When You Have No Idea What to Do Next

A Guest Post by Lynn Cowell

Today I’ve invited a friend to dive into raw and difficult subject, one that sits painfully close to my heart. Her willingness to expose the complicated pieces of her own story lends you and I courage to authentically wrestle with our own. And the longer I live this undone life, the more grateful I am for such bold women. Please welcome Proverbs 31 Ministries speaker, author and my friend, Lynn Cowell. And be sure to leave a comment at the end of this post for a chance to win a copy of Lynn’s new Bible Study Book and DVD Bundle, Make Your Move.

no idea

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. My daughter 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. Maybe she’s 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.” We took a sharp left; heading straight for the hospital. I had no idea what was going on. I just knew it wasn’t normal.

When you have no idea what to do next

Her doctor informed me that Madi was having a panic attack. I was too embarrassed to admit my lack of understanding to the physician. I thought she was experiencing teen angst.

What I was not seeing, because I was unaware, were the early symptoms of a mental health disorder.

All through middle and high school, sleepless nights and emotional unrest troubled her most days. Her dad and I, along with her psychologist, hoped a Christian university upon graduation would help.

It didn’t. When Madi returned home for Christmas break her freshman year, her psychiatrist diagnosed her with Bipolar Disorder and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

When we don’t understand God’s why

From that day on, Madi finally had a name for the battle she’d been waging. Since then, she bravely shares her journey of living with mental illness and not just surviving; but thriving. Because of the courage she demonstrates, she’s inspired our family to do all we can to support her and discover God’s best, even when we don’t understand His why.

Mental illness classes through NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) has helped me to move to being as supportive to Madi as I can be. I’ve also learned how to 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’ve worked hard and been patient with each other as we grow and learn more.

Breaking the stigma around mental illness

Madi’s passion is to be a part of breaking the stigma that surrounds mental illness.

Stereotypes 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 and social work studies in college, she empowers those who have a mental health disorder to move toward a healthier life. She also educates us who need to understand, so that we can support our loved ones and those around us who wish to be understood.

Together, my daughter and I hope to empower others to face the fears that surrounds mental illness. And overcome the failures that have pushed down those with a diagnosis.

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 do understand these disorders, and we do this through soaking our hearts and minds each day with the truth found in God’s word. There are days when life is hard, really hard, but on these days when disappointment and discouragement deplete us, God’s word restores us.

Giveaway

Has there been a time when your confidence was shaken and you had no idea what to do next?

Comment below for a chance to win a copy of Lynn’s Make Your Move Bible study book and DVD bundle. (U.S. Addresses only please.)

In Make Your Move, Lynn Cowell explores how confidence-in-question keeps us from boldly experiencing what God intends for our lives. Learn more about her new Bible study and download 10 Verses to Build Your Confidence here: http://lynncowell.com/make-your-move/.


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.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

61 thoughts on “When You Have No Idea What to Do Next

  1. Thank you for your transparency and encouragement to other parents what don’t have all the answers when their children are struggling

    • You are so very welcome, Jacquelyn. It was one mom’s bravery to share what was happening with her child that empowered me to begin to find the help for Madi that we all needed.

    • I definitely needed to read this tonight. My daughter unexpectedly lost her dad to a seizure in his sleep when she was only 13. This came after 2 years of marital separation between me & him. She struggled with depression even after I sought help for her through 3 different counselors. She then finally put herself on anti-anxiety meds after she came of age. I’ve gone back & forth with her about it, even offering natural medicine alternatives recommended by a naturopathic doctor.
      Thank you for bringing this to the forefront. Although I still pray for her continually, I know I don’t have to be a stickler when it comes to medication. She seems to be much more at peace as time has gone on. However, I do hope one day she does once again seek Christian therapy as an adult and get additional assistance for any lingering issues she still carries regarding her dad’s death.

  2. I so resonate with this. My son was diagnosed with Bipolar disorder and it has been so difficult to help him overcome the stigma with friends and family. Thanks for sharing your heart.

    • Linda, I am so sorry that you have experienced this pain. I think that Madi’s openness about her struggles has helped others to understand that mental illness is just that … it is an illness she cannot help, not a weakness she is giving into.

      Together, we can make a difference in breaking these stigmas.

      I think of words we used to use when I was in elementary school to make fun of kids. (I won’t list them here because they would offend.) These words were used in ignorance; my own.

