Tag Archives: support

To All the Great Actors: Reveal Yourself

Compassionate Love: Displaying Compassion for Those Who Struggle with Mental Illness, Addiction, and Abuse   (c)2018  Nancy Virden, Always The Fight Ministries

Beneath every outward personality lies another. It is more secret, and reserved for those near in proximity and heart.  Generally, that less-revealed side is most active when we feel comfortable. This may be among friends, with a safe confidant, or at home.

Typically, we put our most likely to be accepted face on in public. It makes sense then, that people in the office, at weekend parties, at church, and in school only know what we want them to see.

Quite frequently I hear “I’m a great actor. No one knows what is going on inside. No one sees me.” Interestingly, these same speakers are often complaining that no one understands. It’s a mixed up world when we long so deeply to be known, and yet live silently in fear of expressing our inner self.

That is not weird. It is human.

How about taking a risk and exposing a little of your hidden self?  For example, maybe you like to sing in the shower or invent solutions to problems.  Perhaps you have favorite movies or past times most people do not know about. Are you confused or hurt? These are all topic options for more openly sharing your other side.

3 pointers for revealing more of yourself

  1. Know your audience. If you want to get something off your chest, choose your confidants wisely.  Significant people in our lives may not always be the safest ones. Look for a person who will be non-judgmental and is not a gossip. 
  2. Join a group. This may be a support group or basketball team.  Whatever your past time, be in a group where talking about it is okay. For example, joining a church with like-minded people gives me the freedom to be more myself in that context.
  3. Leak slowly.  Perhaps you are a bucket about ready to run over.  I get it. However, save the torrent for after you know people well. Either that, or spread the joy by choosing more than one person to talk to, offering smaller bits to each. 

I have made the mistake of telling (almost) everything to people, only to find them backing away, using the information to their advantage through gossip, or basing blame for their shortcomings on me.  For this reason, I understand wariness about exposure. 

Through trial and error, I learned the above 3 pointers. Take my advice, if you will.  It is better to eventually find the right people than to keep yourself locked inside.  

Today’s Helpful Word 

 

Sustained Loneliness Can Be Life Threatening. Here Are 10 Ways to Escape That Trap

Compassionate Love: Displaying Compassion for Those Who Struggle with Mental Illness, Addiction, and Abuse   (c)2018  Nancy Virden, Always The Fight Ministries

The human need for connection is both cause and solution to many of our emotional and physical ills. 

Our heart-cry is for deeper, more meaningful and consistent relationships. 

Psychology as a science sometimes seems a little behind-the-times. Doctors in this field have found that people are social beings with a basic need for companionship and connection. This is common sense, and a fact I am sure most human societies have understood from the beginning of time. 

Still, deeper study on human behavior shows the negative physical effects of this unmet need.  In The Dangers of Loneliness , written by Hara Estroff Marano and published at https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200307/the-dangers-loneliness,  the author writes, “…the effects are distinct enough to be measured over time, so that unmet social needs take a serious toll on health, eroding our arteries, creating high blood pressure, and even undermining learning and memory.

Loneliness occurs when we realize the pain and emptiness isolation creates.  “Chronic loneliness is something else entirely. It is one of the surest markers in existence for maladjustment,” Marano continues. “…The net result is that the lonely experience higher levels of cumulative wear and tear.”

Ten ways to finally escape sustained loneliness

(1) Challenge your expectations. Do not wait for rescue while you shrivel away.  It is not coming, because no one is humanly capable of meeting your every need.  Your mental and emotional health is  your responsibility. Support is a reasonable hope, nevertheless, we often have to find it.  

(2) Don’t be invisible.  Be with people and make a noise. As a quiet person, you may be great. However no one knows this about you unless you speak.  Express who you are in some way that others can understand. Verbally, writing, participating, music, and art are means to this. Avoid  vagueness: no one is a mind reader.

(3) Invite.  Loneliness is both a result and cause of depression, anxiety, and neurosis. In turn, the one who is chronically lonely may incidentally build walls that prevent others from coming in or wanting to.  Invite your neighbors to dinner or tea. Watch sports events, or have an art party.  Love to teach? Volunteer to tutor. 

