Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness (c)2014 Nancy Virden
Little Billy (not his real name) looked up at his grandmother who was glaring back at him. He seemed confused yet unsurprised. I watched as she scolded him and his attention wandered. By all appearances he was not listening.
Her voice rose in intensity and volume, demanding he pay attention. Billy didn’t. Instead, he wandered off in the middle of one of her sentences and she went ballistic.
“Billy!” she said. “When we get home your behind is getting beat. Unless you come over here right now and listen to me!”
He came. He looked at her red, screaming face for half a second and I could see his mind leave the scene. I don’t know where he went, but he was gone. Physically he also soon disappeared, running out of the room into more trouble.
Billy has ADHD, Attention-deficit with Hyperactivity Disorder. Not having to deal with this disorder in my family, I am no expert. However, I’ve heard about medications for ADHD like Ritalin.
ADHD medications aren’t behavior-controlling any more than antidepressants are happiness-producing. These medical therapies take unhealthy brains and bring them to a healthier state, allowing the owners of said brains to make reasonable choices. Some recipients will be select to make good decisions, and some not-so-good.
In Billy’s case, his family refused to consider Ritalin or any other drug to help him. His wandering mind was incapable of lengthy focus. He was in constant motion. Billy was smart, and in my opinion a potential powerhouse for good if given a chance. Instead, relatives took turns taking him in. He was told he could live with one family at a time until each grew sick of him, then he would have to move on.
Imagine the difference for Billy if he’d been able to experience love that lasted more than a few weeks at a time, or at all. While his sometimes outrageous behavior created difficulties for me and others in a church setting, it was impossible to miss the could-have-beens. An untreated mental health condition trapped him in a cycle of effort, scolding, and banishment.
I see a theme running throughout mental challenges. When supports do not understand the condition, judgments made tend to be unfair and disadvantageous to the one who is struggling.
Let’s be willing to learn, to read, and ask hard questions. Let’s pursue wisdom and understanding so our love is tender and not exasperated. Compassionate love is ours to share.
NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with 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 qualitystockphotos