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

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

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

12 Blessings in 2018: Featured Posts to Encourage and Inspire

2018 began with modest expectations. It is ending with endless possibilities. Along the way, God has blessed me with new new opportunities, new friends, a new life partner. I still experience chaotic mood swings that require diligent treatment such as medication and therapy; but with a caring network of family and friends and a strong connection to Christ's body, my sanity is maintained and I can contribute to the common good. Most particularly I offer friendly counsel to those like me who have troubled minds by sharing the inspiration of God's word and the encouraging Way of Christ. Now that the year is winding down, I thought it would be good to look back at the journey. Below I have 12 featured posts (one/month) with a brief excerpt. The titles contain a link to the posts. I hope you will review these and enjoy reading through the blessings of 2018. [...]

12 Blessings in 2018: Featured Posts to Encourage and Inspire2018-12-30T15:38:54-04:00

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.2018-12-10T17:05:19-04:00

The Spiritual Costs and Benefits of Mental Illness

One of the exciting things for me about engaging in dialogue over faith and mental illness is the diversity of perspectives from persons with a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences. As I have interacted with blog readers, small group participants, conference attendees, and listeners of my podcast, I have been impressed both by the level of understanding and, more significantly, the desire to learn and grow for the sake of all those impacted by mental illness. Two questions I received from two readers illustrate well this sort of distinct perspective. First, from C.C.:   Does having mental illness make a person struggle with knowing God more than the average person?   There are no doubt particular challenges a person with mental illness has that someone without one does not. Recently I had a conversation with a woman who was going to give a talk at a nearby Walk to [...]

The Spiritual Costs and Benefits of Mental Illness2018-10-31T21:12:32-04:00

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 Pots2018-04-12T01:20:35-04:00

The Bittersweet Blessing of Bipolar

“Though I am often in the depths of misery, there is still calmness, pure harmony and music inside me. I see paintings or drawings in the poorest cottages, in the dirtiest corners. And my mind is driven towards these things with an irresistible momentum. ― Vincent van Gogh; The Letters of Vincent Van Gogh Now that the human genome project can draw the DNA map of our bodies, gene therapy becomes an ever increasing reality. We can restructure our bodies and minds such that debilitating conditions could disappear. The question we now face is what goes and what stays? And, who decides? One of the persons who serves on the human genome project is Kay Redfield Jamison. Jamison has both a professional interest and a personal perspective in genetic mapping. First, she is a psychiatric researcher. She is certainly concerned about the tools medical science can use to alleviate unnecessary suffering. [...]

The Bittersweet Blessing of Bipolar2018-04-05T03:54:37-04:00

World Bipolar Day Meets Good Friday

March 30, 2018.  Good Friday. As a Christian, Good Friday is a day I celebrate the death of my Savior. Strange, huh? Said better, I celebrate the Way Jesus died for me and for the sins of the world. Good Friday reveals humanity at our worst -- betrayal, false arrest, phony trial, mob mentality, torture, execution. Yet Good Friday also demonstrates humanity as we were designed to be -- faithful, sacrificial, loving to the end.   March 30, 2018. World Bipolar Day recognizes the almost 6 million persons who live with this mental illness that can be both animating and debilitating. Persons with bipolar are often counting as some of the most creative, inspired, intellectual people past and present. But the ravages of the brain disease often lead to destructive behavior, even death.   Today I reflect on this special day for my faith and my mental health from the [...]

World Bipolar Day Meets Good Friday2018-12-30T14:15:23-04:00