The Walking Wounded: On Leprosy and Checking Your Attitude Toward Mental Health

photo credit: chamko rani via photopin cc
photo credit: chamko rani via photopin cc


 ” When I taught in public schools I frequently developed opinions about why “challenging children” behaved poorly. More often than not I blamed their parents. I held the self-righteous  notion that I worked hard to raise happy, well- rounded children and that if other parents took their responsibilities seriously and parented effectively, their children would be fine. Boy was I getting mine, living  with a mentally ill teen, spending lots of time in the psychiatrist’s waiting room, and thoroughly researching the topic chipped away at my arrogance and ignorance.

I began to change.”  ~Kate McLaughlin

The excerpt above is from the book, Mommy I’m Still In Here- One Family’s Journey with Bipolar Disease. I can’t express how grateful I am for the courage of this author. Because without her bravery in this season and a number of others who have courageously shared their stories, I would feel alone and hopeless. I don’t have the courage, energy or wherewithal to write about our current journey. It’s too painful, close and unfinished.

This one statement should be read by every parent on the face of the planet. Christian and non. Because the biggest problem I see from where I am standing is expressed extremely well right there.

I can’t tell you the extent of the damage from those who don’t get it. I can only tell you that there is an incomprehensible gap between the way things are and the way things should be about  the attitudes of both with regard to mental health.

I can’t tell you how much hurtful advice, presumptuous (and wrong) conclusions, and rude comments we’ve suffered. How many “arm-chair” assessments from strangers and others.

I guess I could tell you all of these, but instead I’ll share just one incident.

When a child looks at a parent and says, “I wish I had a physical disease”, because they perceive the difference in the way Mental Health  is perceived,  by others-that says a lot.

 I can only pray that there will be change.

There needs to be a change.

Are you willing to change?

“Things do not change; we change.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, but the only one healed was Naaman, a Syrian.” Luke 4:27

Jesus, you never abandon your children. You reached out continuously to those who rejected you, even while needing your touch. You did not keep your distance, from lepers, although the very religious did. Help us to walk with those who are wounded, even while they may reject us. Let us not abandon them, though we grow weary with that which we don’t understand.  Help us to be willing to look at areas where we may need to change, and by your grace, mercy and power change us. Thank you that you are our Great Physician, Name Above All Names, and Almighty God. Amen.


Published by enthusiasticallydawn

Dawn Paoletta is a life enthusiast who loves to juggle words, chug coffee, and journal excessively. You can find her gathering stones on the beach most mornings. She enjoys hanging out with her hubby, daughter and family pets in Narragansett, RI and shares her passion, poetry and prose @Enthusiastically, Dawn.

16 thoughts on “The Walking Wounded: On Leprosy and Checking Your Attitude Toward Mental Health

  1. I am so terribly sorry, Dawn, and I so understand this. My dear brother suffers mental disability, and not only has he/we gotten (so-called) advice from strangers, but from family, themselves, who have not taken time or had the compassion to understand. You never get this until you walk around in someone’s shoes. And for a child to say that to you out of a sense of desperation and feeling “different” is also heartbraking. Thank goodness you are the mother you are, who loves unconditionally and who obviously is seeking help. I pray you find it both in the Church and out. Certainly Jesus will help!


      1. I was so glad to know that you are reading that and journaling your responses. I knew it would be absolutely perfect for you at this time. Perhaps one day you can write a review about it. Many younger Christians have never heard of it, or if they find it, they shy away from more archaic language. BUt it is so deep and rich. And if one can’t abide the older language, they do have more updated versions (though I love the o riginal).


      2. That is a good point. I am not having too much trouble with the language. I find the older writings to be very rich and deep. Like comparing the old Hymns with contemporary music. I prefer the Hymns so much more. They rely on scripture. As a matter of fact when we sing at church, I always like to see who penned the hymn and the verse behind it- although sometimes it is obvious.


  2. Awesome entry Dawn. I have dealt with my husband’s bi-polar disease for over 40 years. It took lots of love, lots of doctors, trips to Mayo Clinic & now after years of undiagnosed problems, lots of changes in medications we finally have a name for it.
    God saw us through every time things got tough. He protected us; He saved our marriage, it would have been so easy to just say “I give up”; He helped us learn how to deal with it all. It still rears it’s ugly head from time to time, but we know what to do now.There is light at the end of the tunnel!


  3. Keep praying and stay strong.The world and its reaction to mental health has a long way to go in understanding, compassion, and acceptance. In the meantime, continue to stand on God’s promises.


    1. You’re so right about the world view of mental health Mary — it does have a long way to go. But it has also advanced so much in the last 40 years. When Dave first started seeing a psychiatrist his insurance would only pay for a couple of visits per year. Now however, they are much better — and so is he. If you say he is “bipolar” there aren’t raised eyebrows any longer. Even though many do not understand what all is entailed, they do seem to accept the fact & will pray for him when he’s having problems. They don’t look all funny like you’re crazy or something any longer, which used to be the case. Or perhaps it’s the fact that we’ve gotten used to weird responses. Whatever, God is always there & does answer the prayers.


  4. Keeping you in my prayers! You are so right that there is a profound difference in treatment between physical ills versus mental ills. I am doing really well, but I’ve had fibromyalgia since I was in preschool and so many doctors would just tell me the pain was “all in my head” and did nothing. It seemed like they could easily write off mental issues, but had they seen some physical symptom I know they would have been all over it. Several of my family members have struggled with different forms of mental illness too so I’ve seen how hard it is. I’m so thankful for my psych degree because we are now foster parents and it has been invaluable working with struggling people- there is so much undiagnosed mental illness, whether from stigma or poverty, and these poor people are just struggling and being judged for it. It is heartbreaking and I feel so blessed to be able to make a difference- I’m keeping up all my advocacy! You guys are so brave and thanks for sharing! Your story is so impactful 🙂
    -S.L. Payne,


    1. Appreciate your input! I know for me the challenge comes with the different ideas that clash between Christian thinking and the psychological realm. Thank you for sharing your understanding.


      1. That is definitely a challenge to reconcile the two sometimes. I feel fortunate to have been able to study at a Christian University that is huge on faith integration into all disciplines. One of the biggest things I left with was the idea that “All truth is God’s truth” since God Himself is truth nothing can be true apart from Him. Made a huge difference when thinking about issues such as these. Unfortunately, not all Christians understand this very well and that makes empathy hard. Again, thanks so much for sharing your great thoughts on this very important and personal topic! You are in my prayers!


  5. Dawn, many people have family members or friends struggling with some form of brain disease…we need to recognize it is a physical disease that affects a person’s thinking and treat it as any other disease…with compassion! My dad lives well with his bi-polar diagnosis by taking his medication and keeping doctor appointments. Family support is so vital…know that your love makes a huge difference! Our family has also found NAMI to be a helpful resource…check it out.


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