      I am hoping that when Madi has her own children one day, the words used today in ignorance – words used to describe how someone is feeling or words used to make fun of another, such as “She is so OCD.” “I can be so bi-polar.” will no longer be a thing because people have a new awareness that they are actual diagnosed illness, not emotional feelings or simple quirks that people have.

      Thank you for sharing!

  3. Yes, I know what it means to lose confidence and to stop moving forward because you don’t feel that you are enough. I was belittled at work by a manager and supervisor and treated as though I couldn’t do my job. This affected me physically and I had three ER visits with stroke-like symptoms. I was terribly afraid of losing my job. I became so disoriented one time, I couldn’t remember where my cubicle was even though I was so close to it. I was diagnosed with migraines. I was heartbroken over a devastating performance review, and my confidence was shattered. In August last year, the Lord gave me the freedom to go ahead and resign from my job without a new job on the horizon. Would I be able to find another job, and would I be able to pay all my bills? God is faithful. All my bills were paid through December through His creative solutions and the help of family and my church. The Lord also provided a new job, doing the same thing I did before. Now because my confidence is in the Lord and because He has restored my hope, I wake up grateful and eager to start work for the day. I would be very interested in reading Lynn’s book.

    • This is so powerful, Christine, both to the testimony of why our confidence cannot be built on something we can lose or have taken from us such as someone, someplace or something, but on Christ alone as well as all He can restore when we build it on Him!

  4. Lynn, thank you so much for sharing your family’s story. I had a schizophrenic father, and my mother was not able to get help for herself as she believed you should just trust God. However, when I was four, my mom did a very brave thing by escaping from him and divorcing him. He had threatened to kill her if she left him. I only wish that she could have received the support and encouragement she needed to heal. I appreciate the courage of your daughter to pursue not only her health but also to help others. Blessings to you!

  5. I applaud Lynn and Madi’s courage and willingness to be vulnerable with other women. By being so honest they normalize and experience that can see so stigmatizing and isolating. I too have experience with mental disorders and thank Jesus for upholding me daily!

  6. I work at a homeless shelter and see many people with mental health problems. It is difficult to watch some of them who appear to be in a different world than myself. But people just want to be seen and acknowledged that they have a right to be here. I pray for them and help the best I can.

  7. Lynn, thank you for sharing your story! I came to the Lord in thr mid 1970’s. At the time I suffered from agoraphobia, panic disorder, and major depression. The church completely misunderstood mental illness back then and I was advised to quit therapy, get off all medication, and just “trust the Lord.” This kind of advice almost cost me my life, but thank God., I made it through. Now I am a psychotherapist and it is my passion to help educate the church and help alleviate the suffering. People like you and your daughter are being greatly used by Christ to comfort others. God bless you all the way.

  8. That is my greatest struggle at the moment. I have been through so very much in the last 5 years including having bowel surgery ending in now having a colostomy, losing our business in floods and then breast cancer 2 years ago. Just when I thought I could move forward in confidence I have now developed Interstitial Cystitis of the Bladder probably as a result of chemotherapy.
    My confidence in so many ways lies shattered.
    Thank you so much for sharing with such wonderful open honesty:)
    God’s Blessings
    Andrea

  9. Lynn, our daughter-in-law was diagnosed with manic depression and anxiety disorder last year. It has been such a difficult and frightening journey to find proper treatment and medication. But it has also been a journey of increased faith as we have prayed gut-wrenching “God we need you” prayers and have seen an absolute turnaround in this past year. Yes, she still struggles but is no less ne’er without hope and oddly enough having a name to put on the face of this illness has helped our family in understanding and coping with such a challenging situation. Thank you to both you and your daughter for shedding light on a difficult subject and bringing awareness to an emotional disorder which affects many families.

  10. Thank you for sharing your experience. My sister and aunt are diagnosed bipolar and I struggle to understand. I am going to check out Madi’s blog for more insight.

  11. Thank you for your honesty and willingness. I too have dealt with issues related to mental health and recently took time off for a “tune up”. So grateful for one more barrier to be knocked down upon this subject. Thank you

  12. I would love to read and study this. In my family we have suffered through parental inversion, whereas the children take care of the parent instead of the other way around. My mother has suffered from mental illness her entire life. Some years are ok and some are pure hell. I am slowly learning to deal with her and try not to take it upon myself to think that I have to heal her.

    • Oh Lori, I am so very sorry. When I took the family-to-family classes at NAMI I heard of this story in my classmates.

