These words are eloquently beautiful and remind me of the power of God’s grace in my own life especially as a daughter of someone who has lived daily with a mental illness. Without our journey, I wouldn’t be who God has called me to be. I also wouldn’t have been blessed in telling our story to others. Or in the words of Brene Brown, “Loving ourselves through the process of owning our own story is the bravest thing we’ll ever do!” (Funny thing since “brave” is my One word 365 for 2015. And another blog friend recently commented to me that she feels that my brave is in telling my/our story)
Our story begins shortly after my sister was born. Mom had a nervous breakdown. Both my sister and I spent lots of time with our grandparents as Mom was treated for her illness. Dad was busy working and earning money to pay for the doctor’s bills.
Growing up, it seemed like Mom was in the hospital at least once a year. And so as we grew up, I quickly grew up faster than I should have. When I was almost five and my sister was two, we moved back to North Dakota so my Dad could help his family farm. As I got older, while Dad was farming and when Mom was sick, I had to take care of my sister and I. I grew up really fast! Mom’s illness turned our world upside down. Yet when she was well, Mom was the best mom in the world!!! (If you don’t believe me, read this post I wrote for my friend Erin’s blog)
My sophomore year of high school, my parents divorced. It took a lot of courage for our dad to utter the words “It’s not that I don’t love your mom anymore. It is that I cannot handle this illness.” Looking back now, I see those words as words of grace as they seemed to soften the blow even if just a little. But I will also say that those words of grace tasted awfully bitter rather than sweet that day.
My senior year of college, Mom’s lithium level got to high which caused her kidneys to shut down. It was a very scary time. Mom spent several weeks in the ICU of a local hospital. We weren’t sure if Mom was going to make it, but she recovered. However that incident aged Mom a lot. She moved into a nursing home and has been living in a nursing home ever since. In fact, my sister and I became her legal guardians when I was attending seminary.
It would be so easy for me to be bitter about Mom’s illness. And there was a time I questioned God daily about it. But over the years, I have learned so much from my mom’s illness and our journey with a mental illness. I have learned to live each day to the fullest and not take a single day for granted. I have learned what it means to love and be loved. I have learned that we have a God that, like Jacob did, we can wrestle with throughout the courses of our lives. (If you want to read more about our journey, check out my 2014 Write 31 Days series: Being a Daughter: 31 Days of Mental Illness)
But, most of all, I have learned the power and gift of God’s grace in my life and in our life. Mom is one of the most caring, faith-filled women that I know. Her actions continually remind me of the gift of God’s grace in my life. We could have lost Mom my senior year of college, but we didn’t. We could have kept our story of mental illness locked inside our hearts. But instead by unlocking our story from our hearts, we have been blessed by others and been blessed in return. Most of all, what I have learned is that there is power and grace in telling our stories.