A few months ago, I posted a blog entry about schizophrenia, in particular, about David Weiss's article "God of the Schizophrenic," in Christianity Today.
David has recently created a web page that features stories from himself, as well as the perspectives of his mother and his sister. It's poignant reading. How does one deal with a mental illness that can change a person so dramatically?
In his sister Anna's entry, she begins by reminiscing about their early years together, and the close relationship they had. David loved her and protected her. But that all changed when he was 18 and developed his mental illness. You can hear Anna's grief as she writes,
Instead of going out with friends at night, he stayed in his bedroom, secluded from the family. He stopped talking to me unless I forced a conversation . . . . Instead of being the leader and decision maker of us two, David has become passive. If I insist on something and bug him for an hour, he infrequently gives in and leaves the house. Sometimes he enjoys the excursions but often he becomes anxious and possibly hysterical.
David's mom Trudy recounts the story of his birth and early years and then the dramatic and devastating onset of his mental illness. She concludes:
It is now eight years after David became ill and our struggle is still unfolding. David has made some progress but remains susceptible to depression, anxiety, nightmares, and hallucinations. I am learning to accept a new normal. David has become a deep and compassionate person with a strong faith in God that even the devastation of mental illness could not take from him. David is more than a disease- he is my son.
Empathy is a powerful tool for ministry and for simple lovingkindness. Reading stories like these can really help one grow in empathy for people living with serious mental illness.