When I am most imbalanced, I have taken many dangerous and foolish risks.
Like driving 90 mph on the Interstate while reading a book and writing a review.
Like dodging traffic as I walked through city streets recording what I considered brilliant thoughts.
Like stuffing dozens of candy corn into my mouth until I couldn’t swallow or breathe.
Why would I do these things? When I am manic, I reply, “Why not?” When I am manic, I take on special powers; I can topple towers, read minds, and save souls. I have a direct line to God. I am God’s special child. God has ordained me to create peace, provide help for the helpless, hope for those in despair. When I am manic, I am on top of the world. Better yet, I am the top of the world.
But what goes up, must come down. And often the higher I go, the harder I fall.
I spent many months working 12+ hour days, writing feverishly, becoming embroiled in conflict, developing and carrying out rescue ministries without asking for support. Then, when I could sustained it no longer my mind told me to take handsful of pills and my body collapsed.
Emotional balance has kept me relatively sane. Regular sleep. Morning devotional time. Eating what my body needs, not what our mind craves. Movement/play that builds me up. Fellowship with people who care about me and keep me accountable. Some believe all I need to do is just try harder, push through the psychic pain, “fake it ’til you make it.’
Would you tell a person battling stage 4 cancer he should just pray harder to be healed?
Would you tell an amputee that her “phantom pain” isn’t real?
Would you tell a person with severe diabetes they can go off insulin and just eat fewer sweets?
Of course not.
To ask a person with a serious mental illness to just “stay balanced” is like telling a person with a broken leg to just get up and run a 3-minute mile. It may seem like a puny excuse, but someone with a serious mental illness has limitations others don’t have.
And yet, within the limits of our illness, there are things we can do or avoid doing to improve our mental health? I …
… walk alongside a Christian brother who encourages me when I am weak and keeps me humble when I am too full of my own strength.
… see a trained therapist who knows how to effectively treat my particular illness and respects the role of faith in my healing process.
… take religiously the medications my Board-approved psychiatrist or psychiatric nurse practitioner prescribes.
… engage in productive labor to regenerate my body, mind, and soul.
All the while I am doing these things I am praying and others are praying for me. Not to have some cataclysmic supernatural encounter with the Divine; not to achieve Nirvana, a mindful being, which is really no Being at all; not to live in the eternal Now where inner harmony always is.
I pray, others pray, and I encourage you to pray that we become like clay in the Potter’s hand, constantly being shaped for the best use we can be for the glory of God.