Tag Archives: mental illness

Truth & Grace

Christ died for ME last Easter. Every Easter Christ’s resurrection has meaning but March of 2016, I had the notion through my mental illness fogged thinking that THIS Easter I was going to die and rise along with Christ. In this deep depression and hopeless I somehow thought this symbolism would bring less pain to my children and husband.

March 2016, I lay in bed and helped with the Easter church preparation; my daughter’s dress, hair bows, all in place. As my family prepared to go to church I prepared for my death and what I hoped would be my resurrection. Revolver or glock? I was going to free us all from this misery that was me, I was going to lay next Christ that very day WHOLE finally. I prayed that Christ would provide a beautiful woman to cherish my husband and children in ways that I could not.

I share with you the thoughts of suicide so you can see the lack of clarity and rationale that can be stripped away by an organ that is not functioning as it should, whether it be because of genetic neurological wiring and or life circumstances. Doctors can amputate an appendage that no longer works, organs can be transplanted, skin can be grafted but when the brain is damaged or not functioning we are left with much less remedy.

We are left with pills, therapy, hospitalization (which consists of more pills and therapy) and if you’re brave/desperate enough you can do shock therapy. When you’ve done this pill and therapy process for years to no avail it is difficult to accept that what’s being offered isn’t working or is no longer working.

The true reality of this manifests itself in the fact that many commit suicide by shooting themselves in the head …they are taking out the source of pain, the part of them that betrays their sense of reality and robs them of peace. This was my desperate intent that Easter Day, a new beginning for all of us, free of illness.

That Easter Day WAS a new beginning for me and my family and it did come through death … but not my own. That Easter Day I became keenly aware of the fact that blood had already been shed, I just had to mentally reconcile that it was shed for ME. the blood that ran from Christ’s hands and down his wrists covered those that felt the need to cut, that the blood that ran from his head covered those that felt the need to take their own life … i was spared … I was aware of the pain that day that Christ felt both physically and mentally, the isolation. I committed that day to either end my life or try to live again a new way. I chose the latter and began rebuilding my life.

Since March 2016 I have run/walked 1,200 miles, lost 80 pounds, changed my diet, been sober a year, given up pharmaceuticals for Natural/ alternative meds, began studying MINDFULNESS, meditation and began accepting the fact that my family already had a beautiful woman to cherish them and with Christ filling in the gaps … she’s enough. Each one of these changes required commitment, discipline, TRUTH  and GRACE for myself. It required a complete reset of my mind, it was not easy and remains work, but I’m grateful for the opportunity for recovery .. not complete healing, I will always bare this cross but I don’t bare it alone.

I don’t share this for praise, or to solicit any kind of response, it’s really not about me in the end … Anyone can accomplish any of these goals .. I share it to give hope, to those that quietly suffer, to those that want more than to be numb, for those that feel that their burden is too heavy, to those with a chronic illness to which there is no end date … YOU can do this, there is hope, there is peace, there is love for you. Find it in Christ, find it in nature, find it in your family, and find it within yourself … it’s there I promise ❤️

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Cannabis and Mental Illness

When you suffer with an ailment long enough, you look for answers that are outside of the box. Sometimes it’s because you don’t agree with the answers you’ve received, or the answers you’ve been given just aren’t enough so you’re willing to venture out in hopes you can put together enough remedy to have some peace in your life. For me, this is the case with cannabis and my mental health struggles.

I have always taken my meds prescribed by my Psychiatrist and have been in out of Psychologists offices for therapy as needed. I’ve read enough self-help books to take out a forest. I’ve always searched for solutions and answers in hopes of living the best quality of life possible, for myself and my family.

I have followed the system and its parodical and for me there has been huge benefit. There have been bumps along the road, and some incredibly hard years, some of it from medication trial and error, some of it from misdiagnosis … (Finally after twenty years, I’m being treated more accurately for Bipolar Disorder), and some of it from not always choosing the healthiest coping skills.

