The Adventures of Bipolar Girl

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Unbreakable

Some people are going to read this post… and watch the video that I’ve attached and think that I’m in crisis.
I’m not.

I’m in a good place, but when you have Bipolar Disorder, even a good place can cause emotions to bottle up and need an outlet.

I played this clip because I needed to cry.

I wasn’t crying. I just knew that I needed to.

There are times when my emotions become so BIG that I need to hit the safety valve that allows me to release the emotions  in a way where I don’t get caught up in them and swept away. That’s what having Bipolar used to be like for me…. feeling like my entire world an I was going to get swept away by emotions that I couldn’t control…or sucked into something akin to a black hole. I was an emotional black hole. One minute I am there… and then my world tilts on its axis and I’ve gone into that black hole taking not only myself, but anything and anyone near me. I used to lose a lot of friends back in the day because being sucked into an emotional black hole is never fun for anybody. I was broken and I needed to be unbreakable.

This song talks about being “unbreakable” and how life didn’t follow the plan… how things “should have worked themselves out by now.”  I could have written that song. I used to have this grand plan for my life that got derailed when the Bipolar manifested. The world says that there are things we’re “supposed to do” at different stages of our lives that I missed out on doing because I was so mental. I was too mental to appreciate being in my sorority or my solo backpacking trip through Europe. I was too mental to fully embrace my time as a missionary. I was too mental to have really real and healthy relationships.

When I reached my 30s, I looked back at my 20s and ticked off all the things on my mental To Do list that I hadn’t done. I felt like a loser. When I turned 40, I looked back at my 30s and the “Failed” To Do list was even longer. I didn’t have the handsome husband named Todd or Scott. I didn’t have the 1.5 children, the house, or the dog. I’d convinced myself that I didn’t want all of that… that I would sail the world on the Mercy Ships as a missionary for Jesus. But at 30, I didn’t have that either. Instead, I’ve had “roadblocks, detours, and landmines.” I have felt like a loser most of my life. I felt like I failed at being a Christian.

Instead of immediate deliverance from all of my trials, God had told me to “consider it pure joy… whenever I faced trials of many kinds because the testing of [my] faith develops perseverance.” And that “perseverance must finish its work so that [I might] be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” Well, I’m pushing 50 and for the first time in my life I am not feeling breakable. I have been broken…

and the breaking hurt.
The healing wasn’t all that cherry either.

But I am healed because I AM healed me.

I am coming into my own; becoming the woman that God designed me to be; using the gifts and abilities that he gave me…to do the work that he prepared in advance for me to do. It’s amazing and I’m amazed at all that God is doing in me and through me. Some of it has been hard. “Mature pruning” they call it. That’s when a perfectly healthy plant needs to be pruned back in order to bear more fruit. Pruning sucks, but it’s necessary. Jesus is telling me to use my words and in doing so, he has pruned some relationships out of my life. I’ve blogged a bit about work and how God is giving me a boldness there to speak the truth in love. I was afraid, but I stepped out anyway and the fruit has been incredible. I thought God was pruning me out of a job, but instead the fruit has been swift and unbelievable. The spiritual warfare has also been swift and unbelievable. If I hadn’t been prepared for it, it would have overwhelmed me. It would have broken me.

There have also been challenges in my personal life that would have left me in a heap of trembling nerves and broken pieces in the past. These challenges came in out of left field. I didn’t see the detours or the landmines, but God did. And Jesus has told me use my words. He is pruning some relationships out of my life and while it is painful, the resulting fruit is going to be mind blowing. I have been writing letter this past week. Letters that “say what I need to say…” things that should have been said long ago, but weren’t. Fear had kept me silent, but Jesus is telling me to be bold. The timid little creature that I used to be is learning to own her identify and her voice.

My life is SO exciting right now because God is in control of the space craft. I’m no longer insisting on doing His plans MY way. I’m not asking him to rubber stamp my ideas, even if it means dying to some of my dreams. As I near the end of my 40s, it would be really easy to look back over the past decade and see my life for the train wreck that it was, but that would be to ignore how God has woven in all of those details to make me me. And the me that I am now is making up for lost time. And to do that, I had to die to a dream. I thought it was what I wanted… but it was a dream birthed in fear; out of a need to escape and be somewhere else. Anywhere but here living a life other than my own. Dying to a dream is also hard. It created more emotion that needed an outlet.

Yeah, I watched that clip a few times and allowed myself to cry. All that letter writing has caused me to hold my breath and clinch my muscles as I wait for the fall out of speaking up boldly. I realized that I’ve been expecting the worst because past experiences taught me to do so… but God is not bound by my past experiences and neither am I. I’m not crying now and I feel better, though I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t a little bit afraid.

Thing is… I’m no longer a slave to fear. Some fear is normal and healthy. I need that kind of fear. That kind of fear kept Bipolar Girl alive during her more reckless manic phases. The fear that I’ve been walking through this past week was thick enough to choke a horse… but it wasn’t enough to stop me from saying what needed to be said. In love. And that’s why I cried tonight. I had to speak the truth in love and it was hard. I wasn’t crying because I was breaking. Yet, to look at me, you wouldn’t have been able to tell, since I was bawling like a baby. But it was a controlled cry, much like the controlled burns firefighters do. I watched the clip three times in succession and cried throughout. And now I’m good. God is good. I still have a few more letters to write, but since God gifted me as a writer, there will ALWAYS be letters to write. I need to accept that and move on.

