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Intersection of Faith and Mental Illness

There is a lot of stigma and misunderstanding surrounding mental health both inside and outside of the Church. Thankfully, many are working everyday to overcome these stigmas and share the realities of mental illness in a way that will reveal so much to us about ourselves and the Divine love. The days of “pray it away” are slowly passing us and we are opening an authentic dialogue about what it means to be a person of faith who experiences mental health challenges. This conversation starts with the reality that every single one of us has mental health, given to us by God to be tended to.

When Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden we saw the Lord tell them they would toil for their food and there would be strife in their relationships (Genesis 3:16 & 19). Today, we know that some of the most stress inducing parts of the human condition come from providing for yourself and your family, as well as developing strong interpersonal relationships. In fact, according to the American Institute of Stress the top five biggest stressors we experience are job pressure, money, health, relationships, and poor nutrition. The things that bring about our stress, anxiety, and depression come from the sin of our first parents.

But the Church has a beautiful teaching about sin that I think is important to recognize. We each have personal sins, but there are also natural sins. This is why the world has things like disease and natural disaster. These horrible things we experience aren’t due to God’s lack of love for us, rather they are a consequence of the first sin. So what does that mean for mental illness? Researchers are working to determine if there is a connection between mental health and things like gut health, climate change, and chronic disease. These factors aren’t about our personal sins directly impacting our mental illnesses, rather they are the consequences of natural sin. Meaning, it isn’t all our fault that we have poor mental health.

So how do we overcome our mental health challenges in our fallen world? As mentioned, just praying it away may not be enough, though it is one of the most important things you can do. There are seven aspects to wellness, one of them is spiritual wellness. It is through spiritual wellness that we contemplate who we are, why we’re here, and how we tap into a higher power when our own strength fails us. God is our partner in this life, he’s here to help us on the journey. Have you ever heard the expression, God never gives you more than you can handle? I prefer the slight modification of God will give you the grace you need to handle anything. On the hardest days, tap into the infinite strength of the Lord. Better yet, tap in before you have to tap out. Spending time in prayer, in Scripture, and with our brothers and sisters in Christ can help us to improve our mental health. There are even mental health ministries popping up in churches, because the Church realizes the importance of ministering to our total wellness: soul, body, AND mind.

I’m a convert to the Catholic Church and I have a history of anorexia nervosa, an eating disorder. Because I was raised without a faith tradition, I had no foundation. I went through life not realizing that my body is a gift, bought at a price, to be cared for and used to glorify its Creator (1 Corinthians 6:20). When I discovered I was loved by the King of kings and Lord of lords, it changed my image of myself. A common mantra I use to keep myself grounded is: I am smart, I am beautiful, I am worthy of love. I am a child of God, this body is given to me to bring Him glory, I have to eat!

During my last serious relapse a couple years ago, I went to Confession and realized it had been four months since my last Confession. I’m typically a 4-6 week attendee to the sacrament.  At the end of my confession, the priest’s suggestion to me, “maybe come a little more often.” I could have thunked myself on the head and said DUH! Because it is through the sacraments that we encounter the mercy and love of our Heavenly Father, it is through the sacraments that he freely dumps heaps of grace into our hearts to help us on life’s journey. I hadn’t even realized it, but I was hiding under a bushel basket (Matthew 5:15). Not just to the world, but also to the maker of my body (Genesis 3:8). I was hiding my shame of starvation from the only one who could save me from it (Matthew 1:21). In my mental health talks to youth groups, I share how there are two parallel lines running through my life. As my spiritual journey improves, so does my mental health. The more I learn about God, the better I understand myself, the better I appreciate all of His creation.

Although spiritual wellness is not the only piece of the pie, it is critical, it’s the one our secular world forgets most often. A clearly defined recovery and self care program MUST include daily spiritual growth.

Intersection of Faith and Mental IllnessAlexandria Robinson is Catholic millennial by choice, striving to leave the world a little bit better than the way she found it. She seeks to invest in young people as a means of changing the world, giving pragmatic tips to improving total wellness and mental health. A lover of Sacred Scripture she writes online Catholic Bible studies and has recently written a book called A Catholic Millennial’s Guide to the Bible in the hopes of encouraging the spiritual development of her fellow young people. You can find her blogging at www.TheGenesisFeminist.com.

