Suicide and Salvation

Not long ago, I took a leisurely stroll with a young friend along a "people path" in my neighborhood. We paused and watched some ducks circling the pond beyond the log fence. "Is suicide the unforgivable sin?" he asked. I was taken aback. I didn't know what to say or how to say it. I needed more time to formulate what the Bible says and doesn't say about the subject of suicide. But I couldn't wait to respond. He seemed urgent. I looked at his face, trying to read what he was saying  in the lines of his forehead."Why do you ask?" He turned away. "I have a friend who was the first person to share Christ with me.  Until about a month ago, I would say she had the strongest faith of anyone I know. Then suddenly she started doing strange things. One day, she scrubbed her church's [...]

Suicide and Salvation 2017-08-21T15:07:46+00:00

A Faithful Response to Mental Illness

I was first diagnosed with a mental illness in 1991. I told only my wife and one trusted friend. Four years later I had a manic/psychotic episode that essentially made it necessary for me to tell the members of the congregation I was serving. By God's grace, they responded with amazing love and tremendous support. I was given unlimited paid leave and told I could resume my work whenever I was ready. Women provided meals and childcare so my wife could visit me. An offering was taken to pay off the gigantic cost of health care. On the flip side, both my therapist and psychiatrist respected my faith and the role it played to promote healing in my life. They appreciated that I did not use my faith as an excuse to refuse medical treatment. They saw the two working hand-in-hand to guide me towards well-being. Certainly, there were [...]

A Faithful Response to Mental Illness 2017-08-17T13:17:18+00:00

The Promise and Perils of Pills

Some time ago a woman named Robin connected up with me on a Facebook group for writers. Robin is a free-lance author who writes for such publications as bp magazine, a periodical for those with bipolar disorder and those who care for them. bp is sort of like the BBC for those of us with mental illness looking for hope, education, and support. Robin asked if she could interview me for an article. My first response was "Wow." Just, "Wow." It's been several weeks now and we are set for a phone meeting on Wednesday. My "Wow," has turned to "Thanks," to Robin; and "Please help, Lord," that I might represent the Delight in Disorder mission well. Robin has given me the topic she wants to focus on in our interview... medication. I thought it would be good to share some initial thoughts with you, to best prepare. In [...]

The Promise and Perils of Pills 2017-08-14T23:31:45+00:00

Delight in Disorder: My Story, My Message, My Mission

My Story In 1995, I was a young, ambitious pastor serving a small village church.  One Sunday, I delivered a sermon on human illness and divine healing in which I shared these words: When we become ill, it is important to listen to our bodies and pray that God help us make necessary changes. Our ailments may be blessings in disguise. We may be expecting too much from ourselves, or avoiding things we need to face. As we listen to our bodies, talk and reflect with others, and pray together, we can gain spiritual insight which will help us live healthier, more productive, more abundant lives. The next day, I was in the seclusion room of a psychiatric hospital. I was told I had bipolar disorder, that I would never work as a pastor again, that my marriage would likely end, and that I would spend the rest of [...]

Delight in Disorder: My Story, My Message, My Mission 2017-08-09T13:26:45+00:00

Advocates for People with Mental Illness: Laura Pogliano

In my search for the latest and greatest information and support for persons with mental illness (MI) , I ran across a Facebook site called, "Advocates for People with Mental Illness." I quickly came to know this site was unique: sensitive to the stories of individuals and families afflicted by MI, but also containing provocative reflections and proactive links to research and legislation at the cutting edge of the field. I reached out to Laura Pogliano, an administrator for the site and she agreed to do an interview. My words are in italics.  What drew you into the field of mental health advocacy? Well, the human psyche is itself interesting, but primarily my son became suddenly ill with psychosis and paranoia in the summer of 2008. By 2010, I was understanding how important advocacy was, not only for my son, but for others. I was very upset with a [...]

Advocates for People with Mental Illness: Laura Pogliano 2017-08-04T10:28:07+00:00

Responding to Suicide

This post was originally published August 11, 2014.    Robin Williams is dead, apparently of suicide after a lengthy battle with depression. My heart is heavy. What a terrible tragedy. How could a man who seemed so full of exuberant life somehow lack the will to live? I respect the family’s desire to keep details of his death private. There will likely be a feeding frenzy in the press — speculation over his mental state, drug use, relationships with others, every jot and tittle to try to explain the unexplainable — some people (and it can be anyone) simply lose the desire to see another day. Whenever I encounter suicide in the news or in the lives of people I know, my mind flashes back to one Saturday night in March of 2008. I was feeling flu-like symptoms and had called to get someone to preach for me. I went [...]

Responding to Suicide 2017-08-04T10:27:34+00:00

Is Depression ‘of God’?

In 2013, I partnered with Leanne Sype to begin the process that led to the publication of Delight in Disorder: Ministry, Madness, Mission. I was thrilled with her work as editor, a crowdfunding consultant,a spiritual adviser, and friend. Here is some of her story. *** I have depression. It’s called “situational depression” because it was induced by the situation of both my kids being diagnosed with mental illnesses. My son has ADHD. My daughter has depression and anxiety, which, for her, include symptoms like self-harm and thoughts of wanting to die. Over the course of navigating treatments, advocating for academic accommodations, and engaging in the bulk of the emotional support for each kiddo, I felt depression slowly weigh down on my chest. *** I once had a Christian friend tell me that anything with the prefix de- isn’t “of God.” Depression fell into that category in our conversation. Whether [...]

Is Depression ‘of God’? 2017-07-19T19:53:49+00:00

The Social Cycles of Bipolar and Faith: Susan Irene Fox

As I look back on the cycles of bipolar that have tried to steal my life away from me, I am acutely aware of both overt and covert cycles associated with this illness. The overt cycles are mania or hypomania and depression, which is why this brain disease used to be called manic-depression. Some sufferers prefer to use this name because it accurately describes the two polar-opposite cycles we swing through without the middle ground in between. Hypomania is the milder form of the upswing cycling experienced by those who have bipolar 2, the more “benign” form of bipolar. While mania is often accompanied by visions, voices and dangerous behavior, the symptoms of hypomania can be overspending to the point of bankruptcy, risky sexual behavior, or extreme irritability with self or those around us. Depression in bipolar 1 is more extreme, while in bipolar 2 is more frequent. Both [...]

The Social Cycles of Bipolar and Faith: Susan Irene Fox 2017-07-13T12:39:39+00:00

Examining Medical Science; Observing Faith Practice

Last week, I published an early version of this on Medium, under the title, "Practicing Medicine Observing Faith." This post will be like the two-week check-up I got from the Mobile Crisis Line to see that I am safe and progressing well.  [Note: The italics are from last week's post. The regular print is this week's update]. I spent last weekend in an Emergency Observation Bed (EOB) of a local hospital. I was allowed to wear my sweats and slippers (I came prepared), as well as read my Bible and write in my cloth-bound journal.  Note to self: Get a sturdy pocket sized Bible instead of my 8-inch thick parallel one. One guy on the unit asked me if I was going to beat him up with it. What brought me there? I wasn’t exactly a threat to myself or to others, but I did feel I was on the verge [...]

Examining Medical Science; Observing Faith Practice 2017-06-22T16:02:20+00:00

Running from the bipolar that runs in me.

One of my readers recently  contacted me with a heart-wrenching life story. As much as I wanted her words to be unique to this one family, I was trapped by just how much they applied to me and so many other persons with bipolar disorder: "... my husband was diagnosed with bipolar four years ago, and was on medication. However, he decided to stop last summer (unbeknownst to anyone) and then, in the midst of a manic phase, left me and our family in November. He still professes Christ, but has filed for divorce and has accumulated $40,000 in debt. I have struggled with trusting him and anything he says, as you can imagine. Yet here, I see you are a man of faith, and some of the same issues have taken place in your life. As it stands now, this is in God's hands. God has been good [...]

Running from the bipolar that runs in me. 2017-06-15T16:30:07+00:00