Personally, I like the warm fuzzy little encouraging note cards that he prompts me to write. I bought a huge box of them from Target. They are bright and cheerful colors and fun to write. THOSE are WAY more fun to write. My letters have the potential to piss people off. Nobody likes to be rebuked or admonished and I’ve had to do that in letters at work and in my personal life causing tonight’s emotional overload. If I hadn’t found a safe way to release the tension I might have ended up breaking, but I know this about me now, thus the need for a “controlled cry.” I can only cry for as long as I listen to the song. Once I’m done, the crying needs to stop.

Once the controlled cry was over, I felt like writing about it because somewhere, out there, somebody else feels like they are breaking; that they are an emotional black hole waiting to suck people in. While the controlled cry is a good tool… it doesn’t have the power to save you or fix your life. Take heart. Turn to Jesus. Tell him all your hurts and your pains. Tell him all about what happened to make you so breakable. He might not make all your problems magically disappear. Things might even get worse. And I can’t guarantee that well meaning Christians won’t say stupid stuff to you in an attempt to “comfort”… but I can tell you that God will be with you every step of the way. He sees you and he knows exactly where you are. You are not alone. He will not allow you to be broken beyond what you can bear. All you have to do is keep your eyes on Him and surrender your life to His plan. Your life will never be the same. It took me a few decades to get the point, but now that I have, I wish somebody had told me this back in my 20s. But like I said… now that I’m pushing 50, I’m going to start making up for lost time because following His plan for my life is WAY more fun…

The Gift

On Sunday a woman comes up to me in church
and says that she is doing a project
and she wants to involve me in it.
She does hula at church and I was
both surprised and intrigued.

I thought she wanted me to write
something… or to say something.
I thought wrong.

Hula is not part of my cultural make-up
I tried it once… and sucked.
but it didn’t sound like she
wanted me to dance though…
so I said that I’d do it.

Today I went to her home
to practice… whatever it
was we were going to do…
but before going, I pulled
out a new spiral bound
memo book…
The kind I keep in my
back pocket to record
things I don’t want to
forget.

On the cover I had paraphrased
a scripture: “Many are the
plans in a man’s heart,
but the Lord determines
his course.”

And then proceeded to write
down MY plan for the day.
If I’ve learned anything from
my 73 days discontinuing the
lithium….

It’s that there’s nothing wrong with making plans. That doesn’t mean I trust God any less because I am not living by the seat of my size 16s. It means I’m using the organizational skills that he has given me to maximize how I use my time for him and his glory. There’s no sin in that kind of planning. But this is different than the planning I did when I was back in college and made my fatal mistake. Back then I thought I knew Jesus… but what I didn’t realize was that there’s a difference between actually KNOWING him and knowing OF him. The people who actually KNOW Jesus start to grow in the knowledge of him and start to become transformed into his image. They do not stay the stay the same year after year. That’s part of the way you might get a glimpse of people who actually know him… because it is impossible to walk with Jesus and stay exactly the same that you were on the day you met him. That’s stagnation and there’s nothing about knowing Jesus or Jesus, himself, that is stagnant.

I’ve been rereading through some of my old journals… I’m talking about the handwritten ones that go back over a decades. I didn’t realize JUST how much I’ve been changing until I started rereading those entries. In college, I determined that if God’s plan didn’t line up with MY plans… then I didn’t want him. At least, that’s what I believed at Berkeley just before I became an atheist. After that… I started devising grand plans for what I wanted out of life which would have been great if Bipolar hadn’t manifested my second year. My plans started crumbling like so many sandcastles being kicked over by kids on a beach. The more my plans fell through, the less I wanted to acknowledge the truth: that it is never, has never, and will never be about me and my plans.

Oh, I can have my plans. God does not have a problem with my planning. He has a problem with my attitude. If my plans own me… then they’ve become an idol. A false god who cannot save. Plans, in and of themselves, are not evil… I just have to hold them loosely in case God has a different plan. I have to acknowledge God in all that I do. I have to submit my life and my plans to him, because he’s living HIS life through me. The journey I went on at the end of the year as I discontinued the lithium convinced me of that… and I am seeing so much of my life being transformed. So… when I left the house today I was holding my plans before me, offering them to God rather than asking him to get on board and bless them.

What HE had planned was SO much more amazing than anything I could have come up with — I still don’t quite know what hit me. This is something that I’m going to have to talk to HIM about first before I blog it here, but I don’t want to forget and I can’t let the day end without saying something to remind me that God has brought me safe thus far.  Today, God gave me a gift that was answer to prayer… and yet so totally unexpected: 

If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! Matthew 7:11

I had asked God to make me a part of something larger than myself and was expecting some sort of calling or a cause... instead, he led me to a person . Or rather, he led her to me. The woman who asked me to join her vision… I don’t know if this is the right term to use for her, but it was fairly flashing in my mind… I had to look it up, so I hope it conveys all the respect and admiration I feel for her. God gave me time to spend with a Kupuna and I walked away from the experience changed.

If you are like me, you have no idea what “Kupuna” means. I’ve lived in Hawaii for some 20 years and still my grasp of the language is limited to a handful of useful words like: mahalo, aloha, pau, puka, ono, kalua pork, and kokua. When I really want to impress people I pull out the big guns: mele kalikimaka and humuhumunukunukuāpuaʻa (try saying THAT 10 times fast). I might not have known what “Kapuna” meant... but I knew that God had gifted me with a rare gift and I’d be an idiot if I don’t write this down somewhere. Much of today is going to go in my private journal where it will take root and begin to bear fruit. I can see some of the fruit now and it’s HUGE…  this was GOOD SOIL stuff, and the harvest is coming. I know it sounds melodramatic… but I feel like from this moment on, my life is going to be forever changed.

