My brain chemistry is wacky and I’m not alone. Will you help?
Great! So I was leaving the psychiatrists office yesterday gripped by the memory of how embarrassed I used to be coming and going from a mental health facility. I’ve always hated to appear weak or to be THAT “depressed” person people kindly avoid in the grocery store. Even my husband has encouraged me to keep “it” to myself at times. Not anymore! The crazy cat’s out of the bag.
I guess I’ve always known myself to be a bit flaky. As a young girl I often heard, “Kim, you are just too sensitive” and “She’s prone to tears” or “Oh don’t mind her. She can be overly dramatic at times. ” It wasn’t until my family endured multiple episodes of weeping and hopelessness that I was diagnosed and treated for a depressive disorder. Honestly, stigma is nothing compared to medicated relief!
I remember when Pastor Rick Warren (author of Purpose Driven Life) and his wife, Kay lost their son Matthew, to suicide and 2013. Matthew’s lifelong battle with mental illness compelled his parents to launch “The Gathering on Mental Health and the Church”, a three-day conference to promote refuge, love and compassion for the millions of people suffering from mental illness. Last October, Saddleback Church began a proactive movement to remove the stigma associated with mental illness. Now THAT’S encouraging!
I love these words delivered by Rick Warren,
“The chemistry in your brain is not your character, and your illness is not your identity. If you are a follower of Christ who struggles with mental illness, your struggle does not define you. Jesus defines you!”
As one who struggles with mental illness and is aware of so many more like me, I am encouraged to hear people talking about it. I am grateful to have the full support of my husband and family to speak publicly about my personal experiences with mental illness. Since 1 in 5 people will experience mental illness this year, chances are that we are rubbing shoulders with those who suffer in isolation.
So what can you do?
- Educate yourself on the various types of mental illness. Seek out resources like hope4mentalhealth.com or National alliance on mental illness (NAMI.org)
- Recognize that many families affected by mental illness struggle fear of exposure, guilt and shame. Seek ways to gently help and encourage. I.e. Listen, affirm, accompany to appointments, babysit, etc.
- Have realistic expectations. Sometimes life gets messy. Remain calm and available.
- Convey hope. Perhaps begin a support program at your church.
Hope for Mental Health Ministry
Starter Kit. ( store.pastors.com)
If you or someone you love has a story to share, let me know. We need to keep talking about it!