Growing in Awareness

May 4, 2017

Growing in Awareness

Today I am so excited to welcome a special guest to Embracing the Unexpected. Please meet Catherine P. Downing. She has a beautiful way of encouraging others to see God in the midst of caring for a loved one with mental illness.  Maree Dee

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, though for one out of five families, so are the other 11 months. We are one of those families.

Our son Douglas was first diagnosed with bipolar disorder at age 22, but it wasn’t until he turned 34 that he was able to accept that diagnosis and receive treatment. During those 12 years, and even in these better days, my own awareness of mental illness has grown, evolved, and matured.

One of the main things I became conscious of early on is that we are not alone. A wide array of people, organizations, support groups, and fellow-sojourners are already aware of the mental health landscape and can walk with us. For example, The Grace Alliance and the National Association on Mental Illness (NAMI) have both support groups and training/resources.  Books like Troubled Minds by Amy Simpson and Grace for the Afflicted by Matthew S. Stanford provide terrific information and insights.

On the other hand, I also had a growing awareness that stigma is real and ignorance abounds. That means that our family has had to be prepared to speak up against prejudice and to help inform others of the medical basis of mental illnesses. We’ve also learned how to talk about the realities experienced by those who live with mental health disorders and their families.

Perhaps the community that has most needed a greater awareness about mental illness is our own church family. It seems a part of our ministry to our clergy and friends is to help them become aware of our needs and to share how to pray with and for us. We’ve been able to explain how to ask appropriate questions and to coach them on approaching families with mental health difficulties with non-patronizing compassion. We have tried to help them learn that severe mental health conditions such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and major depression are persistent illnesses, and “to love us well, they must love us long.”

But across the years, by far the greatest awareness I have developed is a deep and abiding recognition of the goodness, faithfulness and generous mercy of God. He is, indeed, ever present in times of trouble, and He truly never leaves us nor forsakes us. His wisdom has always arrived at the right time, His provision consistently shows up at the moment of need, and His comfort encircles us day and night in the most difficult of times.

During this month of Mental Health Awareness, I also look back at all the other months that have been filled with mental health challenges. I can see how our family has not only survived but has thrived with the help of support groups, with the prayers of our church family and with the daily evidence of God’s redemptive grace.


Catherine has captured her family’s mental health journey with her son and her God in a powerful little book, Sparks of Redemptive Grace: Seeking and Seeing God Amid a Loved One’s Mental Illness. She also blogs regularly to offer hope and spiritual insight to families on the same journey. 31 Days, 31 Ways 2 Pray 4 Families, is the prayer guide she developed to help church friends know how to keep families’ needs before the Lord. And be sure to follow Sparks of Redemptive Grace on Facebook where Catherine regularly posts helpful articles and links to resources related to mental illnesses.


Giveaway  

Leave a comment to be entered into a drawing to receive a beautiful copy of 31 Days, 31 Ways 2 Pray 4 Families. I will contact 5 winners at the end of the month.   Maree Dee

25 Comments

  1. Reply

    Maree Dee

    Thank you! Catherine did a great job on this post. Maree

  2. Reply

    Maree Dee

    Thank you! I would love to hear more about what you are doing. Maree

  3. Reply

    Brandi Raae

    Thanks for sharing Catherine’s story at Literacy Musing Mondays. Hopefully, her experience in this trial will enable her to help and comfort others. 🙂 Blessings.

    1. Reply

      Maree Dee

      Brandi – I am sure Catherine’s story will help and comfort others. I know it does for me. Maree

    2. Reply

      Maree Dee

      Hi Brandi,

      You were one of our lucky winners to receive the beautiful copy of
      31 Days, 31 Ways 2 Pray 4 Families. It is the prayer guide, Catherine Downing, our guest blogger, developed to help church friends know how to keep families’ needs with Mental Health challenges before the Lord.

      If you could please send me the address you would like it mailed to I will mail it next week. Do not put your address here in the reply sections. Please send me an email at maree.dee@embracingtheunexpected.

      Blessings,

      Maree

  4. Reply

    Debbie Kitterman

    Maree – thanks for sharing Catherine’s post with us .. I love how Catherine says she has looked back over the years and seen how her family has thrived in the midst of the mental health challenges- God is good and His mercies are abundant. Blessings and Thanks for linking up with #TuneInThursday last week. Hope to see you tomorrow too.