I need to ponder the events of today. I will write more on the weekend because I do not have the words tonight. God is helping me find my voice. For now? I think I need to include something to put my future posts in context. I found this meaning of “Kupuna” and even the definition resonates with me:

Throughout Hawai’i, this Hawaiian word is widely understood to mean elder, grandparent or an older person. What is less recognized is the fact that the word has at least three distinct, but related meanings. First, a “kupuna” is an honored elder who has acquired enough life experience to become a family and community leader. The term has been stated to be the embodiment of natural respect . . . . a practitioner of aloha (love), pono (righteousness), malama (caring), and spirituality. In ancient times, they were teachers and caretakers of grandchildren and that bond was especially strong. Even today, the kupuna is expected to speak out and help make decisions on important issues for both the family and the community.

So for now… I’m not going to dissect the gift. I’m just going to thank the Giver and be still.

 

Jesse and Trucker: A Celebration of Lives

The week two mothers laid their sons to rest. By all accounts… they died “too young.” Of course, there were many other mothers the world over who laid their sons to rest… and while I’m sad for them, I grieve for these two moms because they are not nameless, faceless people somewhere… out there.

Their paths intersected with “The Adventures”  and they became a part of my story… or I became a part of theirs. Then again, since they both know Jesus, I think it’s safe to say that they’d agree that we were all a part of HIS story. And while I don’t like that either of these mothers is grieving the death of her son… I know that they both have unwavering faith in God’s love for their sons and they thank him for their lives.

Tonight they held a “celebration of life” for Jesse Fisher. His story did not break the internet. There was no international campaign to save his life. He died quietly in his sleep in Japan where he lived and worked as a teacher. I’d never actually met Jesse. I know his mom. She is a dear dear friend. Over the years that I’ve known her she has shared so many Jesse stories that I was as shocked as anybody who knew him when I found out that he’d died. He was only 29 or 30. Surely, he had a lot of life left to live. Watching his mother walk through her grief this past month has been a lesson in faith. First, she needed to get her boy home. He died in a Japan away from his family but following his heart. They cremated him in Japan after a very modest and respectful ceremony attended by a few friends. A decorative box with some of his bones was brought back to the states by a friend. It was that box that sat prominently on a table next to a large picture of him, surrounded by his instruments — he was a talented musician from a family of talented musicians.

The entire celebration was quiet and dignified like my friend. There was a really long Hawaiian chant and a bunch of hymns. I’m not normally a hymn person, but I was moved by the songs my friend and her husband chose to celebrate the life of their only son. A old gentleman shared a moving sentiment about how Jesse had impacted the lives of many of the people there. I realized that though I had never met him, he’d impacted my life as well because he is what made my friend the lovely woman that she is. Being his mother was her world. Watching her today remembering him; hearing people talk about him and the life that he had lived; and knowing that my friend and her husband believe, without doubt, that he merely exited this life to walk into the next made me feel a part of something bigger than myself.

Watching the people pick up handfuls of dirt to through into the small hole that housed the box with his remains in it was sad… but on another level it was so much more. As the only adult son of two older parents, any hopes of grandchildren for my friend died with him. My friend and her husband would have made great grandparents… but as I looked at Jesse’s young friends standing together singing a song in memory of their friend, I thought about my friend’s desire to come along side of them and help them through this time. She wants to give back to them because of all that he gave to her. In the service the celebrant commented that from death there comes life. That is the way of things. The celebrant also challenged people to look at their lives and how they live it. I KNOW that my friend has been rethinking her life and it’s direction since he passed. I also know that she has been drawn into a deeper relationship with her husband and with the Lord. They are both expecting to see abundant life as a result of this tragedy and not in spite of it.

It’s weird. Two celebrations of life this week: one I couldn’t bear to go to and another I couldn’t stay away from. I had to go to Jesse’s funeral because I love his mother and I care deeply for her. There is nowhere else I would rather have been today. Earlier this week, they laid three year old Trucker Dukes to rest and I couldn’t bring myself to make the drive to the other side of the island to go pay my respects. I only know the family peripherally. We used to attend the same church. Since it was a small church, they know who I am… and they were always nice to me… but we didn’t run in the same circles.  When Trucker first got sick I reached out to the mom and continue to pray and support them as I could. And I wouldn’t just pray for his healing. I would pray  for his future. I would pray for things like his first speeding ticket… and his break up with his first girlfriend. I’d pray for his high school and college graduations and other milestones in a life that had yet to be lived. I even tried to bargain with God… to get him to trade my life for Trucker’s because so much of my life has been spent trying to figure out how to end it, why not trade it forward for somebody who had so much to live for??

Two sons. Two mothers. Two lives cut short and two families forever changed. The one thing that has not changed… will not change is the love and faith that they place in God and in his sovereign plan. I’m sure there are people who knew both Jesse and Trucker who want to rail at God for cutting those lives so short. There are people who do not understand  or even believe in God so the deaths of these two sons will only fuel some people’s anger at a God they neither believe in nor worship. None of this, however, will affect these two mothers. Their faith through all of this was as bright and shining as any beacon. From start to finish, Jesse’s celebration of life was a celebration of a life lived in Christ and I’m fairly sure that the celebration for Trucker would have been the same.

I told my friend that I would leave my cell phone on tonight in case she needed to talk… or to pray… or to just have another voice on the other end of the phone. The celebrant pointed out that after any big life event that required a lot of planning, but especially a time like this… the parents… the family… and the people who loved him would need a net that was made up collectively of all the people who cared about him. Both Jesse and Trucker’s families need a net right now. People all around the world rallied around Trucker and his family during his struggle with neuroblastoma. Trucker’s supporters are going to need a huge net because so many people came to care so much for this little legend. And up  until now, I’ve only been seeing Jesse’s death through the eyes of my friend. Today I got to see a small glimpse of how his life impacted so many people from so many different cultures and countries — young and old, and all of them are going to need a net.