(4) Be pleasant. Make those amends. Quit complaining. Take your hands off other people’s lives and your nose out of their business. Speak life and encouragement to others so they will want to spend time with you.

(5) Accept invitations  and show up.  Opportunities to get out of your home and head are positive. Your nephew’s piano recital may seem like death to you, go anyway.  Attend  the neighborhood conservation meeting. Watch football with  your grumpy father-in-law.  Hopefully you  find enjoyable events, however, the point is to go out and mingle. Period. 

(6) Make relationships meaningful .  Do your connections lack depth? Insert some. Be vulnerable without whining. Listen actively and look to better understand those around you. Share your hopes and dreams and search for commonalities. 

(7) Invest in people. This is similar to number 6, except this is serving. Give of yourself. Volunteer.  Can you share what fills your days  with others who may also feel lonely? Does a young mother need help with fetching groceries? Does an elderly man need rides? Take the time to exercise number 6.

(8)Compromise.  Wish you could travel and lack of money keeps you home?  Skype, Facetime, email, social media, or old-fashioned letter writing (which is special these days), and occasional phone calls are all means to be with people you miss.  If you don’t have a computer, go to the library. Smile and say hi to people. Many libraries have free classes, too. 

(9) Step past personal pain.  Chronic loneliness. Wow. Have you thought about the implications of that?  Emotional neglect and abuse form a vacuum inside a person that may never feel quite filled.  Isolation, self-inflicted or not, may result.  Anxiety disorders, PTSD,  and general physical and mental limitations are all reasons to reach out for help. It is available.  Call helplines, online volunteer efforts,  churches,  and local resources to ask about help for a specific need. 

(10) Ask positive questions. This list falls short of an even ten. You fill in the blank. What can you do to get your own needs met?    

I know it is difficult. It is doable. I know it is terrifying. Facing the fear brings rewards. Change is hard, even if it is for the positive. Change can set us free. 

Today’s Helpful Word 

 

  • The Dangers of Loneliness By Hara Estroff Marano, published on July 1, 2003 – last reviewed on June 9, 2016; Psychology Today © 1991-2018 Sussex Publishers, LLC | HealthProfs.com © 2002-2018 Sussex Directories, Inc.

Ask, Listen, and Save a Life

Compassionate Love: Displaying Compassion for Those Who Struggle with Mental Illness   (c)2017 Nancy Virden, Always The Fight Ministries

Imagine for a moment, you are in a pitch-black room.  People you believe to be in the same room are speaking in your direction. However, you cannot understand what they mean; some of the language is foreign, and then there’s the gibberish.

They say, “We love all this sunshine! Isn’t this wonderful?”

You incredulously mention the room’s darkness. “Do you understand where we are?”  

You hear, “It’s bright, you are just refusing to see it.”

True story

The doctor’s blurred face hovered above mine.

Click. Click.

My vision was doubling at a fast pace. Due with my first baby in two months,  I wondered what this ophthalmologist could add to the various diagnoses and advice I had already received.

Click. Click.

He stepped back. In a brusk, commanding voice he said, “Nothing wrong.”

Surprised, I realized this was the first doctor to deny the problem. Birth control pills, a need for prism glasses, and even stress had been blamed for the worsening double vision I first reported five years earlier. But not this. Not “nothing wrong.”

“Everything in this office is double,” I said. “The machines, your face…”

“You just imagine.” His broken English was angry. He glared at me. I was intimidated, and afraid to say more.

“But it’s worse than a month ago…”

“It not worse. You just notice now.” He was raising his voice. You leave, come back see me in six weeks.”

His confusing words drove me to seek yet another opinion. Two months later, newborn in tow, a neurologist announced the news.

“You have a giant aneurism growing behind your left eye. Let’s do surgery today.”

Saving a life starts with listening

It is frustrating when one’s feelings and experiences are invalidated. Whether by a misogynist doctor or a good friend, it is not fun being ignored. In the world of mental healthcare, dismissal is dangerous.

