
NOTE: I am not a trained or licensed mental health professional. I am not a doctor. I speak only from my experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.
If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or if you are concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help can be yours.
*photo from qualitystockphotos.com