Mad Pride

There are people in various places in my life with mental illnesses. There are a also couple of people I love with autistic children, some with ADHD, some others with various developmental delays. So it was with keen interest that I read the following article. Then, only a day later, I read this. A quick google search led me here. Both articles assert the same basic premise – I have a mental illness/autistic tendency, but I choose to embrace it as a cultural construct rather than cure it.

The argument runs similar to one in the deaf community, which states that deafness is part of a cultural identity rather than a condition to be treated.

I really don’t know how I feel about this.

I watch a close friend of mine with her autistic son who is now an adult, but will forever be in their care. I think of an old High School friend who ultimately killed himself because of the schizophrenia that plagued his mind. Serious mental illness is often a catalyst for violence, homelessness, isolation, and tremendous suffering. I have watched marriages collapse under the weight. I ache with sadness to see friends and loved ones suffer through some of these issues.

But I understand the desire to not medicate one’s life. I listen to a member of my extended family tell me how anti-depressants cloud her away from life. I watch the way some powerful medicines change the people I love, and not always in good ways.

I cannot deny that part of me doesn’t understand this issue. But I do understand some aspects of it. The Lord didn’t intend for us all to be identical to each other – did that mean that the range of normative would include manic behavior? autistic behavior? And perhaps normal isn’t even the right word here. There really isn’t any normal. Every one of us is so varied, there really can’t be a standard of physicality applied universally.

I’ve got a life-altering, incurable disease. I’ve been trying to several days to understand this issue through my own personal lens. I cannot imagine, under any circumstances I try on, that I would embrace this disease as a cultural identifier and choose not to treat it.

I certainly don’t wish to begrudge anyone the choice to live their life as they best choose. But so many of the issues being discussed here do not merely affect the individual – they affect families and relationships across wide swaths. This is a difficult one for me. I’ve been vacillating for days.

Thoughts?

About Justine

(Advisory Board) is a mother to five children, and has a husband lodged somewhere (probably in the den). She is not very fond of speaking of herself in third person.

42 thoughts on “Mad Pride

  1. Our bodies are accessories for our spirits. The problems you address are body related not spirit related. When our spirits become trapped in an autistic or schizophrenic body they cannot make any more sense of what is going around than those around us and they simply choose to ignore most of it making them appear hard to reach but they are easily reached by the Spirit.

    MS is not incurable for those who believe, as many are beginning to learn.

  2. My dad has struggled his whole life with bi polar disorder, which was mis-diagnosed for 20 years as ADD. He’s been on meds ever since I can remember, and has suffered diverse mild to very severe side effects on different body systems in response to the medication. He recently hit a new low and underwent more than a dozen doses of ECT or electric convulsive treatments in which they shocked his brain to the point of inducing convulsions basically because they don’t know what else to do for him. It’s so hard to watch someone we love go through things like that. I had to write a poem to deal with my feelings. I’ll share it here in case it could help someone.

    The Garden in Your Eyes

    As I touch your feeble frame
    your eyes lock onto mine and I am drawn
    into the Garden of your agony.
    My breath is knocked out
    at the sight of such exquisite suffering
    and jagged, lonely pain.

    Grief wells up inside my heart
    and courses through my eyes.
    Anger lashes out as one I love so much
    is so abused and I so helpless,
    young anger that would spare you
    your Press and thwart the Plan.
    I vow to watch with you an hour and yet
    cannot resist the sleep that comes.

    My only prayer is that a Heavenly help
    will stay and hold you forever
    and help you overcome
    as I cannot.

    How much I love you.

    What precious oil He must be making of you.
    How hard to watch it made.

  3. Bipolar is not incurable for those who believe. Pray for your dad and I will pray for both of you.

  4. There is no easy answer to this – i have dealt with this for years in my former work, in my volunteer work, in fellowships i belong it – sometimes i wonder if my husband and i are the only people we know that are not bipolar.

    First i would like to say that over medicatng is on the upswing again. It is bad enough to take the meds and put up with the side effects – but over meded is unbearable for most. And many have have no choice because of the courts.

    meds cando terrible things to your body – especially in long term use – but they also are all we have. they usually have to be changed often and what worked last year, because of changes in your body’s chemistry, will not work this year.

