Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Never Give Up Hope

Last night Tim and I had the honor/privilege/opportunity/blessing to attend a weekly family support group affiliate of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. The funny thing is: I'd NEVER heard of NAMI before this week, even though we've dealt with mental illness for a very long time.

From one of their brochures:

"NAMI is the nation's largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to improving the lives of individuals and families affected by mental illness. NAMI has over 1,100 affiliates in communities across the country who engage in advocacy, research, support, and education. Members of NAMI are families, friends, and people living with mental illnesses such as major depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and borderline personality disorder."

Tweet: Did you know 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. has a mental health condition? Find support at www.NAMI.org #mentalhealth #mentalillness #NAMI

We have a precious loved one who has recently been diagnosed with psychosis, bipolar disorder, depression, and PTSD. He suffers from delusions, hallucinations, paranoia, and psychotic episodes. All different kinds of things set off triggers for him - triggers we are just now learning about. Life with him is a roller coaster, yet I can't and won't ever, ever, ever give up on him. We know the Ultimate Healer, the Great Physician, and we pray for his healing. But if God chooses not to heal him here on earth, we pray for wisdom in navigating this journey, wisdom to know how to help him best so that he can lead a functional, healthy, happy, productive life once again.

Last night, we gained more knowledge about this journey we're on, and we gained some new friends. We learned that - just like alcoholism - this is a disease we're dealing with, this is an illness. They stressed the importance of not labeling the person AS mentally ill, but rather as HAVING a mental illness. There's only a slight difference in the words, but a huge difference in concept.

Tweet: Mental illness doesn't discriminate based on race, gender, identity or age. Be #StigmaFree www.nami.org/stigmafree #mentalhealth #mentalillness

The group is similar to other support groups like AA, Al-Anon, Codependents Anonymous. The meetings are conducted with an order, sharing stories, providing hope and encouragement for everyone else with great respect and camaraderie.

Tim said the thing that surprised him most was to hear story after story that reflected our own. We are not alone on this journey, and although it's heart-breaking to know so many are affected by mental illness, it's a comfort to know that there are others on the same path who have already learned how to cope and handle the day-to-day issues that come up.

Tweet: I'm inspired to build better lives for those affected by mental illness. I'm #StigmaFree. Are you? www.nami.org/stigmafree #mentalhealth #mentalillness

Mental illness doesn't go away with a simple prescription. Mental illness is a life-long journey of trials and errors, medication and treatment "dances" as one of my new friends put it last night. What works for one patient or one family may not work for another.

Yesterday, I had my first glimmer of hope in this ordeal. The caseworker began to talk long-term goals. Long-term. This is the first time anyone has talked the long-term, because for years, everyone else has just been concerned about getting us out of the current crisis. But to hear that someone is advocating now for long term goals - looking at the future instead of just slapping a bandage on temporarily - the news gave me such hope.

I know the battle isn't over. But we're more equipped with knowledge and support than we've ever been.

If you have loved ones who suffer from mental illness, I encourage you to hunt for your nearest NAMI group and GO to their meetings. Get involved. Help end the stigma associated with mental illness and help our loved ones get the help they need to function again.

Over the coming days and weeks, I'll write more about our journey and about NAMI's role in our lives.

I'd love to hear from you if you're walking this road, too. Know you're not alone. And that there is HOPE.

Related articles:

Hope and Tough Love

Thursday, November 16, 2017

A Pixel Perfect Christmas - Re-Released

One of my favorite compilations has been re-released.

A Pixel-Perfect Christmas is now available in print and on Kindle.

Stories of fun, faith, fact, and fiction ...

Put another log on the fire, grab a cup of cocoa, and snuggle in to read the eclectic collection of Christmas stories included in A Pixel-Perfect Christmas.

The stories were originally written by the readers and team of the Pix-N-Pens blog, as the result of a contest held during November 2009. Finalists for the contests were chosen and placed in this book.

The stories within are a mixture of fiction and nonfiction, serious and silly—and we’re sure you’ll love them all. Some may even become favorites to read again year after year.

Recent posts:

Love Letters from the Heart Re-Released
Hope and Tough Love

From TMP Books:

Crush the Rush: Black Friday/Cyber Monday Sale Going on NOW!
Call for Submissions: Love Letters from the Heart 2

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Love Letters from the Heart - Re-Released!

I'm excited to announce the re-release of this special little book, Love Letters from the Heart.

Have you ever felt unloved?

Friends, family, perhaps even strangers, have messages within their hearts they want to share with you, but never found the right time or the right place to speak them. Here, within these pages, you'll find messages of hope, forgiveness, direction, and even prayers – written from caring, loving hearts directly to you and for you.

