Have you ever been canoeing on the river and even though you know which way to go, the weather or something begins to stir you in another direction? It becomes difficult to maneuver on the water when the waves or wind or mucky water gets in our way and wants to lead us in a different direction.Yet it never seems to fail that we end up where we need to be going. There have been times in my life when I have wondered where I am going; wondered where God is leading OR why God was leading me in a certain direction? Yet God ALWAYS knows where I am headed and has never led me to the wrong place.
Going to seminary, working at SuperAwesomeBibleCamp, struggling with classes and then finally graduating from seminary, being consecrated as a Diaconal Minister in the ELCA, and even understanding my family's own struggle with mental illness...are all times when God has led me to the right place at the right time. Now the last one hasn't been easy for me to understand. There are days when I truly struggle with my family members' struggles with mental illness. Why them? Why our family? And in those moments, I have felt like I am winding my way, canoeing through mucky waters...trying to find clarity and clear water! Yet after a lot of prayer and talking with God, I have FINALLY realized the gift of sharing my own experience with others. There are so many who struggle with this illness yet so many are afraid to talk about it because there is such a stigma associated with it.
Today I came home and read an email that blessed me in more ways than I could ever think. Now I don't think most of us would see this email as a blessing but it is...it is a blessing because it has offered me an opportunity to once again share my/our story; to help this person see they are not alone! (In fact, in seminary, I read a book that talked about "how there are so many board and care facilities for those who struggle with mental illness yet they are only a shadow in our steeple." We need to see beyond the shadow!) When mental illness rears its ugly head, it's hard to grasp how and why and what triggers these events but they do. There are so many wonderful doctors and hospitals who do tremendous work caring for these patients and their families. I wish I could say more but I just want those whose families daily struggle with this illness to know they are not alone. And there is definetely a light at the end of the tunnel....a light that comes in the midst of the darkness.
Several months ago a family member and I saw the movie "Silver Linings Playbook" which is all about a man who struggles with mental illness. I'll be honest...as my family member sat next to me...I thought, "Is this going to be too much?" I found myself glancing at this person throughout the movie. I don't know what I thought I was going to do. Perhaps protect them by walking out on the movie. We were both pulled into the movie and when it was all said and done, we both agreed it was about time...about time that Hollywood would tackle such an illness. My family member liked the movie for its honest. It was important for this person to see it but I think it was even more important for me to see it! The movie is well-written and the actors did a superb job. Please if you haven't seen it, GO SEE IT...the movie's storie captures so well the honesty of the illness. We need more movies like this! And after you see the movie, share it with someone else. Lets break the stigma!
For other posts about mental illness, check out these other posts: