Ending the Stigma

stigma

Like it or not, persons who suffer from mental illness are surrounded by  a negative stigma in our society.

Persons who suffer from mental illness are sadly a very misunderstood people.  Many in society act as though they are modern day lepers, expecting them to be assaultive at any moment.  Being afraid of any category of people fosters disdain and not understanding.

“Many of the problems confronting people with mental illness result from public misunderstanding about psychiatric disorders.  At the most harmful levels, these misunderstandings, rob people of rightful life opportunities.” (Patrick W. Corrigan)

Much of the negative stigma surrounding mental illness is a result of misunderstanding these conditions.  First, and most offensive (in my opinion) is that mental illness is under the control of the person.  When it is viewed as being under one’s control, people are more likely to avoid, withhold help and endorse rejection of the mentally ill.  Second, is the belief that the mentally ill are responsible for causing their condition.  This distorted thinking leads to fear and anger.  Fear and anger in turn lead to social avoidance, social rejection and often times refusal of services or product based upon personal biases and lack of understanding.

Mental illness is often surrounded by the stereotype of being dangerous.  The label of danger evokes a fear response which leads to social isolation, rejection and perpetuation of these negative stigma.  When someone discloses their mental illness, often times this provides society an opportunity to label and fall into the negative stigma black hole.  When you reference their mental illness as a reason for rejection, this is a wrongful betrayal to another of God’s creation.  If you are a business owner and you reference one’s mental illness as a reason for rejection or refusal of services and there has never been a threat or inappropriate action in the setting of your business venture, you are begging and setting yourself up for ADA involvement.

You may be fearful because you don’t understand how another’s mind works.  You may be fearful because of how you interpret one’s actions or one’s words but it may not be how/what what they intended.  Have you really tried to understand why you are fearful?  Is it a direct result of a face to face conversation with the one you are afraid of?  Is it a result of another person’s opinion?  Is it a result of your interpretation of written words?  Until you TRY to foster an understanding of another person by a face to face interaction, you are failing at relationship as God intended.  Social media perpetuates many misunderstandings this way.  Words can often be misrepresented and tone is nearly impossible to infer (which is why I only engage in blogging and no other social media sites).

ANYTIME YOU REJECT OR REFUSE INTERACTION WITH SOMEONE WHO HAS DISCLOSED MENTAL ILLNESS YOU ARE PERPETUATING DISCRIMINATION AGAINST ANOTHER HUMAN BEING….WHO IN GOD’S EYES IS JUST AS WORTH HIS LOVE AS YOU! 

One disturbing trend I have seen growing lately goes back to my earlier posts, and that is people claiming they accept everyone for who they are and have no judgment toward another.  Oh really?  Then why does there continue to be discrimination, rejection and refusal of services by the same people who are claiming this?  I see it as, THEY HAVE THEIR BLINDERS ON AND DON’T SEE THEIR ACTIONS AS OFFENSIVE OR HYPOCRITICAL.  Yes, we are all human, but until people are accountable for their words matching their actions, our society will continue to perpetuate discrimination and negative stigma.

Bottom line here…get to know someone face to face before you make a decision on who you think they are.  Educate yourself on mental illness and NEVER for any reason reject, refuse, avoid or belittle another human being…mental illness or not.

Love and Light,

Michele

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Love everyone

loveeveryone“Love doesn’t expose. Love doesn’t add fuel to the fire. Love says, ‘They made a mistake, but God can restore them.  They messed up, but God has a new beginning.’”  Joel Osteen ministries

Often times I read another blog and it sparks something inside of me. I decided to sit on this one for a while because I wasn’t sure how to put all I was feeling into words.  The blog was on disabilities. The author working with a special needs child realized her own “disability,” it was a very moving story.

I have come to realize that not all disabilities are visible. There may be a learning disability, or a mental illness that isn’t seen by simply looking at someone.

I am learning that despite people’s “acceptance” of others that there are VERY FEW IF ANY fully accept people.  Sure we can all help the people with visible difficulties or the intellectually disabled, but what about those souls waging a war within their own mind?
Mental illness can be just as debilitating as a physical ailment, but NO ONE CAN SEE IT. You can’t see the depressed person’s pain like you can see a broken leg. You cannot see the many personalities of a person battling Dissociative Identity Disorder like you can see the manifestations of cerebral palsy.
JUST BECAUSE WE CANNOT SEE IT, DOESN’T MAKE IT ANY LESS REAL OR PAINFUL. 
Can one honestly say that they believe in and embrace EVERYONE? Every single person, no matter how “disabled” or sick they may be? I have heard people say it, I have seen people write it…and I think people BELIEVE they do accept and embrace everyone…UNTIL THEY DON’T.  The truest test of character is how we deal with the most difficult of people, and the most difficult situations.
Many professing their belief that everyone has potential and see the good in them, but in reality they are tainted with judgment and hypocrisy with their actions.  Everyone is human, everyone will make mistakes…no arguing that, but what gets my blood boiling is people who claim to believe in everyone, see the potential, see the soul inside but when a person with a disability (seen or unseen) is the one exception to their acceptance.
My last blog post exposed me, as on the verge of pushing someone with an invisible disability away. Years of abuse and torture had taken its toll on this sweet gal,  manifesting in various diagnoses, behaviors and actions that were almost too much. What if I had rejected her—I would be a complete hypocrite.
As individuals we don’t have any legal obligation to accept anyone…but should it come down to that? Good grief, extend unending grace because God gave us unending grace. If you have a problem with someone, whether you can see a disability or not, consider what they may have gone through/are going through to cause them to be the way they are.
As a business person, I also know you cannot allow personal biases or conflicts prevent you from doing business with someone you dislike or are fed up with—-I don’t have the time in this blog to get into that but the short version—the ADA includes mental illnesses in discrimination. So if you are a business owner  (for profit or non-profit) and are aware of one’s mental illness, you must be very very careful about not providing services (much like a restaurant refusing serve to gay couples). First of all, it is just mean. Second of all, you could have a nasty legal matter on your hands.
BE KIND. BE KIND TO EVERYONE. ACCEPT EVERYONE. WHETHER YOU THINK THEY DESERVE IT OR NOT. NOT BECAUSE YOU THINK THEY ARE WORTH IT—–BUT BECAUSE JUST LIKE YOU AND ME—-GOD SAYS THEY ARE. PLAIN AND SIMPLE. 
I usually close with “love and light,” but I think this post deserves more.
Let all that you do be done in love.1 Corinthians 16:14
Love, light, kindness and acceptance to you all,
Michele

Mean Girls

Over the years I have come to accept (albeit sadly) that mean girls will always be mean girls…even as adults, and often times they get nastier with age. As we all know, mean girls fit no particular stereotype. They can be the seemingly silent type, the church volunteer, the teacher, coach, worship leader, artist, therapist or doctor.  They are toxic in the fullest sense of the word as an adjective.  

Merriam-Webster defines toxic as: 

 

EXTREMELY HARSH, MALICIOUS, OR HARMFUL 

Mean girls are bullies.  Period.  They feel superior when they have bullied, gossiped, threatened or slandered someone.  In some sick way, it boosts their self image at the victims expense.

Although people grow up, the bullying does not stop.  Instead of gossiping or spreading rumors about people on the school campus or classroom, these adults are often using social media to do the same thing.  Cyberbullying is sadly a growing trend, but it is not limited to youth.  After perusing various blogs out there I have found that many of these blogs are from women under the guise of Christianity.  WHAT?!  I’m sorry, maybe I missed the part of the Bible or Jesus’ life where it says or was shown that it is okay to belittle, threaten and harass another human being.  (If i am wrong, please direct me to the reference).   These mean girls often post vague statuses or tweets that allude just enough to the victim that it is obvious who is the intended target.  Rather than using their blog for a positive impact on society, they again allude to various situations and people just enough, so that the intended victim is humiliated once again.  Often times, these posts, tweets, blogs and comments serve no other purpose than to threaten the victim.  Revictimizing them time and time again.  

