Category Archives: Christian counseling

“What does the Bible say about Bipolar Disorder/Manic Depression?

This post is quite good. It addresses the legitimate medical AND spiritual concerns that need to be addressed when helping a person who has bipolar illness. I agree with the Bible about sin and holiness. But the person with bipolar and other mental illnesses needs proper medical supervision and treatment. Going without that is extremely dangerous.

THE WALL: a blog of Baptist Voice Ministries

Note: as with many psychological issues, there are often both a physical and spiritual aspect of manic depression / bipolar disorder. While we believe psychologists often miss the true spiritual nature of the sickness, we strongly encourage anyone suffering with a mental illness to seek medical attention and counseling.

Answer:“Bipolar disorder” is a name that first appeared in 1957 for a severe mental illness. Before that, the same illness was called “manic depressive illness” or “manic depression,” though that name only dates back to 1921. Neither term appears in the Bible, but the Bible teaches us a number of lessons we can apply to bipolar disorder.

Bipolar disorder is a serious mental illness characterized by severe mood fluctuations. These fluctuations go far beyond simply being “happy” or “sad.” The “manic” symptoms can include feelings of extreme euphoria, marked increase in risk-taking, racing thoughts, forced speech, and increased energy. The…

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New Plan (“… If you want to make God laugh…”)

Stupid depression.

Stupid laryngitis.

Have y’all ever had laryngitis? I don’t know about you but it makes me so mad! I want to communicate to my therapist, for example, and I say, “I’m so mad that I can’t talk and tell you how I feel!” He says, “What?”

I know. Funny. HAHA – except it’s not. I am not a big talker, mind you. I am happy sitting in a room full of people for 2 hours not saying a word, trust me. But when I can’t? GRRR! I want to throw things. It has been about 5 weeks now. I’ll get to that.

So anyway back to the depression. It had gotten increasingly worse (continued suicidality, hopelessness, anhedonia, lack of motivation, irritability, insomnia, isolation, etc etc), so finally a little more than a month ago my shrink increased my Abilify. Currently on Lamictal 200 mg, Trileptal 400 mg, Abilify 2.5 mg, among other non- psych drugs.

The med change still has not helped, so she has increased it again, to 3 mg. We are leery because I have gotten manic on it before; but other med adjustments/changes have either not helped or have had bad side effects. I wish I had a list of all the stupid meds I have been on.

I am also on the wait list to start outpatient hospitalization or intensive outpatient or however you want to call it. It has often helped before. I hate to have to do it but … (shrug) it is what it is.

Now the laryngitis. I’ve had it going on five weeks now. From the get-go the only symptoms have been the laryngitis and a dry cough. Barely productive of sputum (if you are a nurse and taking notes). I have also had an increase in my reflux (food and liquid backing up into my throat). My doctor and I discussed it and decided I should have an EGD (tube that goes down the throat and looks at the esophagus and stomach and etc – they can take pictures, take biopsies, etc). Still waiting on that appointment.

Oh, and the maintenance guy helped me to elevate the head of my bed on blocks, and my Nexium (medication for reflux) has been increased.

 

I think that’s about it.

Oh and just in case anyone wanted an explanation:

If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.” – Woody Allen

Be Not Afraid

One of the things I should have warned you about from the get-go (Ok, if you have read my “about” page, I did):

A lot of my posts, especially the ones with scripture, reflect something God has given ME to get through my day. I figure, if it helped me, why wouldn’t it help someone else?

Take it or leave it, this is one of those days, when I am walking with fear, discouragement, and confusion. And my depression is really kicking up. The funny thing about depression is that it’s a nice comfy pillow that somehow offers solace. A little bit and I am “unhappily” free falling into it. The more I have, the more I just surrender to it, and as any of you reading might guess, that is not a good thing.

But my spirit does not like that. Oh noes. My spirit craves freedom and peace. So after a while of that free falling feeling of doom and desire to “check out,” my spirit starts to grab for a hand hold, a foot hold.

And what it grabs at is God. Speaking of Satan, the Bible says in John 10:10: “The thief cometh not, but for to steal , and to kill, and to destroy:” But Jesus says, ” I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”

That is a tall promise! And with bipolar, it’s real easy to disbelieve, because it does not seem that I have had anything near to an abundant life. Oh I can make a really long gratitude list, a valid one, but when I am in this place, I feel far from God and His love. And as I said in a recent post, I don’t want to invalidate my pain – it is real, and I am genuinely suffering. (Which makes it really hard to be around cheerful, spiritual people).

