Taking Off My Mask

“Does your group allow people without masks? No? OK, maybe I better stay home then.” 
Sound familiar?

To wear a mask or not has become a familiar quandary these days.

Fortunately for me and others in my support group, wearing a mask is actually discouraged. In fact, we’ve learned that staying healthy demands that we don’t wear masks. OK, after I went just once, I was comfortable taking off my mask. How’s that?

In case you were wondering, I’m not talking about the cloth kind of mask. I’m referring to the kind that we far too often wear at church gatherings. Because of shame and secret challenges that we’re afraid to tell anyone, we are far too often stuck and isolated because we’re uncomfortable being who we really are and we don’t let people in. We wear a mask as a form of emotional protection. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be this way.

For almost three years now, I’ve belonged to a group of fellow strugglers like myself. Everyone who is a part of our support group falls into one of three categories. They are either:

  1. In regular contact, perhaps even living with, a friend or loved one who struggles with mental illness
  2. Dealing with mental illness personally, or
  3. Both.

Truth be told, our entire group is in the third category. We’ve come to the conclusion that everyone is at least a little “off.” (Romans 3:23) Some just choose to uh, you know... wear masks.

All strugglers are welcome. And what is shared in the group, stays in the group. You can share anything and you won’t be judged and it won’t leave the room. We also don’t discriminate over the kind of mental health struggle your loved one faces, or even that you face. Everything from anxiety to depression to schizophrenia, to borderline personality disorder, to bipolar. We’ve got ‘em all.

The common bond of all who attend is that we have found strength, support, even joy in the Lord as we stand with one another (Nehemiah 8:10). So we laugh together and cry together, but mostly share our lives and pray together because we know that this is God’s gift to us. If reading the last two paragraphs makes you uncomfortable, I get it. We all get it. But uncomfortable or not, we have to talk about it to overcome it.

We call our group “Supporting Loved Ones with Mental Illness” and we meet monthly on the second Thursday evening of each month from 6:00-7:30 PM in Room 209 at New Covenant Bible Church, Cedar Rapids. If this sounds like something you’d like to try, you can just show up. No appointment is necessary. You’ll be welcome here. You’ll be safe too.

Whatever you choose to call us, you’ll know us as the group that doesn’t believe in masks, and I think that if you come wearing one, you’re more than welcome to keep it on as long as you wish (but you might just feel comfortable taking it off too.) 

Check us out. It’ll do you good! We are all just "Fellow Strugglers."

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This is the first post in a recurring blog series contributed by members of the Supporting Loved Ones with Mental Illness group that meets monthly at New Covenant Bible Church, Cedar Rapids, Iowa. All are welcome. For more information, please reach out to our Care Ministry Team at 319-395-0021.