Like it or not mean girls engage in relational aggression.  Females are relational, so this hits us to our core being.  One very important thing to remember is that the old saying “sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me,” is so very very untrue…I would however say, “will never define me.”  Relational aggression isn’t about the victim, but by the one bullying.  Many times, they see something in the target that triggers them and take their own insecurities or fears out on the victim.

In my opinion, what I see, is that these women often claim to be healed, recovered or to have done their own “work.”  But if one has done their own work, wouldn’t it stand to reason, that putting another person down indicates a problem?  May I suggest that there are many unhealed healers, unhealed spiritual people, and unhealed bloggers out there.  What I mean by this, is that they may have in fact done some surface work, maybe a few specific modalities, spiritual retreats; but that the root of the problem still lingers?  Taking up residence in one’s body, mind and spirit.  What other explanation can there be?  People are not born nasty…but exposure to trauma, disappointment, rejection and the like can and will take its toll.  One can’t simply talk it away.  Actions are not removed by talking.  Actions must be healed with action…work on the WHOLE person…body, mind and spirit.

What you put out there is what you will receive.  Snide remarks, rude posts, seemingly helpful and spiritual blogs tainted with relational aggression at one or many targets only define who you are…not them.  Stop the gossiping, the bullying, the relational aggression.  Be positive, lift each other up, bless each other…it is far healthier for everyone.

Love and Light,

Michele

 

Authentic compassion

Have you ever gotten to the point of just being done with something or someone? Have you ever hit that point of being so burdened or depleted of energy and resources by something or someone that you just want out?

I’ll admit I have been there, both with situations and people. And I’m guessing I am not alone.  I find myself frustrated, inconvenienced and often annoyed by these types of people.  Often, interactions are unsolicited and uninvited. And until recently, I would often set firm boundaries and cut them off completely because I was tired, I was depleted, I did not find a desire for a mutual relationship.  And when we ignore the soft gentle ways of God’s lessons–He often delivers a…shall we say…more powerful lesson-or kick in the gut.

Until recently, I didn’t understand the lesson God was trying to teach me. Until recently, I was selfish when it came to “these people.” Until recently, I was playing like I  had control in my relationships.  Until recently, I claimed that I had set my selfish desires aside and “listened to God” for the answer. Until recently, I claimed I was doing what the Lord was nudging me to do.

THAT’S WHEN HE CALLED MY BLUFF.

In dealing with a particularly needy person who often interacted with me against my desires or wishes. I was tired, I was annoyed, I didn’t feel comfortable or safe when interacting with this person. I was about to enforce my firm boundary of please stop contacting me–aka get away you crazy person–when I had this deep conviction to stop and not hit the send button for that email. I heard the Lord whisper to me–“show her who I am through you. Don’t give up on her, when you do, you shame me.

UGH, AND THAT WAS THE TAKE MY BREATH AWAY KICK IN THE GUT MOMENT.

He was right. The Lord always chases after the lost straying sheep. Do I, or do any of us, think we are better than Him, in that WE get to choose who we show love to?

 
Absolutely not!
 
I’m not suggesting we are called to be best friends with everyone, I am not suggesting not to have boundaries or even that everyone needs to know our story but what I am suggesting is that we are called to love everyone as He has loved us. Period. Always. No matter how annoying and burdensome they may be in this phase of their journey.
 

In my case, this person basically regurgitated a lifetime of pain and unresolved issues onto me. And I let it happen. I tried to gently step away, not responding, not interacting at the frequency desired. This person would often attend the same functions as me, would pursue the same interests as me and even got involved with my professional business. Often I would feel attacked despite the lack of depth of relationship and this person would demand accountability from me where none was (in my opinion) warranted.

But, God offered me another perspective. Has this burden or depletion of energy come from someone who is deeply wounded and is grasping at anyone and anything to help them? Was this person desperately grasping at anything and anyone who would listen? Turns out that was exactly what happened.

It was very recently that I read another blog with a seemingly similar situation. So, I know I am not alone in this struggle. The big difference is how I am choosing to respond to my God by helping and loving this person.  As much as I wanted this person out of my life, the truth is relationships good, bad or ugly are meant to teach us lessons.

