The Adventures of Bipolar Girl

Comfort for the Neurotic in All of Us

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Day 82: Out of the Overflow of the Heart…

Public speaking has
always been
one of my passions.
Competitive oratory in high school.
Rhetoric major in college.
I liked to talk and
I was good at it.
I guess it’s because I found
talking AT people a lot
safer than talking
to
them.

Teaching feeds my passion.

The part of me that makes for a good teacher?
That’s the public speaker in me.
I’m compelling… but I can also be
really funny…
I keep my students
laughing so much
they tend to forget
that they are learning.

Today we had a “Speech Invitational” at school.

Can you guess
who was the
mastermind
behind this???

We normally have mandatory
speeches once a month.
Which are like having
mandatory root canals.

Forcing people to speak
on dry topics they know
NOTHING
about???

Let’s just say…
that it is as painful for me
to watch that
as it was for the students
who were unfortunate enough
to  actually have to
present that.

SO,
this month
was different.
I got to combine my passion
with teaching
and it gave birth to
today.

I suggested that we make
this month’s speeches
by invitation only.

I thought to invite students who
actually excel at public speaking
or those who have expressed
a desire to practice public speaking…
or even those quirky characters
who have unique literary voices
who would probably have a lot to share.

And then I sent them a hand delivered invitation.

The turn out was great.
I invited twenty-two students
with varying degrees of ability —
and while three of them had
unavoidable conflicts and couldn’t
do it….

Everybody else did it
willingly!

We even had three people
who weren’t on my list
prepare speeches that they
delivered.
I was beaming like a proud
parent as each student
took to the podium.

Our shy English Language Learners
went first… and surprised us all
by their choices of topics
and the clarity and poise
in which they delivered their
speeches.

There were students
who presented original poetry…
or essays that they had written
on such topics as “friendship” and
“ethics” and “attitude.”

One young man came into our program
about two years ago totally introverted.
He barely said a word the first
few months in my class.
Our program has been a challenge for him.
He struggled through the death of
his girlfriend last year
and the depression that followed.
How much he has grown
and healed
in a year.

He got up and shared a really
inspiring poem that he’d written
about “Life” and what it means
to him while challenging us all
to consider “Life” and what it means
to us.

But the one speech that spoke to all of us…
came out of the heart and the mouth
of a slim young woman with shy doe eyes.
She is very much afraid of public speaking,
but eagerly jumped at the chance to practice.
This girl, who is much loved by everybody,
stood up there in front of the assembled room
and gave a speech where she dared to dig deep
into her own pain and suffering to share with us
a glimpse of that human condition called, “Loss.”

She started crying.
Softly at first… while valiantly 
wiping away the tears
in her determination
to complete her speech.
She started crying harder as the words
on the page took root in her heart.

I know that she hadn’t expected this.
She’d probably practiced it over and over
in the mirror
and in front of friends…
And had no idea
that she would be
“killing herself softly
with each word.”

I thought she would stop…
that she’d run out of the room
and I’d be unable to follow
since I was the emcee.

But she stood her ground.

She read not one,
but two poems that
showed the entire room
how much her losses
were affecting her
and now us.
In her courage,
she made us all feel.

As she spoke,
I cried.
Several people
cried….
and everybody
felt.

Today I felt like I passed on a torch to my children.
They caught a glimpse of the passion.

Public speaking is my passion.
It has always been a way for me to
connect to the world outside
my Bipolar Bubble.
Writing keeps me isolated
and insulated.
It, too, is my passion…
but it is a dance that I
dance alone.

Public speaking?
By definition it forces me out
of my bubble and into the world.
My students got to feel that today.

Public speaking?
Doesn’t have to be dry.
It doesn’t have to be scary.
It is a means to connect with other people.
It’s an avenue to expound upon
the human condition.

Using the voice that God gave me???
That is when I feel truly alive
and today, by invitation only,
my students got to feel that too.
They got to step out and connect
with other people; expound
on the human condition;
feel the adrenaline rush
that makes you feel
truly alive…
and they got to own
their own
voices.

Some were shy.
Some were bold.
Some were funny…
…and then some made
the entire room
heave a collective
sigh.

Today was Day 82 and I helped my students connect…expound… feel… and own their voices. And it was good.

Day 80: How to Achieve Heart Health

It was only once I started taking an active role in my own healthcare that my health began to improve dramatically. Back in October when I started The PLAN,  I thought I was doing it to get me off of the lithium safely. I had NO idea that God would use that season (and this one that I’m in now) to give me daily lessons about what it means to seek His kingdom and His righteousness. I have always wondered what that meant because it sounds so airy fairy. I thought I was trying to seek the LORD, but my life was such a monumental train wreck that it was often difficult for me to believe that I even knew what his kingdom and his righteousness even looked like… so how could I possibly know how to seek it.

I’d tried all the recommended Christianese-y things like reading my bible, attending church, joining bible studies and women’s studies. I went through all the motions of being a good little Christian. I even went above and beyond by becoming a missionary and the Christian school teacher… but none of that seemed to bring me any closer to God. There always seemed to be something seriously wrong with my faith, just as there was something seriously wrong with my health. In both cases, I was right… I just wasn’t ready to let God in so he could do what only God can.

