Anosognosia: When You Can’t Believe Something Is Wrong

When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?” (John 5:6)   Anosognosia, also called "lack of insight," is a symptom of severe mental illness experienced by some that impairs a person’s ability to understand and perceive his or her illness. It is the single largest reason why people with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder refuse medications or do not seek treatment. Without awareness of the illness, refusing treatment appears rational, no matter how clear the need for treatment might be to others. ("Anosognosia" from The Treatment Advocacy Center)   I have a friend I'll call Thomas. Thomas is a young man who, when he was in college, began to demonstrate disruptive symptoms. A very bright and engaged student, he suddenly became easily confused and would hide in his dorm. He had been [...]

Anosognosia: When You Can’t Believe Something Is Wrong2019-03-13T08:18:42-04:00

Mixing Ministry with Mental Illness

How could I serve in ministry with a serious mental illness? How could someone riding manic highs dipping to deadly lows promote stable growth for a congregation? How could I faithfully hear God's voice in the midst of competing voices within and around me? These questions stir my mind and stab my heart.   My mind says yes -- I served as a minister with bipolar for almost two decades, a good dozen of which were quite fruitful. My heart grieves that my illness progressed such that, in 2009, I stepped away from pastoral ministry for health reasons. The story I want to share here is not what led to my decline but what, by the grace of God and with the help of the church, has allowed me to serve in ministry with a serious mental illness.   Persistent Prayer Partners I fell into the pit of psychological despair [...]

Mixing Ministry with Mental Illness2019-03-10T21:18:29-04:00

What to Call Psych Units, and Why

Leslie Carpenter, who serves as President of the Johnson County (Iowa) chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI, posed a compelling question on her Facebook page that is garnering a great deal of response from advocates for persons with mental illness. Leslie asks,   If you could re-name a psychiatric unit or system to get rid of the common place, “Behavioral Health”, what would you change it to? She gives this as her rationale:  I am hoping to elevate thinking on this away from a name that infers that children and adults with brain disorders like Schizophrenia can be treated with coping skills and behavior modification and help the public to understand these are MEDICAL Conditions that need and deserve Treatment... Finally, she primes the pump with these: 1. Neuroscience Unit 2. Neuropsychiatric Unit 3. Brain Disorders Unit 4.______________________ As of this writing, there have been 61 comments, [...]

What to Call Psych Units, and Why2019-03-06T23:22:36-04:00

Anxious Affliction

Some months ago, I've became rather obsessed about anxiety. 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. One month about a year ago, I only left my basement apartment four times. For worship, and 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 asked me what I do as I lie in bed all day. Mostly, it's less about what I do than what I avoid. I sleep. [...]

Anxious Affliction2019-02-20T21:50:39-04:00

Why Your (Bipolar) Story is Important

This week I received an email which said this: I am writing to explore your interest in talking with me about living with bipolar disorder. I am supporting the US Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) on an educational project related to living successfully with serious mental illnesses. You came to our attention through your blog, Delight in Disorder, and we are inspired by both you and your journey. We are looking for someone to profile in a short, candid personal video who is living with and managing life with bipolar disorder. The project is part of a national effort to reduce the stigma of mental health disorders, increase hope that living a successful life I is possible, and encourage people to seek help and stay in treatment. The video would be posted on SAMHSA’s website (www.SAMHSA.gov) and promoted through social media [...]

Why Your (Bipolar) Story is Important2019-02-15T18:27:19-04:00

Loving “The Least of These.”

"Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me."  (Matthew 25:40) I was new to Rochester (NY) and had just connected with a small group at a local church. We were to have a social gathering and I had volunteered to bring the cheese and crackers. On my way there, I was rear-ended and wound up in the emergency room. I couldn't move, but nothing showed up on the tests. The medical providers thought I was faking it. Instead, my mind was betraying my body. My mental illness was the culprit of my paralysis. I tried to tell the staff this and asked that they give me my medicine. Instead, they responded as if I were an addict looking for a fix and ignored me. After sometime an angel arrived. He was an elder from my church, [...]

Loving “The Least of These.”2019-02-11T18:25:26-04:00

Feeling Burdened By or a Burden For?

Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly of heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11.28-30)   I grew up in a country church where there was much talk of having burdens. Members, ministers, missionaries all spoke of having a burden for youth, drug addicts, Africa. Through their impassioned speech, the sweat on their brows, and the waving of their leather Bibles, they would stir up in us a burden to give — prayer, supplies, money. What I got from this early spiritual teaching is that a burden is something God gives a person who then transfers this burden to others. It didn’t occur to me at the time that it had [...]

Feeling Burdened By or a Burden For?2019-02-03T17:04:45-04:00

A Mental Illness Spectrum?

{first published in January 22, 2018} When I was first diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I was given a very mixed prognosis. Many of the staff at the psychiatric hospital I was in had cared for persons with severe mental illness for years. What they often saw was people who were essentially non-communicative, sometimes aggressive, often pacing through the halls with what they called the "Thorazine shuffle." They told me I should prepare for a life where I could not return to ministry, get divorced, and, spend the rest of my life in-and-out of psych hospitals. But when I saw my psychiatrist, he painted a very different image. He handed me a memoir that had just come out called, An Unquiet Mind  by Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison. Jamison is a leading researcher of bipolar disorder and has the illness herself. This book expanded my vision of what God could do in [...]

A Mental Illness Spectrum?2019-01-30T20:29:53-04:00

So you want to marry someone who has bipolar?

You may want to reconsider if he... ... follows you around the mall telling you how ridiculous you are for wanting to have a career as an at-home mom. ... refuses to leave your apartment until he has beaten you in more computer hangman games than you have beaten him. ... tells you to pretend you don’t know each other at the campus picnic so people won’t know you are a couple. ... proposes to you in bed by saying, “You don’t really want to get married do you?” ... jumps out of your moving car because you can’t agree whether to have plants or flowers at your wedding.   Then again, you may appreciate that he... ... sneaks into your apartment while you are at work, puts on “I Will” by the Beatles, grabs you as you enter and dances with you in his own goofy way. ... composes [...]

So you want to marry someone who has bipolar?2019-01-29T13:08:49-04:00

Psychotropics and Pregnancy: The Costs and Benefits

This week I met a woman who is deeply distraught. She has been diagnosed with chronic depression and sometime ago was prescribed anti-depressants. They worked very well and she came to enjoy a period of relative stability. Then she and her husband decided to start a family. Leery of the impact of psychotropics on her developing child, she spoke with her psychiatrist who agreed to wean her off her meds. At first she felt good as she launched into the journey toward motherhood. Then months past. A year. Two years. No baby. And the demon of depression returned with a vengeance. She found it difficult to work, to enjoy time with her husband, even to concentrate on simple household tasks. She had made room in her heart for a child and now it is filled with sorrow. What can she do? I asked this to some friends and one woman [...]

Psychotropics and Pregnancy: The Costs and Benefits2019-01-17T15:36:57-04:00