      Getting treatment – both therapy and medicinal – is so very important. I imagine when you are the child trying to get a parent to take these steps it could be beyond difficult.

      Keep finding your daily strength in the Lord’s strength, Lori. He is the only one who can fill this continual need we have for wisdom and power.

  13. I’ve been there, like a deer caught in the headlights in the dark of a storm. I’ve been confused, questioning God even. More emotions than I could handle overtook me sobbing heart. I started repeating scripture to myself. Listening to sermons, worship music, and podcasts to strength myself in the Lord. I clung to the feet of Jesus like an infant to her favorite blanket. I preached to my heart, and still do, that God is sovereign, His love for me is so wide and deep I cannot fully understand it, I Surrendered the betrayal from one that vowed to always stand with me and in return Jesus showed me a new me. A me that can stand with a bucket of water , standing ready to quench the flames of other women walking through the same fire I had to walk through. God renews. God restores. God redeems. God loves you!! Compared to Him, everything else is nothing. “Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ” Philippians 3:8 (NKJV)

  14. I don’t usually reply to articles but I just want to share a thought. Great blog, very informative and much needed. I can’t shake it though—once sentence bothers me — ‘the way the body of Christ hides from these struggles within the church’. As someone who has pastored for 33 years, and is connected to a huge network of pastors, that is simply not true. I don’t think Christian authors realize how negative those general comments are, especially to the unchurched who can then easily adopt the position of ‘I knew it, there is no help for me in the church’. Is the church perfect? Of course not. Do many sweep mental illness under the rug? For sure.
    But nonetheless let’s be careful about making broad, negative generalizations. It’s the bride of Christ.

    • Thank you so very much, Joanne!

      You are so right and I was wrong.

      There are many churches who are doing just that – bringing mental illness into the light where others can find hope and help in the power of Jesus.

      I grew up in a family where mental illness was present. It was something to hide – even from our believing friends. In making this statement, which I did not do properly, I am attempting to shed light on the fact that we need to be open to seeing and helping those who are struggling.

      I am so very grateful for your investment in others. Thank you, Joanne!

  15. There have been so many days in my life when my confidence has been shaken! Thankfully, my faith and trust in God have always allowed me to put one foot in front of the other until the challenging season is behind me. I can only imagine how much harder that is when mental illness is heaped on top of the pile! Thank you for sharing!

  16. Yes going through this with my son. It is comfusing and heartbreaking. People do not understand what our life is like if they have not gone through it.

  17. I’m so thankful Mrs Cowell wrote about this hard subject. I’ve been on that lainful road with a loved one. This book looks wonderful! (Also: ALWAYS LOVE Michelle Cushatt❤️)

  18. This blog was like reading my own story, except I’m still in the place where I don’t know what to do next. My daughter is struggling and it breaks my heart.

  19. I feel your pain. I could have written the exact same words. My passion and deepest desire is to abolish the stigma of mental illness.

  20. My sister committed suicide when I as 13, she was only 17 years old…that was almost 36 years ago. My oldest son who is 31 has an undiagnosed mental disorder and I believe self medicates it with alcoholic and marijuana, he won’t admit this or seek and take the medical help available. My two daughters 17 and 19 have struggled with anxiety and panic attacks off and on, one with them so severe several times that she had passed out and had what looked like a seizure but it wasn’t, they call it pseudoseizure. It was a very scary time and the treatment by the ambulance staff (and ER) once it was realized no “physical medical” reason was causing this was disappointing. Neither of them have been officially diagnosed with any disorder but I can see they struggle at times with anxiety mostly and we do our best to help them, praying that God gives us wisdom and guidance. I too deal with anxiety so I understand it better, my husband, not so much unfortunately. Education, understanding and empathy is so important, thank you for sharing. Many blessings to you and your family.

  21. Currently. As my 17 year old daughter lays in bed this morning missing her first period class again, I can’t help but read your words and connect the pieces. She is in therapy but beyond that, I am SO uncertain of what to do next. I am fighting everything to sit in rest and trust God to lead both her and I.

    Thank you for sharing and may your daughter be blessed for being vulnerable for the sake of others.

  22. Thank you so much for this! I have struggled with anxiety and depression all my life. I seek God every day and every hour in this current season of heavy struggle ..Drs messing with meds has made it more difficult. Even in the darkness God is providing glimpses of His Light. What do you recommend about where to find a good Dr to get you back on an even keel? It seems to be Russian roulette with my brain and that is a major fear. Thank you for your transparency and encouragement. Only in Him can true peace and ‘God’ confidence be obtained. Cling to Him and Praise Him.