One would think that having a 10 lb fibroid removed along with my uterus back in 2010 would have put me on the path to a rejuvenated search for God. Initially, it did… but when it became clear that something had gone wrong as a result of the surgery, my search for God got sidetracked as I struggled to deal with health issues and mounting bitterness. Hadn’t the mental illness been enough? Now I had a physical disability that sidelined me for five long bitter and lonely years. It didn’t seem fair and I made a point of telling God that ALL. THE. TIME.

Fast forward to October, that’s when I had to go off the lithium. I didn’t have a choice. It was either that or court a heart attack. In the end, I knew that I needed to humble out and submit every aspect of my life to God. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understandings; in all your ways acknowledge him and he will direct your path.”

That’s what The Plan was about — submitting my life to God and trusting him to know what was best for me. Sure, on the surface it was about getting off the meds safely, but I sought God as if my life depended on it, because it did. And God changed my life.

Now? I’m on Day 80 of a 90 Day Heart Health Challenge and, again, it hasn’t been what I expected. I thought it was about learning how to eat healthier and getting some exercise in so that I’d be healthy enough to eventually return to Mercy Ships. Once again, God had a different plan. This journey has been about surrendering my heart and all its contents to God.

The thing about the heart though?? The bible says that it’s “deceitful above all things.” So much stuff can hide out in there that you have absolutely NO idea what’s lurking in there until you realize that your heart is a bit hard in certain areas…. that there are some dark corners in it that you’ve been afraid to touch. Ok. I need to stop projecting with “you” when what I really mean in me. I have found that my heart is a bit hard in spots and that I have dark corners in my heart that I’ve been afraid to touch. God, however, is not afraid of what’s in my heart.

In these 80 days God has called me to confront a lot of my fears, hang ups, and personal demons. He has shown me the roots of my bitterness and told me to confess and repent of all of it. He has told me to own my voice, but also to know when to remain silent. He has had me reconcile with my sister whom I haven’t spoken to in years and get to know her son whom I’ve never ever really known. God has had me open up to his people about who I REALLY am and trusting that they wouldn’t run screaming into the night. He has had me look people straight in the eyes and make myself vulnerable to them by speaking my truth. I thought I would hate all that transparency because it makes me feel vulnerable.

But God knew that that was just what I needed. Darkness has to flee when you shine the light in. Just as it was with my physical and mental health, I didn’t start seeing dramatic change in my spiritual health until I started taking an active role in my healing.

Just as I had to educate myself and advocate for myself with my doctor… I had to seek the Holy Spirit to know what needed healing in my spiritual life. Only this time, when the Divine Physician started pointing out the problems, I couldn’t jump off the table in fear. I had to choose to submit to spiritual open heart surgery because several of my arteries were blocked.

This healing has not happened in a vacuum. I haven’t been trying to do surgery on myself while isolated in the Bipolar Bubble. For all the stuff that God was calling me to confess and repent of; or acknowledge and surrender; or look at and accept... he was also giving me good things in return to fill up the space he was creating in my heart. He had me write letters (from the heart) to people who are the “must haves” in my life. He wanted me to tell them just how important they are to me and how my life would not be the same without them. That has led to some really touching and memorable moments that I am not likely to forget any time soon. God has replaced some of my deeply ingrained fears with a desire to experience life in new ways. No longer am I shrinking alone in my room afraid to come out and see what the world holds.

I have fallen in love anew with Jesus… become acquainted with the person of the Holy Spirit… and come face-to-heart with the God of All Comfort who I used to think that everybody but me knew.

Tonight I met with a dear woman who loves God so much that love and peace resonate through her. I have found that much freedom along with mental and physical health can be found by looking at my life and the things in it that do not honor God… and then telling another person… Not because I’m trying to make excuses for myself or I need them to validate my brokenness in some way. I KNOW that I was broken. The question was… did I want to stay that way?

Tonight was about breaking free of some things that have kept me spiritually sick. I had to find my voice and I needed to advocate for myself. I didn’t get into a lot of detail because God is in the details. Some things she didn’t need to know in order to pray. God has enabled me to see exactly what was wrong and exactly what would fix it: confession and repentance. If there was a legitimate medical cause for all of this, trust me, I would have sought medical help. For the past 20 years I have sought medical help for my mental and physical problems, but there came a point where it became abundantly clear that modern medicine cannot do what only God can.

It only took an hour. We talked for an hour and then she prayed. That was A LOT shorter than my failed root canal and all the Occupational Therapy that I’ve had to do for my wrist. It was considerably less invasive than my hysterectomy. All these years my walk with God has been about seeking mental and physical health or other temporal things. God needed me to seek his kingdom and his righteousness first.

This past 80 days has been as amazing as it has been eye opening. I still need to address the issue of how to be a better steward of this body that God has gifted me with because abusing it all these years has left its mark. If I really do want to serve God on the Mercy Ship or anywhere else for that matter… I have to learn what it means to live rightly in this body.

Since I tend to work better with goals and countdowns, I sense another daily challenge on my spiritual horizon. Let’s just get one thing straight before I even start thinking about it: I know that the primary focus will not be about diet and exercise though that byproduct. I think it’s safe to say that God is really only interested in having me seek first his kingdom and his righteousness… and all the other stuff… the stuff that he knows that I need, will be given to me as well. I just have to trust him.

Today is Day 80 and I have found that I LOVE seeking His kingdom and His righteousness.

Day 79: Next Stop (Deja “View” 7/18/2016)

Day 79: Now I’m REALLY starting to feel like an Israelite in the desert. Revisiting these memories, I get to see where I was and how far God has brought me. I find myself exactly back where I was a year ago. The lessons God was trying to teach me that I didn’t quite learn back then… he’s calling me to revisit now.

