Tag Archives: serenity prayer

Difficult People this Christmas: “And the Wisdom to Know the Difference”*

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness  (c)2014 Nancy Virden

photo-26167281-10-23-14-christmas-icons-5-faces-09Renee* has lived eighty-nine years. She and her husband came to America in the 1950s, young and full of dreams. She was a statuesque blonde fiercely in love and hoping to raise a family with her strong dark-haired carpenter. He loved her too, and together they built a life.

After their daughter had grown-up, the carpenter lived to meet two grandchildren. He passed away seven years ago. Renee speaks of him fondly, and shows off pictures from his younger days. For a few brief seconds she seems lighter, then as she finishes telling her tales her eyes return to listlessness.

She lives in a nursing home, unable to walk well enough to be alone. Her remaining family is far away except for a sister who visits once per week and brings her candy. Renee is diligent with physical therapy because she does not want to fall, but other than that and meals in the dining hall, she watches television in her room.

I want to fix things for Renee, do something to make her happy. Only I cannot. Wisdom tells me my role is not savior, but friend. There are other responsibilities that would be neglected if I spent most of my time trying to make Renee feel good. I visit her, and she is glad when I come by. For maybe an hour per week she is happier; that is all I can do.

At Christmastime we may be confronted with issues in the world or people in our families we would like to change. Grumpy (or drunk) Uncles John. Silent (or abusive) Aunts Jane. Moms who never seems to understand. Dads who cannot say I love you. If we could, we would will celebrations at our houses to look and sound like those lovely holiday movies.

Or maybe we had a wonderful family that is no longer the same due to death or distance. Perhaps misunderstanding has drawn a line between people we care about. With all our heart we want to fix it, and restore things to as they were, as they should be.

The first three phrases of the Serenity Prayer are best known. “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” My gifts, money, and time are devoted to spreading the message every life is valuable, no one needs to die by suicide, and hope is available. I cannot make anyone believe me. It is not in my power to demolish emotional pain for other people.

Two people repeated the same message to me for years. After attempting suicide in 2011,  it was nearly impossible to comprehend any hope or that my life held value. Therapists invested time and energy to help me see truth while I argued, demanded more of them than was fair, and distrusted their intentions. They used their arsenal of skills, but neither could make me accept what they offered. They could not change me. “That’s your job,” I was told. “Do you want to stay depressed?”

And so it is with the world, our holiday get-togethers, and Renee. Life can be hard and lonely. We are surrounded by people experiencing similar pain. In the end, it is up to each person to decide how to react. We have the power to change only ourselves. While I do what I can for Renee, wisdom tells me the rest of her burden is not mine to bear.

And then it’s acceptance and serenity all over again.

*****

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.

* not her real name

**picture from qualitystockphotos.com

*This is a post from 2014

Your Adult Child with Mental Illness is Homeless. Now What?

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness  (c)2015 Nancy Virden

streets of new york at night

(A mother of an adult son with mental illness, who was also homeless, shares what she assumes may be a common experience for other parents. Some details are specific to her and her son. Anonymity requested.)

“But… but… but…” Your thoughts trail off into the more subdued world of imagination and hopes.

Your son, in a rare correspondence, has just told you he is sleeping in the streets and in shelters. Your greatest desire in the moment is to rush to get him, to provide for him a bed, a meal, a bath.

Why is this happening? Why has that beautiful, intelligent, creative little boy grown up to live such a life? Fear and worry rush in to take over your mood again. Will it rain tonight? Is he cold? Does he have anything to eat? Is he safe?

You pause. He is alive, he contacted you, maybe he is seeing a psychiatrist. Maybe he is taking his medications.

Lord, Defend them in every battle, shelter them in every storm and destroy every mountain in their way.  – Prayer for the Children,  Cheryce Rampersad

It would be so much simpler if you knew where he was. He won’t tell you. He won’t tell  because he knows you will want to rescue him and bring him under your protection. He’d rather roll the dice and try to make it on his own.

You know this is at least partially understandable! What adult wants to be under the care of a parent, with his or her “suggestions” and anxious comments? So you try to not ask questions or offer unrequested advice.

It feels like you sat on a bed of nails; each dangerous move hurts in a different spot of your body, mind, and spirit. So, what’s next?

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference. – Serenity Prayer (circa 1934)

Does he know how important his medications are to his wellbeing? Check.  Does he understand he can always come home? Check. Does he have insurance or at least know how to get help? Check.  

