I'm a daughter, a wife, a mother, a grandmother, a friend, a sister-in-law, an aunt, an author, a part-time volunteer guitar player, a retired businesswoman, a part-time gardener who loves to talk with people. I have a passion for my faith, my family, and my friends. I love to learn and share what I discovered.
In 2004, we discovered our daughter suffered from a debilitating disease - Paranoid Schizophrenia. I knew nothing about mental illness, but we didn't have the luxury of learning at a pace we could absorb. We had to dive in and hope we learned to swim as we came up for air. Our daughter is now in recovery and I work as a volunteer for NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) to support others who battle mental illness.
I wrote my journey in the book: Broken Brain, Fortified Faith: Lessons of Hope Through a Child's Mental Illness. Ask for it by name at your favorite bookstore or purchase it directly from the publisher, Familius.com, from the Amazon, or Barnes and Noble website.
Jesus took human form for thirty-three years before his crucifixion to enable us to have a relationship with God and open the gates of heaven. Because he became a man, he experienced the same emotions we experience. This gives me the determination to follow the path he illustrated for us through his ministry.
When I feel like shouting at someone because they upset me, I can turn to our Savior for strength. I can ask him to help me use my two ears to listen instead of my one mouth to make the situation worse.
When I feel like giving up and walking away from the situation, I can turn to our Savior for grace to persevere. Did he want to walk away from his suffering when he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane but prayed to do God’s will instead? I can pray for the grace to do the same. They will be done.
Discouragement, frustration, sorrow, joy, gratitude – every emotion I experience, Jesus knows how it feels. This gives me the confidence to get out of bed each day. To put one foot in front of the other. To turn to him over and over.
I can do this but only with the grace given to me as a gift from Jesus.
At home – most of the time – as most of the world.
I had a head start. On January 25, 2020, my hubby fell during a game of pickle ball two days after we’d arrived for a brief vacation in Florida. We spent the next 52 hours in three ERs, one of them a trauma ER, and time in a hospital room. Hubby had ruptured a kidney.
The good news: he didn’t require surgery. The bleeding stopped. Other good news: I felt wrapped in prayer as I sat beside him. My friends and family prayed as I leaned into Jesus for His strength.
Our vacation ended January 25 and we entered our “stay at home” mindset. Any activity caused him additional pain, so my eyes and heart focused on two things, my faith and his health. Keeping him as comfortable as possible became a new routine along with prayers, devotional reading, and communicating with people concerned about him.
When Covid-19 spread across the nation, we stayed the course donning masks if we needed to leave our home, which wasn’t often. Sewing masks and PPE gowns for those in need joined my daily schedule.
Staying at home, many UFO (UnFinished Objects) in my sewing closet to move to the completed pile.
What I learned:
1. I’m not in control. I try to manage my reaction to life events and pray for guidance.
2. My growth in my faith depends on what I put into it. After almost a year of celebrating Mass from my living room via live streaming, I must discipline myself to read, study, and pray in my home.
3. Connection with family and friends are important to me. As an extrovert in all upper case letters, alone time didn’t feed me energy level. Online chats and phone calls kept me upright when things felt hard. NAMI support group moved online as did my Bible study.
4. No matter what happens in life, I am cherished and loved by our Lord.
In 2021, I hope to spend more time keeping in touch with you, my followers.
Thank you to the author, Mary Potter Kenyon, who allowed me to read an advance copy of her latest release.
I’ve haven’t always thought of myself as a creative person, but as I look back, I guess I have been all along. As a young girl, coloring with crayons ranked high on my list of fun things to do. Soon, I ventured into water colors. To clarify, I used the eight-paint trays with a “wonderful” brush included. It’s what I had available and I enjoyed the process. Other times, I dabbled in poetry or story writing. Even in a photo of me with my siblings, I held a pencil in my hand.
As a teenager, I learned to sew my clothing mostly because our family didn’t have the money to buy what I wanted. My mom let me dismantle old, full skirts and remake them into a-line skirts or culottes, which most high school girls wore back then. I continue to sew today. It became my favorite way to spend time.
So, I’ve had people say to me, “You’re so creative. I wish I could do something but I don’t have a creative bone in my body.” To them, I say, “Yes, you do.”and “Yes, you can.” This book can help you discover the creative side hidden away. Maybe you got told to color in the lines by a well-meaning adult. Or you received a C on an art project (like I usually did). It doesn’t matter how or when the ability to explore the creative side to you was buried, it can get dug out.
Mary sites scientific studies on the benefits of imaginitive “play.” Watch a young child entertain themself. One minute they jump off the edge of the sofa as they dive into the ocean and swim across the living room and the next minute they are milking a cow using clothes pins pinned to a belly side of a siblings shirt on his hands and knees. (Two of my favorite winter games to play with my brothers growing up on a farm.) Do you remember your favorite game as a youngster?
