I’m so thankful my fellow writer, Jessica Brodie, wrote this piece for Glory-Be today. It validates the invisible struggle so many of us are fighting for our kids. I pray it encourages you today. -Andrea
Caregivers of Kids with Invisible Illnesses
By Jessica Brodie
I have a child with mental illness—debilitating anxiety and depression that at times impacts not just her but the harmony of the entire house.
I’m no stranger to these issues, for mental illness runs in my family. Just as some families have a genetic predisposition to diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol, several of my family members struggle with chemical imbalances in the brain.
But it wasn’t until 18 months ago, when I attended a mental health symposium, that I fully began to equate mental illness with physical illness. Prior to that, while I knew it was “real” and “important,” I somehow got the message that mental struggles weren’t “as bad.”
I heard some hard truths at that symposium. One came from United Methodist pastor Dr. Robin Dease, who noted, “Just like cancer, mental illness is a disease that requires treatment.” And Zenethia Brown, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness Mid-Carolina, delivered another hard truth, stating, “We treat ailments of the body different from ailments of the mind.”
“We treat ailments of the body different from ailments of the mind.” – Zenethia Brown
Those statements were game-changers for me, illuminating the bias and misunderstanding I had about mental illness and driving new awareness and compassion within my soul. I’ve always been supportive of people with mental illness, but this newfound knowledge ignited a zeal within me to stand up and speak out as a passionate advocate for mental health awareness—both in my family and for all people.
Yet I must have carried residual bias within me, for two days ago, I was scrolling through Twitter when I came across a statement from a friend that hit hard.
Deborah L. Alten (known on Twitter as @gtargirl), posted, “Some #caregivers take care of their aging parents, some take care of children, and some bravely shoulder the responsibility of caring for loved ones who battle #mentalillness.”
Her words made me stop and stare at the screen. Me? A caregiver?
Me? A caregiver?
And yet that’s who I was, only I hadn’t ever realized that.
See, I’d always thought of “caregiver” as someone who tends a parent with dementia or cares for a spouse with cancer—some physical need. Until I read Deborah’s words, I’d never thought otherwise.
And that’s the bias and misunderstanding still hanging on, for the truth is that mental illness is as much of a malady as physical illness.
Jesus said He came not for the well, for “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick” (Mark 2:17 NIV).
And as we see throughout Scripture, He didn’t only heal illnesses in the body. Though He did heal His share of lepers, the blind, and those with serious fevers, He also healed illness in the mind and soul.
Jesus healed every part of broken people — including their mind.
One example is in the Mark 5, where Jesus called demons out of a man so tortured he was living among the tombs, and He restored the man to his senses (Mark 5:1-20).
Another is in the example of the four friends who lowered their paralyzed friend through the roof, from the Gospel of Luke. In the passage, the men knew Jesus was healing the sick but they could not get access. So these men got innovative.
“When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered (their friend) on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus. When Jesus saw their faith, he said, ‘Friend, your sins are forgiven’” (Luke 5:19-20 NIV).
Immediately, the Pharisees were outraged—who is this man who says he’s like God and can forgive sins?
But Jesus knew what they were thinking. He asked, “Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.’ So he said to the paralyzed man, ‘I tell you, get up, take your mat, and go home.’ Immediately (the man) stood up in front of them, took what he had been lying on, and went home praising God. Everyone was amazed” (Luke 5:23-26 NIV).
Jesus knew sick meant sick—whether that is being unwell in the body, the mind, or the soul.
As He said to the Samaritan woman at the well in the Gospel of John, “Whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14 NIV).
His living water heals us all no matter our infirmity, whether our thirst is from a physical or an emotional need.
Our friends and family battling mental health issues need us to step in like Jesus did. Fierce women model so well how to care for those with physical diseases everyday. Let’s adopt the same intensity as we rally for our people battling invisible illnesses too.
Q: How are you caring for those with mental illness? What’s the hardest part? What gets you through it?
Find your voice in the conversation on Facebook or Instagram.
Jessica Brodie is an award-winning Christian novelist, journalist, editor, blogger, and writing coach and the recipient of the 2018 American Christian Fiction Writers Genesis Award for her novel, The Memory Garden. She is also the editor of the South Carolina United Methodist Advocate, the oldest newspaper in Methodism, and a member of the Wholly Loved Ministries team. Learn more about her fiction and read her faith blog at http://jessicabrodie.com.
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Andrea Chatelain’s mission is to meet women in their struggles and love them forward with God’s truth. She’s a Midwest mom of three, faith and family writer, and college English instructor to immigrants and refugees. She believes Jesus transforms lives when His people boldly seek Him. Her writing reflects her love for Jesus and heart for fellow believers.