Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Does mental illness run in your family?

Mental Illness R Us

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 By Guest blogger, Robyn Bloem
Copyright - 2015

Mental Illness tends to run in families-and not the way of the old joke that you “get it from your kids!” And not because the sins of the fathers are passed down to the fourth generation of those who hate Me! It runs in families because it is biological in nature! 
We counseled the family of a little boy who insisted his belt be tightened a certain way before school every morning, his blankets tucked around him in the exact manner every night and he worried that he would be late to school constantly. When Steve asked the young mother if there was any mental illness in the family, she said, “No.” The child’s grandmother was in the room and so was his great-grandmother. The great-grandmother said, “Well, I think my daughter (who was present) shows some serious signs of depression and my own mother committed suicide. Then the grandmother said to her daughter, “I think you may be OCD the way you care for your appearance and house-keeping. We saw the look of surprise and recognition cross all of their faces. It was in their family and had not the four generations been present, it may have been more difficult to diagnose. Steve referred the child to a child psychiatrist and with some medication and behavioral modification, he greatly improved; in fact the last we heard, he was doing very well. 

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Some of our Christian brothers and sisters call mental illness a generational “curse” because it is seen in family members throughout generations. Again, I believe another unnecessary condemnation to one who is suffering a mental illness. Why on earth do they think it helpful to reprimand a person who has a brain disease? Do they think they can jar a person out of it? We heard yesterday of a woman who endured an exorcism because she was hearing voices-of course it exhausted her but did nothing else. If she had Alzheimer’s would these same people try to exorcise the demon of confusion?  

Steve has a very serious case of depression. Thankfully he has not had any episodes for quite a few years. That is due to his heavy medication regimen. It should have been no great surprise when our daughter had serious panic attacks and depression.  Steve’s aunts and uncles are riddled with mental illness. What do we do with information like this? Well, we stop pointing fingers and hurting the hurting! We stop being Monday morning psychiatric quarterbacks and leave the diagnoses to the professionals. We refer people to medical doctors and not to our friend’s friend who knew somebody once. Most importantly, we show loving kindness to people in pain and offer a loving hand and not a slap in the face for an illness they didn’t design or desire. 

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At Heartfelt Counseling Ministries, we want to help people who have these diseases and their loved ones because the caregivers need support, too. At our CAMI support groups, we have both family members and the sufferers. We all offer comfort, share help within our community systems and prayer. That is what the mentally ill need; not exorcism, not generational guilt and not spiritual platitudes. Yes, mental illness runs in families; it is in ours and if you are reading this, it is probably in yours. Don’t feel guilty and don’t despair. Help is available, support is necessary and medications help control the symptoms. Don’t swallow your stress! We are here to help you! Contact us anytime. We offer seminars, local counseling, long distance counseling by phone or Skype, our book, Broken Minds or short talks at your church or other meeting place. We will go to Sunday School classes, parks or soap boxes. Anywhere there are hurting people, we want to go. Let us know how we can help!