This time I want to listen. This time I want to hear. This time I want to say, “Here I am! Send me!”

The Adventures of Bipolar Girl

When God led me to my current job
I knew I was supposed to be there.
Only thing
is that I didn’t want to
be there, I mean.

I’d shaken the dust of
teaching off my shoes
and I swore
that I’d never teach again.

“Again”
turned out to be relative.
God let me pursue my
dream of writing,
but when the reality
of needing to eat
interrupted my
fluffy cloud fantasy,
God opened a door
and nudged me towards it.
Again.

There I was
back in the classroom.
After teaching children
for ten years of my
very tumultuous life
I found myself
once again
in a classroom
facing a sea of faces.
Only this time
the faces were brown
like mine…
and their eyes
were a older
and a bit more jaded
like mine.

It was scary teaching
people when some of them were
bigger than I was.

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Day 73: Chariots of Fire

There is no polite way to say this… yesterday? I was getting my spiritual ass kicked.

On the one hand, the last few days have been amazing. I have been witnessing God do some truly amazing things… and then, out of nowhere I was hit by a reminder that I have Bipolar Disorder. I was reminded anew that I have Asperger’s Syndrome. I don’t usually talk about that one… it’s hard enough to get people to understand that I have one mental illness. Of late, I have been so happy and full of joy over all that the Lord has been doing in my life, that it has been easy for even me to forget. Not having the albatross that was lithium around my neck has made it even easier to forget. I have felt so normal. But late Monday afternoon, something REALLY trivial triggered me and I started spiraling. I started struggling with fear and panic and more fear.

I did not fall far, however.

God, in his infinite wisdom and mercy proved himself to be true, “and we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love him and are called according to HIS purposes.”

It didn’t suit my purpose to have a near meltdown Monday night. I missed out on going to the Worship Night on the other side… and I LOVE that. But God used the fact that I was temporarily out of commission to make me available to a friend who was also in crisis. In the past… there was only room for ONE crisis in my life and that was my own. Monday night, I was able to step outside of my own crazy long enough to help a friend tackle her own crazy situation. We spent two hours on the phone talking and praying. I ended up having bad dreams… but even that God redeemed.  In the past??? Tuesday would have been a nightmare for my students… what with Monday night being so emotionally charged an all.

Tuesday at work, however, was AMAZING.

The Lord went before me and behind me. There was no hint of darkness to mar his light shining forth., so  I thought that the storm had passed. I was fine all day Tuesday. It wasn’t until later in the afternoon when another trigger hit me that I felt my grip on reality become a little too clinched. I was so tightly wound yesterday it’s a wonder that I did not retreat into my Bipolar Bubble away from the sights and sounds of people. I usually avoid people like the plague when I start to spiral out. Yet, yesterday??? I went into the very thick of it and then tried to stand firm. I don’t think I’ve had to exert that much self-control in a LONG time. Part of me just wanted to fall apart and cry. That part of me was fairly shouting in my ears to run... to hide… telling me that I didn’t fit in and never would. I felt like I was drowning and there was no land upon which to find purchase.

Until I felt the Holy Spirit reminding me of that which I already know:

On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. 1 Corinthians 12: 22-26

I was not so far gone that I was too proud to humble out and ask for prayer. I am one of the weaker parts of the body. I would like to point out that mental illness IS NOT synonymous with demonic possession or any such nonsense… but just as it is easier for a lion to pick off a young or injured animal from the herd, so it is easier for the enemy of my soul to attack me when I am already being triggered. Since I know EXACTLY what the triggers were… and I’m NOT one to see a demon under every bush, I believe that God was shining a spotlight on something else that he wants to deliver me from, but first I had to see it. And unfortunately, he needed OTHER people to see it too… because people are quick to say that I don’t “look like I have a mental illness.” They had to see it to believe it. How will people ever be able to help prayerfully deliver me from the effects of my mental illnesses if they don’t really believe that I have them??

Most people cannot see that I have a mental illness whereas I believe that I am one of the lucky ones. I am functional enough to be able to get along in the world for the most part. I’ve worked with students and have known people who are not so lucky. They are lower down on the spectrum and cannot function in this world without caregivers. But by the grace of God go I. Yesterday, people who don’t really know me that well got a glimpse of what I look like when the mask comes off and I morph into Bipolar Girl. I think it shook them a bit. They weren’t quite sure what to do.

I didn’t either. I felt like I was going to have a full on meltdown and I was trying hard to get my thoughts under control. And then I was reminded of that which I already know: Prayer changes things. I knew that I needed to ask them for prayer.

If I left that house without asking for prayer, I was forgetting that I am just as much a part of the body of Christ when I am weak as I am when I am strong. It is easy to rejoice with me when I am strong, but being part of the body of Christ isn’t about backing “the winner.” In this race that we are all running… people are going to fall. There have been times when I felt like other Christians had actually pushed me, but I’ve come to see that it was more out of ignorance than of any ill-will.

One way to dispel ignorance is to shower it in light. Instead of hiding my mental illness from them, I invited their light in. I told them that I was struggling…  and that I didn’t want to talk about it, but that I needed prayer. I said that I didn’t want anybody to touch me… so please do not try to lay hands on me. Christians can be terribly touchy feely that way. I clearly stated what I needed and they heard me… they prayed. And that was ALL that I needed.

