Ron and Shelly Hamilton’s oldest son, Jonathan, began experiencing strange symptoms after taking a medicine prescribed by a dermatologist for acne. Shelly called the doctor’s office to ask about the medication, but the nurse said the medication was not responsible for Jonathan’s symptoms. When Shelly took Jonathan back in to see the dermatologist and explained how Jonathan was acting, the doctor told her to take Jonathan off the medication immediately. He said it would take a couple of weeks for the medicine to get out of Jonathan’s system, and then he would return to normal.
But Jonathan did not return to normal. He began a downward spiral of mental illness which was eventually diagnosed as schizophrenia. After fifteen years with his illness, Jonathan took his own life on Mother’s Day.
Shelly wrote Always, Only Good: A Journey of Faith Through Mental Illness for several reasons. She wanted to share her son’s story, give an idea what life is like for someone suffering from mental illness, and encourage those with mental illness and their caregivers that they are not alone and there is hope. She also wanted to help remove the stigma of mental illness, especially among Christians, so sufferers would feel more freedom to get help.
Sadly, many well-meaning people feel that mental illness is a only spiritual problem.One friend’s college professor called psychiatrists “quacks” and belittled taking drugs for mental problems.
Shelly differentiates between “the brain, which is an organ, and the mind, consisting of spirit, will, and emotions” (p. 207). Like any other organ, the brain can have physical problems which then affect the mind and body. A person with a mental illness can’t just “reason his way back” to right thinking.
Unfortunately, it can take a doctors a lot of tries to find the right medications or combination of medications which help each individual. And sometimes it takes weeks of trying medications to see if they work. Then, many have unpleasant side effects. When they are thinking right, most patients agree that being able to function is worth the side effects. But then many go through a cycle of becoming stable, thinking they don’t need their medicines any more, stopping them, feeling great for a couple of weeks until the medicine gets out of their system, and then crashing.
The title Always, Only Good comes from two sources.One was Shelly’s struggle at the beginning of Jonathan’s illness with how a good God could allow someone who loved Him and wanted to serve Him to have such an illness. Through struggle, counsel, and Bible study, she reaffirmed her belief that God is always, only good.
The other inspiration for the title was a song written to the last music Jonathan composed. Shelly gave the music and some verses and thoughts to Chris Anderson (pastor and author of “His Robes for Mine,” “My Jesus Fair,” and other hymns at Church Works Media). Chris put together this beautiful song as a testimony of Jonathan’s life. Here it is sung by Shelly, her youngest son, Jason, her daughter Tara and son-in-law Ben Farrell, and her daughter Megan and son-in-law Adam Morgan.
Shelly shares about her book here:
My family and I have listened to the Hamilton’s Majesty Music and Patch the Pirate recordings for decades. I knew some of the family’s story, particularly Ron’s testimony of trusting God through losing his eye to cancer. I didn’t know Jonathan’s troubles until his suicide. I am grateful Shelly was willing to be transparent in order to help and give hope to others. This book is a good resource for those suffering from mental illness and their families and those who want to be a help to them. It’s also a testimony of faith, of God’s grace and help through the hardest circumstances.
(I often link up with some of these bloggers.)
I wanted to mention also that the audiobook is available on the Majesty Music site but not on Amazon: https://www.majestymusic.com/always-only-good.html.
Mental health is such an important topic. I have added this book to my “TBR” list.
It was eye-opening. I hadn’t realized all that mentally ill sufferers and their loved ones went through.
…and the physical health issues that accompany mental illness can also be “crippling”
Thank you for sharing this story. When we share our struggles, we may be helping others.
That’s so true. We never know how God may be using something in our lives to showcase His grace to others.
I’m so glad you shared this. Sometimes I think mental illness is still stigmatized. This is something that needs talked about and I’m glad you did in sharing this review.
Thank you, Paula. It’s sad that mental illness is stigmatized, when it should be regarded as any other illness. I’m thankful Shelly was willing to share their story to help others.
Barbara, just reading your post brought tears to my eyes. Having various kinds of mental illness manifesting in different family members, my radar is up, and my empathy has grown. I so appreciate you sharing this. I’ve never heard of Majesty Music. I’ll be checking out their site.
Barb, thank you for bringing this book to my attention! My children (and my husband & I) grew up with Majesty Music and Patch the Pirate too. I sang much of their music in church choirs. I love that Shelley advocates for mental illness to help remove the stigma which, sadly has a stronghold in Christian circles. Like many, mental illness is in our family, and better understanding and support within the church would be so helpful.
Excellent post, thank you. NAMI has a program called Faith Net that educates religious leaders about mental illness and the resources available. Too many people are told to just “pray away” a mental illness.
Thanks so much for sharing your story. I was on Acutane for 3 to 6 months in college and developed acute bipolar disorder my senior year. I know of another friend of the family who has acute mental illness and also took Acutane during college years. I wish you the strength to keep telling your story. I don’t know if there has been any legal action against the Acutane makers, but I believe there should be. Peace and blessings to you.
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