Stigma Sucks

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Mental illness doesn’t mean exotic or strange– but it does mean different. It doesn’t make one bizarre, or odd. Coming to faith in Christ really settles this issue for most. While our mental illness is flaring up, yet we are still being changed by the Holy Spirit.

We can’t really nullify the work of God. It takes as much grace to change a “normal” man as a mentally challenged one. God does not have to work any harder; there are no lost causes or last chances. All require the same grace.

Since I’m bipolar I’ve become aware of BP throughout history. Many painters and poets, inventors and doctors have come from the ranks of bipolar disorder. Many of those with manic depression and sufferers of depression have excelled; we would not have harnessed electricity if it wasn’t because a bipolar/ADHD created the light bulb.

But we are different. But we also can bring a giftedness that is necessary. We are not pariahs or leeches, but rather we are unique. Typically we may be passionate and sensitive. We are touched by something creative. Some have called bipolar disorder as those “touched by fire.”

Mental illness should be more of a mental difference than a liability. We are not crazy or lunatics running amok. Sometimes others pity us; often when they do they shut us off and seal us into a weird sense of extreme wariness. This should not be.

13 “You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
    and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
    Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.”

Psalm 139:13-14, NLT

God has created each one. We are all “knit together” by the hand of God. There are no second rates– prototypes, not quite His best work. The blood of Christ works in spite of handicaps and personality quirks.

Some may hesitate about this. But it is essentially an act of faith. The treasures of the Church are unique. They are the blind and the lame, the ones not always stable. What others consider marginal, or lacking are really the valuable ones. It’s these that the Church should glory in.

I encourage you to broaden your thinking on this. To stigmatize others is never a healthy or God honoring attitude. It indicates a small heart.

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What Are the Treasures of the Church?

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An Archbishop was given an ultimatum by the Huns who surrounded his cathedral. “You have 24 hours to bring your wealth to these steps”, the war-leader declared. The next morning the Archbishop came out leading the poor, the blind, the lame, and the lunatics. “Where is your treasure? Why have you brought out these, people?” The Archbishop calmly replied, “These are the treasures of the Church— these who are weak are our valuables. They make us rich.”

As Christians often our theology tells us that mental illness: ADHD,  depression, and bipolar disorder have no place in the believer’s life. Physical illnesses like fibromyalgia, migraines, diabetes and epilepsy are denied. So we hide, sneaking into our sessions with our therapists, and our doctors appointments. We change the subject to minimize our exposure to direct questions. The pressure to hide is very strong.

But I would suggest to you that it is perhaps we who are closest to the Kingdom of God. It is far easier for us to approach the Father, in our brokenness, humility, and lostness, than whole people can. We understand we have needs; a sound mind, a healthy body and we know it. We have no illusions of wellness, nothing can convince us that we are well. We are not. We are broken and only our loving creator can mend us.

You might say that the Church needs us.

But I am afraid the the Western Church no longer sees its “treasures” like it should. In our pride and self-centeredness we have operated our churches like successful businesses. We value giftedness more than weakness. We definitely have no room for the desperately sick or weak. Maybe it’s time for the Church to begin to act like Jesus?

Church isn’t where you meet. Church isn’t a building. Church is what you do. Church should be a verb.  Church is who you are. Church is the human out-working of the person of Jesus Christ. 

Let’s not go to Church, let’s be the Church.

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Limits of Mental Illness

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Mental illness is so limited,

It cannot cripple love, 

It cannot shatter hope.

It cannot corrode our faith.

It will never destroy peace.

It cannot.

It will never kill friendship, 

It cannot suppress memories. 

It cannot invade the soul.

It cannot steal eternal life.

It cannot conquer eternal life.

It cannot conquer your spirit.

Amen.

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 P.S. I have received some criticism over the contents of this post. The argument is that mental illness is very destructive, and that I’m misleading others by suggesting it isn’t. The thinking is that we dwell on the past and how it effects the present moment. I believe we have a mental illness. But I also believe more strongly so that Christ redeems us completely. “Because he lives,” goes the old hymn, “I can face tomorrow.”

In the “heat of the moment” the situation can seem overwhelming. Our illness can be completely devastating. However the Holy Spirit is yet to fully redeem us, yet we still must view this coming event as something triumphant and total. This life is not the end. What a relief to shed this mortal darkness!

“Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

Revelation 21:3-4

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A Woman’s Depression [Honesty]

Depression Fits the Hearts of Women

Women experience twice the rate of depression as men.

