Sunday, June 26, 2011

Prayers God Likes

Sometimes everything seems like a struggle. Caregiving becomes crisis management. Negotiated agreements result in you keeping in your word and the party of the second part ...  not so much. And in the midst comes a challenge, clearly from God, to sincerely pray the words found in Habakkuk 3: 17-18.

"Though the fig tree should not blossom and there be no fruit on the vines, though the yield of the olive should fail and the fields produce no food, though the flock should be cut off from the fold, and there be no cattle in the stalls, yet I will exult in the Lord. I will rejoice in the God of my salvation."

Boy that was a fun night!  In a hotel room in Woodside, Queens, devastated by a situation I had just discovered, I spent a night wrestling with God, waking up over and over, knowing that the Spirit wanted me to pray this prayer. Finally I did. But I sure wasn't happy about it.

I felt that I was letting God down that this was so hard to do. Until I read something in "Introduction to the Devout Life" by Francis de Sales ... a wonderful, dense book that I have been struggling through since Ash Wednesday as a Lenten reading project (and yes, I know that's it's late June now). Francis wrote this in 1608, so the language seems dated:

"Among many persons, especially women, the great mistake is made of believing that the services we perform for God without relish, tenderness of heart or sensible satisfaction, are less agreeable to His Divine Majesty. ... Works performed with tenderness of heart are more pleasant to us who are only concerned with our own satisfaction. When performed in times of aridity, they are sweeter and become more precious in God's sight.

"It is no great merit to serve one's King in the piping days of peace and amid the delights of court life. To serve him during the hardships of war and amid troubles and persecutions is a true mark of constancy and fidelity.

"Blessed Angela of Foligno says the prayer most acceptable to God is that which we force and constrain ourselves to say. Such is the prayer we turn to not for the pleasure found in it, but purely to please God."

That put my concerns about struggling in prayers to rest. I hope it helps you, too.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Mental Illness Most Common Illness for Young People Worldwide

Mental illness is the No. 1 cause of disabilities among young people across the globe, a study from the World Health Organization has confirmed.

Not only is it the largest cause of disabilities, it comprises about 45% of the "disease burden" that people ages 10 to 24 have.  And people ages 10 to 24 compose 27% of the world's population.

The study, released June 8, showed that major depression, alcoholism, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder constitute nearly half of the diseases in this age group.  Most of the illness occurs beginning during the late teenage years and early 20s.

So why on Earth isn't this taken more seriously?

Sunday, June 12, 2011

For Better or Worse: Mom's Attitude Impacts Child's Mental Illness

"In short, what Mom thinks matters."  That was the comment from Dr. Fred Markowitz, a professor from Northern Illinois University in releasing an interesting study on June 8.

Markowitz and his colleagues looked at how the attitude of family members toward mental illness impacts the mentally ill relatives.The researchers found that, while family members often provide critical support, they also can have attitudes that hurt the recovery of their family member.  And Mom's attitude is the key.

The study looked at 129 mothers of adult children with schizophrenia over an 18-month period.

"We found that when those with mental illness exhibited greater level of initial symptoms, lower self-confidence and quality of life, their mothers tended to view them in more stigmatized terms ... for example, seeing them as incompetent, unpredictable and unreliable," Markowitz told Psych Central.

When mothers held these views, their children were most likely to see themselves as incompetent, unpredictable, unreliable, etc., the study found. When they saw themselves this way, their symptoms got worse, their confidence dropped and their quality of life lowered.

Now, there's a little bit of chicken and egg here. And any advice on how to deal with consistently unreliable behavior without coming to view the mentally ill person as unreliable was, of course, not offered. In fact, the researchers said that some of the problem mom behavior came from mom trying to help and being "well meaning." (I have now deleted four different sentences that were filled with sarcasm from this paragraph, so I'll just move on.)

But the research does point out that stigma actually seems to make the illness worse. So the old advice to stay as positive as possible and to allow your loved one to do all they can on their own seems sound.


Sunday, June 5, 2011

Through the Looking Glass

Alice laughed. "There's no use trying," she said. "One can't believe impossible things."

"I daresay you haven't had much practice," said the Queen. "When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."

Lewis Carroll
Through the Looking Glass

1. Our  loved ones have an illness ... an illness that consumes their lives and can alter their personalities. They are more than that illness.  And you must sometimes carry the memory of who they are for them.

2. Our loved ones are ultimately  responsible for their own senses of self-worth. And self-worth is based on a number of things -- a sound family, good relationships with friends, marriage, a meaningful job -- that may be very difficult for them to sustain. And you must help them to remember that they are worthy of love anyway.

3. People with mental illnesses deal with some tough stuff: hallucinations, out-of-control emotions, terrible fears, deeply negative thinking patterns, voices that reinforce those deeply negative thinking patterns, fear of letting people down, actually letting people down, loneliness, loss, feeling like a burden to others, fear of what others expect them to do. And you must avoid any words or actions that add to their sense of poor self-worth.

4.  Our loved ones can behave in a manner that's most unlovely. They can say mean things  and create messy situations that you must help resolve. You may hate what they do. But you must love them unconditionally and treat them with respect.

5.  You will never really know what behavior comes from the illness and what comes from factors the person can control. But you must separate the person from the illness, establish expectations with gentle firmness,  and respond to whatever happens next with patience and understanding.

6.  God did not create mental illness. That would be one of Satan's Greatest Hits. But he does knows that you are in this situation. And He uses it to transform you. Because the way we need to respond to a loved one with mental illness is often the way that God responds to us.