Prologue: What if…
What if we could walk in this world, knowing that many folks are trying to function as best as
they can? There are not enough psychiatric hospitals in Michigan, not enough in
the USA, and not enough in the world. Mental Illness is real. It’s so real and prevalent we
want to deny it .But what if instead of denying it and/or thinking it’s the worst thing out there, we
saw it instead as a something to steward, something coming from the heavenly Father, the
Creator of the universe? IT IS THAT. And those who are given it (mental illness) are the
stewards of it; those who are the parents and legal guardians and the consumers themselves
are in a sense, stewards.
What is a steward? In Pride and Prejudice, the steward was in charge of the estate, to make
an accounting of it, preserve it, and multiply it. What if we saw ourselves in a like manner?
Rather than be afraid and embarrassed, we accept it, embrace it, and face it head on? We
glean insights and pass those on to others. We would see that not only is the best care given,
but we would choose to learn from the consumer so that insight and wisdom could be
gleaned and multiplied many times over.
What if we shed some of our judgmental attitudes and gave folks the benefit of the doubt and
encouraged him/her to just “be” , within the bounds of good morals? What if we encouraged
him/her to write the book or journal, to paint the art – however abstract or non realistic we may
think, to make music, to make pottery even if it’s not “perfect”, to sing new songs?
I’m not purporting chaos, but rather to foster an environment where one can make a piece of
art, a piece of pottery or sing a new song. If someone with a mental illness, for example, was in
pottery class and he attended every class except when sick once or twice, did every written
assignment (none were ever returned with a grade, mind you, in the case I am familiar with), did
every pottery assignment and end up with a D, is that really legitimate? Maybe the strict criteria
should be forgotten for a moment. Let the person peacefully and calmly try and create. We
may be surprised at what comes out/is made. If it’s a speech, forget the strict time limit. If it’s
cooking, buy the ingredients even if we think they may not go together.
LISTEN UP: THERE ARE CREATIVE, INTELLIGENT FOLKS TRAPPED IN MINDS THAT
HAVE BEEN WIRED TO MISFIRE. If we stigmatize and blame the person, we are in
essence BLAMING GOD. God made this person in HIS image and
HE DOES NOT MAKE MISTAKES. As author, Stephanie Hubach says, “Disability is a normal
part of life in an abnormal world.” He may have made this person with bipolar or schizophrenia
to help you, dear reader, yes you, the sibling or parent, friend or teacher to suck it up and grow
in character. Did you ever consider that? Like me, I thought I knew what love was, but I realize
it was a shallow and bare bones love. It wasn’t until my family member was diagnosed that
flesh grew on the bareboned love and more of hesed love developed.
Mental Illness is a goldmine for figuring out how to really live. The Proverbs is pertinent to
those with mental illness. In fact, living with mental illness as a consumer or family member
makes the Proverbs come alive. You see, Mental Illness helps us understand the Creator
God better. Mental Illness is in a sense, an unseen disability (compared to a palsy or bodily
deformity, eg.) and it stretches us in ways we never thought possible; we grow in ways we
never thought possible. If we see it as coming from God, as something to steward, this may
help us change our perspective.