Oftentimes, it seems that those struggling with mental illnesses have a stigma around them when what they really need is kindness and understanding. In the most recent issue of the Ensign, author Sarah P. Hancock tells her story of her battle with mental illness and how her bishop showed the compassion that she needed.
Diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder bipolar type with catatonia due to toxic encephalopathy, Sarah experiences extreme sensory overload, shifts in mood, and many other symptoms. But when she and her husband moved to a new ward, Sarah was excited by the ability to have a clean slate without a mental illness stigma and the label “schizophrenic.”
Sarah and her husband were soon extended a calling to be leaders of the 11-year-old scouts. Sarah readily accepted the calling, knowing that she would have “the Lord’s help while serving on His errand.”
“I reveled in having been considered able and worthy to serve. I’d lived for several years in remission and felt ready to move forward with life,” Sarah wrote in regards to her willingness to undertake the calling.
On the first night of Scouts, Sarah felt fully prepared to teach three boys, but within 10 minutes, Sarah’s senses were overstimulated and she retreated into herself. By the time the hour had finished, Sarah was rocking in the corner of the room and humming to calm her brain.
When the bishop checked in on Sarah and her husband to ask how their first night of Scouting went, Sarah's husband had to explain to the Bishop what had happened because Sarah could not communicate coherently, and she questioned why she could not fulfill her calling.
“I silently questioned whether I’d done enough to allow the Lord to magnify my ability,” she shared. But she was surprised at her bishop's reaction. “I forced myself to look up into my bishop’s eyes. To my surprise, they reflected compassion instead of pity or fear. He released me on the spot, apologizing for the calling and saying that the Lord called me to be a leader of 11-year-old Scouts expecting only a heart willing to serve.”
Sarah’s bishop continued that because Sarah had accepted the calling willingly even with her illness, her sacrifice was like the widow’s mite. “He said that my acceptance of the calling was more important than my actual ability to fulfill it, because the Lord understood my illness,” Sarah wrote.
READ MORE OF SARAH'S EXPERIENCE IN HER OWN WORDS AT THE Ensign.