"I think I am going to have a nervous breakdown" I cannot begin to tell you how these ten words grate on my nerves. For me it is like fingernails on a chalkboard. I want to turn to the person who ignorantly has said them and reply with "No, you don't want to. I can tell you all about what it is like." You see, my mom had a nervous breakdown right after my younger sister was born. (She is three years younger than me) So I haven't known anything different. I would say that at least once a year, Mom ended up in the hospital. I remember spending a lot of time with other family members.
Growing up, my sister and I were pretty hush-hush about Mom's illness. We saw and knew the stigma that came with it. Our parents divorced my sophomore year of high school. It was the first time we really saw our Dad cry. I will never forget the words he spoke to us that day, "It isn't that I don't love your Mom anymore. It's that I cannot handle this illness." Even after hearing those words and in the midst of the divorce, we kept pretty quiet about Mom's illness. In fact, it wasn't until after I graduated high school and went to work at SuperAwesomeBibleCamp that I finally opened up about Mom's illness. What a freeing moment that was! And now I find it is so very important for me to share our story...to help break the stigma and educate about mental illness.
A few years ago, I had found a writing group at the local library and was so very excited to find an outlet for writing outside my job. (I work at a church and preach about once a month or so!) I write everything from poetry to short stories. Often times those poems and stories are my prayers to God so Mom often is featured or a topic of my poems. I will never forget one night when I went to the writing group and was sharing a poem I had written to Mom and to God about the illness. An individual at the group verbally jumped at me and began asking why I was writing about Mom, if she knew etc. I left that group that night in tears. Looking back now, I understand that this dear soul probably had had her own journey with mental illness and my words reopened a wound that this individual didn't want to open up. I never saw that individual again, but my prayer is that maybe my words at least brought some healing or wholeness to her life.
I share this story knowing that we need to be more open about sharing our stories of mental illness. Mental illness and depression affect more people than we care to admit. The truth is we don't do a very good job of sharing our stories, yet that is why I have become more open and vocal about our story. Yes, there have been times when Mom couldn't be the Mom we wanted or needed her to be because of the illness. But she has always been there for us. She is one of the most faith-filled women I have ever known. She has taught me more about life and living than anyone else that I can think of. And I say that having seen her at her lowest lows and her highest highs.
I will admit that there have been times when I wished that this illness wasn't a part of my story or my family's story. However it is because of our story that I have been able to bless others with our story. The Holy Spirit has this incredible way of appearing at the right times and places! And it is also because of our story, that I now know that it is an important part of who I am, who my family is and especially who my Mom is! To be honest, Mom has NEVER let her illness get in the way of who God has created her to be.
And so as I close, I am pausing to say a prayer for all those who daily struggle with mental illness and their families especially for my mom. Will you join me in praying for them as well?
This post is also part of an October synchoblog. Below is a list of other Synchroblog participants:
- Sarah Griffith Lund – Stronger Together
- Liz Dyer – Finding the Courage to Break the Silence
- Stacy Sergent – No Longer Protecting Secrets
- Patricia Watson – Grace Amid Crazy
- Glenn Hager – When Mental Illness Strikes Home
- Crystal Rice – Looking Well on the Outside
- Cara Strickland – Making Peace With My Mental Illness
- Jeremy Myers – A True Foot Washing Service
- David Hosey – The church, the psych ward, and me
- Ona Marie – Mental Illness, Family, and Church
- Carol Kuniholm – A Prayer for the Broken
- Susan Herman – 3 Self Care Rituals for Managing Tough Transitions
- Eric Atcheson – Blessed Are The Crazy
- Joan Peacock – “Alice in Wonderland”, a Bipolar BookGroup Discussion Guide
- Justin Steckbauer – Mental Illness, Awareness, and Jesus
- Kathy Escobar – Mental Illness: 3 Sets of 3 Things
- Leah Sophia – Mental Illness/Health Awareness
- Josh Morgan – Peace Between Spirituality and Mental Health
- Tara Ulrich – Breaking the Silence
- Sarah Renfro – Blessed Are The Crazy
- Steve Hayes – Mental illness and the Christian faith
- Mindi Welton-Mitchell – Breaking the Silence: Disability, Mental Illness and the Church
- Michelle Torigian – A Life of Baby Steps
- Bec Cranford-Smith – Mental Health and the Pastor