Thanksgiving: when you’re feeling anything but happy

Tomorrow is American Thanksgiving. More Americans will make it a priority to be with their family & friends tomorrow than any other holiday (yes, even Christmas!). The day before Thanksgiving can be filled with anxiety that has nothing to do with baking or traveling. There’s a type of anxiety that is present for those who have seen heartbreaking changes since last year’s gathering. Death. Job Loss. Divorce. Diagnosis. These are just a few examples of what has happened to too many families over the past year. Individuals and families have been rocked to the core. Things don’t look or feel like they did a year ago. People are holding their breath and hoping for the best for tomorrow.

Thanksgiving can sting more than any other holiday because the focus seems to be pretty much all about family. The message society gives is one of showing up at Thanksgiving as a happy, happy family. To prove this point, what is the greeting that is said at Thanksgiving? HAPPY THANKSGIVING! But we know that for so many, tomorrow does not evoke happy feelings. For several, sadness or anxiety seems more appropriate than “happy”.

If you or your family are struggling on Thanksgiving eve, remember that you aren’t alone. Remember to take it one hour, one moment at a time. Take deep breaths. Hold a hot beverage in your hands all.day.long if that’s soothing. Go for a walk. Leave the party early if you need to. Do whatever will help you. Thanksgiving is about family but remember this: you are a branch in the family tree! You need to stay healthy so that you can bear fruit, too. You matter just as much as anyone else.

Instead of wishing you a “Happy Thanksgiving”, my hope is that you are able to find little & big things to be grateful for in the midst of the sad. Don’t deny your sad. But don’t miss seeing the good, too. With this perspective, show up tomorrow in the best way that you know how while also taking good care of you.

demon possession or mental illness?

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Is it mental illness or demon possession? How can I know the difference? And how can the church help and not hurt? While I am no expert on this topic, I hope that the following is helpful.

Disclaimer: Some don’t believe that mental illness is real. Others don’t believe that demon possession is real. This post is for those who believe that demon possession is possible. And that mental illness is possible. If both exist as possibilities – then which one is it? Please keep in mind that even for Christians, demon possession is a puzzling topic. And many Christians would be quick to point out that we live in a broken world. We aren’t in Eden anymore. We have bodies AND minds that fail us at times.

Typically, when a person is attempting to discern between a demon possession or a mental illness, it is because something unusual is going on. Often, the person is hearing voices, seeing things others aren’t seeing, and/or having trouble discerning what is real from what is not. Psychosis (a break from reality) affects 3% of the population at some time in their life, while schizophrenia affects 1% of the population. That means that 1 in 100 people will develop schizophrenia in their lifetime. The age of onset is usually between 14-35 years of age. Similar to how diabetes can be treated with medication, psychosis can also be treated with medication. If the breaks from reality improve on medication (and if the person has been patient in finding the right medication and dosage) that gives a strong indication that the unusual experiences were due to biochemistry. Demon possession wouldn’t go away via medication.

Church leaders may be contacted either by concerned family members or by the individual to help determine what is going on. The best way that the church can help is to strongly encourage a second opinion (family doctor, mental health worker, psychiatrist) AND stay involved with the family and individual. Problems arise when one of these steps are missed. Do seek outside help but don’t stop meeting with the family/individual. The individual needs both the health care system and their church at a time of crisis.

The church can play a beautiful role in helping individuals who are questioning “is it demon possession or mental illness?”. To do so, the church must be willing to refer out and stay involved.

For more on this subject, watch this video from “The Meeting House” on November 15th, 2015. It was a Mental Health Q & A during their worship service, which happened to come at the end of their series on Satan and demons.

 

 

Did Robin Williams have Bipolar?

Robin Williams is admired for his acting as well as his ability to be candid about addiction, depression and personal struggles. Over his lifetime, he was an inspiration to many. Shortly after taking his life, speculation began re: whether Robin Williams had bi-polar disorder or not.

Psychcentral gave the following statement:

Robin Williams has long been a sufferer of bipolar disorder, a mental illness where the person fluctuates between episodes of extreme energy, focus and productivity (mania) and severe depression. Apparently, he was in one of the episodes of depression when he took his own life.

In contrast to the statement given by Psychcentral, there are others who state that Robin Williams did not have bipolar. Apparently, even Robin Williams himself.The following is from an interview with Carrie Fisher on Robin Williams by the Hollywood Reporter.

In an interview with Carrie Fisher, the following was shared about her encounter with Robin Williams: “He … looked lost, kind of, and he said that he didn’t think he was bipolar. He took the test that I gave the audience and got all the answers right, but didn’t think [being bipolar] was something that had anything to do with him,” recalled Fisher, who has been candid about her own struggles with mental illness and addiction.  (more here)

Regardless of whether Robin Williams had bipolar or not, he was outspoken about his struggles with addiction and depression. And the following reality still remains: for as far as we have come in recent years regarding mental health  and addiction treatments and anti-stigma initiatives, we still have a ways to go.

Robin Williams: I am so very sorry for your suffering. Your passing has broken the hearts of many. Bangarang, Peter!

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Blessings from schizophrenia? Believe me, they exist

This woman’s account re: growing up with a mother who has schizophrenia is one of the most moving and encouraging pieces I have come across in a long time.  Really worth the time to read:

Blessings from schizophrenia? Believe me, they exist

 

 

How to help someone with mental illness

People often wonder what they can do to help a loved one with a mental illness. Rest assured, there are things that you can do. The following are 5 ways to help. If you have something to add to this list please do!

5 ways that you can help someone with mental illness: 

1.  Just as someone with a heart condition needs to utilize medical assistance to stay well, so does the person with mental illness.  You can help by assisting the person in finding appropriate supports and you can help to validate the need for this. Most often, this help comes in the form of counseling and/or seeing a doctor.

2. If the person is hospitalized, visit them! Unfortunately those hospitalized for mental illness tend to receive less visitors and flowers than those hospitalized for other medical conditions. Visit as often as you are able and bring flowers or a special gift for them.

3. Seek to learn as much as you can about your loved ones illness. The internet is not always a reliable database. Ask those who work in mental health what resources they would recommend. See if your loved one will let you come to an appointment with their doctor or counselor so that you can learn more.

4. Let the person know that you are a safe person to talk to. End stigma by letting them know that they can be honest with you re: dark thoughts. Taking this a step further, also remind them of their local crisis number (24/7 service) plus the option of going to the ER if ever needed to keep safe.

5. Tell your loved one of what you look forward to in the future together. Most tend to feel discouraged after receiving a diagnosis of mental illness. Encourage them that their diagnosis doesn’t make up the whole of who they are. Remind them of:  who they still are  (positive aspects of their life and personality) and the exciting possibilities that still lay ahead.

Do you have anything else you’d add to this list? If so, please leave a comment below. Thank you for thinking about how you can better support your loved one with mental illness.

For further reading, click here: HOW TO HELP A LOVED ONE WITH MENTAL ILLNESS