If a person is showing signs of depression, and perhaps you have picked up on some dark thoughts, do not walk away. I know it is hard to face the idea that a loved one is suicidal. I know it is awkward and potentially embarrassing to bring it up. I know it is scary to think of frustrating that person even more. But do not walk away. 

A simple question can cost us emotional energy. It does not have to. Ask your loved one non-judgementally, “Are you thinking of hurting yourself? Are you considering suicide?” By doing so you allow them to feel accepted, safe, and loved. You show you care enough to be involved. In this world, that is rare. 

Be special. Be the one who listens. Save a life.

Today’s Helpful Word

1 John 3:18

Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; 

let us show the truth by our actions.

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Comments are always welcome (see tab below).  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.

Contesting for Mental Health are Fighters Who Fully Grasp the Concept of a Strong Mind

Compassionate Love Blog: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c)2017  Nancy Virden, Always the Fight Ministry

Losing over half your blood supply is not healthy. I know, because that is what the worried faces of doctors told me last week.  After four transfusions and as many days in the hospital, my job is to rest and allow my body to build back its supply. As of Thursday, it is up to three-fourths of the needed amount for me to be declared well.

Jimmy Kimmel (host of Jimmy Kimmel Live) announced recently that his newborn son required heart surgery hours after birth.  Kimmel’s hopes, as most parents, are for his children to be happy, healthy, and to live to old age. Taking his baby to a specialist was a no-brainer.

I highly doubt if anyone thinks I should feel shame for going to the emergency room when I could barely walk. In fact, I was avidly supported by friends and family with visits, meals, and well-wishes. No one is booing Kimmel either for allowing a pediatric cardiologist to help his baby.

Yet when our body misfires in the brain, there is skepticism, judgment, or lack of understanding what to do. Support may be a few mumbled words and prayers, but usually quickly dies out.

It’s not that people do not care, they lack effective knowledge. So much hearsay and false information is believed, that trying to explain mental illness can be headache producing. Personally, it is tiring and annoying to address the same issues repeatedly with some who choose to remain close-minded. Those relationships are not the ones I want or pursue.

If you are a regular reader of these blogs, chances are you are a learner, eager to know what to do and say is when a loved one’s mental health is challenged. I’m grateful for you. 

Sometimes our bodies need a little help. That is why we use medications and vaccines, surgeries, and IVs.  When our bodies grow weak in one area, we try to fix it so we can go about business as usual. The same is true when our brains grow ill.  Medications and specialists are available to help bring us back to health.

Building back a blood supply is easy and temporary. Building a healthier mind is neither. Those of us in the contest for mental health are not lazy, weak, spiritually ignorant, stupid attention-grabbers. We are fighters who fully grasp the concept of a strong mind.

May is Mental Health Month, and we appreciate your support.  

Today’s Helpful Word

Ephesians 4:1,2 

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.  Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”  -St. Paul

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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.

My Depressed Loved One Won’t Get Out of Bed. What Am I to Say?

CompassionateLove Blog: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c)2015  Nancy Virden, Always the Fight Ministries

(Today’s blog is a repost of the most popular and shared article on my website, first published two years ago.) 

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Depression, whether triggered by circumstances we can see or not, is a place of pain. We may experience it to some level or another, but when a person won’t get out of bed you can bet she or he is hurting badly.

I know it is hard to take care of someone who is sick. It challenges our agendas and causes us to sacrifice more time and energy. Depression is especially painful to watch when we love who is suffering. Often, we feel helpless though this is not exactly true! 

Each person with depression experiences it differently.   Commonalities, such as a few predictable symptoms,  do not mean one-solution-fits-all.   If circumstances could be exactly replicated, individuals will still have unique reactions. It is tempting to think others “ought” to respond or feel as we do. 

Consider this:  Is it reasonable to assume millions of people each year would choose to have their lives interrupted in such a way? It makes more sense that your loved one prefers laughter, meaningful relationships, and accomplishment, does it not? If a person you care about seems unwilling to move, out of sheer stubbornness, laziness, or self-pity, remember no one wants to be depressed.

