Monday, August 2, 2010

A Troubled Mind

I would seriously appreciate any constructive advice and wisdom to what I am about to write...especially if it comes from the scriptures. Frankly, I have no good answers or ideas on how to deal with the situation I am about to explain.

This weekend was one of the best I had had in a long time. I had a great time with a friend up in Duluth checking out all sorts of stuff. The next day, Sunday, I was still in a fantastic mood. And then I was confronted with a situation that I absolutely hate to deal with.

I won't go in to great detail, but suffice it to say that one of my family members has some rather serious mental health issues. And yesterday they pulled a stunt that really hurt all of us. I have been in a dark mood ever since.

Just so you understand, this person has been out of contact with our family for about 9 months now. We were unsure as to wether or not this person was even still in the same State as the rest of us. Yesterday received an answer to that question in a very, very hurtful manner.

It had been so long that I have had to deal with this person that any strong emotions I had had since relaxed. It only took about one minute for all of my anger, frustration, pain...and some other emotions I won't speak of, to come flooding back with a vengeance.

What I need are some answers, thoughts and ideas as to how to deal with this person and situation as one who desires to follow Jesus. So any thoughts you have might be a big help.

The Bible does speak a bit about mental health issues. But certainly not in the way that modern psychiatry & psychology do. I have heard professors say that King David and Elijah seemed to have Manic Depressive bouts, and that Jeremiah struggled with Depression. But there don't seem to be any overt references.

Some Background:
This particular family member was born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. (In other words, the birth-mother drank quite a lot while she was pregnant.) People with FAS are born broken...much like a car coming off the assembly line is a "Lemon." No matter what you do, they will never, ever be fully functional and whole. What angers me so much about this disease is that while it is %100 incurable, it is also %100 PREVENTABLE!

If you know of any pregnant women who are drinking, MAKE THEM STOP AT ONCE!

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome has numerous manifestations, but this particular family member struggles with being a Sociopath. In brief, a Psychopath knows that they are lying to get what they want. A Sociopath will lie, but thinks they are telling the truth.

This family member craves sympathy and acceptance. So, let's say they are with a group of people having coffee. Someone in that group says, "When I was a kid, I used to get picked on a lot by all the other kids in the neighborhood." That group then expresses sympathy towards that person. My family member would quickly say "Me too." Then, someone in the group says "When I was a kid, my parents used to smack me around a lot." That group then expresses sympathy, and my family member says "Me too!" THEN, someone in that group says, "When I was a teen, the government had aliens abduct me, take me to Amelia Earhart's secret island and plant microbes in my brain so they can read my thoughts." My family member would quickly say "ME TOO!!!!"

BTW: That was not an exaggeration.

The only way I have come to understand this works this way: We all know that lying is wrong. Lying is wrong and it results in bad things. However, if you say something that is false, and it results in Good Things, then it can't have been a lie...could it?!?! (That really is it in a nut shell.)

This family member has made some absolutely outrageous claims about everyone in our family...seriously, stuff that is beyond nonsense. Most normal people who hear what this person has to say conclude that "Something ain't quite right with what I'm hearing" fairly quickly. However, this person deceives an amazing amount of people too.

The only up-side is that both the police and courts now have ample records to know that this person cries wolf enough that they no longer believe anything this person says. Obviously, the down side to that is that if something truly bad does happen to this person, they will not come to their aid.

In the mean time, my parents will often cry themselves to sleep at night because of this person. Me? Well, I get to watch on helplessly as this occurs. Sometimes I cry over the situation. Sometimes I am filled with a vengeful rage. Either way, there isn't much I can do about it...and that's the problem.

How do I, as someone who wants to be like Jesus,
respond to this situation?

I want to forgive this person. I understand that much of what they do, they cannot help. But I also know that this person doesn't take what little responsibility they can for their situation. (When this person was on a doctor prescribed vitamin routine, they went 8 years without an incident. YES, VITAMINS...not drugs.) But now they refuse to abide by this.