Part of MY healing is only going to come as I not only “own my voice,” but as I accept my own weakness. If it were left up to me, I would never ask for help…but that is when others in the body of Christ have a chance to come alongside of me and run the race with me. Pride keeps them on the other side of the mental health divide.

I was getting my spiritual ass kicked yesterday and my eyes were scrunched shut in fear. All I could see was how weak and spineless I was being. All I could hear were the voices of Fear and Anger and Anxiety telling me that I would never fit in or ever be a functioning part of the body of Christ… but  then they prayed and the battle shifted:

 Then he sent horses and chariots and a strong force there. They went by night and surrounded the city. 15 When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. “Oh no, my lord! What shall we do?” the servant asked.

16 “Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”

17 And Elisha prayed, “Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. 2 Kings 6:14-17

The army of negative thoughts that seemed so insurmountable when I was trying to battle them on my own… started to flee at the opening salvos of a group of praying women. I went home and stepped out in faith even further: I wrote to a brother in the Lord and asked him to pray. He is standing in the gap for me in prayer as I complete this 90 Day Heart Health Challenge. I couldn’t even bring myself to tell him what was wrong… but in reaching out to him, I owned my voice enough to drown out Fear, Anger, and Anxiety. I told him NOT to email me back. I just wanted him to pray.

Then, I went to sleep and slept like a baby. I woke up feeling refreshed and went on to have another BRILLIANT day at work. I could feel the peace of Jesus going ahead of me and behind me.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us... Hebrews 12:1

It is NOT a sin that I have a mental illness. Yesterday, the sin would have been that I was too proud to let anybody help me. I didn’t want to blog yesterday because it was too raw and I was too embarrassed. I’m not yet sure if that was pride or wisdom.

Today? From the vantage point of NOW, I can see that God was working through all of that for my good. Then I happened to find this 2 Cellos video that led me to look up the 2 Kings scripture. Because of the drama of the last two nights, I feel like I’ve survived a major spiritual battle; became more integrated into the body of Christ, and ran an uphill race with perseverance. But the one thing that is really resonating with me??? I have SO many people who love and support me and whom I love and support in return… that I KNOW that I did not fight that battle or run that race alone.

Today is Day 73… I may not see chariots of fire on the hills around me… but those scriptures serve as a symphony that is changing the atmosphere around me. It is well with my soul.

 

Day 72: Left Field

Day 70: RSVP – Send Me!! I’ll Go!!

Yesterday I sat in my Father’s garden
with a dear friend
and told her that
I KNEW
without doubt
that I was going to
be going back to
Mercy Ships.

I was going
to go
to
Africa.

I told her
that I didn’t know
when or how,
but that
I felt like God had been
confirming it
over
and over
and over
again
for months…

…but that the
proof wouldn’t come
until  I am actually standing
on the deck of the Africa Mercy
with my
face in the wind
like a beagle
sticking it’s head
out of a car window.

To that end,
I’ve been working on
resolving lingering health issues.
I got a passport application a week ago.
The ship has a requirement that crew
be able to walk up six flights of stairs….
I been working on it
and I can do about 4 flights
easy.
I have determined to overcome my fear
of the water and I asked a friend
to teach my how to swim.
In the past three weeks
I’ve checked out two different
French language programs
from the library
to brush up on all that
high school and college French
I learned many
many moons ago.

It’s on my To-Do list
to start a savings account
for my Mercy Ships expenses…

Given the way that I left
Mercy Ships…
one would wonder
WHY I want to go back.
It wasn’t quite as disastrous
as say…
the Titanic
but it caused
the bottom
to drop out of
my world.

That experience
changed my life
and for YEARS
I wasn’t sure if
it was in a good
way…

But I have never been
able to fully find my
land legs.
I’ve always known
that I would go back.

I KNOW
that I HAD to leave
just as I KNEW
that I HAD to be there.

The only reason I left
was because my Bipolar
had manifested
BIG TIME
and I was not
safe.

I needed to leave so
that I could get the diagnosis
and the jagged little pills
that I had to take for 20 years
until God finally made my world stop
spinning out of control.

Of course,
that was from MY perspective.
From HIS perspective,
I’m right on schedule.

Last year
when I saw that they had open
Writer positions…
I KNEW God was
beginning to open a door.

I did not feel called to go
back as a teacher.
I was asked once
LONG ago…
I can teach…
I’m a good teacher…
but it’s not my passion.

I knew that God would eventually call me back.

SO I waited.

There was an open Writer position for their July outreach to Benin… but before I could do my “Snoopy Dance,” God said, “Wait.”

I am still very much involved in his vision for my workplace. I’ve been praying for revival and it’s so close I can almost taste it. For months, I’ve felt like God has been telling me to find and own my voice and I’ve been doing that on several fronts. At the end of last year, I’d  gotten off the lithium completely and started to see major changes in my mental and physical health…

Then God began to do a major work in my life, so that everybody can literally see the changes. So far this year, I’ve  joined a hula group at my church that is about finding voice, breaking ground, and reconciliation. I’ve conducted staff training sessions at work that closely resembled the 5 Point Plan God gave me to get me off the lithium. I’ve totally conquered my fear of driving at night (among other fears);  spoke out boldly against injustice; reconnected with my long lost nephew; and reconciled with my sister whom I haven’t spoken to properly in about seven years. I have not been twiddling my nose hairs as I’ve waited.

