Mental Illness: Explanation or Excuse

This is not something I want to write. It's something I feel compelled to write. First, an explanation. Mental illness is a serious problem, both for those of us who have it and for our loved ones impacted by it. It is a also a major societal issue. How we care for those who are most vulnerable is a reflection of who we are and what we believe. If we let "the least of these" fall through the cracks, we will be judged by our consciences and by our faith convictions. God does not look lightly at those abusing His children. Mental illness is a medical condition stemming from faulty brain chemistry which current medical science can treat, but not cure. My own bipolar disorder is considered a serious mental illness (SMI). SMIs are disabling conditions that are chronic. You can't just take a pill and make them go [...]

Mental Illness: Explanation or Excuse 2017-10-19T14:49:19+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 2017-08-28T20:14:23+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

A Beautiful, Brilliant, Unquiet Mind

         When I first received my bipolar diagnosis, the picture painted for me of my future was rather bleak.  The staff at the psychiatric hospital explained that I would likely not be able to continue in ministry.  I would go on disability, have repeated hospitalizations and the chances of remaining in my marriage were slim to none.           My psychiatrist, however, offered a ray of hope.  He recommended a memoir that had just been published by one of the most world-renowned expert on bipolar disorder - Kay Redfield Jamison.  In Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness, Jamison beautifully describes her own life-long struggle and brilliantly depicts the love-hate relationship many folks with Bipolar have with their illness.  She defines what she prefers to call "Manic-depression" ...a disease that both kills and gives life.  Fire, by its nature, both creates and destroys.  "The force that through the green fuse drives the flower," [...]

A Beautiful, Brilliant, Unquiet Mind 2017-06-12T17:29:05+00:00

The Cruelty of April

 April is the cruellest month, breeding Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing Memory and desire, stirring Dull roots with spring rain. (from The Wasteland by T.S. Eliot) It's April 26 now. The sun is shining. 68 glorious degrees. A reassuring cool Spring breeze. Cruelty is as distant from this day as the East is from the West. But the nascent scent of lilacs blends with the stink of liquid manure. Unspoken hopes and mislaid dreams float on the surface of the ruddy lawns. April this year has taken a desperate toll on my body and has sapped the strength of my psyche. The 30 pounds I lost the preceding six months have returned with a vengeance. The number alone does not trouble me, but the fact that I find it physically challenging to get out of bed does. A more serious concern is the gripping chronic pain I now [...]

The Cruelty of April 2017-05-30T14:10:38+00:00

Devoted to the Word with Mental Illness: Susan Irene Fox

The mission of Delight in Disorder is to share the hope of Christ with persons who have troubled minds, and to shatter stigma towards mental illness within and beyond the church. One of the best ways I know to do this is to tell our stories. Susan Irene Fox describes herself as a “Jesus follower, peacemaker, unfinished human.” She recently celebrated her ten year anniversary “since I walked into the embrace of my Father’s arms.” Me:  How did you mark your ten-year anniversary? Susan: I looked back at some things that occurred right after I accepted Jesus. One of the biggest things was six months later, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was almost as though the devil had been lurking for an opportune time to tempt me into forsaking God. But I never went there, never even went into fear. I just knew God was holding my hand [...]

Devoted to the Word with Mental Illness: Susan Irene Fox 2017-05-30T14:10:07+00:00

Life and Death with Bipolar

A friend of mine, who also has bipolar, was in an auto accident when she was in college. She was taken to the emergency room where she had an x-ray and cat-scan. Neither showed any physical damage. She called her resident adviser to come to the hospital to pick her up. By the time he got there, she was livid with the staff, crying out to anyone who would listen, and many who wouldn't, that she was paralyzed. Three doctors and several nurses examined her and found nothing physically wrong. As the night wore on, however, she became hysterical. She said she had a massive inflammation in her spine. She was admitted to a medical-behavioral unit where she was diagnosed as having an acute manic episode. She was given psychotropics. They also performed an MRI and found a mass in her lower spine.  Another cat-scan also revealed a mass in her [...]

Life and Death with Bipolar 2017-05-30T14:08:15+00:00

Cracked Pots

“… the jar he was making did not turn out as he hoped, so he crushed it into a lump of clay again and started over.” (Jeremiah 18.4, NLT). Some months after I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I returned to work as a pastor. It was difficult at first, but with much prayerful support, our ministry became fruitful. People who had hidden mental health issues for fear of judgment, now confided in me and together we grew in grace, offering our whole selves in worship and outreach among those who sought healing for body, mind, and spirit. I was asked to serve as a mentor for students preparing for pastoral ministry. One weekend, they brought together mentors throughout the state for training on how to best equip persons for service in what can be a consuming career. Many topics were addressed: spiritual growth, emotional well-being, financial fitness, etc. During [...]

Cracked Pots 2017-05-30T14:07:31+00:00

Scorn-full

Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy upon us, for we have had more than enough of contempt. Our soul has had more than its fill of the scorn of those who are at ease, of the contempt of the proud. (Psalm 123:3-4) While modern medicine has come a long way in helping us understand and explain mental illness, people’s perspectives can lag far behind. Many people still think that with more faith, a stronger will, and a better attitude, such things as depression, bipolar disorder, even schizophrenia can just go away. This outlook often leads to pinning the blame for the illness on the person struggling to overcome it. It can also lead to contempt and scorn on the part of the accuser that the accused may internalized. “If you only had more faith.” “If you weren’t so lazy.” “If you just kept a positive attitude.” Like the [...]

Scorn-full 2017-05-30T14:04:21+00:00