When you have a loved one struggle through a mental health issue, you almost stop breathing. You hold your breath each day and ask yourself: “Is he back? Is that him? Will he be staying for a while this time?”
The answer to “How is ____ doing?” has never been: “Aweome, totally back to normal!” or “Oh, all better, thanks!”
Because you don’t trust; you don’t let yourself hope too far into the future; you don’t assume brighter days. You wake up and weep in your Wheaties for the quickest flash of a smile, no matter how fleeting.
I will be dedicating some of my upcoming blogs to laying down the masks and shame associated with mental wellness (and lack of wellness) issues because we’ve personally dipped enough times into this pool to want to come alongside others and say:
“You’re not alone.”
I don’t pretend to understand or relate to every facet of mental health struggles. I am definitely not an expert on the subject. But I am ready to tell our story—which was first my story—and now has touched another one of us. And I won’t stop telling it, in careful honoring of those who struggle, until I feel the hope that carried us through has reached its proper audience.
This story isn’t just ours. It belongs to so many folks. As I finish up these first two books, I would appreciate prayer for this endeavor, for its reach, and for its purpose. I want to shine light in dark places and bring hope to the brokenhearted because that’s what Jesus did for us.
Below is a little glimpse of our better days lately because good moments are to be pinned up on a board and highlighted in bright neon, sang about, and danced to. We find joy and hope in each victory, and we thank God for sustaining us through both still-on-the-runway, engine-maintenance days as well as paper-airplanes-in-full-flight days because there is so much to be learned from both.
I grabbed a few hours at my favorite coffeehouse in town today. Was going to catch up on bills and blog writing, but as I looked down into my laptop case, there was a paper airplane sticking out, with my young son’s handwriting on it.
I really don’t remember where we were when it got tucked in there. A few weeks ago at one of my daughter’s activities maybe? Anyway, it was in perfect condition as I pulled it from my bag. I wanted to send it flying across the room in honor of my son.
Because he was flying again too.
After a rough battle with anxiety, depression, and OCD this year, he was soaring again. He was reaching new heights of freedom. And he was not stuck in such a dark place right now. His “checking behaviors” were mostly in normal range again, and his germophobia was under control.
And it was more than just the analogy of a paper airplane with such lightened weight taking flight across my favorite hangout. It was the fact that sometimes our hopes and prayers for better days are sitting there all folded up, waiting for the day when they can be pulled out of the bag and celebrated—for when they can even be thrown out because we don’t need to hold so tightly to them anymore.
I can let go right now. I can send this off into the wind. For months, despite some turnaround, I have not felt like I could. I’ve felt like I still needed to be cautious, optimistic, not fully believing.
Today—today I saw the airplane, and I know God wants me to rest in this.
Even though some answers still have yet to come in.
Even though I don’t know or understand everything past, present, or future.
So I’m headed out now to send that thing off into the air. And once it takes flight, I will send my prayers with it, knowing they’ve been heard.
It’s time to trust the rest of the runway to the One in the air traffic control tower Who sees it all.
Psalm 34:17-18, David (not yet king) speaking
The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
Praise the LORD. How good it is to sing praises to our God, how pleasant and fitting to praise him! The LORD builds up Jerusalem; he gathers the exiles of Israel. He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name [emphasis mine].
When you’re loving someone through a #mentalhealth struggle, the answer to “How is ____?” is almost never: “All better, thanks!”
— Bonnie Lyn Smith (@BonnieLynSmith) June 28, 2015
*This blog was shared at Mom 2 Mom Monday Link-Up, Simply Inspired Wednesdays, Saturday Soiree, Tell His Story, Pick Your Pin Tuesday, RaRa Link-Up, A Little R & R, Coffee and Conversation, and Grace & Truth.
**More anecdotal stories about our anxiety/depression/OCD journey and an everyday relationship with God can be found in Not Just on Sundays: Seeking God’s Purpose in Each New Day (includes Book Club Discussion Questions).