I think Bipolar is like boxing. You win some rounds. You lose some rounds. You can even get knocked out in the last round and still win.
Oh mania, the thrill of you! Things are good, my mind is sharp, quick and more clever. I remember the feeling. My energy is flying and I can handle everything that comes my way. Life is grand. I just don’t see how life could get any better. Nor can I understand how everyone else can be so slow and take life so serious.
Whoa, wait a minute! It’s not as great as I thought. I almost forgot about this part. I can’t seem to control my thoughts. They’re too fast. One starts before one ends. I’m confused and everybody is really getting on my nerves. Now my thoughts are bouncing around in my head at the speed of light and I can’t catch them. Everything is coming so fast. Where is that music coming from? Why am I clenching my teeth? My jaw hurts. I’m out of control. Now I’ve made everyone mad. Wait, I forgot all about you God. I didn’t need you.
I’ve always looked at my Bipolar from a logistical, medical perceptive. I understand it’s the result of a chemical problem within the brain. That’s easier for me to accept and believe than outsiders. Maybe because they assume people diagnosed with Bipolar look for excuses for their behaviors. Maybe they forget all about the Bipolar and judge from what they are used to. “No Bipolar.”
I’ve never felt abandoned by God in my depressions. Many times I have sank into suicidal depressions. Some to the point of hospitalization. Some voluntary, some by attempt. There’s something about my depressions that my Bipolar steals away all of my emotions and leaves me empty. I become a shallow shell. A lifeless body roaming this earth until another episode makes its presence known.
I become more logical in my depressions. I am well aware of my need for God. The suicidal thoughts don’t come out of desperation or the lack of desire to live. Nor are they out of sadness. For some reason it’s just part of the Bipolar thinking just as the grandiose thinking of mania. Its origins are as much of a mystery. Yet I can calmly remind myself my thoughts aren’t “real.” That they are merely my mind playing tricks on me.
Mania has always presented a very different problem between God and I than my states of depression. Mania has always made me feel like I didn’t need God. “Oh, I’ll get to You later God. Right now I’ve got to do this.” “Read my Bible? It’s too boring right now.” The grandiose feeling that mania brings, tricks me into believing I am capable, even better at, controlling my life than God is and that others may need Him but I am doing fine.
Even if I do believe I need Him, I often feel His expectation are suffocating and tedious. Like many of my actions during my manic episodes, my attitudes towards God brings shame and guilt. But they also bring God’s unending grace and mercy.
In both episodes I am bombarded with lies. Some lies I believe and some fight off with the truth. Bouncing from one feeling to another can lead to wondering why your life seems so out of control and have little genuine meaning. I can write you a long list of how mania has lead me into different types of sin from bad decisions that caused shame and regret. Not only on myself but my loved ones as well. The lure of the fast lane of promiscuity and acting out on every whim. Alcohol addiction and arrests. Broken friendships and failed relationships. Two bankruptcies. I could go on.
But wait, God has never abandoned me. His Word is still valid. God never leaves us. Even in the most acute bouts of mania or depression. There may be periods where our minds are so disordered by our illness that we do not feel God’s presence. I’ve looked back on the past few years. The years of my worst episodes that got me in the biggest troubles. Jailed. Beaten and left in the middle of nowhere alone. Awoke from a blackout while 150 miles away from my home. And I was even sober. I look back and see it was in those worst moments when the worst should’ve happened to me that then God was closest to me.
There is another face of bipolar, that some, fortunately not all Bipolars experience. Actually there are many faces to Bipolar but in particular I’m referring to psychotic episodes. The episodes that bring the unreal into our minds. The Bogeyman becomes real at night. You no longer spend your insomniac nights alone. By night the shadows watch your every move while whispering to each other. While during the day the same radio plays in background all day long.
I for one have the misfortune of being at the mercy of Bipolar 1 Mixed Rapid cycling. I get the worst that Bipolar has to offer. The full blow mania and depths of depression that makes it Bipolar 1 and the most severe of this disorder. Rapid because I have more than four episodes a year. And mixed because no matter how minimum or severe I can either flip flop between mania and depression with a few hours within a day or day to day lasting at any length of time. All come with their ugly consequences.
Back to the boxing. In boxing, you don’t have to win every round to win the fight. Isn’t it prejudgment to conclude the end of a whole fight based on the end of the final round? Think of God and how He judges.
Remember how God raised David to victory and gave him a champion’s declaration when he said, “You, David, are a man after My own heart.”
This is the same guy who murdered a good man and broke all Ten Commandment with one act of adultery.
And God called Noah, “A preacher of righteousness.”
This was the same guy who was found drunk in his tent after building the ark. Naked, no less!
Again, back to boxing, judges look at the entire fight, start to finish, before making their final decision. Reminding myself that God, too, watches us over our entire life, and not just the rounds we struggle through is a constant discipline I have learned to do.
We can still win the fight even though we’ve lost some rounds. I know I will continue to lose some rounds. But I also know there will be victories. We may not deserve the loses, but we’re always still in the fight. We’re never beyond victory.
It must have been embarrassing for David to hear God’s praise after all his failures. But doesn’t see the times we got knocked down. Instead, He roots for us, and gives us hope for a new identity. I don’t know what God will call me one day, but I’m sure I’ll blush because it will bigger than what I feel I really am.