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Ink Slingers Lynette Series The Crossroads - Where Faith Meets Mental Health

May Is Mental Health Awareness Month

Mental illness has no boundaries, no preferences, and no qualifications.  You can be a person of strong belief or no belief, rich or poor, educated or illiterate, male or female, young or old, ______ or ______, and the list goes on.  However, what mental illness does have is a story – a story unique to every individual who experiences mental illness. I, too, have my own story to tell. Every year as Mental Health Month approaches, I feel an urgency in my heart, an urgency not without its own pain, which moves me to step beyond my own memories and fear of stigma.  In a world where so many suffer from mental illness in silence, I hope to be voice that can offer hope and healing.

My story is not unlike that of many who have suffered with mental illness.  It was the fall of 1998. I was happily married, had 3 daughters aged 8, 5, and 2, and was part of a loving extended family.  I was very active in a choir and a local homeschooling group. I frequently enjoyed the activities of a mothers’ group. I helped my husband with the office responsibilities of his business.  From the outside looking in, it appeared I was living an enviable life; that I had it all together. Nothing could have been further from the truth.
On the inside, I was a mess of mixed thoughts and emotions — endless worry and confusion — mixed with a constant wired-but-tired fatigue I couldn’t shake.  As is often the case in mental illness, symptoms, which can manifest themselves in a myriad of medical conditions, tend to be brushed aside until they become a glaring reality.  What I had considered for months to be just normal motherhood exhaustion and worry, was really the beginning of a slow, downward spiral, increasingly feeling I was boxed into a life of repetitive inner turmoil, negative self-talk, and emotional numbness.  I began to feel there was no way out of the vicious cycle I found myself in. My story could have ended there.

Tragically, for many, it does.  Thankfully, I had a cardiologist who saw beyond my heart related symptoms and initiated the right steps to make sure I received the help I needed.  I voluntarily checked into the local hospital’s Behavioral Health Center. Even though I was admitted to the “medical” side of the Center, it was still a locked ward with patients suffering numerous mental illnesses, mostly brought on by unintended medication interactions or old age.  The few days I was there brought on more fear and anxiety as I dealt with my surroundings and new medication. However, I was very relieved to have a diagnosis and a name to what I had been experiencing for the last year (clinical depression, which likely began with postpartum depression, along with anxiety/panic disorder) and a doctor who would help me with a recovery plan.  What I was not prepared for was seeing firsthand the extent of the suffering of the other patients. Many of the people I encountered had much more difficult hurdles to face. I began to see mental illness in a completely different light and to realized my perceptions of mental illness were in many ways misconstrued and prejudicial.

Mental illness statistics are alarming.

Mental illness affects 1 in 5 adults and approximately 20 percent of youth ages 13 to 18.  Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S., the 3rd leading cause of death for people aged 10–24, and the 2nd leading cause of death for people aged 15–24.  Mood disorders, including major depression, dysthymic disorder and bipolar disorder, are the third most common cause of hospitalization in the U.S. for both youth and adults aged 18–44.   70% of youth in juvenile justice systems have at least one mental health condition and at least 20% live with a serious mental illness. An estimated 26% of homeless adults staying in shelters live with serious mental illness and an estimated 46% live with severe mental illness and/or substance use disorders.  See more at: https://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-By-the-Numbers
With statistics such as these, it is highly probable that mental illness will touch each of our lives in some fashion – personally or in the lives of those we know and love – and I encourage you to take action to learn the warning signs of mental illness.  You can find a comprehensive list on the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) website. Although medication and counseling was of benefit to me, what really allowed me to learn how to manage my illness was a self-help program called Recovery.

The mission of Recovery International is to “use the cognitive-behavioral, peer-to-peer, self-help training system developed in 1937 by Abraham Low, MD, to help individuals gain skills to lead more peaceful and productive lives.”  Recovery gave me the concrete tools I needed that allowed me to have control over my illness, rather than allowing it to control me. After attending the meetings for several years, I volunteered as a co-leader and am now the leader of a local group.  My years in Recovery, both as a participant and a leader, have given me an empathy and an understanding into mental illness that I would never have had if I had not experienced it myself. What I received through the program, I now hope to give back to others who are struggling with their own mental health battles.