You can pray, ask others to do the same, and keep your door open. He knows he is not rejected. Check. He is in God’s hands. Check.

Now it’s time to let go for today, and take care of yourself. Rest. You matter too. 

****

P.S. Special request from a reader:  “Would like to hear how other parents are taking care of themselves and moving on with their lives under these crueling circumstances.”    See tab below to make a comment

************************************************

For a directory of services for the homeless by state, go to: https://www.homelessshelterdirectory.org/ 

************************************************

NOTE:  I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness, abuse, and addiction. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental or behavioral health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, in the U.S. call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or for a list of international suicide hotlines, go here

If you are suicidal with a plan, immediately call 911 in the U.S.  (for international emergency numbers, go here ), or go to your nearest emergency room. Do not be alone. Hope and help are yours.

*photo from qualitystockphotos.com

And the Wisdom to Know the Difference

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness  (c)2014 Nancy Virden

photo-26167281-10-23-14-christmas-icons-5-faces-09Renee* has lived eighty-nine years. She and her husband came to America in the 1950s, young and full of dreams. She was a statuesque blonde fiercely in love and hoping to raise a family with her strong, dark-haired carpenter. He loved her too, and together they built a life.

The carpenter lived to meet two grandchildren. He passed away seven years ago. Renee speaks of him fondly, and shows off pictures from his younger days. For a few brief seconds she seems lighter, then as she finishes telling her tales her eyes return to listlessness.

She lives in a nursing home, unable to walk well enough to be alone. Her remaining family is far away except for a sister who visits once per week and brings her candy. Renee is diligent with physical therapy because she does not want to fall, but other than that and meals in the dining hall, she watches television in her room.

I want to fix things for Renee, do something to make her happy. Only I cannot. Wisdom tells me my role is not savior, but friend.  I visit her, and she is glad when I come by. For maybe an hour per week she is happier, and that is all I can do.

At Christmas time we may be confronted with issues in the world or people in our families we would like to change. Grumpy (or drunk) Uncle John. Silent (or abusive) Aunt Jane. Mom who never seems to understand, or Dad who cannot say I love you. If we could will it, celebrations at our house would look and sound like those lovely holiday movies.

Or maybe we had a wonderful family that is no longer the same due to death or distance. Perhaps misunderstanding has drawn a line between people we care about. With all our heart we want to fix it, and restore things as they were, as they should be.

The first three phrases of the Serenity Prayer are best known. “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

My gifts, money, and time are devoted to spreading the message that every life is valuable, and hope is available. I cannot make anyone believe me. It is not in my power to demolish emotional pain for other people.

After attempting suicide in 2011,  it was nearly impossible to comprehend that my life held value. Therapists invested time and energy to help me see truth while I argued, demanded more of them than was fair, and distrusted their intentions. They used their arsenal of skills, but neither could make me accept what they offered. They could not change me. “That’s your job,” I was told. “Do you want to stay depressed?”

And so it is with the world, our holiday get-togethers, and Renee. Life can be hard and lonely. We are surrounded by people experiencing similar pain. In the end it is up to each person to decide how to react.

We have the power to change only ourselves. 

And then it’s acceptance and serenity all over again.

*****

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.

* not her real name

**picture from qualitystockphotos.com

 

 

The Courage to Change the Things I Can

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c)2014 Nancy Virden

photo-26229816-1119202014-holiday-cats-11Cinnamon the cat was a few weeks old when he was given to my youngest son. As he grew, his favorite game was hide-n-seek (Ok, that could be my son or the cat).

Cinnamon’s form of the game was to squeeze under chairs and bat at passing feet. For fourteen years, we didn’t know when those paws would catch us.

Cinnamon could be a fighter. One day, the neighbor’s German Shepherd saw Cinnamon crossing under the fence and into the dog’s territory. Within seconds, the scene was a little yellow cat, back arched, hissing at a crazily barking and threatening opponent ten times his size. I called to Cinnamon, but of course he could not leave his spot at the moment, so I called out to the dog’s owner.

It wasn’t necessary. The dog hovered just a little too close above Cinnamon’s head and out flew those kitty paws. “Yelp!” One swipe of his claws across the big beast’s nose and the cat was home free.

It had seemed from the outside that the little guy was sure to lose that battle. However, Cinnamon had the courage to change odds to his favor. If he had not acted, only God knows what would have been the end to this story.

Far from that day both in time and distance, a small circle of faces take turns glancing about the room then staring at the floor. Feet shuffle; one can hear the occasional cough or cleared throat. Sincere hellos break the silence with each new entrance. Metal folding chairs are squeezed more closely together to make room- there is always space for one more. Strangers and regular attenders alike are welcome.

