Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness
(c)2014 Nancy Virden
It’s snowing in her head. No, this is not a dream about snow, it is a picture of the blizzard of emotions that have swirled in her brain for seven long days and 168 hopeless hours. The storm is not over.
Just as a cold front can shift a person’s plans with little notice, so this woman went from strong and confident to anxiety-ridden and depressed in a few minutes. There were warning signs as in any storm, however they seemed manageable and predictable; it was going to be no big deal.
For five days her sleep, eating, and medications were blown off schedule. Naturally, this did not help her situation but she felt powerless at controlling her self-care decisions. Today the flurry has lessened and rationale is returning. She feels as if she’s been through a boxing match, and lost.
Now her brain is exhausted and her body aches. She is sick to her stomach and her head hurts. Although she knows better, it is tempting to think she has never been so tired. Unfortunately, this is likely not the last time, either.
What is a support person to do when a loved one’s emotional battle turns into physical ailments? Perhaps the struggling person is in bed all day or unable to keep appointments and keep promises. What then? Is it the person in pain who is to blame, and why can’t he or she just rise to the occasion?
Very few of us are in any position to diagnose either a psychological or physical problem. With that in mind, we ought not try. Compassionate love asks our pained loved one what he thinks he needs in the moment. We can offer to help where and when we can without assuming our efforts will change the situation.
This particular woman’s emotional needs began to be met after she reached out and took a chance on being heard. Physically, her symptoms may last awhile. After all, she has trudged through a snow storm for a week. She is a survivor on the mend.
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.