All in Your Head? [Depression]

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Depression is a Mental Disorder, not a Disease

There are plausible arguments for the non-existence of mental illness. But there are still people who declare themselves to have a mental illness. After all, being sick mentally has no physical symptoms; it’s not like a kidney stone or an inflamed appendix. One can only hope it was this simple.

Yet depression is a progressive and debilitating disorder. It is like having a ‘bruised brain’ that refuses to heal. There is an substantial list of psychological disorders. Technically depression is a mood disorder that has a series of symptoms. These symptoms are the evidence that something is definitely wrong.

  • Depressed mood (such as feelings of sadness or emptiness).
  • Reduced interest in activities that used to be enjoyed.
  • Change in appetite or weight increase/decrease.
  • Sleep disturbances (either not being able to sleep well or sleeping too much).
  • Feeling agitated or slowed down.
  • Fatigue or loss of energy.
  • Feeling worthless or excessive guilt.
  • Difficulty thinking, concentrating or troubles making decisions.
  • Suicidal thoughts or intentions.
http://www.nami.org/

The above list is a summary of something called the DSM-IV which doctors use to diagnose the mental disorder of depression. Having five or six of these may indicate a problem. Spinning off this, you will discover some other disorders, like:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
  • Panic disorder
  • Depersonalization/derealization
  • OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder)
  • Psychosis and paranoia
  • PTSD (post traumatic stress syndrome)
  • Specific Phobias (fears of something)
  • SAD (social anxiety disorder)
  • Schizophrenia
  • Eating disorders (bulimia, anorexia)

Even though mental illness is widespread in the population, the main burden of illness is concentrated in a much smaller proportion-about 6 percent, or 1 in 17 Americans-who live with a serious mental illness. The National Institute of Mental Health reports that one in four adults–approximately 57.7 million Americans–experience a mental health disorder in a given year.

Unfortunately, there is a great deal of misunderstanding and stigma for those who have these disorders. I suppose it is akin to having VD (venereal disease) or AIDS. It seems that our culture is pretty quick at labeling people as deviant or undesirable.

I hope this post helps. I can see a 100 holes in it, and alas, it is a meager attempt. But perhaps it will be of some value. Both NAMI.org, Psychcentral.com, and WebMD.com all have excellent info on Mental Illness. aabryscript

Being Sick

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Potter shaping a ceramic plate on a pottery wheel
“So Miriam was kept outside the camp for seven days, and the people waited until she was brought back before they traveled again.”

Numbers 12:15

To be numbered among the chronically ill often can mean a transition into frustration. We can not do what we want, we are ‘trapped’ by a disease we never asked for, and held hostage by our minds and bodies. It seems apart, from the management of our symptoms, we have little time to do anything else. We once had a job– a career… and our time was occupied by that. We were accustomed to something more than this illness.

I once was a pastor of a small church here in Homer, Alaska. I also taught Gospels for many years at the Alaska Bible Institute. I loved both. They defined my identity and gave me purpose. I loved helping people and teaching the Word. I strived to be faithful in the ministry. My wife and two children were also significant and all of these things led me to think they would always be there. I was living my dream (in a good way.)

With the sudden onset of a brain tumor, followed up by a diagnosis of Bipolar disorder (BP), I knew I had to step out of the ministry. I simply could not function. My depression grew more profound with the stillborn death of our third child. Things suddenly ground to a stand-still as we tried to process what has happening to us. I guess I just couldn’t understand and more or less just shut down. I spent months in bed, unable to function.

Some people were jewels. Others were mean and uncaring. (I had to learn to take the good with the bad.) I suppose I should have been more forth-coming, but things were so tangled up inside I couldn’t verbalize a thing. The post-op surgery was an ordeal, as I had to learn many things all over again. Years later I ended up on disability; I was unable to work, and no one would hire me. My symptoms were so unpredictable, and things were too erratic. The BP was giving me it’s customary depression, as well as paranoia and hallucinations.

Sometimes, like Miriam, we are quarantined by the Lord for his purposes. The isolation is worse that the pain it seems. We wonder why this is happening, and fabricate lies about our worthiness or God’s goodness. In our isolation things seem polarized to extremes. Our value seems to be ripped apart by our illness. We can feel cursed, or worse.

I have been slow to learn this: God brings good out of the dark. I’m embarrassed by my lack of acquiring this truth.

“We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.”

2 Corinthians 4:7

This light must shine. The treasure is found in clay vessels. Brokenness only means the treasure is now seen clearly. It’s important to note: treasure loses none of its value by being surrounded by broken clay.

“We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed.”

