Monday, December 31, 2012

Bringing good out of bad

I contemplated this as the ten year anniversary of the injury that started it all came and went, bringing no Mayan Apocalypse with it.
"To the limited extent that I suffer, I want that suffering to be productive, to bring about holiness and a purity of character.  I am grateful that the Bible is honest about the bad in this world: the bad is bad.  Too often Christians seem to want to say that because God allows suffering, that suffering is somehow good in itself.  This is not true; God is good, but sin and suffering are not.  They are not what God intended for this world and they will not be there in heaven.  But God does have the power to bring good out of bad (which is not the same as saying that a bad situation is inherently what God wants), and He is able to work in all things (good, bad and ugly) for the good of those who love Him (Rom 8:28)." - Tanya Marlow
I choose to believe this.

Happy New Year.

Family depression

The recent school shooting has brought mental illness and how families deal with it into spotlight once again.  The blame game has been played (the mother should have known, should have gotten her son help, the signs were there, etc.).  It's good to try to look for root causes to prevent future problems if at all possible, but her son was legally an adult.  And just because you want to help your adult children or adult siblings, doesn't guarantee that they get help, or that if they get help, they will be fixed by it.  The human mind is an unbelievably complex thing.

This is much on my mind as I watch and wonder if my sister is spiraling further into mental illness.  She is an adult, nearly 30, and she has suffered from depression (untreated) for years.  We have asked her if there is some reason for the way she treats my father (the kind of treatment one would expect from someone toward their rapist/abuser).  She has promised us that it's nothing like that.  He just sniffs, and she can't stand it.  That's all. 

Depression runs in my family.  (As Miles says, "We give it to each other.")  My mom has explained the briefest bit of her childhood struggles with it in her dysfunctional family.  She later sought treatment for anxiety and panic disorders, and her mental health has improved.

My sister has not sought treatment.  Instead, she has always had many excuses.  We are reaching the end of our patience for excuses. 

We, her loving family, are tired of watching her hurt us.  Some of us think she is fully in possession of her mental faculties and is choosing to act in cruel ways.  I think maybe this is related to OCD, depression, and maybe other mental health problems.  Either way, she needs help.

I think a reason I lean towards mental illness is because I don't want to believe that she is capable of deciding to act with such cruely while mentally balanced.  I don't want her treatment of my father and her distancing from my mother and her decision to end her friendship with me to be possible if she is in full possession of her wits.  That would hurt too much.  I would rather have something to blame it on.  I have that luxury because I live several states away and am naturally someone who does not need the company and affection of others. 

My parents who live with her do not have that luxury.  They just have the hurt.  And it's eating at them, threatening their mental health.  It has to be stopped.  But how?  I'm praying.  But I can't help thinking there is no right answer.  Having a loved one with mental health issues is not a simple situation with a single right answer.

If you are ever tempted to point fingers and blame when you encounter a situation like this, well, maybe hold that thought.  Humans and human relationships and love in a fallen world are messy, and it's always easier to point from outside, especially after the fact, to try to make neat conclusions once all the chips have fallen.  But inside, it is sad and scary and messy.  Please remember that.  Be careful how you judge.

And please pray.  Because I don't really know how to right now.

Give your friends a chance

An acquaintance recently informed us that she has suffered with depression and OCD for a couple of decades.  She was so nervous, it hurt to watch her.  I wondered whether she would start unraveling the blanket if she ran out of tissues to shred.  She made eye contact in stuttering dashes.

Oh, I thought, some things make sense now.  And then I thought, Why is she acting like she's coming out to a hostile audience?  She knows two others in the group have wrestled with depression (and still do).  Why is this so hard for her to "admit"?

As she told us she'd been kind of suicidal, I said a little prayer of thanks to God that I had been too typically procrastinatory to actually write that email I had been thinking about sending because I thought maybe she was just doing what my other friends who just wanted to move on had done because they were too cowardly to just say it to my face and break things off cleanly and openly.  Don't leave us hanging and wondering if you're going to come this week or ever again, I would have said in a more polite way because I was afraid she was just dithering in a passive aggressive way and afraid of hurting our feelings with the truth.  It's a very good thing I didn't send that email, which would have kindly assured her that if she didn't want to be part of the group anymore, she could just tell me, and I would tell everyone else and no one would hold it against her. 

Because that would really not have been a good thing for her to hear while she was trapped in negative thoughts, withdrawing from us all, as she told us she has done to many friends, because she didn't want to inflict herself on us, especially not when she was like that. 

I thought of a couple of my friends who pulled away in this way for some of these reasons because they were depressed.  Were they, like her, afraid of finding their friends really weren't that good of friends? That their friends would slowly drift away, always having a good excuse, not saying anything, not returning calls until no one called anymore?  Did they, afraid of finding out that truth, take the yoke upon themselves and wrap themselves in silence because forcing everyone away and leaving them seemed preferable to being left by them?  Probably.

My heart hurts.

How do I tell her that I am honored that she told us these things, yet that I beg her to please oh please give those friends a chance.  Because while it's true that some of them--even most of them and maybe all of them--will leave, some might stay, and she owes it to herself and those friends to uncover this truth?

"I was writing to figure it out, writing to get through it, writing because I couldn’t remember how to pray." - Addie Zierman

My heart hurts.  And all I can pray is, "Please, God . . ."

There are no unanswered prayers

Why is it, do you suppose, that in evangelical Christian sub/culture, we seem to believe that the only answered prayer is one where we get what we want?  As if the completely reasonable answers of "No" or "Wait" (which really sound the same practically speaking) are not actually legitimate answers for God the Father to give His children when we ask for something we, in all our finitude, want.

It's in songs, in church sermons, even in the words of some of my favorite contemporary bloggers.  It makes me so very sad.  Do we really believe that God just ignores some of our requests for some reason?  That He's not listening?  Where did this traditional view of things come from? 

Any insight you have would be appreciated.