The tools below are quoted or adapted from the self-help books Mental Health Through Will Training, Manage Your Fears Manage Your Anger, and Selections From Dr. Low’s Works.  They are just a few of the many tools available:

  • Treat mental health as a business and not as a game.
  • Humor is our best friend, temper is our worst enemy.
  • If you can’t change a situation, you can change your attitude towards it.
  • Be self-led, not symptom-led.
  • Nervous symptoms and sensations are distressing but not dangerous.
  • Temper is, among other things, blindness to the other side of the story.
  • Comfort is a want, not a need.
  • There is no right or wrong in the trivialities of everyday life.
  • Calm begets calm, temper begets temper.
  • Don’t take our own dear selves too seriously.
  • Feelings should be expressed and temper suppressed.
  • Feelings are not facts, they lie and tell us of danger where there is no danger.
  • Helplessness is not hopelessness.
  • Some people have a passion for self-distrust.
  • Temper maintains and intensifies symptoms.
  • Do things in part acts.
  • Have the courage to make a mistake.
  • Feelings are not facts.
  • Do the things you fear and hate to do.
  • Fear is a belief—beliefs can be changed.
  • Every act of self-control brings a sense of self-respect.
  • Excuse, don’t accuse.
  • Endorse yourself for the effort, not only for the performance.
  • A self-endorsing person feels secure.
    See http://www.selfhelptools.org/endorsement-is-the-essence-of-recovery/ for a discussion on endorsing and its value in the mental health recovery process.

RESOURCES & SPIRITUAL HEALING

DBSA {Depression, Bipolar Support Alliance}

NAMI {National Alliance of Mental Illness}

NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION HOTLINE

MTHFR {genetic mutation associated with depression, bipolar, and schizophrenia}

A FRIEND ASKS – FREE APP (Jason Foundation) – helps provide information, tools, and resources to help a friend (or yourself) who may be in danger of committing suicide

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Guest Posts Ink Slingers Real And Raw Series

My Child Struggles with Mental Illness

Real and Raw

Welcome to this installment in the series Real and Raw – Soul-Stirring Stories, a series focused on taking a candid look at the Faith and life’s struggles as we journey to heaven. Being Catholic doesn’t mean you won’t suffer–in fact, Jesus promises we’re likely to suffer even more for being His disciple. But Catholics often feel self-conscious about admitting to doubt, confusion, sorrow, or anger in their relationship with God. We want the world to be attracted to our beautiful faith, so we minimize the darkness and emphasize the light in our lives, usually at the expense of authenticity. Yet there’s value in sharing our journey in all its shades–in admitting there are gray and black days, too. We offer these stories to let our suffering readers know they’re not alone–we’re in the trenches with you and so is God, who loves us and has a divine purpose for pain, even if it’s hard to see or accept in the moment. Most importantly, we hope these stories give hope to readers…hope that there is help and that they will survive. And one day, they will make it out of the darkness and be stronger for it.


Watching a child suffer is not easy for a parent. We want to take away their pain. But sometimes the pain is too great for even a mother’s love to conquer. We have walked this path with one of our children. Our daughter has a bully. It is a terrible and cruel one that can paralyze her with fear. It is a bully that I cannot see and I frankly do not always understand. Our daughter has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Imagine a movie of your worst fears and nightmares repeating in a loop inside your brain. That is OCD.

There is no handbook for parenting a child with mental illness. This is a heartache that many parents keep hidden. It is too painful, too confusing, too misunderstood, too overwhelming. Your sick child can appear undisciplined, manipulative, or even spoiled by outsiders. And as a parent, you may even be regarded with suspicion. There are many schools of thought in parenting and all seem ridiculous when your child will not get out of bed. Meanwhile, you struggle to keep up with daily obligations. You cannot leave your child alone so you are unpredictable and unreliable canceling at the last minute all the
time. Your family is in crisis.  People sense it but they don’t know why. You are not alone. We need to talk about this. 
When our daughter first got sick I was heartbroken. Our daughter is so gentle and so kind. This was far too big a cross for such a little child to carry. It seemed so cruel and she did not understand why her life was so hard. I poured out my heartache in private in prayers and tears.

The prayers of a desperate mother are not eloquent.  I begged God to heal my child of her OCD. When that did not happen I realized that we needed to fight and we needed to fight hard. A school book report brought St. Joan of Arc into our life. We needed a warrior saint to intercede for my daughter. Her battle cry “I am not afraid, I was born for this” became our vow. We wore her medal as a reminder to pray and to fight.  We were very fortunate. We had access to the right kind of help. And in time our path got easier. Our daughter started responding to therapy and medication. Exposure therapy sometimes felt like torture and we cried in the car on the way home. There were times when she completely gave up and could not fight at all. But our child began to emerge as she learned coping skills. She is doing much better now. But “better” is relative and the road is full of ups and down. 