2 Corinthians 4:8-9

Troubles of various ilk come to us. They are variegated and unplanned. No matter what their nature, God holds his people in place while everything else is falling apart. But there is no magic wand; the pain will probably continue. But for the broken believer, there comes another dimension; a new supernatural layer of grace to bolster our beleaguered faith. We will triumph through this thing, and we will stand– because He makes us stand.

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A Broken System

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Sixty million Americans – that’s one in five adults – will experience a mental illness in the coming year. That means every one of us knows someone who is living with a mental illness – depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, an eating disorder, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder and some additionally have a substance abuse.”

The stats are staggering. They are also easily forgotten. (It seems that we approach life not as it is, but as we want it to be.) But consider this:

• Half of all adults will suffer from mental illness in their lifetime.
• Half of all chronic mental illness begins by the age of 14.
• One in five children will have a mental illness by age 18.
• Ninety percent of people who die by suicide also had mental illness.

Brokenbelievers is not just a “niche” site– we’re dealing with hardcore issues that are significant for far too many. Mental illness is a pervasive and terrible issue in our society. Christians must witness to what Jesus can do in the midst of this. We are his witnesses.

Accentuating this, our mental health care system is broken. Jails and prisons have become “dumping grounds” for afflicted people. I guess that this is considered “routine” for us. Imagine the outcry if, instead of doing this to the mentally ill, we did incarcerated those with diabetes? Yet we do so because that’s the way the system works.

There are many beautifully competent people who toil in the mental health field. Some of the kindest and caring can be found working in these places. They deserved to be commended, not vilified.

The landscape is strewn with casualties. Mental illness will affect half of adults in their lifetimes, and the collateral damage can’t even begin to be quantified. Our therapists, nurses and doctors have a grisly job security. Money can never fix our system of dealing with those with a mental illness.

Many of us will disagree about what to do.

Perhaps we should advocate a multi-prong approach. Brokenbelievers exists for Christian believers that are having to work out their faith in the presence of a tenacious illness. It’s good to have someone that understands depression or other issues in the life of a disciple of Jesus Christ.

We must think differently– and do differently. With God’s help we can.

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Sources:

https://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-By-the-Numbers

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kay-warren/hope-for-mental-illness_b_8045810.html

Delusions of the First Person Variety

When I first watched the “Matrix,” I completely flipped out. It explained too much. It took me a month to recover.
I need to briefly share what delusions are like.  I’m going to flip the switch and flood the room with light, and watch the “critters” scuttle to find a hiding place.  I’m doing this to help heal myself, and for you to understand this awful state of mind.

First of all– definitions

Delusion n.
A false belief held despite strong evidence against it; self-deception. Delusions are common in some forms of psychosis. Example.  Because of his delusions, the literary character Don Quixote attacks a windmill, thinking it is a giant (that’s the dictionary workin’ it for you.)

Delusion de·lu·sion n.
A false belief strongly held in spite of invalidating evidence, especially as a symptom of mental illness.

Typically, my delusions have a common core of pride or self-centered thinking. For instance, I have experienced all of these:

  1. A woman loves me and she is secretly trying to be with me. This is very flattering and egocentric.  This  one can really mess with your thought-life. (Ego.)
  2. I’m the center of the universe, people really do not exist, except when they come into my life or influence.  [This one is a bit metaphysical.] See #7.
  3. I have special powers that ‘know” a person’s motives, plans and heart.  I am hyper-discerning.  The opposite can be true at times, where I become exposed to people, which necessitates me never leaving my room. I feel “naked” and of course, very uncomfortable.
  4. I get paranoid, thinking people are plotting with each other behind my back, working to destroy me.  Chat rooms, and Facebook are focal points for me with this one, but not always.  With this one I get really verbal, and I start zapping people.  I guess because it’s the internet I can do this with impunity.
  5. Clocks are always at the top of the hour, like- 7:00 am.  Or they are at the bottom of the hour, like 11:30 pm.  I call this “chronosynchronism.” I believe this is evidence that my life is orchestrated, purposeful, and this is evidence I am very significant.  This is my latest.  And it really isn’t super disruptive.
  6. I can read secret messages in books meant for me.  I also line up spaces in what I’m reading to form an unbroken line.  I compulsively do this.
  7. The big one is this, I am in my form of “The Truman Show”.  The universe is just a set and I am the only living thing out there.  Everything is focused on me (of course).
  8. I hear voices sometimes, but mostly a radio or sometimes the “dot-dash-dot” of a telegraph.  I think its trying to warn me in some code.  It can be persistent. And it can be disruptive. Paranoid that my giftedness is cause for the NSA to control me.
  9. My wife intends to poison me.
  10. Personal hygiene issues. Afraid of being murdered in the shower creates a super-phobia. I once went 6 weeks without showering. (I made my own eyes ‘water’, lol).

