Daily Archives: June 10, 2018
I subscribe to an online newsletter and print magazine called “BP Hope”, for people with Bipolar illness. It has some wonderful articles about how to maintain your equilibrium in times of chaos, of which there are many in my life. I usually find solace there and some helpful tips on how to better live my life and to stay stable with my ups and downs. So I was a bit surprised to have such a strongly negative reaction to the posts I read when I sat down to catch up some past issues yesterday. I read a few dozen blogs and articles. (Yes, I was being obsessive…) They all had good ideas. But they burned me out! By the time I was done I was feeling like shit for my inability to carry out all these good ideas. It was just too much for me.
I try so hard to be sane and stable and work assiduously to keep a good attitude about life and love and all the rest. But I’m very sensitive to criticism, and tho these articles certainly weren’t meant to be taken as such, I took them that way. While I was reading all these good ideas I gradually fell into a deep hole of depression that stuck with me for the rest of the day. Not terrible, but still awful, because it called into question all my good intentions. Just because I still haven’t “gotten there” yet I think I’ve failed. I think this even after being diagnosed with BP-I for over 22 years and being “stable” for the last 2 years or so. Shouldn’t I know better by now? I guess not, judging by my reactions to these articles. “Stable” is a relative term…
Yeah, I know I’m being too hard on myself. It goes with the territory sometimes. I agreed with most of the ideas I read about, and I do a lot of them a lot of the time, but there were still so many others that I haven’t mastered yet it made me feel like none of it was valid. It goes that way on occasion. It’s a classic CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) sort of situation. I’m falling into the trap of all or nothing thinking that has plagued me for my whole life. I know better, but I still fall for it. I can’t always change my thoughts the way I need to, and I think I should be able to. I am superman after all, aren’t I?
We sometimes say of people with Bipolar that we’re the piece of shit the world revolves around. Boy, does that fit me to a “T”. There’s way too much of the piece of shit part in me, but here I’m manifesting the other pole, where I think I’m a god and should be able to do everything I want to. I can’t. None of us can. It’s classic BP grandiosity, and it sucks. I doubt that I’m the only one who does this sort of thing. In fact it’s pretty common for people living with a mental illness that causes our brains to misfire and go to places they don’t need to go, just because we encounter something that challenges our perceived sense of self. I get that challenge a lot. Mostly I’m fine with it and I try to take it as constructive criticism, or maybe just good intentions meant to help me survive. But then I go and try to do Everything I read about so as to be perfect. It’s ridiculous I know, but there it is.
What I’m learning from this, again, is that I have to take it easy, and not try to engorge a whole bunch of information in one sitting. It’s way too much and I can’t handle it all. I need to take it in smaller doses and absorb it thoroughly before I jump onto the next good thing. I do that a lot and I do try to control it, but sometimes I’m not very good at it. I’m so impulsive – another classic BP trait. I need to slow myself down. I’m clearly a bit hypomanic in the way I approach life all too often. I rush into things and don’t think of the consequences. It’s so typical I’m almost ashamed to say it, but I’m not alone. It’s all part of the BP syndrome after all and we all fall for it at times.
Overdoing things is a big issue for me. I’m currently struggling with the pain of a bad back spasm I got from too much gardening. I’ve been hurting for a week now and it’s all because I didn’t stop when I should have. It’s a bad pattern of mine and I need to adjust it. It’s the same thing I did with my reading. I just think I can handle way too much more than I realistically can. And it hurts me in so many ways – physically, mentally and emotionally. But it shouldn’t drive me into depression just because I overdo it. It doesn’t help me at all to beat myself up. So just stop it Steve! Uh huh… Right…..
We all need to be more careful of ourselves. We’re fragile beings and need to be gentle with how we treat our bodies, minds and emotions. I’m just one example of a person with Bipolar going to extremes. It’s the nature of the illness, but we don’t have to let it control us. I know I can do better, without thinking I’m all special for doing it, tho that’s hard. We have to keep trying. Eventually we might get a clue and even improve our lives. That’s my plan. I just hope I can stick to it. This time…
Be at peace,
Lately, I’ve been thinking – and writing – about the place where faith and mental illness intersect. (See Mental Illness, Faith and Sin – https://wp.me/p4e9Hv-DB; Prayer and Bipolar Disorder – https://wp.me/p4e9Hv-B6.) I’m still thinking about it, so I’m still writing.