    1. Reply

      Maree Dee

      Debbie, Yes, I agree it is so encouraging to hear how Catherine and her family have thrived. It gives us all hope no matter what are circumstances we can thrive. Blessings, Maree

  5. Reply

    Naomi Fata (@NaomiFata)

    Thanks for sharing – over the past few years I have studied more of the issues related to mental health because my mom has been struggling with a mental illness since I was 11 and it has run in my family for generations. It has been a healing process as I learn to understand the illness and to be realistic about it – for many years is was a secret point of shame – even to this day my mom refuses to address her struggle, but God is faithful and has taught me many lessons through the process

    1. Reply

      Maree Dee

      Naomi – I know for me awareness and education have helped me to understand and be more patient with my loved ones with mental health challenges. God has been good to me, and I too have learned many lessons I might have missed. I can say – I am a better person for the journey I have taken. I just wish my loved ones didn’t have to suffer.

      So sorry your Mom will not address her struggle. I will be praying for just that.

      Have you ever taken Family to Family through NAMI? It is a great class.

    2. Reply

      Maree Dee

      Hi Naomi,

      You were one of our lucky winners to receive the beautiful copy of
      31 Days, 31 Ways 2 Pray 4 Families. It is the prayer guide, Catherine Downing, our guest blogger, developed to help church friends know how to keep families’ needs with Mental Health challenges before the Lord.

      If you could please send me the address you would like it mailed to I will mail it next week. Do not put your address here in the reply sections. Please send me an email at maree.dee@www.embracingtheunexpected.com

      Blessings,

      Maree

  6. Reply

    Tayrina Gonzalez

    God is good! and in every situation in my He has show me mercy, love, kindness and support! I know we can find rest and strength in Him. That is my desire for this month of Mental Health Awareness! In God we find healing! Great resources here in this post, sharing!

    1. Reply

      Maree Dee

      Tayrina – Thank you Tayarina for visiting. Yes, I agree Catherine did a great job on this post. Maree

  7. Reply

    Gretchen Fleming

    Mental illness is so frightening, like receiving a diagnosis of cancer. You never know what the battle will entail or how long it will last. Thanks for sharing this personal perspective. It helps all of us become more aware and understanding of those around us. You have helped us know a little bit better actually “how to” love well.

    1. Reply

      Maree Dee

      Thank you for your encouraging words in response to Catherine’s post. Maree

  8. Reply

    Leslie

    Catherine, Thank you for sharing and especially for the 31 Days of Prayer. I have that bookmarked so I can print it out. Maree, thanks for sharing!

    1. Reply

      Maree Dee

      Leslie, You are so welcome. Catherine had wonderful words to share. Maree

  9. Reply

    Phyllis

    Amen! And again I say Amen! I loved what you said about the Church and mental health. We definitely need more mental health awareness there. Thank you for your candor and for the resources you have offered!

    1. Reply

      Maree Dee

      Phyllis – Yes, Catherine had wise words for all of us. Maree

    2. Reply

      Maree Dee

      Hi Phyllis,

      You were one of our lucky winners to receive the beautiful copy of
      31 Days, 31 Ways 2 Pray 4 Families. It is the prayer guide, Catherine Downing, our guest blogger, developed to help church friends know how to keep families’ needs with Mental Health challenges before the Lord.

      If you could please send me the address you would like it mailed to I will mail it next week. Do not put your address here in the reply sections. Please send me an email at maree.dee@embracingtheunexpected.

      Blessings,

      Maree

  10. Reply

    Brenda

    Beautiful, Maree. ((Hug)) Thank you for being a voice of experience and for speaking up on a topic long misunderstood. ((xoxo))

    1. Reply

      Maree Dee

      Brenda – The credit for the post goes to Catherine. This is so true that this topic as long been misunderstood. Thank you for visiting and commenting. Maree

    2. Reply

      Maree Dee

      Hi Brenda,

      You were one of our lucky winners to receive the beautiful copy of
      31 Days, 31 Ways 2 Pray 4 Families. It is the prayer guide, Catherine Downing, our guest blogger, developed to help church friends know how to keep families’ needs with Mental Health challenges before the Lord.

      If you could please send me the address you would like it mailed to I will mail it next week. Do not put your address here in the reply sections. Please send me an email at maree.dee@embracingtheunexpected.

      Blessings,

      Maree

  11. Reply

    Bette

    Thank you, Maree & especially Catherine today since I needed this! I’m in the middle of a support stay with my daughter with her 2 young children and it is very tough! Your blog encouraged me…

    1. Reply

      Maree Dee

      Praying your support stay goes well. Keep up the HOPE. Maree

    2. Reply

      Maree Dee

      Hi Bette,

      You were one of our lucky winners to receive the beautiful copy of
      31 Days, 31 Ways 2 Pray 4 Families. It is the prayer guide, Catherine Downing, our guest blogger, developed to help church friends know how to keep families’ needs with Mental Health challenges before the Lord.

      If you could please send me the address you would like it mailed to I will mail it next week. Do not put your address here in the reply sections. Please send me an email at maree.dee@embracingtheunexpected.

      Blessings,

      Maree

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