One of the tragic things about living with bipolar is that I have often felt very much alone. When I am depressed, I feel unworthy of anyone’s love or attention. When I am manic, I can be so grandiose that I feel set apart from the “average” human race. When I am in a mixed state, I become agitated with anyone trying to get close to me. Even as people try to care for me, I can get terribly lonely. My heart goes out to those without the support system I have — those trapped in delusional minds, those wandering the dangerous streets, those languishing in solitary prison cells.
I have been manic for some time now, since I made the commitment to publish my second book. It has been wonderful, but I knew it wouldn’t last. It didn’t. Last night, in the midst of sharing my exciting news with people who have played a key role in my faith journey, a sense of worthlessness struck me with a brick. I began to doubt everything about who I am and what I am doing. I called into question what I had come to believe about my mission. I feared my writing I thought was helping people was actually hurting them.
These firm convictions flew at the face of evidence to the contrary. Stories of what a difference my ministry was making for the good. Endorsements for my book. Expressions of gratitude from people I had helped. None of these things gave me a sense of hopeful purpose. They just confirmed that I was a successful impostor. A con-man. A prideful heretic who was drawing attention to myself as savior, rather than pointing to the Savior of all.
Fortunately, I didn’t linger in this miserable state. I had sense enough to go to bed where I slept soundly for the next twelve hours, catching up on rest I had been lacking. I woke up feeling somewhat better, but still in a fog, doubtful of myself and what I was doing. I went to my study and checked my email. There were several encouraging message from a spiritual mentor named Carl. Carl is one of the most devout persons I know. He is a hard worker, a devoted servant, and a humble leader. He also takes all aspects of stewardship seriously, including his health. On his 72nd birthday, he rode 72 miles on his bicycle.
Carl is a man of few words. But his words count for a lot. Carl writes —
Hi Tony, great to hear from you, and congratulations on your new book. Your literary productivity is impressive and, yes, we’d appreciate receiving your newsletter, and look forward to it. Your friend in Christ, Carl.
I won’t say Carl’s message means more to me than others, but it helped me reconsider what others were saying. Like when your spouse tells you something a thousand times, to no avail, then the doctor says it and you heed it as Gospel truth. I pulled up those other messages and found the sense of purpose I had lost, reason to keep pressing forward in faith. I have experienced divine delight in my life in the midst of my disordered life. My calling is to share this hope with troubled minds like mine. These doubts that seek to do me in are lies from the Enemy who wants to prevent the Good News from being received and keep deceiving those most vulnerable.
After I read my message from Carl, I pulled up one from a reader named Paul who really gets my illness and serves as something of a virtual pastor for me, praying for me and my mission. Paul sent this prayer to me, and this is my prayer for you:
“By the grace of God, may your highs not be so high and your lows not so low.”