Bipolar and other mental illnesses have a stigma surrounding them, but they are more understood now than they were thirty years ago. One place, though, seems to be stuck in the dark ages.
Thankfully, I haven’t experienced too much criticism from my church family, but not everyone there knows about my illness. I’ve heard stories about Christians believing you can pray away a mental illness. That getting rid of a mental illness is a matter of choice and pulling yourself out of it.
This is, of course, blatantly ignorant of what’s truly behind a mental illness. My wonky brain chemistry is the cause my illness. No amount of praying or “want to” can fix that imbalance of chemicals. Only medicine can do that.
I am not a pleasant person when I’m not medicated. I know because I was a jerkface before my diagnosis. I have many memories of yelling matches I had with my siblings and parents growing up. Usually with little to no provocation on their part.
My moods were all over the place. They were out of control and unpredictable. I also wasn’t getting adequate amounts of sleep. I was probably walking the line of mania all throughout high school, especially my junior and senior years.
Because of this manic energy, I excelled in sports and school, but my social life and relationships suffered.
Some of my problems were due to immaturity. I was a late bloomer and only recently became intentional about my emotional growth and advancement. For a long time I let my emotions and moods have reign over my mind and body.
I have stories from high school where I went into rages and had blank moments where I took my anger out on inanimate objects. My lack of control over my temper resulted in many broken objects and friendships.
Once I was diagnosed as bipolar, I started taking an antipsychotic and a mood lifter. My medicines’ mission is to keep my moods within a normal range of emotions. Bipolar’s signature is obviously the dramatic ups and downs of mania and depression, respectively. My medicine keeps me from reaching the poles of those two extremes.
I still have mood swings that are more drastic than most people’s, but they are almost always in my control, and I have worked to collaborate with my medicine in moderating my moods. I rapid cycle, so I can go from hypomania to depression and back again pretty quickly. Sometimes within the same day.
I cannot imagine my life without my medicine, and I guarantee that no one else wants to interact with me when I’m not medicated.
A few weeks ago, I forgot to take my mood lifter before bed, and I woke up feeling very odd (it’s happened before and I always feel the same way). I know based on how I feel that I forgot it, and I don’t like not having it in my system, so I’ll often take it the following morning. I don’t know if I’ll do that again, though, because when it happened the other day, I was in a very scary mental state all day.
I was restless and felt like all my senses were ten times stronger than normal. Not one for adventure or daring, I felt like doing something reckless. Something that would give me an adrenaline rush.
I felt like getting a tattoo would be a good idea; I’ve always said I will never get a tattoo.
I wanted to go skydiving even though I am deathly afraid of heights.
I wanted thrills with no regard for consequences.
I have friends with whom I’m able to share these radical moods, and I was able to fight the feelings of recklessness, but I had to exert myself.
I think I got a glimpse into what my life would be like without my medicine. Maybe I’m wrong, but I’m not willing to find out.
Talk therapy is another thing that people sometimes view negatively. People should be able to share all their problems with God through prayer and not have to talk to a stranger about their issues.
What a load of bat dung.
I’ve only recently started seeing a therapist again. I saw one when I was first diagnosed, but I was effectively forced by my parents, and I did not like the psychologist they chose. She turned me off therapists for quite a while.
The therapist I’m seeing now listens well and seems genuinely interested in my well-being. She is kind and compassionate, yet she doesn’t sit there and try to fix all my problems.
She has been very helpful through a crisis that left me reeling emotionally and spiritually. She has helped me process through past trauma that I’ve never addressed.
I’m sure prayer is enough for a lot of people, but personally I need more external input such as medicine and talk-therapy.
People with medical conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, or other chronic illnesses are rarely told to pray away their illnesses. It is accepted that medicine is necessary and helpful.
So why are people with mental illnesses treated differently?