My meds definitely help stabilize my Bipolar Disorder and I’m grateful for that, I’m in a functioning state with little to no mania and occasional depression. The problem is finding the balancing act with my BD meds and my anxiety meds .. While I take both and get some relief, I’m still very anxious a lot of the time. At times it’s manageable and at times it’s not, and I’m at the end of my rope, as it spills over into my mothering, marriage and all aspects of my life.

I began drinking to medicate, a glass of wine over a couple of years became a couple of bottles of wine, long story short it became an ugly thing in my life and almost cost me my family. So, the drinking to excess went away but the anxiety did not.

I had smoked cannabis when I was younger in college on and off recreationally. I could take it or leave it though, it was not really my thing. Twenty years later, when CA went medical legal I decided to get my card and try it for actual medical purposes, specifically my anxiety and insomnia.

I researched it online and asked a few of my doctors about the benefits and harms of mixing cannabis and pharmaceuticals. I got very mixed professional opinions and people’s experiences seemed to run the gamut from some swearing by it and stopping all their meds to others experiencing paranoia and finding no relief. I decided to give it a try.

For me, cannabis, specifically Indica strains have helped calm my anxiety. I don’t believe it is curing anything but it is treating my symptoms. It has taken trial and error like any medication to figure out dosage and strains. I’m not stopping any of my other meds because for me cannabis alone would not be enough. I’m also careful to balance it in my life. I only use it when I need it and usually at night when I’m done with my mothering duties.

I’m not open with everyone about this choice. To some in my life it is a moral mistake, and I’ve lost a few “friends” because of it. I worry about some of the legality of it because I have children, but I closely follow the state law. My Psychiatrist isn’t an advocate or against it. My extended family isn’t thrilled about it but they accept it and I try my best to be respectful of this. My husband is very supportive of it because he has seen first hand the benefit, the peaceful nights I have now, the sleep I get now, I’m more live able.

I share this on my blog because it has made a positive difference in my life. I’m not preaching or saying you should try it, or stop taking your medication .. Please don’t! Any changes you make please do responsibly with the knowledge of a Dr.

I share this on my blog to tell you, the mental health system is there to guide, but it is ok to look outside of it and see what else exists. It is ok to question and seek answers. It’s ok to trust that you know yourself better than anyone and to realize you have to live with yourself … Strengths, aliments and all.

Lastly, I share this on my blog out of intellectual curiosity. I’m curious about others positive or negative experiences with cannabis and mental illness. Feel free to share if you want, I would love to hear your story. Please be respectful though, if cannabis is not your thing, just leave this page without printing your judgement, life is hard enough already. Thank you.

Robin William’s Legacy ISN’T Dictated By his Final Act

July 21, 2015 Robin Williams would have turned 64, sadly he missed his birthday because he lost his battle with Bipolar Disorder. I am grieved that he suffered, that he gave so much to everyone else, brought joy and laughter to children and adults for over thirty years but couldn’t find place of peace within himself.

I’m sad for him, for myself and others that suffer from this unkind disorder. It can bring such energy and unfiltered enthusiasm, an unattainable idealism that makes it hard to thrive under normal means. It can bring one to such places that normalcy is completely without merit, and then swing you to a place of complete darkness and despair. Neither of which, are healthy places to live mentally for any length of time.

I understand the strain of years of this cycle, of this emotional pull to be on top of the world, and to not want to return to the darkness. I believe Robin thrived and made his living off of his manic phases, he entertained us and made us laugh, we loved him when he was in this place that brought us out of ourselves and brought joy to our lives.

He had a gift definitely, and he was able to find a way to use the attributes of BD in a positive way. Sadly, it must have been exhausting both physically and mentally to try to sustain his life in one realm of this disorder. I know he struggled with substance abuse for years, like so many of us with Bipolar Disorder, where I’m sure he was able to numb some of this struggle.

I think perhaps acting became a burden to him when he was depressed and I’m sure relying on it to provide for himself and his family was overwhelming at times, when he had nothing to give, much less sustain himself with. Despite all this, I think he probably had many years of satisfaction vocationally, contributing to other’s lives, making them laugh … one thing I’m sure he wanted for himself.

