I grew up attending church consistently. I married my college sweetheart--we married as a strong christian couple. Little was shared with me about his family's medical history and challenges of mental health issues. We had two children. One was diagnosed as a toddler with autism and the other had a post-college diagnosis of bipolar disorder.

I look back at the megachurch we attended and little was offered in support for us as a family. This church seemed more like a place to be entertained; a Christian country club mentality. The autism diagnosis sent my husband on his escape path early in our marriage and he abandoned us and moved out of state with no emotional contact even to this day. My child who was diagnosed in early adulthood with bipolar sent me into a state of chronic sorrow--I grieved now for both of my babes.

The difficulties have been immense as a single mother and for my children: traversing medical and behavioral health care, advocating for appropriate educational services, finding a career that is flexible, financial struggles, exhaustion,loneliness, finding adult lifespan services, be honest, the church offered nothing to me or my children (even when I brought a need forward). I never felt like I belonged there. Needless, to say, I left after my older child transitioned to college after high school.

There are many positives that happen: you get strong, independent, and in many ways you find your connection with God deepens. I've learned to be deeply compassionate for all underdogs. So much must be done in churches to take away "spirtual stigmatization" of children, adults, and their families living with mental health diagnosis'. Over time I search for and will hopefully reconnect with a small church that has healthy vital signs: a church that truly loves God and loves all people!