25 Years Of Living With Mental Illness

Some quotes on mental health and the church

The very church that preaches Christ’s unconditional love and compassion, in some instances, hurts its most needy members. 

Marja Bergen

The church ought to be a safe place for caring for those with all forms of illnesses: physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual

Pastor Curtis Lowe,

“It’s really rooted in superstition and a misunderstanding of what mental illness is,”

Amy Simpson

Despite all the advances in treatment, despite all the ways in which our culture has become more enlightened and compassionate, somehow mental illness remains in a category of its own, regarded as some sort of peculiar affliction that is best dealt with by toughing it out, straightening up, putting one’s will into play and hiding any evidence of possible symptoms.

Kathy Hurt

THE LACK OF ATTENTION TO THIS IMPORTANT ISSUE BOTH BY THE CHURCH AND SECULAR SOCIETY HAS LEFT THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE WITH MENTAL HEALTH PROBLEMS STIGMATIZED.

Gladys Mwiti

Things Never to Say to Someone Suffering from Mental Illness

  • Oh snap out of it already
  • Cheer up
  • Smile, you’ll feel better
  • Get over it

Or my personal “fave”

  • Your faith is weak, just pray it away

If only it were that simple.

I have suffered from bipolar disorder, depression and anxiety since I was 17.

21 years. It’s been 21 years. Actually, I started having panic attacks when I was 13 so yeah, around 25 years.

So for a quarter of a century I have been dealing with mental illness. I never looked at it like that before.

25 years.

Yes, I’m A Christian and Bipolar

Yes, it is possible to be a Christian, to have the love of the Lord in you and still struggle with a mental illness. The two CAN coexist! Because guess what? Mental illness? Yeah, it doesn’t discriminate. It can strike anyone at any given time. It’s a chemical imbalance.

Its Not a Lack of Faith Issue

I have suffered from depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder for many years.  I was told by someone once that my faith was not strong enough and that’s why I was suffering. I’ll never forget that.

But it’s not a faith issue. What if what I had was physical? Diabetes, or cancer? We don’t question those illnesses so why is mental illness any different? According to Ed Stetzer,

We can talk about diabetes and Aunt Mable’s lumbago in church—those are seen as medical conditions, but mental illness–that’s somehow seen as a lack of faith.

Mental illness is a chemical imbalance in the brain. It shouldn’t be treated any differently from a physical illness.

I will never understand why every organ in your body gets support and sympathy when it is ill, except for your brain.

Unknown

I have actually been told that mental illness is “all in your head.” Ummm….well yes…..it is! Where else would it be? My kidney?

Mental pain is less dramatic than physical pain but it is more common and also more hard to bear. The frequent attempt to conceal mental pain increases the burden; it is easier to say, “my tooth is aching” than to say “my heart is broken.”

C.S. Lewis

25 years, y’all. 25 years!

Research and Anxiety and Mental Health, Oh My!

I’m loaded down with tons and tons of notes and print outs and books related to my project. And yet I don’t feel like I am anywhere near ready to start the actual writing.

Sure, I’ve got some things written out and some things typed up but it’s frustrating because I can’t seem to tie it together.

As I told you, I’m having to delve into my past which I’m not really sure I want to but it has to be done. I know this.

Prayers would be appreciated as I continue to venture into the unknown world that is writing a book. (Yes, I’m saying book now, LOL)

(I remember now how much I hated researching in school, LOL)

Lay Your Burdens Down

I’m hurting again. I’m exhausted…again. My body is in so much pain that I just want to give up. But I know I can’t. This is a daily battle. It’s a battle that rages constantly, pulling me down with it sometimes. I don’t always win. Today feels like one of those days.

Fibromyalgia. Why must it exist? Bipolar disorder…why must I suffer? I just want to be normal. What is normal though? Does it even exist?

I am not writing this in order to get you to feel sorry for me. Rather I’m writing to get my thoughts out, to express how I’m feeling. But due to brain fog I can’t find the right words to truly express how I’m feeling. I have to save this as a draft, walk away for a little while, then come back. Most of the time that works but today I’m struggling. My brain just doesn’t want to work today.

As I was writing this, Jamie Kimmett’s song “Burdens” came on. Coincidence? I think not! This is ALL GOD!

I don’t have to fight this battle alone. The Lord is with me. He wants me to lay my burdens down, to give everything to Him!

Do not be afraid of the nations there, for the Lord your God will fight for you.

Deuteronomy 3:22

The Lord hears his people when they call to him for help. He rescues them from all their troubles.

