Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Stop It Already

I recently talked to a woman who was telling me about a friend of hers who is struggling with bi-polar. As we stood chatting for a while, she asked me if she could purchase my Walking Healed books for her friend, "because she really needs this." 

Now, I'm not opposed to people buying books for friends who are struggling. I was once struggling myself. I’ve read many books on how to get over various things. I'm also not plugging for sales for my books (although it's really nice when people buy them). However, as one who is recovering from severe depression and anxiety, I also know what it feels like when your friends and family buy you books, place them in your lap and say, "Here. You really need to read this. It'll help you."

I totally get that. I really do. I know you mean well. But just let me talk to all the friends and family out there for a minute who want to help the one they love. Stop it! Stop trying to help. Stop buying the latest self-help book. Stop making the doctor or counselor appointments. Stop suggesting the medications. Stop it already. God bless your efforts, truly. But you are becoming part of the problem instead of the solution. Trust me. Even those of you who are silent, not talking about it because you're afraid you might push 'em over the edge are making it worse.

So what are you supposed to do?

Love them. Love them in their up times. Love them in their down times. Don't be afraid to talk to them, but talk to them like you do everyone else. Don't walk on eggshells around them. And please, whatever you do, don't look at them or treat them with pity, derision, mockery, insults or jokes, or even the statement, “Well, it runs in the family.” 

Be a real person. Be who you are. Let them be who they are. Granted, there are times when you will, or do have to step in and intervene. But use common sense. Use discretion. Use your head and heart, not your mouth.

What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? ~James 2:14-16, NLT

I’m also not saying to baby them either, because that only enables them to stay in their disorder.
Maybe that sounds cliché or like I’m making a double standard. I’m not. Why not say, "Hey, I know this is tough. Let me walk with you." Maybe they'll be receptive, maybe they won't. Regardless, you've put yourself out there and let them know you care, you understand, you're not condemning them. You're loving them where they're at.

Ask them, “How are things today?” or “How are you today?” They may answer vaguely, “Oh, it’s a day.” They may be afraid to divulge information. They may be too embarrassed to give a truthful answer. So, be observant. Test the waters. Ask simple questions that will allow them to answer or not answer; “Is something bothering you today?” or “Can I help you work through anything?” They may answer with the standard, “Fine,” to which you can ask, “Are you really?” But don’t ask in condemnation or ridicule. Be sincere.

So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. ~Romans 8:1-2, NLT

There were many times, when I was suffering in depression, I just wished someone would listen without jumping to conclusions or giving advice. I learned really quick not to open up with information about my feelings because people read too much into what I was saying and were not listening to my heart, which was breaking. My feelings and emotions were all over the place, so I couldn’t really express my true self. Therefore I was misunderstood too many times, judged, condemned and even lost friends.

I thank God every day that He healed me. I no longer have these issues, but I also have empathy for people who do. It’s not fun dealing with anxiety, depression, or taking the medications to help with those things. It’s also not fun dealing with well-meaning people who think they’re helping when they’re only making the issues worse. But the most heartbreaking is losing friends because they jumped to conclusions about you and didn’t listen to your heart.

One of the most important things you can be is a good listener. Don’t offer advice. Don’t offer solutions. Just listen. Lend a shoulder to cry on. Be a taxi if you need to be. Be available to answer your phone even in the middle of the night. And if you think a certain book would help your friend, then buy two and offer to read them together. Then be available to discuss what you've read. But don't leave them to figure things out on their own.

See the real person inside that depression, that anxiety, that bi-polar. Look beyond the issue to the beautiful heart and mind that is struggling to get out of that black hole. Throw them a lifeline. Even if they can’t seem to get out of the pit just yet, at least they can hold onto the line until they’re strong enough to come out into the open. Above all, pray for those you care about. Intercede for them. God knows. He hears. And He will answer.

In my distress I prayed to the LORD, and the LORD answered me and set me free. ~Psalm 118:5, NLT



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