The Bittersweet Blessing of Bipolar

“Though I am often in the depths of misery, there is still calmness, pure harmony and music inside me. I see paintings or drawings in the poorest cottages, in the dirtiest corners. And my mind is driven towards these things with an irresistible momentum. ― Vincent van Gogh; The Letters of Vincent Van Gogh Now that the human genome project can draw the DNA map of our bodies, gene therapy becomes an ever increasing reality. We can restructure our bodies and minds such that debilitating conditions could disappear. The question we now face is what goes and what stays? And, who decides? One of the persons who serves on the human genome project is Kay Redfield Jamison. Jamison has both a professional interest and a personal perspective in genetic mapping. First, she is a psychiatric researcher. She is certainly concerned about the tools medical science can use to alleviate unnecessary suffering. [...]

The Bittersweet Blessing of Bipolar 2018-04-05T03:54:37+00:00

A Dream Revisited

I have a dream. A nightmare, really. It goes something like this. I am at the peak of my pastoral career. In good health. Surrounded by loving family. Comfortable. Confident. Then something happens. I never know just what. Last night it started with a fever. I knew what was coming on, so I took deep breaths, murmured, growled, cried out. I woke up. But not really. Only enough to feel sure I was in a space other than the dream. Not enough to wake up. The dream goes deeper. I am in a hospital bed, bars on every side. Strapped down. An old black-robed woman hovers beside, whispering harsh words into my ears. Speaking to me in a secret tongue. I want to make her go away but I can't move. I breathe deep. Deeper. Until I can make a small sound. A whimper. A moan. Finally, a scream. It [...]

A Dream Revisited 2018-04-02T01:49:40+00:00

World Bipolar Day Meets Good Friday

March 30, 2018.  Good Friday. As a Christian, Good Friday is a day I celebrate the death of my Savior. Strange, huh? Said better, I celebrate the Way Jesus died for me and for the sins of the world. Good Friday reveals humanity at our worst -- betrayal, false arrest, phony trial, mob mentality, torture, execution. Yet Good Friday also demonstrates humanity as we were designed to be -- faithful, sacrificial, loving to the end.     March 30, 2018. World Bipolar Day recognizes the almost 6 million persons who live with this mental illness that can be both animating and debilitating. Persons with bipolar are often counting as some of the most creative, inspired, intellectual people past and present. But the ravages of the brain disease often lead to destructive behavior, even death.   Today I reflect on this special day for my faith and my mental health from [...]

World Bipolar Day Meets Good Friday 2018-03-30T01:47:17+00:00

Granny Told Me His Name: Lee Ann Leach

It was just about two weeks ago that I found out that others didn’t hear noises in their heads like I do. I have had them all my life. Normal sounds. A car door slamming. A bell ringing. A buzzing sound. Someone saying my name. A ping. This is just one symptom of my mental illness. Right from the start the nurses in the nursery in the hospital where I was born immediately noticed that I was the “most nervous baby” they all had ever seen. Alberta Baptist Church, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, 1971. There was a great pouring out of the Spirit in the area at the time and there were revivals going on all over town. Embry Williams was preaching at a week night revival at Alberta Baptist Church. I don’t remember the sermon or what really happened that night, but I do know that I walked down and [...]

Granny Told Me His Name: Lee Ann Leach 2018-03-18T16:22:29+00:00

My Sister, My Psych Shepherd

This post was originally published on January 14, 2018; 6 months and 13 days from when I moved away from my self-destructive life alone, into the home of my sister and brother-in-law. I don't pay enough for room & board, so now and then I like to boost them up with a good story. Here is one of those. The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. (Psalm 23.1-2 KJV) My family of origin was crazy. I mean crazy. I dealt with the craziness by retreating and became a psych patient myself. My sister responded with an urge to treat the problem and became a psych nurse. But my sister ("Karen") is much more than any psych nurse. Many of my friends who have mental illness have great respect for her. My [...]