  23. As a believer in Christ, unveiling painful realities in one’s life or that of their family is not an easy thing to do. Can I tell you how much I appreciate your willingness to share your own struggles in this article? I completely identify and find your authenticity not only refreshing, but freeing.

    At 53, I have experienced many serious and chronic health issues, prohibiting my ability to continue in my career as a nurse. That, in itself, is difficult for me as, first of all, I love people and secondly, I believed nursing to be a ministry in which I could show the love of Christ in a tangible way.

    Recently, I have found my multiple diagnoses periodically lead me down a road of isolation with feelings of worthlessness that plummet me into very dark places. This is something I’ve never before experienced. I am certain that in God’s economy, nothing is wasted, so I’m confident that He will use these struggles to help others as I, too, obediently lay my own life out in transparency. That’s what 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 is all about. And, let me tell you, this passage has been my anchor during this difficult season of life.

    May God bless you and your family for pouring the richness of God’s comfort into my life so beautifully.

  24. Lynn – Thank you for sharing your story and your daughters as well. Back in 2014 I went through my own dark season of clinical depression and PTSD. I learned so quickly that mental illness is no respecter of person or background. At the time we were pastoring a church and I was busy with ministry and raising four daughters. But God was faithful in the years following my diagnosis and as I walked out healing. This past month I began the application process to head back to school to obtain my Masters in Professional Counseling. God has been so very gracious to bring me to this point – Reading your post re-enforces in my own heart that I am headed in the right direction. Blessings to you as you continue to journey with your daughter.

  25. Thank you Lynn and Madi, for your courageous willingness to share your stories and for holding out hope to others who are walking this road. I admire and love you both!!

  26. Thank you so much for sharing. It sounds as though through Madi many will find themselves blessed with much needed comfort and support. Too often we hear of the havoc wrecked upon others due to mental illness and not nearly enough stories of encouragement and hope.

  27. This spoke to my heart. My son, a junior in high school, had has first panic attack less than a year ago. And from that we saw other symptoms that have concerned us, though even after some counseling, aren’t sure exactly what it all means. It’s so hard. I want my son to have as few difficulties as possible, but I know God can show up more clearly in the hard spots. Saying a prayer for you and your family, Lynn ❤️

  28. I’m really struggling right now. I have fought depression and anxiety since I was a kid but more severely the last 12 years. Last year I started doing better and then November came I had surgery on my foot and moved the same day. I had to prop my foot up for a while and I just didn’t get up after that. I’m right back in depression and I’m farther away from God than I’ve ever been. Mostly because I also stopped praying and reading the Bible. Today I prayed and talked to a counselor. I’m going to get better again I just need help doing that.

  29. I think more and more of us experience this feeling of not being good enough or that surely we would pick up on something being wrong. Yet we don’t because people become adept at managing life.

  30. This… I Love When Others Share Their Journeys. I Too Struggle Daily and Hope To One Day Help Others Batteling The Same Things.

  31. This touches home with me. My youngest daughter was diagnosed as bipolar about 8 years ago. For at least 8 years before that we knew something was wrong but couldn’t get any diagnosis or help even from psychiatric care.
    My oldest daughter suffers from debilitating bouts of anxiety. Counseling has helped more than medication but some days are a struggle.
    Many in the church look at mental illnesses as a lack of faith. If we were just better Christians we wouldn’t have these issues.

  32. My son was struggling, seem frustrated, angry at times. He told me he never slept well and he was always worried or stressed about something. He turned twenty four this past December, dropped out of college and changed jobs several times. He seemed lost, confused and had so many grand ideas to become successful with no follow through. After several emotional breakdowns , I knew something was seriously wrong but had no clue what was the problem.

  33. My Baby Sister committed Sucide on the 11th May 2010. She was diagnosised with Bipolar in 2000. I read all I could find in order to understand and comfort her. My Daughter in law has severe depression and bipolar . She has a beautiful Son Mason who has helped her cope because her live for him is so amazing. She is a great Mum to him.

  34. Having just recently watched/ listened and broke upon winessing the heartbreaking sobs coming from my son (33) wanting to die, wanting to end his life. The anxiety, the sheer panic and my only hope was the crying of my heart to My Savior. This has brought this mama to a prostrate position on the valley floor as I journey with my man child and learn, listen, love and pray.

