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.

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.

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.

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  • Lynn, Thank you for sharing! I am a huge advocate in the arena of mental health. I write, speak, teach, and lead a ministry for family members that have a loved one with mental illness. I am so proud of Madi and I will head right over to her site and sign up. We have to begin stepping out and sharing to lower stigma. Of course I say that and yet I write under an alias because my loved one does not want me sharing. Hopefully, one day we will share together.

    Another great class is Family Connections for people who have a loved one with Borderline Personality Disorder – NEABPD or emotion dysregulation.

    I have many resources on my blog as well as a closed Facebook group for those that love someone with a mental disorder. It is hard on families too. We need support. Again thank you for sharing. I would love to connect at some point.

  • Lynn-this is just so timely. Just today, I started the process of securing a mental health practitioner for my 13 year old. I have cried and prayed and prayed and cried – it seems so unfair that she should have to deal with something so big as depression and anxiety at such a young age. Thank you for your message – it helped this mama realize that we aren’t alone in our struggle and that a diagnosis of mental illness doesn’t have to keep her from living a life full of success and meaning.

  • Thank you Lynn for sharing your daughter’s story. I have 3 children struggling with mental illness. It is an upward battle, but God has remained faithful in moving in their lives. Two of these children are attorneys, and my youngest is getting through High School one day at a time. In spite of their disabilities God is using them for His glory.

  • Lynn, the story about your daughter, Madi, touched my heart. I started having panic attacks last March. I’m 65 years old and a caregiver for my ex-husband since 2009 when he lost his vision to a stroke. I have had many doctor/ER visits and tried numerous Rx unsuccessfully during the last 9 months. I continue to feel like my body is on fire each and every day. I will pray for your family and especially Madi, who is going to change the world with her determination and grit. God Bless you both.

    • Judy – I am so very sorry. Stress really ramps up anxiety, we’ve experienced. I really want to encourage you to find a therapist. This was Madi’s first line of defense and her psychologist has been a lifeline for our family.

      Focus on the Family can recommend good, Christ-based counselors in your area.

      I hope this helps!

  • I was recently diagnosed with Bipolar 2 last month and though it’s relieving to finally have an explanation for all my ups and downs, I struggle with the stigma attached to it. Now we are spending time learning about the disorder and trying to navigate life with it. I will most definitely check out your daughters website! Thank you for sharing!

    • Alissa – knowing what you’ve been struggling with is a great start to moving forward.

      One thing I have learned about Bipolar is that during the swings, your mind will try to convince you that you do not need your medication. Don’t listen! Medication for Bipolar is like insulin to a diabetic. When the diabetic is feeling good, they do not stop taking their insulin; they need it.

      Medication plus therapy plus God’s word, worship and community has been the combination key for Madi. I hope you will find the same.

  • Wow Lynn,

    I’m sitting here at my desk in awe of God. It’s my first day back at work for the new year and my daughter is still at home from Christmas break her 2nd year of college. Most of the break has been filled with appts and calls to psychiatrist and psychologist. Medication changes have occurred and I’m tired! I want her to be a “good state” when she goes back because when she came home 3 weeks ago she was not. Medication changes always take time to see if they work and to be honest, I don’t feel like we have time. The semester start will be here in a few days. Thank you for this post. I will certainly look into the resources. We have been living this since elementary school but the college years have brought the anxiety to a whole level and I’m doing my best to lean on God and encourage my daughter to the same but it is difficult. Thank you for sharing this as mental illness is something that is hard to understand unless you have walked through it with someone or live with it.

    • Hi LovingMom,

      Have you investigation accommodations for your girl? Madi just got them – on her own – this year. They have been very helpful, especially when it has come to test taking.

      • Yes Lynn she has accommodations. t his does help with tests but not the daily grind. and for this last semester even test taking was a struggle. Thank you

  • Thank you for sharing this! My mother and many of her family members suffer(ed) from mental illness. As an adult daughter I am having trouble relating to her and figuring out the best way to deal with her. And the guilt I feel for potentially passing down these genetics to my own two daughters weighs heavy on me. I will be checking out NAMI, thank you for providing that resource! And for being willing to speak out about a difficult topic.

    • Please do check out the family-to-family class, Jen! It helped me so very, very much! I left with a huge notebook that I can refer to again and again, not just in my own family but when also relating to others as well.

  • I worked in special education for 18 years. Mental and physical disorders are topics that our society needs much more education on. Our society doesn’t deal with this, but hides disabilities away in shame. The students I worked with actually had more wisdom and compassion than most “normal” people do! Thank you for helping spread awareness!! Blessings. I would love the book for myself and to share with others.

    • Tammy – I would say that about my daughter. She is wise, discerning, compassionate, kind … many of these traits gained through all she has been through.

  • Mental illness affects many of my family members. Thank you, Lynn, for bravely sharing your family story. I also appreciate the helpful resources you suggested–I’m checking them out.

    • Sarah – I think the majority of us have mental illness somewhere in our families … such like we are impacted by cancer. Let’s help one another and encourage one another to reach the potential God has poured into us even in the middle of our imperfectness. 🙂

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