So I got a great email from someone through this site that I wanted to address publicly because I thought it might be helpful. There was a question and a statement in it that In really want to hone in on in this blog.
The question: Did you feel scared and or overwhelmed before you knew you were bi-polar and when you were diagnosed?
The statement: The whole religion thing is new to me and for some reason I just cannot seem to fully surrender and I frustrates me to no end!!
So here are chunks of my response:
I’ve been missing writing and had some pretty crappy days, so you’re gonna get a blog from me . . . thanks for giving me something to write about.
Good thoughts. I come at it from somewhat of a different angle given that before my diagnosis I was walking with Jesus and “doing all the right things” (though faith has nothing to do with that – I’ll get to that in a minute). I mean, I’m an ordained pastor – it seems like a dichotomy for me to be bipolar and a minister. More than fear or burdened, I felt guilty and ashamed because I knew something was wrong with me and because I either had a hard time with self-control or just couldn’t seem to get over the hump. I feel still like I’m not “good enough” or “letting God down.” But that’s a burden I will continually need to battle and remind myself is untrue. While I can never “be enough” for God, He doesn’t want me plagued with those thoughts.
Was I overwhelmed? Yeah. Scared? I guess given that I hit rock bottom in February and knew something radical had to change, I didn’t really care & it actually helped me explain stuff – not an excuse for my behavior, but a “whew,” this has been tough & I have been walking uphill without knowing it. Plus, my body, mind and all else had its butt kicked from the previous 15 months when I overworked myself, invested too much and allowed my identity to get wrapped up in what I did instead of who God is.
Everyone has it tough (1 Corinthians 10:13
), but folks with mental disorders are uniquely challenged. And it’s especially awkward when it comes at you somewhat out of the blue. You heard me say that Sherry has been saying this for over 10 years. We kept brushing it off because so many people kept saying it wasn’t real. But in the pit of mental hell I found myself in February, it became clear to 2 out of the 3 doctors I saw and us as a couple. So scared? I guess the whole “diagnosis” thing smacked me in the face when I wasn’t looking so I didn’t really have any anticipation for it. And honestly, the diagnosis is more for the doctors than for the public or even me. The diagnosis allows the docs to give the meds and whatnot. As I read some books on bipolar, I must say they really do write about what I experience well, but the diagnosis isn’t a huge deal (though in my head it certainly is at times – and to others it is as well).
Scared to tell people? Honestly, yes and no. I was disappointed I had to. The situation in which I found myself was a near impossibility and Sherry and I agreed that me sharing was the best choice. It’s what we had to do. Did I want to? No. I made the decision to “come out of the closet” publicly in a matter of 3-4 weeks & while it was tough, I knew for certain things to happen, I had to.
What I didn’t realize was the response people would have. And to be honest, it’s tearing me apart – the last three days (and especially today), I’ve really been in the mire. I’ve had almost 1000 hits on my website since I shared, yet it just hurts. Now, I realize I kinda set myself up for it by making all the boundaries I did, but I think even if I didn’t, there’s an awkwardness people feel and they just don’t know what to do with it. When someone discovers they have cancer or diabetes or AIDS or are pregnant and they share that, there are initial responses that are somewhat comforting and warm and fuzzy (& sometimes surprising with judgmentalism attached). It’s somewhat similar. Someone has big news in their life and people respond, but things change soon after that is announced because your life goes on (with chemo, shots, treatment, a baby, etc.). It’s no wonder that in all those conditions one of the most grueling challenges is mental. When you ARE mental, not only is there that, but a.) there’s a weird stigma culturally, b.) people don’t trust you (or at least you don’t think they do), and c.) there’s both the judgmentalism where people write you off right away and/or the silence b/c they don’t know how to handle it.
The reality is that my faith is simply a relationship with God, the mighty, living, creator who loved me enough to die on the cross for my sins and for hope
in this world and the next. My response to what he’s done is how I live my life (and some might say how “religious” I am). The simplest way to connect is simply biblereadingandprayer. That’s it. That’s the way God has enabled us to commune with Him and listen to Him personally. This being said, the response I have isn’t even so much what I DO as what I let God do in me. Sure, we have a choice between following flesh and spirit (Galatians 5:16-25
), but when we die to sin, we allow the resurrection of Jesus to also be our resurrection spiritually both here on earth and ultimately in heaven (Philippians 3:8-11
). I think it’s important that it’s BOTH here and then. But ultimately, the verse and truth that sets my mind on the fact that we CAN’T do anything is Galatians 2:20
, 20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
There’s an element where we have to surrender and another where we can’t without God’s power. I blogged recently on this idea “to want to want
.” It’s like we want to want to do certain things, but we don’t really want to. For example, I want to want to read a certain book, whether the Bible or even a fun fiction book, but instead I just veg out in front of the tube because I really don’t want
to. I just want to want to. We’re all moody with our desires and even lazy! This is especially true with healthy disciplines like dieting and exercising. It sounds like that’s where you are. There’s an element where you want to want to let go, but it’s just hard. And there’s things you might not want to give up or might not understand or might fear losing, whether stuff, relationships, respect, etc. And then you just let go – you stop thinking about it and allow God to do what he’s going to do. I think this is the beginning of crucifying desires and turning to faith, as that verse says. Maybe this relates to your surrender to Jesus and maybe even your surrender to something else.
I’m a theologian and somewhat of a philosopher (and apparently a bit looney which makes me all the more fun to interact with!). Yet in it all, I’m just a child trying to serve my Heavenly Father, Creator and Lord, as best I can. Why am I a bit off as a bipolar? I don’t know. But I am thankful. It’s been a tough go of things, but I know God’s using it. Is there some blame given to God or my family or wherever this thing might come from? Heck no. Am I mad at God? No. I’m totally blessed. But I do believe that in depravity – which began in Genesis 3 with sin entering the world – things have been tweaked. Horrendous diseases, malformalities, unique challenges for people and the like (including mental illnesses), stem from that. It’s all our consequence as a people who are sinners. We’re born into it. I remember sitting in the recovery room after two infants were just yanked out of my wife’s stomach and she rested. I stood over the two sleeping girls and just wept. I was genuinely sorry I brought them into this cruel world. Of course I was joyful beyond belief, but I knew what this world would be for them and I was sad for that. I prayed over them and continue to that God might not only bless but use them. I just hate when they get owwies.
So . . . not sure if you wanted this huge discourse, but I’m unemployed, so you got it!
Proud of you for seeking. There’s no doubt that God honors that. There’s this famous verse Christians always quote from Jeremiah 29 and it kinda ticks me off, believe it or not, “11
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfaret and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
I mean, sure, that’s great that God will give you this stuff . . . but look what comes after it: “12
Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you.13
You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.14
I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.”
There’s an element of seeking that has to be done . . . I think we often think it’ll just come to us. Bless you for seeking.
Hang in there – I’m praying for you! I know God’s gonna blow you away.
May he blow us ALL away with hope.
1 thought on “On fear, religion & mental illness”
Wow, again. How are you friend? (is it ok to ask?)