I’m happy to welcome my friend, author and Proverbs 31 Ministries speaker Lynn Cowell to the #BeBoldGirl series today. Lynn shares how she and her daughter are making bold moves to empower those who have a mental health disorder to move toward a confident life. Welcome, Lynn! After reading, scroll all the way to the bottom and leave Lynn a comment.
Lord, this feels bigger than me. I need Your help.
Even as I type, I can remember the very first time I needed this prayer of desperation for my girl.
Minutes prior, I received one of those calls you don’t want from the school; Madi wasn’t feeling well and wanted to come home. She seemed fine when I dropped her off this morning, I thought as I walked into the middle school.
Turning the corner into the office, I could see the distraught look on Madi’s face. The sadness emanating from her eyes was becoming all too familiar. Signing her out, we were soon headed toward home. Maybe she was getting a cold, I thought, as I surveyed her once again. That is when my daughter became adamant. “Mom, something is wrong. I can’t breathe. It feels like someone is sitting on my chest.” We took a sharp left; heading straight for the hospital. I had no idea what was going on, but I knew it wasn’t normal for a thirteen-year-old.
Her doctor informed me that Madi was having a panic attack. What is a panic attack? I thought. I was too embarrassed to admit my lack of understanding to the physician. For quite some time I thought she was experiencing was a heavy dose of teen angst. Struggling to live right in a world so wrong was hard; a daily battle she was fighting. That had to be the source of her struggles, wasn’t it?
What I was not seeing, because I was unaware, were the early symptoms of a mental health disorder.
All through middle and high school, Madi was brave and moved forward as best she could with her inner turmoil. Sleepless nights and emotional unrest troubled her more days than not. Her dad and I were hopeful, along with her psychologist, that as she moved away from the pressures of school and to a Christian university, the struggles would lessen.
They did not and when Madi returned home for Christmas break her freshman year, her psychiatrist diagnosed her with Bipolar Disorder and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).
From that day on, she finally had a name for the battle she’d been waging. Madi since then has bravely shared her journey of living with mental illness. She is not just surviving; her desire is to thrive and she is giving her all to do just that. Because of the courage she has demonstrated, she has inspired my husband and I to do all we can to support her in living out the fullness of life God created her to live.
Through a friend, I discovered classes offered through NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) called Family to Family. These classes are taught by family members who have a loved one with a mental illness for family members who have a loved one with mental illness. Over the course of 8 weeks, I learned information that would help me be as supportive to Madi as I can be. I also learned information that educated me so I can be a more compassionate and loving human and believer.
This process of learning the best tools and becoming empowered to move forward has not happened overnight. As a family, we have had to work hard and be patient with each other as we grow and learn more.
Madi’s passion is to be a part of breaking the stigma that surrounds mental illness.
Stereo-types and stigma surrounds us from the jokes told on TV to the way the body of Christ hides from these struggles within the church.
Through her blog at www.MadiCowell.com she shares the inner workings of a heart and mind pursuing mental health, giving others a glimpse of what they have not understood as well as opening the doors for those who need someone who understands what they are going through.
Madi is making her move to empower those who have a mental health disorder to move toward a healthier life. She is also educating us who need to understand, so that we can support our loved ones and those around us who are wishing to be understood.
Together, my daughter and I hope to empower others to face the fears that surround mental illness and overcome the failures that have pushed them down.
Confidence is not just for those who seem or look like they have it altogether. Christ died to give us His unshakable confidence. It is available to us; all of us. Confidence is developed as His truth invades every aspect of our lives. Each day we are learning more about what it means to gain mental wellness and what it looks like for her dad and I to support her.
We do this through educating ourselves with information from those who understand these disorders, and we do this through soaking our hearts and minds each day with the truth found in God’s word. We need a wisdom that comes from God’s heart to reach the deepest parts of our hearts.
If you or your loved one struggles with their mental health, I encourage you to investigate the resources available through NAMI at www.NAMI.org.
Lynn Cowell is a national conference speaker who is passionate about helping women of all ages understand the importance of Christ confidence. She is the author of several books including her newest study for women, Make Your Move: Finding Unshakable Confidence Despite Your Fears and Failures,and Brave Beauty: Finding the Fearless You, just for girls ages 8 – 12. Lynn and her husband, Greg, have been married for over 30 years and are the parents of three young adults. They enjoy spending time together, especially when it combines the mountains, well-worn sweatshirts, and anything with chocolate and peanut butter. Connect with Lynn today at www.LynnCowell.com.