I've wanted to write so many things, and I've just not had time. Today I have something I neeeed to express and fortunately I have a little bit of "free" time.
Last night Andrew reacted out of anger in a way that was so hard for me to swallow...I was in disbelief. He took his fury out on his brother, whom Andrew was certain was the perpetrator of an act that he didn't actually witness, and held his conviction even after his brother said he didn't do it. Andrew has a vicious temper, and we've been working with him for years to learn how to reign it in and keep a lid on it. It's one thing to feel frustration and anger, it's another to loose control completely and go berserk!! There are times when he is able to control his actions and step away from the situation and I make sure that whenever I learn of those times or see them myself I praise him for how he handled the situation and let him know that I'm proud of his effort and his use of those positive methods.
So last night Andrew went crazy on Matthew, and Gus was with a client far, far away. I texted him and asked him to call me. We talked, and I took Andrew to his group and talked to one of the leaders about the situation and asked him to just keep an extra eye on Andrew and also be available if he's having a hard time. And I went to choir. In choir we met with our small group prayer teams and I asked for prayer for Andrew's anger management issue and for wisdom in how to help him. A friend of mine suggested a Bible study that could help, and after the meeting was done she showed me how to get a 14 day study on my cell phone for free. Wahoo! I love free!! But then... she said it was a wonderful study and that after doing it and really getting into it I wouldn't need any medication any more... Ummm, what? That's like telling a diabetic they can read a book and never have to take insulin again. She told me, as so many others have, that "it's God's will to heal me". Yeahhhh.... I agree that in one way or another, whether in this life or upon the arrival to heaven I will be relieved of bipolar, anxiety and all the other medical "accessories" I have. But I know that it's not meant to happen now, and that I need to just trust God and His timing. This is not something that I can tell God what and how to do what He already has planned.
What really puts me on edge, however, was her insistance that she was absolutely correct and that I am mistaken and how God wants to deliver me from these burdens and restore me, today! This line of preaching to peers of God's plans "for everyone" is so dangerous, and the people preaching it don't realize it. For so many, many years, as I struggled with depression, with hypo-mania, mixed episodes, anxiety attacks, emotional pain, flashbacks, nightmares, I would hear these ladies (and some men) pontificate on God's glorious healing plan; if only I would read my Bible, if only I would believe fully, then He would reach down from His throne and remove it all and allow me to be whole. And year after year I stuggled, year after year I read my Bible, went to church, sang in choir, did Bible study groups, I was even "delivered" from an as-yet-unnamed negative spirit. But year after year my life inside my mind was a downward spiral. You cannot understand the pain unless you yourself have been there. You can read about someone else's accounts, you can watch someone suffer, but what you see, the words you read, are only part of it. The pain of depression is agonizng, crippling, it hurts your sould so badly. I can tell you that suicide is not the cowards way out and anyone who says it is is an insensitive jerk. If you aren't in that persons's heart, head, or life for every waking and sleeping moment then you have no room whatsoever to judge their pain.
If someone is diabetic they can appear healthy, until you see the insulin needle, or the medicine with a laundry list of side effects. If someone is blind then they often have dark glasses and a cane or a dog. If someone is deaf they speak with their hands. But if someone has a mental illness you have no way of knowing by looking at them. Scyzophrenia is quite obvious, so is a psychotic break alone or triggered by bipolar mania. But what about the more subtle yet insidious illnesses like bipolar II or unipolar depression? What about those? Sometimes you can recognize the symptoms, but if you are just watching from a far, even in you're casual friends...how would you know? And yet so many want to tell me how I can fix it, how I won't need medicine any more, if only I would blah, blah, blah.
You know something, it doesn't work that way!!
I have a friend who was in a terrible accident years ago and broke his back. His spinal column was spared and he can walk, but he must wear a brace, he walks with a cane and although he's had surgeries his back is still broken. He and his family are very involved in their faith, their church and in a wonderful ministry outreach. But for a long time there was a wedge between his wife and him. You see, she felt that if he only believed, truly believed, that God would heal him then he would be be able to run and jump and leap. She felt so strongly that he must not be reading his Bible enough, that he must not be faithful enough that she became mad at him, resentful of him and his lack of faith. She was so wound around the idea of immediate divine restoration that she couldn't even consider that perhaps God had another plan for her husband and she didn't know everything about God after all.