Psalm 34:17

Leave the Scar

I have not lived a life that boasts of anything. I don’t take pride in what I bring. But I’ll build an altar with the rubble You’ve found me in. And every stone will sing of what You can redeem…

Point of Grace

That quote above are lyrics from a song called, “Heal the Wound” by Point of Grace. I absolutely LOVE this song and I encourage you to take a listen to it.

I am not the person I once was. I found Christ when I was 19. It was 17 years ago back in March. But before I found Christ I was a miserable wreck of a person. I was depressed, angry all the time, a jerk to my family. Oh I grew up in church….sang all the songs, memorized the verses. My head was full of the knowledge of God but my heart was bitter. I was only in church because my mom made me go, if I’m being honest.

I hated my life. I wanted nothing more than to just stop living. If I stopped living the mental pain would, of course, stop. I was a cutter back then. But thank GOD I didn’t die back then because I’d definitely be in hell, where the pain would go on for eternity.

God saved me from myself. He grabbed a hold of my bitter, angry heart and turned it around.

I’m still bipolar. That will never go away. I’m on medication for life.

Yes, God could heal me from being bipolar. I do believe that. But I also believe He allows it to remain to remind me of where I was and how much I don’t want to become that person again.

It is my “thorn in the flesh.”

Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12: 8-10

Mental Health and Christianity

Photo by Nathan Cowley on Pexels.com

I will never understand why every organ in your body gets support and sympathy when it is ill, except for your brain.

–Unknown

It’s hard having to deal with a mental illness. It can really become a burden sometimes.

As a bipolar sufferer I must deal with the rollercoaster of emotions quite frequently. I can be in the best mood one second and be crying the next. However, as of lately I’ve been pretty stable due to the increase of one medication and being put on a new medication. It seems like it’s a good balance. Recently, I was on the verge of a manic episode and I could feel it. So that’s why my doctor added a new medication to my “cocktail.”

I came across some quotes about mental illness that I’d like to share.

It’s called a mental illness for a reason….because it is an illness. Why can’t it be accepted like any other illness?

Unknown

There is such a stigma when it comes to mental illness. Just because you can’t see it, however, does not mean it’s not there.

Mental pain is less dramatic than physical pain but it is more common and also more hard to bear. The frequent attempt to conceal mental pain increases the burden; it is easier to say, “my tooth is aching” than to say “my heart is broken.”

C.S. Lewis

I think C.S. Lewis hit the nail on the head with this quote. Trying to hide mental pain just makes things worse. But he’s right….it’s easier to talk about a physical ailment than it is a mental ailment.

There continues to be a high level of suspicion, distrust and even fear in the church when it comes to psychology and psychiatry.

Matthew S. Stanford

When I first got diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2008, I was ashamed of telling people. I thought they would act differently around me. When someone hears that a person is bipolar they start treating that person as if they are a time bomb just waiting to go off. It’s frustrating and hurtful.

Mental disorders do not discriminate according to faith, but rather affect believers and nonbelievers alike.

Matthew S. Stanford

I’ve always believed this. Mental illness does NOT discriminate!! It can strike any one at any given time, regardless of religious beliefs.

Taking medication for any illness is simply making wise use of the abundant resources provided to us by a loving God.

Matthew S. Stanford

God created doctors for this very purpose.

For the stigma of mental illness to be broken, there must be direct, transparent speech from Christian leaders. We need more open dialogue in the church.

Ed. Stetzer

The church must stop being afraid of tackling the subject of mental illness. It exists. Simple as that.

If we immediately dismiss the possibility of mental illness and automatically assume spiritual deficiency, our actions amount to spiritual abuse.

Ed Stetzer

Whether a person suffers from bipolar disorder, OCD, anxiety, depression etc…the church must come together and help fight the end of the stigma surrounding the church.

I have so many more quotes that I could share but I think I’ve shared enough. Maybe I’ll do another “quotes” entry in the near future.

Everybody Always

So a friend from church loaned me a book called “Everybody Always: Becoming Love in a World Full of Setbacks and Difficult People.” by Bob Goff. I’m really excited to read this because woo boy do I have difficult people in my life, as I’m sure we all do.

I haven’t started it yet but will be either tonight or tomorrow.

What happens when we give away love like we’re made of it?

In his entertaining and inspiring follow-up to the New York Times bestselling phenomenon Love Does, Bob Goff takes readers on a journey into the secret of living without fear, constraint, or worry. The path toward the liberated existence we all long for is found in a truth as simple to say as it is hard to do: love people, even the difficult ones, without distinction and without limits.

Driven by Bob’s trademark storytelling, Everybody, Always reveals the lessons Bob learned–often the hard way–about what it means to love without inhibition, insecurity, or restriction. From finding the right friends to discovering the upside of failure, Everybody, Always points the way to embodying love by doing the unexpected, the intimidating, the seemingly impossible. Whether losing his shoes while skydiving solo or befriending a Ugandan witch doctor, Bob steps into life with a no-limits embrace of others that is as infectious as it is extraordinarily ordinary. Everybody, Always reveals how we can do the same.

