I am ; even me.

I’m writing this on September 11, 2019. World Suicide Prevention Day. About an hour ago I read the tragic news about Pastor & Mental Health Advocate Jarrid Wilson, who died two days ago by suicide. Here is how Christianity Today described Wilson — His wife, Julianne Wilson posted a photo tribute of her husband on Instagram. The photo slideshow shows him fishing “in his happy place.” She described her husband as “loving, giving, kind-hearted, encouraging, handsome, hilarious.”... “Tragically, Jarred took his own life,” [          ] Eaton said. ”Over the years, I have found that people speak out about what they struggle with the most.”   I did not know Jarrid Wilson, but I know his story well. His story is the story of far too many persons who try so hard to care for others yet are unable to receive care for themselves; not so much out of stubborn [...]

I am ; even me.2019-09-11T12:07:27-04:00

When Bipolar Mixed States Threaten Your Relationships

7 Where can I go from your Spirit?     Where can I flee from your presence? 8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;     if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. 9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,     if I settle on the far side of the sea, 10 even there your hand will guide me,     your right hand will hold me fast. 11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me     and the light become night around me,” 12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;     the night will shine like the day,     for darkness is as light to you.  (Psalm 139)   Time will pass; this mood will pass; and I will, eventually, be myself again. But then, at some unknown time, the electrifying carnival will come back into my mind. ― Kay Redfield Jamison, An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness {this is an adaptation [...]

When Bipolar Mixed States Threaten Your Relationships2019-09-07T21:24:05-04:00

Balance

When I am most imbalanced, I have take 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 [...]

Balance2019-08-29T21:32:16-04:00

The New Asylums: A Dialogue on Mental Illness Behind Bars

I have been aware of the prevalence of persons with mental illness who are incarcerated. I also know first-hand how quality in-patient psychiatric care has all but disappeared. Still, this chart portrays the crisis of mental health care in our nation. And, from the numbers I've seen, it's only getting worse. What follows is a dialogue that took place in perhaps the best Facebook groups I belong to: Advocates for People with Mental Illness. I wish these folks were in policy-making posts rather than the ones we currently have.   J:   Neither peak seems to be healthy, at least not long term. I wonder where the curve would be in a good system. D:  The community health care system that was promised after institutions closed is a dignified response to caring for people who live with mental illness. Much cheaper than institutions and so much more effective and respectful. [...]

The New Asylums: A Dialogue on Mental Illness Behind Bars2019-08-11T15:11:13-04:00

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 Illness2019-08-07T22:29:13-04:00

Does Mental Illness Lead to Violence?

I don’t follow much mass media, but at times it is impossible to escape. Accounts of the El Paso and Dayton shootings and the Los Angeles stabbings are prime examples. What could possibly motivate persons to such violent extremes? Political leaders, pundits, and partisans toss around various theories. Access to guns? Video games? Mental illness? As one with a mental illness who now serves as a Faith & Mental Health Advocate, the issue is much more than political posturing, it is passionately personal. True, I have witnessed first-hand aggressive behavior stemming from mental illness. Yet, the vast majority of harm is self-directed, not violence against others. Fear-based stigma does no one any good and does many much harm. The Treatment Advocacy Center, one of the leading organizations promoting better mental health care and safety has written in  “Risk Factors for Violence in Serious Mental Illness”, five points:   Most individuals [...]

Does Mental Illness Lead to Violence?2019-08-08T18:05:34-04:00

Christians Under Treatment

A couple of weeks ago I spoke to a group of nursing students about my life with faith and mental illness. I shared stories about having episodes, working through mental disorder, receiving support from friends and family. At the end of the session, one student asked a very thoughtful question: "Has your faith influenced your choice of mental health care providers?" I thought, what a great question! One I have given much thought to and never been able to talk about it in a group of this kind. When I talk to many of my Christian friends who are in need of professional mental health care, they are often reluctant to pursue it. In large part, because they want to find providers who share their faith, their worldview. I can appreciate their hesitation. When it comes to something as crucial to our identity as our minds, we don't want [...]

Christians Under Treatment2019-07-24T23:18:18-04:00

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 Excuse2019-07-21T22:04:05-04:00

The Level Ground of Praise Gatherings

My feet stand on level ground; in the great congregation I will praise the Lord. (Psalm 22.6) Faith gives you an inner strength and a sense of balance and perspective in life. ~ Gregory Peck The past 10 days I have enjoyed beautiful balance. It's a precious gift. Not something I experience very often. I don't rely on it, as it is so rare and fleeting. But I will enjoy it while it lasts. As someone with bipolar, balance is not something I can readily achieve. Certainly, there are ways I can avoid aggravating our condition to extremes. Things I've been doing over the past 10 days that boost the watchdog chemicals in my brain -- serotonin (combatting mood swings) and dopamine (battling depression). Things like going for a morning walk. Avoiding excess sugars and alcohol. Prayer and reflection on Scripture. Regular and ample sleep. All of these things have [...]

The Level Ground of Praise Gatherings2019-07-17T23:48:30-04:00

Preparing for Fiery Trials

My soul is searing. Not from the burning wrath of God but from the fiery grace of Christ. The past month has been the most challenging one I can remember over the past decade. I spent 3 weeks in a dungeon of despair, lost in a thick haze of hopeless regret over perceived personal failings that left me feeling irredeemable. Then, around midnight 11 days ago  the fog lifted; my dry bones were enfleshed with spiritual sinews. I walked unweary. I flew like an eagle full of promise and purpose. The psychological diagnosis for this is bipolar disorder. The spiritual diagnosis I’m coming to discern is being tested by the Lord; or, tempted by Satan. Or could it be both? Reflecting on an emotional meltdown 24 hours ago, I’ve come to relate intimately with the baptism of Jesus followed immediately by his desert temptation by the Accuser. Jesus understood his relationship to [...]

Preparing for Fiery Trials2019-07-07T17:10:41-04:00