From The Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis:
“Mental pain is less dramatic than physical pain,
but it is more common and also more hard to bear.
The frequent attempt to conceal mental pain increases the burden:
it is easier to say “My tooth is aching” than to say “My heart is broken.”
The above quote has me thinking today. If I was a Millennial (and I’m not sure that I am) I might say it has me in the “feels”. It has me thinking like a mother. I believe that God sometimes feels as I do when my kids come running to me with their big “crocodile” tears and a hurt finger or stubbed toe. They run to me for everything, wanting a miracle kiss no matter what the ailment. If it’s a visible problem–especially bleeding (blood! Oh, help me–sends them running for mama!)–I know exactly what they need, but other times, they have no idea how to describe the problem, which leaves me helpless.
My kiddos had night terrors. These are recurring dream-like trances that are infinitely more horrible than nightmares. They occur between two phases of sleep (unavoidable) and as far as I know, there is no cure. When my oldest would have these night terrors, he would sit up in bed and screech at the absolute highest volume a three year old can manage on a planet such as this. We couldn’t wake him up without shaking him by the shoulders, holding his face in our hands, and screaming louder than he did. When his eyes opened, they were glazed, still seeing the spiders that haunted his dreamland.
It’s almost as if this condition or happening only happens to a percentage of children. Some sleep soundlessly each night with regular sweet dreams and tolerable nightmares, but there are those few that see horrors when their body just wants to sleep–something natural and necessary.
I don’t think my kids have a mental illness by any means, but it hurts me every bit as much to see a loved one struggle with depression or crippling anxiety in everyday life as it does to shake my children from night terrors they can’t help. It’s just the act of living we’re attempting here, but sometimes I’m told that living is the hardest thing that he can do. Sometimes I’m told that dying would be easier. Sometimes I’m told that this anxiety attack really felt like the end. Sometimes the terrors, depression, nightmares, and anxieties follow them from the darkness of night, and bring them into the day. What then?
When someone trips and falls, onlookers often laugh (and then find out if they’re alright). It’s hilarious because it seems like it’s their fault. When someone falls over as their body seizes up, eyes roll into the back of their head, or weakness crumples them, it’s no laughing matter. That is serious–so serious that we don’t really know what to do or say when we witness it.
When a loved one “falls” in daily life and we’re there to witness it, it may look like:
- Missing work
- Canceling plans
- A drop in interest (activities, relationships, TV shows, hobbies)
- Difficulty sleeping
- Sudden weight and appetite changes
- Persistent aches and pains
It may be that they cannot ask for help, but the problem is serious. The fall may be hard. It may be impossible to stand on their own. It may be that you may improve a day, but you might just save a life.
If you know someone who is experiencing terrors of their own, reach out to them. Shoot them a text or voice memo. Make the following available in your environment (social media posts, signs in the office, posters at school or work, etc.).
Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Veterans Crisis Line
Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline
OK2Talk Helpline Teen Helpline
1 (800) 273-TALK
Crisis Text Line
Text SIGNS to 741741 for 24/7, anonymous, free crisis counseling