Tag Archives: breathe

What Comes After the Storm of Mental Illness Calms

Now, what?”

I asked myself this a few months ago. After years, consisting of very long days, of family struggles with mental and medical conditions, the season began to change. At first, I dared not believe it. So many times, there had been brief glimpses of light as we forged through the darkness. But those moments seemed to fade quickly. Once again, we would be left trying to find our footing and walk forward together: my daughter, my two sons, my husband and myself. To say the relationships between us were strained would be an understatement. When one person in a family struggles, everyone is affected.

The dynamics between us does not resemble the picture I had in my mind before my husband and I started a family. My daughter began treatment for bipolar disorder at 9 years old (she is now age 15). My older son (age 18) has battled anxiety and depressionalong with a host of unexpected health concerns along the way. The youngest son (age 13), whom I call the “comic relief,” manages mild anxiety. None of their conditions define them, but they do affect the climate of our home. It hasn’t always felt like the refuge I hoped my husband and I would create. We have tried to initiate traditions, affirm each other’s strengths and attempt to carve moments of time together. We have sought out therapy, utilized resources and developed a support system. Humor has even found its way in. Yet, we couldn’t always keep the storms at bay.

Truthfully, the winds, at times, seemed so forceful I wasn’t sure I had the strength to resist them. My husband and I could be a strong force together; yet each of us developed our own methods of survival. We also felt as if the storm was invisible to everyone else. Mental illness carries a stigma. There are plenty of opinions regarding how to “fix” your child. “If we would just . . .” Meanwhile, the unpredictable nature of episodes and triggers as well as the financial stress and school concerns mount. And in the midst of it all, you are trying to sustain your marriage, pay bills and pray for endurance, provision and healing.

It occurred to me one day that this long season of storms may have finally transitioned into a season of calm. When you are so used to living in survival mode, you don’t always realize the storm has weakened. Weeks no longer seemed packed with doctors’ appointments, evaluating medications, financial distress, school battles, emotional burnout. It may be the beginning of a season of restoration. On the surface, a calm after the storm sounds welcoming. But, truthfully, the implications are daunting.

How do you begin cleaning up the mess?

Branch by branch, piece by piece. I remember a horrific storm that erupted suddenly about 10 years ago. When it was safe, we made our way outside to access the damage. Thankfully, our belongings remained intact. However, our street and our yard were filled with tree limbs and branches scattered everywhere. In order to move toward restoration, you must begin cleaning up the mess one branch at a time. It may take a while. And I’ve learned (reluctantly) that’s OK

Restoring our relationships with each other will take time. One branch at a time. I often wonder how my kids would relate to one another had our situation been different. I will never know the answer. It would be tempting to dwell on the “what ifs,” but that would require looking back. We are heading forward. The medical concerns have not resolved. The winds may indeed return. We have found space to breathe and rest. We have found our footing once again and set our eyes on God; who is in the business of making things new. I find inspiration in the promise given to the Israelites:

See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
Isaiah 43:19 (NIV)

Originally published at http://mudroomblog.com/cleaning-up-mess/, this post also appeared at https://themighty.com/2016/10/when-things-calm-down-parenting-children-with-mental-illness/

 

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Learning to Breathe in the Face of Blustery Winds

 

As I step outside, my face stings from the chilled, blowing air pushing its way through my body.

I…can’t…breathe….

My throat is caught off guard; attempting to take in air at a slower pace. Yet, the frigid heavy wind finds my mouth and forces its way in; making resistance difficult.  A battle of the colliding forces entangles.

My scarf! Quickly wrapped around my neck, it provides  a warm safe space to allow the life giving process inside to proceed.

ah……………….At once, the air flows out of my lungs and back in rhythmically. No longer stifled. I am surrounded by a fortress of protection.

Two years ago, I confronted an equally blustery wind. Blowing with blustery force into my soul. My lungs initially blindsided by the cold grasped to exhale. My eyes witnessing the unforeseen storm of sickness and epilepsy emerge in my teen son. Death of my husband’s beloved grandmother. Death of a dear family friend. Death of an aunt

I….can’t….breathe….

But breath is essential to life. The forces of death and life collide. A battle entangles. I fight. hard. I need a fortress of protection….and like the scarf, I find it right in front of me….and behind me….and next to me…..

Yahweh. The Holy Spirit. One breathing life into my humanity; One breathing life into my soul. Ruach and Pneuma; together awakening the physical and spiritual rhythms necessary for me to move forward to the next moments.

“This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life,…”   Deut. 30:19

(This post is written for the Five Minute Friday writing community. Come join us at http://www.katemontaung.com)