I wish Robin could have shared his struggles, his other side, the depressed, grieved part of himself. I would have still loved him, and I would like to think others could have handled his honesty, but as I say that I realize that mental health stereotypes still exist and the public eye can be harsh.

To some his suicide was eye-opening, perhaps now they’re able to see that mental illness can affect anyone, it doesn’t discriminate, by wealth, talent or intellect and it can very easily take all of that from you if you don’t take care of yourself. Which is not to say that he wasn’t taking care of himself, he may have been making his best effort. I also know he had physical health problems and financial struggles which I’m sure contributed to his suffering.

Others, took his suicide as an opportunity to self-righteously judge that which they truly don’t understand because it’s never been in their arm’s length. Which saddens me. Mental illness in my life has caused enough pain that I’m able to have empathy for others when they struggle even when it’s with a battle I’m not familiar with. I’m not judging his final act, instead I’m grateful for the legacy he left, R.I.P. Robin Williams.

Take Your Meds

I just recently read an article on FB about a 29 year old who lost her battle with mental illness (specifically Bipolar Disorder) and I grieved for the loss, both as a parent and as a person who struggles with BD.

The FB post written by her mother described this beautiful girl who was diagnosed while in college after experiencing a psychotic break. She went on to be diagnosed, hospitalized and then medicated. She did this cycle a few times over a couple of years and then tragically took her own life after deciding she no longer needed medication.

It saddens me that so many with Bipolar Disorder lose their struggle with the illness because of their resistance to medication. I understand the draw to go back, to continue on with the self you know, in the life you recognize, and I have had to do some grieving and soul searching and sacrificing and recreating of myself but I don’t see any other way.

I’m at a stage in my life where I have too much to lose if I don’t take care of myself, and live a more balanced life. I have a husband and children depending upon me, to be the best me I can be and that’s what I’m choosing.

My medication has changed me, it’s undeniable. I’m more flat, in my emotions, and my personality. I’m not as much fun or drama, some of my quick wit, sarcastic humor and loud mouth are gone. I’m more reserved, in my approach to life, to friends, in my openness, and I’m less social.   I’m a little slower mentally, tired a lot more, and sadly gaining weight because I don’t have the energy or desire most of the time to exercise. This doesn’t seem like much, but knowing yourself and attributes and then having them change after forty years is definitely an adjustment.

I stick with my medication regiment because despite the fact that I miss parts of my old self, I just can’t do the scattered chaos anymore. I am much calmer now, I yell less, I cry less. I am a more patient mother and much more loving wife.   The medication helps me relax more, emotionally and mentally, it has slowed down some of my OCD and perfectionism and has left me with more acceptance and less judgement for myself and others.

I wish I could have it all, but I realize with any kind of illness you have to pick and choose what you can and can’t live without. Since being medicated, I haven’t had the extent of mania or depression I used to have, no more days in bed struggling to function, and no more manic frenzy, crazy driving and racing thoughts of running away.

The days are more quiet and calm, I’m more of a homebody now, less inclined to be social at the drop of a hat. It’s a slower pace of life than I’m used to. No more jumping around mentally from vocational, entrepreneurial and college idea to idea. I’m settling in. To myself, to my life. I’m ok with letting go of my old frantic being that was constantly evolving in my mind. No more rush of mania to make me feel inflated, I realize now that the mania isn’t any more real than the depression that haunted me, I have to dwell in the middle ground like others. Actually, I don’t HAVE to but I NEED to for my own sanity and for my family’s semblance.

My point being, my life isn’t perfect with meds, but it’s more of a life. Please take your medicine. Don’t let this monster kill you, because on your good days, the deception is your better and you don’t need the medication. Don’t lie to yourself, be willing to see that this is a life-long illness that ebbs and flows, it will grow old with you, but let it, treat it, so you get the opportunity to have an end that is fitting. Take your illness and recovery seriously.

I know there are some that medication isn’t working or hasn’t worked in the past and my heart and prayers go out to them. I pray that they don’t give up in the meantime, that God gives them enough hope to keep them going and that there will be an end to their pain with some sort of advancement within the science and medical community that helps them.

