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When Someone You Love Has a Mental Illness

Dear friend,

I see you. I see your smile. I also see through your façade. I am very adept at playing the game all too well. The one you love is battling the dark, and you are running out of light. Your heart is begging for a flicker, a spark, and a shred of hope on which to hold. Dear friend listen, I see you, and you are not alone.

November is mental health month … 

The CDC says that about 9% of Americans report they are depressed at least occasionally, and 3.4% suffer from major depression.

Let’s just get one thing straight–it’s an illness. You cannot control it. You cannot prevent it. It doesn’t compromise your faith. It is not sacrilegious. It makes you no less of a child of God or a person of value. It is not an act of choice or laziness. It is not predictable.

But it is hard. Especially when you are not the one effected, you just love them.

I have read so many times about the one who suffers from depression. It find it strange that I have never read anything about the family members it will effect. No man (or woman) is an island. There will be ripples in the water. Currents you are unable to control.

Though I wish it were not the case, I am an expert in this field. As long as I have been on this journey, I have held the hands of those who are battling this dragon.

I have learned a few things over the decades:

It is not your fault. Nothing you did caused the abyss to open. And nothing you do will shut it faster.
The house will never be clean enough.
The kids will never be quiet enough.
You can’t wish it away or even command it to leave–so stop trying.
It is not their fault either. You would never get angry at one who has a medical issue. You can’t expect your love one to just will it away.
Take appropriate action. Just like if someone you know is sick, you may have to drag them to the doctor. Sometimes sick people are too ill to get help alone. You may have to step in here and lend a hand because with time and the right resources, there is a good chance for healing.
You pray. Pray for yourself, your family, and your loved one. No one knows their heart better than God and no one knows the pain either.
Do the next thing. For years I would sit and wait for the light to come back into my loved one’s eyes. I would beg and plead and cry and pray and all that got me was frustrated. I had to learn the hard way that life must go on. You do what is next.
That ballgame? You go and you take pictures and you cheer.
That church service–you attend.
The family outing you planned for months–you take.
You see mental illness is crippling. Just like someone with cancer or diabetes. No matter how hard you fight to keep it at bay, some days it is just out of control. You can’t yell them out of it. And while it seems hard to believe, they want out more than you want them out.

It is really simple. I guess and it boils down to this: Love the unlovely.

Find the situations where no words are needed. Sit on the couch, lay in the bed, or give a simple hug that says, “I am here, I have been here, and I will be here when this is over.”

My dear friend, there is hope. All storms rage, but ultimately they all have one thing in common, they end. Find comfort in that truth and hold on.

When you find yourself asking “How is this ever going to end?” Rest in the promise that God is God of the mountains and God of the abyss. There is nowhere out of HIS help or reach. When you ask “What am I supposed to do now?”

There is hope. It may take a little while, so be patient.

But the answer is: “We get better.”

When have you experienced depression or loved someone who is dealing with it? How did you feel and what was your response?

About Raney Mills

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  1. Hi- this is all very true. Good article. These words need to be spoken and read.

  2. Good Article, Raney. Very informative. I’m just finally realizing that some of my disappointing days may be the result of depression. It is a slippery slope and hard to clearly discern at times. Thank you for the info.

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