Your loved-one needs love and affection, non-critical acceptance, and patience. Emotions are raw. Pain may be so intense that his or her body cannot keep up. Major depression reroutes best intentions into days staring at the walls.  Every joint can move as if in slow motion. This daily fight creates a hero with each small step forward.

Despair and a sense of helplessness continued to hold my focus for over a year following a suicide attempt. I was considered treatment-resistant, a problem for some. Baby steps of self-care slowly led to more, then eventually to more. Sixteen months later,  I was able to decide to learn what enjoying life means.

“Well, of course!” you might say. “So why doesn’t my depressed loved one do that too?”

Your loved one may not know how.  Losses and disappointments can interfere with human thinking processes. Issues, both known and unknown, may hold a person hostage for a time. Stress, betrayal, shock, trauma, and abuse are only a few triggers of depression. Sometimes, we do not have an answer to ‘why?’ 

Professionals in mental healthcare are there to help. Psychiatrists are medical doctors (MD, DO).  They prescribe medication; rarely do they offer therapy. Psychologists are experts in human behavior and are often therapists (PhD, PsyD). They do not prescribe medication. Licensed therapists and counselors are trained to help clients cope in healthy ways.

It is of utmost importance you recognize your loved one’s mental health is a complex mix of factors. We are body, mind, and spirit.  Addressing all three spheres is wise. 

You would not say to a cancer patient, “Quit having cancer!” Yet many are quick to tell a person with major depression to snap out of it. Blaming, accusing, scolding, or shaming will not make it go away any faster.

What is it you can say or do to show support?

Avoid mind-reading and assuming you know what is happening.  Ask, “Are you safe? Are you thinking about killing yourself?”  In the U.S., you can  contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK for advice.  In a crisis,  call 911 or take your loved one to the nearest emergency room.  Do not leave a suicidal person alone. Remove all lethal items from the home. 

Show your depressed loved one you care. In the depths of an episode, he or she may not believe “I love you.” Say it anyway. Promising, “I’m here for you,” may seem more substantial, however you must keep your word in practical ways. Broken promises reinforce a sense of rejection and worthlessness.

Help to combat your friend’s or relative’s sense of aloneness. “I’m going to work, but I’ll check on you when I get home” offers a positive look toward the future and a reminder that your concern is not temporary. “Would you like your friend to come over? I’ll call her” is a valuable service because major depression makes even tiny decisions challenging.

Set-up or offer to go with your loved one to the first appointment with a mental health professional.  Do not assume this will be a quick-fix solution, and instead accept that you both may be in for a long haul. Just as there are less helpful, and better equipped professionals in any walk of life, mental health professionals do not connect with every client. If your loved one is not satisfied, help find someone else.   

Avoid some common reactionary mistakes. These include: “You are neglecting your family”; “Quit being so morose, it’s not good for you”; “Just go to work already”; “You’re lazy”. Comments like these are most likely attempts to change a situation to make it more comfortable. They are not helpful.

Place emphasis on the value of the person instead of on disappointments.  Say, “I am glad you are alive.” “Stay with me, we’ll get through this together,” may be met with a blank stare. Nonetheless, this type of encouragement matters. It is like water on desert soil. photo-24734018-bread-toast-with-a-fried-egg-in-a-heart-shape.

Above all else, just be there. Sit by that bed and do not say anything. Read a book, do your homework, banking, or research on your laptop. Get on Facebook or Twitter and enjoy your friends while your majorly depressed loved one lays next to you. It is ok to laugh, cry, or share a story from your day. Keep your expectations for responses low, and just be there.

Compassionate love learns to meet people where they are.

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Please read:  I’m Depressed and Can’t Get Out of Bed. What Am I To Do?

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Today’s Helpful Word

1 Corinthians 13:4,5

“Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful…”  -Saint Paul 

To learn how a relationship with Jesus creates eternal hope, click here

***** COMMENTS ALWAYS WELCOME

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.

