I Can Only Imagine

This past Sunday, the Church behaved as a church should. Well, my church did anyway.

Lately, I’ve been experiencing the downward spiral that naturally and always follows mania. My diagnosis is complicated and it took years for me to understand it. True depression can be inexplicable. If someone asked me, “What’s wrong?” I could say, “Nothing” or I could say, “Everything” and both answers would be correct.

Having manic-depressive illness is something I’ve accepted, but being mentally ill sometimes always stinks.

Now about the Church being what they’re supposed to be…

I went to church under the influence of a medication I took for anxiety the night before. Sleep was eluding me, so I took the med the doctor prescribes “as needed.” It was surely needed. The anxiety was crippling and I only got about three hours of sleep because I was so agitated. I drove to church seeing double. It helped if I closed one eye, but driving one-eyed has its limitations. All through the sermon, Pastor kept splitting in two as he moved about the stage.

Between services I told our spiritual growth pastor I probably wouldn’t be able to write the sermon study because I hadn’t been able to concentrate and I had scanty notes. I gave her the lowdown. She must have moved into action right then. Brothers and Sisters began to approach me to let me know they would make sure I got home safely.

Imagine a church body that in a crisis acts like Jesus. I felt no judgements on me for being sick. The people involved treated me as if I had a “respectable” illness. They touched me just like Jesus was willing to touch the man with leprosy. They spoke to me without condescension. I was given time to just be comfortable until church was over and they could help me get home. I could almost hear them saying, “(Let’s) Go in peace.”

I wish every church body could understand––or at least try to accept––mental illness as a real sickness. Too many times we hear people tell us we could be healed if we had more faith. People suggest we pray more. I’ve been told I’m possessed.

Listen. I have faith in the healing power of Jesus. I pray. I trust God will get me through the tough times because he already has on numerous occasions. But Jesus didn’t heal every sick person he came into contact with while he lived here, walking around preaching the Good News. Maybe I’m one of the people God has decided to not heal. He hasn’t healed my good friend who’s been insulin dependent for over 30 years either and I know she prays and has faith in God.

It’s okay I’m still manic-depressive, even though, as I said, it stinks. Because I’ve experienced peace when I should have been crawling the walls. I’ve been able to read my Bible and know the words are meant for me right then, in the scattered state I’m in. Or in a funk so deep I’m reminded of King David’s “pit.” Those are the times when nothing can make me leave the house except maybe firefighters insisting upon it.

Helen Keller was an amazing woman. Read her autobiography some day. For the most part, she had a good attitude about life and didn’t let being disabled hold her back from what she wanted to accomplish. My disability isn’t the same as hers. But I find these words of hers something I relate to and am grateful for.

“I thank God for my handicaps for through them I have found myself, my work and my God.”

What will it take for God’s people to be more accepting of the poor, the uneducated, the ‘sinners,’ the foreigners, the criminals, and anyone who’s just plain different from them? I’m not sure, but I experienced on Sunday what I believe Jesus had in mind.

Love.

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Friday Takes a Turn to Mental Health

Today’s post is a little bit modified from a post I created a couple years ago. Since it’s Mental Health Awareness Month, I feel compelled to post something even if it’s almost the end of the month. We can always make efforts to educate ourselves about health issues.

______________________________________________________________________________

Advice to Young Poets
Never pretend
to be a unicorn
by sticking a plunger on your head

from The Republic of Poetry by Martin Espada

 

When I started writing this blog and was given the opportunity to create an About page, the idea was more than I wanted to consider. I played it lazy and kept it short. Later, I made the changes you see now. While the changes may not agree with you, they reflect the real me.

I’m like anyone else, I suppose; I can talk about myself all day long. If we’re honest, we admit that we–or something about our life–are our own favorite subject.

My About pages are general in nature. That’s okay, based on what they’re designed to do. Now I give you Mr. Espada’s poem as an adjunct to getting to know me. Also, as advice to follow. Truly.

I’m sincere when I say that through my blog I hope to share my journey in finding joy and contentment with Jesus Christ. I also hope to sometimes encourage, comfort the weary, offer consolation, teach, break through spiritual obstacles or propel someone toward God’s purpose for them.

However, I haven’t been totally honest yet. I’ve been wearing a plunger on my head, so to speak. Unknown to some of you, I’ve been trying to be something I’m not. It’s time to reveal a secret. I have manic-depressive illness which is not totally controlled even though I take my medications as directed and try to do all the things my doctor prescribes.

I know this revelation immediately sets me up for criticism. It’s okay. I don’t like being criticized for something I can’t help; but I think I can take it. Criticism or a “follower” of this blog deciding to stop following will be fine. You certainly can’t call me anything worse than I’ve called myself.*

Life with manic-depressive illness, also called bi-polar disorder, can be devastating to the one diagnosed with it. Depending on the severity of our individual diagnoses–and there are many–it can also make life hard for the families of those people with it. We don’t always act like we ‘should.’

We don’t respond the same way as people who have what I call ‘respectable’ illnesses like asthma or heart disease or diabetes. People with those illnesses have physical manifestations if things get out of sync. With a mental illness, the manifestations can be physical, but mostly they’re behavioral.

Maybe you’ve witnessed those manifestations. We just don’t act right.

Taking Mental Health Awareness Month seriously means you educate yourself about the difference between multiple personality disorder and schizophrenia; whether someone is worrying or actually has anxiety disorder. You might take it so far as to learn how to respond to those with mental illness. After all, one if five people struggle with some form.

Your knowledge of what to do could make a big difference to someone in your circle of acquaintances.