    The other is over diagnosis – a relative called to get counseling from a local mental health facility for her son – the LADY JUST ANSWERING THE PHONE! – said that everyone is given bi-polar meds and can not get counseling without taking them. She is not the only one this has happened to – this is just my first personal encounter. Bi-polar is unfortunately the new buzz word – which is unfortunate because some people truly ARE!

    2 of my best girl friends are schizophrenics – i lived with one for several years off and on between hospital visits. she always told me that not wanting to take the medication was part of the illness and that i needed to not listen to her and make her take it. And also that this was a sign that she was not doing well and to contact her health professionals. She always told me that i must remember that she does not have good judgement in her own welfare, so those that loved her had too!

    The other lady has lived with her schizophrenia for over 40 years – she is terribly afriad with the cutting off of funds for the mentally ill that she will become homeless when she has an episolde – our 6 county area no longer has a long term facility. Many times she has showed up at my door and asked me to take her to the hospital – and to leave her, because then they have to address the situation.

    they are both the bravest women i have known in my life.

    i feel that true mental illness is the leprosy of today’s time. There are no easy answers – love them with all your heart.

  5. I recently read the book “Housekeeping,” by Marilynne Robinson. Paired with “Glass Castles,” by Jeanette Walls (isn’t everyone reading this in their book group?) they shed a really interesting light on the choices of mental illness and their consequences.

    At some point, isn’t it necessary as a society to draw some kind of line? Like, when you’re a danger to yourself or others, you must do X, Y or Z in order to keep the order in the broader society? Can any tendency be excused by brandishing that label proudly? (Kleptomania Pride! Aggravated Assault Pride! This list could go forever.)

  6. I think we need to be careful not to heap guilt on anyone suffering with mental or physical illness by suggesting that it is merely a lack of faith that prevents their healing. I believe in miracles and I absolutely trust in the Lord’s will for me. But I do not think that every situation in our lives will be healed with additional prayer. Our purpose in this life is to learn and grow and struggle through the painful circumstances where growth occurs. That said, I do not discount the miracles of God.

    And Red, your thoughts echo mine – where does it stop? I’ve heard a similar kind of argument from groups that condone child molestation. The adult men assert that they have a right to love small boys seeing as they were born that way. I believe they even have an organization.

    But since I know several people that struggle with mental illness, I am more keenly aware of the personal suffering and pain of the situation. I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around the idea that it would be a preferable lifestyle.

  7. I grew up with two mentally ill parents, one of whom committed suicide, and I’d love to be able to tell you that they were just quirky and eccentric, but that’s not true. They were not able to make good decisions for our family, be good parents, provide stability or have empathy, despite being highly intelligent people. I’m all for working on dispelling the stigma of mental illness and the truth is that so few people really know anything about it. But growing up with mentally ill parents (borderline personality disorder and narcissistic personality disorder with anxiety) was just plain awful.

    Psychiatry is still in its infancy. In addition to medication, new evidence-based therapies are emerging to treat different illnesses. Medication certainly isn’t a cure-all and many seriously ill people are just sedated to prevent them doing harm to themselves or others. I have faith that someday the medication will improve and the available therapies will be more effective.

    Mental illness brings real unhappiness/misery into people’s lives and the lives of their family members and associates. I don’t believe that its something to be embraced, but rather accepted and treated to the best of our ability.

  8. I agree that it is very difficult to embrace something as painful and frustrating as mental illness. I know that believers can qualify for the gift of being healed of these illnesses, but I feel that Satan uses that fact to plague sufferers and family members with a kind of guilt. If only our faith was strong enough it could be lifted from us. While it is true that the priesthood can do this, it is also true that it doesn’t usually happen, and that doesn’t mean someone is lacking in faith. In fact, it takes more faith to live with it than to be healed from it.
    Like any other trial we face in this life, the goal is not to get rid of it, but to grow from it. My dad and our family have tried to get rid of his condition for many years, and it has honestly been one of the greatest trials of my faith and my parents’. The only peace has come in seeing the gifts. He is bi-polar, and WHAT ELSE? He’s been a wonderful father (when he can) in many special ways. He’s directed the intense manic drives inside of him to do much good. He lives by the Spirit more literally than others have to. He works at the temple whenever he can, and it’s his lifeline.
    I realize that my dad is more high functioning than many other people with the same or different conditions (though there have been some VERY dark times and periods of nonfunction). There are many who can’t do certain things, such as temple attendance, but my point is to find the light and the agency in what they choose to do. This is what they’ll be judged on, and if they’ve done their best with the agency they do have, there is incredible peace that can come eventually. The struggle to discern where the agency is in a mix of chemical imbalances, mental abnormality, and medication-altering is the biggest challenge for me in coming to terms with mental illness.
    I’ve struggled to find peace about it for 25 years. But I finally have, and I wish it to anyone else who’s searching for it.

