Hope and Despair”

Worship Script 4


 Worship Script (4 of 4)

“Hope Within Our Despair”

 

OPENING WORDS

Still There is Light by Nadine McSpadden

 During our darkest moments, still, there is light.
When facing our biggest challenges, still, there is light.
When all we can do is put one foot in front of the other, still, there is light.
When we can’t see the way out, still, there is light.
When all we can do to help is hold someone’s hand as they cry, still, there is light.
We are the light— for ourselves and for one another.
Always, there is light.

  

HYMN #1053 How Could Anyone

 

FIRST READING

Excerpt from “Three Ways Unitarian Universalism has Helped with my Depression” by Kenny Wiley, UU World Article May 9th, 2016

 My depression leads me toward comparison. I compare my current self with the self of three years ago, or a friend, or an unattainable goal. If I were a good person, I would . . . Call people back more. Listen better. Be a better partner or friend. Be faster or thinner.

I work as a religious educator in the Denver area; our older elementary children at church have had a series of conversations about depression and mental health. One child wrote, when prompted to ponder how she might console a close one, “You are already good. You are already enough.”

You are already good. You are already enough. Through songs and gestures and tear-filled hugs, I have been told that by Unitarian Universalism over and over again. Not always, of course, and we do not say it or live it enough—but at our best, that is who we are. We are the faith of “You are already good. You are already enough.”

  

SECOND READING

Excerpts from Reflection on Bipolar Disorder by Anonymous. About The Author: The author is a member of a Unitarian Universalist (UU) congregation reflects on living with bipolar disorder.


I have chosen to share my experience in a safe place—a place of acceptance, a place where we share joys and sorrows. Some might say, “Some things shouldn't be talked about.” But keeping mental illness a secret perpetuates stigma.

I have manic depressive disorder, known clinically as bipolar disorder. I have the illness but it does not define me. I am an active member of this community, have many friends, participate in a long-term relationship, and function in the work world.

So, how has having this illness impacted my life? Certainly there have been extremely difficult times, in fact awful times. I have had profound depressions. I have felt existential, or cosmic, loneliness. But, especially when emerging from depression, I have felt the love of my husband, my family, and my friends.

As the poet Rainer Maria Rilke writes, “At bottom, and just in the deepest and most important things, we are unutterably alone…” But he goes on to express the feeling that emerges as I recover from a depressive episode. And I quote, “Think of the world you carry within you. What goes on in your innermost being is worthy of your whole love.” I would add, and worthy of the love of those around you.

I have also experienced episodes of extremely elevated mood, of extreme mania. Contrary to what you might think, extreme mania is not “fun” or productive. In fact it is a separation from reality. Thankfully I do not remember many of my thoughts during manic episodes. I do know that, contrary to the stereotype, I did not run up credit card debts or make disastrous financial decisions.

Manic depression is a biochemical disorder. Many scientists are conducting research which explores the presence of the genes which are involved in the inheritance of the disorder. Manic depression responds to medication. However it is easier to prevent manic episodes than it is to prevent or treat depressive episodes.

Bipolar disorder is not a result of how your mother brought you up; it is not anger turned inward. It is a sensitivity of the nervous system. It does engender anger in the person coping with it, anger at the need to cope with what at times seem like unfair challenges. Mood changes may result from stress, as the vulnerable part of the person's makeup is challenged.

  I am resilient. Webster's defines resilience as “an ability to recover from or adjust to misfortune or change.” I can't say it has been easy, but I am grateful that through hard work, “luck”, and the love of friends and family, I have achieved resilience. I have been blessed with intelligence, good sense, humor, and persistence.

I believe that it is important to “come out” about this problem. As I reveal my challenges I allow others to realize what so called “mental illness” involves. I hope awareness that people with such problems are everywhere will wake other people up to the hurtful comments and assumptions made. You may remember when Thomas Eagleton was forced to withdraw from his candidacy for Vice President due to the revelation of his history of depression. You can think of other examples.

In closing, I quote Katherine Hepburn in the film, “On Golden Pond.” She points out the universality of the challenges each person faces. You may remember her statement, “Sometimes you just have to look at someone and realize he is doing the best he can — he's trying to find his way just like you are.” Indeed, each of us, woman and man, is doing the best we can with the capacities and talents given us. We are all in this together.

  

HYMN #1006 In My Quiet Sorrow

 

STORY FOR ALL AGES
Two Frogs by Christopher Buice “A Bucketful of Dreams: Contemporary Parables for All Ages"

 Once, two frogs were hopping through the forest when they accidently hopped into a big churn of cream. The sides of the churn were so slick and slippery that there was no place to hold on to, so the frogs had to swim in circles to stay afloat.

After a long time one frog said, “There is no hope. We’re doomed to drown in this churn.”

The older frog said, “Don’t lose hope. Life is a circle. There are bad times and there are good times. One must endure the winter to see the spring.”

The young frog was not so sure and he said, “You’re wrong. We’re going to die, I tell you!”

And the older frog said, “We must keep hope alive! For if hope dies, we, too, will die. But if we keep hope alive, we will live to see another sunrise.”

But the younger frog was already starting to lose hope and he began to sink down into the creamy liquid.

“Keep hope alive! Keep hope alive!” cried the older one.

Then the younger one started repeating, slowly at first, “Keep hope alive. Keep hope alive.”

The more they repeated the words, the stronger they felt. And the more strength they had, the better they could swim in circles.

As they swam and swam, around and around in circles, an amazing thing happened. They realized they weren’t sinking any more. The cream had turned to butter!

The two frogs were able to hop off the butter and out of the churn. They landed on the ground just in time to see a beautiful sunrise. The older frog said to the younger one, “Remember my son, life is a circle. Despair may last for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” And the two frogs hopped away into the woods.

