Monthly Archives: August 2014

A lot to be said for courage …

I’d say that, as people with bipolar, one of the most difficult things we have to face is fear. We fear ramping up, we fear getting down, after a little experience with this thing we’re afraid to even feel happy, in case it’s a symptom! What’s wrong with having a little joy, for Pete’s sake! Well, because it’s gotten us into trouble sometimes.

But we also do develop a lot of strength after a while. We have to! We have to have a thick skin to tolerate all the extra lengths we have to go to to stay healthy! In my case, to deal with some of the strange looks I get, how about you? Lol…

I love words, you’ll get to know that about me if you follow me for very long. And there is something about the word courage that is really interesting to me. The online etymology (word root) website says regarding the word:
:courage (n.) Look up courage at Dictionary.comc.1300, from Old French corage (12c., Modern French courage) “heart, innermost feelings; temper,” from Vulgar Latin *coraticum (source of Italian coraggio, Spanishcoraje), from Latin cor “heart” (see heart) which remains a common metaphor for inner strength.

In Middle English, used broadly for “what is in one’s mind or thoughts,” hence “bravery,” but also “wrath, pride, confidence, lustiness,” or any sort of inclination. Replaced Old English ellen, which also meant “zeal, strength.”

The French word for “heart” is “le coeur.”

So basically, when someone tells us to “take heart,” they’re telling us, “be courageous!” Like the cowardly lion:

Cowardly Lion: Courage! What makes a king out of a slave? Courage! What makes the flag on the mast to wave? Courage! What makes the elephant charge his tusk in the misty mist, or the dusky dusk? What makes the muskrat guard his musk? Courage! What makes the sphinx the seventh wonder? Courage! What makes the dawn come up like thunder? Courage! What makes the Hottentot so hot? What puts the “ape” in apricot? What have they got that I ain’t got?
Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tin Woodsman: Courage!
Cowardly Lion: You can say that again! Huh?

I always did have a “heart” for that lion. That little song of his:

If I were King of the Forest, Not queen, not duke, not prince.
My regal robes of the forest, would be satin, not cotton, not chintz.
I’d command each thing, be it fish or fowl.
With a woof and a woof and a royal growl – woof.
As I’d click my heel, all the trees would kneel.
And the mountains bow and the bulls kowtow.
And the sparrow would take wing – If I – If I – were King!
Each rabbit would show respect to me.
The chipmunks genuflect to me.
Though my tail would lash, I would show compash
For every underling!
If I – If I – were King!
Just King!
http://www.metrolyrics.com/if-i-were-king-of-the-forest-lyrics-wizard-of-oz.html

But we don’t need to be King – we have a King! Do you know there are 365 different references to “Fear not” in the Bible? I read that somewhere. I believe it’s true (I’ll back it up later lol). This one here is one of my favorites, and helps me to “Fear Not”:

Psalm 31:24 KJV

Be of good courage , and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the LORD.
What I love about that is it reminds me that God strengthens my heart! Not me all by my own bitty lonesome. He will help me and make my heart strong! Because that’s what’s wrong with me, when I fear. And that’s what gets broken and torn apart – my heart! So, take heart! Do you realize what all we have survived already? And we don’t have to do it alone, oh thank God! I thank God for those of you who’ve been there, who share with me!
And of course, I thank God for God. I don’t think I’d be here if it weren’t for Him…
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Proverbs 18:24   “…there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.”

As I mentioned before, I am going to talk a little bit about framily, to steal a term from a cell phone company. Which is ironic, because I kind of hate the phone, but that’s another blog, lol. I will also touch on other sources of support, besides friends and family, that help those of us with mental illness  on our journey of recovery.

Growing up, I had a large, wonderful family, and we did a lot together, from skiing, to swimming, to camping. We weren’t perfect by any means, and my parents divorced when I was around 13. Of course, those issues and others affected me growing up. I doubt there is a person on the planet without issues!

As a child, I had only a few friends at a time. Friendship was hard, and sometimes overwhelming! There was a book of rules, of which I had no idea – how you were supposed to talk, and dress, and be. You know, important stuff! I was never privy to that book. And then I discovered that there were friends who didn’t care whether you had the book or not. They just enjoyed your company, listened to you, and said, let’s go eat, or let’s go play. “Let’s go have a tea party.” Then, “Let’s go have a drink!”