  9. Howard,
    You are stepping on toes. You are telling people their judgment is clouded by Satan and that if they just had enough faith, they wouldn’t be sick. Please stop. It simply is not true, and it is very hurtful. If you truly believe this, please keep it to yourself.

    Over the course of my life I have come to understand that God truly loves all of his children. Many of us have illnesses because we live in mortal, fallen world. God will not rescue us from every malady, even MS and mental illness. That is part of having a body. He lets us navigate the best we can in faith. Often we learn to rely on him and better understand others around us more through ailments that affect our bodies. If he took the natural effects of disease and disability that exist simply because we are are mortal, it would be somewhat akin to his removing the agency of others when they were going to hurt us.

  10. mmiles, thank you for your comment. You stated it much more diplomatically than I would have. While I believe prayer and faith can do much, it is a demonstration of our faith to take steps on our own to do what is necessary to heal ourselves, whether it be through counseling or medication.

  11. Red asked, “At some point, isn’t it necessary as a society to draw some kind of line? Like, when you’re a danger to yourself or others, you must do X, Y or Z in order to keep the order in the broader society? ”

    In most (if not all) states there are laws for exactly this. If adults and/or children meet certain criterion, they can be committed against their will. There are certain professionals in the community that are qualified and allowed to make this assessment, they then sign legal documentation stating as such, and the individual is placed in a secure facility for a certain amount of time until the case is reviewed. I worked as a social worker in Utah for 6 years and I saw this happen on a number of occasions (though it is much more difficult to have an adult committed than it is a child). These laws are there for the safety of the individual as well as the society as a whole.

    And I agree, to believe that ANY and ALL illnesses can be healed simply by having enough faith is degrading to the individual who suffers from the illness. Yes, God can cure any illness. However, there is no way we can know God’s plan for that individual and the purpose behind the suffering. I also believe it discredits God’s hand in aiding the betterment of treatments and medications to relieve (at least partially) one’s suffering.

    (Hopefully this makes sense, my kids were running around screaming in my ear while I was typing this.)

  12. The Savior must weep when he watches us judge and condemn others because they suffer with physical or mental illness and other trials.

    John records, “And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth. And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind? Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him”(John 9:1-3).

    We see the works of God made manifest as we love, serve, and encourage those who carry heavy burdens. Not everyone with perfect faith is healed in this life. Not everyone with heavy trials find relieve from them. However, we can comfort those who need comfort, mourn with those who mourn, and help to bear the burdens of others.

  13. Thank you for sharing these articles.

    I really appreciate the opinions expressed by Ari Ne’eman the most because it is a perspective that has helped me to be a more effective parent to my autistic son. By accepting the idea that autism is an intrinsic part of who he is (like his dark hair or his brown eyes), it allows me to focus precious energy into quality of life issues.

    It was difficult in the early days of B’s diagnosis. I questioned why would a wise, loving Heavenly Father allow for a condition like autism to afflict our family. I went through the panicked search for something that would help my son break through the silence. I wanted to ‘fix’ my son, to have him be like the rest of his peers in the nursery. I was searching for answers, instead of hope.

    Reading about the lives of individuals on the spectrum is what gave me that hope. Remarkable people, like Temple Grandin, Daniel Tammet, and Kim Peek, have managed to find a place in the world and lead meaningful lives. This humbled me to see my son’s autism for the gift it can be, instead of a source of sorrow.

    Since that time, B has made tremendous progress in his speech and social skills. This has come about by a team of dedicated teachers, therapists, as well as his own hard work. When I think of the future, my fears have been replaced by a sense of anticipation and wonder for the man he will become.

    I recognize and respect those families whose situation is different from my own. Each child on the spectrum is unique, and what works for one child will not for another. So, I will not say using medication, dietary changes, or some biomedical interventions, is a bad thing if they have helped children on the spectrum and their families. I just wanted to point out that acceptance, too, can work wonders.

