In school today I had two classes, one on common illnesses and one on mental health and psychological disorders. We were discussing various conditions in both classes and were talking about how someone with diabetes or iron deficiency or arthritis is cared for, accepted and understood. They are not blamed for or shunned for having the disease or affliction, but with mental conditions, most of which are caused by chemical imbalances and circumstances beyond the persons control are not accepted. Those suffering from mental illness are often ostersized and alienated. How sad that is. People who need understanding, compassion and the love of those around them are often left on their own or made to feel guilty for having a condition that they themselves don’t want to have.
If you ask someone who is manic depressive or has an eating disorder or major depression or agoraphobia, they will tell you that they would give anything to not be facing life with this condition. They don’t want to feel, think or act that way. Yet they have to go through life ashamed of who they are because others will not accept them. People who finally get diagnosed with a mental illness or tell people around them that they suffer from one find many times that individuals who have been their friends for years, who liked them to that point all of a sudden judge them or avoid them at all costs. It is like they are contagious.
Everyone has their quirks, the things that they wish they could change about themselves. Everyone has made bad choices. How sad it would be if everyone in the world was judged or seen only by the one thing that they are struggling with, or the one bad decision they made, or the illness they have.
Each person in this world has their own battle to fight. For some it is a death in the family, a divorce, loss of a job, an illness, financial problems….Often at times like this people will ask “Why me?”. We never seem to ask that when good things happen. When you are healthy for 30 years of your life, without even a cold….you seldom say “Why me?” “Why do I get to be healthy today?” but when bad things happen, often the reaction is “Why me?” “Why am I so afflicted?” But should we not be wondering “Why not me?” Your situation in life may be particularly difficult for you to endure, but everyone has something in their lives that they must try to get through, that they must learn to cope with, that they must choose to survive or give up. We seldom ask “Why was I blessed enough to be born in one of the greatest, most abundant countires in the world?” “Why am I not surrounded by war, or destitution or starvation?”
Sometimes we ask why do bad things happen to good people? Why not? Everyone in the world has their own version of bad. A person who loses a child may be wondering Why is my child gone? I would give anything for them to still be here, It isn’t fair! A different parent who sees their child struggle for 30 years with a mental disorder or drug addiction or illness that they must face dozens of surgeries for wonders “Why us?” “Why does my family member have to suffer for these 30 years?”
Struggles and difficult times make us better people. Often the best in human qualities are built, demonstrated and shared during the hardest times of someones life. When we are around others that suffer, or go through our own suffering our character is built and we are given a chance to show what we are really made of. The reaction can either be to be supportive, compassionate, strong and loving or to be bitter, shrink away from the challenge and do little to help. Struggles give us the chance to rise to the situation, build relationships, be more loving, more understanding, be MORE.
I have a friend who has been caring for her father with alzheimer’s for the past four or five years. She spends 24 hours a day in service to him. Cut off from the world, doing all she can to keep him safe and show him compassion and love. It is a demonstration of strength, character, compassion, Christ like love that is rarely matched. He is difficult, sometimes violent and often nasty to her, she responds with love and restraint. Her father was not a loving father and their relationship has been strained her entire life, but she stood up in the face of a difficult, demanding and horrible situation to show the qualities she has, to be the best person she can be…without judgment or consideration of the character or qualities of the person she was helping. She is a testament to me of what compassion and strength really is…I always thought she was great, but never would have known just how amazing she was or have grown by her example if it was not for this situation in her life.
Many tragedies in the world have been known to bring out the worst or the best in individuals, communities and society. It is not the situation that matters it is how we as individuals decide to respond to it.