Having been a school nurse for a number of years, I was well aware of the increasing rise in the number of children and teenagers struggling with incredibly complex mental health issues.
However, I was totally unprepared when we found ourselves facing this issue in our own family.
I remember the feelings of total helplessness when I was called into school because my own precious child had caused physical damage to themselves through extreme self-harm.
I felt that somehow, I’d failed as a parent. How could I, as a trained nurse, have missed this? We had known that they were struggling with some issues, but we had put it down to hormonal teenage mood swings.
Having not experienced any mental health issues myself, I struggled to really understand how my child was feeling. I had prided myself on having a good relationship with all our children and being a family who could talk openly and share our problems. Yet during this time, I felt totally unable to reach my child.
They were completely trapped in a dark prison of despair and isolation and I was powerless to help them.
In their desperate search for a way out, their behaviour and life choices became very destructive and caused us all more heartache and sadness.
We spent many hours at difficult doctors’ appointments and counselling sessions, but nothing seemed to be changing. To my shame, I often resorted to angry outbursts and very unhelpful comments and suggestions. My frustration was overwhelming as I grappled with my desire to ‘fix’ them.
Out of protection and care for them, we found ourselves carrying a huge burden which we were only able to share with a very few people. However, our family and close friends really did an amazing job of consistently standing with us and supporting us during the darkest days.
Living with someone who is battling mental health issues really does affect the whole family. We felt like we were walking through a minefield every day. The pressure on us all was exhausting, as we never knew what might happen next.
I went through a range of emotions each day as I faced the reality of our home life.
Ultimately, I was angry and frustrated at God. We had read all the ‘right’ Christian parenting books and followed their advice as we had brought up our kids. This was not part of the plan and it wasn’t fair. I ranted and railed against God; why us, why my family, and ultimately, why me?
Although I had been a Christian since my childhood, what I really wanted from God was this;
‘It means no worries
For the rest of your days
It’s our problem-free philosophy Hakuna Matata!…. (The Lion King 1994)
However, I was finding following Jesus didn’t mean that our lives were a fairy tale story. In fact, Jesus said that we will all encounter the storms of life as we journey through it.
‘In this life you will have trouble, but take heart, for I have overcome the world.’
John 16 v33
I had read these words, spoken by Jesus to his disciples many times over the years. But it was only during this time, I felt that I came to understand what they really meant.
In the times when I felt I was losing faith in my heart, I discovered a greater depth of God’s love and He met me in my brokenness and pain.
He was and is my Saviour. He healed my heart and He gave me new hope and strength to face another day.
It was during this time that we first heard about Karis house.
This amazing place was to be part of God’s healing for our precious child.
The God centred holistic Xchange programme at Karis house combines counselling and prayer ministry alongside medical care & practical support.
God gives us this promise from these words of truth in Isaiah 9;
‘The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. For those who lived in a land of deep shadows—light! Sunbursts of light!
God broke into the land of darkness and shadows where our child was trapped.
His light shone and we saw a miracle happen- our child who had been paralysed by fear and despair was released into a new freedom towards health and wholeness.
Our family journey continues; often the roads can be unfamiliar and at times very hard to navigate. My story is that we never have to face it alone; regardless of how difficult the path.
Jesus is the light of the world and His love can reach us wherever we are no matter how dark it is.
Charlotte is an evangelist at heart and she’s passionate about sharing the good news of God’s love & hope with the world. She is a speaker & event facilitator who seeks to encourage others to find creative ways to share their own stories.
As a qualified nurse, she runs her own home care business, supporting people through the many changing seasons of their lives. She has 3 fantastic grown-up children who she counts as friends and she lives in the beautiful Cotswolds UK with her equally fantastic husband!