I guess all of these have things in common.  They are self-centered.  They are unreasonable and illogical.  They are compulsive. And yes, meds do work.  And the above list?  The delusions are only mild-to-moderate issues of delusional paranoia.  There are so many Christians and non-Christians who have worse. I once met a man who seriously believed he was Jesus. (And no, I didn’t worship him).

As a believer working out his discipleship, I’ve discovered that humility and openness is always the way of keeping one tethered to reality.  However, I have a fear that I will break loose and never come out again.  I MUST live in “brokenness”.  (So in a strange way, following Jesus Christ is easier.)

Also, I must be open to things that will invalidate my delusion.  Even if I’m 99% convinced, that 1% will cause me to consider thinking through a scenario.  Truth is your best friend when you are challenging a delusional paranoid.  But it has to be gently applied. Life doesn’t have be lived this way. Also, delusions will often ‘morph’ and change and take on modified characteristics. This seems to be part of the mental illness, but can also indicate demonic oppression (or both even).

A psychiatrist should be informed in most cases. Very often meds will be necessary to get your loved one through this time, but not always.

Praying for delusional behavior

People have prayed for me, more then I have prayed for myself.  Your intercession bridges a gap over this illness.  When you pray, you power up the energy cells and get instructions.  It may mean wait, or proceed.  Every person and situation is different. Prayer is always the best approach.

(So many delusions and so little time.) They will vary from person-to-person. An active prayer may help, “Lord, may it be the real me who touches the real You.” Remember, Jesus stands at the right hand of his Father praying for you [which can’t be all bad].

“Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.”

Romans 8:34

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Mental Illness Concerns, [Illness]

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As with anything, those of us with mental illness have much to consider. I believe that God will direct us through these issues. And these are not static things. It isn’t “one and your done”– these are ongoing. They never get completely resolved; you must get used to this. The following list is not meant to be exhaustive.

  • Stigma— One of the basic hazards that comes with a mental illness.
  • Medications– This will be a stretching time as you must determine what  is best for you, your family and basic functionality. There will be many opinions and many issues that will arise. Your patience will be required (but isn’t it always?) Oh, and vodka is not considered a med.
  • Church“Not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some” should be our mantra, we need fellowship.  It is easy to just go it alone, but we will suffer a barrenness which we will see in our hearts. (I’ve chafed at this from time to time.)
  • Therapy— To go or not to go? A good therapist is worth their weight in gold doubloons, but a bad one can be hard to tolerate. Also, a  Christian may not always be the best for you personally. My current is a unbeliever, but is very respectful regarding my faith.
  • Marriage—  A faithful spouse/friend is key to managing your mental illness.
  • Family— They will feel the brunt of your issues. It is good to be aware of this and adjust to their needs. Above all, don’t flog yourself for your failings. Trust in the Lord to redeem things.
  • Work— Surprisingly, some employers have little tolerance for your issues, but the law is they can’t discriminate against a mental illness. I hope it won’t come down to that.
  • Social/friend-– Finding other mentally ill believers is priceless. When I meet someone who also struggled with severe depression I give them a big hug.

We have the joy of combining our discipleship with our illness. This is a formidable task. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit stands ready to give you wisdom. You will discover that it really isn’t the big things that you will struggle with the most, but the littler issues that can ‘rock your world.’ (I’m beginning to wonder if “grittiness” should be added to the fruits of the Holy Spirit?)

The Lord truly will accommodate your illness with His power and grace. He always does this for His children.

“There is no circumstance, no trouble, no testing, that can ever touch me until, first of all, it has gone past God and past Christ, right through to me. If it has come that far, it has come with a great purpose.” 

— Alan Redpath

These are only some of the areas that are effected by a mental illness. A good pastor, or a therapist can do wonders when things are out of whack. The spiritual disciplines of prayer, scripture, and the Word will assist you. Having people pray for you will be a necessity and may provide you relief and restore your sanity. Just remember, when you feel like all is dark and you are buried, actually you’ve been planted.

“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”

Philippians 1:6, NLT

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Of A Sound Mind, [Healthy & Sane]

 

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“A sound mind.” For some of us that doesn’t seem remotely possible. Over the years we personally have reason to believe this is not real. As mentally ill people we seem to think that we can’t be this way. We think that maybe this applies to normal people, and certainly not me (2 Tim. 1:7).

