Why have I been having a hard time showing up at church or driving to the grocery store?
My mood instability and PTSD symptoms are all over the map due to a reduction of clonazepam (more reducing to come), and reactionary increases in antipsychotic meds. I’m not the only person going through this. My psychiatrist says I’m doing better than most of his other bipolar patients in the clonazepam pickle.
I’m trying to minimize stress and stimulation, because these things are provoking extreme mood reactions and startle/panic responses (like when a truck drives by or a neighbor shouts).
This chapter in my life has reminded me how thick people can be about mental illness. I do not need anybody to understand mental illness, nor do I understand it myself; however, nobody needs to make shallow assumptions leading to questions about whether I’m “out of the darkness” and “seeing God’s light again yet.”
My Christian friends would not respond this way to someone with chronic pain, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, a broken leg, cancer, or diabetes.
(Also, as pleasant as the RCMP visits have been, it’s a waste of taxpayer dollars. Please just text or email me instead of phoning the police. I respect candid and direct communication, even if it’s a rebuke.)
My faith revolves around God pouring His grace on me despite my sinfulness and despite my mental illness. Christians know that God works through suffering to draw us closer to Him, and this is my experience with mental illness.
A different combination of factors lead to a bipolar diagnosis for different people. For myself, there may be a genetic tendency combined with damage from a neonatal brain-stem virus that I wasn’t supposed to survive and early childhood trauma.
Regardless of causality, the current situation has escalated the volatility of my bipolar mood shifts, PTSD startle reactions, and a return to former Tourette Syndrome and OCD symptoms. Also, my sons have anxiety over my condition, which makes it difficult for them to sit in church as well.
We want to be there, we’re watching online, we’re enjoying visits from godly brothers in Christ, and we appreciate prayers. We are grateful to God for this.
Paul was buffeted by a messenger of Satan, but that doesn’t mean he was demon-possessed. I know this: in Christ, I cannot ever become demon-possessed. Furthermore, like the sinner woman, I know that it’s safe to approach the Righteous man, Jesus the Messiah from Nazareth, and no man will ever (or can ever) block me from this Savior and this Salvation, no matter whether they think I’m the devil himself.
I’m not bothered by what most people think of me, except in the general sense of what people think about mental illness, and how the stigmatization affects so many other people who are suffering in silence.
Again, I do not need anyone to understand me, but if you think the only reason an able-bodied person is having trouble showing up at church is because he doesn’t want to be there (!), then please do read the real reasons:
|I FEEL||I LACK||I BEHAVE|
|When I am manic:||Grandiose, irritable, euphoric, frustrated, energetic until burnout.||Good judgment.||Strange, with intense reactions; poor judgment can damage finances, reputation, etc.; severe mania results in delusions and consequent behavior; I eat and sleep less, because I do not feel the need; priorities shift dramatically; my work productivity is sporadic; when I am at home alone, my imaginary friends and personas are much more active and real for me.|
|When I am depressed:||Like shit; guilty; small things are mountains.||Motivation, energy, interest, foresight and judgment.||Lethargic, downcast, staying in bed while chores pile up, crying to Mommy and cuddling dolls; my work output is almost nil.|
|When I am experiencing PTSD symptoms:||Stressed and anxious about shifts in light, sound, and smells.||Control over verbalization; resilience over mildly startling sensory input.||Reclusive, avoiding unexpected stimuli, and sometimes involuntarily uttering profanities or convulsing.|
|MOOD CALMING||NEGATIVE MOOD TRIGGERS*|
|Some people, especially children or childlike adults.||Some people, especially women, even sometimes when they are my friends.|
|Sunshine.||Change (e.g. season or school year).|
|Quiet atmosphere.||Not knowing what to do next.|
|Some sounds, like children’s happy voices or a song I know and like.||Startles from sudden light/sound changes.|
|Minimized but regular social interactions.||Being forced to sit still.|
|Clonazepam.||Lack of clonazepam.|
|Nicotine.||Alcohol and being with people who abuse it.|
|Antipsychotic meds (for mania).||When the cat breaks something.|
|Good news.||Bad news, especially about children.|
|Friendly emails.||Phone calls.|
|Sleep.||Lack of sleep.|
|Some smells, like crayons.||Some smells, especially unexpected gusts from neighbors cooking.|
|Minimal appointments.||Stress from deadlines and schedules.|
In conclusion, I praise my Father God because He is always faithful to His promises, and I am thankful to my church family for their prayers and their gentle approach.
- people with bipolar disorder can experience mania and depression at the same time;
- bipolar depression tends to be more organic, and thus more resistant to cognitive/rational type therapies;
- medication changes not only mess up our moods, but also our metabolism and our sleep (which are already messed up).
*I dislike the word “trigger,” because it reminds me of the babies in our godless culture who get “triggered” about things like someone “assuming their gender.” Nevertheless, people with bipolar disorder have always used this term, and it simply refers to something that sets off a manic or hypo-manic episode.