Compassionate Love: Displaying Compassion for Those Who Struggle with Mental Illness, Addiction, and Abuse (c)2018 Nancy Virden, Always The Fight Ministries
One year ago, I was struggling with severe stress, doing what I knew to do to cope, and having some rather good days despite inner turmoil. I was in pain emotionally, however the drive to push forward and change how I feel had become somewhat automatic in recent years.
Familiar depression and darker thoughts visited in January, February, and March. I was never in danger of self-harm, yet wondered dozens of times each day why I was trying so hard. Grief over personal loss, a terrible sense of rejection, and a loss of focus ministry-wise held me in mental chains.
In trying to express this to a few carefully selected confidants, I watched as they reacted by backing-off. Honestly I cannot blame them because they feared for me, and in the past I have unfortunately given reason to their concern. It was disappointing though, mostly that the work I’ve done to combat stigma did not seem to have had an impact. I felt very alone.
What no one knew is what all this was doing to my physical health. Severe anemia due to stress-induced gastric blood loss landed me in the hospital twice. Complications to one of those admissions caused harm to an ankle that has still not healed. July to September were spent in a wheelchair, and a cane has accompanied me since.
Eventually, Always The Fight Ministries changed, as instead of giving up (the biggest temptation), it was rearranged to require less of my focus. The details to all this are many. Those decisions took months and in some ways continue still.
Change is good much of the time. A direct result of my health problems led me to switch to an accessible church where I discovered my gifts are needed and desired. The care ministry there provides opportunity to use my art as gifts to the sick. I’m excited to be teaching a scripture memory class beginning this Sunday. Old friends attend this church, and chances to meet many new ones abound.
The personal loss and grief that hurt so much pushed me to find solutions and healthy ways to cope. Feeling alone inspired weekly dinners with family, saying yes to social events more regularly, and inviting people to my home. I learned to proactively combat isolation.
It took awhile for the overwhelming emotions to dissipate completely. By September, joy was filling my hopes and dreams once again. That is when the best part of 2017 occurred.
On a warm afternoon, I wheeled to the homes of several neighbors and invited them to a weekly neighborhood Bible study at my house. The result so far is six women besides myself, studying the Word of God. It’s been a blast introducing these new friends to Bible stories, and to the God those stories prove.
This past year was one of great challenges. It ended with renewed sense of purpose, and satisfaction in doing what I enjoy. Learning to accept and nurture my emotional needs has been a little like being set free.
Here’s to 2018 and whatever it may hold. I’m stronger than I was 12 months ago, and of course, my Lord has not changed. He walked me through it all and I know he will never let me go.
Today’s Helpful Word