"What?" you say. Yes, it's true. All these years of suspecting the worst and lo and behold, I find out just how much God loves me even if I am bipolar.
The OCD, the ADHD, the ups-and-downs of depression and lack of focus ... Believe it or not everyone, it doesn't mean I don't have enough faith in God. It just means He loves me in spite of all that and changing my heart doesn't necessarily mean changing me into a "normal" person.
The goal here, folks, is to remind you all of the difference between feeling down and being sad because of circumstances; and the all-encompassing, physically debilitating effects of despair, anger, absent-mindedness and an almost unerring tendency to say exactly what's on my mind at any given moment.
If you try to tell me about experiencing God's love and healing, but you have a two-income family, a successful marriage and children who aren't tired of you, I will stand up and walk away.
Circumstances are always in flux. The idea that just believing in God to smooth the way whenever we get into trouble and everything will always be happy and joyful just because you claim salvation ... Well, that's a lie.
Real life hurts.
Real life is when you don't have a place to live and go from one couch to another because you're mentally ill but your family doesn't actually believe it.
Real life is when you cannot hold down a job because it makes you physically ill to meet new people or be in a crowd.
Real life is when you can't go to church because you can't not tell them "how you're doing" when they ask.
Real life is being high-functioning and intelligent but mentally ill and no one wants to see the mentally ill part and place too-high expectations on you.
Real life is hiding from people who say they believe in God but don't believe in me.
Anyone getting the picture yet? I am angry.
However, I'm not angry at God. I'm angry with myself a lot of the time because I believe the things people say about me: "Pull up your big girl knickers and get over it." It's not easy.
Bipolar syndrome used to be called "manic depression" and is now described as having "hypomania."
"During a hypomanic episode, elevated mood can manifest itself as either euphoria (feeling "high") or as irritability.
Symptoms during hypomanic episodes include:
- Flying suddenly from one idea to the next
- Having exaggerated self confidence
- Rapid, "pressured" (un-interruptable) and loud speech
- Increased energy, with hyperactivity and a decreased need for sleep"
If you have known me at all, you have seen me in action with all of these. My best friend used to tell me I was an explosion in a paint box. Yeah.
So let's get down to it. I cannot fully describe everything happening with the chemicals in my brain. I can only work with the doctors and take the medications and do the best I can.
Some days are better, some are not so good. All the things I want to do, like use common sense or keep my mouth shut - that's impossible sometimes.
God's healing is in the medication. God's healing is in His Word. God's healing is in the unconditional love I receive from Him. God is faithful, even and especially when I can't focus on anything long enough remember that.
I may not have been the best of friends. I certainly wasn't the perfect mom or wife. I'm not even sure if I'm capable of any of that right now.
All I know is I can't give up. Despite not being able, at this point, to separate the emotions from the circumstances, I can't give up.
Every time I go into the doctor's office, the question is, "Are you feeling suicidal or thinking of harming yourself?" My answer is no. Suicide is a cop-out, and I have to believe I'm better than that.
It may take medication to be better than that, but I can't give up. I have plans. I have goals. I have a life to live. Just right now though, it's a little difficult to see that from where I'm sitting.
I am a sinner, saved by grace and a child of God through my very personal, very interesting relationship with Jesus Christ.
Don't you dare tell me I don't have enough faith in God.
Do remember that some people have it harder than others, mentally or otherwise. Think about what platitudes you're offering to people who deal with mental illness, especially if you're offering them from a pulpit.
Believe it or not, I still have a huge capacity for love, and there are very few people I have given up on forever. So don't give up on me.
And please, allow me to be who I am, even through all the struggles, because an explosion in a paint box is bright, colorful, interesting, beautiful and dynamic.