*pictures from qualitystockphotos.com

How to Know When It’s Time for Professional Help: Part 1, First Clues

CompassionateLove Blog: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness  (c)2017  Nancy Virden, Always the Fight Ministry

“Depressed  in bed  over a year” is a Google search that landed someone on my post,   “My Depressed Loved One Won’t Get out of Bed. What Am I to Say?”  From the outside, it may seem obvious that someone in bed for over a year needs professional help. In the middle of the situation however, confusion can be blinding.

Our thinking processes are thrown into a blender sometimes when we face a mental health crisis. Stigma, myths, uncertainty, mixed messages, and our own lack of knowledge has us in a spin. We may know we need and even deserve to feel better, yet question if seeking help is a weakness or too expensive.

Confronted with Depression, either our own or a loved one’s, we do not always understand the symptoms. When is it time to stop fighting this without professional help?

There are clues. A brief series on this blog will try to cover most. Keep in mind, not every person will show the same symptoms or intensity of symptoms. These clues are meant as guides, not diagnostic tools. 

First Clues – Disrupted Function

Everyone gets the blues. We experience grief. Sometimes we burn-out or stress takes us to our bed for a few days.  Generally, we are functioning again within a few days. Emotional pain may continue, yet we go to work, carry on relationships, and grow stronger over time.

When our functioning is significantly impaired, we need help. Depression may have us staring off into space, barely capable of moving. We might call off work, cut off social interactions, or become irritable or withdrawn. Our job suffers, relationships suffer, and instead of feeling better, we are on a downward spiral in our minds.

At this point we may hear family members and friends expressing concern or anger. We probably wish we could do better and be a better person. We question our value. Our physical health may suffer as we eat or sleep too much or not enough.

We may feel trapped by circumstances or by this mental enemy. We  think, Today I am going to get this under control. I just have to focus. By noon we are spent. Efforts at pretending this mood is not all that bad are failing.

Blame can go anywhere – to our parents, our boss, brain chemicals, the devil, or on ourselves. It does not matter, because blame does not cure anything. Reaching out for support is difficult because we are likely in a mixed state of denial, pain, a sense of worthlessness, and confusion.

Yet that is what we need. By telling someone who knows how to react, we find out our options. Pastors,  counselors, good friends, and other confidants are often helpful. Some have more insight than others. Professional and licensed therapists are better trained. Psychiatrists are medical doctors who will focus on medication. Remember, you are dealing with an extreme emotional reaction that is neither your fault or easily controlled. 

It does not hurt to ask for help.


opisimuToday’s Helpful Word

Proverbs 11: 2

“…with humility comes wisdom.   

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COMMENTS ARE ALWAYS WELCOME (see tab below)

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.

 

3 Ways to Make Joy Your Realistic Attitude

CompassionateLove Blog: Displaying Compassion for Those Who Struggle With Mental Illness  (c)2016 Nancy Virden

Collage with hands and blue cloudy sky

Two of Kimberly’s children died – one due to murder – and her mother also died within a period of 15 months.

Only a few weeks after she’d lost her second daughter, she was excitedly pregnant.  As her mentor at the time, I walked her through months of fresh hope and dreams, aware there was no change in her demeanor.

“Are you sad?” I asked.

“I was, but now I have this baby to care for,” she said with a smile. “Everything happens for a reason.”

Kimberly’s reality included trauma, tragedy, and coping challenges. Nothing, certainly not grief and violence, resolves easily, and she had healing work to do. Still, she turned her focus to her son, and he was a bright spot in her darkened world.

To Kimberly, hope is also reality.

We all have sad stories and memories we would rather forget. No one goes untouched by suffering. This is news only to those who prefer to live steeped in denial. We’ve been hurt, we’ve hurt other people, and this is what we call life.

One often-repeated phrase these days is, “The world has gone crazy.” That is how many perceive reality. Without hope, all the violence and bad news causes fear to rise up in people, and that displays itself in anger. Are you finding more anger in homes, workplaces, and the world now?

