From a Mental Hospital Ward, [Crushed]

3 For the enemy has pursued my soul; he has crushed my life to the ground; he has made me sit in darkness like those long dead.”

Psalm 143:3

Some time ago,  I was hospitalized for my mental illness. (Actually seven times.) And though each time was bitter, but the Lord carried me.  They would take from me my shoelaces, and belts, and fingernail clippers.  Basically, I was stripped of everything, anything that I might use to harm myself. But I was creative, I took a clock off the wall and rolled it in a blanket,  I smashed it and used the shards of glass to cut my wrists.The nurses were exceptionally observant, and within moments they intervened.

I had already been stripped, searched, and then brought into a ward full of very sick people.  Much of all of this is a terrible glazed blur.  There was a real awareness of unreality.  I was quite confused, and it would take several weeks before I could reconnect.  Things were no longer ‘reasonable’ and I could discern nothing.  But I didn’t know I was so confused (but I did suspect it). The staff were quite aware and accommodating.  They let me be, so time could take care of the rest. I needed to unravel things  

Besides, Jesus knew exactly where I was if I didn’t.

Days rolled by, quite slowly.  The tedium of a mental hospital is the worst— much more difficult than jail or prison.  You walk in a very limited corridor, back and forth.  You wait for your shrink, and wait, and wait.  You pace, and pace. You pray, stupidly.  The other patients were equally disturbed.  There was a great variety among them.  One guy would urinate in any corner. Once he jumped up on the nurses station, and took a “whizz.” It was hysterical.  He almost shorted out their computer.

In all of this, there was a very bleak and strange awareness, of being incredibly ‘detached,’ and only remotely aware that something was not right with me.  I tried to get well, but I was mentally lost.  I paced, and I remained confused.  I was most definitely in an ugly place.  Desperate and increasingly bewildered, I knew I had no place to go.  A fine place for someone who used to pastor, and teach at a Bible college.

If you have been in this place, you will recognize the ‘lostness’ of being on a ward of a mental hospital. It is confusion mixed with despair,  and without a part of very strong drugs, and there is nothing you can do to be released.  And really until you come to this fact, they will never let you go.  They wait for you to snap out of your confusion, unfortunately that takes time. Sometimes many weeks and whole months. Sometimes never.

It’s worse when you have a family.  In my case it was my wife, and two small children.  This at times, would twist my heart.  I would get a very short phone call, once a week.  But this was quite difficult.  I gained very little from those calls, and I found myself quite disturbed after each call.  Being on this ward tinged me completely. It was like being dipped into darkness.  I was very much affected.  Now on the outside, I admit I was quite disturbed, but at the time I honestly did not understand a way out.

Dear friend, having a mental illness is cruel and disturbing.  And being committed to a mental hospital is a desperate thing.  Having passed through its locked doors is something you will never forget.  The way I figure these seven hospitalizations have stolen over six months of my life. Its work is irrevocable, its fingerprints will be on your life, for as long as you live.  But God will bring good out of this. This I know.

“Do not gloat over me, my enemy!
    Though I have fallen, I will rise.
Though I sit in darkness,
    the Lord will be my light.”

Micah 7:8

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A Giraffe On Roller Skates, [Mental Illness]

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People will sometimes ask me, “What its like to be a Christian and to have a mental illness?” I’m not entirely sure I can really answer, but I do try. It seems almost always there are misconceptions, or even a stigma attached to their curiosity. But here goes.

It’s like I’m a ‘giraffe on roller skates’, It seems like I’m always lurching and tottering— always on the verge of total collapse. (It’s a wonder I’m even ‘standing.’) Careening from one side to another, I’m aware that I’m becoming quite the spectacle, and I imagine I hear whispers about the ‘splash’ I’m making today.

I’m uneasy and unsure. (Am I being inappropriate?) I seem to speak too loud and pressured, I feel conspicuous; like I’m slightly inebriated at a party of Mormons. I’m aware of nervous glances and uneasy whispers.

Welcome to the world of bipolar mania.

I have a mental illness. ‘Rapid cycling’ bipolar disorder is my particular ‘flavor.’ I’m on meds (and have been for some time) but it only seems to do is to take of edge off— but I’m grateful for even that small mercy. Over time I’ve been able to accrue some coping mechanisms.  Identifying my paranoia and random delusions is simple ‘Bipolar 101’. It has become the present state of my world.  I don’t always do it well— but I do ”do it’. (And I take my lithium daily.)

There is a learning curve to all of this. It must be discovered. I have tried ‘avoidance tactics’, and I suppose most of the time they seem prudent. But life can’t really be lived cloistered in your room. That is safe, but also very dull. The isolation becomes more toxic than ‘the spectacle.’

Being a disciple of Jesus Christ, and having bipolar disorder creates some problems. I’m aware of the incongruity. But my faith often uses these issues I face; they propel me closer to Him.

Being ‘broken’ has become a real blessing.

