My life was different in so many ways,
I’d get away from people, vanish,
And socially withdraw.
But what happened best of all,
When I was in that hidden place,
Is you’d arrive and would wait at my door.
MENTAL illness is so prevalent in our humanity it is both stark and startling, until we realise it is not the evil it’s often made out to be. Mental illness ought not to intuit guilt or shame, but support, care, and understanding.
There is a particular method of withdrawal many of us engage in, and this can be poignantly common for those who suffer mental illness of various kinds.
When life gets too big, or a voice within urges us on, or we simply need to get away from life, we need people to understand and work with us and not against us. If what we do, in getting away, and in isolating ourselves, is unhealthy we may admit it or maybe we don’t. Part of support, care, and understanding is about talking about such realities – but in ways of gentle questioning rather than through direct affronting confrontation (which only serves to scare most people off – especially vulnerable ones).
The following advice is a good coverall for both carers and those to be cared for.
The vulnerable – though it seems incredibly obvious to point it out – need a special care; one that is individually and uniquely designed, which is also prayerfully deployed. Compassion is no neat formula, but it is backed by a heart oozing acceptance, which is grace and mercy.
People’s care and support is about our understanding. This is all we can offer them; God must do the rest. When we have demonstrated understanding, we have demonstrated unconditional acceptance, which is love.
Whoever is isolated – withdrawn for many reasons in many different ways – is vulnerable; they are even more susceptible to rough handling than normal. If we are sensitive people, we are especially sensitive – but perhaps, at times, more open – when we are isolated.
A support person treads the path warily when they approach someone in isolation – they approach respectfully, with care and caution, but also with a heart wide open. The support person goes in, preparing to bear burdens, and even prepared to bear what confronts them.
Having been isolated, perhaps God is using us to draw another out of their isolation. Approaching someone who’s isolated is about unconditional acceptance, bearing the burdens they wish to share, and most of all being prepared to understand. Nothing convinces us that suffering is more real than finding ourselves isolated, alone, and at the mercy of many dark forces.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.