Living Prepared to Die

A friend of mine, who also has bipolar, was in an auto accident when she was in college. She was taken to the emergency room where she had an x-ray and cat-scan. Neither showed any physical damage. She called her resident adviser to come to the hospital to pick her up. By the time he got there, she was livid with the staff, crying out to anyone who would listen, and many who wouldn't, that she was paralyzed. Three doctors and several nurses examined her and found nothing physically wrong. As the night wore on, however, she became hysterical. She said she had a massive inflammation in her spine. She was admitted to a medical-behavioral unit where she was diagnosed as having an acute manic episode. She was given psychotropics. They also performed an MRI and found a mass in her lower spine.  Another cat-scan also revealed a mass in [...]

Living Prepared to Die2018-01-19T16:10:04+00:00

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 Illness2017-12-06T17:02:03+00:00

How Do You Help People?

Today I woke up at the crack of dusk, after having spent a restless 15 hours in bed. I was anxious about things beyond my control, tortured by my past failures, questioning my purpose. Some people compare themselves with others who do less and feel good about themselves. I compare myself against my best self and feel miserable. At my best, I wake up, take my meds, brew some coffee and nurse it while doing a devotion. But I'm not at my best. The first thing I did was pull up my emails to see if there were any more contributors to our upcoming mental health podcast, "Revealing Voices."  There was not. I felt very discouraged. Was I doing something wrong? Had I sensed a need that isn't there? So many unanswered questions. So many unanswered prayers. I took a deep breath and pressed on. I checked my LinkedIn [...]

How Do You Help People?2017-12-06T17:01:18+00:00

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 Excuse2017-10-19T14:49:19+00:00

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 the flower," [...]

A Beautiful, Brilliant, Unquiet Mind2017-06-12T17:29:05+00:00

The Cruelty of April

 April is the cruellest month, breeding Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing Memory and desire, stirring Dull roots with spring rain. (from The Wasteland by T.S. Eliot) It's April 26 now. The sun is shining. 68 glorious degrees. A reassuring cool Spring breeze. Cruelty is as distant from this day as the East is from the West. But the nascent scent of lilacs blends with the stink of liquid manure. Unspoken hopes and mislaid dreams float on the surface of the ruddy lawns. April this year has taken a desperate toll on my body and has sapped the strength of my psyche. The 30 pounds I lost the preceding six months have returned with a vengeance. The number alone does not trouble me, but the fact that I find it physically challenging to get out of bed does. A more serious concern is the gripping chronic pain I now [...]

The Cruelty of April2017-05-30T14:10:38+00:00

Devoted to the Word with Mental Illness: Susan Irene Fox

The mission of Delight in Disorder is to share the hope of Christ with persons who have troubled minds, and to shatter stigma towards mental illness within and beyond the church. One of the best ways I know to do this is to tell our stories. Susan Irene Fox describes herself as a “Jesus follower, peacemaker, unfinished human.” She recently celebrated her ten year anniversary “since I walked into the embrace of my Father’s arms.” Me:  How did you mark your ten-year anniversary? Susan: I looked back at some things that occurred right after I accepted Jesus. One of the biggest things was six months later, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was almost as though the devil had been lurking for an opportune time to tempt me into forsaking God. But I never went there, never even went into fear. I just knew God was holding my hand [...]

Devoted to the Word with Mental Illness: Susan Irene Fox2017-05-30T14:10:07+00:00

Life and Death with Bipolar

A friend of mine, who also has bipolar, was in an auto accident when she was in college. She was taken to the emergency room where she had an x-ray and cat-scan. Neither showed any physical damage. She called her resident adviser to come to the hospital to pick her up. By the time he got there, she was livid with the staff, crying out to anyone who would listen, and many who wouldn't, that she was paralyzed. Three doctors and several nurses examined her and found nothing physically wrong. As the night wore on, however, she became hysterical. She said she had a massive inflammation in her spine. She was admitted to a medical-behavioral unit where she was diagnosed as having an acute manic episode. She was given psychotropics. They also performed an MRI and found a mass in her lower spine.  Another cat-scan also revealed a mass in her [...]

Life and Death with Bipolar2017-05-30T14:08:15+00:00

Scorn-full

Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy upon us, for we have had more than enough of contempt. Our soul has had more than its fill of the scorn of those who are at ease, of the contempt of the proud. (Psalm 123:3-4) While modern medicine has come a long way in helping us understand and explain mental illness, people’s perspectives can lag far behind. Many people still think that with more faith, a stronger will, and a better attitude, such things as depression, bipolar disorder, even schizophrenia can just go away. This outlook often leads to pinning the blame for the illness on the person struggling to overcome it. It can also lead to contempt and scorn on the part of the accuser that the accused may internalized. “If you only had more faith.” “If you weren’t so lazy.” “If you just kept a positive attitude.” Like the [...]

Scorn-full2017-05-30T14:04:21+00:00

Escaping the Pain

In the Lord I take refuge. How then can you say to me: “Flee like a bird to your mountain”? (Psalm 11:1) When I first began to experience the symptoms of bipolar, I tried to escape them with drugs and alcohol, what some call self-medicating. As you might expect, this only made things worse. Treating a mood disorder with non-prescribed mind-altering drugs is not something I would now recommend. I then tried to treat my symptoms with only talk therapy and self-help techniques. While it was good to get off un-prescribed drugs, talk therapy alone was ultimately ineffective. It wound up being another form of escapism from my full problem. It was bipolar disorder causing a chemical reaction in my brain, and I needed something more than encouraging words to re-establish balance. One thing I’ve discovered in my journey through bipolar is that faith and medicine can, and often do, [...]

Escaping the Pain2017-05-30T14:02:54+00:00