This is a post written by Natalie Frisk. This post was originally written and posted for www.parents.themeetinghouse.com. Posted here with permission.
I am thankful.
This is Me. [Parenting with Mental Illness]
Natalie Frisk is the Curriculum Developer at The Meeting House. She is married to Sam, mom to Erin Penny, and follower of Jesus. Natalie has juggled with her mental health for almost 10 years.
I’m cocooned in bed and I can hear my toddler ask my husband, “Is mommy still sleeping? It’s daytime!” My husband responds by saying, “Mom is sick today.”
“Why is she sick?”
“Her heart is sad.”
My daughter is three, and while she may not understand the full realities of a mom with a general anxiety disorder and occasional bouts of depression, she sees the results on a regular basis.
My husband explains that my heart is sad. She comes into my bedroom and kisses my heart. It’s the medicine she knows that works for her. But it doesn’t quite cut it for me. I may spend a couple of days in bed; I might not be able to function as a parent for a while, but my daughter knows that it’s not her fault. It’s because mommy is sick.And I know that if I were sick with a heart condition, kidney condition, or blood disorder, I wouldn’t feel the way that I do about my illness. But I do. It is more difficult to talk about. It is more difficult to ask for help. It is more difficult to not feel like an inadequate parent. And yet, here I am.Despite the fact that there should be no shame in mental illness, there is often a veil of shame worn by many affected by it. Compound that with the perpetual guilt of parenting and you have a dynamic combination. It’s dangerous. And it’s hard to not allow that to suck you into a darker place.And so, when I am in a season of health and feel like I have a clear view at my world, I can reflect on things that are important for me, and our family, when more tumultuous times strike.
So, here is an attempt at listing out my best practices of parenting with mental health issues:
- With my spouse – This may be the most difficult of conversation practices. Sometimes I find myself falling deeper and darker, and I haven’t told my husband what is really going on. He can see that something is happening but I can mask it with various excuses. And so, my aim is to communicate my ups and downs with my husband as best I can. [I’m a work in progress.]
- With my child – As I mentioned, my husband and I try to communicate to our daughter, in language that she can understand, what is going on with me. At this stage, we tell her when my heart is sad. She understands that. As she grows older we will modify our language to paint a clearer picture as she can process more. But this is not something we hide from her, nor will we ever.
- With my friends – My biggest fear in regards to community is that I am a burden to my friends. But I know if and when the shoe is on the other foot, I want to be there for them. And so, this is a conversation that continues to push me beyond my level of comfort. I know it’s important, but it’s also quite terrifying. During my darkest and lowest times, I have recently committed to share my scariest of thoughts with at least one close friend (aside from my husband). This makes me feel incredibly vulnerable but also much more safe. These conversations are important – some have potentially saved my life – but oh so intimidating.
- …is not selfish – In parenting and in ministry, self-care can feel selfish. There are so many needs and things to be done that self-care often falls further and further down the “to-do” list. However, self-care allows me to care for others better. And I can write this now, say it, and even believe it, but practicing it is another thing altogether. It is not selfish. Self-care [sleep, balance, prayer, professional help] is so important. It makes me a better parent.
- …is family care –When I take care of myself, I can take care of my family. If I do not take care of myself, my capacity for my family (and community) decreases exponentially. When I am my best self, I am the best wife I can be, and the best mother I can be. Self-care is family care.
- …is physical, emotional, and spiritual – Self-care goes far beyond a shower every day, and more or less three square meals. This stuff is the bare bones. And though, different seasons mean different things, finding space for physical care [sleep, good food, medication], emotional care [supportive friends, walks outside, counseling], and spiritual care [time in prayer, time in Bible, time with Jesus, time with mentor] is of the utmost importance in staying a healthy version of myself.
Outside of the handful of people that I share the very core of my struggles with, I have a beautiful extended community of friends within my home church and beyond who walk with me and I with them. When I struggle, they offer to take my daughter to the park. When they experience different things, I attempt to return the favour. It’s a dance of community.
Often, it is hard to share our needs with our community because it makes us feel exposed. Our culture wars against us in so many ways that vulnerability is perceived as weakness, and we should be able to do it all ourselves. This is a lie. We need each other. I need my community. In certain seasons, I need them desperately. That doesn’t make me weak, that makes me human.
According to the Mental Health Commission of Canada, 1 in 5 Canadians suffer from mental illness or a mental health issue annually. If you’re reading this, chances are you or someone you know is parenting with a mental health issue. Consider what you can do for yourself and for others. Let’s talk.
I’ve never heard the term “radical center” before hearing a clip from one of Bono’s interviews. It caught me immediately and I tucked it away to dwell on and have it permeate my being. Why? well…
I’m a pretty middle-of-the-road kind of girl. I tend to be quiet (at least until you get to know me), and not be considered over-dramatic. I am a Jesus follower – one who believes that Jesus walked and talked on earth – and one who tries to live according to his teachings and example.
