Posts Tagged ‘#mentalhealthweek’

Just days ago the calendar turned to May … the month of warming and blooming and more light and … hope. It is the final, full month of spring.

This month, this week has a focus on mental health in Canada. This means we will see corporations and groups and individuals posting phrases, hashtags and hotline numbers to raise public awareness of mental health issues.

Mental health issues have been around since the Garden of Eden. Like any other (negatively) life-altering, life-threatening human struggles, they came into our human existence, not because God intended them, but because of the human condition originating with a woman, a man and a snake.

When we hear mental health, I think most of us think of what was depicted in black and white movie pictures of crazed people in an asylum. The reality encapsulates a far greater spectrum of disease, disorder and diagnosis.

Though we might think of depression of those melancholy people in our lives who appear to wear a dark cloud, often they are the the loudest, laughing people in a crowd (Robin Williams). Though we might think of those with anxiety as ones who stay in the shadows, the reality is that one can have significant social anxiety, yet be fully out there with people (Oprah Winfrey). Though we might think that one with bipolar disorder is too unstable to be successful in life, there are many who are legends in their fields (Carrie Fisher). These are just a few examples.

I recently became aware of a poem, by Longfellow, called, It is Not Always May. This poem is an upbeat telling of something we all know … that change is part of life, that we can not go back to past times, ages, experiences. It might seem an odd poem to connect with discussion of mental health. Yet …

in the second to last stanza,

is a line that jumped out at me …

it is not always May

and I thought to myself,

myself who, one year ago began a journey to better mental health …

yes! This is the hope that is needed.

The reminder that,

even on the darkest, hardest, most hopeless days …

if we can but look to,

focus on,

the hope of tomorrow …

There are also the words of Jesus, words that apply to all of us as we encounter others. Loving ones with mental health issues is not for the faint of heart, but it is what Jesus instructs, what Jesus modelled :

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
– John 13:34-35

It is Not Always May

The sun is bright, the air is clear, 
        The darting swallows soar and sing, 
    And from the stately elms I hear 
        The blue-bird prophesying Spring.

    So blue yon winding river flows, 
        It seems an outlet from the sky, 
    Where waiting till the west wind blows, 
        The freighted clouds at anchor lie.

    All things are new; the buds, the leaves, 
        That gild the elm-tree's nodding crest, 
    And even the nest beneath the eaves;
        There are no birds in last year's nest!

    All things rejoice in youth and love, 
        The fulness of their first delight! 
    And learn from the soft heavens above 
        The melting tenderness of night.

    Maiden, that read'st this simple rhyme, 
        Enjoy thy youth, it will not stay; 
    Enjoy the fragrance of thy prime, 
        For O! it is not always May!

    Enjoy the Spring of Love and Youth, 
        To some good angel leave the rest; 
    For Time will teach thee soon the truth, 
        There are no birds in last year's nest!

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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In this season of Covid 19, it is not difficult to find ways to love one another, for the need to be loved, to experience love, to feel love are great?

The easiest way to show love is to self isolate, reduce interactions with others, keep our distance. Those who are volunteering at places which meet the needs of the elderly, the homeless, the disadvantaged. There are those who are donating money or goods to various causes.

“This is my commandment,
that you love one another 
as I have loved you.”
John 15:12

During this pandemic and our isolation from society, I have wondered about those, not dealing with Covid 19, but those dealing with an internal, virus-like condition. This condition attacks the mind. This condition can alter the individual’s ability to work, or parent, or study. It can alter their personality, habits, view of the world around them. It can create actions and reactions that are filled with misinterpretation, anger, sadness, doubt, lack of trust, hopelessness, even rage.

“Mental pain is less dramatic than physical pain, but it is more common and also more hard to bear. The frequent attempt to conceal mental pain increases the burden: it is easier to say “My tooth is aching” than to say “My heart is broken.” ― C.S. Lewis

Mental health issues are the invisible struggles of many in our society. Though the fallout of mental health struggles can be easily seen on the sketchier streets of most cities, where substance abuse is one of the symptoms, if we look more close to home, we might discover it’s presence as well.

Symptoms of struggling with mental health can be found in the struggles to look for or maintain a job … or addiction to work. Anger, passivity, apathy. Struggles with relationships resulting in isolation from loved ones or divorce. Sadness, depression or perfectionism. Struggles with their own behaviours, or the behaviours of others. Loneliness, isolation or a constantly filled calendar. Struggles with anxiety, causing an inability to act, withdrawing into themselves and planting a hedge of self protection all around … resulting in near-impossibility of penetration from the help of others.