But as it often is with God – He will give me something to get through my day – not always in a wonderful big way but at least surviving for one more day, with the opportunity for things to get much better, to get back on higher ground.

Why did that happen today?

I think because I asked Him to, today. But sometimes I don’t even ask.

Next thing I know, after my prayer, somebody posts the following:

Joshua 1:9 Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.

Well of course this verse grates across my very nerves. What do you mean be strong and have courage! Don’t you think I would, if I could?

And then the still small voice that returns me to a small degree of sanity reminds me of something I’ve come to know. And so my Facebook post went something like this:

Joshua 1:9 says, Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.

I want to note that the expression, “God will not give you anything you can’t handle,” doesn’t mean you are supposed to go it alone. “I can do all things through Christ” means do the things He has given you, not what you think or what others think you are supposed to do. He also intends for you to handle it with Him, not alone. And, He has given you other people to help you – friends, family, medical people – He does not intend for you to go it alone! See verses below:

Deuteronomy 4:31
(For the LORD thy God is a merciful God;) he will not forsake thee, neither destroy thee, nor forget the covenant of thy fathers which he sware unto them.
Deuteronomy 31:6
Be strong and of a good courage , fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the LORD thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.
Joshua 1:5
There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life: as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.
1 Kings 8:57
The LORD our God be with us, as he was with our fathers: let him not leave us, nor forsake us:
1 Chronicles 28:20
And David said to Solomon his son, Be strong and of good courage , and do it: fear not, nor be dismayed : for the LORD God, even my God, will be with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee, until thou hast finished all the work for the service of the house of the LORD.
Nehemiah 9:31
Nevertheless for thy great mercies’ sake thou didst not utterly consume them, nor forsake them; for thou art a gracious and merciful God.
Hebrews 13:5
Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have : for he hath said , I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.
Isaiah 41:10
Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed ; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.

This all reminded me of a song that comforts me:

Now, as I said, I am posting something that God gave me, for my comfort and help. I don’t know if it will help you, but you are welcome to it. Why not take a leap of faith, and see if it will?

♪♫ My God is a Mountain Mover *

I’m waiting outside for a friend to get done grocery shopping, and doing some “homework” (a Bible study) that I can’t seem to make myself to do at home. Yes, I’m referring to the “D” word, discipline! The book is called Too Busy Not To Pray, by Bill Hybels, and it was chosen by a friend of mine for three of us to study together.. We weren’t able to finish the study, but I determined that I wanted to finish the book. As I said, I am not good at disciplining myself to do a number of things, including Bible study and prayer. So this book is perfect for me!

So, I was reading along in the chapter called “Mountain Moving Prayer,” and I had a number of “EUREKA!” moments. Now a EUREKA! is “a cry of joy or satisfaction when one finds or discovers something.” (For its origin, see Wikipedia, Eureka. LOVE that word!)

One of my “Eureka!” moments was when I was reading a story Mr. Hybels related about speaking to a ginormous group of people in India. We’re talking twenty or thirty thousand. Hybels had been a secondary speaker on previous nights. But this time, he was the main speaker, responsible for leading the group to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. The enormity of the task hit him right where he lived, and a tremendous fear overtook him. I sure could relate to some of his feelings. With my anxiety, I’m overwhelmed with having to talk to one person at a time, never mind 30,000!

Hybels was praying, but in his terror, he could not focus his thoughts beyond his panic.

In the midst of his trying to get hold of himself, a song was sung, just before he was to go on stage. It was (“coincidentally”) my favorite song. And God used it to change his heart:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yNZS5H9aNlY

Great is thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
there is no shadow of turning with thee;
thou changest not, thy compassions, they fail not;
as thou hast been thou forever will be.

Refrain:
Great is thy faithfulness! Great is thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
all I have needed thy hand hath provided;
great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me …(Words: Thomas O. Chisholm; Music: William M. Runyan)                                                                                                               

God used the song to change Hybels’ heart, and he was moved to pray in a very different way. This time, recognizing his own insufficiency, he remembered the sufficiency of the One of Whom he was asked to preach!