And while I think it’s great that people come together at such a time as this, I can’t help but want people to look towards the one person who doesn’t need a net because he is our net. Jesse and Trucker were both born and they both died young. They both lived lives richly loved by two very different mothers who worship and serve the same God. And God has words to comfort and to catch people at times like this that should be the under-girding of any net:

Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. 14 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15 According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.” 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

In memory of Jesse Fisher and Trucker Dukes. Please continue to encourage and support the families, friends, and loved ones through prayers and other practical acts of love.

In His grip.

Thanksgiving for Thursday: Yesterday

Yesterday in class we were reading a story about black holes. Scientist largely believe they exist, not because they can PROVE their existence, but because of what the story called “informed guesswork.” Out of NOWHERE one of my students (a skeptic) asked about people in other countries who had never heard about Jesus… how, then, were they to be “saved” since we cannot PROVE God’s existence and they had never heard of him in the first place. This student wanted to know if I thought they would go to heaven or hell. Honestly? I think he was trying to trip me up. He certainly wasn’t expecting the answer that I gave… and, honestly, neither was I.

The discussion that followed was EPIC. I hadn’t started this line of discussion but I wasn’t opposed to continuing it. I wasn’t trying to shove the gospel down the throat of somebody who wasn’t interested. He had asked a legitimate question and I was able to use scripture to give a legitimate answer without bashing him over the head with the Bible. He was asking me what I believed and I did what scripture tells us to do in such instances: I had a “ready defense” for what I. believe.

…based on what is revealed in God’s word.

In order to do that… I needed to KNOW what God’s Word actually says. I didn’t rely on the current Christianese sound-bytes. I didn’t pull scriptures out of context and try to apply them like band-aids. I didn’t go all warm and fuzzy “seeker sensitive.” No bible bashing. No smelly “I’m better than you are because I’m SAVED” behavior. This kind of self-righteous attitude would have turned him off and closed his ears. It would also have closed the ears of the other students who were listening.

Too often, Christians try to answer questions that non-Christians simply aren’t asking. They get on their religious high horses and go all Commando Christian on them. Then they wonder why non-Christians don’t like us. If I wasn’t already a Christian, I wouldn’t like us either after some of the things that I’ve seen. It’s not about arguing over who’s “right” and who’s “wrong.” It’s a question of what does God’s Word actually say and how I communicate that Truth to the world. It’s about actually being a disciple of Jesus before I rush out into the world trying to make disciples out of people by trying to get all the non-believing people to think and act like me. If I want people to buy it, I need to be walking it. Otherwise, it just looks like another flavor of Cool-Aid that nobody wants to drink.

A student me asked a legitimate question and God enabled me to answer him (through His Word) in a way that has left the door WIDE open for more of his legitimate questions. I’m at home today taking a day of rest. If I’m going to have a ready defense for what I believe… I need to prepare. I’ve been rereading my journals from the past 20 years in remembrance of all that God has done for me. I’ve been seeking his face in his Word and I’ve been praising his name with the help of YouTube videos. Contemporary worship is cool… but my soul resonates with the songs that I sang when I first met the Lord in the ’90s. Those songs hold power… gut level memories of all that he has brought me through… because those songs helped keep my eyes focused on him when I was tempted to give up. Oh, what a Savior, indeed.

Once upon a time I was just like my student… skeptical and full of questions. Over the years I tried asking those questions, but nobody seemed able or willing to answer the questions that I was actually asking. They kept giving me answers to questions I wasn’t asking in an attempt to make me a “better Christian” and I kept getting hurt and more confused in the process. And in the process, I became distrustful and guarded and my faith went from lukewarm to barely existing. But I never stopped asking questions and I never gave up on seeking God. Though everything around me… all the problems in my life cried out that he was false and that I should curse him and be done with it… I persevered in my faith and in my questions.

I am thankful that God ALWAYS hears my questions and never condemns me for asking them. It was because I questioned the existence of God back in my 20s that I found the truth in Jesus. It is because I questioned God’s goodness and his deliverance that I am walking in his goodness and deliverance now. God wants his truth to permeate my mind as well as my heart. Faith that resides exclusively in either place is unbalanced and easily shaken. I needed God to give me enough truth “to satisfy my intellectual curiosity” as well as to minister to my broken spirit. This is my prayer for my student. I pray that he would never stop asking questions… and that God would answer all of them.
*Snoopy dance in progress!!

Thanksgiving on Thursday Meets TMI Tuesday

When things are pressing in on me it’s often difficult to see the positive which is why blogging is so important for me. It forces me to seek evidence of God’s presence in my life. Makes you wonder why I’m still struggling to blog everyday. I didn’t want to let all the stress (professionally and personally) stop me from pausing to give God thanks today… because I have SO many things to be thankful for that I could easily keep going and going and going like the Energizer Bunny. I’ve decided to keep my focus tonight really targeted because I still don’t feel like blogging right now. I’m tired and I want to wind down after a long day… but I also want to pause, take a breath, and give thanks for five specific things. And not just any old things either. Each of these areas used to be areas of  grief or pain for me and in the past few months I’ve seen God turn these things around, so that my mourning truly has been turned to dancing. At the Worship Night on Monday I was SO happy to be able to stand and praise the Lord that I couldn’t stop myself from dancing as I sang. It didn’t matter that I was in a room full of people… I just had to give thanks.

