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 [...]

A Beautiful, Brilliant, Unquiet Mind2019-04-03T21:43:19-04:00

Sharing Delight in Disorder

Since my book was published, I've not done much to get the word out. As a result, I haven't sold many copies. People who have read it tell me what a difference it has made in their lives, but I have not followed up on this and reached out to others. I have a hard time walking the fine line between bragging about myself and celebrating what God is doing in my life. Lately, I have come to accept the importance of the mission God has called me to carry out. There are so many people impacted by mental illness who are in desperate need of saving faith. As the body of Christ, it's our delightful duty to show compassion for hurting souls. The emotional anguish caused by brain diseases like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and major depression, is as real and agonizing as any bodily pain caused by a physical [...]

Sharing Delight in Disorder2019-04-02T18:17:15-04:00

When All Else Fails, Hope Endures

There is nothing like a dream to create the future. ― Victor Hugo, Les Misérables   In my teens, my life was full of hopes and dreams. Or so it seemed. On the outside, I was a star athlete, a stellar student, a charismatic leader, and a champion for the underdog. On the inside, I was battling with voices telling me I was a worthless impostor who would never amount to anything. In my twenties, I tried to abandon hope. When I envisioned living the American Dream, the eyes of my mind saw only a bleak, meaningless existence dark and dreary. I sabotaged my success by embracing thoughts and engaging in behaviors that kept my hope at bay. Yet hope is not easy to do away with. In spite of all my efforts to snuff it out, it was continually ignited in spite of myself. I read voraciously and wrote incessantly. I [...]

When All Else Fails, Hope Endures2019-03-27T22:27:29-04:00

3 Ways to Best Respond to Someone in a Mixed State

This past week, I've been struggling through mixed states. Mixed states are where the worst of mania and the worst of depression collide to create one monstrous emotional mess (see "Mixed States: Maniacal Despair"). Mixed states are often the most damaging periods in the life of someone with bipolar disorder. Unlike the crippling low of depression where you have no energy to do harm or the ecstatic high of mania where you feel do whatever you can to maintain a wonderful life, someone having mixed states sees no hope and has the energy to do harm. This can destroy our physical and spiritual health and ruin our relationships. Wednesday was my worst day last week. I was just coming out of a major depressive period and I had to gear up for a trip to see my children. I had many calls to make to tie up loose ends and [...]

3 Ways to Best Respond to Someone in a Mixed State2019-03-25T20:50:52-04:00

Mixed States: Maniacal Despair

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; these 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 For some months, I've enjoyed [...]

Mixed States: Maniacal Despair2019-03-20T19:27:26-04:00

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