I’m not writing today to go into my story from the day I was diagnosed (and before). It’s not a pity-party. I decided to write for a couple of reasons.

First, if you decide you want to continue reading my blog, it should be based on honesty. You don’t have to be honest, but I need to take the plunger off my head. Then you’ll see me as I really am.

Honesty about who I am in this regard will also help us both see how blessed I’ve been so far in my journey. God has been holding my hand through many difficult times; while I was inpatient as well as an outpatient. That’s something people who walk past me in the hallways at church aren’t even aware of. **

Second, the Church is becoming more aware of its role in meeting the needs of those in their communities who are mentally ill. It’s encouraging to see this. Some of the awareness has come because of family tragedies hitting like tsunamis in the news, or in our own lives. But the Church has a long way to go in this regard.

If I write about my own experience, people may find it easier to just relax and accept us. We aren’t unapproachable. In fact, we might be some of the nicest people you can meet. I plan to share some of my journey here occasionally. I’m working on a book with the hope that people will help understand the struggles, believe that God is our refuge through it all, and to, oh what the what–maybe even tell some funny stories.

There it is. I don’t pretend to know God’s ways, but I do know he invaded my life through manic-depressive illness like He’d never invaded it before. His voice has never been heard so sweetly to me as when he whispers, “I love you” as I crawl the walls or wail like a lost child.

Heavenly Father, thank you that when we realize our identity in you we no longer need to pretend to be something we’re not. Grant us the ability to love one another no matter what physical, spiritual, emotional, or mental affliction is with us now. Heal us and sustain us as you see fit. Extend grace to us in our weaknesses for your glory and in the name of Jesus. Amen.

 

*Although I have yet to call myself a unicorn.

**Until now.

Not A Unicorn

Advice to Young Poets
Never pretend
to be a unicorn
by sticking a plunger on your head
from The Republic of Poetry by Martin Espada

When I started writing this blog and was confronted with creating an “About” page for the blog and for myself, the idea was more than I wanted to consider. I played it lazy and kept it short. In fact, when I read them now, I sound silly to myself.

I’m like anyone else, I suppose; I can talk about myself all day long. If we’re honest, we can admit that we–or something about our life–are own favorite subject. Both of my “About” pages are as vague as can be. Now I give you Mr. Espada’s poem as an adjunct to getting to know me and as advice to follow. Truly.

I’m sincere by writing that in my blog I hope to share my journey in finding joy and contentment with Jesus Christ. I also hope to sometimes encourage, comfort, offer consolation, teach, break through spiritual obstacles or propel someone toward God’s purpose for them.

If a post brings someone closer in intimacy with God, that’s great too. I’d be humbled by that for sure.

But I haven’t been totally honest yet. I’ve been wearing a plunger on my head, so to speak. Unknown to some of you, I’ve been trying to be something I’m not and it’s time to reveal my secret. I have manic-depressive illness and it’s not totally controlled even though I take my medications as directed and also try to do all the things my doctor prescribes.

I know this revelation sets me up for criticism immediately. It’s okay. I don’t like being criticized for something I can’t help; but I think I can take it. Criticism coming from one of you, or a “follower” of this blog deciding to stop following will be fine. You certainly can’t call me anything worse than I’ve called myself.*

Life with manic-depressive illness, also called bi-polar disorder, can be devastating to the one diagnosed with it. Depending on the severity of our individual diagnoses–and there are many–it can also make life hard for the families of those with it. We don’t always act like we ‘should.’ We don’t respond the same way as people who have what I call “respectable” illnesses like asthma or heart disease or diabetes. People with those illnesses have some physical manifestations if things get out of synch. But with a mental illness the manifestations are behavioral. Always behavioral.

Maybe you’ve witnessed those manifestations. We just don’t act right. We can’t control our conversations (there’s no filter and we talk really fast). We get truly depressed, not just ‘having a bad day.’ We yell, have panic attacks and make you wonder what on earth you did to make it happen.

I’m not writing today to go into my story from the day I was diagnosed (and before) until now. This also isn’t a pity-party. Most of all, I can’t educate you in a short blog post. I decided to write for a couple of reasons.

  • If you decide you want to continue reading my blog, it should be based on my honesty. You don’t have to be honest, but I need to take the plunger off my head. Then you’ll see me as I really am.
  • Honesty about who I am in this regard will also help us both see how blessed I’ve been so far in my journey. God has been holding my hand through so many difficult times. Inpatient and outpatient.

And that’s something people who walk past me in the hallways at church aren’t even aware of. **

The Church–and our culture–as a whole is becoming more aware of its role in meeting the needs of those in their communities who are mentally ill. It’s encouraging to see this. Some of the awareness has come as a result of family tragedies that hit the news and our very own senses like tsunamis.

Yet, there it is. I don’t pretend to know God’s ways, but I do know he invaded my life like never before through manic-depressive illness. His voice has never been heard so sweetly to me as when he whispers, “I love you” when I’m crawling the walls or sobbing like a lost child.

It’s his voice that crowds out all the others. The lies, the taunts, the ones telling me to put that plunger back on my head.

Almighty Father, thank you that when we realize our identity in you we no longer need to pretend to be something we’re not. Grant us the ability to love one another no matter what physical, spiritual, emotional or mental affliction is with us now. Heal us and sustain us as you see fit. Extend grace to us in our weaknesses for your glory and in the name of Jesus. Amen.

*Although I have yet to call myself a unicorn.
**Until now.

For more information about Mental Illness awareness and diagnosis (your own or that of someone you love), contact National Alliance on Mental Illness or Mental Health America .