My Sister, My Psych Shepherd 2018-03-18T16:15:26+00:00

Examining Medical Science; Observing Faith Practice

{Note: This post was first published in June of 2017. The events described convinced me I could no longer live alone without assistance. I'm publishing this today (March 18, 2018). Later this week, I'll share one that reflects how far I've come.} 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 of losing control. As I told my psychiatrist, I didn’t feel desperate, but [...]

Examining Medical Science; Observing Faith Practice 2018-03-18T16:24:33+00:00

Sarah Dubinsky: A New Facebook Friend

Sarah Dubinsky and I are diagnostic cousins. Her label is schizoaffective Disorder. Mine is bipolar with psychotic features. Tom-a-to, tom-ah-to. We both struggle with a chemical imbalance that can severely affect our functioning, causing us to perceive what is within us and around us in ways that can be debilitating. We discovered we both had auditory hallucinations. I asked Sarah about hers.   Sarah:  I have different types of voices. The external ones are not so much commanding as negative. Judgemental. Guilt-inducing. Then, there are my internal ones. Assessment voices that are like inner dialogue. These serve a purpose until they spiral into a deeper psychosis.... How about you?   Me: Similar. I had never thought of the assessment voices, but I get that. My external voices are accusatory. Condemning. I’d love to get rid of those, but I’m afraid if I do I will also lose my creative ones. [...]

Sarah Dubinsky: A New Facebook Friend 2018-03-04T05:20:16+00:00

One Angel Who Did Not Fear to Tread

I want to tell a story I've told many times before. But I can't tell it enough. It's the story of what happens when someone with a mental illness falls into the pit of despair is lifted up by the loving faithfulness of one who cares. December 1, 2016. I am in the Goodman exit lane off I-490 in Rochester, New York. An unusual light shines in my rearview. In seconds, I hear a loud crack and feel a tremendous lurch. Someone traveling too close, going too fast, hit me. Hard. I called 911 and a policeman showed up, followed by an ambulance. I was taken to Strong Memorial hospital where they ran tests and found nothing conclusive. But I became increasingly agitated. I became convinced that I was paralyzed. Three doctors ran tests on me at separate times and concluded that nothing was wrong. Physically. That's when I called [...]

One Angel Who Did Not Fear to Tread 2018-03-01T00:50:49+00:00

A Simple, Sacrificial Solution to School Shootings?

Another school shooting. It makes me sick to my stomach. More than this, it eats away at my soul. Lord, have mercy on us. On the children who died and those left behind. On the families of the victims and the family of the shooter. On the school and the community. On our nation: those crying out for limits to weapon access; those advocating for a better mental health care system; those dreadfully perplexed by where the world went wrong and how to right it. If you’ve come here looking for an easy answer, you’ve come to the wrong place. Easy solutions to complex problems are not only misleading, they are dangerous. What is most needful is not easy and even-dimensional. It is damn hard. It requires sacrifice. Sacrifice of our time, our talent, our money. First, it’s about time. We live in a lonely culture, getting lonelier by the [...]

A Simple, Sacrificial Solution to School Shootings? 2018-02-17T19:32:27+00:00

Jesus Talks to Me, Am I Mentally Ill?

Yesterday, I received two messages with video clips of Vice President Pence responding to a “mental illness” accusation. My first thought was “What now?” I rarely open political messages or links, but given this was about faith and mental illness, I felt both obliged and intrigued. In the clip, Pence refers to a comment on ABC that claimed Christianity was a mental illness. Unlike much political rhetoric that is filled with deceit, I suspected that Pence was reasonably accurate in his remarks. Authentic Christian faith doesn’t hold up well to media sound bytes. The exact comment made was this: It’s one thing to talk to Jesus, it’s quite another when Jesus talks back to you. That’s mental illness. Was this a joke? A careless slam on Pence? Something more? Two other persons on the show took umbrage at the remarks. One said: Jesus talks to me every day and I’m [...]

Jesus Talks to Me, Am I Mentally Ill? 2018-02-16T05:05:11+00:00