 

MEDITATION

“Wordlessness” by Orlanda Brugnola, from Moorings: Moments of Meditation and Prayer. (Closing line by Emily DeTar Birt)

 Some feelings are truly

too deep to put words to.

And yet we long to share

that which is so very important to us.

May we listen

to that deep wordlessness

knowing it to be holy

and may we find those ways

in which we can share the message of it.

And may those we care about

be safe not to share just their words

but their deep and holy silences.

 

May it be so. Amen.

 

CANDLES OF JOY AND CONCERN

Those who are so moved are now invited to come forward to light a candle, expressing a joy or concern in their lives.  As you do, you may briefly share what it is.  We ask that people coming forward speak for no more than a sentence or two, and speak from the heart about issues in their lives, rather than political issues, which we can take up at coffee hour or in the parking lot.

 

SERMON

Hope As the Start of Healing from Mental Health Problems, by Barbara F. Meyers


Dr. Mark Ragins, is Staff Psychiatrist at “The Village” an Integrated Service Agency in Long Beach.  The Village is well known for being successful in treating many of the most difficult psychiatric cases, often involving homelessness, schizophrenia and substance abuse.  They use an approach different from many other medical treatment facilities: by having all the services required in one location and by a “recovery-based” treatment philosophy which guides how they treat their residents.

Dr. Ragins maintains that the first stage in recovering from mental illness is Hope.  He describes it like this[1]:

●          “During times of despair, everyone needs a sense of hope, a sense that things can and will get better.

●          Without hope, there is nothing to look forward to and no real possibility for positive action.

●          Hope is a great motivator, but for hope to be truly motivating, it has to be more than just an ideal. It has to take form as an actual, reasonable vision of what things could look like if they were to improve.

●          It’s not so much that people with mental illness will attain precisely the vision they create, but that they need to have a clear image of the possibilities.”

In a seminar I attended, Ragins related stories from his experience at The Village.  He spoke of a former patient who had been living on a bench at a bus stop for more than a year. "That’s the last place he saw his mother before she went to the hospital to die," and he was waiting for her to return. He saw demons in trees and was suicidal when Ragins met him.

Under Ragins’ care, the man began to improve. When asked about the patient’s prognosis on an application form for disability income, Ragins wrote about the patient’s difficulties but also that he was hopeful that things would improve.

The form came back to Ragins with a request. "The mental health advocate asked me to change the part about hope because otherwise the patient would be denied disability—he wouldn’t be considered permanently disabled.”  Ragins made the change so not as to hurt his patient, but it gave him pause.  I agree with him that there is something wrong with a system that encourages a hopeless prognosis.

Ragins told our seminar, “Most people with serious mental illness have a hard time believing in themselves.  We have to believe in them until they can believe in themselves again.”  He believes we’re not very good at promoting hope in psychiatric patients, because we have been taught that these disorders are hopeless.  We need to demand and create a system where hope is allowed, indeed encouraged.

I believe that peer support groups are a very powerful tool in helping people to get hope.  I remember being in the psychiatric hospital with major depression and the first time I started believing that maybe my life was salvageable was after I talked to another patient who had been quite ill and was now ready to be released.  Through her example, I saw it was possible to get better and this was the start of hope for me.

The Village has been successful in treating many of the most seriously ill mental health clients.  Ragins says that after they recover, and he asks them what made the difference, the answer almost always comes back saying something like “It was when you believed in me when no one else did,” or “When you hugged me and I knew you felt how hard it was for my kids to be taken away from me.”  In other words, it was when they were the recipient of an act of human kindness, or a time when we believed in them.  These moments are what help in healing.  Ragins believes that the psychiatric system in general has too few such moments.  He believes that if the boundaries between practitioner and client are so high that “they prevent all that healing, that’s too high a price to pay.”

Here is where the church comes in.  Religions major in human kindness.  We can believe in people.  We can see something inside them that they aren’t able to see.  They can impart a state of acceptance and love when an illness isn’t treated, or even when a person is utterly hopeless.  We may not even realize this is happening, although it may be the most central factor in a recovery.

I know this to be true in a very personal way.  When I started going to a Unitarian Universalist church in Hayward shortly after being released from a psychiatric hospital, I didn’t tell anyone but the minister about my hospitalization.  Even though they didn’t know about my illness, the people in the church showed me many kindnesses; they involved me in church projects; they liked the bread I would bake for coffee hour and told me so; they were interested in my ideas.   In other words, they treated me as though I was a person with inherent worth and dignity; they treated me with compassion; they offered ways that I could explore my emerging spirituality, searching for what was meaningful and true in my life.  If those last few words sound familiar, they should.  They come from the Unitarian Universalist Principles and Purposes.  Those people in that church lived out their religion to a very wounded person and it helped me to heal.  They helped me to understand that people who had been hospitalized for psychiatric problems are all God’s children.  Even me.   It changed the course of my life and I am eternally grateful.

A congregation at its best is a community which lives out its religion.  Acts of human kindness abound there.  The community has the power to change lives, helping us to all recover from the wounds, however deep that we may have acquired.

Starting with hope.    

 

HYMN #1007 There's a River Flowin’ In My Soul

 

BENEDICTION
By Lauralyn Bellamy, #692 in Singing the Living Tradition

 

If, here, you have found freedom,

Take it with you into the world.

 

If you have found comfort,

Go and share with others.

 

If you have dreamed dreams,

Help one another,

That they may come true!

 

If you have known love,

Give some back

To a bruised and hurting world.

 

Go in peace.

  

 

[1]The Recovery Model, by Mark Ragins. http://www.ibhpartners.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Recovery-model-paper-Ragins.pdf