I pray that prayer for all that suffer under the stronghold of mental illness, I pray for more recovery, more joy, and more sustainable well and long lived lives especially for those that are young and just starting out on this journey. Please take your medicine.

Truth Teller

I came out to my friends on FB about my Bipolar Diagnosis, to mixed reviews as you can imagine. (If you want to see the exact post I put on FB you can check out my post called My Secret Kills).

I’m sure my post made people uncomfortable, it caused a stir. I have a large variety of friends on FB, some who know me well and others not as well. My close friends, some who I’ve known over twenty plus years offered kind words, support and prayers for myself and my family.

My more casual friends that I know through sports, or local social events, commented less, because I’m sure they just didn’t know what to think or say. At first it was hard to make peace with the fact that I just pushed a status button and let people see into the depth of my life. I would see them in the grocery store and on the baseball field and almost immediately I would feel embarrassed or awkward and question the sanity of my choice to reveal. And now some time has gone by, and I’ve made peace with it, the fall out being what it is.

I had many private messages from others with mental health diagnoses, some I knew of and some I did not, because they were quietly suffering as well. Others told me they thought I was brave and that they were proud to be my friend.

A few people out right laughed and mocked my post, of course not to my face but behind my back. I’m even ok with that, because it reveals to me where they’re at in their lives. Some people are not ok with truth, and they hide away from it because honesty can be painful at times, it can make you see things about yourself that aren’t pleasant and need some work. I’m ok with them not wanting to live honestly, but I want no part of it, I’ve worked too hard to deal with reality to live anywhere but.

In all this, I remember why I chose to come out. I was hoping to bring awareness to mental illness, I wanted people to see a face with it, to make it real, to make people realize they know someone who suffers from mental illness. That it just doesn’t look a certain way, this illness can take on anyone, at any economic level, any social status, or religion, any intellectual level, either sex, any race, mental illness doesn’t discriminate.

I wanted to create a place where people could be real, and not have to hide behind the illusion of some perfect life. Don’t get me wrong, I love to see pictures of my friends and their families, I’m ok with others success and joy, but it also cuts away at my heart when I’m struggling and it appears that other’s lives flow so smoothly. I just wanted a balance, I want to know my friends in truth, their joy and pain.

Being a truth teller has opened a door with my children. My 12 year old has now heard open discussions about Bipolar Disorder and he has seen his mother struggle but also strive to get well. He has a better understanding of real life, and the real work it involves. Though to him it isn’t a total surprise because we’ve always been open about his Asperger’s syndrome and so he knows there is no shame in honesty, in learning about and accepting one’s self. And I’m glad for him, and pray that I’ve saved him some time in embracing himself and his God given strengths and weaknesses.

My friendships feel more authentic now, I feel more authentic now. I don’t have the emotional energy to pretend to be someone I’m not, and I don’t care to. I’m starting to feel ok in my own skin, and I’m ok embracing others that are hurting, struggling with illness, with life. I’m not uncomfortable when people confide in me about their personal life. I don’t feel a need to fix them, or their situation, I just try to sit with them and listen and be present. Isn’t that what most people want in a friend anyway? It’s what I want.

I talk to my real friends, about our real lives and it’s freeing, to not be alone, to know that we all struggle on different levels with different things. I feel like struggling with mental illness has almost given me a window into others souls, not in any spiritual or magical sense, just that I can look at others and sometimes see pain in them despite the smile they put on their face to make others comfortable. It’s a hard earned gift, as is empathy, but it’s real, its truth. These days I almost prefer the honesty of AA to church, because nobody hides behind their sin, their struggle, it’s open and real.

I love truth now, I love the grace that goes with it, and freedom that it allows. I love the real acceptance it can provide for myself and others. My real friends and I accept, truth and grace. I hope that you can find this in your life and embrace it as I have.

Privacy Laws & Disclosure

In response to the tragic German Wings copilot that crashed his plane intentionally into the French Alps.