    I admit, in those early days, I wanted a miracle. To be able to read a book to my then two-year-old son without him fighting to get away; to see him actually play with his toy trains instead of lining them up in neat little rows. But what I got was even better. The knowledge that some miracles take time. And when they finally do come to pass, it is all the more sweeter.

  14. I agree that we do not know what reasons there are for individual suffering and that while it is possible to be miraculously healed it is not a given no matter how much faith you have.

    That said, I do believe that our view of “to treat or not to treat” is skewed. I attended two seminars on a new medical paradigm that views mental illness not as a failing of the body but as a result of traumas or conflicts (situations that are shocking to us physically and mentally) that affect our temporal lobe in such a way that we are put into “constellation” and the location of the impact(s) in the brain determines how we react mentally and can be the cause of very specific mental diseases from slight depression to full blown schizophrenia.

    I know that all sounds very technical, but the idea that is important is that the causes are not just random mistakes of our bodies (we really are created better than that) and that with the correct view of the specific cause in individual cases it can be treated with psychotherapy (not drugs) and counseling that can effectively “undo” the original conflict. This gives a lot of hope for those suffering from mental illness who do not want to medicate to live. The interesting concept of whether one chooses to be treated or not can also be seen in a different light when you consider that for this therapy to work (according to this new research) the patient has to do most of the work to heal themselves because it can’t be done for them.

    I still believe that these things can happen to us as part of our own divine plan, though not because our bodies are broken but because we are actually designed to react to life in a certain physical way (which very often protects us but we fail to see that side of the situation). Our physical bodies are even more amazing and more capable of miraculous marvels than we currently are aware of, and some people out there are finally beginning to give credit to how divinely perfect our bodies really are and to allow room for us to do what we were created to do without unnecessary medical intervention.

    Incidentally, this new medical view also explains the causes of cancer but that’s a whole other discussion.

  15. One last point…if you can accept this view of mental illness it will also increase your compassion and love for others when you realize that they have come to this point in their life because of something traumatic in their past or because they are conflicted about something that they cannot get past (subconsciously). The worse the illness is the more traumatic the source of the conflict, but this is rarely seen or viewed as important to treatment.

  16. I am so sad this great post has turned into a discussion on whether or not illness and mental illness can be treated with faith or something other than sound, well researched, medical degreed individuals.

    Corktree, there is nothing new about therapy. Of course it helps. But I am extremely skeptical of your seminar on a “new medical paradigm. Try having a normal therapy session with my my sister who is Bipolar when she is not medicated and thinks that there are secret messages to her in the road signs.

    Justine,
    As someone who has worked with mentally disabled adults and people struggling with other mental/emotional challenges, I think we really don’t know where people are as to there ability to make choices. Only God does. I agree completely with Kate in #6. Society does, and should, draw a line.

  17. 18 months ago one of our sons was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome. He and another son also have ADD and it’s looking like our youngest child has some of the same tendencies. But, lest anyone assume that this is a result of lazy parenting, we’ve visited with therapists who have commended our efforts, imperfect as they sometimes are. If there is one lesson that I’m learning from this experience it is to refrain from unnecessary judgments. The best techniques in the world are useless if your child not only thinks “outside of the box” but doesn’t even know what “the box” is!

    For the most part adults have been kind, but the bullying and social struggles my boys have experienced are painful issues. I hope that we can find more help in social skills training; so far in our rural area our efforts haven’t been very successful. We’re realizing that we might have to travel to larger cities for more effective therapy.

    Medication is a controversial issue and our sons have experienced some adverse effects. But medications for ADD have improved and the side effects are currently a minimal issue for them. Contrary to what some people have told us, we have found that our sons are their most genuine selves when they are taking medication. They are intelligent, gifted human beings and when their ability to concentrate and control impulses is increased, they have a better chance for reaching their potential.

    I would love to see more effective treatment for autism. But after reading “Erasing Autism” I also understand Ne’een’s concern about the full implications of identifying the condition before a child is born. Some professionals believe that Einstien, Winston Churchill and Thomas Edison had Asperger’s syndrome. To deprive the world of these geniuses (although they lacked social skills) would have been a tragedy indeed.

  18. I have aunt who has struggled with severe mental illness for most of her adult life. When I see pictures of her as a young woman, I can’t even believe it is the same person. I know that in her case, her spirit is not the same being who is now manifest due to her bodily limitations. For her, mental illness has not been very positive at all and it has been a great trial for her children. I do agree that it is good to raise our consciousness of these issues and to learn to see the person not the illness. But I do fear a backlash against medications that really do help people function and live their lives. I think that each individual case is different and we should be careful to treat each other with compassion and care. And I do think that our perspective is different as those who believe that we have an eternal spirit inside our physical bodies.

