Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Cringing with regret

In 2007 I had a piece published at canadianchristianity.com with the title "Finding Meaning in a Life with Bipolar Disorder." This also happens to be the subtitle of my book A Firm Place to Stand.

Since then 19 people have commented on that article, some of them quite upset with me, especially with my opening line, "Mental illness is not all bad." I have often wished I could rewrite that article, leaving out that line. Because, as people commented, it IS bad. It's like saying cancer isn't all bad. I guess what I was trying to say was that good can come out of trials.

But I agree with those who commented, bipolar disorder is a horrid disease. I believe I myself said in a recent post how I hate this disorder. Last year was a very bad year for me.

This morning I wrote a comment on my own article, saying how I would like to eat my words. I was so wrong to talk the way I did.

I've been invited to write a follow-up article and think I will do that soon. A good project to keep me occupied while I'm without a voice.

I would love your feedback on the article and any thoughts you might have on the topic.

Monday, February 21, 2011

I can't talk

Hi everyone. Over the past week I've had a doozy of a cold. And now, starting yesterday, I completely lost my voice. All I can do is whisper. What a strange feeling to try and say something to my husband and have almost nothing come out. When I want to tell him anything in the least involved, I email him. Weird, eh? I hope I get over this soon because this is really slowing me down.

While I've been sickly I've worked on making Spanish bookmarks for a mission team from our church to take with them. My goal is to make 500 with 15 or so different designs. A lot of work, but I know they're well appreciated, so it feels good to make them.

But what I really want to get going on is working to help more Living Room groups get going. I want to explain Living Room to church representatives, getting them enthused about the ministry. I have some ideas, but first I need a voice so that I can discuss them with my team. How frustrating when you really want to move ahead but things get in the way! Ah well! I need to have patience, don't I?

...And yet, I always feel a sense of urgency when there are things that I see need to be done. I've been reading Chasing Daylight by Erwin McManus, previously published as Seizing Your Divine Moment. McManus writes about the importance of passion. On the back cover the book is described as
"a call to live a life of blazing urgency. We have but one life. We are given one opportunity to pursue our dreams and fulfill our divine purpose. Every moment counts, and we must engage them with fierceness and zeal. Put an end to passive observation, paralyzed by the need for perfect opportunity, and start seizing the raw, untapped potential of your life with God."

That sounds like the recipe for a life of adventure, doesn't it? And that's what Living Room has given me - a life of adventure. I thank God for the journey. I thank Him for the privilege.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The best anti-stigma tactic

On February 9th the Vancouver Sun published an article on the difficulties of removing the stigma of mental illness. Amongst other things, he wrote about the World Psychiatric Associations anti-stigma pilot program conducted in 1996. The program tried out various approaches but found that although people became better informed about the biological basis of mental disorders, their attitude did not change significantly.

Some of the things McKnight does report about the program's findings are very encouraging to me and make me realize that perhaps I'm on the right track with my personal efforts to reduce stigma amongst Christians.

McKnight writes:
"...the pilot program found that by far the most effective way to change attitudes was to engage people in an emotional experience, and the best way to do that was to establish contact between people with mental illness and other members of the public."

"...it's important for members of the public not simply to have contact with psychiatric patients, but to see and hear from successful members of the community who have battled mental illness. ...most members of the public only see mentally ill people when something negative happens, and this is something anti-stigma campaigns must counter.

"Beyond that, the research suggests that campaigns are most effective when they're relatively small, manageable and sustainable, and when they're targeted to a specific audience. Different groups of people differ in their attitudes, after all, hence the best programs are ones designed to address specific attitudes."

This points out to me how important it is for Christians who have - or have had - mental illness to be open about it and educate their church families. Those who are doing well in life would especially be doing a great service if they would tell about the struggles they've had with mental illness.

But, given the stigma that exists, this takes courage. There is always the danger of alienating your Christian friends, especially those who harbour a deeply ingrained stigma or belief about mental illness. It takes a person who is passionate about making the world a better place for those who suffer with mental disorders. It takes compassionate people who want to see these people benefit from a loving and accepting Christian attitude. It takes someone who cares enough to make it possible for suffering people to be encouraged - not discouraged - in their faith.

Are you one of these people? Are you a respected member of your church community who has in the past lived with mental illness? Do you want to take part in making the world a better place?

Tell your story to your church family. Once you've made the topic an ok one, you'd be surprised how many people will come out of the woodwork.