Three years ago I read on Facebook, “Talking about our pain is our greatest addiction – let’s talk about our joy.”* I don’t know if I agree with that summarily, however talking about our joy is usually a good idea. Let’s start where Kimberly did.

Refocus. Try to not think of the color red. Careful now, do not think about red! Can you do it? Trying to stop a thought is counterproductive. What actually helps is if we replace that unwanted thought by refocusing on something we want to think about.

Accept reality as multi-faceted.  Kimberly has plenty to grieve and process, and for which to rejoice. At the time of her son’s birth, she looked at both the harsh and beautiful facts, and acknowledged them as equally real.

Compare evidence. We have witnessed resurrections of the human spirit. We have seen ourselves and our loved ones spared. We have known the miraculous, and hope has filtered through the fog of our sufferings. We have each received second, and third chances.

Which list is reality – troubles or blessings? People who want to defend their negativity will say, “I’m not a pessimist, I’m a realist.” But if joy is real, then why don’t we say, “I’m a realist, and I believe tomorrow could be better than today”?

Some of us struggle with emotional challenges that help to make coping hard. Scars of inner or outer trauma may meet us every day in the mirror.  When the ache of daily sorrow reminds us of our losses, and hope seems impossible to obtain or not worth chasing, paying close attention to whatever beauty is around us this Christmas will help to refocus our thoughts, however intermittently, on the possibility there is hope.

I’m a realist. Perhaps because of my closeness to the world of emotionally harmed people, I see pain everywhere I look. I also hear stories of recovery, treatment plans that work, and lives that change from the inside out through surrender to the perfect will and love of Jesus. These experiences are every bit as realistic as bad news.

Today’s Helpful Word

John 16:33 

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” – Jesus  

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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.

 

 

Jim’s Story. 6 Ways to Avoid Helping Too Much When Your Loved One Struggles

CompassionateLove Blog: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness  (c)2013 Nancy Virden, Always the Fight Ministries

406Laying eyes on him for the first time, my judgmental self saw a man who didn’t care, who had given up trying. Then I began to see beyond his dirty, frayed jeans, and loose flannel shirt that served only to emphasize the discouragement expressed by his demeanor. Slumped shoulders, eyes downcast, and  little interest in observing those around him – these proved to me what our surroundings already assumed.

We were in an intensive therapy group for people who had just been dismissed from a psychiatric hospital, or who were trying to gain emotional stability to avoid being admitted. Clearly, this room was not filled with optimists.

Jim’s story still surprised me because of its extremes. He told us he lived with his parents, controlling types who refused to allow him the adulthood he felt he deserved. In his forties, he still had a small bedroom that would not lock, and nosey intruders checked on him often. Immediately, a question rose in my mind. Why would any grown-up allow this?

Jim had started abusing drugs in his teens, and addiction soon mastered him. His life became a go-around of detox, relapse, stays in rehabilitation centers, hope, and “why bother?” Somehow, he managed to graduate from college, obtain his Masters, and begin his professional career.

It was job loss due to relapse that landed him back with his parents. They would go through his things, make him report his every move, and micro-manage his food, time, entertainment, money, and space. This would make anyone stress-out. Suicidal thinking grew in his mind, and when Jim was found sitting on his parents’ front porch with a loaded gun to his head, he was taken to the hospital.

When we met, his life consisted of therapy, unemployment, another round of rehab, a negative outlook, and chain-smoking. Still, it was fascinating to see sparks of life as he shared hard-learned and even harder-lived wisdom. He made a positive difference in our group and did not seem to know it.

We shared time there for approximately six weeks. I heard him swear he would never give up smoking because he was giving up too much (drugs, alcohol, personal freedoms) already.  In my last few days there, he announced he had throat cancer and was giving up smoking. Several years later, I ran into him at a counselor’s office. He did not remember me. When I said I recognized him, he said “too bad for you.”  I was glad he was still alive.

The fact that his parents’ over protective behaviors added to Jim’s stress does not mean they carry responsibility for their grown son’s poor choices. However, from what I could see (admittedly having only one side of the story), the kind of support they offered to him was not as beneficial as I’m sure they hoped. I wonder how messed-up they felt their lives had become now that they were hypervigilant about his safety.