  19. I just want to add that this is our experience and I realize that other situations are different, requiring inspiration and answers in other directions.

    I appreciate comments from many of you that give me hope and renewed perspective.

  20. I’m sure, for someone who is struggling with a mental illness, it must be very difficult to learn to define oneself outside of that illness. I know I am still trying to define who I am as a person outside of the physical maladies that now plague me. It’s so easy to sometimes define ourselves by our activities or our passions. But what if our minds are not working as they ought? How does that definition change? Where does the persons true spiritual identity lie when it is so tangled up in the physical manifestation?

    I know these are difficult issues to grapple with for me. Thank you for sharing so many tender experiences and insights.

    nlf is so right that all our experiences and situations are so different, requiring inspiration at every turn.

    corktree, I wonder how that treatment paradigm fits for very small children who have clearly suffered illness from their very infancy? I know enough friends and loved ones that struggle with mental illness to question if it always comes from trauma. I believe (and I could be wrong) that there have been several studies concluding physical and chemical differences and deficiencies in certain mental illnesses. I agree with you, though, that we need to raise our compassion for people suffering. And the truth of it is, we are all suffering in some way, physically, mentally, spiritually, emotionally. Our compassion toward each other is a true test of our Christian attitudes.

  21. And p.s., Howard, please remain respectful. I’m honestly happy and curious to hear your views that are different, but I really want to talk about this in meaningful ways, so let’s all play nice.

  22. Rant alert*****Twenty years ago when I was coming out of college with my bachelor’s in social work, all the MDs were saying, “This is the decade of the brain! We will have a cure for schizophrenia before 2000!” 20 years later, it seems we just have better medicine for the major disorders (schizophrenia and bipolar disorder).
    As a clinical social worker who has known hundreds if not thousands of mentally ill/chemically dependent individuals, I am here to tell you that as much as I know psychotherapy helps, medication, appropriately administered by a psychiatrist or psychiatric nurse practitioner (not just your local family practice) can make a huge difference.
    For some, mental illness without medication is possible, but for many others, it simply isn’t, and it has nothing to do with lack of faith. I am so disgusted. The only comfort I take is that we LDS are not alone in spouting that garbage.
    Are meds fun? Nope. But neither is being manic and having your wife finally divorce you and take away your babies because you are unsafe because you think no harm can possibly come to you, you have created overwhelming financial debt, you use illicit drugs, and get arrested for indecent exposure down at City Hall.
    Not one of us gets through mortality unscathed. Not one. We’re all going to have trials of our faith. Mental illness is especially hard, I think, because the nature of the illness makes you question what you think/feel/perceive.

  23. Amy, this line you wrote was great (all of it was, the poem beautiful): “In fact, it takes more faith to live with it than to be healed from it.” I think every person can identify something in their lives that they would like to be healed of, but for his reasons, Christ has allowed a ‘thorn in the flesh’ to remain.

    I’ve had depression, I’ve witnessed it in those I love. I have taken depression medication, it helped me long enough to make therapy effective. It gave me enough light so I could find the path out of the darkness. Now I no longer need medication, that is what is right for me. I don’t know that I could have found this good place in my life without medication for that short period of time. Medication has helped, and continues to help, people I love and care greatly for; It is a blessing from a caring Heavenly Father.

    Recently I have come to know a sister who has had depression for decades. She refuses any traditional medication and suffers constantly because of it. She has wonderful things happening in her life, yet a smile rarely crosses her face. When I work with her or have her visit my home she is full of anxiety, fear and pessimism. She works so very hard at being a righteous person and to get herself out of depression, but refuses the balm in Gilead. What would it hurt to just try it for a few months? Her pain hurts me so, I know what it is too well.

    Am I wrong to feel that Autism and Mental Illness really are different topics? Autism cannot be “cured”. Mental Illness can be cured, although the person will carry the scars and fear of it reoccuring the rest of their lives. Perhaps I should read the articles before asking this question…

  24. jendoop – perhaps some people with some kinds of mental illnesses can and have been cured, but not all. I grew up being told and believing that my mother with Borderline Personality Disorder would someday “get better”. After she committed suicide, I think it would have been better for everyone in my family for us (including the children) to know that she almost certainly wouldn’t get better and to have gained a better understanding of her illness. Too much hope was placed on a cure that never arrived, that was never going to arrive, instead of accepting the situation and finding ways to improve the quality of all our lives.