This book strives to inspire awaken the artistist side her reader and help them blossom and grow. Mary uses example after example of innovative people she’s met to inspire them. She follows it with a section designed to ignite her readers into action.
Creative people get discouraged, too. Sometimes, the perfect gene roars and shuts me down because I failed to live up to the vision in my head. Mary Potter Kenyon’s book, Called to be Creative, gave me the ammunition to fight the defeat dragon. She gave me, as a reader, permission to fail. She encouraged me to try, again. The old adage, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, again” took over and I jumped out of my recliner to “try again.”
I’d encourage you to read Called to be Creative, to give a copy to someone who’s discouraged during these uncertain times. It may just help fill the time usually spent doing social activies.
To show my appreciation to Mary Potter Kenyon, I made her a tissue pack holder using scraps of fabric with antique books.
Today, Saturday, the day after Good Friday, I imagine many of us feel like the followers of Jesus after his death. They were filled with fear as they stayed in their homes. They didn’t know what would happen to them. The world as they knew it, crushed. So much like many of us today. We don’t know what’s next. Those who go out, the essential workers who do their jobs knowing they could be the next victim – do they experience the feelings of His followers who stood at the foot of the cross fearful about their future? I know I would.
I think 2020 will do down in everyone’s personal history story. The is the year we couldn’t attend church services throughout most of Lent.; the first year for many who didn’t get to sing or play their instruments during Holy Week services.
I don’t remember how many years I’ve played my guitar and sang with our choir for Good Friday and Easter sunrise services. Taylor, my guitar, sits and waits for me pick her up sometime today or tomorrow. So, how will I handle this lack of community?
This year, for the first time in my sixty-five years of living, I will celebrate Easter Sunday Mass by watching it online in my living room. But – I think this is my first church community, just like the early Christians. I believe Jesus is here in this place, my home. When He commissioned His disciples, He told them, “…And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20. I can, and will, worship Him here. And I pray for the grace to continue long after this time of isolation is passed.
How will I do this?
First, I hope to follow my daily routine of rising in the early morning. In the quiet house, I spend the first minutes with a cup of coffee and my God. I read through several devotionals for the day, write my reflections or make notations in my journal that I want to remember. I pray. I worship. I ask for guidance for my day. (I know, not everyone is an early riser. I encourage you to find a time that works for you.)
Second, I attend to the needs of my home. Whether it’s laundry, cooking, baking, sweeping the floors, I spend some time on household chores.
Third. I sew. With the need for masks, I spend a good chunk of my time in my sewing area cutting, stitching, and pressing. Then, I give masks to whoever I know needs one. Hubby owns five so he can wear a fresh one each day as he goes outside to do his farm work. I’ve passed them along to friends in healthcare, my local hospital, my mom’s residential facility, the UPS driver, and the person who delivers our mail. Suddenly, I went from a fabric hoarder to being prepared. I have finally been able to use fabric scraps for a wonderful purpose. Today, I’m sewing again for our local hospital.
I also take comfort in the Bible verse from Mark. Jesus had gathered with His disciples for a meal when a woman entered the room. She went to Jesus and poured expensive perfumed oil (Nard) on his head. When the disciples criticized her for wasting the money that could have been given to the poor, Jesus stood up for her. “She has done what she could;” Mark 14:8.
The reason I cling to this is I believe we each have gifts or skills that can help another person. I see so many people “doing what they can.” And joy fills me as I use the talent God gave me to do what I can. I encourage each of you to find what you can do, to worship in your home, and to pray for all those affected by Covid-19.
No, I won’t spend time with my family or my friends. But, I can find joy in what I can do. I hope you can, too.
“They say hindsight’s 20/20” These words from a country western song sung by Randy Travis in 1982 ring in my head.
My last post talked about hygge and the need to embrace the situation in the best way you can. This hits home today even more. Hubby and I have pretty much practiced this for the entire year to date. I’m saddened the rest of our country had to join us because of covid 19.
If you’ve read the previous blog, you know we canceled the first part of our trip in January due to hubby’s illness. After he felt well enough to travel, we drove to a warm location for the second half of our vacation, still in place. We arrived at the destination at our rental property on the day our lease began. The morning of third day into our eight-day vacation, he fell. And yes, he seriously injured himself. We spent the next three and a half days in the local hospital. Since he has a three month recovery time, the entire month of February and the first two weeks of March have pretty much been spent in our home. Except for necessary excursions. You know, things like doctor appointments, medication and grocery runs, and church. (For us, Mass is a necessity.)
So, how will I look back at this year in the future. Will my vision be 20/20? Will I see how things worked together? Or will I scratch my head and say, “I don’t get it.”