Today is March 2nd and I am truly thankful for…

  1. Sound Sleep –  A few months ago the bones in my left leg hurt so badly it hurt to sleep on my left side. It pretty much hurt to move my left leg because of the pain from my hip to my knee. But sleeping on my right side caused the pain in my right foot to flare up so that I couldn’t walk on it in the morning… and when I sleep on my back I start to feel like I can’t breathe and start feeling like I’m suffocating. I was getting little or no sleep. I was down to about 4-5 non-consecutive hours and I wasn’t happy. I didn’t even want to try to go to sleep because it seemed so pointless. I have had to make some environmental changes (orthodics for my shoes; recovery sandals; special seat cushions for my car…) and while I still have pain, it is NOTHING NEAR what it used to be.  The other night I got 8.5 solid hours of sleep. I also no longer wake up ever other hour to go to the bathroom!!! I have not slept this soundly in my entire adult life!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  2. Less Bone Pain – The bones in my hands do not hurt like they used to hurt. I can type without pain and it doesn’t hurt to move my hands in the morning. The pain in my neck has improved and I can turn my head with only minimal pain. The bones in my feet still hurt… but again, not anything like before thanks to my Oofos and the orthodics. I’ve been taking glucosamine and vitamin B complex and vitamin D. I’ve completely changed the way that I eat. I’ve gone down a pants size which means less weight on my joints and less strain on my bones. I am still having trouble walking distances… but I am convinced that this is a momentary thing. I’m going to walk pain free until the time that God lets me run.
  3. Dental Drama – That botched root canal of 2012 still pains me, but my current dentist did something at my last visit that made the pain bearable. I haven’t had to live on Tylenol and Advil to cope with the daily pain. The jaw pain and the headaches that seemed to go with the flare ups seem to be a thing of the past. I always hated my smile because I’ve got funky teeth. When I had to deal with the pain on top of that I hated my smile and I hated my teeth. Now I can’t contain my smile and I don’t care what my teeth look like.
  4. I’m Just a REGULAR Girl: It goes without saying that I am BEYOND stoked that I haven’t had any problems with what used to be chronic/daily acid reflux and irritable bowel syndrome. Not having really bad bloating and cramping and daily diarrhea makes the world look a WHOLE lot better to me. I’m not exhausted like I used to be and my innards don’t hurt. I don’t have to choke down famotadine, anti-diarrheals, or any over OTC remedies for all the stuff that used to ail me.
  5. Stressed to the Max: I am dealing with a lot of stress and I’m ok. I’m not depressed and I’m nowhere NEAR suicidal. I’m not rushing to isolate myself in the Bipolar Bubble and I’m not deluding myself by thinking that I can fix any of this. I am trying to be still so that I can hear God and I’m trying to faithfully follow his leading.
  6. Ok… one more: I am SO glad that I no longer live in Critter Country. I don’t have to get up every morning and sweep up piles of dead termites. I no longer have to dash for the can of raid to spray the obligatory centipede that was slithering along on my floor. There are no cane spiders or scorpions to smash or to run from. The creepy landlord and the passive aggressive neighbors are gone. I no longer have to drive to work in a car that scares the crap out of me. My home is quiet and filled with peace. I am not actively struggling with porn. I have space to live and to breathe and to just be me. I am no longer living beyond my means in a pretty house that I really couldn’t afford. Work is great even with the stress. My personal life is great even with the stress. I am not isolated or alone. I may not have all the answers to how to solve my current problems… but nobody is expecting me to.  There are more people in my life than there’s ever been… and I’m ok with that.

Technically, this was more than five (but who’s counting??) Like I said… I could go on, but I won’t. Some of these may be repeats of last week… but that just proves how truly grateful I am.

This is the day (March 2nd) that the Lord made and I will rejoice and be glad in it.

Return from the Valley of the Damned

 

Wisdom for Wednesday (WW: 3-1-17)

There has been so much going on
with me, both professionally
and personally
that I’ve been feeling overwhelmed.
I haven’t blogged because I
wasn’t at liberty to go into details.
I’m still not…
but remaining silent is
creating that tension in me
that has to give…

 I’m reminded that my
whole reason for blogging
in the first place
is to have a record of what
God is doing in my life and
sometimes
it takes the very specific act
of trying to find the words…
that helps me to actually see
God in the midst of storms.

I was teaching my third period class when the dark clouds just rolled in. My class looks out towards the ocean
and one minute we were looking out at a clear sky and then the very next moment, very low, very dark, and very thick clouds rolled in. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like it before. And then a moment after that it was pouring raining. The clouds were so thick and low that they completely obscured our regular view. Normally, we have quite the panorama. We see most of the central valley of the island from my window. A student asked me if it was raining in town — since we couldn’t even see town, I told her that rain was pretty certain.

And that’s how the fear rolled in on me
this past week.
A week ago I was enjoying
my time in the sun.
I’d been asked to share at
church and from all accounts,
people were touched or inspired
by my words.
(*Remember, false modesty
is like a pair of really rank socks —
people can smell it a mile away,
so why bother?
Accept the compliments
and say, “Thank you.”)

A week after speaking at church
I got to do a training for staff at work
and, from all accounts,
my presentation was dubbed
“the best training that people
had ever been to” or that it had been
inspiring enough to bring people
to tears. (Personally, I don’t see
how it had that effect… but I’m not
going to argue the point).

So how does praise like that not go to your head?

People are still talking about the training.
I also read a portion of my letter to the assembled
student body and I had students commending
me after the  and they are a tough crowd.

So there I was all intent on resting on my
laurel crown(ed) when the bottom dropped
out of my world and I didn’t know what to do.

*Correction: I didn’t like how I was feeling… but I knew what to do.

First, I prayed because I was hit by a wall of
emotion that I couldn’t identify and I knew that
only Jesus could help me.
Then I sent up a prayer flare: an email
where I asked my closest friends to pray
for me. Then I emailed the pastor and asked
him to get church folks to pray because I was
pretty certain that all of this was
in direct response to the work
I’ve been seeing God do
at my school.