28 “Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

Matthew 11:28-29, NLT

The promise of Jesus is for those who carry extra weights (like mental or physical illness). It’s for those whose ‘cheese has slipped off their cracker.’ It’s for giraffes on roller skates. Anything we bear is endurable, and easy. He carries us far beyond every weight and every burden. He alone gives rest to the troubled, and real peace to those troubled by their souls.

30″ For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.

(verse 30).

What Jesus actively does is to puncture my pride, and then release His spirit and grace over me. But He also makes things ‘light’. The reality is that I bear nothing. All that He does is ‘light’. My blundering is seen and never belittled. But His grace only gets revealed in my weakness.

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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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I Come, Clinging

 

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I will come and cling

 “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.”

Romans 3:23, NLT

I know myself pretty well.  I fully understand how dark I can be.  I’m nasty and mean, selfish and destructive.  I am the “King of Filth and Deceit.”  (That is my official title, look it up.)  King Midas turned everything he touched into gold.  It seems that everything I touch turns black and putrid. I have come to understand Martin Luther’s own assessment, “Sin boldly, but believe in God more boldly still.” He wasn’t encouraging sin; nor was he giving out ‘a license to sin.’ He was simply acknowledging our nature. He was also speaking of God’s wonderful gift of grace, and the faith needed to obtain it.

But I have heard that there is a place where I can be made white and bright; fully and truly cleansed of an immensity of evil.  He can heal me, and I do not have to continue to produce such wickedness.  I do not have to hurt His dear ones anymore. When I accept Him, His blood releases me. He makes it possible for me to have a new life.

So I come to Him, and cling.  I will not let go, I grab Jesus and hang on.

I won’t slide back into this painful darkness.  I will latch on to Him with everything I have. I cry out for ‘the spiritual velcro’ of Grace. I do this over, and over– until it works. Just give my sin-addled soul Jesus. I’ve had enough religion, now I want Him.

I’m learning that I must learn to forgive myself.  He has already forgiven me.  A weaver works diligently on a rug that he is making.  He uses even the dark thread as he does his work.  In the same way, those deep transgressions must become a part of the Spirit’s work from my life.  He takes it up, without flinching, and weaves it into His work. What He does is miraculous.

God’s specialty is turning rascals into sons and daughters.

I see sadness and confusion, and He sees glory.  I see nothing but evil, and He chooses to turn it into a special grace.  And so, I cling to Him and wait for the Lord to meet me.  He is not overwhelmed by my stains, and He promises a complete deliverance from my great darkness.  So I cling, as a drowning man latches on to a life preserver.

Oh, dear one.  Someone has been looking for you.  Jesus has been searching, trying to save you.  You can go your own way, but I predict nothing but a difficult sorrow, if that is your real choice.  But, there is a way of escape, and it is full of joy and peace.  And it is real.

I know, (first-hand,) that it difficult, but that is just the first stage.  There is a raucous joy that is waiting for you.  You will find such a purpose and completeness that will make your head spin.  He will launch on you into a love and a kindness that you will hardly be able to contain.

“God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him,
    for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.
God blesses those who mourn,
    for they will be comforted.”

Matthew 5:3-4

 

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Paranoia and Delusions, Oh My!

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Didn’t really sleep last night but an interesting day.  Hope it continues to develop in that direction.  I really need a good day to come along right now.

Been thinking about paranoia.  It comes loaded up with delusions.  They are separate words, but when they make that toxic combination it gets strange.  Are people out to get me?  Probably not.  People are by far and away more apt to dismiss me then to plot against me.

Paranoia is the belief in a hidden order behind the visible.

Delusions are a strong belief in something despite superior evidence to the contrary.

I don’t know why this is such a hard concept to hold on.  Paranoia is intensely self-absorbed and egocentric.  Everything is conspiring to destroy me is a very foolish way to live.  In a culture already overheated by egomania, to offend me becomes a declaration of war.  My paranoia makes you a mortal enemy.  But to act from that destroys me.  I only take it deeper and make it easier to slide into the next time.

Paranoia is not rational.  You can not reason with it.  (You certainly have my permission.)  For me, I win the battle over paranoia and delusions by “displacement”, pushing it out by adding in the presence of Jesus. The Holy Spirit fills us and flushes out the bad. At least that is what it feels like.

When I recognize Him to be the good shepherd, He watches over my thoughts like sheep.  He protects me from paranoia’s snares and thorns. I experience peace when He is present. I find Jesus actively helps me in this.

There are times I hear the voices, and “see” the monstrous faces leering out of the wallpaper. But more often I concoct delusions about people who I feel have slighted me. Paranoia provides plenty of grist for me to grind. I’m learning how to recognize the lies, and the liar who speaks them to me.

“For God did not give us a spirit of timidity (of cowardice, of craven and cringing and fawning fear), but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of calm and well-balanced mind and discipline and self-control.”

2 Timothy 1:7, AMP

Often I hear what seems like a telegraph, a varying ‘dot-dash-dot.’ It is very loud and obtrusive, but I know now it’s not real. I read a cool quote, that made me laugh, “I was walking home one night and a guy hammering on a roof called me a paranoid little weirdo. In morse code.”  -Emo Phillips

I hope your day goes good.

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