Walking This Path Together

Posted by on 03.25.07 | 1 Comment
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I am responding to Wendy Romero’s comment to my second blog about “Dealing With the Mental Illness of a Beloved,” where she wrote that so many of us walk this path–whether it is with a child, husband, wife, brother etc. who may or may not have a diagnosed disorder.

What has struck me so strongly about the responses I’ve received from WomenSpeak is the sheer numbers of women who share part of this story. I think people believe that mental illness–and the chaos and sadness it brings (as well as the gifts)–is something that happens to other people. It isn’t. Our numbers our legion. Even if we don’t have a close family member, everyone has a friend, or knows someone who is dealing with a disorder.

So, how do we respond? I think by telling the truth of our story, by sharing our journeys with others. This is still a rather shameful part of our culture, and I am convinced we need to lift that particular veil. I would like psychiatric disorders to be so accepted and known in our culture that anyone could say in an intimate gathering, “I have bipolar disorder.” Or, “I’ve stuggled with Depressive Disorder and now things are better,” without fearing rejection, misunderstanding, or negative consequences. It would take away some of the weight of this story if we could share it more widely.

Beth, in response to your comment about waiting in patience, I remember a story from Annie Lamott’s book, I believe it was “Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith,” when she speaks of a sermon given by her pastor, Veronica. It was about how God shows light on our path, particularly when we don’t know in what direction to go. A small circle of light shows up, Veronica said, moving gracefully to one side. Then another small circle appears, she said, moving to her right, until we know where we are going.

That has been my experience. Not a clear pathway with shining torches on the side, but small bursts of light, tiny bits of clarity about the path ahead.

And, yes, talking out loud to God can be a good way to go. I am probably too much of a New Englander to do it, though I have been known to mutter in the shower from time to time, or moan in the car as I grip the steering wheel much too tightly, as if I could wrest some calm for my soul from God. A devout Jewish friend talks about needing to argue with God; that she gets under her prayer shawl and has some frank discussions with God, often angry, about how He doesn’t seem to be showing up in quite the way she would like. Perhaps we all need prayer shawls to get under, to help us direct our anger towards the almighty.

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