I like to remember Ephesians 4:22-24,

“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”

When people begin to heal and strip away the coping mechanisms that served them well in the past, but no longer serve a purpose, an internal collapse can often occur.  We sometimes refer to this as a crisis or downward spiral.  When people are able to relinquish these old mechanisms and truly begin to see and become the true self, the true spirit that God created, this is when the real healing happens. This does not mean they are a phony, a fraud or unauthentic…it means they are discovering who they are in God!!  For us to claim that they are fake or a fraud, is very risky.  It implies that we know better than God as to who this person truly is at their core spirit.  Often people judge before seeing the whole person.  Often they meet someone in the stripping away of layers/mechanisms process, as I did in my situation.  However, we only have control over how we as individuals will respond.  I for one will not judge another’s process because it doesn’t look like what “I” think it should look like!!

By finally taking my blinders off to what God was trying to teach me, I discovered one truly spectacular human being. Time and pressure had taken their toll and nothing had helped. Hoping for help and a glimpse
of love this person reached out repeatedly to me. Today, we have a very close relationship and healing is happening in miraculous ways.

I’m not sure who God actually saved in this lesson.  My friend who is alive and healing because I listened, or me because my friend was instrumental in exposing my unauthentic/hypocritical/poser way of living. Maybe God saved us both by having our paths cross.

Are you living authentically? Are you prepared to answer the Lord face to face on those you have shunned? Are you prepared to explain why the one sheep wasn’t worth it? Are you prepared to defend the shame inflicted upon Him when you judge, gossip about and ignore the hurting?

May God show each of us how to change our ways before it is too late. You never know when you are
someone’s last hope.
 
Love and Light,
Michele

The harsh truth about love…

 

ImageThis week a group of friends and I were reflecting upon a retreat we recently attended.  One gal shared she felt empty when the time was over.  Another shared that she felt the speaker was plastic, fake and the message was “forced.”  My thoughts instantly were, “Whew, thank goodness I wasn’t the only one…I was beginning to feel like a real turd thinking these thoughts.”

Why? Why did we all walk away from this time feeling unfulfilled?

Because what we heard, though passionate, was lacking the most important thing in life…LOVE.

We can all say we love everyone and everything because we are called to do so.  But, (and I say this while wrapping my arms around you in a virtual hug) can you really say that you completely and wholeheartedly are able to do this with every single person you meet?  I surely cannot.

We do not have to like the things people do.  However, what is very clear in any teaching, is that we must separate the character from the behavior.  OUCH!

Oh believe me, I am as guilty as anyone for not liking something someone has done and then have a difficult time separating what they did from who they are…and who are they?  Just like me, they are a child of God, one created in his image. JUST.  LIKE.  ME.

What I needed was a serious shift in perspective after this conversation.  The passage below gave me the kick in the fanny I needed at just the right time. 

“If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing. If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.” (1 Corinthians 13:1-7, The Message)

Praise God for His kind and gentle ways…I much prefer this method of teaching over being stuck down by lightening!  Anyone agree?

So here is my challenge for myself, and for you as well.  Do not try to “say the right thing, do the right thing,” simply because you think that is what it is all about.  This will leave us unfulfilled and left to repeat the cycle of contrived unauthentic living.  Rather, let us try this.  

Approach everyone you meet, every situation as if you are interacting with God.  Take a moment to pause and think, “How would I respond if God was on the receiving end of my words, or my actions.” Would you say to Him, “I don’t want to be your friend.  Ever.  I don’t like you.  At all.” Would you, simply throw a dollar His way on the street without a second thought as to His story?  Because we are all created in His image, when act this way we do these things to Him directly. 

It isn’t relevant whether you LIKE someone, no matter what, we have to LOVE them.  Unconditionally.  Always.

I believe this is what my friends and I picked up on at this retreat.  We felt the empty words of someone who was a very eloquent speaker but in reality does not LOVE AUTHENTICALLY, a creaking rusty gate.  I am so thankful the lesson God has taught us with this experience. 

We hold each others hearts in our power…Will you strengthen another? Or will you break them?

Love and healing light to you all on your journey.

Michele

 

(Image can be found at: http://www.cuddlycomments.com/view/1283)