But it is a gift. That’s important to note. (Just as eternal life is a gift.) I can’t earn it; nor can I generate it up. It must be simply acknowledged and received as a bonus for being a sinner who believes. Sanity is not a fixed condition, but rather a definite process we make. Some of us maybe healthier than others. In 2 Timothy 1:7 we are told that our amazing salvation (!) includes:

  • an amazing love,
  • incredible power,
  • and a sound (healthy) mind.

These three are a gift from God. You don’t buy a gift, nor do you earn it. Rather it comes from someone who loves you (!) and only wants to bless. We may have issues, but the Spirit is sound and lucid.

The healthy mind is a mind without any sick or crippling deficiencies. It is a mind that is vigorous and robust. For those of us who struggle with a mental illness this is astonishingly good news. And it may very well be that you are impaired; but even then you’re given a strength.

My own experience is that the Holy Spirit is working, with my meds, to ‘hold me’ in a good place. Just as a diabetic must take insulin, so I need to take my antidepressant. The brain is an organ that can get sick also. We live in a fallen and broken world.

Grace does heal many, but some of us find ‘weakness’ becoming our real strength.

The very presence of the Holy Spirit is what enables. Broken believers are coming to see that their illnesses are helping them to be weak enough for God to use. “It is not that we think we are qualified to do anything on our own. Our qualification comes from God.” 2 Cor. 3:5, NLT

Some thoughts that have helped me out:

“Accepting the reality of our broken, flawed lives is the beginning of spirituality not because the spiritual life will remove our flaws but because we let go of seeking perfection and, instead, seek God, the one who is present in the tangledness of our lives.“ 

— Michael Yaconelli

bizen-kintsukuroi-tea-cup-1 (1)“When the Japanese mend broken objects, they aggrandize the damage by filling the cracks with gold [‘kintsukuroi’]. They believe that when something’s suffered damage and has a history it becomes more beautiful.”

–Barbara Bloom

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An Inconvenient Madness, [A Broken Believer]

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Very simply, bipolar disorder is characterized by mood swings that are defined by major shifts between incredible mania and clinical depression. It’s usually intense and quite disabling.

Depression: There are days when I wake up and I don’t like what I see in the mirror. At times a deep and profound sadness seems to grip me like a vise. It’s like a huge heavy grey cloak covers me, and I can’t shake it off. Typically I hide and crawl into bed for weeks at a time. All is hopeless and I despair of life. I am irrevocably lost. This is bipolar depression and I’m slowly learning that I can shake it free.

Mania: When I’m manic it’s as though I have wings! I’m blasted with a special grace which makes me creative and intelligent and superior to mere mortals.  I become energetically impulsive and irritably crass. It’s all about ME! Thankfully these times don’t happen too often. These moods don’t last long but they’re intense. A measure of freedom can also be found.

Medication prescribed by my psychiatrist helps smooth things out. It was hard to adjust to taking them, but now I know I did the right thing. It’s been over 10 years since my diagnosis and I suppose I have the dubious honor of just surviving. I have several scars on my wrists that remind me of a long journey. Those afflicted will understand.

It’s been suggested that bipolar people can become more empathetic and sensitive to the suffering of others. I’d like to believe that this is true. This seems like a biblical idea.

“He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.”

2 Corinthians 1:4, NLT

 “The Sovereign Lord has given me a well-instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary.”

Isaiah 50:4

For the broken believer, I’m confident that the Lord can turn my mental illness into something positive and good. The Holy Spirit empowers the Christian to do the extraordinary. It’s in our weaknesses we can become strong. We are fully enough in Christ. (2 Corinthians 12:9).

I stepped down from my positions as a pastor and a Bible instructor when the bipolar symptoms became clear. This wasn’t easy but I knew it was what God wanted. Today I still speak on occasion at a local Church.

I also minister here at brokenbelievers.com and http://www.lambfollowers.com.. I try to post everyday and I get constant feedback from those who are in need. Just a single post, a list of 24 hour crisis hotlines, averages 175 hits a day by itself! (https://brokenbelievers.com/247-crisis-lines/)

I do covet your prayers for both ministry sites.

This work would never have happened unless I was “detoured” by my bipolar.

“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”

Romans 8:28

I want to urge you to look at the big picture of mental illness. Sure it can be remarkably disruptive, but the Lord can transform you. Meds and therapy are vital for me. Prayer and Bible reading even more so. You can find a way through this. It’s not easy. Don’t fight the illness. The Father works close to His “special” children. There is a real and abiding hope for you. I’m convinced you can find it.

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