I have to say that from the start you guys kept me alive. I wish I could name names but I am sure I would leave somebody out. So let me just say, Thank you. I absolutely would not be here if it hadn’t been for you.

Things changed after I started drinking. I started my own rule book. Number one was, if you don’t drink, I don’t have time. Oh yes, I had found a friend, of sorts, that “sticketh closer than a brother,” in my estimation. But it wasn’t a person; it was alcohol.

Then, I got sober (which is a whole ‘nother story). The rules changed. If you did drink, I couldn’t be around you. I mean! Come on. That was pretty black and white! Looking back, I have regrets. But I don’t know if I could have done it differently.

Then, when I got sober, I found out that alcohol had kept a lot of stuff down! I started therapy, and four little words were introduced: “Are you mad, sad, glad, or scared?” Ummm … not sure. But one by one those feelings began to assert themselves. So did some unpleasant information about myself, but I digress. Anyway, as a result of therapy, it wasn’t just friends I left behind. The brick wall between my friends and I became the Berlin Wall between my family and I. For five years, this wall kept me from my family. Let me be clear. I am the one who put up that wall. My family had nothing to do with that. The only one of those relationships that I kept was with one brother, who was also in AA. I figured he was the only one in my family who could understand. The only one who was “safe.”

Again, I don’t know if I could have done it differently, but it breaks my heart to think about the damage I did to those who loved me. Those relationships are still in disrepair on a lot of fronts. But I’m happy to say that God repaired the relationship between my parents and I before they passed from this world. Sooo thankful. And most of my siblings at least talk with me now. We could be closer, but building trust (on their end!) takes time.

Meanwhile, I made lots of friends in the halls of AA. Essential friends: sponsors, confidantes, friends with whom I could do sober things. However, I still kept most at arm’s length.

Because I was learning about something besides my drinking. Bring on … manic depression! Now commonly referred to as bipolar disorder.

And I saw the damage it could do. As I said previously, I’d left a suicide note for my sister back in 85. After I got sober, things did not seem to get a lot better for me. I was sober, but I was often stuck in bouts of depression, which affected my work, my relationships, and my son, who was born in ’87. Less often, I experienced mania, but I would manage to “forget” those episodes. My best friend for some of that time was my husband – but two very dysfunctional “adults” could not possibly stay together. The best thing that came from that was our now 27 year old. I also have a friend whom I met when my son was 3, and I couldn’t do without her today. How she puts up with me sometimes I’ll never know. But she refused to allow me to erect a wall. I fought that, but she wouldn’t hear of it.

 

I’m not doing too well at telling you how important support is when dealing with mental illness. Having friends is risky, as I said. But God did not put us on this road to handle everything alone. You’ve heard perhaps this quote:

“I know God won’t give me anything I can’t handle. I just wish He didn’t trust me so much.” — Mother Teresa

But I would take it further. God won’t give me more than I can handle, but He doesn’t expect me to handle it alone. Family, friends, therapy, groups, and other sources of help are available, and all of these are great sources of comfort and help. We’re not supposed to do this alone.

Unfortunately, it’s scary to trust other people when you have bipolar illness, or any mental illness, for that matter. People leave, people take advantage, people can scare you when they get angry (ok, that’s my little issue, lol). But God has put other people here to help us.

One of the best places to find those people, I’ve found, is in a church family. I have a wonderful one! But to be a part of that family, you need to be part of the family of God!

I’m not saying every single person in a church is trustworthy, but the odds are pretty good when the place that you meet is where you met your Maker. In a good way, lol.

And speaking of which: Many of us in recovery from addiction and other issues have learned to follow a spiritual practice of some sort. I pursued a number of methods and different belief systems that helped me with my sobriety, and with life in general. But they were really just a Bandaid, which didn’t always “stick on me.” What about after? I always had this dis-ease about after.

AA taught me a number of things that I still find useful. The Steps, the Slogans, you know, Let Go And Let God, One Day at a Time, the use of a Higher Power …

At this point I laugh. I remember several people who said “Hey, if you have trouble with a Higher Power, just pray to Something.” One guy speaking from the AA podium shared: “I use a doorknob, and I call him George. I kneel in front of him every day and give him my problems. Hey, at least I’m turning it over to Something ..”

Ho-KAY.

But seriously, the fellowship of AA purports that “We [fellow AA’s] shall be with you [the hapless AA member] in the Fellowship of the Spirit, and you will surely meet some of us as you trudge the Road of Happy Destiny.”