I want to be able to look back and say, “I did the best that I could. To me, this means I reacted in a loving manner. I purchased only the things we needed in our immediate future and left items on the shelf for the next family. I reached out to those in need with my concern and support. I kept my eyes focused on my end goal of life – heaven. I prayed for those around me. I prayed for wisdom and strength to face the things to come. I asked our Lord to dwell in me and use me to make His presence known during this time of confusion and inconvenience. I asked Him to have mercy on me for the things I’ve done or things I’ve failed to do.”
I’m using this time to read, to write, and take care of my mental, physical, and spiritual health.
Embrace your current situation. Care for yourself and others around you in the most loving way you can muster. Look to the future with hope. I’m praying for you.
We (hubby and I) planned a trip several months ago. Mid-January, we would fly to west and spend time with a special cousin and her husband. Then, we’d hop on another flight and go spend a few days with an aunt, uncle, and their family in another area on the west coast. After a few days with them, we’d fly to Florida and spend time with friends who winter there.
Sounds like a perfect plan for two people who are of “near retirement” age, doesn’t it?
Unfortunately, life has a way of throwing curve balls into the best laid plans of mice and men. Hubby got the flu. Not Influenza A or B, just some generic version with the same, nasty symptoms.
This past Sunday, he developed a headache. By Monday, the fever, chills, and body aches invaded. On Tuesday, we canceled our flight to the west coast. Now, I could wail and gnash my teeth, but what good does that do for my emotional health? Nothing. So, I am taking each day as it comes.
Enter a “new to me “ concept covered in our Seasonal Affective Disorder discussion during a recent NAMI support group – hygge. (pronounced “hoo-gah”) It’s a concept from Denmark and Norway. The people in these countries adopted this lifestyle to help cope with the long, cold winter with limited daylight hours. I would describe hygge as a conscious effort to surround themselves with the things that make life good. Such as a secure, content mindset focusing on friendship, laughter, plenty of light, a hot cup of coffee or tea, a warm blanket, and rest when tired.
Basically, it’s an awareness to enjoy the moment. I can see a lot of good coming from adopting this mindset year-round.
Since my travel plans dissolved yesterday, I decided to practice the art of hygge. I can’t change the fact that we have to stay home. Nope, can’t. Disappointed? Yes. I decided to foster a sense of well-being for myself. I ate my last treat yesterday, so I decided to bake a batch of almond biscotti. I love to savor a biscotti with my afternoon latte. Most purchased ones use sugar and wheat flour and I try to avoid both. Therefore, I’ve been tweaking a recipe for almond biscotti for several months. I think I’ve almost got it the way I want. First, I substituted almond flour for the wheat flour to lower carbs. I also changed the sugar amount by using 2/3 erythritol (sugar alcohol) and a scant 1/3 white sugar. This lowered the carbs even further. Why do I want to lower the carbs? My body doesn’t process them very well and I battle blood sugar fluctuations. Mostly, it dips too low. I feel so much better since I significantly reduced my intake of carbohydrates.
Back to the almond biscotti. They were like “Mary Poppins” – practically perfect in every way. They just got a little too brown. I think I need to lower the oven temperature for the final bake. (Biscotti requires two sessions in the oven.) I hope one more attempt and then I’ll master it. When I do, I’ll post the recipe on my blog. Stay tuned.
And in the meantime, consider the idea of hygge for yourself. Accept what life throws at you. Find things that make you feel secure and content. Take care of yourself. And count your blessings.
Yesterday, a post on UpJourney published. What to say when someone is having a bad day.
I am always grateful when my thoughts get included in articles designed to help. Here’s my submission to the article:
When someone is having a bad day, it’s important to acknowledge the feeling they are having
First, mention that they don’t seem like themself. Then, listen. And listen some more as you pay attention to what they tell you. It’s helpful to repeat what they said so they know you heard what they said. This validates them and they know you really heard them.
Acknowledge their feelings by saying, “I’m sorry things feel hard right now,” or “That must feel scary or whatever emotion they shared.”
Encourage them to talk about it with someone they trust
If you have established trust with them, it may help them if you affirm you want to help them. “I’m here for you,” or “I’ll listen if you want to talk,” gives them permission to name the reason they are having a bad day. The person may not want advice, so don’t offer it unless they ask for it. Questions can help them sort things out as they talk. Some examples are:
“Has this happened to you in the past?”
“Did anything help you handle it then?”
“Is there something I can do to help you?”
If each answer is negative, follow up with, “I’m here for you,” or “I’m here to listen if you want to talk about it.” Sometimes, people just need someone to care about them and listen without trying to fix their emotions.
