The Sheer Hopelessness of Mental Illness

Please bear with me. This was written in March of 2012. Right or wrong, it was where I was at with my illness. I hope it will bless, and bring hope into that situation that seems very hopeless:

“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
    and saves the crushed in spirit.”

Psalm 34:18

Depression can feel hopeless.

I’ve seemed to have settled down into a blackness that defies all explanation. I’m dodging being hospitalized, and they can’t put me where I don’t want to go. I don’t want to be locked up again.

It’s the hopeless/helpless thing, a “one-two punch” that is the most devastating to me. It crushes and pulverizes until I lie in this sad pathetic mess I’ve become. Dante had it dead-on when ascribed the gates of hell with the words, Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.” In hell you’ll know what despair is really like. Perhaps heaven and hell really do start here?

And there was another writer, just as clever, said something along these lines,

Shut up! Unless you have been lost in this particular section of hell before,  just be quiet.”

And perhaps we should? Nothing can trump personal experience. The survivors, if you can find them, will understand what I’m saying. It seems that that hard book of Job is finally starting to make sense.

How is it,
People fear the dark?
Not me, I’m reconciled
as every day I see
the blackness grow,
I’ve come to terms with it,
it knows I know.

–Rod McKuen, Alone

Hopelessness swirls me around and I feel like a bug going down a drain. Thoughts of suicide are becoming more concrete and despair is becoming a frequent visitor.  Mental illness is frightening. Those who have experienced it, will learn not to say anything, but pray.

Durability may ultimately prove to be the most significant factor in this “mixed state” of Bipolar Disorder that I am wandering through at the moment.  Can I outlast these demons that plague me? My irrational mind plays tricks on me, I see mirages of wholeness and peace, but they don’t seem  real. It is a big, fat lie. It is nothing but a delusion, or a trick of the brain.  And yet something inside of me steadfastly hopes for God’s grace and mercy. 

I know that Jesus has conquered the dark. I must cling to Him. I must let this darkness go. He’ll need to work this out.

Up and down, side-to-side, where it stops, no one knows?  But God…and right now He isn’t saying. Jesus hold on to me. I hold on, by faith to the promise given to me—

“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”

Philippians 1:6

I don’t mean to be this raw. Sometimes I just let it “all hang out.” I hope you’ll forgive me if I’m too open. I just wanted you to have a picture of a “broken believer” and more so of the grace that saves me. I know He does love me.

Good Posts:

A Hand of Kindness

His hand of kindness

I’ve no need to be reminded
Of all my failures and my sins
For I can write my own indictment
Of who I am and who I’ve been
I know that grace, by definition,
Is something I can never earn
But for all the things that I may have missed
There’s a lesson I believe that I have learned

There’s a hand of kindness
Holding me, holding me
There’s a hand of kindness
Holding me, holding onto me

–Bob Bennett, HAND OF KINDNESS
1996 Bright Avenue Songs (ASCAP)

It’s hard to forget the evil you’ve done–and forgiveness, well, dream on! I saw a video once of a parade of flagellants walking in unison, lashing themselves with whips, to somehow find peace, and some sort of atonement for their sins. I watched them, and suddenly the realization came–I was doing what they were doing, only not as public or visible.

Psychiatrists tell us that 90% of mental disorders are caused by guilt; I believe that they’re probably a little conservative. I’ve been in some sort of ministry for 40 years now–I’ve pretty much heard it all. I ask myself and wonder, who can help the stumbling, broken, and captive hearts of men?

We’ll do anything to escape the guilt of our sin.

I’ve seen therapists and psychiatrists–been confined to mental hospitals for endless weeks, put on meds, and survived suicide watches. I’ve cut my wrists and had my stomach pumped–twice I think. It’s very difficult to explain grace and forgiveness to someone who has laid in his own urine and feces for hours in a drunken stupor. I’m profoundly blessed that God has forgiven and forgotten, (Micah 7:19).

Sometimes an animal who’s been caught in a steel trap will actually chew their leg off to escape. Sometimes a man will destroy himself in order to find forgiveness. Now I admit that our guilt isn’t always front and center, and seldom is it obvious–we’ve suppressed it, medicated it, and ignored it for so long, that it’s hidden and secret–even to us.