I have always been a big believer in patient privacy rights, especially when it comes to mental health, due to the stigmas that it can carry. It’s hard enough when you struggle to function with Bipolar Disorder or some other diagnosis, much less live with your spread sheet of mistakes. There are credit reports, resumes, school transcripts and broken relationships that go before you in any new attempt, and the explanations that need to follow. It’s hard to have to start at a deficit and explain your way into credibility.

To make available another level of very personal medical information is almost damning, it’s a hurdle that many would not be able to overcome. An obstacle I would not want to have to add to any already challenging list of self-disclosure. The thought of having to explain to a complete stranger, for example a potential employer about my struggle with mental illness in order to justify an opportunity seems unfathomable and writhed with discrimination.

It is sure damnation, when an employer has two candidates in front of him and one has to disclose a mental health issue, you can be sure a red flag will go up.  To think at that point that it wouldn’t professionally be held against him, is complete naivete. We tell ourselves that an employer in that situation wouldn’t be biased but human nature being what it is, I wouldn’t want to give opportunity for discrimination unless it was out necessity. I want to be judged solely on my professional skills, and aptitudes, on my performance at past jobs not on the medication I take twice a day.

My “mental health” record would start when I was 16 years old, a junior in high school suffering with depression/bipolar disorder while my parents were going through a divorce, oblivious and too self-absorbed to notice. At 17 and still struggling I checked myself into Charter Hospital because I wanted to get better, I wanted help.   If privacy laws dictated that my hospitalization be public record and required that I report it would I have chosen the same route?  Perhaps not. Without privacy, individuals and families will be forced to suffer quietly in their homes and languish away any future potential.

There are just too many stereotypes to over-come with mental illness and not enough information in place to justify changing privacy laws. People hear a diagnosis like Bipolar Disorder and their mind instantly flashes to the latest tragedy they’ve seen where someone suffering from this illness lost their life. Meanwhile in suburban-ville many are living among you with this very illness, unnamed but successfully mothering, wiving, coaching, educating, and working. Some of them make the best teachers, nurses, writers, coaches, etc. and you don’t know or need to know their personal strife to benefit from the services or professionalism they provide.

Even as I claim and justify my point, I am left feeling like there is still a matter left unaddressed, there are still innocent lives that need to be protected. Are there certain vocations where there needs to be an exception?  I would argue perhaps, but it is such a slippery slope.

I would argue that there are two specific situations in which medical disclosure should be considered mandatory. One being, professions that require responsibility  for others lives, such as carrying a weapon, maneuvering large machinery or vehicles, some hospital work, etc. Secondly, I would argue that in these professions documented psychosis be something shared with employers. I never like to take anyone’s freedom and privacy away, especially when it’s an undeserved action and sadly no fault of the patient, but unfortunately innocent life must be protected when certain probabilities are in known existence. Odds are something we can only afford to take into account for ourselves, but not for others.

I argue this point, not just as someone who suffers from mental illness, I argue this as a parent who grieves for the children lost and all of the victims aboard that plane, including the co-pilot who might have also been saved from this tragedy had someone recognized and reported that he needed to retire his wings. Not in punishment or retribution but in care and for the benefit of others and himself. Praying for all of the families involved.

After Diagnosis

“Hard is trying to rebuild yourself, piece by piece, with no instruction book, and no clue as to where all the important bits are supposed to go.”
Nick Hornby, A Long Way Down

I’m past the initial discovery of being diagnosed Bipolar. I’m past the newness of it, the excitement of having answers to life-long questions. I’m into the now what stage. I’m into the now I have to live with this diagnosis stage.

This stage is difficult because it’s all the reality, its realizing that I’m sick and have been for years.  It’s rethinking my identity, looking at myself with new eyes, accepting a label I don’t fully understand.  It’s learning new strategies. It’s explaining to family, the one’s that want to know, and avoiding answers to the ones that don’t. It’s shielding myself from certain critics.

It means asking myself new questions. Why is answered now. This is the phase of why me? It’s a time of questioning my future potential, and hoping it won’t be limited by this illness and the stigma attached to it. I’m almost at a loss, because I just don’t know how this will all play out.

