Mental Illness & What Love Requires

Chris and Evan at Lake Atitlan, Guatemala, December 2021

Evan spoke openly about his “brain worms”, not literal worms, but his preferred term for the mental illnesses known as Bipolar II and PTSD. His openness and eventual acceptance of mental illness enabled him to help others and to receive the support he needed. He advocated for an end to the stigma and shame surrounding mental health diagnoses.

Chris has his own “brain worms” which have isolated him at times. Still, he knows he was loved and accepted by Evan because Evan spent time with him, told him he loved him and affirmed his gifts and skills. Christopher was the only member of our family to make it, a year ago to Guatemala, for Evan’s “40th birthday rehearsal party”. That trip is a most treasured memory for Chris and he felt loved not only by Evan, but by Evan’s friends too.

When an adult son or daughter is diagnosed with schizophrenia or dementia, the responsibilities of family members may be daunting, but they are clear. Families are compelled to do everything they can to care for them. It’s clear that they’re not safe without help.

However, with a diagnosis of epilepsy, (seizures controlled with medication) along with clinical depression and anxiety, as is they case with our son Chris, we’ve struggled to identify our responsibilities. Clinical depression can lead to job challenges, problems with prescriptions, follow-through with doctor visits, serious injuries, and a host of other problems.

Should we remind our 42-year-old son to call his doctor? To get his prescriptions refilled? To get up and get going in the morning? To take his meds? Should he stay with us so we can make sure he gets the care he needs after a grand mal seizure or are we, as friends have suggested, in danger of enabling him in a way that’s not healthy? How much can he do for himself though his left arm is in a sling and must remain immobile? All these questions and more have been flying through my mind the past few days.

But we’ve decided there is only one question that matters. What does love require?

Friday love required a seven and a half hour visit to the emergency room after a grand mal seizure and a dislocated shoulder.

Even before that, we had decided that love required an invitation and a plane ticket for Chris to come to Houston with us for the holidays so we can all be together this first Christmas without Evan.

Love more recently required a discussion about, and a mutual decision that Christopher will live with us when we move to Houston, until he is stable. As he improves there will be more discussions about what it means to be contributing members of our household. A time may come when love requires that Chris pack his bags and venture out on his own, but that time is not now.


 Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, [love] is not pompous, it is not inflated,

it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury,

it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.

It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never fails.

1 Corinthian 13:4-8a

Depression and anxiety often improve. Chris was doing much better before Evan died. We hope and pray he finds his stride again. And in the meantime, we will love him and receive his love for us. We will continue to learn from each other the things we can only learn by doing what love requires

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6 Comments Add yours

  1. Asela Calvert says:

    Amen. So beautifully discerned. The power of Love.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. lanibogart says:

      You know this struggle and are a fine example to me!

      Like

  2. cburkitt says:

    Hitting the mark once again with this vulnerable and very personal post. Thank you, Lani.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Sheryl Hobé says:

    Thank you for sharing this. I have been a life long warrior, fighting to change the every day stigma associated with mental illnesses. I have a son who is Bipolar II and who ch I sevtovself medicate as a teenager. At 40+ he still self medicates. I have buried family members, including my beloved nephew, Jonathan, who lost their personal battles with Bipolar and Schitzoaffective disorder. The easiest way to “connect” heart to heart, brain to brain, with those who battle these illnesses is to say to them you cannot really see my Lupus or other autoimmune disorders I’ve lived with most of my life, the pain and suffering are often more than I think, without Christ AS my strength, I would crumble. Just like you can’t outwardly see “see” the illness of bipolar, you cannot see many many chronic biological disorders as well. Illnesses manifest themselves in different ways, at different times, and it would be so cold and harsh of us to judge one another because of an illness. Please do not think that a person with a mental illness is any different from those of us with other types of long term chronic illnesses. Please don’t place those with a mental illness in a category that causes judgement and condemnation, rather hold the hand or heart of a brother or sister who suffers from any type of illness, love them, pray for them encourage them, support them, lift them up in their darkest hours. Embrace those with mentaln llnesses as you would a loved one with diabetes or MS or cancer or any other long term difficult illness. I don’t want to bury another loved one who commits suicide. YOU can be the light in their lives, reflecting the light of our Saviour.

    Like

    1. lanibogart says:

      Thank you so much for your helpful perspective.

      Like

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