Women have twice the chances as men

Everyone experiences disappointment or sadness in life. When the “down” times last a long time or interfere with your ability to function, you may be suffering from a common medical illness called depression.

Major depression affects your mood, mind, body and behavior. Nearly 15 million Americans — one in 10 adults — experience depression each year, and about two-thirds don’t get the help they need.

Women experience twice the rate of depression as men, regardless of race or ethnic background. An estimated one in eight women will contend with a major depression in their lifetimes.

Researchers suspect that, rather than a single cause, many factors unique to women’s lives play a role in developing depression. These factors include: genetic and biological, reproductive, hormonal, abuse and oppression, interpersonal and certain psychological and personality characteristics.

Symptoms of depression include:

  • Little interest or pleasure in doing things
  • Feeling down, depressed or hopeless
  • Trouble falling or staying asleep or sleeping too much
  • Feeling tired or having little energy
  • Poor appetite or overeating
  • Feeling bad about yourself, that you are a failure or have let yourself or your family down
  • Trouble concentrating on things, such as reading the newspaper or watching television
  • Moving or speaking so slowly that other people could have noticed or the opposite in that you are so fidgety or restless that you have been moving around a lot more than usual
  • Thoughts that you would be better off dead or of hurting yourself in some way

Women may be more likely to report certain symptoms, such as…

  • anxiety
  • somatization (the physical expression of mental distress)
  • increases in weight and appetite
  • oversleeping
  • outwardly expressed anger and hostility
 
Stay close to your friend

Helping a Woman with Depression

People with depression aren’t the only ones who suffer. Their friends and loved ones may experience worry, fear, uncertainty, guilt, confusion or even be more likely to go through depression themselves.

The situation may be especially trying if your loved one doesn’t realize that she is depressed. You can help by recognizing the symptoms of depression and pointing out that she has changed.

Recognize even atypical signs of depression. Women may be more likely to report certain symptoms, such as anxiety, physical pain, increases in weight and appetite, oversleeping and outwardly expressed anger and hostility. Women are also more likely to have another mental illness-such as eating disorders or anxiety disorders-present with depression, so be alert for depression if you know a woman with a history of mental illness.

To point out these changes without seeming accusatory or judgmental, it helps to use “I” statements, or sentences that start with “I.” Saying “I’ve noticed you seem to be feeling down and sleeping more” sounds less accusatory than “you’ve changed.”

Talking to a Woman with Depression

If a friend or loved one has depression, you may be trying to figure out how you can talk to her in a comforting and helpful way. This may be difficult for many reasons. She is probably feeling isolated, emotionally withdrawn, angry or hostile and sees the world in a negative light.

Although you may feel your efforts are rebuffed or unwelcome, she needs your support. You can simply be someone she can talk to and let her share her feelings.

It’s important to remember that depression is a medical illness. Her symptoms are not a sign of laziness or of feeling sorry for herself. She can’t just “snap out of it” by taking a more positive outlook on life.

Helpful responses include, “I am sorry you’re in so much pain” or “I can’t imagine what it’s like for you. It must be very difficult and lonely.” Instead of simply disagreeing with feelings she conveys, it is more helpful to point out realities and hope.

A woman with depression often expects to be rejected. You can reassure her that you will be there for her and ask if there’s anything you can do to make her life easier.

If your loved one is not diagnosed or not in treatment, the most important thing you can do is encourage her to see a health care professional.

*Never ignore statements about suicide.* Even if you don’t believe your loved one is serious, these thoughts should be reported to your friend’s doctor. If this is an emergency, call 9-1-1.


http://www.nami.org/Content/NavigationMenu/Mental_Illnesses/

Depression/Women_and_Depression/Women_and_Depression_Facts.htm


Epileptic Christians Rule

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“My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak,
    but God remains the strength of my heart;
    he is mine forever.”

Psalm 73:26, NLT

I think it’s time for me to talk openly about this.

For several months I have been experiencing absent seizures. These are moments when I just ‘check out’ and stare at something–actually at anything, but bright and flashy will almost always draws me in. These are not the ‘grand mal seizures’ with the jerking and shaking and rolling around (but I’ve been told that these can happen to me.) I have the ‘petit mal’ variety. Many times they go undetected and unnoticed by others. They seem like a long pause of thoughtfulness. But it isn’t. I’m having a seizure.

It seems just what I needed, “another kick-in-the-head.” The thought has been brewing lately that I’ve been mistreated by God again. Why? (Why do I always get the hammer? I wonder if heaven has a Complaint Department?)