His prayer:

I’m praying to the Creator of the world, the King of the universe, the all-powerful, all-knowing, all-faithful God. I’m praying to the God who made the mountains and who can move them if necessary. I’m praying to the God who has always been faithful to me, who has never let me down no matter how frightened I was or how difficult the situation looked. I’m praying to a God who wants to bear fruit through me, and I am going to trust that he is going to use me tonight. Not because of who I am, but because of who he is. He is faithful. (p. 81)

How powerful a prayer! How mightily God answered his prayer! After he spoke, thousands came forward to receive Christ! And Hybels knew it was not because of anything he’d done. It was the Lord working through him, to Whom, and of Whom, he had prayed!

This chapter was tremendous. Hybels also pointed out the story in Joshua Chapter 3, where the priests’ obedience led to their stepping out in faith, to cross the Jordan when it was high and raging. The priests stepped out first. The fruit of their faith was manifested by that first step – and everyone walked across dry ground to the other side.

That phrase, “dry ground,” kind of grabbed my attention. Here the priests and the Israelites crossed the Jordan over dry ground. In the same way, the Red Sea was parted for Moses and the children of Israel. Just think of the 40 years in the desert! Talk about dry ground! You think God wasn’t working on their hearts? Even Jonah was spit out of a big fish, and onto dry ground!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qRxLhwUsvVk

Are you in the big fish
Are you sitting in the belly of a world gone mad
Have you turned your back on His wish,
His will for your life, have you made Him sad
Do you want to get out of the big fish
Listen to God and follow His plan
And you won’t be part of the main dish
He’ll spit you out on to dry land(FFH, “Big Fish”)

There are so many more examples of faith in the Bible! There’s the story of David and Goliath, where David’s faith in God is bigger than that of all the great warriors! There’s the faith and courage of Caleb and Joshua, when God sends them to investigate the promised land. “WHAT giants?” they said. “WHAT cities? Let’s go!” And they knew that God was the one Who would have the victory!

I don’t know about you, but my faith is nowhere near that strong. Talk about dry land! Some of us think if we’re Christian, we must be doing something wrong if we suffer from certain conditions. We aren’t praying right, we’ve made God mad, we’re more sinful than the next guy. But we can suffer any number of human conditions: pain, mental illness, diseases of the body that are seen and unseen. And these can be aggravated by the devil’s desire to to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. We’re tapped out, and vulnerable. Our pain is so great. We have exhausted our strength. What if we’re in need of material things? What of next week, when there’s no paycheck? These are the days we want to give up. And sometimes, we do need to root out sin. It can seem overwhelming. These are the days we can see God’s desires for us, and we cower, saying, “I just can’t do this anymore!” 

But that’s the problem, I guess. My faith is in my own self. My strength. My resources. But as the song says, all I have needed thy hand hath provided. Strength. Resources for another day. Hope. A friend who shows up at just the right moment. As Hybels prayed, my faith needs to be in the mountain mover.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vy0XJoxoYmE

Chorus:
My God is a mountain mover
My God’s gonna make a way
Can’t count all the time He’s proven
We can trust him just have faith
Take a hopeless situation
Watch Him turn it all around
Nothing is impossible
I can’t hold back I’ve gotta shout
My God, My God, My God
Is a mountain mover …

Does this mean instant victory? Does this mean my troubles just vanish like a puff of smoke? How I wish! But victory can take a number of forms. Can I say no to the things that will hurt me? Do I have the courage to ask for help? Can I venture out where God wants me today? Can I just plain be obedient and read my Bible? It may not seem like much, but even getting dressed and showing up is a huge victory on some days.

So I can’t use my illness as an excuse. But I also can’t compare myself and the tasks before me to those of other people. God made me the way that I am, gave me what I have. He knows the reason for all of it. So “I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.” (Psalm 139:14)

♪♫ Good night sweet heart wellll it’s time to go … ♪♫

SANITY!

One of the first verses I studied in the Bible was this:

2 Timothy 1:7

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
It gave me so much hope because I had nothing but fear! And I wanted nothing more than to have a sound mind.
It took a while to figure out that it was God I needed to put my trust in, when all the while I’d put my trust in men and institutions who claimed to know Him. I came to know Him, personally. And that gave me peace.
I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, LORD, only makest me dwell in safety.
Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.
Have a sweet sleep!

♪♫ Someday Lady You’ll Enable Me … ♫♪

I’m hearing a lot about Al-anon and enabling and detachment and suchlike lately.

Why? Well, it’s the holidays and if anybody (including ourselves) is going to act up, it’s then.