I took my last lithium tablet on Christmas. So I’ve been flying without my safety net for just over two months. After 20 years of relying on my meds, I was being hit by my first big tsunami sized wave of a trial and, for once, I wasn’t worrying about my mental health. Not once in the past week did I think I was going to morph into my altered ego,
Bipolar Girl. I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect… but I knew that whatever was coming… I couldn’t handle it alone.

So I’ve been casting my anxieties to God
because I know that he cares for me.
Monday night I went to Worship Night
on the other side of the island and it
was awesome. God was awesome.
I knew, in no uncertain terms,
the the struggle I was facing
was not against flesh and blood
no matter what people in my life,
both professionally and personally,
were doing.

The amazing part… the mental health
miracle… is that with all of this stuff
going down (in both my professional
and personal lives) I have been rising
to the top of my game as a teacher.
Despite the emotional turmoil
I am giving Jesus my everything
when I go into my classroom
and the fruit that I am seeing
is unbelievable.

I’ve been asking God for wisdom
to know how to handle the current storm.
He answered me in the bathroom
stall this morning before lunch.
God sure knows how to pick
his moments.

For the past week I’ve been
struggling under the weight
of an emotion that I couldn’t
identify. Today he showed me
that I was afraid. Given that
my middle name is “Much Afraid”
one would think that I would’ve
identified that emotion
as soon as I smelt it…

But this fear was different.
Yes, I have been afraid
from the past week…
but the fear hasn’t stopped me.
It hasn’t owned me.
It isn’t controlling me.
It’s not forcing me to seek
refuge behind the impenetrable
walls of the Bipolar Bubble.

fear

I have always seen fear as weakness
and since I’ve got a list of phobias
long enough to write a DSM-7-10
I felt very very weak
and I have always loathed
that aspect of me.

Today I realized
the truth of God’s word:

I was given a thorn in my flesh,
a messenger of Satan, to torment me.
 

Three times I pleaded with the Lord
to take it away from me.

But he said to me,
“My grace is sufficient for you,
for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

That is why, for Christ’s sake,
I delight in weaknesses, in insults,
in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.
For when I am weak,
then I am strong
2Corinthiams 12: 7-10

I showed somebody my manuscript on Sunday. He objected to the title. Surely, I couldn’t call it The Adventures of Bipolar Girl since God had clearly healed me of the Bipolar. I told him that I knew no such thing. God has enabled me to walk. He got me off the lithium and in doing so, I’ve seen a lot of my unresolved health issues go away… and I am currently neither depressed nor manic but I still have Bipolar Disorder. Some people object to labels like “Bipolar Girl,” but I’ve always believed that God said that his grace would be sufficient for me. I’ve begged him enough times over the years to take it away and he never did. Could he? Of course… but it’s because of my altered ego, that I am able to speak into the lives of people in ways that I never could were it not for my mental illness. I have found a strength in something that I have always seen as more of a curse than a “weakness.”

God did not give me Bipolar to curse me. It is not punishment for sin — mine or my parents. As I have walked this stormy beach with him he has comforted me and out of the overflow of the comfort that I have received, he is allowing me to comfort others. I am neither the first nor the last person to know the fears that can only come when your mind seems to be your greatest enemy. Jesus has helped me to overcome so much fear and bitterness and resentment and self-pity and anger… and rage. He’s not likely to stop now. I am no longer a victim of these cowardly imposters because my Jesus has given me the victory.

So today when I realized that the emotion that I’ve been feeling was fear... I also realized that I hadn’t recognized it because I wasn’t seeing it through the eyes of a voiceless victim. God has helped me own my voice these past few weeks and over these past few weeks I haven’t been afraid to use it. And then the storm came. It was like I was hit with  the equivalent of spiritual PTSD. Old fears of being hurt or rejected or persecuted hit me hard  and I’ve been afraid.

And therein lied the wisdom for today: I had to recognize the fear before I could do anything about it. I thought I was angry. I wasn’t. I was afraid. Anger is a secondary emotion pointing to a larger problem.

There is nothing wrong with admitting that you are afraid. Fear can be a healthy thing. It can keep you safe by warning you of danger. Ignoring healthy fear can be dangerous. When I am afraid of conflict, it is best for me to put my words on paper. I am so much bolder on paper than I am in person. I realized today that I need to admit my fear to the two people who are causing me to be afraid. Only thing is… at this point, I think I’m only supposed to write to them without knowing if I’m going to actually send the letters. Both of them have hurt me in the past and I slunk away saying nothing. I felt weak and stupid and broken. Neither of them meant to hurt me in the past (and I doubt their intention is to hurt me now)… but by slinking away I didn’t give God a chance to work.

Today in the bathroom stall I confessed to God that I was afraid. I had been trying to think about what to say as if the outcome depended on me… as if I needed to somehow get in there and fix things. The only way I have any strength at all when I am weak, is to admit my weakness and then trust God to work through it.

I need to write two letters that need to be rooted in what I have been feeling on a deep, gut level. To do this I usually loop John Mayer’s “Say What You Need to Say” and I just start typing until I have purged whatever emotions that have been weighing on my soul. Most of the letters that I write like this never see the light of day. They stay between me and God. I pour out the emotion and then pray. God has a way of sifting through that which I need to write and that which I actually need to say. In those occasions when I’m actually supposed to send the letter, I generally sleep on it and then edit it. I read it to a neutral third party because I never want to run ahead of God with my words. Once you put words on paper and it leaves your hand… you can’t ever take the words back. For better or for worse, they are out there.

