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Bipolar Disorder - The Lady behind the Mask

Posted by on Mar. 4, 2012 at 2:07 PM
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By: Anonymous

Sure, God cared about my life, though many times I wanted to take it. The 1st time was as a college junior. I was so desperate that I nearly swallowed an entire bottle of my first prescription of antidepressants. Something stopped me.

A half dozen years later, when I was in the full grip of that same suicidal despair, God spoke. "Plant bulbs," He said.

How would you have responded? Your mind is tunneling itself in a thousand desperate directions at once; you're not even sure you have the strength to open the car door and walk thirty feet to the entrance of your home, and the Author of the Universe says, "Plant bulbs."

"Huh?" I asked.

The Voice spoke once again. "If you can't find a reason to live until spring, then plant bulbs."

So I did. I planted and fertilized more than a hundred crocus, daffodil, hyacinth, iris, and tulip bulbs. The following spring they pushed through the cold earth to bloom in multicolored splendor. And again I lived.

Fast forward some twenty years. By now, I've become known among my very small circle of friends as the woman who has faith - Faith in the little things. I've seen prayer help a ministry produce its mailing list from an ancient dot-matrix printer that a computer technician couldn't repair. Allow a photographer's camera to start working again, so the work of an African-American ministry pioneer could be honored in the media. And I've seen His power through prayer start the car of someone who did not know Him, even when four people and their jumper cables couldn't get it going.

But prayer had never fixed my depression. In the hands of a new doctor in a new city, the medications had a new effect. After five months of daily medication, they triggered what at first felt like an unprovoked anxiety attack. I ripped out yards and yards of weedy vines trying to work it out; went for a long drive hoping it would dissipate. But I ended up in a rage-a-holic binge: shouting, throwing things, even battering my husband.

Six days later, the new doctor diagnoses bipolar disorder. And for the next seven years, my moods, my mind, and my sense of competence would be repeatedly shattered as we attempted one combination of medications after another. I became so disoriented I got lost coming home from the mall; so forgetful I couldn't remember my boss's instructions by the time I got to his office door; so drowsy I fell asleep in a business meeting; so uncoordinated that I had my first (and only) at-fault auto accident. Half of my hair fell out. My typing speed plummeted from 85 words per minute to 50. I gained weight and showed no sign of stopping. I went from one of the fast-track associates at my firm to one who received bad reviews two years running.

But the worst was the change that came over my faith.

I became terrified of a God who was all-powerful, all-purposeful, and had chosen to inflict these unpredictable, unmanageable changes upon me.

The Bible, of course, describes a God that we'd consider good. Of course God was the one who wrote the Bible. So - I reasoned - who's to say it's anything more than the deceptive, self-justifying lies of any dysfunctional abuser?

At least, that's all I could think then.

That was the end of things between me and God. I didn't know that I'd been hanging on faith, but my habits of faith kept me hanging in. My faithful best friend and my faithful husband continued to remind me that I hadn't always believed what I was believing at that moment. It was more than three years before I prayed again.

I know now that I was hanging on other people's faith for all of that time. Nothing else could explain how I eventually found my way back to the God I had always known. Nothing else could explain how that happened even while I battled through what is usually one of the worst experiences for a person with mental illness - getting fired after the boss finds out about it.

The prayers you pray for your friends, or even the ones they know nothing about, could be the faith that keeps them hangin' on. Keep on praying. When we're ready, we'll return the favor.

The Lady Behind the Mask

By the 18th century, revelers at the carnevale in Venice hid behind masks so their identities - and social classes - would be unknown and everyone could celebrate together. Until we live free of stigma, many of us with mental illness will similarly live behind masks so we can enjoy life with the rest of society

by on Mar. 4, 2012 at 2:07 PM
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