So there I was yesterday… in my Father’s garden declaring boldly, by faith… that God willing… I will be going to Africa.

Would you believe that we had a guest speaker in church today???

From AFRICA?!

As I listened to him
I felt like one of those kids
in school who is bouncing
off the walls in their seats yelling,
“Pick Meeeeeeee!!”

He was saying that there
was a great need for French speaking
people willing to go to Africa.
The more he talked
the louder the voice
in my head got.
When he said, “Who will go??”
I very nearly jumped up and said,
“Here I am! Send me!”

As I watched his slides
and listened
to him talk,
I knew.

I am going to Africa.

Today I gave a letter to a beautiful man
telling him that it was time to let go
of my need to know… my obsessive need
to delve into my incest issues.
I told him that my life
is so wonderful now...
what good could it possibly serve
to remember any of that?
And with the Parable of the Weeds
fresh in my mind…
I know that I can trust God
to deal with those weeds
in HIS timing.

Yesterday, I sat in my Father’s garden
and in the presence of a witness,
I prayed to release various people who
had hurt me over the years
and about the bitter roots I’d allowed to grow.
I told my friend that I was so full of love
that I couldn’t  contain myself.
I told her and the beautiful man
that I needed them to pray.

I told them both that I needed
to confess and repent of unbelief
and that I needed them to be praying
because I am beginning to dream
big dreams again.

So today…
in church
when that visiting African
told us to PRAY
for workers…
and that it would only
be in response to prayer
that people went…

I knew that God had sent me an invitation.

I do not know how.
I do not know when.
I still have unresolved health issues.
I still cannot go up six flights of stairs.
My French is several decks below rusty.

But today
(Day 70)
felt like a personal invitation
and I plan to RSVP.

Day 69: Today in My Father’s Garden

 

Today was spent
hanging out
in my Father’s
garden
with a really
old friend…

Today was spent
sharing memories
and affirming
words…
it was
about connecting
on a
deeper
level…
about
being friends
and sisters…

Today was spent
exploring the
Word
and what it means
to hear God
and be
heard
by Him.

Today was spent
breaking bread
and enjoying
Creation
and believing
God for
big
things.

Today was spent
understanding
faith
and
hope
and
love
and realizing
that the
greatest
of
these
is
love.

Today was spent
feeding the fish
and watching
the ducks
and looking
to the future
without losing
sight of
the present.

Today was Day 69...
and it was good.

Day 67: Bipolar and the Bible: What I REALLY Think (Deja “View” from 6/30/13)

Today is normally my day of rest. I still have enough accrued vacation time to work four day work weeks until the end of the year… but today I worked a half day because I have a new class of students and I’m trying something new. I hate new. This change was God’s idea and I just went along with it, but on the inside I was quaking. The week has gone pretty well though, and I wasn’t even mad that I felt like I had to work half a day to nurture my new class along because by the lunch time I was on my way to the library for some quiet time. I LOVE my quiet time. I load my messenger bag up with my journals, my bible, and the log I kept when I was working on The Plan to discontinue the lithium. I have a hard copy journal where I wrote down things that God was showing me that I didn’t want to forget. Periodically,  go back over that log and my journals to see where God has been leading me and if I’m still on track. I could easily spend all day in the library reading my bible, but it wasn’t always this way. I found myself looking back at my blog from 2013 and, again, am awed at just how far God has brought me safe thus far:

Bipolar and the Bible: What I REALLY Think

So many thoughts… so many directions. I could keep blogging my thoughts on the Biblical figures who seem to have Bipolar tendencies… but my mind jumped that track a few days ago. My thoughts are going in a more practical direction tonight. I’m tackling the notion of reading the bible:

All good Christians should read the Bible.
That’s such a loaded statement for many people.

Some folks would make you feel like a bloody heathen if you weren’t spending hours each day in your bible. When I first became a Christian (aka “got saved”) I couldn’t get enough of my bible. I consumed large portions of it at a time. I marked my bible up — underlining key passages; using various colored highlighters; writing all kinds of comments in the margin. I even memorized the entire first chapter of the book of James. Over the years I considered myself quite the bible scholar. I look back on those days and wonder how I fell so low. I barely ever read my bible. *gasp* To be more precise, I rarely read anything because I can’t.

Something like that happened to me years ago in college. I was going to UC Berkeley and started with such high hopes. Before that I’d been at the top of my class in high school. It was certain that I’d go on to be a lawyer or something equally amazing. I loved to read. I journaled all the time and wrote lots of stories. All of that when down the rabbit hole when the Bipolar manifested. By my fourth year at Cal, I was ready to drop out. I could no longer read. A Rhetoric major who couldn’t even read papers she’d written the semester before.*again… gasp*

I could read passages over and over and over again and still not understand a word that I read. I thought I was going crazy. I thought I’d fooled people into thinking I was brilliant… only to have it revealed that I was a fraud. The depression and suicidal thoughts combined with increased stress and a developing mental disorder affected my ability to read. But I didn’t know any of that then. All I knew then was that I couldn’t read and my dreams for my future were over. I understand all of that now. I now accept that when I’m under stress my ability to read goes out the window and I don’t let it bother me. I just wait it out.