My medical history would rival the classic, “Moby Dick” in terms of sheer mass and requiring “heavy lifting.” Hepatitis C, Manic depression, Brain tumor surgery and all the after effects–and now this. Perhaps, I need to spend some quality time with my Father?  I like this verse a lot.

“O Lord, if you heal me, I will be truly healed;
    if you save me, I will be truly saved.
    My praises are for you alone!”

Jeremiah 17:14, NLT

I have worked hard to eradicate self-pity over the years (or I think I have). I’ve had so many medical issues and I don’t ever want to add “hypochondriac” to this list.  I heard this joke about a young boy who was so caught up with his illness that he started to take his M&Ms one by one with a glass of water, like a pill.

The jolt is becoming real now. They want to take my driver’s license away. (What next–will I be mandated to hear a protective helmet?) All of this is so wrong, it seems to me. (“Can I get an ‘amen’ here?”) The last few days I’ve taken a new med, a proven anti-convulsive. I have never ever wanted a drug to work more then this one. Unfortunately, I am experiencing some side effects. I covet your prayers now, more than ever, especially for my wife, Lynn and my kids.

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“I will trust Him. Whatever, wherever I am, I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him; in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him; if I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him. My sickness, or perplexity, or sorrow may be necessary causes of some great end, which is quite beyond us. He does nothing in vain.”

    John Henry Newman

Some links I have discovered to be interesting, and maybe even helpful.

http://epilepsyfoundation.ning.com/group/christianswithepilepsy

http://www.squidoo.com/ahealthyresponsetoseizuresversusdemons

http://morethanstone.blogsome.com/2007/02/27/epilepsy-and-spiritual-warfare/

&

ybic, Bryan

 

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Charred Cinders

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Aftermath of a forest fire in California

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they will not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched,
Nor will the flame burn you.”

Isaiah 43:2, NASB

This will not be a typical commentary on this verse. (But it will be brief.)

The word I emphasize is “through.” I feel it is the salient point of the whole thought. Through implies a temporary state of being. We “pass through.” In a sense it is the state of being ‘between,’ and it is rarely, or ever comfortable.

Life is all about transitions– a job, children, marriage, health. We’re fine when things are steady and sure. However we feel the strain when things suddenly change. We are compelled to go through some things. Plain and simple. There are three simple things to think about.

  1. God is very present in those moments.
  2. Seldom do they vanish.
  3. They are never welcome.

The One who made the intricacies of our hearts stands by. Floods rage, trees float by. Fires get hot, and all becomes a blackened and charred cinder. Still God holds you. You will pass through this, and come out to the other side. Wiser and more compassionate.

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The Hidden Life of Bulimia

Bulimia nervosa is characterized by recurrent and frequent episodes of eating unusually large amounts of food (e.g., binge-eating), and feeling a lack of control over the eating. This binge-eating is followed by a type of behavior that compensates for the binge, such as purging (e.g., vomiting, excessive use of laxatives or diuretics), fasting and/or excessive exercise.

Unlike anorexia, people with bulimia can fall within the normal range for their age and weight. But like people with anorexia, they often fear gaining weight, want desperately to lose weight, and are intensely unhappy with their body size and shape. Usually, bulimic behavior is done secretly, because it is often accompanied by feelings of disgust or shame. The binging and purging cycle usually repeats several times a week. Similar to anorexia, people with bulimia often have coexisting psychological illnesses, such as depression, anxiety and/or substance abuse problems. Many physical conditions result from the purging aspect of the illness, including electrolyte imbalances, gastrointestinal problems, and oral and tooth-related problems.

Other symptoms include:

  • chronically inflamed and sore throat
  • swollen glands in the neck and below the jaw
  • worn tooth enamel and increasingly sensitive and decaying teeth as a result of exposure to stomach acids
  • gastroesophageal reflux disorder
  • intestinal distress and irritation from laxative abuse
  • kidney problems from diuretic abuse
  • severe dehydration from purging of fluids

As with anorexia, TREATMENT FOR BULIMIA often involves a combination of options and depends on the needs of the individual.

To reduce or eliminate binge and purge behavior, a patient may undergo nutritional counseling and psychotherapy, especially cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), or be prescribed medication.

Some antidepressants, such as fluoxetine (Prozac), which is the only medication approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for treating bulimia, may help patients who also have depression and/or anxiety. It also appears to help reduce binge-eating and purging behavior, reduces the chance of relapse, and improves eating attitudes.

CBT [or, talk therapy] that has been tailored to treat bulimia also has shown to be effective in changing binging and purging behavior, and eating attitudes. Therapy may be individually oriented or group-based.

Source: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/