Needed Some Happy…

I needed some happy and some beauty today as I pull myself out of a funk. So, I thought I’d share it with you, because maybe you too need the reminder that the world is a place full of wonder and beauty.

 

sunrisesunsetSunrise over Fort Lauderdale, Florida

 

537446_10151298533738762_1868271586_nSunset over our house

Abaco Islands, Bahamas

A special beach- Abaco Islands, Bahamas

 

trees_sunSun shining over a search

 

Praying over you my friends. For eyes that are open to beauty and wonder, and for reminder of it when you need them.

 

Stop the Stigma

Usually when someone passes away, there is an illness that we say they died from.  But in reality, the illness causes a host of problems, and that often leads to the death, not the original illness  Often, the body can simply fight no longer, and basic functions cease.  But we understand that cancer, or heart disease, or whatever the illness was, led to their death.  We don’t dwell on what the final step was.  We don’t see headlines that mention that someone died from fluid on the lungs, we see that they died from Cancer.  Because that was truly what caused their death.

But for those suffering from depression, bi-polar disorder, PTSD, etc., when the illness becomes so severe that the person dies, the headlines say that they committed suicide.  

Committed.  Which truly simply means “to do, perform, or perpetrate” but is used in this way almost exclusively for crimes.  The person gone did perform that act, but it is no crime.  It is painful for those left behind, but no crime was committed. 

If we’re to really understand mental illness, we’ll understand that as the cause of death.  Suicide was only the last step in an illness that progressed past the point of the help available.   Over 90% of people who die by suicide have a mental illness at the time of their death, the most common being depression.  

Since we believe that my brother took his life and died from depression, I’ve been asked many times if I’m angry with him.  While I know that can be a common feeling of those left behind, I think it would be less so if we could remove the stigma and help others understand the truth.  This wasn’t about me.  This wasn’t about him not loving our family enough.  This was about ending the pain.  In the religious world, the stigma has been especially strong, with a long history of teaching by many churches that hell was the punishment for suicide.  Thankfully, many churches have stopped teaching that, as they have come to better understand mental illness.  But many people still believe it.  Some have even said it to me.  So if you’re wondering, no.  I don’t think he was selfish, I think he was ill.  I’m angry that he was 26 years old and working full time and had no health care available because he worked for a very small business and made too little to afford private insurance but too much for subsidized care.  I’ve been angry at times by insensitive comments by those who think I should be angry.  I’m upset with myself for not recognizing the severity of the illness.  I’m saddened by it all.  But I’ve really never been angry with him. 

Just a few days ago, Rick Warren, minister and author of ‘The Purpose Driven Life’, lost his son to depression.   He appears to have been a loving and spiritual young man, who had an illness so severe, that no treatment or doctors had been able to prevent his death.  Like any parents with a sick child, his had sought help for him far and wide.  The best medicine, doctors, therapists and ministers were within their reach.  But healing was not.  Rick and Kay obviously understood that, and I’m thankful that through their pain, the stigma may be lifted and illness better understood by some.   

It is so difficult to add to the pain of loss with a shame that should never be there.  We need to start looking at suicide for what it really is- a final step of a terrible disease.  And when we can take the shame away from mental illness, more may be able to seek and receive treatment that saves them from that step, and instead brings them healing.

Praying today for those who have lost a loved one to mental illness, that they find comfort instead of scorn and hope and healing instead of shame. 

What’s In a Name

A handful of people have asked about the title of my blog.  Most likely haven’t given it any thought, but for some people who spend their lives searching for missing, they wonder why it isn’t titled ‘Finding Austin’ and I had trouble articulating my reasons.  But here goes.  
I say ‘Losing Austin’ because it was a process that started much earlier than June of 2007.  I think it started quite a few years before, as he faced some things that kids shouldn’t have to, but many do, including unexplained physical pain, and family issues that caused emotional pain.  I’ve hesitated to ever put that thought into writing, but it’s not to point blame.  It’s my view of when we started losing him.  We lost him a little more years later when injury and heartache compounded, and from that point never seemed to really find him again.  He was standing in front of us, but we didn’t see all that was really there.  
I say ‘Losing Austin’ because I feel some of the blame of not catching him before he was gone.  
I say ‘Losing Austin’ because that’s the starting point of this journey.  
‘Finding Austin’ sounds to me that all our hope and faith resides around that event.  We pray for it, hope for it, believe on it, but our real hope is in God’s faithfulness regardless. 
‘Finding Austin’ would say, to me anyway, that our focus is on finding him and our story stops there.  I pray that I one day write about this crazy significant point.  But our story doesn’t and can’t end there.  Our story is about our response to losing him, and being called to work through it.
‘Finding Austin’ would seem to say that I really contribute to efforts to find him.  I don’t even know how at this point.  
‘Finding Austin’ would seem to signify that once we find him, all is well.  But all will not be well, it won’t bring that magical mythical “closure” that many goodheartedly say we need.  When we no longer have a missing loved one, new challenges begin, and new healing can begin.  Begin is the key word. 
‘Finding Austin’ might keep me mentally and emotionally focused on that goal, almost stuck until we reached it.  I didn’t need a reminder of our goal; it’s never far from mind.  What I needed was an honest look at where I’ve been, to help direct where I’m going.  
I believe and hope that there will be a post titled ‘Finding Austin’ one day soon.  What I do know, is that he was never lost to God, has been in his hands always.  We just get to keep working on filling in the details.

Isaiah 41:10  fear not, for I am with you;  be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you,  I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.