Perhaps you are in the abyss right now. I am not a theologian I cannot tell you why your child is suffering. My approach to prayer is emotional and I needed the simplest of prayers to keep me going. I knew that God loved my child even more than I did and that provided comfort. Lord, I do not understand your ways, but you love my child more than I do. I cling to this meditation and the faith that God has an all-consuming love for my child. I have no idea why she has to bear this cross but I will be there at her side. 

Your journey as a parent of a struggling child matters. God loves you with a personal tenderness. Be assured of that love. Let it be a source of strength and comfort in your exhaustion and frustration. Your worth as a parent is not measured by your child’s ability to function or meet other’s expectations. You are partners in this journey. You may walk this path imperfectly. That is okay-just keep going.  And perhaps you do not have a child with mental illness. But chances are you know someone who does. Be on the lookout for signs that a family is struggling. Respect privacy if it is requested. But offer help. Pray for your friend. Offer meals or groceries especially if a family member has been hospitalized. Be on the lookout for signs of burn out, exhaustion, and despair. 

So many families walk this path. Let us reach out to one another in love. As a parent of a child with mental illness, you are a warrior, caregiver, and advocate. You are also a beautiful child of God. Pour out your needs to Him and know that you are not alone. People are aching to talk about this.


REFLECT

Let’s dig deeper. Did this story resonate with you? If so, please continue on below and consider starting a journal to jot down your answers. PRINT several copies of these questions to start your own journal based on different posts. 

  1. What was my spiritual life like before the experience of loss?
  2. How did the experience negatively impact my relationship with God?
  3. How did the experience negatively impact my relationships with my spouse, my children, my coworkers, my relatives, my friends?
  4. Was there anything that helped to alleviate the suffering I was going through? (e.g., counsel from others, professional help, medication/supplements, devotions, lifestyle changes)
  5. How did this experience positively impact my relationships, either during or afterward?
  6. How did this experience positively impact my spiritual life, either during or afterward?
  7. If I could go back and change how I responded to this experience, what would I do differently?
  8. What would I say to someone else in this situation to give her hope?

RESOURCES & SPIRITUAL HEALING

DBSA {Depression, Bipolar Support Alliance}

NAMI {National Alliance of Mental Illness}

NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION HOTLINE

MTHFR {genetic mutation associated with depression, bipolar, and schizophrenia}

A Friend Asks – FREE APP (Jason Foundation) – helps provide information, tools, and resources to help a friend (or yourself) who may be in danger of committing suicide

MyChildStruggleswithMentalIllness

Categories
8th Commandment Doctrine Faith Formation Ink Slingers Liz Ten Commandments The Crossroads - Where Faith Meets Mental Health

The Danger of Being “Fine”

“I’m fine.”

“Just great!”

“Doing well, thanks.”

No matter how we’re actually feeling or doing, it’s generally considered a matter of American etiquette to put on a cheery face and respond nicely to anybody and everybody we meet who asks the quintessential question of politeness: “How are you?” Even in the face of grief, loss, injury or suffering, you’ll hear folks attempting to respond to the question with as much positivity as they can muster.  It’s almost reflexive.

Have the flu or broke your arm? “Oh, I’m doing OK, really!” 

Just had a 24-hour labor ending in a C-section or finished a round of chemo? “Oh, I’m just a little tired. I’m sure I’ll be on my feet in no time!”

Someone you love passed away? Going through a divorce? “Oh, I’m ‘getting there’ one day at a time!”

While societal customs insist we put on our bravest, happiest attitude for everything from the casual encounter on the street to the concerned inquiry from a friend, are we really doing ourselves any favors by defaulting to “fine?”

 In this Washington Post article from last July, pediatrician Dr. Smita Malhotra talks about shifting her outlook on defaulting to a happy face after she realized she was lying to her young daughter about her feelings.  She comments that, as a physician, she can clearly see the damage that forced positivity has on mental health:

“By constantly telling children to “turn that frown upside down,” our society sends them the message that being sad is almost unnatural. That it is something that needs to be fixed immediately … In my work as a physician I have seen increasing numbers of children and young adults being put on antidepressants. In many cases, these drugs are needed … But sometimes, they are used as a way to avoid dealing with sadness.”

Dr. Malhotra goes on to explain how mindfulness and honesty about one’s own emotions is a healthier choice that leads to greater resilience, more empathy for others and a realization that we do not have to be defined by our feelings.  Her column comes from a secular and medical viewpoint, but her words also have great value for those of us who live the Christian life. What she’s talking about is actually directly related to one of the Ten Commandments. Number Eight, specifically.

Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.

Before you go feeling panicked you’ve got one more reason to head to the confessional, let’s put the brakes on for a moment.

It’s not a mortal sin to let “I’m just fine,” slip out of your mouth when someone asks you how you’re feeling.  And it’s not immoral to want to protect others from your own suffering, or keep your personal problems private, or put on a happy face, or make the best out of any bad situation.  The Catechism summarizes the Eighth Commandment as “forbid[ding] misrepresenting the truth in our relations with others.”  It defines a lie as “speaking a falsehood with the intention of deceiving.”  It also makes clear that intention and circumstances often define the gravity of a fib, and that we’re never bound to reveal information to someone who has “no right to know it.”

But it’s also not being needy, or too negative, or a “complainer” to be politely open and honest with anyone, even a stranger, who asks what’s going on in your life.  In fact, this approach has a lot of spiritual benefits to recommend it.

Displaying our mental, physical and spiritual wounds to those who inquire about them grows us in humility and truthfulness.  It makes us vulnerable like Christ was vulnerable, but it also allows others the chance to be Christ by ministering to our needs.  It opens up channels of trust by allowing others in our lives to see our true selves, and it helps us all dispel the widespread and anti-Christian societal illusion that the only people worth associating with are the ones who “have it all together.”

So the next time you’re having a bad day and someone asks you how you are, pause a moment and considering answering more honestly.

“I’m struggling a little today.”

“Oh, my heart hurts over the things going on in the world.”

“I’m working on feeling positive this morning, but I’m not there yet.”

“Not so well. Actually, could you help me with this?”

You might feel needy and awkward, but you might also find God’s comfort and love hiding in an unexpected place. 

And that is just fine.

RESOURCES

DBSA {Depression, Bipolar Support Alliance}

NAMI {National Alliance of Mental Illness}

NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION HOTLINE

MTHFR {genetic mutation associated with depression, bipolar, and schizophrenia}

 
Categories
Ink Slingers Liz The Crossroads - Where Faith Meets Mental Health

Seven Things Your Mentally Ill Friend Wants to Tell You in 2017

A New Year is here, and with it new blessings, joys, sufferings, and opportunities to grow in the Lord. If you are one of the millions of Americans who knows someone with a mental illness, pin this reminder list with your New Year’s resolutions and make 2017 the year that you are Christ to your brothers and sisters who walk in the dark of mood disorders.

1. Yes, I Look Healthy …
Just because I’m smiling and walking upright doesn’t mean I’m faking my illness or blowing it out of proportion. I really want to be normal and healthy, so I try to manage the best I can. I put on a grin when I’m feeling sad. I carry on a conversation when I really want to hide in bed. I keep on going because it’s the only thing I can do when I have a job and a family. Moreover, the twisted thought patterns that come with depression or bipolar disorder make me feel like I don’t deserve to feel bad. I think of myself as a lazy, incompetent faker, so I do everything I can to hide how “horrible” I am from you. In fact, if I do appear exhausted or disheveled, it could mean things are really bad. When I stop caring for myself and hiding things away, it’s a red flag that my condition has progressed to a dangerous level. 
 
How To Be a Friend: Ask me how I’m doing, even if it looks like the answer is “fine.” You never know what could be hiding underneath that smile. It might be an opportunity from Jesus to reach out to the sick and suffering.
 
2. But My Brain Isn’t Even the Only Thing that Hurts.
You know mental conditions like depression or anxiety can ruin my mood and make me feel scared and hopeless. Unfortunately, the negative effects don’t stop there. Depression can cause intense muscle aches. Bipolar disorder sometimes keeps me from sleeping. Anxiety attacks might make my body feel like I’m dying (even though I’m not)! And the medications that help manage these conditions often come with a whole host of unpleasant side effects. So don’t be surprised if I take extra sick days, punk out on that 5K we’ve had scheduled for months, or end up in the hospital when it’s “just” a panic attack. It’s all part of the war my brain is waging on itself and my body.
 
How to Be a Friend: Please be flexible and patient when it comes to the activities we’ve planned together. Recognize I’m not being a flake if I cancel our plans last minute or suggest we do something more low-key. Going at my pace (and putting up with my uncertainties) might be annoying, but it’s also really kind and merciful. 
 