However – I’m not of flag waving personality, and I don’t tend to enjoy heated debates on topics of faith (frankly any topic). I don’t have strong opinions on certain topics that many others do: I see many people who are louder and smarter than me have strong opinions on either side of the these topics, all with good sounding reasonings. So I do not join in. I’m not a strong evangelist or a preacher. I don’t believe any of these things are wrong – in fact, we need the variety of people and personalities in society and in the church. However, there have been many a sermon where my take-away was that I should be doing more of one or all of these things… or am I ashamed of my faith?
So – I’ve struggled. I by no means want to be considered a “fence-sitter” or “lukewarm”. Guilt- feelings seem to come easily to me. I am so aware of the fact that I trip over myself regularly (both literally and figuratively), so I know I mess up. So I look to the Bible to see what is said, and then I look to Jesus to see how what is said is reflected in his example and teachings. I look to society and all the good and bad within, I look to science and history to see the continued learning and experiences we as humans have. I look to “study to show myself approved… rightly dividing the word of truth…” while admittedly not being overly scholarly. I listen, observe, feel, involve myself as much as I possibly can in life. I still remember the time when I made the specific decision to do my best to always show love and positivity to those around me, and continue to try to live that out. Yet, I still go through times of wondering – am I lukewarm?
Hearing the words “Radical Center” got me on a new path. A new determination to change my thinking patterns.
Living a life of love, questioning both extremes and putting it through the “what does it seem that Jesus would have me do” test. Opening my eyes to the needs of the world around me – from immediate family and neighbours, to people in the far reaches of the world. Advocating, reaching out and helping, and encouraging others as best as I can. Living a life of peace as far as possible. That is radical stuff.
I am thankful.
So I have a cousin (I have a few, but well… I’m just talking about this one today). Her name is Patti and she is a Pastor “who runs. Sometimes figuratively … sometimes literally”. She has a blog that I quite enjoy, talking about various things in her life – her family, her church, her city, her school,… and OUTRAGE-FREE FRIDAYS.
So being that today is a Friday – I thought I would do my part in passing this along.
So this post is when she first starts up the idea. Check it out here .
here is where you can see that others are joining in.
And there are definitely more – but I’ll leave you with this last example here, for you to reflect and absorb. From there you can feel free to explore her blog and see what else she has to say – it’ll be well worth your time.
Here’s to #outragefreefriday. Let’s pass this on.
I am thankful.
As we are a few weeks into 2015 now – I recognize I’m a bit late on the whole “what my goals are for 2015” post – but here I go anyway…
2015 will be a year in which I will continue to strive towards what it means to be “Radically Centered”. To work on my core strength – yes physically – but much more than that. My whole being: spiritually, mentally, physically and emotionally. This should prove interesting as I’m coming into the year more “tangled” than normal. Bringing along physical ailments, emotional baggage, spiritual questions lends to mental drainage and to be honest – complete fatigue. But all this is temporary. My physical issues will resolve, the emotional baggage is being worked through, there will always be spiritual questions – but in a way that moves me forward, lending to mental conditioning and overall improvement. Focusing through it all with a goal of Radical Centerednes will ensure that I keep on track.
2015 will also be a year in which I live conquering fears. No I’m not going skydiving tomorrow, or planning a trip to climb Mount Everest. You know the fears – the quiet ones. The ones that sometimes take you by surprise in your daily life, or the ones that trip you up regularly. The ones that may inhibit me from doing something that would be beneficial in the lives of others, or within my own life. Or the ones that may incur a negative reaction within me that spills out on to others around me and cause hurt. Those ones.
How can I be anything but encouraged with those goals: sounds to me that I will be living a life freer that I ever had. Becoming the women God created me to be – Living a Radically Centered, Fear Busting Life of Love.
I am thankful.
Meet our pig. He makes me smile. Really he is my husband’s. He used to have somewhat of a collection of pigs that just sort of fell to the wayside through life changes and many moves. So I happened upon this one at a dollar store, all lonely-like on a shelf where he CLEARLY did not belong.
He sits nicely now on our window sill. Hmmm – I guess that is incorrect, he was actually sitting on the window track, then I took him off to get a picture. Now he sits happily on a purple vase. Kinda cool.
ANYWAY – I walk in the room to this during the day… and I smile. I always feel like he is saying:
Now it is your job to say it in your head like I do, but putting my voice in your head just wouldn’t work. When I hear myself – I don’t actually hear myself… I think perhaps I hear the voice of maybe say… Morgan Freeman – yeah – he has a fantastic voice. Who do you hear?
Yes – feel free to roll your eyes now;
eye… I do!
When I am calm, I can’t help but to smile gently; when hyper – he makes me bounce around to him; when I’m cynical or having a really hope-crushing time, I give more of a smirk and say “yeah – right! When pigs fly!!!”…
All in all,
I am thankful.
Things that will all be a part of RegisteringRuth in 2015. My aim is to be real in what is here. SO THEREFORE you will see:
Reflections and looking forward,
Pondering and Sharing,
Journeying and Struggling,
Giggling and full out Laughing.
Adding Spice and Light along the way.
Lookin’ foward to it!
I am thankful.