Those struggling with their mental health need advocates. People who will step in and be their voice … even when they resist, reject and refuse such help. They need people who will dig their feet in the soil beside them, with teflon-like armour (for they may receive opposition to help … adamant denial of a problem … that may injure, deeply). They need people who are willing to go the distance, even if it means (temporarily) losing peace, in order to reach out for help from professionals

… and help from professional must be achieved for health to be restored. Who would not race to contact medical advise if a loved one presented symptoms of Covid 19? Mental health issues can be as dangerous, untreated.

Today is the last day of mental health week, in the province of British Columbia … lets love those around us who are struggling with anxiety, depression, eating disorders, or one of the many other mental health realities that affect our friends, co-workers, family … possibly even within ourselves. It can be a potentially life-endangering struggle …

help them get help, love them … pray for them.

“I find myself frequently depressed – perhaps more so than any other person here. And I find no better cure for that depression than to trust in the Lord with all my heart, and seek to realize afresh the power of the peace-speaking blood of Jesus, and His infinite love in dying upon the cross to put away all my transgressions.” Charles Spurgeon

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So, here in Canada, May 6-13 is Mental Health Week, Sunday, May 10 is Mother’s Day and, to top it all off, this weekend marks eight weeks of self isolation due to Covid 19.

A trifecta is three events that make for a perfect result … I am not so sure that this weekend is so perfect. As a matter of fact, I have been noticing moms lately, pondering how this self isolation might be affecting the mental health of moms, at the various stages of the mom life.

I have been thinking of the moms of littles. They are frequently out for a walk, pushing littles in strollers, carrying them on their backs or at their fronts, holding tiny hands. Their days begin as the sun is lightening the horizon and though their littles might go to bed in the early evening, their nights are frequently interrupted with feedings, changes, soothing and rocking. What a time this is for those moms, with days so full of activity and questions and physical care … with no relief from grandparents, aunties or babysitters. Some have the benefit of a partner with whom they can share the load, but then there are also those who are trying to balance caring for their children while still working, in the same house.

Then there are the moms of school aged kids, who are trying to manage the full house of social distancing, potentially working from home and now, being the tutor that they never signed up for (at least, not knowingly) … all while trying to keep up with the social pressures to learn how to make sour dough bread and Dalgona (whipped coffee). These moms have patience that are being tested and tried every waking hour (their kids outlasting them at days end). The only hope for these mommas, for a break, is to set their alarm for an early hour, before their kids awaken, so that they can pull their tattered brain cells back together, for another day of endless cooking, technology-managing, homework-overseeing, sibling-peace-keeping.

At the far end of the spectrum are the grandmas and great grands, sitting alone in their homes, their care facilities, the hospital. They might be feeling a very real sense of fear for their lives. A fear of their own, their kids and society as a whole as they are perhaps the most at risk of this disease being a threat to their very life. They were lonely before Covid forced us to keep our distance from them. Their days are filled with quiet, little social or physical interaction, time. They long for a visit, a call, a touch.

Then there is the empty nest stage mothering (the one I am currently 2/3 of the way into). Our kids are mostly independent, living their own lives. Our days are largely our own, or occupied by work in some form. We might long to visit our own mothers and grandmothers, to encourage them, help to pass the time, give them a hug. We might ache to help our own kids as they manage life at home with their newborns, their busy children, their socially-starved teens. Maybe we just long for the freedom and safety to embrace our kids again.

For all of these stages of mothering, this is tough time to mother. It is exacerbated when anxiety, depression or other mental health challenges are part of everyday life (for the mom, a child, or spouse/father). Mental health struggles have no boundaries due to gender, age or stage of life. Mental health issues are much like a virus during a pandemic … there is no one immune to it’s touch.

The combination of a special day, social isolation and mental struggles can be just too much for some moms, who are weary, lonely and/or dealing with their own, or their loved one’s mental health struggles.

Maybe what we need this Mother’s Day is understanding that mothering is hard right now. It doesn’t mean that there aren’t joys and delights, that the chests of mom’s aren’t swollen with love for their children, just that, for many moms, it is hard right now.

So, let’s love on our mom’s this day.

Maybe the real trifecta is faith, hope and love. A verse more commonly pulled out at weddings than Mother’s Day. But right now, those are what all mothers, all of us need more of.

May we all look to mothers, to ourselves with those three words. May we all look to God as we struggle through this time, as mothers and as children of them.

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