  25. Lest anyone assume I am speaking from an outside view, my mother was severely bipolar and suicidal and like many I know the devastating box that depression can put you in, but it has allowed me to open my eyes to new ideas out there (ones that I am qualified to say I understand) and yes, they are supported by medical professionals.

    I don’t mean to push anything on anyone, but I feel strongly that we do not know and understand everything about our bodies and minds and that to accept the current thinking without question does us a disservice. No one has all the answers yet (there are certainly things that are present from birth which we may or may not know the cause of) but my only wish is to spread information that may help people who are looking for other answers than the ones they are given. Non mainstream thinking does not equal untrue (the church is not “mainstream” at this time, but we believe it to be true because of our faith).

    I didn’t mean to offend anyone with what sounded like absolutes, they are merely new ways of looking at important issues that I don’t think should be lightly disregarded.

  26. Mental illness is not something that can be “cured”. Through therapy someone who suffers from mental illness can learn coping mechanisms to significantly decrease the symptoms of their illness, but that does not mean they are “cured” of the illness itself. It means they have learned to cope to a certain degree with their illness so that they can better function in society. Medication, as stated, can also help to decrease the symptoms of the illness-but it does not “cure” it. Also, depending on certain outside forces (age, hormones, traumatic or stressful situations), the symptoms of the illness can worsen or lessen.

  27. As one who suffers from bipolar disorder, I feel I must say that I have a difficult time remaining detached when someone differentiates mental illness from physical illness. Is not your brain part of your body?
    I was diagnosed at 18, and the process of acceptance has been a very difficult one. My two biological brothers and father are also diagnosed bipolar. Needless to say, our house has by necessity become a haven from the world, both from the stimulation and the closeminded labeling that so often occurs. It is difficult to have jokes being made about ‘bipolar’ behavior when someone is experiencing perfectly legitimate reactions to a situation, or to have comments made about ‘crazy’ people who should be locked away from society.
    I have come to find that neither medication or psychotherapy are end all be all solutions to issues of illness. They are each important parts of an overall health plan, like insulin treatments, diet, and exercise are to a diabetic.
    Brain illness is a devastating and life changing diagnosis. It influences every nuance of one’s life. But neither is it a death sentence. With responsible care accepted by the individual, and compassion and concern given by loved ones and professionals, life can go on. I am living successfully away from home, with five strangers who do not understand my circumstances. But I am doing it. I am medicated, and I realize that my medication is not an option. I have cobbled together a support team that gets me through the rough times, and knows when I am not capable of making decisions for myself. I fully understand that I am very blessed in this regard; many ill individuals do not have these luxuries. All I mean is that a successful life is possible.
    I would hope that instead of feeling pity and shaking heads at this circumstance of life, we can reach out to those individuals who struggle with this, and learn to love and accept them, with all their bad days and bizarre comments, with all their imperfections and difficult attitudes. Having a brain illness does not automatically remove a person’s need to be loved and cherished.
    “Mental illness” is a physical problem. It is no reflection of a spiritual problem, lack of faith, or indication of wrong doing on anyone’s part. It simply is.
    It is my opinion that fighting one’s self is one of the strongest things any human can do. But that is just the two cents of a person who desperately wants to blend back into the crowd.

  28. corktree-
    Thank you. You are right, it is not wrong to think outside the box. I did just think you were speaking in absolutes. Thank you for clarifying.

  29. As the mother of children with mental illness, I need to throw in my $.02. My children displayed signs of illness in infancy, but unfortunately were not diagnosed and properly treated until approx. two and a half years ago. I have walked in on a 5 yr old attempting to hang himself, I have held a beautiful daughter as she struggled to discern reality from hallucination, and I have physically restrained a raging 14 yr old who had lost complete control of his mind,mouth,and fists. Mental illness has inflicted incredible stress on our family, but at the same time it has created strong and loyal ties. Our ward has come together to treat my children just as any other child, just like they treat the son of our stake president who has juvenile onset diabetes. There are many times when a ward member will come and express concern for, or to celebrate the successes my children achieve. Just as eacdh person on earth has a unique personality,needs,hopes,and abilities, each person is affected differently by MI. One of my children is able to get by with only minimal medication and sometimes no medication during the spring and summer months. One of my children cannot miss a single dose, and one of them can squeak by for a day or two without meds. I say this to point out that just as we do not appreciate being judged and shoved into a pigeon hole, those who suffer with MI also are unique, and deserve our love and support, not a cell/inpatient admission because they may act a little differently. Heavenly Father knows the pain my children suffer, and someday He will free them from the prison of mental illnes. Someday they will soar above the rest of us. And someday, I will not cry as I watch them daily deal with this devastating diagnosis.

