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. 


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