Why is it so hard to set boundaries which are both healthy for me, and helpful for the alcoholic or other-type folk? Cuz the person doesn’t necessarily have to be addicted for me to walk all over myself, in trying to help where I may or may not be needed.

It’s been said that the alcoholic (or whatever) is addicted to his/her substance, and that, in a way, those of us who love them are addicted to them. Why, and how, do we turn ourselves inside out in order to help a person who may not even want to be helped? At the very least, they’re not ready. And in the meantime, I’m a mess! Somebody help ME make a decision! Because I can’t, anymore!

And really, that’s what Al-anon is about. Making healthy decisions for yourself.

Applying the principles to my situation, it’s the friend who’s so angry at the world that they take it out on everyone, even those who love and try to help them (as in, me). It’s the guy who just got out of the ER after a suicide attempt who is already drinking again – and their family wants me to fix them. It’s the loved one to whom I will never be enough, no matter how I try. It’s the son that I love dearly, who said he needed to stay with me for “a while,” and it’s now going on to a year.

Meanwhile, I have the idea that I “can’t” say anything, “can’t” set limits, and, most of all, “can’t” say no. Because what if … (and it’s there that I can come up with many many reasons, ad infinitum).

How much do I do for them?

First off, I have to be in touch with God enough to be able to hear His guidance, that still small voice that says, “No no no no no,” or, “You’ve had enough.” Some call it a red flag. In my case, I wait so long that it ends up being a white flag. “I give up! I surrender!” And I’m ready for the white coats!

Secondly, I cannot be “it” for any one person. When I start thinking I’m “the only one” who can help a certain person, I am in trouble, and I am not likely to help that person very much. Especially if the load does get too big and I start resenting them.

Thinking I’m “the only one” reminds me of Elijah of the Bible, who was so depressed in the desert, and spoke to God about it (1 Kings 19:14-18):

… I have been very jealous for the LORD God of hosts: because the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left ; and they seek my life, to take it away 

Wow, I can almost hear the whining voice. God, how come I’m the only one who can help, here? Why am I in this position? If I’m being honest, I will say, How did I get myself in this position? Can’t someone else do it? And God reminded Elijah:

… Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him.

God reminded Elijah that he was not indispensable, nor was he the only one serving Him “so well.” Ugh, a little ego deflating. I’m not the only one who knows how to help. I’m not indispensable. But I sure do lead people to believe I am. 

And what do I get out of leading people to think I’m “all that”? Oh I’m not consciously seeking kudos. I honestly want to help. But where do I get the idea that I can help everyone, and that I am the only one who can?

One thing that happens with me is I’m  unbelievably attracted to people who feel unlovable (or I perceive that they do). Maybe they have had some injustice done, and I want to make it up to them. Life has treated them horribly. Someone has hurt them, over and over. And I think, if I just love them enough, I can fix them. If I show them the world is not all bad, I can fix them; they’ll be happy. Then, when I can’t convince them, I am furious! “After all I did for them!” I, I, I!

Where does that come from?

Is it as simple as “do unto others as you wish they would do unto you?” Or is it, I’m looking for some payback, some undying love and gratitude?

Well, it may well be. I have come a long way from the days of my early adulthood where I felt like there was nothing to love about me.

But though I have since learned that I have a lot of good qualities, I still have the idea that I have to earn that love.

Again, I have to go back to the Bible.

Romans 5:8 KJV, But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

and, Ephesians 2:8 KJV, For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:

If you’ll notice, in neither scripture does it say I have to do anything to be loved. I just have to seek God, and His love is there. No earning, no being indispensable, no putting Band-aids on everybody.

God did give me the capacity to love, and to love greatly, but He did not make me God. And He did give me His Holy Spirit to guide me in what I should do for others.

I just have to stop long enough, be humble enough, to ask Him, “What wilt Thou have me to do?”

And then, the hardest part: Wait.

Run in the Right Direction

This video (click the word “video,” here) comes from a church in Hooksett, New Hampshire, called Emmanuel Baptist Church. I don’t go there but I’ve been there, and the message is so timely. How many of us are running in the wrong direction, away from God, or into things that will in no way help our situation? I don’t even need to name them – you know what they are. What is the right direction? You know what it is. I know you don’t want to hear it. Listen anyway.

Run in the right direction!

 

Here is a song that might help you find that direction: