Compassionate Love:Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness (c)2014 Nancy Virden
Today’s blog begins a series of stories I’ve hesitated to tell publicly. I do not want to discourage you or anyone from seeking help for mental health problems. Those who ask for it deserve wise counsel. Many, skilled, talented, and caring people work in the mental healthcare professions.
Regardless of how or why we end up in a psychiatrist’s or therapist’s office, it takes time to get to know and trust those persons with whom we want to discuss some of the most difficult parts of our lives. That is reality.
Try not to let this series scare you out of trying. Instead, use it as a guide for finding a skilled counselor that fits you just right.
In 2004, the previous 18 months had included the funerals of my mother and both parental in-laws. I’d cleaned up two estates largely by myself. Prior to his death I was my father-in-law’s advocate in his nursing home. My brother walked out of my life and I hadn’t heard from him since our mother’s passing. My marriage was in shambles, and it was becoming harder to pretend it wasn’t.
It was too much. I had very few skills for handling difficult emotions, and my mood began to drop. I believed it was in my best interest to find a Christian or “Biblical” counselor. This kind of professional was surprisingly difficult to find. Finally, I stumbled upon a woman who had set up an office in her home.
Her greeting was less than warm and gave me pause. However I excused it as her busyness, or an accident. She collected paperwork while I waited. Her warmth had not risen a notch when she invited me to sit down on her office couch.
I’m telling you this detail because I want you to see how my instincts were right. In the world of coulda-shouldas I wish I’d listened to my gut.
I was struggling with depression. It took effort to mention my work in the community because after recent losses, it was all I had. Self-doubt swirled in my head and it seemed nothing I did was good enough.
I told her anyway, speaking of children precious to me, and recent visits to their homes.
She interrupted. Leaning forward and locking her eyes on mine, she said, “You do know Nancy, God cannot use you because you are fat.”
Each time I have shared that story, the reaction goes something like this. “What????? That’s terrible!!”
And I agree. I went from struggling and looking for help to having my one sense of purpose destroyed. In my fragile state, her words were poison.
I did not return to see her and there was not strength to seek someone else. 6 months later I was hospitalized for severe depression for the first time.
Listen to your gut, trust your judgment when meeting a therapist or counselor. Call ahead and ask a few questions. If I had, I may have picked up on that lack of warmth.
Do not quit trying to find professional support – many good people are out there! Consider whether someone is licensed, reputable, seems to fit your personality, and above all is experienced in your specific area of need. The next five parts to this series will explain more.
I’ll pick up the saga in story 2. Stay tuned.
NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.
If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help can be yours.
*picture from greyman on rgbstock.com