Caregivers of Kids with Invisible Illnesses

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

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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.

**Here’s how to GET MORE free encouragement from me right to your inbox! Join the Glory-Be sisterhood, you matter to me, and I’m so grateful you let me serve you:)

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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.

Find Andrea also at WhollyLoved Ministries and her devotionals with WL on YouVersion Bible App and Crosswalk

You can DO this! Here’s how…

My daughter may need eye surgery and it totally freaks me out. I’m going to have to have “the you know what talk” with my son soon and I don’t even want to think about it. Deadlines are looming. Changes are coming. Anxiety much?! Life seems to be more than I can handle most days, but I don’t want to miss the good because I’m focused on the hard. You’ve got a mountain to move too, or everyday hills that are exhausting. But you and I can do this. Here’s how…

Number 1? Give up.

Yep that’s right. Give up everything, but not to just anyone. Hand it over to God. How? Pray with real words of your real stress and ask for what you really need. No fluffy christian words, no chapel required. Just go to a quiet space in your house and let it all out to Jesus telling Him all your fears and stresses and asking Him to do something about it.

Jesus tells us in Mathew 21:21-22 that if we have faith and don’t doubt, that we can move mountains. That our prayers have power to do the impossible, not because we’re awesome, but that the awesome God is listening and ready to move on our behalf.

 

2? Remember your why.

When I feel like giving up I have to remember why I’m doing what I’m doing. And usually it comes back to the fact that I want to love my people. Why will I push on through anxiety and have hard talks and make scary appointments, and write vulnerable things? Because I love my people and I want them to thrive. And that means that sometimes (most times) I have to take the uncomfortable so they can be loved and cared for. Who do you love? What do they need? How can you sacrifice your comfort for their best? Remember your why.

 

3? Rally your people

Last week I let others in when I told my fears to them. And they showed up. Friends texted reminding me they’re here. My sweet cousin came over and helped me learn new ways to help my daughter’s eye issues. It was a big reminder that OTHERS CARE, but they can’t show it if they don’t know it. (hear me laughing at my cheesy rhyme, but it’s true!)

Turns out God doesn’t require or advise you to do life alone. Scripture tells you to come to Him when you’re burdened. Which means you’re never alone in the hard. Jesus sent the disciples out in pairs, He surrounded Himself with 12 close friends and let crowds gather to join His movement of love. You need people too. You need friends and family to step in when you’re tired and weak. To encourage you when you don’t think you have what it takes. To share their wisdom when you have none. Let. Safe. People. In. You will be stronger for it.

Yes, the things God calls you to do are often beyond your capacity. If we trudge along alone, anxiety will wage war on our minds. BUT there’s peace and power as you surrender the scary to Jesus in prayer. There’s courage in remembering your why is bigger than your fear. And there’s support waiting as your invite others into your journey knowing God gave you people to be tangible representatives of His love when you can’t see His face.

 

Find your voice in the conversation on Facebook or Instagram. P.S. Jesus is so incredible! I’m so excited for you as you get to know the One who wants to be your EVERYTHING!

Q: What scares you? What are you avoiding that God’s asking you to do, but it seems too big for you? Who has God already given you as support that you can invite in. Have conversations with God and safe people this week to empower you forward in the face of anxiety.

featured Photo by Joseph Pearson on Unsplash

**Here’s how to GET MORE free encouragement from me right to your inbox! Join the Glory-Be sisterhood, you matter to me, and I’m so grateful you let me serve you:)

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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.

Find Andrea also at WhollyLoved Ministries and her devotionals with WL on YouVersion Bible App and Crosswalk

Done Freaking Out

Anxiety is a beast. It used to control my emotions and hijack my peace. I replayed past mistakes wondering if I was really forgiven. I was frozen in the present afraid of the day. And fretting over the future. Would it all work out? Figuring out anxiety with people wasn’t helping. I needed a divine intervention.

Listen to what our BFF Jesus says to you and me about peace…

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”  John 14:27

Jesus can offer so much more than well meaning friends or family when we are losing it. He doesn’t pat us on the back and say it’ll all be ok. He promises that it’s ok because He is in it with us. Knowing that God is present in every fear, every unsteady situation, every moment of uncertainty gives me peace.

Knowing that God is present in every fear, every unsteady situation, every moment of uncertainty gives me peace. 

How? Through God’s gift of the Holy Spirit. We know anxiety is real even though we can’t see it because we can feel its weight. But I know my God’s Holy Spirit is real even though I can’t see Him because I can feel His peace.

As I’ve chosen to be disciplined in giving hard moments and freak outs to God through prayer and trust, I’ve experienced divine peace. I now have assurance over my past, present, and future that no one can mess with.

Here’s how it plays out in everyday life…

THE PAST… When I start to replay negative thoughts about past screw ups, sin, or hurts, I talk to God about it. I tell Him in prayer everything I think about and ask Him to guide my thoughts to truth. And He does. The Holy Spirit reminds me of truth I’ve read in the Bible that I’m forgiven, that grace is a free gift and cannot be earned, and that God has redeemed my hurts for His glory as I reach out to others in love.

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THE PRESENT… Jesus help me I’m passing a semi with my van full of kids. Lord show me how to get through this day. Father watch over those that I love. Jesus heal my stomach because I can’t be sick today. Those are real prayers I have said this week. Be real with God. With everything. Hand all your stresses over to the one who can actually do something about them. And then trust that He hears and cares.

THE FUTURE… There is no way to prepare for what’s coming down the pike and that is an anxious person’s nightmare. The future can’t be controlled or known or prepared for. It’s unknown to us. But it’s not a surprise to God. So when I feel a freak out coming on about the future, mine, my kids, what am I doing with my life, am I really going to heaven when I die?? All the questions. I am thankful for the time I’ve spent reading truth in Scripture because it reminds me that God is in control when I’m not. He has a history of taking care of His people in the strangest ways. HE had a plan to save us before the world was even formed. So surely He has a good plan for my life and yours if we follow His lead.

Listen, I still STRUGGLE with anxiety, but now I don’t battle alone. I fight human anxiety with divine peace. That’s my prayer for you too. That you would let God in when you feel suffocating worry. Prepare your mind for battle by reading truth in your Bible. And fight back with the words of assurance He reminds you of through His Holy Spirit as you come near to Him. Jesus says in today’s verse that He gives us peace. The question is will we take it? 

 

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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.

Find Andrea also at WhollyLoved Ministries and her devotionals on crosswalk.com