  30. college kid, you make a really important distinction, one that I don’t think about enough. Mental illness is a physical illness. I hope I haven’t tread too insensitively.

    I have noticed how people have begun to define my entire self by my diagnosis, and it drives me up the walls. I can imagine the same frustration that several people here have described regarding mental health as well.

    Homeschoolin Henn, you have a strong and faithful mind on the matter of your children. He does know our pain and the pain of our children.

    I’m figuring out the best thing we can all do is to draw close to our covenants and draw from the power of them.

  31. Nancy, thank you for your point of view on the ‘curing’ of mental illness. IMO there can be trauma in a person’s life that brings about a state of temporary mental illness – PTSD, depression (I know depression can have a physical component, and for most it does. But for some it develops as a result of other issues, which is one reason therapy is helpful.), etc. When these type of issues are labeled Mental Illness along with Bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, etc. – that are not ‘curable’ – it confuses the issue. It confuses the general public about mental illness. Which I think is somewhat the point of the original post. Curable vs. incurable vs. nothing to cure.

    It makes me sad that so many have been misdiagnosed as well. I know a great woman who was told as a young teenager that she was bipolar. She has operated her whole adult life as if she were a broken toy, that no one would want to marry her, that she wasn’t capable of amazing things. Now that she is letting go of the label that was placed upon her so many years ago (and moving away from home) she feels free to be herself – outside of the label of ‘biopolar’. Many in her life now believe the diagnosis was wrong.

  32. I have appreciated this discussion so much. I haven’t anything to add, but know that I am learning a lot and appreciate the comments.

  33. College kid, thank you for speaking up. You made some really important points. I wish you joy and continued blessings in your journey.

  34. This has been so great to read. Both the article and the links and the discussion following. I just wanted to to add to something that has been said.

    My husband’s grandmother has dealt with severe depression her whole life. She has been hospitalized and medicated over and over.

    My good intending father in law tells her quite frequently that she just needs to read the scriptures and pray. She cries to me and tells me how much she hates that he says this. My sister in law goes through periods of depression and he says the same thing to her. She hates it too.

    I myself went through depression during my first trimester of my last pregnancy. It was the most awful feeling of my life. I couldn’t believe the way I was feeling and the things my mind was telling myself. It was so dark and scary and utterly and completely unlike me.

    I remember not wanting to pray and read my scriptures. And I remember being so angry with myself because of this. But I did cry out to the Lord. Boy, did I.

    I just wanted to add to the already mentioned idea that this is not a matter of not being close tot he spirit or of a lack of faith. My grandmother says it is the last thing she wants to hear — that reading the scriptures will make her all better. Because what happens (and what happened to me as well) is that she will read them or pray sooooo hard and plead with her Father in Heaven to take it away and when it doesn’t it causes more trials. You are thinking — Do I not have enough faith — what is wrong with me? HEAVENLY FATHER CAN YOU HEAR ME?????

    I feel that those who are going through these trials ARE indeed close to our Heavenly Father during them but in a very different way. A dependent, needy, solemn and scared sort of way. And I believe the Lord will help although not in exactly the ways we would hope. Even Christ himself asked His father to let the cup pass if it be his will and it didn’t. Did HE not have the faith???

    I have just thought about this a lot through the years of being married to this family and have a very strong sensitivity to those going through mental illnesses. They need unconditional love. It is a scary life they live. We must be strong and love them through it.

  35. Seeking the spirit has been a boon to my child. Believing in and following the Word of Wisdom has prevented self medication in the form of substance abuse. The illness is not the result of some moral failing. It is the result of an anomaly in the functioning of the brain. Mental illnesses have positive, (meaning things that are added) and negetive, (meaning things that are lost) symptoms. A psychotic person has a greater need for sleep then previously, that is a positive symptom. A psychotic person loses the ablity to focus on anything for very long. That is a negetive symptom. Medication helps alleviate these symptoms. Mentally ill people who act out in violent ways are not medicated. Treatment works.

