“In our family “whim-wham” is code, a defanged reference to any number of moods and psychological disorders, be they depressive, manic, or schizoaffective. Back in the 1970s and ’80s – when they were all straight depression – we called them “dark nights of the soul.” St. John of the Cross’s phrase ennobled our sickness, spiritualized it. We cut God out of it after the manic breaks started in 1986, the year my dad, brother, and I were all committed. Call it manic depression or by its new, polite name, bipolar disorder. Whichever you wish. We stick to our folklore and call it the whim-whams.”

— David LovelaceScattershot: My Bipolar Family


Speaking in code is often our way of communicating to those who are curious. We seldom tell anyone we have bipolar disorder outright. Some of us tried, and failed; we fall back to “I’m just a little blue today,” or the classic, “I’m just woke up on the wrong side of the bed.” We really can be somewhat disingenuous.

All too often these are half-truths that deflect the sticky issues of a mental breakdown. We seek to salvage some kind of dignity, or evade the inevitable stigma that would certainly come if we told the truth. We choose to evade, but at a cost.

I struggle with the stigma of both bipolar disorder and epilepsy. I’m still uncomfortable when others seem uncomfortable with me. So, I have developed a general rule:

Bryan’s Rule #14, “Never reveal your illness, except to qualified people.”

I suppose this adds a layer of personal security. The occasions I have violated this rule have resulted in awkward pauses and odd looks. Afterwards, the relationship changed. It was as if I suddenly sprouted a second head, or something.

As Christian believers, I know we are supposed to walk in the truth. But exactly how truthful am I supposed to be? I’ve always had an iconoclastic streak, and I love stretching the social boundaries of others. Bipolar disorder has been an illness made-to-order for people like me.

Bryan’s Rule #15, “Openness can be a true step toward my healing.”

But it take truth to change. We really need to be honest by bringing things into the light. Obscuring the truth keeps us isolated and distant from others. Will speaking forthrightly about my bipolar disorder be a challenge? Of course. But necessary if I want to heal and cope.

I’m not advocating making a big sign and parading down Main Street. Just to be a bit more honest with others, and ultimately with ourselves. Let’s be comfortable with our own personal “whim-whams.”



Melancholy Beckons Me


Objectively speaking, my life is pretty good, for the most part. I have a good job, been married 25 years, have a wonderful creative son, a terrific church home and family, blood family that I love, a cute loveable dog, a nice house, plenty to eat — I could go on and on about the blessings in my life, and I do try to focus on the greatest blessing of all, my dear Jesus.

And yet melancholy beckons me. It bids me turn my gaze from the Lord and my blessings, and instead focus on the one thing that is not as I would like it to be.

I feel a bit like Peter must have felt when he looked down at the crashing waves instead of at Jesus. Yes, there was a storm all about Peter, but he was standing safely above it as long as he kept his eyes on Jesus. Looking at the scene with the benefit of hindsight, I know that Jesus eventually calmed Peter’s storm. It was only when Peter looked away that he began to sink into the deep.

I know, too, that He will calm my storm. As the tempest rages and melancholy beckons, I know it is essential to keep my eyes on my Savior lest I sink into the deep. I know that I must trust in Jesus, and trust I do.

Still trust is so hard when tears well up behind sad eyes, when nothing changes and the storm continues to howl all around me. But in fact, upon closer examination, something has changed, and that is the tempest within. It is me He has changed as He strengthens my faith. He has changed violent anger and indignation to sadness and compassion, to melancholy.

Standing in the wings is indifference, worse even than melancholy, because indifference means giving up hope. It clings to pride and indignation, not wanting to let go. Indifference means a deliberate decision to not care about another, only self. But the change my Lord has wrought in my heart bids me stay clear of indifference. Melancholy is at least useful for self-examination and for reminding me of how desperately I need Jesus.

The Psalms are wonderful for times like this. Just this morning as I began my prayer time, I read Psalm 28 and came to these words of encouragement:

Blessed be the Lord,
Because He has heard the voice of my supplications!
The Lord is my strength and my shield;
My heart trusted in Him, and I am helped;
Therefore my heart greatly rejoices,
And with my song I will praise Him.
Psalm 28:6-7 (NKJV).