We spent last weekend in Branson, Missouri. We left Iowa on Friday morning and arrived later that day. Yes, we drove and drove. No, we didn’t stop at ANY quilt stores in Hamilton, Missouri. (Next time. Next time.)
We watched the production, The Miracle of Christmas at the Sight and Sound Theater on Friday evening, The Bretts on Saturday morning, and the Hughes Brothers Christmas Show on Saturday night. All of them uplifted me and centered me on Christ during this Christmas season.
For our lunch on Saturday, we decided to eat at a 50’s style diner with singing servers. The line to get in stretched out well past the door. Groups of people huddled together as they eagerly listened for the hostess to call out the magic number that gave them admittance. At one point, the call came for a party of four. I quipped loudly, “We’re a party of two, but if anyone wants a larger party, we’d be happy to join them. We might not know each other when we sit down, but we will by the end of the meal. “This brought laughter. And to my surprise, an invitation came from a couple of strangers to join them at their table to make us a party of four. We shared a meal, snippets of our lives, the importance of family, and our faith. Do not neglect hospitality, for through it some have unknowingly entertained angels. Hebrews 13:2
After our meal, we parted ways to explore the little shops that surrounded the diner. We met again in several stores and both of us commented on what a nice time we had.
Before we left the area, I decided to explore one more little shop. Roy dutifully followed me into the warm, welcoming atmosphere. We looked around and before we left, the owner of the store greeted us. Within a matter of seconds, she shared a bit of her story with us. In turn, I shared tidbits of mine which caused her to exclaim, “God wanted you in my store today. Not for you, but for me!” She went on to explain some of her struggles and through that brief encounter we shared ideas, how to react with love, and ways to hang on to Jesus in the midst of the storm. We parted with hugs and uplifted spirits. We offered each other encouragement. Brothers, I ask you to bear with this message of encouragement, for I have written to you rather brieflyHebrews 13:22.
I’m sure glad God never takes a vacation. And I’m grateful I took God along with me on mine.
Postpartum depression – sometimes refrerred to as “Baby Blues” can affect up to 1 in 5 women. It’s upsetting to the new mom who questions, “Isn’t this supposed to fill me with joy?”
It gets hard to get out of bed. Guilt feelings arrive. Am I a terrible mom? More guilt feelings. Exhaustion. You want to cry all the time. And the negative emotions pile higher and higher.
What can we (family or friends) do to help?
WholeMamas.com asked me to write an article for loved ones who want to support a woman suffering from this. I entitled it, The Golden Rule for Postpartum Depression. It’s my one of my goals – to strive to treat others as I wish to be treated. This article posted on July 25, 2019.
I gave this informative book five stars. I’d read the original 5 Love Language book by Dr. Chapman and thought the authors did a great job of applying the principals to people with special needs. First, it helps the reader determine what is their primary love language within the beginning chapters. I think it is important to understand the concept because it makes it easier to put it into practice. The book gave wonderful examples of families who incorporated love language in their home. I found the advice and suggestions spot on. I’d recommend this book to anyone who has a person with special needs in their life. I’m grateful to the authors for providing me with an ARC.
I’ve been silent for some time – was it because I didn’t anything to say? For those who know me well, I don’t think you’d believe that story. I always have something to say, right? In reality, life just pulled me in a different directions for the past few months. My day job called my name – no, it demanded my time in a way I hadn’t expected. It caused me considerable stress and left little energy to devote to this site. As a result, I decided to make a change in my life. I’m in the process of retiring from a business I started and loved for the past twenty-five years. Since I encourage others to take care of their mental health, I decided to follow my own advice and take care of me. My goal is to spend more time in the future doing things that relax me such as writing, sewing, and spending time with loved ones.
Check back in a month and see how I’m doing. Until then, thanks for stopping by.
I hope Shakespeare fans don’t roll their eyes because I changed his famous quote from Hamlet. It fit my thoughts perfectly today.
Yesterday, a photo of my book, Broken Brain, Fortified Faith posted to a group I belong to on Facebook. Below the photo, the moderator added a synopsis of our story. In one of the comments, I read a negative opinion about medications. This helped me remember that we don’t all agree that medicines help someone with mental illness. The person who posted the comment seemed against them and listed their reasons.
My opinion is different. And since this is my blog, I will share my thoughts about medication and mental illness. I believe the correct medications helped my daughter get her life back.
In 2004, my adult, college-educated daughter, Amber began to act differently from her usual self. It quickly spiraled into a world of fear for her as paranoid thoughts overtook her. At first, I thought it would pass. It didn’t. Instead, it got worse and worse. Eventually, she lost the ability to communicate with us.
