There’s a Hole in My Bucket, Dear Liza, Dear Liza

It is especially important for people of faith to understanding mental illness, putting away all condemnation for those who appear to be lazy or lacking in faith, hope and joy.

1600x550If you ever went to camp as a child, singing delightfully annoying songs around a campfire, perhaps you can remember an especially irritating song with the ever repeating phrase “there’s a whole in my bucket dear Liza, dear Liza, dear Liza, a hole”. Of course, the even more annoying answer follows unerringly,”well fix it dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry, fix it”. What the Lizas of the world don’t know, is that in order to maintain good mental health, the buckets of our lives need many holes in them.

The stress vulnerability bucket image is a way to explain why some people experience anxiety, depression, paranoia or a psychotic episode, while other people seem to handle life with ease. I heard this illustration explained at a conference more than 10 years ago and I find that it is still the easiest way to explain why some people slip into mental illness.

Think of each person’s ability to handle stress as a bucket with holes in the bottom. Some people from stable home backgrounds with relaxed, cheerful temperaments might have a large bucket to handle stress while others who are high-strung or perhaps wounded from child abuse or unstable home life as children might have a smaller bucket.

Now, imagine stress as water filling up each bucket. If a lot of water comes into a bucket, in other words, if a person experiences a great deal of stress, then the bucket can overflow. People with big buckets, or a low-level of vulnerability, can cope with more stress while people with smaller buckets can cope with less stress. Many situations in life stress us all out, like relationship problems, money worries or family problems.ounds with relaxed, cheerful temperaments, might have a large bucket to handle stress while others, who are high-strung or perhaps wounded from child abuse or an unstable home life as children, might have a smaller bucket.

If you manage stress by using helpful ways of coping, then this gets rid of the stress in the bucket by punching holes in the bottom of the bucket. Helpful coping would be activity such as talking through your problems with someone or getting a good nights sleep, going for a walk or taking a long  hot bath to relax your muscles. The best way for me to de-stress physically, mentally and emotionally, is to relax in prayer or meditation, the kind that leads me into deep rest.

If a person attempts to cope unwisely, that could make the stress worse because it is just like blocking the holes in the bucket. Unhelpful ways of coping are things like taking drugs, drinking too much alcohol, keeping your problems to yourself and not getting enough sleep.

Really, it is not important if your bucket is large or small. The key to living a balanced, ‘sane’ life is to keep the holes in the bottom of your bucket open, so stress can flow out. Everyone would benefit from some kind of therapy to understand how they unconciously plug up the holes in their buckets. Sometimes people also need medication, especially if they need help sleeping. Some people need eyeglasses to read, diabetics need insulin. Some people need help with their serotonin levels to open up the plugged holes in the bucket of their life.It is simple as that. Now, if somehow we could dispense with any feelings of guilt and silence the condemnation that still rains down on those society judges as weak, lazy or just plain crazy, the world would be a much better place to live in.

Does this topic seem completely irrelevant to you? I will leave you with a thought.

One in four people suffer from mental illness sometime in their life.

Think of three friends.

If they all seem fine, looks like you’re the one.

7 thoughts on “There’s a Hole in My Bucket, Dear Liza, Dear Liza

  1. This is very, very relevant to me as I have suffered from years of depression (on and off for most of my life). Keeping those holes open in the bucket is not a simple endeavor, but one that is worth trying endlessly. We need awareness in our society. We need to look beyond the surface of a person’s life before we make those judgment calls you referred to (being “weak, lazy or crazy”). No indeed, most people who suffer from clogged holes in their buckets are not crazy. They need understanding and LOVE. They need God first and then they need people second.


    1. exactly- I love our local camapaign which fetured a prominent hockey star + photos of ordinary looking individuals with thesomething along the lines of,

      ” Mental illness. Open your eyes; we were your friend, neighbour and co-worker, we are the person standing next to you”


  2. A lovely (and loving) insight, Melanie… and a topic that’s grown very dear to us here since my husband (after > 20 years in sales!) felt a calling to help people with their buckets of water. 🙂 In just a matter of a few months now, he’ll have his Master’s degree to be a mental health counselor/therapist. It’s a wonderful thing.


  3. Very interesting about keeping holes in the bucket. I’ve talked to a number of elderly family and friends and we all agree that as we age, we become less able to handle stress. I think this is because as the body slows down and we lose certain capabilities we have to limit our exposure to things that distress us. Simplify, downsize, allocate our dwindling energy.

    Regarding depression, I suffered from it for years but didn’t recognize it at all. A contributing factor was that I was away from God, but a major factor was hormonal imbalances and lack of some necessary nutrients along with too little exposure to the sun. Then I developed severe fibromyalgia and continue to live in constant pain. Since receiving care from an outstanding natural health doctor I have no depression, but if I neglect my prayer life and relationship with God I develop anxiety.

    Chronic pain is depression inducing. As we age, the chances of developing chronic pain increase. Drugs mask symptoms, sometimes very imperfectly, but don’t cure. Therefore, we have to know and accept our limitations adapting accordingly. For myself I can say that no matter how much we may desire to keep up the energy to do what we have done for years, we have to learn to start accepting help and kindness from others. We still have the same number of hours in the day, but we have to allocate them differently. The hole that needs to be enlarged is the prayer/meditation hole.

    It’s interesting that the Rule of St. Benedict does not allow illness, pain or decrepitness as an excuse to be crabby in times of stress or depression. No excuse for sinning this way. This forces us to control our stress responses and find ways to avoid exposure, or to tame our unruly nature. This is how even the depressed and stressed out can become saints.

    I loved your last few sentences.


    1. thank-you for taking the time to share so much. The last few lines are a family joke that we repeat often. Depression also happens when the light of God starts pushing up our hidden darknessis- light in>darkness out but all we see is the darkness–umm..another post idea. hey, you’re a great inspiration, this is the second time today!


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