Life must go on

I’m telling myself

that life must go on,

that time will continue to pass

and

that most of all,

I must choose to go on with it.

I cannot,

will not

allow my future to be stolen

because  I was too tired,

too weary,

and too beaten down

to fight another battle.

Cannot,

will not,

allow the past to enshroud my hope

because I was too unsure of myself

too unsure of You

to

put one foot in front of the other,

one more time,

one more day.

I cannot,

will not.

Allow fear to cripple my thoughts and pursuits

because,

I was too hopeless to get out of bed.

I cannot

and will not give in to cowardice

because

the recurring silence

and persistent noise

I could not stand.

I cannot

and will not.

Allow my foundation to crumble because

I was too faithless to speak to another mountain.

I’m telling myself

that I must refuse to become paralyzed, stagnant even,

on account of what has been and what could have been if only You or I would have done differently.

I’m telling myself

that

“it’s going to be ok”

that

“better days lie ahead”

I’m telling myself

that one day I’ll look back on this season and smile, laugh even;

I’ll be proud of the person I became,

I’ll be glad I didn’t give up, compromise or stop short of reaching my destination.

I’ll be happy the journey wasn’t easy,

I’m telling myself.

That it will all have been worth it.

So,

I fight on,

despite the tears and setbacks,

despite the sadness and gloom.

I fight on,

despite the really good days that quickly fade from my memory;

despite my not hearing from You as oft as I would like

or

my seeming inability to reach out to You when I need You most.

I fight on,

despite the sacrifice and the weight of my own cross.

All because,

I’m trusting You.

On Rising Well

I wake up this morning and feel like I’m in a rush

What a familiar “feel”!

In a rush…

To get somewhere I’m not even sure I want to be?

Lies!

Poke at the back of my mind

Speaking impending failure, embarrassment and shame

Of doubt, carelessness and disaster

Of looming danger and many reasons to panic

I’m running now!

Getting out of here is surely to my gain

No way to spend my time in fear, disgust and tears

I WILL SUCCEED!

No simpler way to put it

In fact, I’m counting on me

And that’s what’s real

backyard fun

 

Checking in after Hypomania

“Hypomania” falls within the ICD-10 criteria for a manic episode according to the World Health Organization (1992), and is

A disorder characterized by a persistent mild elevation of mood, increases in energy and activity and usually marked feelings of well-being and both physical and mental efficiency. Increase sociability, talkativeness. Over familiarity, increases sexual energy, and a decreased need for sleep are often present but not to the extent that they lead to severe disruption of work or result in social rejection. Irritability, conceit and boorish behaviour may take the place of the more usual euphoric sociability. The disturbances of mood and behaviour are not accompanied by hallucinations or delusions. (As cited by, The British Psychological Society & Gaskell, 2006, p. 86)

From April 7 to April 20 I had symptoms of hypomania; it being my most recent bout of bipolar disorder. I mean, the illness doesn’t disappear but lays low sometimes allowing me to experience some semblance of normalcy. It’s hard work and normalcy anyway is a moving target as I am sure you would agree. My normal is inherently different from yours and not because I have a mental illness but because we are uniquely created. I have never and will never walk in your shoes and vice versa so let’s not pretend that we can ever fully understand each other but we can try. This is me helping you to understand my walk (and maybe that of similar others within your circles). How about sharing with me about your walk?

My bipolar episode prior to this one (i.e. this period of hypomania) involved depression and didn’t last as long as 13 days; I don’t think…see my post entitled “Don’t take it lightly” on January 24 for details. That one happened at the beginning of this academic semester. I am now pretty much at the end. I must admit, that last year this time, when I had to take a hasty medical leave of absence (after having completed ¾s of the semester) I was in a much worse-off state than I am today. Thank God for improvements and for making a way for me to return to the programme as a part-time student and not least for parents who have willingly funded this endeavor. We won’t discuss my academic progress since re-starting the programme in this post. Exams aren’t over yet and I have another paper to submit. Pray for me.

The hypomania began differently than it has in the past. I can’t recall the actual beginning of each episode mania/ depression over the past 16 years but over time I’ve learnt to recognize untoward symptoms associated with one extreme or the other (thank God for the ability to detect these warning signs!). This time the hypomania seemed to have begun with increased anxiety and irritability. I am on anxiety medication and keep an active record of levels of both anxiety and irritability so I noticed the change. Turns out the change was linked to PMS (which normally comes along with depressed feelings) and slipped under the radar because I have had relief from those PMS-related symptoms for a steady couple of months; I guess you could say I got lax. So the PMS snuck back in as increased anxiety and caught me off guard. All that passed and somewhat suddenly I was hypomanic. I mean, since becoming hypomanic, I have identified what were probably contributing factors but what characterizes such factors I’ll address in another post 😉

Overall, to date, I have had more manic than depressive episodes and more often than not they both have appeared to come out of nowhere. Usually though, in retrospect and with a helpful glance at my planner, it’s easy to see that there is in fact method to this madness- my episodes hardly just “happen” it’s just that leading up to them is easy and it isn’t ‘til they’re over that I have the wherewithal to investigate what lead up to them.