Have any of y’all read it? What did you think?

I need prayers lifted for my 15 year old nephew. He is so addicted to his Xbox and this stupid game called Fortnite. He gets so worked up when something goes wrong in the game and will slam his controller down and rant and rave. He sits in front of the screen for hours at a time. Guys, please pray for his spiritual life. He got saved 2 years ago at camp but is definitely not living the life he should be. He lets this game get to him and misses church because he was up too late playing. He didn’t go to bed until 4:30 this morning because he was playing the stupid game.

Pray for ME that I don’t lose my mind trying not let this get to ME! I have a really bad habit of letting things get under my skin.

Sounds like I need to get off here and start reading this book! LOL.

The Church and Mental Illness

I was saddened to hear about the death of Jarrid Wilson..if you don’t know who he was, he was the associate pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in California. Sadly, he took his own life on Monday. He was 30.

Wilson and his wife founded “Anthem of Hope”, a program meant to help people who suffered from depression and mental illness.

I sit here in complete disbelief. But I realize that mental illness does NOT discriminate. It can strike anyone at any given time. Christian or not. Pastor or parishioner.

It’s time that the church step up and help deal with this mental illness crisis. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, nearly 43.8 million people experience mental illness in a given year. That’s 1 in 5 adults.

I believe that the reason the church doesn’t reach out is because they just don’t know how to handle it. But it’s time to change that. It’s time to start having meaningful discussions about the seriousness of mental illness.

There is a stigma surrounding mental health. It’s time to erase that stigma. Mental illness is REAL folks. Let’s stop pretending it doesn’t exist.

Its Not a Lack of Faith Issue

I have suffered from depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder for many years.  I was told by someone once that my faith was not strong enough and that’s why I was suffering. I’ll never forget that.

But it’s not a faith issue. What if what I had was physical? Diabetes, or cancer? We don’t question those illnesses so why is mental illness any different? According to Ed Stetzer,

We can talk about diabetes and Aunt Mable’s lumbago in church—those are seen as medical conditions, but mental illness–that’s somehow seen as a lack of faith.

Mental illness is a chemical imbalance in the brain. It shouldn’t be treated any differently from a physical illness.

My Thorn in the Flesh

Can God heal mental illness? Absolutely! He can do anything! For me, personally, I find my mental illness to be my “thorn in the flesh.” I have actually grown closer to the Lord these past several years. And I believe the verse that says, “And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. (2 Cor 12:9)


Warning Signs

  • extreme mood swings
  • talking about being burden to others
  • increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
  • talking about being hopeless
  • talking about having no reason to live
  • talking about being trapped and in unbearable pain

What Can You Do?

  • Ask–Talk to them.
  • Be There
  • Listen without judgement
  • Help them connect–create a network of resources and individuals for support
  • Follow up–continue to have contact with them

 

If you or someone you know is severely depressed and suicidal please contact

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

1-800-273-8255

Yes, I’m a Christian and I’m Bipolar…

I touched on this topic a little over a year ago but decided to add to it in case a new follower needs to read it.

Yes, it is possible to be a Christian, to have the love of the Lord in you and still struggle with a mental illness. The two CAN coexist! Because guess what? Mental illness? It doesn’t discriminate. It can strike anyone at any given time. It’s a chemical imbalance.

It’s taken some time to get this blog post out because as soon as I sit down at my computer to start writing, I start losing focus. I become agitated because I can’t get my thoughts out the way I want them to.  Oh, I have many many thoughts racing through my head but they won’t come out on screen. It’s a bunch of jumbled thoughts, not making sense.

So what do I do in times like these? I wish I could say I always turn to the Lord to help me (and I do most of the time) but every once in a while I sit and have a pity party. “Why me? Why do I have to be like this? Why can’t I just be normal?” I cry and cry.

I realize having a pity party is definitely not the best way to handle it but try telling me that when I’m having an episode. It doesn’t work. I eventually find my way out of the pity party and then turn to the Lord. (I know, I know…..I should have turned to God first….and believe me…I try! But sometimes Satan is stronger than me and pulls me down.)

So why can’t I just turn to the Lord the second I feel myself slipping? I wish I had an answer for you. I don’t know. I honestly have no idea.

I’m getting better at turning to the Lord in these times. I haven’t had a bad episode in quite some time. The Lord is slowly working in me and I’m becoming stronger.

The other day I was doing my devotions and came across Psalm 27. The first verse is one of my favorites:

1. The Lord is my light and my salvation–so why should I be afraid? The Lord is my fortress, protecting me from danger, so why should I tremble?