 

 

Fast forward to now. I’m a Reading Instructor. If that’s not ironic, I don’t know the meaning of “irony.” More than anything this highlights the fact that God really has a sense of humor. I feel like a fraud every day at school. My job is stressful. It’d be a lot easier if I could read. It’s a constant source of stress which only makes the reading harder for me. So when I come home, I don’t want to read my Bible. Not because I don’t love God, but because I won’t understand any of what I read. It’s really frustrating to have had the mind I once had, yet be stuck with the mind I now have. I read small sections… a verse of two… and I generally walk away wondering what I read. Or, if I did understand it, I end up forgetting it almost immediately, because memory loss is affecting me in alarming ways.

Two years ago I read a book by Elijah House. It’s Christian prayer ministry. They have an entire chapter devoted to people with mental illness, particularly Bipolar. When I read it I felt like I’d finally found somebody who actually understood what it felt like to live in my skin. They gave a big thumbs down to telling depressed people or people with Bipolar Disorder that they “should/had to” go to church or “should/had to” read their bibles.

They aren’t advocating apostasy. They were humanely handling something that the church doesn’t always handle so well. They understand that there are times that I literally cannot read the bible and shouldn’t try. The condemnation that I fall under when I cannot read and understand the Word isn’t from God.  Yet it hits with the weight of a ton of brings and the “truth” of it rings louder than any bell. That other kind of condemnation doesn’t come from God either. It’s the kind that comes from friends who act like enemies. It comes in the form of bible bashing  and I’ve gotten it from some very well meaning people over the years. They are often very nice… but they are ignorant and should just zip it, or they might get some of what God gave Job’s friends.

I have learned that it is better to wait until my head is clear and I am able to read and understand the word. Or better yet, meet with a friend who can read it with me and discuss it. I still won’t remember so much of it… but I’ve made the effort to seek God out. Right now life is just one big waxy ball of stress. I’m frustrated that I am not spending time with God in the word, but I think daily “quiet time” is a Western construct. I think it’s good if it works for you, but I honestly don’t see the biblical mandate to spend hours and hours reading our bible. Bite off what you can handle… no matter how small and then chew on it.

I know this is going to make some people’s noses go out of joint (good thing I disabled comments) but if all I can do is pick up my bible once a week right now — SO BE IT. Right after my last surgery I read almost all of the New Testament. I am not opposed to reading the bible, but I think we need to avoid heaping condemnation on people who, for whatever reason, cannot read the word. Rather than making people feel bad about not reading the bible… how’s about doing something practical to help them read and retain it? That’s what I really think.

Today is Day 67 and I am thankful that I can read today.

Day 66: God and Porn (Deja “View” from 7/30/14)

Of late, I’ve been marveling over just how far God has brought me and just how much he’s done for me. It’s easy to get into that “What have you done for me lately?” mentality when we think of God because of the consumer outlook of our age. When it comes to the good stuff, we tend to have short memories. Like the Israelites in the desert, we forget what God has done for us. We overlook God’s miraculous provision of manna in the desert of our current circumstances because we want to know what God is going to do for us next.

That’s why he had them put stones to remind them of the important things that he had done for them. My blog tends to serve that purpose for me. I have a written reminder of what God has done and is doing in my life. I can see what God is doing for me now… but it’s only when I look back and what he’s already done to get me this far that I am in awe of the God that I serve. I decided to look back two years ago today to see what God was doing only to find that for the entire month of July in 2014 I only had one post. It wasn’t like God was napping on the job. I was struggling with sin and was too embarrassed to post.

To often, Christians get stuck in total darkness because they are ashamed of themselves and afraid of what people will do if they only knew the real them. This is the kind of stuff that medication won’t fix. I had a lot of unconfessed sin in my life and it was eating away at my innards like vultures. I think the whole point of confession and repentance is to set us free from that which binds us. God knows we need to get stuff off our chest or we’ll go bonkers. God has been telling me to be ridiculously transparent because finding safe people to be open and honest with about my life and my struggles has been what has helped to heal those things that the medication couldn’t. Medication covers a multitude of illnesses, but only love can cover a multitude of sins.  I can honestly say that I don’t have any secrets anymore. I’m all about transparency and accountability because it has brought me back from the edge. There is at least one person who knows pretty much everything there is to know about me and I’m glad. That means there’s one less chain that Satan has to yank. Don’t believe me? Look back with me to 2014 and see where I was compared to where I am now

 

God and Porn

It’s been over a month since my last post. I haven’t wanted to post because I’ve been in a weird emotional place. I haven’t gone to church. Haven’t read my bible. Haven’t communicated with most of my friends. I went to a wedding, but it was so rife with stress I didn’t really have much to say after that. I haven’t wanted advice or pep talks because they invariably make me feel worse. All I generally ever want is prayer… but I’ve been too proud to reach out and ask. I’ve been thinking about closing down this blog and going somewhere where nobody knows me. There is much to be said for blogging anonymously. I need an out. A place where I can air my thoughts… good, bad, ugly, indifferent. I’m embarrassed by my thoughts, but they are mine and need to be dealt with. For now, I’m choosing to post here, but I really would appreciate it if folks didn’t try to fix this problem. Only God can do that. I need this out of my head and I need people to pray. This is the post I wrote a month ago and was too embarrassed to post:

One of my biggest question for God is why hasn’t he helped me break free of my addiction to porn?

I had a perfectly lovely day yesterday and today. All week actually. I took a stay-cation and I’ve been enjoying the down time. Today I went to the beach and splashed in the waves. It was great. Then I came home and then, after a few hours watching “JAG” on my laptop, I thought it would be a good idea to look at porn. Where the hell did that come from??? When is porn EVER a good idea? I had to disable the porn filter that I have on my laptop in order to access the visuals, so it wasn’t like something just popped up on my screen. This was premeditated and I can’t say that I was all that sorry for it when I finally got bored and lost interest.