Well, that implies eternity, and I took it to mean that, but  …

It wasn’t enough. It was barely enough for basic ADL’s (activities of daily living). But there’s a reason for that. Really, the way AA has been adulterated from its basis, the Oxford Group, is scary. The Oxford Group’s primary purpose was to share Christ; AA doesn’t even mention Him.

And that’s where the change truly has to come: from a saving belief in the Lord Jesus Christ. Without His power we are merely pawns in Satan’s game. See, if you want to tell a lie, you have to come close to the truth to make it believable, and Satan has done so with the development of AA and similar groups. If you don’t mention Christ, then all you have is a (somewhat) Happy Destiny here on Earth, and you are not serving anyone but yourself. Even the AA principle of helping others is about staying sober, yourself. Besides that, and this is the rub: There is only one place where you will spend eternity, and that is in Hell.

Yes, that’s pretty harsh, especially if one has come to believe in a spiritual practice that is different from Christianity. But if you have not decided to accept Christ’s sacrifice, then you have made a decision – to reject Him. And that is a scary proposition. The Bible speaks of this in John chapter 3 verses 2-7:

The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest , except God be with him. Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.  Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?  Jesus answered ,Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.  That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.  Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.

But why would we need to be born again? Aren’t most of us pretty good?

Well, some of us might be. But God says in Romans 3:23 – For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;” and there are consequences for that. Every one of us has sin. We are born with it from the time of Adam and Eve. And did you ever need to be taught how to lie or how to steal? How many cookies did you sneak when you were a kid? And let’s face it, we’ve done worse, since. And God is Holy.

Revelation 21:27 And there shall in no wise enter into it [the city of God] any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

Revelation 20:14-15  And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.

But there is a friend, a true friend, who is closer than a brother, and He will save you from this fate. Not by making us “good” or perfect, but by dying on the cross, because “… without shedding of blood is no remission [of sin].” (Hebrews 9:22). By believing on Him, we are made righteous in the sight of God! Then, check out Are You 100% Sure?

  • Judges 9:51 KJV

    But there was a strong tower within the city, and thither fled all the men and women, and all they of the city, and shut it to them, and gat them up to the top of the tower.
  • Psalm 61:3 KJV

    For thou hast been a shelter for me, and a strong tower from the enemy .
  • Proverbs 18:10 KJV

    The name of the LORD is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe.

 

Land of Confusion Part Deux

Maya God is not the author of confusion

 

This picture was the first thing I saw on my facebook this morning, so perhaps I am doing something right. The last line of my first blog was:

1 Corinthians 14:33 KJV, “For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.”

So I kind of wonder if this is God’s way of confirming that I’m doing something right.

 

(Continuing from the description in part one)
This time the car veers sharply to the right, into a ditch, and halfway into a field. The car stalls out and will not start up again. Dust is flying around in front of the headlights, a la “Back to the Future,” like a mysterious fog. Or is that the engine smoking? I throw open the car door and leap out,.thinking the car might explode. Then, forgetting about the danger, I panic at the next thought. Wasn’t my son in the car? Did I just hit him? I throw myself to the ground, trying to see under the car. Where is he? Then I remember. He’s at work and his father is picking him up.

Relieved, and catching my breath, I notice there are lights on at the house across the street. It looks like there may be a party going on. I cross the road, hearing multiple voices, some of which are familiar to me. They’re waiting for me behind the house! It’s the marriage supper of the Lamb! I begin to run toward them, nearly falling on my face. I hear Todd, a man from the church I’d attended before. I hear the pastor of the church I now attend. I run behind the house, excited beyond belief. I am stunned when I reach the back patio and find that no one is there.

I go around to the front of the house and knock on the door. A man answers the door, and I beg to use the phone to call my son, a friend, anyone. While I am using his cell phone, he appears to be doing something. He seems rather nervous. I notice a strong smell of pot. It overwhelms me and I am afraid. I had never considered that I could be in danger by knocking on a stranger’s door. I thank the man for his help and leave quickly, thinking he could have a knife or something behind his back. I start back to the car and see that there is a police car and an ambulance parked behind it. I wonder why they are there. I begin to cry, relieved that once again I am safe from harm. As I ride to the hospital, the ambulance attendant’s voice alternates between Todd’s voice and the pastor’s. The attendant prays with me at my request, and I start crying afresh.