It wasn’t until we got her into treatment with a psychiatrist (M.D. with additional education in psychiatry) that things improved for her. He diagnosed her with schizophrenia. He prescribed medicine and recommended therapy. We moved her back home. I helped her manage the medications and took her to see a counselor until she felt well enough to do it for herself. This treatment plan helped her brain form the proper connections again and I saw improvement come at a slow, but steady pace. It took several years of her hard work and patience but she regained her independence.
I believe the medications that Amber took then and still takes today are the reason she lives a life similar to other people her age. At one point, while under the care of her psychiatrist, still in our home, and in therapy twice month, she stopped taking the anti-psychotic medication. The symptoms that plagued her earlier returned with a vengeance. This convinced Amber (and me) that she needed the medication.
Today, she works full-time, lives on her own, and manages her illness with ongoing treatment while she leads a busy social life.
Since this happened in our family, I like to read about scientists who study the brain and what occurs during mental illness. Brain imaging helps them track the processes both with medication and without. They continue to discover new treatments such as magnetic therapy as well as the effects different medications have on the molecular processes in the brain. I live with the hope that through research, treatments become even more effective with fewer side effects. If you want to learn more about medications, the National Institute of Mental Health discusses medications, what they do, and the side effects caused by using them.
One comment to yesterday’s post reminded me of a truth I needed to hear, “as GOD writes the next chapter of your life. HE has a plan for you….” It didn’t take long for that message to sink in.
Only minutes after I clicked Publish, my phone rang with my mom’s number on caller ID. This sends up a red flag each time she calls. She turns 93 next month and lives in an assisted living home near me. I see her several times each week. As I conclude each visit, I remind her, “Call me if you need or want anything.” She rarely calls. So when she does, I go.
Yesterday, she had a concern and I assured her I’d be there in 20 minutes or so. Because my hubby knows I’m a baby on wintery roads, he offered to take me. And because I appreciated his offer, I accepted.
It wasn’t an emergency, but it caused my mom to feel apprehensive. I’m grateful she reached out to me. Together, we came up with a solution that I think will ease that worry for her. Four hours later, hubby and I went home.
My lesson in all of this? I don’t need to know what’s next. I need to stay open every day to where I can serve God. When I write, sew, clean the house, wash laundry, or spend time with my mom, if I do it with love and to the best of my ability, this is how I can serve God.
I don’t know. This journey called life has lots of curves and I’m on one now. I think I’m experiencing the proverbial empty-nest syndrome. Granted, my youngest child graduated from high school twenty years ago so maybe I’m a late bloomer. Back then, I charged ahead with my embroidery business that I had started five years earlier. It doubled in size over the next year. I had no time to think about what to do. For the next twelve years, I expanded, hired part-time employees, and filled my days from early morning until late at night. I didn’t have time to lament about the change from ballgames, after-school chats, and endless laundry to a quiet house day after day. My in-home business supplied me with a steady stream of conversation partners.
In late 2004 through 2009, my business shifted to focus on my daughter to help her through mental illness to achieve recovery. Business limped along until it could return to full speed ahead as she moved on with her life. By 2010, it was back to busy, busy, busy.
In 2008, I had an inkling to explore writing after two strangers suggested I write our story. It shocked me. I hadn’t considered this as an option for my life. Me, a writer? I jumped in and spent time with other writers. I learned so much from them. I gradually shifted my focus from a full-time businesswoman to part-time business owner and part-time writer. I took fewer orders and returned to my original business plan of a one-woman show. During 2015-2018, I spent more time writing, speaking, and social media interaction than I did with embroidery. I intended for my business to fade away a little each year.
It worked. After twenty-five years, my embroidery orders are sporadic instead of multiple ones each day. The doorbell stays silent and the machines beg for my attention. This resulted in a feeling I haven’t experienced before – empty-nest syndrome. If I’m honest, I miss the excitement that came from another order, a box of clothing to embroider or the companionship from customers. I’ve learned a huge lesson about me. I liked the uber-busy pace I kept for the last forty-four years. I always had a to-do list each day, a revolving door of people (I’m an EXTROVERT) and the satisfaction of feeling needed.
So what’s next? I don’t know. Last fall, I sent a book proposal for a daily devotional to a publisher. A few weeks ago, I received a “This doesn’t work for us at this time” email. I fell into a slump for a few days. I moped around the house and noticed the empty rooms, the lack of people, and wondered what to do.
I don’t want to stay in this frame of mind. Since I don’t know what’s next, I set some goals. As I place my trust in God to show me the next step, I’ll pray and:
Sew each day. This relaxes me when I create something from a piece of fabric.
Join a group that sews for charity. This helps me be around people plus I can give back using one of the gifts God gave me.
Write a reflection each day and pray for discernment: should approach a different publisher, self-publish, or post it on this site for anyone to read?