3. It Also Hurts When You Joke.
“She’s so OCD her closet is arranged by color!”
“You were just happy a minute ago! Could you be anymore bipolar?”
“My kids were sick for a whole week last year. I still get PTSD just thinking about it!”
“Geez, you look horrible today. What’s the matter, you got cancer?”
 
One of those quotes is not like the other, right? It’s insensitive (and downright offensive!) to make light of a serious illness like cancer. It has touched so many families, it’s life-changing, and it’s quite possibly deadly. So why are we OK with poking fun at mental disorders? They affect one in three people worldwide. They can change every aspect of a family’s life. And they can certainly be deadly. The National Alliance on Mental Illness estimates serious mental illness can take 25 years off a sufferer’s life, and suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States! 
 
How To Be a Friend: Stop with the snarky or thoughtless remarks.Yes, they might seem harmless. But when I think my illness isn’t serious or important enough for you to take seriously, it makes it that much harder to keep going every day. You are my friend, and I care what you think. 
 
5. There is No “Cure” …
Yes, I have heard of anti-depressants. And therapy. And exercise. And going outside. And cutting out sugar and gluten. And even that turmeric lemon honey thing you saw on Pinterest. I’ve actually tried a lot of these things! Many help, some of them help very much, but none of them are an easy fix. Because there’s no such thing. Right now, there’s no sure cure for illnesses like depression or bipolar or PTSD. There are only treatments. Some of them are more pharmaceutical, some are more “natural.” None of them is a magic potion, and none of them is the only right way to manage a condition. 
 
How to Be a Friend: Pray that I’m truly cured with a miracle from God. Pray for an earthly cure and more effective treatments to be invented. Feel free to send me links or tell me about the newest remedy you saw on TV, but please don’t be insulted if it doesn’t work out. And please don’t assume I’m doing the “wrong” thing if I don’t take meds, or if I do! 
 
5. And I Don’t Want to Be Alone …
This one is tough. I might act like I want to be alone. I’m going to spend a lot of time alone. I’m going to turn down invitations and avoid people. I might even tell you I want to be alone. But I shouldn’t be alone. One of the evils of depression, as I’ve mentioned before, is that it “causes the soul to curl in on itself—sufferers desire to spend more and more time alone, which amplifies their loneliness and negativity and causes their condition to become worse and worse.” 
 
How to Be a Friend: If I push you away, reach out. If I don’t respond to your text messages, call me. If I say I’m staying home, ask if you can come over. If I totally shut you down, try again tomorrow. I don’t mean to be a jerk. I’m just hurting, and my fears and sadness are working overtime to convince me that nobody wants me around. It might not seem like I appreciate you, but really, you and my family are the only things keeping me going.
 
6. … But Your Help is a Lifesaver (Literally)!
You may have already forgotten about that time you brought me dinner, or watched my child for the afternoon, or came over with a bottle of wine and insisted we watch TV all evening. But I haven’t. These small gestures of kindness stick out like those beautiful little rays of sunshine you see breaking through on a gloomy day. When I’m in the middle of an episode, every day is dark and gloomy, and I can’t find the power to create those sunshiny rays on my own. So your help is literally shining Christ’s light into my life. In my worst times, it might be the only earthly positive I can remember.
 
How to Be a Friend: Keep up the good work! Even the smallest act of friendship has far-ranging effects, from washing a pile of dirty dishes in my sink to sharing a funny meme with me on Facebook. God bless you for everything you do! 
 
7. Pray for Me! 
You might not not know how to reach out to me when I’m depressed, anxious or manic. You might be afraid of doing the wrong thing or that you don’t know me well enough. And since you’ve got a family, a job and demands of your own, your time is limited. I totally understand that. But there’s one thing you can always do–the simplest, easiest, quickest, but most powerful thing–pray. I’m asking for just one Rosary, one Mass intention, light one candle, heck, say just one Hail Mary! Whatever works for you and your family will make all the difference in my life. There have been horribly dark times when I struggled to pray at all and definitely struggled to pray for myself. I might have felt I didn’t deserve God’s love, or been mad at Him, or just been too exhausted to talk to Him without falling asleep. When I look back and ask myself how I made it through these times, I know in my heart I was being carried by the love and faith of others. 
 
How to Be a Friend: “Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective.”-James 5:16 (NRSVCE)
 

RESOURCES

DBSA {Depression, Bipolar Support Alliance}

NAMI {National Alliance of Mental Illness}

NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION HOTLINE

MTHFR {genetic mutation associated with depression, bipolar, and schizophrenia}