Hallucinations (experiencing things that are not real through the five senses) and delusions (holding beliefs that are not true) are often experienced in the manic phases of bipolar. You can see in the example above that I was hearing, seeing, and thinking things that seemed real to me at the time. During another episode, I believed that I was Mary, Jesus’ mother. God was speaking to me personally from out of the clouds. The clouds undulated and had colors, shapes, and very realistic human features. No one could have convinced me these things were not real.

After the car incident, I was in a psychiatric hospital for the better part of a month. The psychiatric hospital, to me, is a safe place that I know will bring me back to health. Whenever I’ve landed there, I’ve always known it was for my good. I don’t know why I have never fought it. I suppose it’s because by that point what’s going on with me is not fun. Besides, the staff is nice, the food is good, my needs are met, my medications are managed, and in short order I’m usually able to return home and care for myself. The hardest part, I think, is the long wait in the emergency room before one is transferred to the facility.

One area of patient care that can be neglected is spirituality. In the emergency room one time, I was (I think) acting in a safe manner, but really needing spiritual help. A chaplain was called, and I asked him to pray with me for a little while as I was waiting to be seen. The best he could come up with was a pat on the shoulder every few minutes and a “there, there.” I kept telling him, “No, I need you to pray with me, say a prayer.” I grew desperate and frustrated that he wouldn’t listen to me. How could a person wearing a priest’s collar in a religious facility not pray with someone who obviously needed it? I had the impression that he was afraid of me. He could not make eye contact at all. And I’m pretty sure I was not doing anything inappropriate that would give him pause.

There are different modalities of treatment used in the hospital once a person is admitted. Besides the locked door, medication, and adequately trained staff, there is an individualized treatment plan to meet the patient’s needs. I have a social worker who coordinates my therapies: group meetings, a psychiatrist who sees and evaluates me daily, different kinds of recreation, and occupational therapy. There is very little free time. Inevitably there is a patient or two with whom I can relate. There is nothing like a friend who knows what you are going through who can commiserate. Again, I have found that spiritual needs are not addressed. Other than that, the treatment provided helps me to develop skills I can use on the “outside.”

Funny, that term “on the outside” is reminiscent of prison vocabulary! And I suppose that is one reason some patients object to being put in the hospital. Some are admitted against their will, once it’s determined that they are a danger to themselves or others. Once there, a patient has few choices. They cannot leave the building unsupervised and without being approved to do so. The doors are locked, and if a person becomes violent, they are restrained and placed in a padded room. But all of the above is for their safety. They may react to these interventions with anger, yelling and even throwing things. That is the one thing that’s difficult for me when I’m in the hospital. I react very strongly to loud noises and anger, and some patients who are ill do act out angrily and I feel threatened. But the staff is trained to deal with that and can usually keep everyone safe.

There are patient advocates in most communities who actively work on passing legislation to protect patients’ rights. These rights must be respected whether a person is in the hospital, and/or when law enforcement becomes involved on the outside. I agree that patients should not be restrained or medicated unnecessarily, but there are times when this is necessary. This will protect them, other patients, and the staff, who have a right to be safe as well. In fact, I briefly worked as a nurse in a combination psychiatric and chemical dependency unit. I enjoyed it tremendously, but there were times that I felt very threatened. I also had to take care of people who were on the wrong side of the law, including pedophiles, and it really traumatized me sometimes. The final straw was the time I was standing between two patients who were about to come to blows. I tried to intervene by talking them out of it, and one punched the other in the nose, right above my head (yes, I am vertically challenged, lol).

There are times, I know, when law enforcement or staff overreacts to a person having symptoms of mental illness when they are a threat to themselves or others. Advanced training is continually enabling them to work with the mentally ill, to be more sensitive to our issues, and to better know how to help us. Certainly there is a lot more to learn, and the care of those with mental illness can be improved all the time.

 

In the next blog I will be talking a bit about the effect of psychiatric disorders on family and friends, and also about the importance of having support when you have a mental illness.

 

PS: This image was on my Facebook after I finished this blog entry. Doo doo doo doo …

 God is the author

Land of Confusion

     The lights of the city are mere streaks of color. At the moment, I have no idea I’m in trouble. Every thought I’m having is brilliant. Every word, succinct. My mind is well-oiled, superior, efficient. Part of me is irritated at having to pay attention to the road, as I chase squirrels in my mind, enchanted with myself. Why can’t I feel this way all the time? If only I could write all of this down, I mutter, my fingers itching for a pen. Must remember. Remember what? I’ve forgotten already.

