Tag Archives: Shattering stigma

Mental Illness is NOT scary

TheGatheringonMentalhealth

Houston, we have a problem. There’s a social epidemic wreaking havoc on our nation’s people. Unfortunately it’s an issue that remains hidden behind walls of stigma and mask’s of false reality.

Mental illness (don’t click away! Hang with me for a few, pretty please?)

I recently attended The Gathering on Mental Health and the Church at Saddleback in California; (This is bestselling author Rick Warren’s church, in case that rings a bell for you.) I’ve been an advocate for mental health since going through my own recovery for anorexia and anxiety. As a co-leader for my church’s brand new Shattering Stigma mental health ministry, attending this conference was a special opportunity. Continue reading

Exposing the heart of all that matters

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In my last post, I lamented about how God is asking me to surrender my perfectionism. It turns out that I am not really a perfectionist, rather perfectionism is a shield I built to ward off feelings of shame when I’m just being me.

Using my experience at the Shattering Stigma conference, I told you that I wasn’t prepared. I gave my presentation without notes–without organizing my “stuff” into a presentable and tidy speech with bullet points.

I lied (without realizing it).

I was prepared. I was prepared because I had prayed, sought words and ideas through Scripture, and heard the voice of the Holy Spirit in my heart. God had prepared my heart for the day. I gave a presentation from my heart but my trust was fully immersed in notes that didn’t exist. If God lives in my heart, then I can trust God will shine through me–not my notes. Or PowerPoint. Or anything else I squeeze nice and neat into a box.

This is what I was trying to say but failed to make clear that point. I apologize.

But guess what? While this is a very valuable lesson in spiritual growth for me and an incredible step in my relationship with Christ, none of this is about me.

Did you catch the platform upon which God was teaching me? Shattering Stigma with Stories: Mental Health and the Church. He placed me with a group of other people at an event where the whole point is to be 100% vulnerable, raw, and transparent about how not perfect life is.

This conference was not about me and losing my shield of perfectionism. This conference was about shattering the stigma that shields the community from connecting with those living with mental illness. 

  • This day was about the Allen family bravely sharing their story about Andrew, a son, grandson, brother, and brother-in-law who has been battling bipolar disorder since he was in the eighth grade.Allen Family
  • This day was about a highly educated professional, Dr. Rand Michael, revealing that no amount of education or skill will ever prepare us for the beauty, challenges, and lessons we’ll experience with mental illness. Dr. Michael
  • This day was about a wife, Kelcey, living with both bipolar and schizoaffective disorder, describing how her husband has loved her “in sickness” through psychosis, mania, and suicide attempts (not because she wanted to die but because voices instructed her to).IMG_20150530_134724867_HDR (1)
  • This day was about an aunt, Tara, with nieces who suffer severe mental illnesses and how loving them fiercely wasn’t enough to make them all better.
  • This day was about moms, Tess and Casey, who battle depression and anxiety while learning how to best love their kids and navigate the journey of raising families.

Every single story was raw in honesty and emotion about why mental illness is hard and how we’ve experienced the stigma from our communities. Every single story showed what healing looks like. Every single story showed how God has made himself known in the battle despite the lack of confidence we and/or our families have felt in our journeys.

Loving God is hard when you live with the challenges of mental illness because it’s hard to know if He’s really there. Yet every story showed that it’s through love of people that God makes himself most obviously present. 

Stigmas and stereotypes act as protective barriers against understanding people who are difficult to love. For God, no one is too hard to love. We have to break down the barriers to love like God. In doing so, we show the love of God to people who believe they don’t matter. Love is the heart of all that matters.

In the name of Jesus and for the sake of shattering stigma, I proudly present to you my imperfect, note-free shattering stigma story:

*Conference photos courtesy of Sovann Pen; special thanks to my sister-friend Kelcey Rockhold for recording my talk.