It was nice of them to open their home; their concern for Jim was clearly profound. Nevertheless, depressed, drug-addicted, alcoholic, suicidal, and otherwise troubled people have to learn how to manage distress, and respond to it in healthy ways. As adults, we are responsible for saving our own lives.

So, how is a support person to know where to stop? Here are 6 ideas I believe are helpful.

  1. Be knowledgable about what your loved one is suffering. Learn, seek answers from reliable sources. Al-Anon is an excellent resource for those who care for addicts and alcoholics. Talk to your loved one. Listen.
  2. Do not allow your relationship to change. For example, a parent does not become a jailer, and a friend does not become a therapist. A next door neighbor does not become gopher, and pastors do not become saviors.
  3. Bring in the experts. Your loved one probably needs some professional support. You may want to reach out for some wise counsel too. What is the point of suffering when an educated specialist is available to relieve some of that burden?
  4. Know your priorities. Avoid costly trade-offs that hurt other people or destroy your life.
  5. Draw boundaries for yourself. Boundaries are deciding what is and is not acceptable to you. You decide what you will allow in your home, schedule, head, or budget. No one has the power to keep up chaos in your life; you choose what you will and will not do.
  6. Give up delusions of fixing your loved one. As helpful as we wish to be, there is no possibility of changing anyone. Micro-managing does not work (and it’s not your job!).  Support is not rescuing, it is just being there to the degree that is reasonable for you.

Stay healthy emotionally, physically, financially, and time-wise. Hope for the best always, but encouraging versus enabling someone to remain dependent is a fine line sometimes. Support them in their growth, however you may have to let go and let God.

After all, they are in the best hands when they are in His.

Today’s Helpful Word

Hebrews 13:21

“Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with every good thing to do His will. And may He accomplish in us what is pleasing in His sight through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.”

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COMMENTS ARE ALWAYS WELCOME (see tab below)

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.

TALK TALK listen TALK TALK TALK

CompassionateLove Blog: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c)2016  Nancy Virden, Always the Fight Ministry

photo-24800475-businesswoman-covering-her-earsDoes today’s title sound like what is happening in society now? Many people are talking; who is listening?

Recently, someone made a generalized statement about a race of people to which the speaker does not belong. A second person agreed. I said something to the effect of ‘we have to know people before assuming anything’, and was promptly accused of bringing politics into the discussion. Really?

You see, the speaker was so entrenched in a specific point of view, that anything contrary – even to question it – was unacceptable. It did not matter that the speaker is the one who brought it up.

TALK TALK listen TALK TALK TALK

One husband apologized to his wife for an unsavory attitude he had displayed earlier. She asked if he understood why it had hurt her. His reply was more rancor as he spun the blame for the scene to her.

His apology was an attempt at control. “I apologized now you drop it.” His heart was not willing to learn how to avoid bringing pain to his wife.

TALK TALK listen TALK TALK TALK

A young woman in a meeting I attended said many, many words. She said them loudly and softly, but always fast. She spoke over other people, and rushed to offer answers before problems were fully explained.  In the middle of all this, she said, “I know I talk too much, but that’s just me. If people don’t want to listen to me then I don’t need them.”

She had no interest in hearing anything outside of her own voice. Defending her right to speak as much as she wanted, she missed the fact that no one wanted her to remain in the room.

TALK TALK listen TALK TALK TALK

We have opportunities to be invested listeners. In this political climate, in dealing with our neighbors, when confronted by misguided anger, by hearing a person out and asking sincere questions for clarity, we can be part of the solution to a human race problem – judgement.

Listening produces trust. In church this morning we were challenged to make a difference in our world by not picking and choosing who we will serve in Jesus’ name. Openness and hospitality to all is love-in-action. Listening is a universal love language.

Listening produces growth. By gaining knowledge we are set free from the burden of assuming. By hearing another’s point of view, especially one opposite to our own, our brains and hearts stretch toward empathy and kindness.