Tonight I’m in not state to write any such letter. The realization of my fear is too new and too fresh. I know the minute I uncork that bottle the emotions are going to flow and it’s not time. Tonight it’s enough that I finally know what I am feeling. I didn’t have a clue, but God did. I believe that He is going to use my fear to change things because I have finally learned to own my voice. All too often, I’m only saying things that everybody else is thinking… but nobody else wants to say. And the only reason that I have ever spoken up in the past is because remaining silent had a negative impact on my mental health. I was the canary most likely to sing because my mental health depended on it.It was only when I was ready to implode that I generally dared to speak.

Not so today. I’m nowhere near imploding. I am happy, mentally stable, and productive. It is as if the light was suddenly turned on and I knew what to do. I kept asking God for wisdom, but it never would have come had I not only seen my weakness for what it is. I accepted the fact that when I am weak, then I am strong. In my weakness, I am going to be able to give voice to people who feel like they have no voice. When God finally does prompt me to speak up about all this, I will be ready and I will trust the outcome to him.

Friday Fun Fact: Food Edition

Today was a really busy day. I met with the Big Boss this morning to toss out some of my thoughts to him. It’s weird having this much  favor… he thinks my ideas are golden and continues to let me run with all of my ideas. He thinks I’d make a formidable opponent. I know it’s not me.  I know that the ideas are not mine. *Remember… it’s about God’s plan, not mine. Ever since I started following The Plan, my life started heading in a different (better) direction. But as I sit here falling asleep at the keyboard (and it’s only 8:56), I know that tonight is not the night for a lot of deep reflection. It’s the weekend and I have all the time. Tonight I need to go to sleep…  so here are my Friday Fun Facts:

  1. I love apple juice, apple pie, and apple pastries, but I hate apples.
  2. I love oranges, cuties, and tangerines, but orange juice gives me stomach aches.
  3. Cheese (of all kinds) is one of my favorite foods, but I am lactose intolerant.
  4. When I was a kid I used to make “Pink Piggy Pancakes” with red food coloring and a pancake recipe.
  5. Fish are pets. Not food…. so I don’t eat any kind of sea creature.
  6. Though I live on an island, I don’t eat fish, tropical fruit, or any kind of tropical drinks.
  7. The Melting Pot is one of my FAVORITE restaurants.
  8. I ate reindeer when I went to Norway as a teen. It did NOT taste like chicken.
  9. If it “tastes like chicken,” I think you should just eat chicken.
  10. My sisters and I used to play “Restaurant” as kids and I was the chef.

Thanksgiving Thursdays (2-23-17)

Things were hectic at work today. Last night more students got terminated from the program. While I honestly believe that God has been doing some really awesome things there… it’s impossible to ignore the fact that our student body has been taking some direct hits. My first period class was kinda’ shell shocked. It would be really easy to focus on the negative, but after decades of doing this, I’ve finally realized that not only doesn’t it work, but it generally makes things worse. SO it seems appropriate that on a day where it would be really easy to focus on the bad… I am going to go against the negative flow and thank the God who is STILL God even when things go wrong.

And since this is the first of my “Thanksgiving Thursday” posts, I need to set some ground rules. It’s a given that I’m thankful for Jesus and what he did for me on the cross. It should also go without saying (but I’ll say it anyway) that I am thankful to be alive, so I’m not going to mention those things. Anything I put on the list must’ve happened in the last 24 hours otherwise this could be a REALLY long list. I also need to be brief and specific without violating people’s privacy by mentioning anybody by name here.

 

I’m Thankful for/that:

  1. my ability to walk
  2. my pain isn’t as bad as it was
  3. my  housemate and her dog
  4. I have a quiet home that is critter free.
  5. I no longer have to live in fear of cane spiders et all
  6. my medication came in the mail before I completely ran out.
  7. I can see the ocean from my front windows.
  8. my commute to work has become pleasurable.
  9. the students in my first period class who laugh at all my jokes.
  10. people are signing the petition that I started at work.
  11. I have really good relationships with MOST people at work.
  12. the new kid in my second period class is really kinda wonderful
  13. the rash on my face that’s been there for YEARS is fading
  14. I had a really nice lunch with my favorite coworker
  15. my boss is so cool.
  16. I am off of the lithium
  17. my life is better BECAUSE I’m off the lithium
  18. my world feels so much more managable
  19. I got to help a student start applying for college
  20. my feet/legs don’t hurt as much as they used to
  21. I feel absolutely no dental pain in this moment
  22. I am warm.
  23. One of my students made 8.2 grade level gains today!!!
  24. I smiled more than I frowned today.
  25. my OOfoos.
  26. my friend EF and her husband
  27. I cooked a mean roast chicken w/yams, onions, and potatoes.
  28. I had another salad for lunch
  29. my eating has become SO much healthier.
  30. the cut on my hand which wouldn’t heal, finally closed up
  31. my neighborhood is absolutely SILENT right now.
  32. Post-It notes.
  33. I am peaceful
  34. a coworker gave me a Jamba Juice gift card as a thanks
  35. I’m not afraid or anxious or depressed
  36. I didn’t speak to any of my friends today… but I KNOW they love me.
  37. My hanai mom is going to read this line and smile…
  38. Whole Foods dinner tonight was yum-diggity
  39. We sang “Wanting Memories” in my third period class.
  40. We sounded great!
  41. my devotional book (Jesus Calling)
  42. Though the day started slowly, it is ending well.
  43. I’m going to send out an email asking for prayer — an people WILL pray.
  44. I got a chance to help a new friend.
  45. I got a chance to pray for an old friend.
  46. I just started watching “The Flash” on Netflix.
  47. I’m exhausted… but it’s a good tired and I earned it.
  48. I wore my new pants that are one size smaller
  49. I’m happy.
  50. I’m hopeful…

Return from the Valley of the Damned

 

Wisdom for Wednesday (2-22-17)

God has been giving me so many good days lately…
Days that aren’t completely devoid of problems…
I see my problems clearly. They’re just seeming
a lot less problematic than they were in the past.
God is allowing me to actually see that I am
overcoming my challenges rather than merely
hoping that I might.
And that
is what’s making
The difference.