I’ve been struggling with porn since I was a child. Ok. I shouldn’t say “struggling.” At one point, I didn’t think it was wrong. I wasn’t hurting body. In college I dated guys who like to watch it with me. When I became a Christian it used to stress me out to no end that I struggled with porn. What kind of serious Christian woman struggles with porn??? You go to bible studies and Suzy over there wants prayer for her bad temper and Jill wants prayer because she’s a gossip. And there I’d sit and squirm in the corner, not knowing how to tell all those shiny faced Christian women that I liked to watch gay male porn. Susy, could you pass the tea please? And OH MY! Aren’t these cookies fabulous?

After 20 something years as a Christian, you’d think this would be a done deal. I should have prayed my way into holy behavior years ago. I have a friend who’s a recovered alcoholic. She has the chips to prove that God helped her find sobriety. What I want to know is where’s my chip? I used to condemn myself every time I fell into porn and the masturbation that went along with it. I would fall into these horrible depressions and I’d call myself horrible things. I used to think that God was never going to fix this or anything else that was wrong with my life and I’d get suicidal. I couldn’t keep living like that. Then I found a website for Christians who struggle with porn and sexual addiction. It was amazing.

Finally I could tell somebody about my secret struggles. And I did. I poured out my soul in my journal there and for three, maybe four years, I was free of porn. There weren’t a lot of women on the website, but there were some and I no longer felt like a freak of nature. It also got to the point where I could tell people at church. They weren’t scandalized. They accepted me and gave me the prayer I so desperately wanted. They told me that it was a process and that I needed to trust God. The whole “process” thing sat well with me for a few years… but I’ve been a Christian for over 20 years and I’m still bound up in an addiction that was foisted on me when I was too you to know better. Process? I am sick to bloody death of this process! When does the flippin’ process end??

I do not remember what made me fall off the wagon this time, but I fell hard. And it’s been a never ending struggle ever since then. I do not, however, engage in porn like I used to. It used to be a daily thing. Now, I’ll go a few months before I cave in. Yet, I do not understand why I cannot stop. I know that I’m doing “that which I do not want to do,” but I’ve read books, attended workshops and deliverance ministries. I did some really intensive prayer counseling. I had a sponsor. I tried to go to a 12 Step meeting with traumatic results. And for what? There are a lot of things related to my addiction that I no longer do, but the head of the beast won’t stay still long enough to be chopped off. Why has none of this worked??

There are some who might say that I don’t have enough faith or that I haven’t tried hard enough… or that I’m not “trusting” God. To those people, I say that it is easy to say those kinds of things when you haven’t had to walk this road. I’d also say, “Bite me.”

For those who would tell me to “lighten up” and tell me that I’m not hurting anybody, I’d say that they are wrong. I AM hurting somebody: God does not like porn. It devalues his amazing creation. It diminishes people who are fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of our Creator by turning them  into body parts to be ogled. It hurts God and that should be enough… but it hurts me too. I cannot begin to explain the effect my addiction to porn has had on my life and my relationships. I have lost more than I can ever recover. If I could go back to the beginning… to where it all started, I would have walked away. I would never have taken that first look, because for me, that one look cost me everything.

I don’t really know how to end this post. Maybe I should ask for more prayer. I’m definitely not asking for advice or pep talks. I’m not asking to be told that I’m being too hard on myself. I’m bringing my actions out into the light of day because that’s what God tells us to do:

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. James 5:16

Today is Day 66.

 

 

Day 65: The Day the Music Died (Deja “View” from 7/10/16)

 This morning I met with my new mentor. I love this woman and I know that God brought her into my life “for such a time as this.”Every time I meet with her, I walk away knowing that I am smack in the center of the Lord’s will for me. I’m still processing our talk… and might end up sharing some of it here, but not yet. Not now. So I dug deep into the Bipolar Bubble and came up with this post from last year around this time. It was worth a second look… or what I’m calling a “Deja ‘View’:”

 

Tomorrow I have an appointment with a therapist. I know that I said I’d accept change, but the closer I get to this appointment the more ambiguous my feelings get. I haven’t seen a therapist since 2006, but before that I’d spent most of my adult life in therapy. My thoughts on therapy are mixed. I quit doing it because I felt like it had outlived its usefulness. If modern therapy could’ve fix me, I should be fixed by now.

Back in 2006, I hit a fork in the road where secular counseling contradicted my Christian faith, so I stopped going. Now don’t get me wrong… I’m not one of those snake handling nut jobs who thinks that modern medicine is “of the devil.” Yet neither do I do think that all I need to “fix what ails me” is faith. I once had one well meaning (but ignorant friend) tell me that all I needed to do to get rid of my Bipolar… was “plead the blood of Jesus.” Despite this well-meaning (but soul crushing) advice, I opted to continue taking my lithium. Advice like that can kill people and shouldn’t be attempted without doctor’s supervision.

Even in Jesus’ day people went to the doctor. Jesus made doctors for a reason. Yet, I also think that there are some things that modern medicine just can’t cure… some things require more than taking two pills and calling somebody in the morning.