Precisely on the hour, someone greets everyone with a smile. “This is a meeting of _______Anonymous. I am_______and I will be your leader tonight. Are there any other [addicts] here besides me?”

The title of this post is the second line of the famous Serenity Prayer, read and quoted and lifted to God in desperate hope during anonymous meetings around the globe. Quality decisions are made to deal with life on life’s terms as people in the process of change practice courage.

Elsewhere, in a small office, several volunteers stuff donation requests into envelopes with hope of raising enough cash to make a significant difference for their cause. A church basement across town is a scene of organized chaos as bags of clothes, toys, and food are sorted and prepared for giving to the poor. Across the oceans, courage rallies to bring clean water to whole villages.

Cinnamon might have thought himself a lion. People trying to build new lives are probably less sure of themselves. Having courage to change what we can for the human race may mean giving up something we want. There will always be the ferocious and scary looming over our heads, we are only in charge of our response.

We have the claws to fight back. Discovering how to use them is brave.

*****

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.

**picture from qualitystockphotos.com

 

The Serenity to Accept the Things I Cannot Change

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness  (c)2014 Nancy Virden

photo-24768993-attractive-woman-blowing-at-her-hot-coffeeA family I know has a seven year-old boy with Down’s Syndrome. Tommy* is the youngest of three. His teenage brother and sister are normal in every respect except for sharing life with Tommy.

He is in need of constant care, is not potty-trained, and unlike most teenagers his siblings take turns keeping their little brother clean. This is not what most of us would choose in adolescence.

Acceptance. That’s challenging sometimes.

This same family has experienced divorce. The father sees his children every weekend and some holidays.

He had to fill his new apartment with furniture and plan things for his young visitors to do. They were uncomfortable with the change, and quiet. Only Tommy seemed relaxed. About a year later, they chatter and tease each other. All four have found their place.

Are they glad for the divorce? Not likely. Acceptance is sometimes the only option.

The Serenity Prayer, a longer poem trimmed back famously to three lines, begins with a request for peace of mind. “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change…”

During this season of holidays, perhaps there is much we cannot control. (1) Other people’s behaviors (2) Who is in our families (3) How holidays are celebrated in our neighborhoods (4) Weather (5) Traffic (6) Shopping lines (7) Power outages. (8) World events. Maybe some of us cannot change our work schedules, vacation time, health, or ability to travel.

Acceptance interrupts aggravation, putting an end to that ugly stress churning in our stomachs and giving us headaches. Acceptance recognizes hurt, sadness, and disappointment as realities and then moves on. Acceptance is not an “I don’t care,” it is “I care but will not spend effort worrying about what I cannot change.”

Acceptance relaxes our muscles, quiets our fears, allows for joy, and celebrates hope. The battle in our minds is where we win or lose serenity.

*****

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.

**picture from qualitystockphotos.com

*not his real name

 

 

 

 

The Great Adventure of Moving Your Hairbrush


Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness  
(c)2014 Nancy Virden

Ah, admit it. You’ve done it.

You’re tired, your hands are full, you are preoccupied, you just don’t care… any of these reasons and more may be why you kick an item across the floor instead of picking it up immediately.

Today I did that with a delivered package. One second it was outside my door and the next it was inside.  Kick.

I once had a hairbrush that stayed on the floor in a corner where it dropped. Later, seeing it there annoyed me, and a swift kick sent it into a wall near the bathroom. At least that was progress!

Someone said to me, “Nothing changes if nothing changes.” This annoying hairbrush was not going to carry itself to where it belonged! I had to decide what I wanted – a brush on the sink, or a brush on the floor?

Oh, if only the pains and sorrows of situations that do not seem to improve were so easy to fix!  We would all be happy, know it, and clap our hands to show it. In reality, we often need more insight and stamina.

A shortened Serenity Prayer is quoted at 12-step meetings around the world. “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

One variation goes like this: God, grant me the serenity to accept the persons I cannot change, the courage to change the one I can, and the wisdom to know it is me.”

That hairbrush finally landed where it belongs. I had to make that happen. In the same way,  if more dire circumstances need confronting, resentments forgiven, or relationships mended, I am the one who will have to decide if I want change or to leave the mess as it is. 

What is robbing you of peace? What do you want? You can leave your “hairbrush” where it disrupts your mental health or you can begin to take measures to move it.

Go ahead, give it a kick.

*********

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