There have been many times when our family has found itself in the midst of an adventure … like the time we were in rural Africa and the rugged airstrip where our tiny plane had just landed was actually too short for the return takeoff. It was a bit scary as we watched the pilot work through various plans to extend the length of the runway. He concocted a number of configurations for adjustments and finally we were able to leave.
It’s a story I love to tell (and in more detail), and there are many, many more. In fact, for all of us, our lives are composed of a series of stories that string together and provide the markers for our memories and moments. We have stories of childhood pranks (like when my older brother dared me to sit in my second birthday cake, so I did), teenage dramas and vacation fiascos.
For families with loved ones dealing with mental illness, our stories are of a different nature. We are hesitant to tell them for many reasons. Some are too painful, and we just don’t want to remember them. Others are too personal for ourselves or our family member. Then there is always the fear of stigma, or the dangers of self-pity.
But there is value in our stories. They help others get a truthful picture of the realities of mental health difficulties that can tear down stigma. They comfort and counsel other families going through similar situations. And, if faith and prayer are running themes, then many of our stories tell of the goodness of God’s love, provision and protection.
In Acts 1:8 Jesus tells His disciples, “You will be my witnesses.” How have we seen God at work in our lives as we care for our loved one? Have we watched Him, like we saw the pilot in Africa, take an impossible situation and orchestrate a number of configurations for adjustments that lead to a brilliant solution? How have we witnessed His care, presence and power?
Your stories, shared in support groups, may give other families hope and direction. Opening up with your church friends about struggles may garner much-needed prayer. Being willing to talk about the realities of life in the midst of mental illness is a first step in becoming an advocate for new and better mental health care and legislation.
As believers, we have been given the privilege and responsibility of being stewards of our stories. Let’s be aware of opportunities God gives us to tell of His goodness in the land of the living (Psalm 27:13) and to declare His steadfast love in the morning and His faithfulness by night (Psalm 92:2).