I had the best time with all of my students today…
Teaching looks so different to me now. The learning
was electric and the laughter was infectious. I had a student
FINALLY achieve a goal that she’s been struggling to meet
for over a year. Another student came in to my class during
the break to comment on the letter I read yesterday– he clapped his hands up
in the air and said, “Bravo” only to catch himself and say, “Brava”
instead.
All of my classes
ran like finely oiled
machines and I
was the master
mechanic.

My troubles haven’t disappeared,
but they no longer occupy center stage
in my life because
I have so many other things, good things,
on which to focus… so that my problems
no longer seem quite so
problematic.

Getting to where I am was not easy.
There were days… months.. years…
where the adventure seemed to be less
of an adventure and more of a nightmare
from which there was no waking.
I used to pray that God would
just work some mojo and make my life
better
but he never did…
and as unbelievable as it sounds
I’m glad that he didn’t.

Were it not for everything that he’s walked
me through…
I would not be able to fully appreciate
where he’s brought me to thus far.
I wouldn’t have learned all the life
lessons along the way…
and I wouldn’t be the woman I am now
and after 48 years I finally like
the woman that I get to be now.

So what’s my “Wisdom for Wednesday?”

Let perseverance finish its work

finishline

TMI Tuesday #1: Not Really

Went to Monday Night Worship again last night —
and I drove. I had a friend praying shotgun and
we got there is one piece without any threat of
dying
untimely deaths in a fiery car crash.
I’m not known for driving at night… but
things changed once I got off the lithium.
I’ve been driving early mornings with
only minimal difficulty. So driving last night
was sort of a test.
I felt like God was prompting
me to do it… and like I said… I had a passenger
who was full of faith with prayers on the ready.

I didn’t know most of the songs last night…
but that was ok. I felt like I needed to pray
with and for people last night and got
to meet some really cool folks.
The room was packed and I was
fully ok.
Best of all, some of the YWAMers
were there. I got to pray with them
as well as ask them to pray about today…

What to say about today??
That presentation I gave last Friday?
I asked the Big Boss if I could read the
letter to the assembled student body.
It wasn’t the full training that I gave
on Friday… just the letter.

But before the end of the day could come…
I had to wade through a whole bunch of
shtuff that wasn’t expected and it wasn’t
at all easy to deal with. Since I stayed out
late last night… I thought I was going
to be a zombie
and zombies historically
don’t react well to last minute schedule
changes and other things flying in from
WAY out in left field.

But none of it – nothing– had the power
to rob me of my calm or my joy. I am
finally living my life by being the woman
that God has called me to be and things
are just seeming so effortless right now.
I took everything that came my way totally in my
stride. And the “even better part” is that I can’t
take any credit for it.
It was SO God.

The coolest thing? I got a call during class
there’d been some schedule malfunctions at
YWAM … and they wanted to know if I could use
more of the  YWAMers today. It was almost
like finding out that you were going to have
six more unexpected dinner guests at a wedding.

I wanted to be hospitable… but I wasn’t quite sure
what table to put them at or where I’d put
Aunt Gertrude after I did all my rearranging
of tables. Knowing me the way that I do…
there is NO WAY that I could have pulled
off that administrative miracle by myself.
It wasn’t perfect… but pretty danged close to it.

I had six groups going simultaneously. Each group had
at least three students and 1-2 tutors. There were several
new students who’d never done the tutoring before.
I incorporated all six of the new volunteers.
Sending some to work with our ELL class. There  was one
special needs student who I arranged to get one-on-one help.
My diploma students were working independently…
and I was on my feet the whole time circulating
to put out any sparks before they could become fires.
And neither my feet nor my legs hurt.

And at the end of the day when we had our
assembled campus meeting… the YWAMers
prayed for me. I knew they were praying for
me as I got up to speak. On Friday, I read
the letter and basically delivered a rebuke
and a challenge to all the staff who were
present… a call for people to start changing
their minds and their behaviors.

Today I read the letter to students and staff
because it was a teachable moment
that I wanted to have with the students
in order to be a peace maker
rather than a peace keeper.

What’s the difference?
A peace keeper will do whatever it takes in order to keep
the peace even if it means remaining silent because you
don’t want to rock the proverbial boat. You might
be a peace keeper because you are being abused
and you’re afraid to speak up… whatever the reason,
“peace keepers” fall short of the mark. There might
be peace… but at what cost?

Peace makers, on the other hand, are agents
of change. They are not content to keep their
mouths shut and watch the status quo steamroll
over people who cannot, for whatever reasons,
defend or speak up for themselves. Peace
makers aren’t afraid to speak; never bury
their heads in the sand; and might count
the cost to their own personal well-being,
but they aren’t afraid to pay the price.

Peace makers say what needs to be said
in love. They may not like conflict, but
they don’t run from it either. They engage
in non-violent protests and aren’t looking
out for “me first.” They understand that
love is a choice and a feeling. They do
what needs to be done…
even if that means dying on a cross
or bearing witness to one who did.

I’ve spent too many years being a peace
keeper and had no real or lasting peace.

At the worship night they said something
about looking at what we see in the mirror.
I realized that what I see in the mirror now
is the reflection of Christ in me, the hope of
glory. I used to be this timid little thing
afraid to rock the boat for fear of ending
up drowning in the water. Last night I got
a mental picture of what I see in the mirror
now and it made me smile…

cat-reflection

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