The continued preaching of immediate divine healing is appealing and has been made popular in movies as a subject for satire and inspiration, both. My issue is not with whether God can or will heal me or not. My issue is with someone being so stubborn that their idea must be right, that they know God so well, that I am mistaken and must be corrected and prayed over...and if I'm not healed as they expect me to be it must be my fault.
God has done amazing things in my life. He's used counselors and therapy techniques to bring me through the trauma of my past and allow me peace. I haven't had a flashback or nightmare in almost a year!! Truly, praise God for that! But the thing is that freedom from my past didn't come because I prayed it away or read scripture to make it go away. It happened because I saught professional help, and I worked at it, too. I prayed for years for the nightmares and the hurt in my memories to leave me, but they didn't until I got help designed for my problem.
When the people told me I just needed to pray and the depression would lift, that I just needed to pray and my mind would clear, that I needed to read scripture, recite verses, listen to praise music and God would restore me, I believed them. And I did what they said, for so long. And things didn't get better. Actually they got worse. I was beside myself with pain and guilt and an overwhelming knowledge that I wasn't even good enough for God to care about. I mean, everyone was telling me what I needed to do and I was doing it all and still there was no relief. How could there be no relief? I was doing everything, I did believe that God could do it. But since He wasn't doing anything to help me, to save me from the pit I lived in, I must deserve to be there. I must be a terible person. If He can do all things, and he's not doing this for me...I must not deserve it. And I couldn't fight that fight any longer. I began to pray to die, I wanted to no longer live because life hurt so much and on top of that I had been rejected by God.
One day as I was slumped on the bedroom floor in misery, beggin to die, a small voice whispered in my head, "What about Andrew?" My Andrew... so young, so vulnerable and so in need of me in his life. Ironic, isn't it? I was convinced God didn't want me to be healed because I wasn't good enough for him to heal, and yet he had just spoken to my heart the only thing that could have ever kept me alive. And I clung to that, the voice reminding me of how much Andrew would need me, through the darkest hours. For years after I was diagnosed, after I began medication, my mind slowed and I understood I do have value, it was hard to look at God as one who saw value in me because I was haunted by the people who had told me how I could be healed if I would only...
I would love to wake up and have a clear mind, peace in my heart always, no more surprise anxiety attacks, no mood concerns, no physical pain, no internal pain, no tummy issues, ever again. But right now, that's not God's plan for me. I don't know why. Mostly I'm okay with things the way they are. But sometimes things are so hard, and I do get mad at God and ask Him why He thinks this is okay to put me through. I understand that I will never understand His plan, and since I can't change it I have to accept it and make the best of life by seeking out and enjoying all of the blessings and gifts I can find, whether those beautiful gifts are small or big or quirky. And I focus on those because there's enough crap in life every day that if I didn't make joy a priority I'd be as miserable with a mountain of drugs just as if I didn't have any.
So, take this as a cautionary tale. No human knows the mind and will of God, and for you to tell someone you do is overstepping your bounds in a big way. We can always pray for each other, for whatever they need and whatever your heart tells you they need. But when it comes to mental health issues, watch your step. Your "supportive comments" of healing and delivery and restoration are almost always so much more harmful than you can imagine. In telling someone they need to read or believe more/a certain way you've just told them that there is a formula for salvation and deliverence and healing and that they're apparently not smart enough to figure it out, or not really a true enough believe to qualify for those particular benefits.
I would like to suggest we as Christians stop the demon hunt on mental illness and see it for what it is: a medical problem which should be handled by professionals, for which there is no shame in admitting you need! No one asks for any illness, be it cancer or flesh eating bacteria or psychosis. Why do we have compassion for the cancer patient, compassion for the victim of the virus, yet try to tell the person living in a hell on earth in their mind that it's essentially their own fault? This makes no sense. We as a community of believers need to put this into context and have compassion and for goodness sake get educated on this! The information is all around you! Read it! You may be able to stop a vicious cycle of misinformation and being a new cycle of love, acceptance and help being more available to those who need it.