I wanted to put out a post tonight and to topic du jour in my thoughts and conversations has been balance, or lack there of. 24 hours ago, I went to bed at a decent hour — 11 pm. I woke up at 6 am to take my morning beds. From that time until late afternoon I was in a waking coma. It started to lift around 4 pm, and over the next 4 hours my mind cleared. Now I am in a mixed state, which is like having the bleak hopelessness of depression and the irritable impatience of mania swirling inside and around me. In other words — constant chaos. It would not be wise to write now, so I’m going to recycle a post from last Fall. What follows is a reflection on balance I published in October of 2021…
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 years 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 handfuls of pills and my body collapsed.
Emotional balance keeps me relatively sane. Regular sleep. Morning devotional time. Eating what my body needs, not what my 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?
Would you tell an amputee that her “phantom pain” isn’t real?
Would you tell a person with severe diabetes they can 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 4-minute mile. Those living with a serious mental illness have limitations, not laziness.
And yet, within the limits of our illness, there are things I can do or avoid doing to improve my mental health? I can…
… walk alongside a Christian brother who encourages me when I am weak and keeps me humble when I become 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, 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.