But it’s still there.

If the cross of Jesus hasn’t been applied–it’s still there, hidden and dormant. You can’t continue to paint over it, expecting to cover it with enough layers of denial. The booze and the drugs, the money and the red Ferrari, the quest for some measure of success just won’t cut it. There a 1000 ways to bury it, but your past will cripple your present, and destroy your future.

You must find forgiveness for what you’ve done, or not done!

The cross and blood are not optional. Jesus’ death and resurrection isn’t just a historical event. It’s himself–God’s lamb, offered up to forgive your sin–and your greatest evil. Those dark sins that you’ve hidden, that’s been buried so deep that even you’ve forgotten, sometimes it bursts out like a spiritual volcano, the pressure sort of builds up and then erupts. Suddenly it’s all real again–and it’s so brutal.

There’s a hand of kindness that’s reaching out to you at these moments.

You need to turn and believe him. No matter who you are, or how twisted and black your sin you think your sin is–maybe you’ve broken every commandment–a hundred times. I tell you, your sin has already been forgiven, your dark guilt lifted off your back. He has forgiven you. You are completely free.

Jesus died for you.

This isn’t a silly cliche. It’s not just a cute saying. All your guilt has been removed. You must believe this, it’s not an option any longer. You must know that his bloody death (he’s your sacrificial lamb) has God’s approval and removes your awful sin. His hand reaches out to you. But you must believe this. We must renounce our sin, give it up, and walk away from it. We must receive God’s gift of salvation.

If you don’t do this, you’ll die in your sins, and no one wants to see that.

If you want to think about this further, I strongly suggest you consider this–“God’s Forgiveness.”





More Bumble Than Believer, [Aging]

A Bumble with a tender heart

It’s strange getting older. It’s not for the faint of heart. 

A whirlwind of days and nights swirl from this human drama, and I think I may be starting thinking about my exit— Lord willing, stage right.

I’m supposed to be a ‘veteran’ now– a mature believer.  I’m not supposed to get stressed.  However, age is a brutal teacher– and it seems we have to learn so dang fast, it’s like trying to drink from a fire hose. (Just the other day three teeth almost came out from the blast.)

Getting old is great in some ways. I only wish I could do it more gracefully.

On top of it all, it seems to me like my sin has poisoned the air that others must breathe.  I have contaminated so much. You might just say, I have ‘soured’ everyone’s milk.  “Learning to live with the  regrets” is a class that we should add to the local high school’s curriculum. It certainly would be useful.

A old friend is celebrating her birthday so I volleyed a semi serious “tongue and cheek” regret at her.  But then, I suddenly realized that there is a point when we realize that behind every older person, is someone else wondering what the hell has happened, and how did it get this way so fast? It would be funny if it weren’t so serious.

As a Christian, I tentatively believe that this world I’m in, has folded open for me, and God has specified a direction.  I do contend though, unbelief is easier on a certain level, but I do not intend to take any detours.  Perhaps the real trick about reading a map in the car is that you most likely won’t get it folded back the same way ever again.  You must learn to accept this. And as a rule, maps seldom reveal the best detours.

“Even as you grow old and your hair turns gray,
    I’ll keep carrying you!
    I am your Maker and your Caregiver.
    I will carry you and be your Savior.”

Isaiah 46:4

I must admit to having a connection to “Bumble”, that crazy, loveable, abominable snowman in one of those schlocky, animated children TV classics from my youth.  I guess I identify with that ‘misfit’ yeti– someone who finally sees the light, but only when all his teeth are pulled!  Somewhere in that show he seemed almost good,  but didn’t we all wonder for a while if he would come around or not?

I  also wonder about the thief on the cross who got his ticket punched by Jesus at the last possible moment.  When we finally make it to heaven, we will find him there laughing and celebrating like everyone else, just like he belonged.  I guess grace does that to a person.

“What does it matter?  All is Grace”

— Georges Bernanos. Diary of a Country Priest

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(Check out my other blog on the Red Letters of Jesus. I post fairly regular there.)

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