"I don't have time to engage with strangers when I'm shopping."
"You can't help everybody, and it's really not my problem."
"I'm no professional."
"Weird people make me nervous."
You know, weird people made me a little nervous in the past. Then I gave birth to a son who didn't fit the accepted standards of "normal" which played havoc with schools, friends, and family who didn't understand. Contrary to what was recommended by well-meaning people, more discipline wasn't the answer for his behavior problems. Discipline alone will not eliminate a fractured mental/emotional system. Aaron will tell you I was a strict mom, and I will tell you I was an overly strict mom. It wasn't perfection I was hoping for, I just wanted him to act more like the other kids. More like I did when I was his age. It makes me cringe today remembering how pleased people were when I was piling on the discipline. Smiling eyes that waited to see the change. They were too blind to see that the only person who was changing was me.
Aaron's birthday is this month and it does feel appropriate to share more of our story. "Our" because mental illness affects the entire family. If you are one of them I hope you learn that your feelings are not crazy. You are not alone. You are not a wretched person. You are a weary person feeling defeated who needs to hope again. God wants us to live a life that is more than successful coping. If coping was all I had to look forward to during our darkest days, I'm not certain where either of us would be today. I felt like giving up, and I know he did!
If you look around and see that someone is following you, then definitely make sure you know where you are going. Aaron was following me and his life was literally hanging in the balance. For me, God was my only hope, and His word became my lifeline. Prayer moved from being something I did, to being the life that I lived. My sons and grandchildren are responsible for the calluses on my knees. :-)
When mental health challenges your loved one...pray. When they express a desire to end their life...pray. When their frustrations produce anger is directed toward you...pray. Prayer doesn't produce perfect people. It reveals a perfect God...our perfect God. He is right here with us and will help when we lean on Him completely. He loves getting involved and will wait until we invite Him into the mess, then offer His very best for our good.
I recall a very good thing brought to me in an unexpected way. Aaron had come for a visit and was having an episode of deep depression. Many were the times I had listened to the same words he was speaking, and kept speaking until I felt depressed. Suddenly a calmness replaced the unbearable heaviness that was perched on my shoulders. God's peace filled the room, and it filled me. When my turn came to speak, I told Aaron he was a gift. Oh my, the look on his face. "I'm a what?" I repeated he was God's gift to me. I explained that he was like sandpaper and God knew exactly who needed the gift. I thanked him for helping God keep me humble, and I meant it. We laughed and then we cried. I do believe God has used our circumstances to help file away and smooth out the overly rough places in my thinking and around my heart.
Even at a young age, I had conquered many situations, but I was not able to conquer his mental and emotional issues. Nothing I did worked. Aaron helped me to arrive at a great place...the end of myself. I latched onto God with a vengeance and I haven't let go yet. Aaron will soon turn thirty-five, and yes, he still provides sandpaper days. Borderline Personality Disorder and a smidgen (is that a word?) of Bi-polar still hover around the perimeter, but his days are much brighter. Our love for each other is second only to our love for God. We may battle this until the Lord takes us home, but we will arrive there safely. And glorious news? There will be no mental illness in heaven!
~With His love.