My husband, Nelson, asked if he could share a few thoughts with you. Nelson is often my “silent partner,” the one who speaks softly and thinks deeply. As I mention in the opening of Sparks of Redemptive Grace, we believe our lives “weren’t supposed to be this way”; but Nelson has taught me over and over again that we never misplace our faith when we anchor it in the One who prepares our path.
Locusts’ Aftermath By Nelson Downing
Years ago, when our journey with mental illness began and we started to understand the severe, chronic and persistent nature of bipolar disorder, we also learned that it is common for a person to become “stuck” at the psychological and emotional maturity of their first episode. Psychiatrist M. Scott Peck, in The Road Less Traveled, describes it this way: Continue reading
I’m the first one awake in my household most mornings. I grope my way in the darkness to resurrect myself with a cup of coffee as I curl up in my favorite chair. In the stillness and silence I turn on one soft lamp and then begin to read, pray and mentally prepare for the day. Gradually dawn streams into the room. Once again the light overcomes the darkness and I can see beyond my book to the rest of the room and down the hallway.
For so many years we were lost in our journey amid the darkness of mental illness. There were so many days when we couldn’t see where to turn or how to find our way. At times we felt the darkness would overcome us and we would be swallowed by the uncertainty of it all. Continue reading
To the mothers and the fathers
The daughters and the sons
To the sisters and the brothers
The spouses and loved ones Continue reading
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. Continue reading
Like all families that are on a journey with mental health difficulties, ours has at times been lonely and isolated. For many years we did not share our burdens with our church community for fear we would be judged, offered uninformed advice or become a topic on the gossip chain. And so, like other families who walk alongside their loved ones in the labyrinths of mental illnesses, we were hesitant to ask for help. Continue reading
A.W. Tozer, an early 20th century evangelist and writer, said, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” Thoughts of God come often into my mind, especially when Douglas hits rough seas on his mental health recovery journey. In fact, I have discovered that what I think about God during those times of turbulence not only exposes the very foundations of my faith, but, in many ways, forecasts how I will weather the storm.
Lord, it is after 3 in the morning: my “worry hour.” The terror of the night is creeping into my mind as I imagine the worst. Our adult son, Douglas, isn’t back in yet, in the home we share, so he can be safe in the bed we provide, so he can sleep in peace in those rare moments when his busy mind allows rest.
But now, at 3 a.m., he is out there. Lonely and confused. At best, he’s at a late-night diner having coffee and chatting it up with whoever will talk to him. At worst … oh the terror of the night creeps into my mind. Continue reading
If you have been walking for some time alongside a loved one who deals with mental health difficulties, as we have, you have likely worked through the various stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. It’s not a straight path. Our journey can be quite circular—returning to previous stages any time there is a new episode or a change in our loved one’s rhythms. Continue reading
In the medical world of mental health there is a condition that isn’t talked about much with patients or families. Yet it “affects 50% of people with schizophrenia and 40% of people with bipolar disorder. It can also accompany illnesses such as major depression with psychotic features,” and some kinds of dementia.* It is often mistaken for “denial” and is under-recognized as a contributing factor in medication noncompliance. Continue reading
Our son was out of control. Mania had gripped his mind and overpowered his ability to manage his thoughts, his actions, his choices. Our pleas and our proddings to let us take him to where he could get help were vehemently rejected. Our attempts to engage others to intervene were thwarted. Our anguished prayers had gone unanswered. Continue reading