What God looks like at a mental health conference

I sit here with my fingers on the keys wondering where in the heck I am supposed to begin. My days have been consumed with the planning of a groundbreaking event at my church called, Shattering Stigma with Stories: Mental Health and The Church. The conference took place on Saturday, and today I am left sitting here drained of energy but filled to the brim with awe and hope and pleasant shock.

I don’t have words, right now, to even begin articulating the divine power by which the stigma surrounding mental illness shattered into million brilliant pieces. One of my dearest friends and fellow bloggers attended our conference as a special guest speaker–she has given great voice and imagery to what happened on Saturday, and I hope you’ll go read it–> From Roots and Lungs.

I need more time to process and pray about the day; however, I want to tell you about the most life changing thing that happened for me:

My parents, brother, and I rarely talk about my mental illness with each other. I have anorexia; I am in the midst of navigating a relapse that began last summer. While I have had the desire and yearning to talk more openly about it with my family, I haven’t had the courage. My family knows about my illness, but we’ve never really fully dug into what anorexia is/does in my life. Fear holds me back–would they understand? Would they be mad? Would they believe I was really sick? Would they blame me? Would they care? For me I worry about what the reaction or interaction might be, and I am not in a place right now where I could handle or cope with negative response. Negative reaction is always a possibility no matter who we share our story with.  My mind naturally focuses on the worst case scenario.

But at this conference I openly shared my story for the first time–in front of nearly 300 people from my church and community, including my parents. I worried mostly about what my dad might think/feel, yet I so wanted him to hear what God had given me to share.

My dad did hear.

When I came down off the stage after my talk, well … this:

Dad Understands

Following the conference, he publicly expressed on his Facebook page:

I have known for a few years my daughter had an eating disorder. She was getting treatment for it along with some physical issues caused by certain foods. So, I was rather nonchalant about her eating and comfortable that is was just an inconvenience. Today, she stood in front of about 250 people at a conference to tell her story. When she boldly said “I have a mental illness”, it brought me to tears. I’ve always known the disorder was a mental illness. It wasn’t until I stood proud of her at the side of the room and heard her say those words did it hit me how ill she really is. My wife invited me to pull a word off of the “stigma” mirror at the conference where Leanne was speaking. I pulled off “apathy.” It best describes my attitude to her illness to date. Since hearing her speak this has touched me to my core, I need to process and find what best to offer her for support.

This is how God works. He doesn’t strike down with lightning bolts and orchestrate explosive miracles. He works through hearts; He pumps power through what is weak and fearful and uncomfortable so we can be restored, revived, and realigned with His purpose. His work is anchored in His great love for us and is manifested through us in how we live–our stories.

Take this one moment with my dad and me and multiply it by the nearly 300 people who filled our event hall on Saturday– you see now why I sit here today overwhelmed at the prospect of articulating through words the full power of what took place there.

I will leave you with some pictures from our day and the video of my talk if you are interested in hearing what I shared that day.

Top: Our event hall filled to capacity. Left: Our pastor's wife, Debbie Sander, sharing her story of living with bipolar disorder. Right: Guest, Pastor Jerry Beres sharing his story of living with anxiety and ADD.

Top: Our event hall filled to capacity.
Left: Our pastor’s wife, Debbie Sander, sharing her story of living with bipolar disorder.
Right: Guest, Pastor Jerry Beres sharing his story of living with anxiety and ADD.

Fellow blogger (Writings From the Ravens Desk), Kelcey Rockhold sharing her story of living with Schizo Affective Disorder bipolar type.

Fellow blogger (Writings From the Ravens Desk), Kelcey Rockhold sharing her story of living with Schizo Affective Disorder bipolar type.

Client/fellow blogger/friend/Keynote speaker, Tony Roberts sharing his story of living with bipolar disorder.

Client/fellow blogger (A Way With Words)/friend/Keynote speaker, Tony Roberts sharing his story of living with bipolar disorder.

Me sharing my story of living with anorexia.

Me sharing my story of living with anorexia.