  35. Thank you, Lynn for this posting. Reading what you went through reminded me about the difficulty when we were called to my son’s school (Christian school) and was told that he was being expelled. He was having a lot of difficulty. We definitely did not know what to do.

    Praise the Lord that He provided a social worker, who worked with my son and helped him to go to places and do things like order his own food. My son was able to return to finish high school after a few years of being tutored. Still don’t understand the why but the social worker died unexpectedly. Not sure after all these years how that impacted my son.

  36. This was meant for me to see this morning. We are going through something very similar with our son. We are at the end of our ropes, and praying desperately to God. We know this is so much bigger than us, and He is our hope and refuge. Thank you for this post and encouragement today.

  37. Thank you so much for sharing your story and being vulnerable. So often in the body of Christ we feel we need to hide our struggles and disappointments. Thank you for your courage. I am also in a place of not knowing what to do regarding one of my adult children who is struggling. I pray the Lord would shine His lighting the situation.

  38. My teenage daughter was diagnosed with bipolar disorder a few years ago. It is very devastating and frustrating at times to watch her struggle. You want to help her and support her but as a parent there is only so much you can do. Thank you for your post and bringing more awareness to this!

  39. I had no idea what to do next when my husband’s anger reached a new level and I realized I had no where to go. Lots of health issues preventing getting a real, full time job and a pet that couldn’t go to someone else’s house/shelter with me.
    It’s very hard to realize your senior years are around the corner and you can’t support yourself, BUT GOD CAN.
    Thank you for writing this book/study.

  40. Lynn I would like to applaud your public battle to educate and bring hope to those who suffer privately with mental illness. I am a mom of two adult children both with mental illness diagnosis. For many years of there youth I searched for answers that did not come. I am thankful that the medical field is now more understanding and willing to seek out answers with parents and children who struggle to put a name to what they are experiencing. Thank you again.

  41. I have been struggling for some time with depression and anxiety and just in the last years realized what is happening, I don’t understand it and see some in my children too. It has cost me jobs and made making changes nearly impossible. To top it all off I lived in an abusive marriage for 24 years and just recently had the courage to escape it, but so much damage has been done already to me and my kids who are now young adults. Many in the church deny mental illness and call it demonic or spiritual weakness etc, something we can make a “choice” not to be bound by or experience. So, here I still sit trying to figure out how to be well, how to move forward, how to help my kids move forward and be well when I am struggling myself. I would not be here today if it weren’t for the grace of God.

  42. Yes–I’ve been in that place–I’m stopped and without any idea of what to do next. Because that happens regularly in my life, I’ve learned to pay attention–God is up to something and it has to do with drawing us closer together and helping me rely on Him more. Thanks for sharing, Lynn.

  43. Thank You for your words. Such a hard topic for so many. As a parent it is so hard to see your child struggle, and to know how to help. Praying to know the next steps and praying for the right answers. Some days it is hard to move.

  44. Thank you for sharing your journey with your daughter. I struggle with anxiety. I can go to church and teach a Bible study for an hour, but come home and have a panic attack over unpacking my bag. Most people don’t understand. Thanks for helping to break this stigma.

  45. Shortly after my daughter was born and there were things going on that we didn’t understand. I was an older mom and somehow thought I should have had answers – even though this was my first time.

    Thank you Madi for helping break the stigma of mental illness!

  46. Thanks for sharing this.
    My son, who’s 13, hasn’t been given a diagnosis of bipolar – but I’m sure that’s where it’s heading. They say mood disorder, ODD, OCD and PTSD (from abuse of his Dad). As he’s gotten older his rages have lessened and meds have helped some. But through the grace of God, He has transformed me as a parent and my approach with my son. My son has grown to recognize his anger and uses healthy outlets. I fear puberty, as it’s just started and my son is now bigger than me – but I know God will guide and protect us all. As a single mom of 3 teenagers, I’m so thankful for my faith and the strength the love of my Father gives to me. I pray for my son and his mental health. Thankfully he knows the Lord, but isn’t super strong in his relationship- i pray for this as well.

  47. Thank you for this post! My husband has been suffering from depression for quite some time now and I am always trying to fix it. Yes I pray, but I think just trying to accept it and love him just might be the best for both of us. He is not about to see a professional as he wouldn’t consider that anything is wrong other than his business situation.
    I am grateful for God’s word as it keeps me encouraged and blessed. Michel’s book “I AM” has been such a blessing! I started a Bible study group using her book.
    Again thank you for sharing.

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