Organize things that got neglected for the past twenty-five years as I managed my business.
Eat nutritious food and walk more. I want to send those endorphins to my brain to help me have a more positive attitude.
I appreciate your prayers as I write the next chapter of my life.
Was a radio interview on my bucket list as a youngster? a teenager? a young adult? how about during my “middle ages? “
No. I never had the desire or inclination to talk about my life for strangers to hear. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love to tell stories – to friends and family, especially funny things that happened to me. So, no, I didn’t see a radio interview in my future. But, writing and publishing the book, Broken Brain, Fortified Faith, was not on my bucket list either.
Even though radio interviews were not on my bucket list, I welcome the chance. The latest one happened last week after I met the host, Tony Agnesi, last summer at the Catholic Writers Guild LIVE conference in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. (The conference was a blast!) When he asked me for an interview for his new radio program, I felt honored and excited.
Fast forward a few months. Tony and I chatted over the phone as he recorded our interview. On January 8, his new program, The StoryTellers debuted. When I learned our conversation was the first program, I sat in disbelief as the news sunk in. Last week, I listened to it through my computer as it broadcasted on the radio. (Isn’t online listening the greatest?) Now you can listen to it because Bread Box Media made it available for you to listen to it when it works into your schedules. Thank you, Bread Box Mediaand Tony Agnesi. I’m grateful! I hope you enjoy it.
What’s next for me? I’m not sure right now and to tell you the truth, I am praying for discernment. I continue to write, but I’m not sure where it will lead me. I guess, when I think about it, I didn’t know where writing my first book would lead me, either. For now, I will pray, study, write and listen for his call.
This morning, as I drank my coffee and read my devotional books, one of them had a reflection on Ecclesiastes 3:4, A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.
Fourteen years ago, I went through a time when I forgot how to laugh. Life had heaped stress upon stress upon me as our daughter battled the symptoms of schizophrenia. She didn’t act like the daughter I knew and loved. Uneducated, I didn’t know how to deal with it, so I worried. The more I stewed, the more the life-giving human emotion of laughter floated away from me out of my reach. I had a choice before me: wallow in my misery or change my situation. I chose the latter.
First, I educated myself about the brain and what my daughter endured -what she could face in the future. Once I had a basic understanding of this, I moved forward so that when a humorous situation happened, I could once again catch it and tuck it away to lift my spirits in the days to come.
As Roy and I checked Amber into the third hospital in six weeks, the nurse asked her where she lived. “Here,” Amber said as she glared at the woman.
“No, I mean before you came here.”
“Covenant, ” Amber said defiantly. (We had just transferred Amber from Covenant, a hospital near our home town.)
Roy laughed. I snickered. The tense feeling that made my palms sweat and my heart race eased for just a moment. Amber’s answer, meant to protect her personal information from this stranger, had a lot of truth behind it. She had indeed spent her last few weeks living at Covenant. Her flippant answer showed me that schizophrenia hadn’t stolen Amber’s personality. It was still there.
Let me explain. In our home, laughter, sarcasm, and affection mingled to form a foundation as solid as the concrete in our basement walls. Roy and I met as teenagers and had built our relationship on shared laughter and faith. As our children grew up, affection mixed with sarcasm became a part of their personalities. To see this snippet still there in Amber gave me hope. Even though parts of me wept, I had a moment when I laughed.
A time to weep, and a time to laugh. I could continue to move forward.
My house still looks like Christmas. Decorations adorn the mantel, the lighted trees still bring a smile to my face, and the nativity sets remind me why I celebrate Christmas. I bask in the joy of the season until January 6, the feast of the Epiphany when my faith remembers the three wise who came bearing gifts for the infant, Jesus.
I remember a past Christmas as I look to the new year ahead. Now, I see it with clarity. I understand why things happened the way it did. I can see how my actions affected the situation. Let me explain.
Fourteen years ago, the joy of the Christmas season eluded me. Our daughter lived in the clutches of schizophrenia as her brain betrayed her. She lived in a world of paranoia, fear, and confusion. We’d moved her back home with us, but we didn’t understand what she faced. Our Christmas celebrations teetered between explosive and devastating as her brain disorder caused her to fling unfounded accusations at family members. Fears of a disjointed family unit swirled in my thoughts. Would our family unit survive? How do we survive?
We sought help from others who’d walked a similar path before us. We didn’t turn against each other. Instead, we worked together to find her the treatment and support she needed. Friends and family lifted our spirits as they assured us of their prayers as they visited us and Amber when she spent weeks in a hospital, brought her small gifts, and someone even brought a casserole to lighten our load.