     On the car radio, Carrie Underwood is singing “Jesus Take The Wheel.” I sing along for a while, then cock my head. “You mean it, Lord? You want me to let go?” Of course! Why didn’t I see it before! What freedom to trust God! I slowly let go of the steering wheel, my hands hovering an inch above it, not quite daring to put them in my lap. I smile knowingly, honored by this test. Whatever happens is fine by me. God knows best. 

     Gradually, the car drifts to the right. The dirt crunches beneath the tires and the car rolls slowly to a stop. I smile. See? Nothing happened. I knew I could trust God. He kept me safe. I beam, humbled by His love. But I must not underestimate myself! Oh, the things that I can do!

     I pull the car back onto the road. The sky is blacker than ink. I don’t know where I am. But it doesn’t matter. God will take me where He wants me to go. Humming, I proceed down the winding road, oblivious to the speed limit, and let go of the wheel …

     What’s described above happened to me in 2006, one of several manic episodes I’ve had. About 2.6 percent of American adults suffer from bipolar disorder, characterized by periods of mania and depression. 1 in 4 adults have a mental illness of some sort. That means that if you’re in a room with 3 other people, and they’re ok, you’re the one.

      Ok, so that’s not funny, but you get the idea.

     Most people know that Robin Williams died by hanging on August 11, 2014. I suspect that he had bipolar illness; the highs and lows of his life seemed only to confirm my suspicions. It was interesting, over the next few days, to hear the various comments people made about why he did it. What he was thinking. And how selfish of him to do it. How people could know such intimate details I have no idea, but they were saying it. And then going on with their lives,  unaffected.

      But a number of my friends and I found ourselves comforting each other. It was as if one of our own had lost the battle. I have lost dear ones to mental illness, and said nothing, out of shame, or wanting to protect them. There are lots of euphemisms that can be used on a death certificate. But those close to them probably know the true cause of death. And yet, I said nothing about the disease, about my own struggle. I protected myself, but I also protected the illness. In a way, I contributed to its power, by saying nothing.

 

     I’ve had it better than some, I know. At one point I thought I’d live out the rest of my days in an institution. At other times I’ve been “this close” to being homeless.  But I’ve also been able to work as a nurse, raise a great kid, enjoy many aspects of life.

 

     In the past I have admitted freely, to anyone who will listen, that I’m alcoholic, that I have depression, that I suffer from anxiety. But to tell them I have bipolar is to risk rejection, misunderstanding, even mistrust. And I like being able to function in society without prejudice.

 

     However, I wonder if some of my anxiety is because I’ve hidden this part of me.

 

     So, again, my fingers are itching for a pen, a keyboard, a way to explain. And maybe, to help someone.

 

   And I’ll definitely be talking about God. Because God is not a delusion, nor the author of confusion …  He is my Rock, and the only reason, I believe, that I’m still here. He’s given me work to do, and one of these jobs is to help others who may be limping along. We may be doing a 3-legged race sometimes, but we’re still moving forward. Just keep breathing, and don’t quit.

 1 Corinthians 14:33, “For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.”
 
 

You wait in darkness
For answers that you can’t see
You know what you deserve and
You’re wondering why your life is
Not what you thought it should be
When the night breaks, your heart still aches
How can you face the day, you just

Keep breathing, you’ll make it
Don’t give in, you’re not done yet
Sometimes all that you can do is
Keep breathing and believing
Don’t let go, just hang on tighter, a little longer
When you feel like you’re dying
Keep breathing

When every moment
Is almost more than you can take
You’ve got to know some tomorrow
Will bring you a breakthrough
That’s the reason why
You’ve got to get through today
When the night’s gone, you will be strong

Keep breathing, you’ll make it
Don’t give in, you’re not done yet
Sometimes all that you can do is
Keep breathing and believing
Don’t let go, just hang on tighter, a little longer
When you feel like you’re dying.
With every breath you bring in hope
You’re letting go of all your doubt
When nothing is easy, you’ve got to keep going
Even when you don’t know how
You don’t have to know how, no

Keep breathing, you’ll make it
And don’t give in, you’re not done yet
Sometimes all that you can do is
Keep breathing and believing
And don’t let go, just hang on tighter, a little longer
When you feel like you’re dying
And keep breathing.

Don’t give up,
Cause you are not done yet

And keep breathing

From “Keep Breathing” by Kerri Roberts