Photo: Janet Peterson
Photo: Janet Peterson

Security: the state of being free from danger or threat; the state of feeling safe, stable, and free from fear or anxiety. Interesting.

Security is my Daily Word today. It was randomly generated for me this morning as part of my daily spiritual practice. Nuances of the quotes, Scripture, prayer, and action are discovered depending on what is going on in my life at that time. I was able to spend some time with my son yesterday and now have another interesting layer of thought to add to this word.

Security and what constitutes security is different for everyone. Someone with millions in the bank may have anxiety around finances that prohibits security. Someone who until recently was unemployed may not yet feel secure about food and housing even though they now have employment income. A host of factors, including uncertainty and experience, significantly contribute to how someone negotiates security.

What happens if you remove what is familiar and find yourself in a situation that feels unsafe and threatening or that you don’t understand at all or that includes people you don’t know or don’t know if you can trust? We don’t usually wake up one day and find ourselves in an unsafe, threatening, uncertain place. It usually happens gradually, the familiar and usual eroding bit by bit until we find ourselves in a place we don’t know or understand at all. And then, one day, we do wake up and ask ourselves, “How did I get here? What happened?” We question everything and don’t trust anything because all security is gone.

That’s how I imagine mental illness. Gradually all your skills to cope and hold things together erode and then, they don’t work any more. In that spiral, you try other things, that also don’t work and may even make things worse because now others are watching and noticing. And then when you finally realize you have to try something else, like medication, you’re really thrown off because nothing feels like you AND it makes you feels horrible and non-functioning in the process. Like how chemotherapy can make you sicker than sick and it’s supposed to be fighting your cancer to make you well!

Add to that that you can’t work and can’t get health insurance and don’t have a place to live and you have to go to a clinic and to get plugged into county or state services that are never-ending mazes that are more concerned about you filling out the correct form in the right color of ink and, and and, and and. Oh, and you have other health issues that must now be factored into this complex equation.

I don’t know if that’s exactly what my son is experiencing, but that’s the picture I get as I listen to him over lunch. He’s very intelligent, he understands the system, and he’s been navigating the system for over almost four years. And yet, in many ways he is not better off than he was four years ago. He accepts his mental diagnosis now whereas four years ago he was resistant to medication. But after not seeing him for nine months, I sense he’s trying to hold the last vestiges of his spirit together with wisps of silk thread. He’s disheartened and frustrated and feels there is no trust with those who seek to help him. He’s afraid he won’t be able to reclaim himself from the abyss that seeks to take him without his permission.

As heartbreaking as it is to see my own son struggling, I know there are far more people who are not anywhere near as high-functioning or intelligent as he is or don’t have any family or friend support. Who will be their voice? Who will care about their experience? Who will sit with them when they aren’t pleasant to be around? Who will call or text or drop by just to say “hi”? Who will bring them a treat or make sure they have a warm sweater or a toothbrush? Who will help them find security in an environment that is not stable or always safe?


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