As I look back, I know God worked through them and we weren’t alone, even though I felt like it. Over the next few years, Amber learned about her illness, accepted it, and the treatment she needed for long-term recovery. Fourteen years later, and I continue to thank God for the miracle of her recovery. She works full-time, has a social life, and makes me proud with her determination to give back to the world around her.
Because of my experience, I developed a new purpose. I want to reach out to other families caught in the snares of mental illness. I want to walk beside them and give them hope. This month, support groups resume in our area and I plan to attend the sessions. Together, we can learn more about the brain and how to help our loved ones – and ourselves in the process.
In a quest to grow as a person, I set some goals for 2019:
I continue to write a daily devotional book where I deal with mental illness. In it, I think about Bible verses and the lessons I’ve learned about faith as I struggle with the messiness of life. I strive to steady my gaze on the Lord and invite readers to join me. I don’t know if a publisher will pick it up. I hope it happens. Plan B and Plan C bounce around in my head if it doesn’t.
Last year, I started my first novel. I vowed to finish it this year. I’m excited to see how the story ends.
My TBR (To Be Read) pile looms above me on my bookshelf by my chair. My list to read this year includes biographies, fiction, and spiritual enrichment. Nonfiction/Biographies: Crazy by Pete Early; Fiction: a couple of novels by Lisa Wingate that I picked up at a yard sale, Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Relly, Orphan Train, and Last Girl Seen by Nina Laurin; Spiritual Enrichment: Thomas Merton, Miracles in Our Midst, Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World, Having a Mary Spirit in a Martha World, and several books of prayer reflections. When I read a variety of authors, I learn more about the craft.
Last month, I started on an organization spree for my house. It’s something that no one else notices, but it sure makes me feel wonderful to have nooks and crannies in a neat order. I plan to continue until I make it through each closet. It may take more than this year, but I’ll stay calm and carry on.
I want to improve my stamina. My children gave me a wrist device to check my steps, etc. I get up and walk when it tells me I’ve sat too long. My last goal for 2019 is to meet the daily challenge it gives me in steps and stairs. So far, so good. Only 361 days to go.
I feel grateful today for the people who shared the link on social media and encouraged others to read it. I feel grateful for those who read it and posted reviews on Amazon. I feel grateful for the conversations that I know will take place in our church communities, around the water coolers, one on one over coffee as a result of the voices who shared their stories and bared their souls.
I understand the concept of time. Any change in attitude takes time. A young woman recently shared with me it takes seven years from the first time we hear something to have a change of heart. In those seven years, we need to hear the message repeated by different people in different ways.
Perhaps this book will help pave the way for the subject of mental illness to go from “we don’t talk about it” to a genuine understanding and compassion for us all.
Mental illness is not a weakness in a person’s faith. I’ve met countless people in the past fourteen years whose faith can move a mountain. Mental illness struck anyway. It’s a brain disorder, not a character flaw.
Mental illness can’t be prayed away. This is not to say that God can’t work a miracle. I know God can heal mind, body, and soul. I do believe, however, that often times God works through professionals who assist those who seek recovery by:
Provide medications that assist the brain to make the proper connections so it can function as it should.
Provide therapy in various forms – again – to assist the brain to react differently to outside stimulus.
Provide a safe space to discuss the issues that accompany mental illness.
We, as a community can help by:
Provide a listening ear, without judgment. Sometimes, that means not saying anything, just listening.
Help them find the professional help they seek.
Treat them as before illness struck. They want acceptance and don’t want to feel set apart because of a biological illness.
Let’s offer everyone a hand to help them stand. We’re all in this together.
How many times have we whispered about a mental health issue as our eyes dart around the crowd to see if anyone else heard us?
When mental illness blasted into our family, I reacted this way. I lowered my voice when I spoke about it. I felt embarrassed – like our family did something to cause this. Through education I received from the National Alliance on Mental Illness organization, I changed my attitude. They taught me about the biology of the brain and how to be a helpmate to those who battle it. I learned support plays a major factor in the recovery process. Yes, I said that right, recovery process. I’ve rejoiced more than once as people I love work to recover from their illness and go on to lead a fulfilling life.
Now, I’ll talk about it with anyone and everyone who will listen. I also write about it every chance I get. I want everyone to understand the difficulties that face families in the clutches of mental illness. I want our culture to react in a helpful, not a hurtful way. This means compassionate understanding.
And I learned that I’m not alone in this new way of life. Countless others have the same goal. Chris Morris from Llama Publishing brought us together to write about our experiences in the church as we dealt with mental illness. He compiled and edited, Whispers in the Pews. He explained why he began this project and how he accomplished it in this 2-part interview at InspireChristianWriters. Part 1. Part 2.
I feel honored he chose to include my essay in this important book. I hope one day everyone can go to their faith community and find the support they need when they need it. It makes a difference in their recovery process.
