Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness (c)2014 Nancy Virden
He sits atop a pony and grins. Five-year old hands grasp the red saddle horn in an excited sense of adventure. He is fearless because an adult holds his belt and walks alongside. As they circle around a small dirt track at the county fair, his eyes are wide at the wonder of his first horseback riding experience.
An eight year-old girl is staying at an overnight camp. Horses are part of the daily routine. One in particular is avoided by most young riders, or requested by more adventurous types. His temperament was ornery and playful with a mean streak.
This girl felt she knew how to ride, after all she’d been a camper for three summers! Boldly, she placed her foot in the stirrup and swung into the saddle of the unpredictable horse. All seemed well at first as an adult volunteer turned the animal by its bridle to line up with all the rest.
The caravan was off. Adults walked along with most of the riders. The girl however, controlled her horse on her own – something she was certain was easy.
The lead horse took it’s time. Hills and a large lush field waited in the front, while thick woods stood to the left. Children were chatting and laughing, the sun was shining, and the horses appeared content.
The girl’s horse kept looking at the woods. Suddenly, he took off into a trot. Veering sharply, he entered a gap between trees and headed down an obviously horse-made trail, complete with scratching brambles and overhanging branches. Its rider thought she was doomed. This was no longer fun as her amateurish riding skills completely failed.
She ducked as tree limb after limb threatened to knock her off, then saw an especially low one quickly coming her way. The runaway horse bowed his head with malicious intent. Quick reflexes allowed the girl to catch the branch as her ride ran out from under her.
Soon, the adults came running and lowered the shaking child to the ground.
These two stories, in my opinion, express some of what those of us who struggle with mood disorders feel. One day we are sitting atop the world, feeling safe and enjoying the ride. Life is fairly predictable and routine, we are comfortable.
Although the ride is peaceful for a time, a mood disorder can turn one’s emotions downward (or to euphoria) fast. Suddenly we are ducking depression, anxiety, impulsivity, or despair. Management of this abnormality falls to us.
This is a simplistic analogy of a complex issue. Healing is not grabbing at a rescue and returning to stability within moments. It can be long, tedious, frighteningly unpredictable, and tiring.
Strong emotions rob us of will. It’s a difficult trail riding on the back of a runaway mental illness. Compassionate love for oneself and for a loved one who struggles with a mood disorder, is patient.
NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal 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 concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help can be yours.
*picture from qualitystockphotos.com