My therapist has suggested that I have a new way of viewing my choices. I’m supposed to view with them with a sense of stability and question, “is this the bipolar or the rational me making this choice.”  I kind of find this insulting, though I understand the point of it. In hindsight I know I’ve been bipolar since I was sixteen years old, and this is my normal. This is me, I’ve drawn from my experience for over twenty years. It’s what I know. It’s the things I love about myself and my weaknesses, it’s all intertwined and almost impossible to separate completely. I know I need to make changes, and I’m fine with that but I’m not going to totally disconnect from who I’ve been for most of my life.

It’s a time of medication trial and error, wait and see outcomes. It’s putting my life in the hands of a professional, and hoping their chemical cocktail offers some relief. It’s a time of both hope and grief. Where I just have sit with it for a while and try to really comprehend this new life I have in front of me.

It’s a time of praying and hoping that this illness doesn’t have negative long term effects on my marriage and children. Both in terms of genetics and the mistakes I’ve made with them while struggling.

I’m in the rebuilding phase, without the benefit of a blue print, but none the less moving forward.

 

Suicidal Cancer

If you were diagnosed with cancer and had years of; treatments, prescriptions, hospitalizations, of pain, that stopped you from living any sort of normal life, with no guarantee of recovery, would you feel hopeless? If you had to live with this set of circumstances for years; five years, ten years, twenty years, a lifetime, would you question your ability to go on? How much heartache would you carry while others went on and lived normally healthy lives, while your existence was consumed with one thing … CANCER.

Sadly, for some people mental illness isn’t much different, it’s a debilitating illness that effects every aspect of their lives. This isn’t a cause and effect situation, there isn’t anything they did to cause it, nothing they could have done to prevent it.  They felt pain, suffered, saw a doctor, got a diagnosis, worked on treatment options and went on trying to live. For some, this means years of exhausting many treatments options, many hospitalizations, many broken relationships, many job loses, all due to an illness that unfortunately Science hasn’t been able to cure yet.

When we describe mental illness but give it a different title that people can relate to, like cancer, people are able to see it in a new light. When we think in terms of uncurable cancer, it seems understandable that there would be a loss of hope in one’s life. People are able to muster up some sympathy for a person in this situation.

I know as humans we judge others out of our own experience, traditions, and religion or otherwise personal belief system and I try to keep that in mind when reading others views on mental illness and suicide, but at times I find it difficult. I can always tell when some famous writer tries to tackle the idea of suicide and they have no personal experience in dealing with debilitating mental illness.

I can tell by their word choices and simple explanations. I can tell by the way they offer up meaningless options to the idea of suicide, solutions that would be great to choose if someone were well. Solutions they believe they would have chosen, and of course that anyone in their right mind would chose. The problem is when a person is at the point of suicide, there mind isn’t right, they are sick, and suffering.

People want to address the act of suicide but fail to see the victim’s lifetime of struggle, of pain. I can tell by the way they chose to judge the person who took their life, instead of understanding that that person is a victim as well. A victim succumb to their illness.

Some people want to throw out judgements that offer no grace, only damnation for someone who is clearly already suffering beyond what is bearable to them and mostly likely would be to others of us. We would never dream of doing this to someone who lost their life to cancer or an illness of the body.

As a society we fail to accept that mental illness can be a terminal illness for some. There is involvement on the victim’s part to make it terminal, but at the same time it’s important to understand that the body has a breaking point, it will quit after enough pain or illness is inflicted, but the brain is different.

The brain, unless physically injured, will continue on despite any amount of neurotransmitter dysfunction. Having been through hospice with my grandparents, at the end there seems to be a resolution, they are ready to die because of the condition of their body. But with mental this doesn’t happen, it can mean illness with no cure and no end.

I’m in no way condoning suicide, it’s not my judgement to make. I’m just trying to bring some understanding to it, hoping that with understanding will come grace. When someone takes their own life, I deeply grieve, for them, for their families. I’m grieved that the victim wasn’t able to find peace in this life, that they felt there wasn’t enough hope to give themselves more time.

I’m glad the scientific community is finally starting to make huge gains in the area of the human brain.   I’m hoping it will make mental illness more legitimate to society, to people that haven’t had it impact their lives in some way. I’m hoping for improvements in medication, and treatments so that suicide never has to seem like an option. I’m hoping that one day mental illness won’t be terminal.

The Church’s Struggle with Mental Illness

Before moving forward with this blog, I would like to clarify that there is a distinction between the church and Christ, the latter of which my faith is in. And that currently I am in a church that does their best to embrace me even if they don’t fully understand my affliction.

Some churches still struggle to view mental illness as anything but an existential thought of one’s moral/spiritual compass.

At sixteen, I experienced this first hand in an evangelical church, it was the beginning of my first bout with severe depression. I tried to be happy … I went to church and followed their rules ….I prayed for their joy, their fruits of the spirit and I believed. I tried their prescription for me:

  • pray more, differently, with scripture in it, on my knees
  • stop sinning
  • volunteer my time
  • take communion, tithe
  • repent, confess
  • just put on a happy face,
  • have more faith, read my Bible more,
  • accept Christ’s healing

I NEEDED to believe. Nobody needs to believe more than the broken, nobody knows belief until their broken.

And while well intentioned church leaders questioned my faith, the quantity and quality of prayer and self –sacrifice, I was in ever, increasing deep despair. They seemed to reason that my depression was a result of non-repentant sin, thus I was causing my own depression. Now, at forty I have enough life experience to reason my way out of that box, but at sixteen I wasn’t equipped to handle this sort of bad theology.

It caused me years of continued and unneeded struggle, within myself and in my approach to wellness. Counseling was considered a last ditch option, and if it was to be done by a pastor on staff, not a licensed therapist. I value pastors for their theological knowledge and their pastor care, however I believe without the proper training/education they can do more damage than good.

Medication was also frowned upon, and so I spent years trying nutraceutials; 5HTP, St.John’s Wort, the range of B Vitamins, all to no avail. Finally after six years of this journey, that had more to do with my brain chemistry than my spiritual life, I met a Christian therapist that helped change this wrong perspective and put me on the right path. I am eternally thankful for her and others that do exist within Christianity and the walls of the church that understand.

So, what plagues some of our churches when it comes to mental illness? I would say, causation and stigma … old concepts that for much of the world have been distinguished but are still lagging somewhat behind in some churches.

Causation is an ugly road to travel, it leaves a lot of carnage in its path, and it casts blame. The church does exhibit leeway for causation for that which it comprehends. Obesity causes heart disease, but we never hear, please remove yourself from the potluck line or the church will not be able to visit you while hospitalized from your quadruple bypass surgery. Any smokers here? Sorry, there will be no offering taken to assist you with your medical bills for COPD. Alcoholics … when you have cirrhosis of the liver we will not pray for you, sorry. The church can relate to those struggles, we’ve all had too many doughnuts, toked up during college, sipped from a boisterous Cabernet and then found ourselves embracing the cold, hard porcelain truth. But there is a lack of understanding of mental health issues often in many churches.

In mental illness, there is causation, but it needs to be assigned responsibly; it’s brain chemistry, neurotransmitters, genetics, and circumstances … causes that are not sinful in nature.

Dear Church,

Why must we with mental health issues hide out? Despite the fact that it’s not just your congregations that suffer from this illness, it’s not just you’re laymen who are somewhat less theologically astute. In fact some of your pastors, theological professors, Vicars, elders, are bumping into each other in the pew with shit grins on their faces because they can’t admit they struggle with mental illness, because they cannot let you see them. They don’t want to be fired, held spiritual hostage, have their faith questioned, they don’t want their families embarrassed.

This illness is different in that it affects our cognition and ability to see ourselves as we are. We are already struggling from an eternal perspective. We question our salvation, God, our desire for life, it’s a heartfelt existential crisis … and we can’t think our way out of it, any more than someone with cancer can think their way out of cancer and into remission.

