Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness (c)2014 Nancy Virden
Tough. One of the reasons I ignore red flags is because I want to either fix or handle the problem. Then I put off getting help in all kinds of situations because it seems a sign of weakness to ask. Realizing a few years back that I am not tough was difficult news to take. Nevertheless, I can still pretend I am.
People praise strength as a virtue. An individual who has a strong back, can take burdens without buckling, knows how to avoid being hurt by words, and never complains while in physical pain, is admired. Toughness in my interpretation is the ability to stand against life’s pressures. It is holding one’s head high, beating the odds, being a conqueror.
That is not me.
Perhaps toughness is just what the so-called strong put forward. What if pretending to be strong is a normal way of life for everyone? In support groups the truth us not obscured. Obviously, the not-so-tough are not alone.
I believe if my strength is not in all areas then I am altogether weak. The question has been asked, can Nancy be somewhat strong, or strong in one area and weak in another? Could it be okay not only to be weak, but also to allow it to be seen? Is that what is called, “being human?”
The above excerpt from my first book, Called to Live: A Chronicle of Recovery After Attempted Suicide reminds me how far I have come in both mindset and behavior in three years. Perhaps the pendulum has swung too far the opposite direction because now I am passionate about “bragging” on my weaknesses. Is this to draw attention to me? No. I do not think that is in my heart.
Rather, I want to spread hope by waking unsympathetic people to the facts about mental illness in America, particularly in religious circles and primarily Christian churches. I have witnessed great damage done to hurting people due to ignorance or fear in all of society. If I am one of the thousands of voices trying to be heard above the din of religiosity then so be it. It gets scary, but my goal is worth it.
A few weeks ago in a church I visited, the preacher told his congregation that he prays before answering the phone. “Please God, at least let them be emotionally stable!”
It makes sense a fallible human might say such a prayer. His mistake was in saying it to an entire crowd, strongly implying he does not want to receive such calls. Maybe he does not, only now it is almost a certainty there are people in his audience who will hesitate to reach out for help because of his little joke. This is dangerous business.
What I would teach at a church like his, is how to draw healthy and effective boundaries that allow people who struggle emotionally to have their needs met, while protecting supports from becoming overwhelmed.
Life is hard, and God is greater. If I can help people understand how to encourage each other through difficulties, I will have accomplished something.
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.