Before mental health week concludes, I want to share a little of my heart on the issue. This subject is loaded and I will not be able to expound on all the things I want to discuss. This post will have two parts, as I believe mental health and internal healing go hand-in-hand. Please know I am not writing to provide answers, but to provoke a discussion about a sensitive topic.
Nowadays, mental illness is a subject discussed more openly; however, there are still several myths about it. Some of the myths include mental illness being a personal weakness, individuals can get by without professional help, mental illness is one’s own fault, children are unaffected by mental health issues and finally, mental illness is shameful.
Based on my personal experience, I can tell you each of the myths are just that, myths. I grew up with a mother who suffered from mental illness. At the time (early 80’s), mental illness was taboo. Those around her knew something was wrong, but was too afraid to confront it. She was ridiculed, misunderstood, and stigmatized. Some of her outbursts occurred before people I knew, and that did not help because then it got around that my mother was crazy. I could not comprehend the severity of her issues.
Due to her illness, I experienced sexual, emotional and physical abuse and it went on for years. On more than one occasion, I recall my mother going through various fits of rage. The situation became increasingly dangerous and she was sent to a mental institution. After she was sent away, I expected some type of explanation, but no one spoke to me about what the problem was, so for some time, I thought it was me. Much later in her life, it was determined that she suffered with bipolar disorder among other things. Unfortunately, by the time she was diagnosed (well into her 50’s), she was not interested in being medicated, so she attempted to handle her issues on her own, which did not work out very well.
So why are these myths untrue, first, though my mother was sick, she could not get well on her own and she needed professional help, not just medication, but internal healing too. Second, I never viewed my mother as being weak, but as broken, and she needed to be “fixed”. I never thought her outbursts were her fault, but I wondered what happened to make her this way (and I did find out later in my life). Third, children are profoundly affected by people around them who suffer with mental illness. I kept a secret, and I carried that weight well into my adult years and it affected me in ways I did not understand until I sought healing. Finally, more people suffer from mental conditions than we think and it is not shameful, but a cry for help.
My personal experience fuels my passion for understanding and helping others especially women, who suffer. I did not write this post to gain sympathy because I have been healed by the grace of God and I know he uses our pain as a platform to bless others. I decided to write this post to let you know that no matter what you experience, you can overcome and to let you know that mental illness is a real issue. Whether it is your passion or not, each of us can play a part in helping someone get the assistance they need. I believe we must be sensitive enough to recognize the signs of someone who is struggling. It is in no way to stigmatize them, but to provide a safe place for those who are suffering and to continue the conversation. Because we are our brother’s keeper, we have a responsibility to help those who suffer from any illness or circumstance.
“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (New International Version).
For additional information, I invite you to read more about mental illness by clicking on one of the websites below: