Anxious Affliction

I've been rather obsessed about anxiety lately. In "Moving Anxiety to Motivation," I explored how God's words "Don't be anxious about anything..." (Philippians 4.6) indicate more God's loving reassurance than God's wrathful scolding. Certainly, God wants us to be anxiety-free, but He knows the best way to reach this goal is not to scare anxiety out of us, but instead to be Present with us, neither taking pity on our predicament nor trying to cheer us up with false platitudes. Over the past two weeks or so, I have left my basement abode precisely twice, for an hour each. One to go to worship and one to pray with a brother in Christ. My hermitage existence hit me as I was putting clean clothes away. PJs. Underwear. Socks. That's it. Friends have asked me what I do as I lie in bed all day. Mostly, it's less about what I [...]

Anxious Affliction 2018-01-11T04:51:10+00:00

The Relationship Between Creativity and Mental Illness

I start this post with one basic assumption. Not all persons with mental illness are creative. Some sit around all day playing video solitaire, watching episodes of Judge Judy, counting the cars that pass by. Some persons with mental illness have neither the desire or the capacity (or both) to do anything that resembles creative expression. (Though you never know the depths of creativity lodged in their brains.) At the same time, I find my mental illness plays out in a creative way, primarily in my way with words. I'm not Hemingway. It's not quality, but quantity for me. Most of my waking and sleeping hours are spent plotting how I can use my words to the best effect. When I am under unusual amounts of stress, you will likely find me tucked away in a corner, Pilot G-2 gel pen gliding across a composition journal, describing the world [...]

The Relationship Between Creativity and Mental Illness 2017-12-06T17:02:03+00:00

Giving Thanks for My Illness

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5.16-18) “While she might not have opted for this illness, neither does she entirely regret it; she prefers, as she writes so movingly, a life of passionate turbulence to one of tedious calm.” ― Kay Redfield Jamison, An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness. This Thanksgiving I am grateful for many things. I'll name five: Food to eat. A roof above my head. Family members who care for me. Faithful friends who make me laugh. And my mental illness. Yes, I am grateful for my mental illness. I have come to prefer the "passionate turbulence" of bipolar disorder to the "tedious calm" of being "normal". This is not to say I enjoy all aspects of my illness. Sometimes it is a pain in the ass. Sometimes [...]

Giving Thanks for My Illness 2017-11-24T14:48:35+00:00

Worshiping with a Mental Illness

It is in the nature of all humanity to worship. Worship lies at the core of human beings, written into our DNA. The question is not do we worship but who we worship.Many of my friends with mental illness claim to reject God. As I dig further into their stories, however, I discover that it is not so much God they reject as those who claim to represent God. In my Christian faith family, we have many who fail to understand the nature of mental illness and who have made very wrong and damning statements about the subject. Mental illness has been described within the church as demon possession, as a lack of faith, as an attention-seeking illusion. It is little wonder folks with mental illness would feel shunned by the church and be discouraged from worshiping God in Jesus Christ.So, where does one who feels shunned turn to for [...]

Worshiping with a Mental Illness 2017-10-31T11:47:28+00:00

The Spiritual & Emotional Benefits of Forgiveness

In my mental health support group this week, we discussed forgiveness. It was a very intense discussion that was both personal and revealing. I can't stop thinking about it. Who have I forgiven? Who has forgiven me? Who have I yet to forgive? Who has not shared forgiveness with me? I've been doing a lot of self-reflection, which sometimes leads me to excessive self-regret. So, I thought it would be good to turn to a few friends to help me compose this post. I'll fashion this as a dialogue, though it was actually a series of three Facebook message threads. +     +     + Me: Hello, Kim. What do you see as the distinction between forgiving and forgetting? Kim: Forgiving is choosing to let go of a sin/trespass against oneself while forgetting is choosing to never remember again a sin/ trespass against oneself. .. to never [...]

The Spiritual & Emotional Benefits of Forgiveness 2017-09-28T10:30:24+00:00

Good Boundaries

{excerpt from Delight in Disorder: Ministry, Madness, Mission} "The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;  surely I have a delightful inheritance." (Psalm 16.6) One thing I have experienced in the time I've spent at psychiatric hospitals is that there are many rules. Rules about toiletries, belt buckles, shoes with strings, and other personal effects. Rules about visits and contact with others. Rules about schedules -- time to sleep and meet and eat and rest. Since I am one who generally functions best with good, clear boundaries, these rules haven't bothered me so much. I've benefited quite well from them and have come to appreciate their value. There's a part of us all, though, that constantly tries to get around the rules. Like the man who found a staff person willing to bring him Starbuck's coffee (for a steep tip, no doubt) to replace the lukewarm dishwater [...]

Good Boundaries 2017-09-18T13:15:51+00:00

Mad Intensities: What Makes Us Laugh

“It's not all bad. Heightened self-consciousness, apartness, an inability to join in, physical shame and self-loathing—they are not all bad. Those devils have been my angels. Without them I would never have disappeared into language, literature, the mind, laughter and all the mad intensities that made and unmade me.” ― Stephen Fry, Moab Is My Washpot Fry here captures the truth that demonic mental spirits can be redeemed and turn into angels. Self-consciousness turns us yet leads us to activities of the mind.. language, literature. Apartness, an inability to join in, leads us to appreciate the absurdity of what is deemed "normal." Shame and self-loathing turn to laughter and mad intensities when we are blessed to not take ourselves so seriously. Many of the best comics who have ever been, are touched with a sort of genius notched up to mad proportions. Robin Williams was the best of my generation. He was never [...]

Mad Intensities: What Makes Us Laugh 2017-09-13T22:07:12+00:00

Where is God When the World Goes Mad?

In Elie Wiesel's Night, Eliezer is a Jewish teenager, a devoted student of the Talmud from Sighet, in Hungarian Transylvania.  In the spring of 1944, the Nazis occupy Hungary. A series of increasingly repressive measures are passed, and the Jews of Eliezer’s town are forced into small ghettos within Sighet.  Before long, they are rounded up and shipped out to the death camps of Burkenau, and Auschwitz. Throughout this slim narrative, Eliezer reflects on the nature of God in response to the atrocities he witnesses.  In one pivotal scene, he describes the execution of three Jews, among whom is a young child.             One day, as we returned from work, we saw three gallows, three black ravens, erected on the Appelplatz. Roll call.  The SS surrounding us, machine guns aimed at us: the usual ritual.  Three prisoners in chains – and, among them, the little pipel, the sad-eyed angel.             The SS [...]

Where is God When the World Goes Mad? 2017-09-11T12:49:47+00:00

The Highs and Lows of Homecoming

It's been over 35 years now since I graduated from high school. For the first time, I'm going to the class reunion. Why am I going now? Why haven't I come before? I didn't go for years because I believed there were certain expectations on my life and until I fulfilled them, I would be too ashamed to go back. I'm not sure what these expectations were, but they were more likely self-imposed and largely unattainable. Nothing so easily calculable as monetary success, world travel, beautiful family. I measured my worth by affecting a life-changing difference. Saving the world one hurting soul at a time. It took me 32 years and one "nervous breakdown" before I let this dream die. But, by God's grace, I didn't die with it. My life story doesn't end there. But I wasn't ready to reconcile who I was in high school with who [...]

The Highs and Lows of Homecoming 2017-08-31T23:50:10+00:00

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