Sometimes Grace is Pain

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.

Readers, don’t forget to register to win a $500 DaySpring shopping Spree. 
Click here for a chance to win.

13 thoughts on “Sometimes Grace is Pain

  1. This would be very hard to deal with, but it's so true that God uses whatever He allows in our lives to shape us into what He wants us to be, and then in turn to minister to others. Thanks for sharing your story!

  2. I lived through the mental illness of my dad. He never sought help and my growing up was really tough. I wonder how it would have been if he had gotten help. He is gone now. We got a glimpse of what it could have been like because the last two years of his life he took his medication. I will have to read more of your blog. We have a lot in common.

  3. Tara, I could say so much on the subject, because we have MUCH in common here. My dad had a nervous breakdown when I was 17, he was diagnosed as bi-polar and manic depressive. They put him on lithium too. Fast forward 30 years (5 years ago) we almost lost him due to an accident, and in the process they found the lithium was also damaging his kidneys (just like your mom's). They diagnosed him with diabetes insipidis and took him off the lithium and put him on Abilify which was the worst thing they could have done. He became lethargic, and within months, his head bent over and his mouth developed a constant movement. I got him off the medication, but it was already too late. He finally returned to his former self, but he walks all bent over and constantly bites the insides of his mouth due to the mouth movement. I grieved and struggled long and hard over this (I'm an only child so no siblings to help) and finally a few months ago I accepted it. He has accepted it and doesn't let it hold him back, so I will too. God has willed it for a reason and I'm tired of wishing for what once was. thanks for sharing your story, I know you grieved for your mama.

    • Wow…our stories are extremely similar! It is crazy how strong, lethal, etc the drug lithium is! Glad that you both have gotten to a place of acceptance. I do grieve but am so thankful I still have my mom.

  4. Thank you for giving me the honor of sharing this post via my 31 Days post Love Writes Community. It is such a powerful testimony to God using our heartache, struggles and very real pain to draw us closer to Him and His Body. I am so sorry for the suffering you have had to endure so far, but I'm thankful for God's deep abiding Presence in your hard, hard journey. God bless you and your family richly as you continue witnessing to His Love and Grace.

Leave a Reply