Churches, among other groups, have outreach ministries to the homeless mentally ill, providing sandwiches, socks, and hope of salvation. And the stereotype of the soup kitchen is that patrons “pay” by listening to a hymn or a sermon.
But what about the rest of the mentally ill community – those like me who have homes and families and a certain degree of function? What are churches doing about us?
The answer is: They struggle, but at least some of them are doing something.
Of course, some of them are doing the wrong thing. Andrea Jongbloed reported in Relevant magazine:
I sat in the chair in my pastor’s office, listening to him list off strange things I had done recently. My pastor informed me, “the church leadership is not convinced you are mentally stable enough to continue leading your bible study.”
It wasn’t supposed to happen this way. I had come here to talk about the book I was writing, on mental health and spirituality. Instead, I felt bombarded with accusations…. I left feeling judged and misunderstood.
An article in Christianity Today notes, “In many ways, the church, the supposed haven for sufferers, is not a safe place for those who struggle with mental illness.” The author adds:
The more Christians struggle with how to deal with mental illness, the more we fail to create a safe and healthy environment in which to discuss and deal with these issues. As a result, many of our Christian churches, homes, and institutions promulgate an aura of mistrust, guilt, and shame.
Amy Simpson, writing at qideas.org, outlines what is wrong with churches’ relationship with the mentally ill:
In general, the church tends to handle mental illness in one of three ways: ignore it, treat it exclusively as a spiritual problem, or refer people to professionals and wash our hands of their trouble.
Like it or not, the church is the first place many turn in crisis. And fair or not, the church’s silence or rejection feels like rejection from God. We cannot keep turning away from the most vulnerable among us.
According to Lifeway Research, however, 66% of pastors speak to the church about mental illness in sermons or large group messages “once a year, rarely, or never.” And 74% of pastors say that they are “reluctant to get involved with those with acute mental illness because it takes too much time and resources.”
But some churches are taking on the challenges, or at least trying to.
In a PBS interview, Deborah Potter, a correspondent from Religion and Ethics Newsweekly, explores how Holy Comforter Episcopal Church in Atlanta and St. Catherine-St. Lucy Roman Catholic Church in suburban Chicago are providing not just outreach, but community to the mentally ill.
According to Potter,
Holy Comforter responded … when a group home opened nearby and the priest at the time invited the residents to church. Today, almost two-thirds of the congregation is made up of people with mental illness—including bipolar disorder, clinical depression, and schizophrenia—who worship together and pray together.
The video also features Connie Rakitan, who founded the program at St. Catherine-St. Lucy, “helping to design worship that’s welcoming to all.”
Walking into a church with a long service and a long sermon and lots of music and lots of people could just be so overwhelming that it’s just not doable….We would never, ever use a healing passage, because we would not want to set somebody up for an unrealistic disappointment, because the fact is not everybody gets cured.
Rakitan also points out that the church community offers something that the mentally ill may not find elsewhere: “Their families might be alienated from them or estranged or whatever. They might not have work communities. What do they have left but their faith in God?”
Lorrie Lattimore, of the Baptist Press, tells about a weekly “combined Sunday school and worship time” at First Baptist Church, Tuscaloosa, Ala.
It’s not an ordinary class. Some get up and pace during the Bible lesson. Some rock steady in their chairs. Some mumble to themselves. But all love God and know God loves them in spite of being consumers [sic] of a mental illness, those who have schizophrenia, for example, or depression or bi-polar disorder. Jimmy Tilley, the leader of the class, who also suffers from depression, chronic anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder, wouldn’t want the group to act any other way.
Few Baptist churches offer some kind of outreach for mental illness consumers. Jim Hightower, minister of pastoral care at First Baptist Church…. noted more churches should have education programs and even ministries because “every church has members who have a mental illness.”
