There is this feeling of quicksand that slowly enfolds ankles, that creeps and grips calves and tugs down. Sometimes harder than others. A drowning of sorts.
Struggling is futile.
It only enrages the stuff and causes the tugging to yank harder, faster. Until legs are trapped and torso is next.
Yet acceptance feels more futile. Wasted even, upon the quicksand and its source.
Especially as the child struggling in a parent’s mental illness.
Because the reality you’ve been carefully treading through and around, this quicksand, is that which has no real end, no sense of finality or a happy conclusion. It’s like an alternate universe that morphs one moment to the next, one day or season or year into another. Cycles breed more cycles. And the pendulum swings between one extreme and the next don’t get easier to handle, and certainly aren’t easier to understand.
Navigating is treacherous in the hot springs of volatility, rages, and impulses, the quicksands of depression, anxiety, and manipulation, the jungle of every other surprise twist or dangerous turn that crumbles even the most grounded of people, the most trying and loving and forgiving of people, to their knees in fear and guilt and pain.
Mental illness knows no bounds and shows no mercy.
Mental illness gradually seeps into everything you never knew was affected until it was, and then it was too late.
Mental illness slowly contorts the memories you thought you had until you no longer know how to remember them, a lot like a House of Mirrors that twists your body image until you forget what you looked like to start. Except that it’s your whole life that warps in and around you.
Mental illness quietly oozes into your thinking and your processing of life and love and everything in between, until you think unreality is reality, until you don’t know that unconditional love is real and given, until you can’t see straight for the tears of pain and confusion that blur your waking moments and your midnight worries.
Mental illness robs you of your hopes for normalcy, sometimes intimacy, and usually expectancy of solid, stable, life-correcting resolution.
The hard, cold truth is that it all feels like a prison sentence. Harsh. Unflinching. Seemingly eternal. Frigid and sweltering simultaneously. Altogether overwhelming and underwhelming and exhausting.
The trek through hazardous and unknown jungles that never stops, just keeps peaking and plummeting and lurking at will and with dizzying randomness. If only it would stop. But instead and too often, more people are sucked into its vortex of hurt feelings and confused thoughts, always back into that quicksand.
Because while reflecting upon what events may or may not have triggered the rages or the depressive periods, what words may have broken the silences or have shattered the peace, what portions of the brain that were adversely affected by a trauma or shock or secret, none of it can ever be healed solely by you. At least not in the most complete sense of healing and restoring and mending.
Because while prescriptions can alter their illness and dull your reactions to it, the drug is merely a Band-Aid on the gaping wound, a masking of the problem to make it more socially acceptable but just as (or probably more) destructive in a whole new, secondary way.
Because no one can ever adequately prepare you to navigate both your own world that exists outside of the mental illness, albeit tainted by and confused by the warped glasses of unreality and reality you knew from dealing with mental illness, and properly prepare you to wade into the jungle-y fray that is coping with the illness, even separating person from problem and loving with boundaries.
Because while counseling and talking it through can certainly offer clarity and wisdom and oftentimes more of a sense of reality to you and/or the person afflicted with the illness, no one else can fully restore what was lost, fill the void that remains, repair the damages done, or rewrite the story’s ending.
And that is precisely where the whole snarly, messy brokenness is undone.
No one can possibly magic-wand-poof it away. No one can step in with a miracle drug and disappear the illness or fix your broken heart. No one can probably ever fully answer the pain-wracked, sob-filled questions you so longingly want answered.
I really am sorry about that. I wish that I had the answers myself. It would make life so much less complicated…
Sometimes there just aren’t adequate enough human words or magic enough wands to ever make it all what you’d so desperately rather it could have been, should have been, might ever be. Especially when you are the child, stuck in a situation you did not choose.
For that is well beyond anyone’s or anything’s pay grade, cubicle space, lab coat, psych couch, or anything else earthly that endeavors to attempt such a magnanimous, unrealistic feat to undo and redo it all.
It is truly only by the miracle-blessing, broken vessel-recreating, heart-changing hands of the Almighty Creator and Sustainer that true, complete healing can occur.
Anyone else who works diligently and battles valiantly to join God in the proffering of His grace and forgiveness that is utterly necessary to heal, is a selfless warrior. Thrown into the fray just for the sake of helping others and trying to heal. Especially when there is so little for that counselor to gain from offering ears and shoulders and wisdom with those who are mired in the quicksand of still another’s mental illness.
For such sage mentors and generous listeners are truly gifts from God, blessings who remind those of us at war with ourselves and their illnesses that God uses His people for His higher purposes and in His greater plan for us to see Him at work in our own humanity.
But all of it, all of the counsel and advice and intervention, is still to send us back to Him, to His unconditionally loving arms, to His unbelievably strong shoulders, to His unceasingly listening ears, to His ever-ready embrace.
For nowhere else and no one else can ever offer such complete, forever comfort and mercy and love. Anything else and anyone else points back to God and walks alongside the journey to Him, as He is the only true Redeemer of all things hard and messy and broken and quicksand-y.
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:3-9).
See, here in the Refiner’s fire, it is all about what happens after the tests and trials and grief that comes with the refining.
It is about wading through the quicksand to find the ladder to freedom that has been there all along. It is about the hand that reaches down from the safety of the Immovable, Unshakable Rock and plucks you out of the drowning depths.
It is about uncovering God’s glory and redemption in even the most heart-wrenching, soul-shaking of experiences.
It is about wrestling with the tumult of emotions and actions and reactions and everything to see the redemptive grace of Heaven’s gates.
It is about the living hope that will never spoil or rot or fade or dwindle away, no matter how hard other people or difficult circumstances try to squash hope’s flickery flame.
It is about clinging to God and His peace and His wisdom and His solace, when nothing else makes sense, when no one else fully understands, when nowhere else is comforting.
Yes, your pain is real. So is mine. But His joy will be greater and more real than anything we have ever experienced. For it is only when we lean in and lean on Him that we may feel the burdens and the battles ease, however slightly or greatly. And it is then that we may begin to feel inklings of hope, trickles of joy, streams of love.
For His mercy is from everlasting to everlasting. His love endures all things. His name is Emmanuel, Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Prince of Peace, Father.