The tears run down my face. I quietly absorb the deepest pain a life can endure...to know your purpose, your story, your journey is undermined, unreceived, unheard...this pain scorches the soul.
Will people ever get it? Will the heart of the church ever be open to love, embrace and comfort those who suffer from the pain of mental illness? When will they see what we see? When will they feel our pain? When will they embrace our pain as real as cancer?
Over and over these words fall from my lips. My life as an advocate is on purpose. I chose to walk this road with my husband 24 years ago. I stayed when it got tough. I chose to love past what I though I had capacity for. I have learned compassion. I understand grace and mercy.
Just yesterday I stepped in to ask someone to show my husband mercy and grace. Had he been standing there with a barren head or a cane in the hand, perhaps the grace would have fallen freely. But it did not.
The world is not a friendly place at times. We outwardly judge the soul we don't understand. We see with our eyes the surface of the man. Our eyes have not been trained to look with windows into the soul and see the wounds that may never heal. What do we do with continual pain? How do we handle life that is complicated, messy, difficult, sometimes oozing with wounds that don't heal?
Why is it that we have answers for everything but continued unending pain? The pain of mental illness has remedies that work that must be adhered to on a daily, moment by moment basis. It is time consuming. And for many, this is just too much to ask from them. Giving time and energy to washing a wound that may return is bothersome for many.
Time and time again and recently my husband and I felt the string of rejection from yet another "friend". His attempt to fix and pry and provide a remedy for Glen just didn't work. We could not tolerate his invasive nature and we told him so. And of course, we were met with a complete cut off...even from a group of people that called themselves a church. It's nonsense.
This attitude is repugnant, ugly, judgmental, critical, and hypocritical. Some would never turn away a person walking with a limp. Would we wound the friend who suffers with cancer? Would we turn away the abused dog and refuse him the chance for a better life? Do we not love the battered women who needs refuge?
Persons with mental illness are repeatedly rejected and then people judge and question why they just end up saying enough is enough. Yet, who are you to judge their life or decision. Until you have walked this journey, you must close your lips to this kind of talk.
I pray those who have scorned mental illness will never feel this pain. For it is a pain that never goes away. There is a constant ache in my soul that will never stop until the ears of the deaf are opened...until the hearts of the critics melt with compassion and mercy.
I have often shared how to help and my words have fallen on deaf ears. Yet, I will continue to speak because it frees my soul. Here are some guidelines to follow!
Reject stigma when you see it, hear it or feel it.
Step up and defend the person with mental illness, whether of not you fully understand.
Sit quietly and listen when they need a listening ear.
And be willing to never offer advice because there is the strongest of chances that you don't know the appropriate advice to give. (qualified loved ones and professionals know how to carefully direct a life)
Become an advocate by rejecting the stigma and stereotypes of phrases like, "he is crazy, they are just mental, they belong in the loony bin, etc"
Learn to speak positive, encouraging words into the life of your loved one.
Attend support groups, life care groups etc with your loved one.
Speak up and defend the need for mental health education in your church or work place.
- Joyce Roseman