I have been taking lithium since 1997. I’d had to leave the mission field because my mental health and my life had completely fallen apart. I kept crying out to God and instead of  him just doing some mojo on me and healing me overnight, he sent me to Daly City, California to the North County Mental Health Center. I KNOW God sent me there. His guidance was so evident it might as well have been written on the wall. When they diagnosed me as having Bipolar Disorder, it was as if somebody had turned a light on in my darkness. A doctor might have prescribed the meds, but it was God who turned on the light.

Lithium, however, wasn’t a panacea and it wasn’t easy. I was underweight due to the trauma of the mission field, but when I went on the lithium my weight ballooned from 138lbs to 215. I had severe hand tremors and my coordination was so off I had difficulty walking straight. I was dizzy when I walked and things just seemed off. It also affected my menstrual cycle.  I bled non-stop from February to July. Heavy.

I was weak and had an unbelievable craving for red meat because I was anemic. After work I’d stop off at the restaurant near my house and order steak. Turns out the lithium had affected my thyroid which was the cause of the bleeding. I didn’t immediately find out because I hated going to the doctor and I was too embarrassed and afraid. All that bleeding surely meant I was dying. My friend forced me to go to the doctor and they put me on a thyroid medication. The bleedin’ thing settled down and the weight dropped a bit, but over the years I’ve still been dealing with lithium side effects.

I wouldn’t be seeing the therapist tomorrow if it weren’t for the latest round of side effects. When they found out that I had high blood pressure my doctor put me on some new meds. Immediately I felt horrible and wanted to stop, but he encouraged me to tough it out. It got so bad that I couldn’t function well enough to safely drive to work!  At first, I was driving to work impaired until I found out that, if stopped, I could be charged with a DUI since I knew the meds were impairing my driving.

I decided to take myself off the meds without consulting my doctor. Not the wisest thing to do, I know… but nobody should voluntarily have to feel that bad. A week after going off the meds  I felt better. Turns out the new meds caused my lithium levels to spike. After a trip to the emergency room and a bunch of drama, my lithium dosage was lowered and I was taken off of that other medication completely.

Things appeared to be fine until I started having chest pains a few months ago. Even when I thought that I might be having a heart attack, I didn’t want to go to the doctor. I got my notebook out and I hand wrote my will and then I prayed! I’m nothing if not overly dramatic. I was sure I was going to die… but God knows that despite all my years of suicidal episodes, I don’t really want to die. I never have. I especially didn’t want to die of a heart attack.

Knowing this, God had already made an appointment for me with my new doctor. I had one scheduled for two days later for an unrelated matter. I wouldn’t have gone to see her for the chest pains alone, but when I mentioned them to her they took center stage. I ended up hooked up to all kinds of machines and given nitroglycerine pills! She scheduled a stress test where they found an irregularity in my heart beat. I hadn’t had a heart attack, but after consulting with a cardiologist, they said that my long term lithium use was creating heart problems for me that should go away once I stopped taking the lithium.

Change.

As troublesome as lithium has been over the years, it had changed my life. Before I went on the lithium my life was totally unmanageable. It has been that safety net to catch me when nothing and nobody else could. I have had so many well meaning people try to diagnose what is wrong with me… telling me that all I needed to do is have more faith or joy or trust or hope… none of which come in pill form. I do believe, without doubt, that without the lithium I’d be dead now. So going off it, while necessary, isn’t easy. I knew back in September of last year that I needed to go off it, but I wasn’t ready. Now I don’t have a choice.

Tomorrow I need to advocate for myself with this new therapist, so that I don’t end up another casualty of Big Pharma. I do not support taking meds just for the sake of taking medication. There are some things that only God can heal. There are some things that ail me that are the result of cognitive dissonance — when you’re doing things that contradict with what you truly believe, you create stress and drama for yourself. That LOOKS like mental illness, but is really the effects of unchecked and unconfessed sin in your life. You can throw all the meds you want at those kind of problems, but they aren’t going to go away until you confront the sin in your life and confess it.

This new therapist, without even meeting me, told me in our first phone consultation after my stress test irregularity that I could switch over to Abilify,  without knowing my history or even why I was on the lithium. She might as well have been telling me to “plead the blood of Jesus” because her advice was well meaning, but soul crushing. Go off the lithium and go on a new medication with all the possible side effects??! I said that I wasn’t ready. Since the next open appointment would be two months later, I had time to think.

Two months is up tomorrow. I’ve read up on Abilify and I do not like what I read. All those side effects that I just got over dealing with? They are all side effects of Abilify!! I just left all of that behind me. I am not willingly going back. When we met,  she did lower my lithium to the lowest level I’ve ever been on and, ironically, I feel better than I have in years, even with all of my physical health problems. I know long term lithium use is bad for my heart. I know that I have to get off this medication, but I will not be pressured into taking something that is already making me uneasy. God has lead me this far. I’m ok with this change. I just need better alternatives. For the first time in my life,  I’m not going into a counseling appointment in crisis. I’m clear headed and I’ve done my research. It will not be easy to hard sell me on this popular, much-prescribed drug.

Funny, I always feared that lithium would rob me of my creativity… that my writing would suffer if I took this “jagged little pill.” In the beginning, I didn’t want to take it for that reason alone. Now that it looks like I’ve reached another fork in the road, it will be interesting to see what God puts on my heart to write. Maybe the meds made my flamboyant creativity quiet down a bit over the years, but the music in me has not died. I know this post sounds like I might be a heathen to all those proponents of faith healing… but I really would appreciate prayer for this appointment and that God’s will would prevail.

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