Mental health is affected by whether we are heard or not. How painful it is to be open and vulnerable only to be shut down. How agonizing it is to be alone with no one interested in anything you have to say.

In the U.S., as we approach our holiday of gratitude, maybe spend some time contemplating how and when to listen without judgement. Let your goal be:

LISTEN LISTEN talk LISTEN LISTEN LISTEN.

Today’s Helpful Word

James 1:19 

“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry…”  -James, brother of Jesus

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COMMENTS ARE ALWAYS WELCOME (see tab below)

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.

Your Mental Illness, Your Responsibility (Part Three): Are You Flawed?

Compassionate Love Blog: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c)2016  Nancy Virden, Always the Fight Ministry

Hand drawing human head with missing piece of puzzle in the middle.

Like everyone else, people who struggle with mental illness are not immune to character flaws. Each human being is stubborn, lazy, and selfish at times, some more than others. Stigma automatically assumes symptoms* of mental illness are personality issues, and controllable choices.

When we have a mental illness, we have limited choices. For example, a woman with debilitating anxiety may function normally for days, months, even years. Then something triggers her illness. Perhaps her medications stopped working well for her. Maybe an event, traumatic memory, all three of these factors, or something else set it off. Her anxiety is not nervousness or worry; she struggles to cope. Her work suffers, and she takes many sick days.

No one sees the blunt courage it takes for her to walk out of her door, let alone go to work. Supports rarely praise her for doing her best. Instead, people begin to question her loyalty and willingness to try harder. One may say she is lazy, another might assume she does not deserve any favors. Many seem to downgrade her illness to foolishness.

When we have a mental illness, we have to learn to avoid pitfalls. Consider a man with bipolar disorder whose medication has kept him stable for years. One day he begins to feel manic. Chances are, he is familiar with his disease and recognizes red flags. He tells his wife, calls his doctor, and sees his therapist immediately, garnering all the help he can get. His mood is a dangerous blend of emotions and twisted logic.

His needs require him to stay in the hospital for a couple of weeks. He had planned a ski trip with some old college buddies. His wife called to tell them to explain his absence. Later, making plans, they hesitated to count on him. When they gathered, they treated him differently. After all, he could just go-off on them, right?

When we have a mental illness, we cannot do all we wish. A driven visionary has to fight against major depression’s stress limits and a powerful “I can’t.” She takes one step at a time, yet several times a year and often daily, her energy shuts down. She uses coping skills taught in therapy, and regularly overcomes by a landslide. However, from the outside, it looks as if she has had little success.

Slow progress is progress. It takes heart to do the best one can in any given day. The healthiest of mind and body do not always accomplish that. I suggest that the woman who struggles to care whether she lives or dies because a severe episode of depression has convinced her she is a burden to her family, shows more strength of character by sitting up in bed than the most powerful among us on a normal day.

Yet in our schools, churches, and governments, we applaud outward strength. It is easy (one might say lazy), to value appearance over substance. Is the person with mental illness character-flawed? Let’s reword the question. Is a person’s mental illness or symptoms due to a flawed character?

Character is a matter of the heart. Willingness, effort, perseverance, unselfishness, concern for others, humility, and doing the next right thing, are all products of good character. People who I know with mental illness, myself included, are almost always leaning in this direction. Most do what they can to help others in similar situations.

Suicide attempts, suicidal thoughts, and other mystifying symptoms of mental illness are also part of our existence. Suffering produces character if we allow it. Why assume then, that if you struggle in this way, it is automatic proof you are weak or selfish? You, not your disease, determines who you are.

Next in this series, this blog will address taking personal responsibility for any harm we may cause while experiencing episodes of mental illness.

100_5586Today’s Helpful Word

Romans 5: 1b- 4 (NIV)

“…We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”

-Saint Paul who suffered multiple beatings and imprisonments

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COMMENTS ARE ALWAYS WELCOME (see tab below)

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.

*Mental Illness and the Family: Recognizing Warning Signs and How to Cope  http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/recognizing-warning-signs