I want to forgive this person, but even if I did I know logically this that this person can never truly be trusted. They may ask for forgiveness, mean it...and then walk out the door and begin all over again.

Don't think I miss the obvious analogy of how we treat God and his forgiveness in all of that.

I want to forgive this person, but I never, ever want to be alone with them. I am afraid of them. I sure as HELL do not want my parents to ever be alone with this person. Maybe this person truly wants to stop, but a broken mind can be extremely dangerous. It isn't a matter of simply forgiving &'s a matter of safety!

The big difference between God and humanity in this situation is that God can take the hurt, pain, threats, lies...and even any potential physical violence. Where as, a human being asleep in bed has a difficult time with the person in the other room who is hearing voices telling them to put a knife in the sleeper.

I just don't know what to do. I really don't. I am trying to trust God in this situation. To turn this person over to him, and rest in the thought that God causes all things to work together for good.

I did some searching on the net yesterday and this morning for answers. There are some incredibly pathetic websites out there. So called "Christian" sites that claim that mental health issues are a fraud caused by a lack of repentance. Then there are the "Name it & Claim it" and "Health & Wealth" preachers who say that any troubles that come your way are because of a lack of faith. (Easy for them to say, as they ride around in their Hummer Limos after having conned dim witted followers out of their money.)

If you have THAT kind of advice for me, then please just keep your pie-hole shut. You are an idiot, a fool, and of no use to anyone...especially the Kingdom!

But if you have some thoughts that you think might really help, I'd really like to hear it.

I miss this family member. I miss what they were like as a child. I miss those found memories. I wish I had an answer.

Jesus, I really need to feel your presence in this situation. My whole family does.


P.S. If you know the name of this family member, and wish to comment, PLEASE DO NOT mention them by name.

P.S.S. I almost posted this, and then I thought about a song I heard Johnny Cash perform. I think it sums up a lot of what people in general often do to themselves. But in particular, I saw my family member in the lyrics.


  1. Joe,

    I do not have any answers for you. No trite phrases or cliches to offer.

    But I am your friend and will always listen.

    Only those close to us can hurt us so deeply. I hope you find some peace in all of this bewildering and painful times.

    Please call when you need to. We are never alone.


  2. Hi Joe,
    I do not know you but I have experienced some of the feelings you write about here. My husband and I adopted two children with FASD (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders) from the foster care system. We are Christians raising children who we know may never be able to "walk the walk" because of their brain damage.

    I remind myself every day that I cannot fix their brains but I can change my heart. I have learned more about mercy and grace and forgiveness on this path than I have on any other. It isn't easy. In fact, this is the hardest thing I have ever done, but I love my kids and I will do what I can for them.

    As a result of their FASD our children also have mental illness and families like ours often face allegations, judgment, blame, shame, and isolation...especially in the faith community.

    If a child has a broken arm we do not expect them to try harder to make that arm work. If a child has an impaired brain that manifests in behavioral differences we DO expect them to try harder. It is very frustrating for them because they simply can't act like they don't have brain damage...because they do!

    Helping a child with FASD understand why they struggle, talking about their disability, helping them to find strategies that help, resources for support services, etc.. can make a difference. Sadly, once the person with FASD is an adult it is much harder to do this.

    I would suggest that you read the book "Damaged Angels" by Bonnie Buxton. Pray. And always remember that we are all one brain illness or one brain injury away from having different behaviors. WWJD?

    Thank you for searching your soul about this issue. I hope my children have people in their life who do the same and who act in love toward them as they grow into adulthood.

  3. Thank you Kari, for the kind words. I've always liked the Amish saying that "God brings people with Special Needs into our lives to teach us how to love." So I do try and keep that in the back of my mind when ever I have to deal with this person.

    Still, it's a tough go all around. Ultimately, I rest in the knowledge that this person has made a commitment to Jesus to the best of their ability. So I do believe that in the new heaven & earth, they will be healed and whole.