Melancholy beckons me, but though I succumb for a while I remember that my Redeemer will never leave me. Though my mind reflects with melancholy on what I pray He will change, my heart rejoices that He is faithful to keep His promises.


A Mighty Fortress, Understood

martin_luther2 (1)Martin’s Depression

The hymn A Mighty Fortress Is Our God gloriously celebrates God’s power. It was penned by the great 16th-century reformer Martin Luther, who believed God’s power could help believers overcome great difficulties — even depression. Given his pastoral heart, he sought to bring spiritual counsel to struggling souls. His compassion for those souls shines in numerous places, including his sermons, lectures, Bible commentaries and ‘table talks’. In addition, he devoted many letters to counseling troubled folk.

Luther’s writings reveal his knowledge of various emotional difficulties. For example, in August 1536 he interceded for a woman named Mrs. Kreuzbinder, whom he deemed insane. He described her as being “accustomed to rage” and sometimes angrily chasing her neighbor with a spear.

In addition, Luther’s wife, Kate, struggled with pervasive and persistent worry indicative of generalized anxiety disorder. Prince Joachim of Anhalt, to whom Luther often wrote, exhibited signs of obsessive-compulsive disorder, and he believed he had betrayed and crucified Christ. Conrad Cordatus, a pastor and frequent guest at Luther’s table, exhibited signs of hypochondriasis, a disorder involving preoccupation with fears of having a serious disease.

Besides observing mental difficulties in others, Luther had a compelling reason to affirm their reality. Luther himself endured many instances of depression. He described the experience in varied terms: melancholy, heaviness, depression, dejection of spirit; downcast, sad, downhearted. He suffered in this area for much of his life and often revealed these struggles in his works. Evidently he did not think it a shameful problem to be hidden.

Satan as the “accuser of the brethren,” causes Christians to dwell on past sins. Such thoughts induce melancholy and despair. Concerning a friend’s depressive thoughts, Luther wrote, “Know that the devil is tormenting you with them, and that they are not your thoughts but the cursed devil’s, who cannot bear to see us have joyful thoughts.”   Luther recognized a spiritual truth about depression. One can expect Satan’s persistence until faith is destroyed, but in the midst of depression God is with us. He never leaves us alone. In the midst of trouble He draws near to us.

Sometimes the invisible God draws near through visible people, and they become the bearers of God’s comforting and strengthening words to troubled souls.  What’s more, God seeks to assure us of His love and esteem. And through His Word, He counters Satan’s lies with His truth.

Some Martin Luther Quotes

Luther's Seal
Luther’s Seal

“All who call on God in true faith, earnestly from the heart, will certainly be heard, and will receive what they have asked and desired.”

“Faith is a living and unshakable confidence, a belief in the grace of God so assured that a man would die a thousand deaths for its sake.”

“Christ took our sins and the sins of the whole world as well as the Father’s wrath on his shoulders, and he has drowned them both in himself so that we are thereby reconciled to God and become completely righteous.”


“A Mighty Fortress is Our God,” by Luther

1. A mighty fortress is our God,
a bulwark never failing;
our helper he amid the flood
of mortal ills prevailing. 
For still our ancient foe
doth seek to work us woe;
his craft and power are great,
and armed with cruel hate, on earth is not his equal.  

2. Did we in our own strength confide,
our striving would be losing,
were not the right man on our side,
the man of God’s own choosing.
Dost ask who that may be? 
Christ Jesus, it is he;
Lord Sabaoth, his name,
from age to age the same,
and he must win the battle.  

3. And though this world, with devils filled,
should threaten to undo us,
we will not fear, for God hath willed
his truth to triumph through us. 
The Prince of Darkness grim,
we tremble not for him;
his rage we can endure,
for lo, his doom is sure;
one little word shall fell him. 


ybic, Bryan

Quotes from, http://christian-quotes.ochristian.com/

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