Shopping together with any one of my daughters had always been a source of pride for me. They were so beautiful and classy that people would stop and turn to take a second look. But my pride took a well deserved beating the year Samantha developed bipolar disorder.
It wasn't that Samantha had lost any of her physical beauty. Even after she had chopped off her beautiful curls and had strewn the hair around her room “to decorate it” the jaggedly cropped curls still framing her face only accentuated that beauty. And her innocent smile gave her a childlike quality that belied her thirty two years.
But she was thirty two; Not a three year old, but a grown woman, and she wasn't acting like one. The trip to the department store left me wanting to hide behind a tall counter. My concept of how a woman should conduct herself in a store had been violated.
If she really had been three years old, I would have been delighted and proud to hear her say, “I think I should give you a hug.” It wouldn't have bothered me a bit if the whole world watched as my little girl showed her affection for her mother. But a grown woman giving me a huge, giggly hug in a department store? My pride had been bashed.
Mental health has a way of cutting down our pride like no other illness can. For the one with the illness, pride does not seem to be an issue. They are either blissfully happy with the way they are and are unconcerned with what others think, or they are totally depressed about everything, or they are too confused to worry about pride. If they are concerned about what others think it is with suspicion, not embarrassment.
But for those of us whose perceptions are not bent by these unique chemical imbalances, care giving can be very humiliating. And perhaps that is why we should be reminding ourselves daily that “all things work together for good to them that love the Lord.”
While the bipolar or dementia patient is going through an up or a down or a state of confusion, the care giver is going through a shrinking of self. The first part of self that usually gets hit is pride. Our mentally altered loved ones do not act in a “socially acceptable” manner and we start to shrink. We love them enough to look beyond their differences; we still see them as unique and lovely, but we have to give up some of our pride to be with them, because our pride will make us afraid of what others think.
When we overcome this fear, our “self” begins to shrink and there is much more room in our hearts for our Lord to be Lord. If this has happened to you as a care giver, count it a blessing, and give God thanks for the change.
If you are bipolar or have dementia you can still thank Him that you are unique and that He will always love you for you. If God should choose to heal you, as he has in my family with my husband and my daughter, you will still be able to hold on to that beautiful humble spirit that God loves to use for His glory.