Dorothea Dix Built Inclusive Communities for Mentally Well & Ill


Dorothea Dix Oval Frame

Maine’s Dorothea Dix created inclusive communities for the mentally ill in the 19th c.

As Dix Hill becomes Raleigh’s Central Park, we must stop to remember that this was once a place where mentally healthy and mentally ill lived together in community, much like the vaunted and admired communities of L’Arche.


The communities of L’Arche have always intrigued and humbled us. In these homes where able-minded and learning-disabled share life together, the intellectually challenged “least of these” are treated as peer – even teacher – to their “normal” housemates, including philosopher Jean Vanier, who founded the first household.

The nearest L’Arche is 150 miles away, but in Wake County we can still listen to the men and women who lived together on Dix Hill. Continue reading

Inspiration or Excitation?

Not feeling so inspired lately. Slogging through things. Which is what I usually do at this time of year. It’s marked on my calendar: “Low.” Repeats. Early June to early August. Then, without a break, “High” pops in. That’s when I might (as I recall once from my teen-aged self) go to the library and check out a stack of self-improvement books so tall that I can barely wedge them between my outstretched arms and my upstretched chin, imagining that in the two weeks before they fall due, I will accomplish significant self-renewal.

When I’m low, I can’t hope for inspiration. All I can hope for is to actually follow through on responsibilities. And I’m grateful for people who pop into my office to remind me that I’ve promised them something soon … leaving me enough time to scramble it together in decent order.

When I’m low, you are my inspiration — what you expect of me, what you know I can do, what you believe I can achieve on our behalf.

When I’m high, you take a back seat to my own excessive energy and imagination. When I’m high, I barely see you.

In response to the Five Minute Friday Link Up “Inspire”

PS: And this is how little “inspiration” can matter … In the last 2 weeks, I have written and rewritten (on the encouragement of a writer friend nearby) an article that will be published in the August Redbud Post — my first time in that publication — and created from scratch (on the encouragement of a generation younger colleague) a radically different employment ad for our agency that is sparking both applications and social shares. For me, inspiration can be overrated, at least compared to the encouragement offered by people who trust me to do well.



You Don’t Need to Die Today

I don’t know who you are. Today you’ve been reading posts I wrote about friends who died by suicide and ways to stay alive when you want to die by suicide and the few, very inadequate church ministries that exist to help people with mental health issues.

Whoever you are, whatever is driving you, you don’t need to die today.

You can call one of the hotlines that I keep programmed into my phone just in case — the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline connects with a network of trained volunteers all over the country. Call 1-800-273-8255. f you don’t want to use your voice, you can text someone at

If you don’t want to use your voice, you can text someone at crisistextline — Text 741741 to chat with someone who really understands.

Do whatever it takes. Because sometime in the next weeks or months, someone will be relieved that you did. You matter. Even to a blogger like me who can never know you, but can tell you’re looking for help.

I’m praying for you right now.

Bipolar View: Steady is as Steady Does

Sure, sometimes you wake up on the wrong side of the bed.

You probably can’t imagine what it feels like to wake up not knowing that there is a world beyond the thick blackness of the blankets pulled up over your eyes.

And some days you’re excited. It’s the first day of a vacation trip. It’s Christmas morning.

You probably can’t imagine waking up five or six times that enthusiastic, without any reason at all.

Having bipolar disorder means that steady is as steady does. Because the feelings are almost random.

When blackness enfolds, I \write down a list of tasks — even tasks as mundane as “wash the dishes” — and work through them. Otherwise nothing happens. At all.


When enthusiasm overwhelms, I have to choose to write down a list of tasks — especially tasks as mundane as “wash the dishes.” Because otherwise I’ll enthuse in 10 or 12 or 20 different directions, almost simultaneously. At the end of the burst, I’ll find myself surrounded by a clutter of unfinished projects and the clutter of an untended life.

I stay steady by trying to focus on what I need to do. And I stay steady by remembering that the way I feel today is not likely to be the way I feel in three or four weeks.


Female surfboarder

Not me!

I ride my feelings like surf: the enthusiasm powers forward movement; the blackness cannot be allowed to fuel anything bleaker than anticipation. Happily, God has promised a future that is extraordinarily bright, and allows that I live this life in the brilliance of God’s presence, even when God is invisible through the envolding darkness.

Steady is as steady does. No one is more steady than God.

Today’s  Five Minute Friday writing prompt is “Steady.”


Mindful, meditative madness

You don’t need to be a conservative Christian anxious about Eastern religion to have reservations about the widespread use of mindfulness meditation. Yet another study finds negative impacts for as many as 88% of those who attempted mindfulness meditation practices.

The most common negative impact: increases in fear, anxiety, panic, and paranoia, reported by 82% of practitioners in the study, “The Varieties of Contemplative Experience,” published in PLOS ONE and reported last week by Zenobia Morrill.

MeditatingOver the last couple of decades, mindfulness meditation has become standard in many therapy practices, as well as schools and prisons. How can the people who believe in “evidence-based practices” keep ignoring the real evidence that these practices are very often harmful?

Remember, traditional Christian contemplation of our unchanging God, God’s character and virtues, and God’s Word is entirely different from a mindfulness practice that seeks to “moor” a person in this ever-changing world or in their own internal reality.Serious Contemplation