They still seem to come suddenly though…, taking over my life; engulfing most, if not all of my consciousness and ability to reason and stealing me away from conducting “business as usual” in all spheres of my life.

In mania there is no driving, no classes, no church, no phones, no access to the computer (God forbid, the internet!), no going outside. Any form of external stimulation is discouraged as there is usually more than enough internal stimulation like racing thoughts, delusions and hallucinations. What fun! I must admit, during the early stages of mania (including hypomania and just before losing touch with all of reality whereupon I create my own reality (bad scene, as my sister would say): good feelings abound, nothing is too difficult and I can convince myself that everything is right with me and with the world. Sounds good doesn’t it? Not so much. If that goes on for too long, unchecked, I will most likely find myself at home (i.e. under house arrest, which is as far as it has landed me every time, thank God!).

Yes, under house arrest with my parents on shift duty to ensure I am monitored at all times; an altered regimen of meds and very regular communication with my pDoc (God bless him). Not fun for parents; or for me by the way. All this, however, has served very well to save me and others from myself. I know it’s not an easy scene to imagine. As I reflect now on the last manic episode, I shudder to think what might have happened had I not had a stable support system (in all respects: family, relatives, church family, friends and healthcare providers) and most of all a home to be arrested in.

At the other end of things is depression and having not had as many episodes of depression as I have had of mania, I don’t feel equipped to fully explicate what it is like but I will tell you how I have experienced it.

Depression left to itself is like being in a black hole that prevents you from seeing or believing in the possibility of there being a way of escape. I’d venture to say that it’s almost impossible to see hope beyond depression when it hits. I marvel at those who are able to resurface after undergoing long periods of depression…the thought of a very long period of depression scares me. It really does. I know there are sides to depression (and even mania) that I have never seen especially because I’ve never planned or attempted suicide nor have I been addicted to drugs or alcohol in the midst of my being mentally ill. Things can get really complicated in such instances.

I cannot say however that I haven’t thought that it must be easier to just cease existing (I’m sure you have too). In fact, I have longed for not living (as if I’ve been there before); and been convinced that I (yeah right) and the world (no, I haven’t taken a poll) would be much better without my being present on earth depressed or otherwise.

I’ve painfully woken up day after day to persistent darkness on the inside with each day being scarier than the one before because you begin to believe that it’s really never going away and quite quickly in times of depression I have lost all recollection of what it’s like to be undepressed. It’s crazy because of course I have lived more days undepressed than I have depressed but that’s what depression does- it is a deceiver- it tricks you into thinking that there is no life beyond it.

Depression is something that is hard to imagine experiencing even if you were to examine reports following a survey of persons who have major depression.

I don’t believe that people who actually take their own lives do so from a place of total consciousness. I don’t think they do a cost-benefit analysis and feasibility study before making arrangements to or actually committing suicide. They may consider all the people they will hurt by leaving but I don’t know…depression is a confusing place. Even if you manage to consider (while depressed) what you might be able to uniquely contribute to the world by way of having walked the road of depression; the self-hatred and anger that may accompany depression can make the unknown of “the dark-side” appear terribly intriguing. Have you ever loathed even the sound of your own voice?

I think depression actually steals your life without killing you– placing you on “life-support” while you’re still breathing. Although, depression can appear to the one suffering to be in every way an existence filled with absolute gloom and no possibilities of returning to normalcy- there is hope beyond depression and camaraderie has everything to do with it. We’ll get into that another time.

In times like these when I am better, I don’t recognize the person I’ve become whenever I’ve gotten sick. I am a different person then, understandably so, and just for the record, I don’t think the experience of feeling like a different person or not recognizing oneself is unique to having a mental illness. Thank God I don’t feel the need to reconcile the different “persons” I’ve been. I am done struggling with that.

Relationships have been affected of course; personally and professionally; some a bit more than others. Over time however I have come to accept that part of me as just that “a part” and I believe others have too. It’s really nothing to be ashamed of. It’s kind of crazy, that’s all.

Please note: the views represented here are not intended to be representative of the experience of all people with bipolar disorder, just mine :).

Don’t take it lightly

Depression, don’t take it lightly.

For the afflicted…and those who care.

When depression barged in last Sunday, my perception of hope for the new semester began to cave-in. All December long, no depression. I handed in final papers, sat exams; no depression. Day before I am to return to school in January, depression shows up.