This powerful documentary, God Knows Where I Am, pulled back the invisibility cloak on the life of one homeless woman who battled untreated mental illness. Through Linda’s journal found beside her body in an empty farmhouse in New Hampshire, viewers lived in her world as she struggled to survive in an unforgiving environment.
Linda Bishop, a daughter, a sister, a mother, had people who cared about her. They knew she needed help, medication, and treatment. Unfortunately, during an in-hospital stay when Linda adamantly refused treatment, the hands that wanted to help her were slapped away. Loved ones petitioned for guardianship to ensure treatment for her, but the court denied their request. Laws set up to protect the rights of the patient allowed Linda to choose her own treatment plan.
The clear mind that guides most of us to make informed and calculated decisions on our health care had fogged over for Linda. Her brain convinced her she didn’t need medicine. Unable to help her, the staff released her, but privacy laws prevented them from notifying her family. Linda walked through the door of the hospital, through the door of the abandoned farmhouse, and into her personal prison as her mind imposed a death sentence on an innocent inmate.
I cried as I watched Linda’s final months of life. I cried for all the Lindas with an untreated mental illness that takes their lives. I cried for their families. I cried for the pain endured by all of them. I cried because I don’t know how to protect the rights of the patient when their minds prevent them from accepting the necessary treatment that might return them to a life with loved ones.
At one time in our country’s history, people lost their rights and found themselves in an institution and no way for parole simply because another person said they had a mental illness. I don’t want to see that inflexibility ever return.
I know people who chose to walk away from treatment and live without hurting themselves or others. Can we take away that person’s right to choose?
But, what about the Linda’s?
How do we know which ones need treatment to survive and which person can manage their illness?
What if the courts had granted Linda’s family guardianship? Would treatment have helped her come to terms with her mental illness?
Would mandatory outpatient follow-up care prevented her from disappearing into a place where no one found her until it was too late?
What if the hospital had notified her family of her imminent release and the family had the opportunity to support her as they guided her into wellness?
As I said, I cried because I don’t know the answers to the hard questions. I cried because I wrestled with the memories of our family’s journey – the denial of the illness, the refusal to accept treatment, the appearance in court for committal for treatment and again for guardianship and conservatorship. I know – if things had gone differently for us…if we had been denied…and I cry for all the Lindas and their families. I want different outcomes for them. I know recovery can happen. However, it takes a village of support. Research shows early intervention and a treatment plan help people resume productive lives.
I spent two hours last night watching this documentary on my local public television station. I encourage everyone to spend time with Linda Bishop through her written words, her sister, her daughter, and others who appear in this film. Rated TV-PG, it may give you a new glimpse into the complicated problem of mental illness, treatment, and homelessness.
Let’s keep the conversation on mental illness alive. Let’s support the people afflicted and those who love them. Let’s educate ourselves and encourage others to do the same. Let’s work together to find the answers for all the Linda Bishops in our world.
It’s Friday of Mental Illness Awareness Week. Several days, I posted reviews on books about mental illness, both nonfiction and fiction. I find when I read books and talk with people affected by mental illness it broadens my knowledge. I also read online research and listen to webinars and videos. Each time I do, I realize how much I don’t know. I promise myself to keep my education on this important subject in a forward motion.
As I visit with groups, I’m asked often, “How can I tell if it’s typical teenage behavior or mental illness?”
Some typical teen behavior—such as unstable moods and risky behavior with drugs or sex—can also be expressions of bipolar disorder. How can a parent tell the difference?
This is one of the toughest problems for parents. The key is the clustering of unstable moods with other symptoms. Let’s use the example of a child who goes snowboarding, jumps off a cliff, and breaks his leg. Is that a manic symptom? Well, does he also have a decreased need for sleep? Is he saying grandiose things like, “I’m the best snowboarder in the world?” Is he staying up late at night and talking faster? Does his behavior stand out, even among his friends?
If parents suspect a problem, they should first talk to the child and say, “Here’s what I’m seeing. Do you think you need to talk to somebody?” The child will probably say no. Then you go a little further and say, “Why do you think you’re more irritable? It must be hard to get through the day with such little sleep.” If you suspect that he or she does have a mood disorder, get an evaluation with a psychiatrist or a psychologist—a diagnostic evaluation that includes a full medical history. Ask for recommendations on next steps— knowing that no one doctor has all the answers.
If there are questions about whether your son or daughter’s behavior is healthy or not, it may be best to just do “watchful waiting” for a while, before insisting on medications or therapy. If your child has expressed any suicidal ideation and depression, get rid of any weapons in the house and make sure alcohol or prescription medication are not easily available.
To learn about the difference in adults and youth, monitoring their moods, should they tell their friends, how to find the right doctor, among other topics, read the rest of the article.