October 4th = National Day of Prayer for Healing and Recovery From Mental Illness
I never used to pray. My siblings and I were raised in an environment that demanded prayer. Needless to say, when we were out of the parental home we rejected religion and prayer.
“You live in a church where you sleep with voodoo dolls…”
That lyric Sarah MacLachlan sings is pretty much where I was for most of my life. It would have taken someone with a baseball bat hitting the backs of my knees to make me kneel in prayer. But that was before I sobered up, before I suffered with mental illness.
Prayer is not religion. I can even say that reading the Bible is not religion, it’s reading the Bible, which I do. I have enjoyed attending services with friends although going on my own is yet to be seen. It has taken suffering to get me on my knees. Surrender is a scary prospect. All it means, really, is that we have surrendered to our pain and are asking for help. We don’t have to know a certain prayer or speak our prayer out loud. All we have to do is show ‘whatever it is out there’ that we give up in the face of suffering and grief. We can also give thanks in the same way.
On Tuesday the 4th we can rejoice in our recovery (no matter a little or a lot) by saying a prayer and sending it out there. If you need a prop, get hold of a helium balloon and send it up with your prayer. You can also just tip your head back to get a view of the sky and say your prayer to that enormous piece of heaven. You get to invent where you send your prayers. Sometimes I simply picture a meadow or the ocean. It really doesn’t matter because the results are pretty much the same. Peace. Calm. I appreciate those two attributes so much that I really have stopped asking for ‘things’. I understand that what comes to me in this life is what’s meant to be, whether pain or happiness.
I did have a crash course in prayer when I finally found the door and walked through to AA (Alcoholics Anonymous). So many of us with mental illness have found ourselves in AA. I used to self-soothe with alcohol, especially when I was manic. But then the addiction happens and we find ourselves with trembling hands and nausea. I found prayer because I was willing to. That’s really all it takes.
If you yourself live with a mental illness you know that you don’t need a whole week to be aware of it, but other people do. Much of what other people are aware of is up to us. In return I hope that those other people have the grace to not call us names or make “clever” remarks about the mentally ill.
I was handed a perfect example of inappropriate remarks just a few weeks ago. My friend, Molly, and I drove down to Jackson, Wyoming to see art by a friend as it hung it an upscale furniture store. We caught up with Bill and his wife, Karen, at their hotel and were introduced to another couple. I was asked what I do. I told them I was an advocate for mental health. The man we didn’t know said something about that being a good fit for me because of Fatal Attraction and my crazy sister. Whoa!!! I didn’t laugh. In fact I told him I have bipolar illness. Now, the REALLY crazy part of this story is that this man then told me his son has a mental illness. Double Whoa!!! He was very apologetic. I didn’t say it was okay. I’ve learned over the years that silence is sometimes more powerful than words. And this is an example of ‘what other people are aware of is up to us’.
So, at all times, but especially this week of October 2nd through the 8th, I’ll
be looking for situations where I can educate, where no one has to squirm. In the past I have been embarrassed by my mental illness, I’ve regretfully kept quiet when I hear mean remarks. So, for those of us who are able to speak let’s hold together and speak up, especially for those of us who can’t. And let’s take this beyond October 8th.