Know this – you are not forgotten or abandoned. You are not alone. You are loved – more than you can possibly imagine.

Who could love any of us that much? Turn the pages – we hope you'll soon discover the answer.

Available on Amazon in paperback and on Kindle.

Reviewers say:

I'd never read a book like this before and had to ponder the letters and think about their writers for a while. Then I realized the letters speak to everyone. You will find yourself somewhere in at least one of the letters. But, perhaps more importantly, the letters bring hope and inspiration. Tracy Ruckman wonderfully used a great writing technique. Each letter is so well written and meaningful and speaks from the heart. This is a book worth reading.

This is a wonderful book to read if you're looking for a variety of encouraging stories from those who have been there, done it, and can offer hope. It's edited in such a way that you can read the book all the way through in one sitting or you can pick a topic and read the chapter relating to it. It would also be a welcome gift for anyone needing a little inspiration or a ready pick-me-up.

Love Letters from the Heart 2 is now accepting submissions.  The book will be published in February 2018.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Hope and Tough Love

Scrolling through Facebook this morning, I realized that other people may be in the same
kind of boat I’m currently in, so I decided to write this blog post in hopes of offering a word of encouragement and to let you know you’re not alone. I also wanted to write this blog post to just be real. To let everyone know that although life may be hard at times, the Lord is still on the throne, and our Hope is in HIM, not our present circumstances.

I love the holiday season. Love the Reason for the season, love the time of Thanksgiving for all we’re so richly blessed with, love the sparkly lights and the jingly bells. Love the sights, the sounds, the smells (oh, my, the delightful smells of cloves, sage, evergreens, gingerbread, wood-burning fires, fresh snow).

But for many years, I’ve let my holiday season be controlled by a dear, precious loved one who suffers from mental illness, but was only recently diagnosed.

We hear mental illness tossed around all the time, and we recognize the symptoms and behaviors. But what does mental illness look like on the home front?

For us, this year, it once again involves:

  • Law enforcement – while I have great appreciation and respect for LEOs and the work they do, I despise the sounds of sirens and the flash of blue and red lights
  • Mental health facilities (some great, some not so great)
  • Medications (some that work, others that do not; some that are taken as directed, others that are not, some legal and prescribed, others prescribed but not legal)
  • Manipulation
  • Erratic eating and sleeping and work schedules
  • Waiting for the next shoe to drop; waiting for the outcome of each day’s actions
  • Waiting for answers to questions you don’t know to ask
  • Waiting for some sign of a breakthrough – yes, always hopeful for one, even if everyone else is convinced there won’t be one because we’ve been down this path many times before
  • Taking away when you really want to keep giving, but knowing that the giving is enabling
  • Taking away even when the need is so great
  • Pain, heartbreak, tears
  • Tough love

We hear that last one tossed around frequently, too. Most think tough love is tough because a parent is being hard/strict on her kids. And that’s part of it, sure. But the really tough part means the parent’s heart is breaking, because she has to implement rules, guidelines, boundaries to hopefully help the child once and forever, but also to help all the other loved ones involved, including herself.

She has to be tough so the wayward child will learn and grow. And hopefully get well.

She has to be tough to bring sanity back to her family.

All while her heart aches and breaks.

All while her brain tries to make reason of it all.

All while her spirit questions whether she’s doing what Jesus would do.

All while she second guesses herself, argues with herself, beats up on herself – because whatever decision she makes, she has no guarantee it’s the RIGHT one. No guarantee that this time will be any different than before. No guarantee that this time won’t send the child off a ledge from which he cannot return.

But she has HOPE because she KNOWS God is in control. She knows that HE can make sense of all this. That HE has all our best interests in mind. She KNOWS and CLINGS to this promise in Jeremiah: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” She knows this verse is true not only for herself, but for her sick child, too.

She prays verses over her entire family, knowing God’s promises are greater than the world’s trials.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, 
whenever you face trials of many kinds,  
because you know that 
the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 
Let perseverance finish its work 
so that you may be mature and complete, 
not lacking anything. 
If any of you lacks wisdom, 
you should ask God, 
who gives generously to all without finding fault, 
and it will be given to you. 
~ James 1:2-5

She prays. She trusts God for the outcome, regardless of whatever it may be. And she hopes. She reminds herself to count it all joy.

She never gives up. She never stops hoping. She never stops hoping that one day, her child will be well and that we’ll all look back at this season and see how God was working in the midst of all the pain, working to get us all to the place He needed us to be to minister to others traveling that same hard road.

May God be glorified through it all.

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Never Give Up Hope

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