Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Mental Illness

I have a friend who suffers with mental illness. She went along for awhile, since I first met her but after a major breakdown requiring seven shock treatments, with being able to be a spiritual friend. But in the past several months she has declined and become delusional and paranoid all the more, more than I've been around anyone with this illness.

My own form of suffering, chronic pain intermingled with spiritual pain, brings periods of situational depression, and other times of highs and joy when the pain eases. Thus, I seem to be very erratic. In fact, at times I feel rather insane from the pain. When I feel better, I want to take part in life more, again. But soon I am in much pain, and I look fine on the outside, so it is all the harder for people to deal with what is going on; it is confusing to them, surely.

Perhaps in the past couple of months all the work I've done gardening has wearied the body some, but also the discussion with my friend via e-mail has been more "active" in the planting and daily activities. Also, we meet once a month to discuss a Catholic book. But this last time we met at her house, which is unlike other times, and she got deeply into a discussion of one of her delusions. I tried to help her see that what she thinks is going on is really not, but she became very upset when she thought I did not believe her.

The friendship has slid since then. In my own panic to avoid so much solitude and loneliness that I experience, or am feeling more than before, I have applied for a job. It is a job that I would love, but I am uncertain I could physically manage it consistently. I think that all I endeavor, and the Lord is so good to me in letting me achieve in the garden, although I'm worn out right now, is too much for my friend. Or something has happened in our correspondence, for hers are rote and remote. She is shutting down more and more.

This is sorrowful. I do not know what to do other than to pray, which is active in its own right, of course. Part of the parting also frightens me for it seems God is isolating me out all the more, and that may be the answer to prayer for settling into the vocation as a hermit as well as a victim soul. I must not panic and avoid His will. Yet, there is a sadness in the ordeal my friend is going through, although she may not recognize the status. Or, she may be choosing to back away in the friendship. I keep praying her husband can do something, get her medication increased, or whatever would help, but he is helpless, too, until she is ready to get help again.

In a way, there is not an ease in friendship with someone with chronic pain, or with someone with mental illness. They both have their challenges for active, healthy, busy people to be able to comprehend and be close to those with these sufferings. This situation exacerbates the suffering all the more, in the sense of not being understood and being more isolated.

I suppose Jesus felt all these to a high degree. A friend from Avila, Spain who is in Las Crusadas de Santa Maria, e-mailed the reminder of JPII's "Salvifici Dolores". She paraphrased that as one draws closer to one's limit of suffering, one suffers all the more alone. Jesus did this. We all know how He suffered and died. He probably felt it when he prayed alone, too, during his public ministry when people would not understand Him.


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