There is a man with no legs who lives down the road. A good man, who with quiet strength, rides his mobile wheelchair to church every Sunday. One Sunday as my family and I passed him on the road, my husband and I reflected on how disabilities can be seen and unseen. What I mean is that any person who sees this good man, can see that his legs are gone and if they reflect for a moment they can think of how hard that must be. They could try to imagine what life would be without legs. They might think about not being able to walk and run. They would most likely feel compassion and admiration for him. That is because his disability is tangible. The disability that I carry is not. It cannot be seen at all, not by the eye.
I have mental anguish. This mental instability and pain has been labeled many things. Over the years I have been diagnosed with depression, bipolar, cyclothymia, anxiety and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Some people know that I suffer mental disabilities, but most do not. So, when I am unable to accomplish simple tasks there is not the sympathy for me that my neighbor has been given. Not even from myself. “Why can’t I do it” I say to myself. Why must I fight my own brain on top of everything else? For years I thought I was different, stupid, unlovable, and unable. This intangible stumbling block (mental illness) is so hard to understand even for a sufferer. And I have to admit that I have unjustly judged those with mental disabilities different from my own.
So, how do we better understand and cope with these hidden disabilities? How do we have more compassion for those who suffer with mental illness? Here are five things I have learned. Pray, get educated, seek good help, be healthy, and love.
I could not have any peace without God’s help. I know that when I call on Him through His son, He hears and answers my prayers. He will answer yours too! He not only helps me through mental anguish, but helps me understand others. He softens my heart and opens my mind to acceptance. Ask and He will give help. The help you need will not usually come in miraculous ways. It is usually a feeling of peace, an idea, or a friend’s help. It may not come when and how you think it will, but help will come.
2. Seek Good Help
Counselors and psychiatrist, and even family practitioners can help. These people can direct you to medications, thought processes, and activities that can bring relief. Not all the experiences of seeking help for me have led to success. There were times I knew a certain path or medication was not for me (that’s where prayer helps), but I have learned that I suffer a true chemical imbalance and cannot function without medication! With the help of professionals I found medication that has been very helpful to me. My success with meds has not taken away all my symptoms, but it has made it possible for me to think clear enough to help myself.
3. Get Educated
Knowledge gives understanding, understanding gives love. Read books on mental illnesses. Learn symptoms and triggers. Talk to people who have had experiences, read about people’s experiences…the good and the bad ones. If you can’t focus on reading like me (ADHD), listen to books.
4. Be Healthy
Good sleep is a huge contributor to mental health. I tend to think nobody is really mentally healthy without good sleep. Eat healthy foods! A good diet helps mental health as much as it does physical health. Find out if you have other health problems that could cause mental anguish such as diabetes, thyroid disorders, hormone imbalances, and many more.
Loving others is really the only way that we can have compassion for what we don’t understand! Pray to feel love and show it even when it is hard. That includes you, yes! Love yourself too.
These five things have made the weight of carrying my unseen disability lighter and have given me more compassion for others with invisible illness.
This article appeared first on Real Imprints.