I cried, felt sorry for myself, wished life was different, felt sorry for myself, cried, wished life was different and it occurred to me then that I had some options. With depression, options are seemingly few and far between with the desire to “not exist” appearing most inviting. So, realizing I had options in itself is evidence of God’s healing in my life with respect to the experience of depression.

So this past Sunday, I foresaw options:

I could:

A) Keep the curtains closed, stay in bed and cry (while trying to convince myself that it would pass quickly- not typical of depressive episodes)

B) Keep the curtains closed stay in bed, cry and ask God “Why?” (He knows everything so if He just tells me why I get depressed, I’ll feel better- probably not)

C) Keep the curtains closed, stand up, cry, pray to God about my feelings of depression and ask Him “why?” (I need to tell God how I am feeling and on that basis He will take away the pain and tell me why I get depressed, that will solve everything- not a chance- I do however need to talk to God about everything so I can grow in my relationship with Him)

D) Keep the curtains closed, stay in bed, talk to God about how I am feeling and read aloud messages from God (in the Bible) about how to fight and deal with depression

Choices A through most of C (certainly without the clincher in D) could potentially prolong depression, with A having the greatest potential to do so. That’s not my opinion, it’s fact. Isolating yourself in a darkened room, projecting negative thoughts on the future, crying over the past and finding a way to blame someone and of course yourself for your plight is a sure way to remain depressed (I know this sounds harsh but I am MAD at depression right now. Intent on exposing the lies it brings).

What I am about to share next, which I alluded to in the post right before this one has nothing to do with me but everything to do with the Word and Person of God.

His Word is (the Bible) is chock-full of power, it is, I believe, the most potent remedy for depression.

So I did something I’ve never done (in quite this way):

I didn’t get up, “who said you have to be upright to read God’s Word and have Him intervene”? Truth be told, I didn’t have the strength to stand and hoped my posture wouldn’t offend God (that’s legalism talking).

I didn’t open the curtains. Although literature on how to combat depression encourages spending time in the sunlight, I somehow felt safer in the dark and it wouldn’t affect God’s ability to hear me and honor His Word. (That said, If you can get out into the sun when you are depressed, definitely do so, and declare God’s word there too!)

I bow before your holy Temple as I worship. I praise your name for your unfailing love and faithfulness; for your promises are backed by all the honor of your name. Psalm 138:2 http://biblehub.com/psalms/138-2.htm

Kindle in hand I opened my browser and entered “scriptures to fight depression”. Clicked on the first link that appeared (http://hopefaithprayer.com/scriptures/against-depression/) and through my tears and cracked up voice began (audibly):

Deuteronomy 31:8 – The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.

Deuteronomy 33:27 – The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.

etc.

I then headed over to the section on “Scriptures Against Hopelessness” http://hopefaithprayer.com/scriptures/against-hopelessness/

My life depended then, depends now and will always depend on those and all of God’s Word.

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 2 Timothy3:16 http://biblehub.com/2_timothy/3-16.htm

In short order, I was able to stand and go to the kitchen (that means facing other people) to get a drink. In  “depression time” that step so soon after initial onset of symptoms is monumental.

For the years that I have struggled with bipolar disorder, the periods of depression (as opposed to mania when I am less coherent) were primarily spent crying, isolating myself, catastrophizing about the future, having my medication altered, detailing my feelings of anger to my pdoc, being consoled by my family and friends, having my pastors and church family pray for and with me (even declaring some of those same depression fighting scriptures over me as I cried) and finally, my squeezing out prayers and if at all, casually reading God’s word kinda sorta hoping things would change.

Without discounting the importance of the abovementioned (because I have an amazing support team and believe “mere” reading of God’s Word to be helpful in itself), I am happy to say that this most recent period of depression culminated (yup, ended; although I didn’t experience an immediate reprieve of all depressive symptoms) in my decision- in the midst of overwhelmingly sad feelings and thoughts- to believe God on the following:

so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. Isaiah 55:11 http://biblehub.com/isaiah/55-11.htm

God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill? Numbers 23:19 http://biblehub.com/numbers/23-19.htm

CHANGE was on its way!

I would either begin to see my depressive feelings and thoughts differently or the chemicals in my brain would get in line- my circumstances were about to be ALTERED!

When? I didn’t know but that time with God gave me what I needed to put one foot in front of the other.

It’s not that I don’t believe God normally but that using my voice to speak His Word in that instant and on days after defied the depression-ridden feelings and thoughts and served to convince my soul of where the power resided i.e. in God and not in the illness.

What a relief!

You can have similar results no matter the mountain.

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. Romans 10:9 http://biblehub.com/romans/10-9.htm

He replied, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you. Luke 17:6 http://biblehub.com/luke/17-6.htm

LOVE!

P.S I also checked in with my doctor.