The best advice for churches? Amy Jongbloed sums it up nicely:
Be open to learning about mental illness. Have potentially awkward conversations with newcomers who struggle with their mental health. You won’t regret stepping outside your comfort zone. You will be blessed with stories of struggle, resilience and redemption. If you’re lucky, maybe you’ll even become part of someone’s story of recovery and reconciliation with the Church.
Well, I did it again—talked Dr. Goodenough’s ear off and confessed to all sorts of things I had no intention of disclosing. I told him how I’ve been flipping in and out of what I call pre-hypomania all spring, wanting to drink, sleeping poorly, and messing with my meds. I also had trouble sitting still while I was talking to him, and that combined with bright clothing and sparkling eyes (I’d just gotten my hair highlighted, and even I could see it in the selfie I took to show off my new ‘do on Facebook) led him to decide I was, indeed, a little hypomanic. I managed to talk him out of increasing my Zyprexa, but he did up my thyroid medication in the hope of getting things back under good control and advised me to try the amber glasses we’d talked about a few months back. And my days of going four months between appointments are over for the time being, now it’s back to monthly.
As I think I’ve said before, I don’t know what it is about this doctor that makes me spill my guts every time we meet. Maybe it’s because we have only 30-minute appointments, even though there’s rarely much ground to cover in that time. My life is pretty boring most of the time. The notable exception was our last session, when my nephew had just passed away and I was experiencing a lot of anxiety. That’s gone now, but this spring has been really weird and I have energy I can’t seem to channel in any meaningful way. I’m still sitting on the sofa in front of the computer day in and day out, the only outward sign that anything is amiss being my wiggling feet and the constant posting on FB, Psych Central, and my nursing forum at all hours. Speaking of which, my sleep is still messed up. Some nights I sleep nine hours, on others I’m lucky to get two or three, and when that happens I don’t miss the shut-eye and I’m not tired in the morning.
And I’m taking my meds. It’s difficult because I REALLY would like to come off some of them, but given the circumstances that’s probably not in the cards. The first thing Dr. G mentioned when I stopped talking long enough to take a breath was the possibility of bumping up the Zyprexa, which is the last thing I want. He thinks raising my Synthroid dose may take care of things so we don’t have to do that. That’s an interesting concept which I don’t totally understand, but I’m reasonably sure the medication kept me out of depression all last winter and I’m only too glad to take it for that reason. I didn’t even have to use my HappyLight.
Now it’s three days later and I do feel a little calmer on the inside. Of course, it could be another short-lived cycle and the next warm, sunny day or poor night’s sleep may start it up again. Dr. G is well aware that I’m highly sensitive to light and seasonal changes, hence the recommendation for the amber glasses. I’ve had trouble finding clip-ons; the regular ones don’t fit over my regular lenses and I refuse to go from 6 PM till bedtime not being able to see the TV or computer. But just like his predecessor, Dr. Awesomesauce, he has a solution to almost every problem, and he found some on eBay for only $35. So I’ll order a pair and see what happens. I’ve got a vacation coming up at the end of the summer, which is another dangerous time of year for me, and I really don’t need to be going ape shit on the cruise ship. (Ya think??)
In the meantime, he is not telling me to go to bed and get up earlier. I appreciate that, because I’ve never been and will never be a morning person. I can get up if there’s a reason to, like for hair appointments and church, but my usual pattern is sleeping from around 2 to 10 AM and there’s no reason on earth to change it. I’ll modify it a bit when I need to adapt my sleep hours to Eastern time, which I’ve done before with positive results.
Speaking of having to get up in the morning, I have jury duty next Thursday. I didn’t have the option of getting out of it this time, so I’m stuck going in at 8. I could have gotten out of it if I’d given the court a letter from Dr. G saying I have a mental illness and can’t serve, but unlike the last time I was called and I was really unstable, I think I could do it. They’ll probably ask that question during the interview process anyway and I’ll be dismissed, but at least I’ll have showed up and I won’t be summoned again for another couple of years.
That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it. Have a great weekend!