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Posts Tagged ‘Mental Illness’

Near my home, there is a lake surrounded by an incredible meandering walking and biking trail. Trees and wildlife are in abundance and restful swinging benches overlook the water at many junctures.

Each season presents its unique breathtaking colors and scents. The last few weeks, have brought a sense of awakening and new hope as I’ve watched the pussy willows pop. I can smell the grass as it begins to show green through brown.

In the summer, when the wind is at bay, the lake is like a huge sheet of glass. Anglers sit patiently in their rowboats near the shores in anticipation of snaring their next bass, crappie, or sunfish. Wildflowers freely grow on the banks and bloom from May through August.

Fall 3

Autumn is my favorite time to walk the trail. On a sunny fall day, there is no better place to enjoy God’s spectacular beauty as displayed in His creation. The colors range from the reds and browns of the oak leaves to the golden hues of the poplar, elm, and wild grapevine leaves. Sumac, which is barely noticeable in the spring and summer, bursts into fire-like flames of red, gold, and orange. The air is pungent with a rich earthy smell of nature about to die once again.

The lake attracts the hardiest of Minnesota residents in the winter. They dress in several layers of insulated clothing and set up tents on the frozen water to fish through holes they have drilled in the ice. Some winters the ice can be as much as three feet deep. After a fresh snowfall, the trail is a velvety white wonderland.

Winter 2

Life is on hold whenever I walk through this glorious place. However, even as I breathe in every sight, sound, and scent of the seasons, I am keenly aware that, at any moment, Minnesota weather can suddenly change without warning. How reminiscent this is of my life. For a season, I can experience amazing joy, hope, and serenity. Then suddenly, without warning, a circumstance brings an unwelcome chill, a dark shadow.

Those of us who live with someone who is chronically mentally or physically ill know that, at any moment, the scene can change from sunny and peaceful to dark and desperate. There will always be less than perfect situations just around the bend, but why should we let that rob us of our present joy?

Much like my coveted walk around the lake, when I bring every thought captive to the beauty before me, I must learn to guard my heart against dreaded future possibilities. I must endeavor to experience fully my present joy and not borrow trouble from tomorrow.

Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:34

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Joy is a spiritual state of well being. It is an assurance that God is in control, an inner source of delight regardless of circumstances. Happiness is an emotional state of well being, which is mostly determined by circumstances. Both joy and happiness are gifts, but joy takes precedence over happiness because joy is sustaining, while happiness is fleeting.

Nevertheless, joy often comes through pain and sorrow, something I would rather avoid. Psalm 30:5b tells us that: “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning,”

sunrise

Here are a few things that have brought me joy…

Losing a thirty-nine year old daughter was painful. Now, almost five years later, I find joy in knowing that she no longer suffers from a mental illness. I have a joyful assurance that she resides in heaven.

After my daughter’s death, my husband and brought her two children, ages 16 and 10, into our household. Death had seemingly robbed us of our retirement years. Our friends were skeptical of our decision to raise young children in our sixties and seventies, but we traded temporary happiness for sustaining joy and we have no regrets. Radical obedience produces joy.

I once prayed for a long time for a friend to find Jesus. When I saw hopeful signs of genuine change in my friend, I was happy; when my friend regressed, I was sad. I was on the roller coaster of life with them, but at some point, I finally understood that only God could retrieve, rescue, and restore the heart of my friend. When I rested in His will, His joy became my strength. After twenty-five years, God answered my prayer — my friend found the way to Jesus.

Sometimes I become discouraged when my live-in grandchildren misbehave. I focus on my failures and unrealistic expectations instead of God’s work in their lives. However, when I see them comfort another child or place their allowance in the collection basket at church or help an elderly neighbor, joy fills my heart.

The joy of the Lord is my strength. Nehemiah 4:17

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Mental Illness is messy and most people do not want to deal with it. Admittedly, I too wanted to avoid it until it so stealthily crept into my home. Like cancer, mental illness is only a remote possibility until it touches us personally. However, when it hits us in the gut, right where we live, it becomes an untamable, inextinguishable inferno.

Those who cope with mental illness want to discuss it openly, but when we mention it in social settings, we sense a certain fear coming over others. Therefore, we retreat to our houses, pull down the shades, lock the doors, and isolate ourselves.

Somehow, the opposite is true if our loved one comes down with cancer, MS, or a rare disease. Everyone seems open to listening and discussing, helping out with family needs, and comforting the afflicted. Why do people want to avoid the subject of mental illness? May I suggest it is fear caused by stigma and shame?

Be honest with me now…

If we have had no experience with mental illness, what would our reaction be if a friend or acquaintance told us that their spouse, child, mother, father, brother, or sister has bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or borderline personality disorder? What would be our first gut response? Are we uncomfortable with the subject or do we want to change it? Does it strike fear in our heart? Do we start judging? Do we want to run?

How would we respond if that same person told us that his/her loved one was just diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor? We might experience some fear, but I think most people would volunteer to help the family in need.

Symptoms and behaviors of someone with a brain tumor and side effects of their medications could be very similar to those of someone who copes with a mental illness. Yet, the emotional reactions of outsiders might be very different in the two cases. May I ask, why?

I believe we all suffer from fear, stigma, and shame of mental illness – those who cope with it and those who do not. Fear is paralyzing, but there are ways to break this pattern, starting with education and open discussion.

May is Mental Health Month in the U.S. Let’s all do one thing this coming month to break the fear, stigma, and shame of mental illness.

book
Would you like to register to win a free book about my journey with mental illness in my family? Go to http://www.dorothyruppert.com to enter the drawing. Deadline for entry is 11:59 p.m. CDT on 4-15-13.

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