Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness (c)2012 Nancy Virden
The jammed front door is not responding to my direction. No human can hear because none are around. It begins to rain. Of course. Reaching for my umbrella, I hold it over my head and press the button. Nothing.
“Oh man! What’s wrong with you now?” The rain gathers speed and soon is a downpour. Meanwhile, the umbrella becomes the object of frustration. “You dumb thing, you. Why do you choose today to take a nap?”
One more desperate push and the door flies open. I stumble through it carrying thousands of raindrops and a drenched broken umbrella, the latter of which pops open in the living room. “A little late, doncha think?”
I cannot be the only one who talks to inanimate objects. Why I bother, I do not know. Neither demanding from nor cajoling these seemingly moody items has ever had any effect, at least not in my world.
Take my hair for example. Today it looks sad and in it’s misery will not do anything I ask. Yesterday it cooperated. It’s true, my hair has a mood disorder. Good hair day, bad hair day, nothing I say to it will affect the outcome.
Demanding that a living human who is struggling with a mood disorder just “snap out of it” is like bargaining with a computer that just froze. It simply does not help. Instead, an interesting question to ask of ourselves might be, “Am I concerned about this person or trying to control them?”
Take the following quiz; answer with “Controlling” or “Concerned” as you see fit.
(1) She doesn’t want to listen. That is why she is just sitting there. I’ll tell her again, “Get up, you’re depressed because you won’t do anything about it.” I have the advice my loved one needs. I will tell her even if she does not want to listen.
(2) Life would be easier if he weren’t so moody. There is work to be done and now I am stuck doing it. I tell him, “Hey, we need you to get with the program.”
(3) My friend has just lost her parents to a car accident. Many people are saying, “Let me know if I can do anything to help.” My friend does not know what she needs. She is spending hours a day just staring out a window. Sitting with my friend while she grieves is better than asking what I can do to help.
(4) My son is 42 years old and wasting his life in a loser job. He says he has anxiety. Doesn’t he know his family deserves better? Every time I see him I remind him of his potential and wish him luck in finding a better place of employment.
(5) It is difficult watching my elderly mother struggle with daily life. I have repeatedly told her to sell the house and move into assisted living. It is past time to lay off and respect her wishes. I will just pray now and watch God work.
(6) I miss him. He is my best friend and so withdrawn lately. I want my husband to be there for me again. So I will try to cheer him up by being especially nice tonight.
What did you decide? 1,2,4,and 6 are examples of controlling attitudes and behaviors even if subtle. It’s not wrong to wish life were easier or to want the best for someone. It is crossing the line from concerned love into an attempt at control when our agenda is really for our own good more than for theirs.
It is a valuable lesson to remember – people are not to be “handled,” they are to be accepted.
Whether a person is struggling against Depression, Bipolar Disorder, a Personality Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, Anxiety, or another mental health issue, nothing but compassionate love is worthwhile. Compassion does not reprimand people for their feelings. It does not try to manipulate another’s response to life events.
It listens. It visits. It prays, and allows God to have the whole situation. After all, aren’t our loved ones in better hands with God than with us?
NOTE: I am not a trained or licensed mental health professional. I am not a doctor. I speak only from my experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.