    I have seen the difference between my child on medication and without it. I know first hand the difference between her abilities in both states. Not only is her behavior better and she has more control when she is on medication but her ability to exercise good judgement and take care of herself is markedly improved. I know the medication is working when I see here and her clothes are clean and her hair is combed.

    When she is not taking her medication she does not have the ability to make informed decisions and value judgements. One of the hallmarks of psychosis is a lack of insight into ones condition. So when psychotic persons aren’t taking the medicine they don’t think they are sick and don’t need help and when they are taking it they feel better and think they don’t need it.

    Not all mentally ill people are psychotic. It may not be as imperative for every mentally ill person to take meds because their functioning is not as impaired.

    I do think it is a good idea to do whatever is possible to help remove the stigma from mental illness. I hope that is what Mad Pride is about.

  36. Amy Tauraa, thank you for the poem.
    Prayers for everyone else in their situations too.

  37. I loved your poem, Amy (quote #2). There is a lot of pain surrounding this issue, and I hope we can all be helpful and non-judgmental as we move forward in these challenges.

    My grandmother’s aunt lived with her family during the Great Depression and she (the aunt)had mental illness. There was a HUGE stigma in that day, and they rarely had guests over. The aunt had no benefit of medication and would sometimes try to injure herself and others. It was very difficult.

    We need to be sensitive to the challenges our friends and family face in caring for the mentally ill. Compassion and support cannot be optional. Caregivers need our encouragement not our judgment.

  38. So many thoughts on this topic. I agree with those who say that this is all so personal. There isn’t one right answer.

    It sounds to me, though, like some of the mad pride movement is an extreme reaction to the downsides of medications. Those downsides exist, but imo, we ought not swing to an extreme of rejecting meds outright. There are many people whose lives have been blessed tremendously by medication and we should not let extreme movements swing us to reject them.

    I think, too, that sometimes we are left to choose between two non-ideal situations. Taking meds may have downsides, but sometimes, those downsides are less than not taking them. There’s so much trial and error in all of this, and that is hard. But frankly, I think that is an example of our messy mortal experience. For me, recognizing that no mortal solution will be permanent or complete is helpful to me — to really help me lean on the Lord more and trust that HE knows what is going on in my life, rather than expecting that medicine or diet or anything else will solve all my health problems. NOTHING can guard us completely from mortal pain. It’s part of the journey.

    In general, I think Justine’s point is so important. Our covenants can anchor us, regardless of our trials.

  39. I also read in Newsweek about mad pride and thought of the recent Segullah thoughts on mental health. How interesting. I know a bipolar person who self-medicates, doesn’t really sit well if you’re a word of wisdom believer though. Similar mentality as mad pride, and I suppose there are plenty of undiagonsed people with mental health issues out there, aren’t there? Mad pride. I’m both undecided and intrigued. Eeesh. I’m not mad, am I?

  40. My son has ADHD. We like to call it Executive function disorder, because the woman who diagnosed him said it would be a better name for his symptoms, they just don’t use it. The problem I have is there is clearly something different about my son, yet our Health insurance doesn’t cover testing, treatment, ect.. An elderly person with symptoms of dimensia can get all the test my son needs covered by their insurance but my 11 year old who has his whole life ahead of him is left with only his pediatrician to subscribe medication.

    We had him tested on our own dime a few years ago because I was tired of everyone thinking he was just mis behaving. In our family history my grand father had schizophrenia and my Dad is a severe alcoholic. I don’t feel comfortable giving my son meds without someone who is very familliar with all of these conditions and has a full understanding of all the meds and their side effects. Yet we are unable to find a person with these quallifications who can treat our son. When we do find someone they are too full they won’t even take our name.

    When will people stop seeing this as something made up. What will this generation do when half of these children growing up and are still suffering from ADHD and Autism. They need treatment now and not just meds. Teachers and pediatricians need more education. I feel like when we got the diagnosis there was nothing we could do with the information. Unlike when you break an arm they send you to a bone specialist to fix it when you find out your son has ADHD they have no one to send you to. It’s up to you to decide what treatment you want, How much your willing to pay and how invested you are in your childs welfare. It’s so unfair!

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