We are like a cup in which energy both fills and drains. But we can grow by paying attention to the cup and understanding the fillers and the drainers.
It was always a challenge to get them to care for themselves. They were always giving out to others, and I could see that life was being sucked out of them.
I explained that you can’t give out of an empty cup, but self-sacrifice and martyrdom had been drummed into them from childhood. They remembered that Sunday School song – J.O.Y. Jesus first, Yourself last, and Others in between sung to the merry little tune of Jingle Bells.
It was the feelings of a guilt trip and the words of being a ‘Brothers Keeper’ that triggered me. But was it genuinely helping me and them to think this way? Something needed to change.
Some people seem to be able to push the manipulation guilt trip button every time. They tell you how life has been hard. They share their background and a wide range of struggles. You listen, and you empathize with their struggle, and indeed life is hard for some people.
Then you look at yourself and all that you have. You may begin to feel some guilt, then some sense of a need to help them. You want to help, but you have only so much life, energy, time, and money.
Few of us know how to fully and deeply relax. The noisy neighbors can keep us from the rest we need, but when we feel safe and known, we can restore.
He almost went to sleep. That was the first observation he shared with me after a short spiritual meditation exercise we went through — silence, peacefulness, quiet focus, and a ‘stepping away’ from the noise.
He stepped away from needing to be someone and to do something into a pose of quiet acceptance.
Breathing in, breathing out. Centering the thoughts and feelings away from the past and the future to being present in the now. Right here, right now.
Nurses, doctors, counselors, etc. can all make a difference to our mental health recovery, but the more lasting help will come from a committed companion — someone like Ruth who will break bread with us.
It was like a revolving door of people entering their life and then leaving it. In and out, and no one sticking around long enough to make a sustained difference.
Church and Mental Health? How about sitting with someone and being gently curious about the struggles of their soul. Now that is what I call ‘Church.’
I once sat in a church service and seated in front of me were two men. One was a highly paid lawyer, a partner in a central city law firm. Next to him was a man who struggled with addictions, wore clothes from a second-hand shop, and his income was based on a sickness benefit.
They were both looking towards the stage, listening to the preacher, enjoying the show.
I marveled at how this was probably the only place where these two would be near each other every week, know each other’s names, and be brothers in faith.