Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness (c)2014 Nancy Virden
Good Monday to you! Much earlier today was blog posting time, but I was driving from Chicago to Cleveland following a busy morning and afternoon.
Now, my laptop and I are joining forces in staying awake and trying to figure how to put into mere words the profound joy of spending time with women at Timberline Knolls, a residential rehabilitation center in Illinois.
Fifteen months ago, I lived there for 30 days. It was there that my freedom to choose became real to me. No longer do I have to settle for half-life, a shadowy uncertain existence ruled by fear and emotional pain. No. I can choose joy.
And choose it I have! This past Saturday it was a privilege to speak to residents in one of the many support groups held at Timberline Knolls each day. As the room filled with women of varying age, my heart was singing. It was important to remain subdued because these women are in some of the worst pain of their lives. Exposing the giddiness I felt at seeing them could appear careless and insensitive. Sticking to regular smiles on the outside, my insides wanted to jump and holler in excitement.
When it was my turn to start sharing, I looked out over this brave group of strong women, many of whom believe they are nothing. If only I, or anyone, could impress on them their value. In many cases, they lost a sense of worth at very young ages due to abuse.
I spoke of my time at Timberline, how I came expecting one thing and found something much better. We laughed (just a little) at a particular Timberline rule of conduct. I drew a word picture of the hopelessness many of them know; then tried to describe life after that hopelessness is gone.
They paid close attention as do all my audiences. This is not because I am the most eloquent of speakers; it is because I speak the truth. I share as one who has been there- one who gets it- one who is not judging them at all for anything. Responses afterward are appreciation for saying something meaningful to particular persons. This is God’s work- whispering to hearts what I could not know.
His work is in me, too. Because when I was a resident there the joy I have today was beyond my imagination. People tried to tell me; I was blind to it. I hope that by telling my story, women “hear” what I missed my whole life- we are priceless regardless of anyone else’s opinion.
Addicts, abuse survivors, and anxious women in recovery are crown jewels as they should have been treated all along. They are so precious and vulnerable at Timberline Knolls. Giving them truth that stirs the dying embers of hope and purpose a little is one of the greatest thrills I know.
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 is yours.