Please Church understand, we’re not stupid, we don’t want this, our neurotransmitters are functionally incorrectly at the current moment and we could use your help. We desire to live, we desire to have our paradise lost renewed, we want to find comfort within your arms, we want to evangelize with you for Christ … and some of us will do it in ugly sick places you don’t want to go. Please embrace us, accept us, send us out in faith knowing that Christ can work through our brokenness, some of our wrists have bled like Christ’s … we get it .. We’ve almost died to our illnesses, please let us live in peace … not just God’s peace, but yours.

Perceving Ourselves & Others

Perception defined

  • the way you think about or understand someone or something
  • the ability to understand or notice something easily
  • the way that you notice or understand something using one of your senses

Having suffered from mental illness since adolescence I question my perception often, both my self-perception and my ability to perceive others. It’s an all-out fight to be comfortable within my own mind. And as my beautiful son, who has Asperger’s Syndrome, navigates the world of adolescence I see some of this struggle within him.

I know my self-perception is based on where I’m at in my Bipolar mind. If I’m in my hypomania mind, I think I’m attractive, a diva in-her-own-right. I completely forget that I have National Geographic breasts, Lane Bryant jeans, a husband and enough baggage to keep the Brady Bunch at bay. I make eye contact, I smile, laugh, flirt. I’m a temporary unstoppable extrovert.

And then there’s the self-perception of the cursed, depressive mind that makes me see myself as the last hominid to walk the earth. I dodge mirrors and grocery store aisles, I just want to hide out in my home and not be seen.

The truth being, I’m sure something in between those two vastly different self-perceptions. Sadly though, these perceptions totally influence the way I carry myself from day to day and interact with others, my longings, goals, and motivations.  At times they can be bold lies that hold me back from success and personal happiness.

Here’s how the processing goes in my mind. What did she mean by her words? Why did she say that? Why did she act like that? And then I switch to questioning myself …. Was my response appropriate? Did I over react? Did I not understand correctly? To have to play these reruns over and over in my mind can be a taxing process.

This perception struggle has caused me to draw near to some when I shouldn’t have and push others away when I didn’t need to. I’m overly sensitive and perhaps a little paranoid at times. I take things personal, I act defensively, I internalize things I shouldn’t, and then I have to justify my irrational behavior.

My flawed perceptions have caused me to question the actions of people who genuinely love me. To give unsolicited advice, though well -meaning not at all desired. I’ve complicated business transactions and lost friendships and made a complete ass of myself publicly because of them. It’s downright embarrassing at times. It can leave me feeling like an outsider in the world and in my own mind.

I confess this not to self-indulge or have a pity party, but because I believe that even if we can’t change our brain chemistry we can teach ourselves to be better perceivers of others and ourselves. I’ve had to work on improving in this area for my own well-being and so I can help teach my Aspie son.

Some things that have helped me improve in this area;

  • I try to give myself time, and not be rushed into making a snap judgment. I ask more questions, and jump to less conclusions. I try to listen more and talk less. Sometimes this makes me look like a dumb ass, but I don’t care, I would rather allow myself the time to come to a conclusion that I’m comfortable with than have to apologize later.
  • I choose my friends more carefully. I take more time to get to know people and put less of myself out there right away. I’m a little more cautious especially when making friends with women, their behavior and words are much more difficult to interpret and easier to misinterpret and they’re pack animals. Men are a little easier to interpret, and if you misinterpret their words or actions they’re more forth coming with it, which I appreciate. At least, this has been my experience.
  • I get a trusted outsider’s view. I’m fortunate enough to have a devoted husband and best friend who let me process with them. I’m able to get second or third opinion’s on conversations or events when I’m just not sure if I got it right. I’m not suggesting all processing should be external or involve others, but at times and in important situations it can be helpful.
  • I read a lot. In the area of perception, The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz has been extremely helpful to me. I don’t agree with all of his philosophies but was able to see myself in a lot of his self-limiting beliefs and thus make mental changes in my thinking.
  • Lastly, and the hardest for me. I try to take myself less seriously. I try to laugh at my mistakes more and sometimes share them others. I’m hoping in doing this that I will have more joy in my life and that my children will learn to navigate perception, humility and develop a sense of humor.

 Happy Perceiving my Friends