Sunday, December 12, 2010

Exile of the Mind

Have you ever had a loved one in your life that just seemed to suddenly slip away deep into the unknown recesses of their mind? One day they are alive and present -- and the next they don't seem to resemble the person you know and love.
Why? Age? Surgery? Illness? Accident? This happens more often than we would like to think about. And sometimes it can be sooner than a family expected -- and not due to aging. There seems to be a link between excessive stress or traumatic life events that can cause a loved one to sink into an untimely disappearance to the exile of the mind.
"A number of authors have suggested a possible link between life traumatisms and the dementia* processes. The aim of this study is to reveal the presence of life traumatisms preceding the apparition of the dementia syndrome.
[The study] includes 565 patients presenting the criterion of dementia as defined by the DSM IV, and questionnaires filled out by the principle caregivers. One item of the questionnaire referred to life events played a part in which could have the development of the disorder. In a second stage, the reported events were classified into 4 distinct categories: loss, repeated or prolonged stress, psychotraumatism and depression-inducing events."
The above is only one excerpt from many articles that exist on this topic. Such information gives credence to my hunch that repeated and prolonged stress, or traumatic life events can cause a person (who finds no other solace in their daily lives) to retreat to the reluctant exile of the mind.

(*If the condition has been present less than 6 months and had a more acute onset it is termed delirium.) 

What can be done to help a loved one recover? Every case is unique of course, and only a medical professional can determine whether your loved one is experiencing dementia or delirium. However, your familiar, reassuring, and watchful presence is one of the most valuable things that can happen in the recovery. As you wait for your sick loved one to get better, you accomplish a lot by supporting them. It is also crucial to minimize anything that could further stress or confuse your loved one. Also it is important to quickly tell hospital/hospice staff if you notice uncharacteristic changes or behaviors. Then, it will take time and patience in the anticipation of recovery. You can be a welcomed familiar face -- whenever your loved one is able to return from the exile of the mind.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

It's Not OK

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where every fiber of your being knows that what is happening to you is not OK, and that you are not alright? I'd venture to say most of us have. Sometimes the best thing I can say to another is: no, that is not OK and no, you are not insane.

"I'm Not Alright"

"If weakness is a wound that no one wants to speak of
Then 'cool' is just how far we have to fall...
I am not immune, I only want to be loved
But I feel safe behind the firewall.

Can I lose my need impress?
If you want the truth I need to confess

I'm not alright, I'm broken inside
And all I go through, it leads me to you

Burn away the pride
Bring me to my weakness
Until everything I hide behind is gone
And when I'm open wide with nothing left to cling to
Only you are there to lead me on.

Honestly, I'm not that strong."
(Sanctus Real)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Love never fails (read the fine print)

"Love never fails." No matter your spiritual background you have likely heard that one. But read the fine print. Love never fails (but people do, and they will).
What is the first thing that happens when love does fail? Does the person who failed get the blame? No. Love does. People get hurt and they swear they won't love again. Plus add to that, they have lost hope as well.
I've worked with a lot of families and have seen a lot of lost love -- and a lot of people failing one another. This kind of thing gives me fresh eyes for an old story.
There was a once son who had a family. It would have seemed as though he had all he needed. He even had a brother to lighten the load (and take part of the blame when things went wrong). And yet, there was discontent among the family members. The siblings were bickering, the son didn’t like that he lost privileges because the other sibling had broken some rules. In addition to all that, times were tight in the land and the son was not getting all the material things he believed he deserved. The son was tired of the chores, tired of the rules -- tired of the lack.
One day the son decided he was going to leave. He was entitled to have all he wanted, and to live the life of freedom he believed he deserved.  Did he ask for these things? No. He took them. In fact, he demanded them. And then he left. Left in a hurry without giving his family any time to prepare... or to have any closure.
From here most people know how that story goes. But there has got to be a back-story that few may have thought about.
What about those left back home? What about the father? Well, we know he was ever watching--hoping the son would return. But I imagine he was also grieving. What about the brother? We know he was angry and felt he got the short end of the stick. Why? Because he had not only been the one to work doubly hard now, but I imagine he may have also been someone who needed to comfort his father during this time of sadness and loss. No wonder he was angry! He is thinking "My brother is off having the time of his life, doing whatever he wants, getting all the clothes, food, easy company and laughter he wants. And me? I am working twice as hard now... and dealing with my father's broken heart."
Seems like it would be very easy in that situation to blame love. Love did fail! We gave our best, and still we are left with empty hearts and calloused hands!
Even when loss and disappointment of such life altering proportions does inevitably arrive (unannounced and unwelcome)... I must remind myself (and I encourage you to remind yourself) it is not love that failed. People fail. Love never fails. And please, try not to give up on hope either, for it was not hope that disappointed.
"Don't say it's love that broke your heart
When you trusted someone
Cause love's the victim, not the crime
And love will be there to break your fall
If you'll trust in love, just in love
Know that love could never break your heart
But love can break your fall.
I know it's hard to trust again
But I'll stay with you, stay with me now
Let go of your heartache, learn to forgive
Won't you wait just a moment
And give your heart a chance to begin again
Though you've run before
Tell me, where will you go if you walk out the door?
I could never have found my own way
It was God's love that saved this heart of mine from dying
And when you find His love is all that you have...
Then you see love is all that you need."
(By Grant Cunningham and Mark Hammond)

Saturday, January 2, 2010

The Myth of Perfection

There is no solace to be found in the myth of perfection. And yet, so many of us hold up the banner, and pledge allegiance to the myth of perfection.

Is there anything wrong with the pursuit of goodness, excellence, fidelity? Of course not.

However, living in circles that primarily outwardly display the persona of perfection can fill one with the idea that their imperfections are not welcome in the daylight. There is plenty of affirmation that struggles and failures are not welcome out in the open. I speak from the experience of having been raised within Christian circles. You want to know something about amazing grace? The amazing thing is that so many of the ones who take on the name of Christ know so little about extending grace to other humans.

This is not a dissertation for or against religion. This is more of an encouragement for anyone who might still be willing to open up and be appropriately transparent with others around them.


For the purpose of letting others know that they can make it through hard times. (Some say the only way out is through.) That maybe they don't have to pull up stakes and run and hide to conceal their imperfections and wounds. That they are not simply welcome within a community once they clean themselves up bind up their own woulds and present in front of others with the continued myth of perfection untarnished.

"Step away
Keep your distance
I can't be what you want me to be
But right now there are things inside I don't want you to see
So take your personal spotlight
Shine it on someone else for a while
I can't force a happy face or makeshift you a smile
I can't deny what I see, what I feel or what's in front of me
So take your world of precious moments of make-believe
They never made me believe in anything
But left me with nothing to hold on to
Your quick fix and magic tricks can only disguise what I was going through
And now I'm thinkin' it was when it wasn't
And now I'm tryin' to rationalize what just doesn't
Come together and somehow doesn't make sense
But God, how can I convince them when I'm not even convinced?

Everyone is thinkin' it, but nobody's sayin' it
Everyone's sayin' it, but nobody's feeling it
Everyone's feeling it, but nobody's seein' it
So how am I supposed to know what's real?

False sense of happiness
My security wrapped up in this
These control freaks seek out who they can brainwash and make activists
They'd rather have me lie than bring my failure to the light Keep your secrets to yourself It's not about you but them lookin' right No time to be ugly Don't trouble them with your doubt and fears Shout for joy little boys and girls You brokenness ain't welcome here
Well excuse me while I bleed through and my life becomes see-through
Don't ask for transparency but reject what you seein' too." (John Reuben)