The Lord is ALWAYS with me even when I’m not with Him! He’s there for me when I’m suffering. He’s there when life is good! He’s my light! He’s my salvation!

The last verse has become a favorite of mine too.

14. Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.

If you’re suffering…if you feel lost and confused…turn to Jesus. He will never fail you.

 

Why Is It So Hard?

I have all but lost my desire for writing. Now that I’m back to work, it seems I have let my writing fall by the wayside. After I get home from work I’m in so much pain from standing all day that I have no interest in writing.

I’m going to be honest with you all for a moment…..I’m struggling. With life, with my relationship with God, with just about everything. I haven’t lost my faith. I still believe but I’m finding it hard to set aside time to spend with God.

I’m human. We all are. We have flaws and always will. But what happens when you lose your desire for God? Why is it so hard to follow Him? I see others who are so devoted to God and have a deep relationship with Him and I wonder why I can’t seem to find that sort of relationship. I know it’s available, I know it’s there. I thought I used to have it.  Maybe I never have.

I feel like a fraud. This blog is supposed to be me telling others about Christ and His love for us. And here I am, struggling. I’ve abandoned my blog in recent weeks.

I know we all struggle. As long as we are on this earth we will struggle from time to time.

I do know that God is still working in me. As I write this, I’m listening to Mandisa’s song, Unfinished. If you haven’t heard it I definitely advise you to check it out. Here’s some of the lyrics,

Not scared to say it
I used to be the one
Preaching it to you
That you could overcome
I still believe it
But it ain’t easy
‘Cause that world I painted
Where things just all work out
It started changing
And I started having doubts
And it got me so down
But I picked myself back up
And I started telling me
No, my God’s not done
Making me a masterpiece
He’s still working on me
He started something good
And I’m gonna believe it
He started something good
And He’s gonna complete it
So I’ll celebrate the truth
His work in me ain’t through
I’m just unfinished
I’m just unfinished
So I’ll celebrate the truth
His work in me ain’t through
I’m just unfinished
I know God is not finished with me yet.  And I know if you are struggling right now, like I am, that God isn’t finished with you yet either. Keep your head up and focused on Him.
That’s what I am doing.
But why is it so hard???
Here is another song that is speaking to me right now. It’s called Need You Now by Plumb. Such a powerful song!
Well, everybody’s got a story to tell
And everybody’s got a wound to be healed
I want to believe there’s beauty here
‘Cause oh, I get so tired of holding on
I can’t let go, I can’t move on
I want to believe there’s meaning here
How many times have you heard me cry out
“God please take this”?
How many times have you given me strength to
Just keep breathing?
Oh I need you
God, I need you now.
Standing on a road I didn’t plan
Wondering how I got to where I am
I’m trying to hear that still small voice
I’m trying to hear above the noise
How many times have you heard me cry out
God please take this?
How many times have you given me strength to
Just keep breathing?
Oh I need you
God, I need you now.

I don’t know where you are right now in your walk with God, whether you’re struggling, as I am right now, or if things are going great for you right now but just remember this: God is not finished with you and has great plans for you.

I honestly believe this though I’m struggling right now.
I just wish it wasn’t so hard.

The Panic Attack that Started My Downward Spiral

My mental health problems began when I was a teenager. One night I suffered a major panic attack that scared the mess out of me and my mom. I honestly thought I was going to die.

I was trying to fall asleep when all of a sudden, out of nowhere, this overwhelming sense of terror just enveloped me. My heart was racing way too fast as if I had just finished running a marathon. My hands began to seize up into fists that I couldn’t pry open.

What was going on? Was I dying? I was scared to death and didn’t know why. Why was this happening to me?

I remember my mom telling me that when she placed her hand over my heart to see how fast my heart was racing it felt like “a herd of horses galloping.” She tried to pry open my fists but to no avail.

She took me to the doctor where he diagnosed it as a severe anxiety attack and prescribed me an anti-anxiety medication. This particular medication, however, INCREASED my panic attacks. I was having them multiple times a day! So I was placed on another medicine which seemed to help.

After suffering from these panic attacks, I fell into a deep depression. I couldn’t understand why I was suffering from these attacks. I was in my senior year of high school.  This was supposed to be the greatest year of my high school career. I was on the verge of becoming an adult!

But no, I enjoyed none of that. Instead, I lost so much weight that my sister and my mom were convinced I had an eating disorder but I didn’t. I just stopped eating because I just wasn’t hungry.  My jeans sagged on me, I retreated to my room most days and kept to myself. I hated life at this point.

And the only thing I can say is that the panic attack is what started my downward spiral. And it gets worse….much worse…..but that’s a story for another day.