Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness (c)2014 Nancy Virden
Larry Lake wrote an article titled, No One Brings You Dinner When Your Daughter is an Addict. In it, he describes how lovingly people brought meals to his family when his wife battled cancer. Then his story changes.
His daughter was hospitalized for Bipolar Disorder after a long stint of alcohol and drug abuse. No one brought any meals. Lake’s story is so common it is what one can usually expect when mental health challenges affect a household.
My family received meals from people in our church when our first baby was born. It made me feel welcome in our new city and relieved some pressure from caring for an unhealthy newborn who required more attention than most. Years later, when I was hospitalized for the first time with Major Depression, I had an extraordinary experience in that the same church brought meals to my family for a whole week.
That’s unusual, and very special. Providing a meal is a rewarding way to show support for a struggling person or family (see MealTrain). By serving a meal, it is the giver who often feels great joy.
People with addictions and their loved ones hurt. Maybe the lack of support issue is more of embarrassment, awkwardness, and an “I don’t know what to say”edness. However, deep assumption of an addict’s guilt keeps us judgmental and unloving. We say to ourselves we would not want to enable such behavior.
Say the word addiction, and people will run scared. “I am an addict” often brings frowns or false nods of sympathy, then the person who said it is left alone. Responses to, “My child is an addict” can include gossip about the parents who ‘failed’. Then the mother and father are left to face sorrow and shame in isolation.
So few will rise to such an occasion and bring meals, send cards, make a supportive phone call, visit in the hospital or at home, or ask about the addicted loved one’s progress as time wears on.
Of the dozens of people with addictions who I know, most do not speak of friends who are not also in recovery. Generally, they talk about finding support among others with similar struggles. That is because most on the outside of addiction recovery have cut and run.
How can compassionate love excel with people with addictions? How about taking a meal to a person with addiction whether they are in recovery or not? Consider visiting or sending a compassionate email to their family.
Addiction does not have to be a word that sends us scrambling. We can learn to react in love.
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