Tuesday, July 10, 2007

What I wish my pastor knew...

...about bipolar disorder.

Yesterday someone googled the above and found my blog. I hope what you read was helpful. But I thought I would write on this to see if I can help more by letting you know roughly what I told my pastor when I first started coming to the church I'm now a happy member of.

My pastor has learned a lot because he has wanted to learn and has always listened with interest when I tried to teach him about my disorder. I'm very fortunate to have him in my life and he is a great supporter.

Soon after I started going to this church and had decided I wanted to keep going there, I went to see the pastor because I wanted to tell him about my disorder. I knew symptoms would come up that I would need support and prayer for. It was good insurance to make sure he was fully aware of what I was dealing with.

I told him how my moods are much more severe than the average person's, with my hand describing a slight wave for how the average person's moods are and then showing the roller coaster style fluctuations of moods I go through.

"These moods are caused by a physiological problem in my brain. I'm on medications for this and they help me lead a close-to-normal life. But even then, my moods can affect me, making my life very painful. The medications don't keep me well all the time and sometimes they need adjusting. My life has been very difficult (and I described some of my past). There will be times I'll need prayer. Since I became a Christian, life has been easier to deal with. I know I'm not alone when I suffer."

Because I've taken it on myself to try to reduce stigma in whatever ways I personally can, I told him about this and gave him a copy of my book, Riding the Roller Coaster.

Pastor Don then prayed with me, asking God to help him learn about bipolar disorder from me. And he has learned much about what I deal with. I often email him about things I'm going through and he has come to know me and my disorder very well. He has been very supportive. My faith-based support group, Living Room, would not be as successful as it is without his support for me. If only all pastors could have this kind of attitude!

Others in this church have also been very loving and supportive. One person in particular became a huge support for me - and mentor too. And there's another person who I call almost daily now. Gradually, many others in the congregation have come to know my story. Yet I feel accepted.

My biggest supporters have been those people who have taken the trouble to learn about bipolar disorder. They have asked me questions; they have a curiosity about how things are for me. They care enough to do all this. As a result, I've had the strength and encouragement to do much in what I care most about - raising awareness about mental illness. I've had people around me who want to learn and that is so very important. If it weren't for these people in my life, I don't know if I would have written the new book - one that still needs a publisher - A Firm Place to Stand. I know I would not have started Living Room. How important a caring church congregation is to how we survive...and thrive!

So many people in society are not willing to learn. How can we get through to them? How can we better educate people and remove the stigma that is so damaging? I would like others who struggle with mental illness to be able to find the kind of love and support I have.


Dream Writer said...

We can only do the best we can, and we are through our writings within our blogs. If just ONE person came across our blog and it made a difference then we did our jobs. :)

I have to catch up on your blog as I just got back from vacation :)

marja said...

Good to have you back, Dream. I've missed you.

Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Very nice posting. I think it truly will enable people to understand more about this illness.

Perhaps you and your pastor have had a reason for getting to know each other. I imagine you've had as big an impact on him as he's had on you.


Marie said...

You are certainly blessed to have that kind of understanding and support. I wish all of us could be so fortunate.

marja said...

Marie, We have to work towards a better world, a world where people will understand mental illness better and be supportive. If we didn't have to suffer the effects of stigma, so much more would be possible for people who live with mental illness. It would make a huge difference to our lives. No guilt, shame, rejection. Better self-esteem. Better medications, because more research dollars would become available. Better housing for those who are sick. A better chance at a happy life. The list is endless.

tablefor4 said...

Hi Marja:
Wonderful post. For a long time now, I've been taking antidepressant after antidepressant and nothing has worked. Never in my thought process did I think that I could possibly have any type of bipolar disorder. I knew that my mood swings are really off the charts, but, I didn't know what to chalk it up to. Last week I went to my doctor and she thinks I could have Bipolar 2. I have been spending a lot of my time at the library trying to figure out what it is, and if I have it. Glad I stumbled across your blog. How do Dr.'s know if your bipolar or not?

marja said...

Hi Tablefor4. Thank you for visiting. Doctors can diagnose bipolar disorder after following you for a while. It takes time to see the patterns emerge.

I wish you well. If your problem IS bipolar, you will find a community of bloggers who are bipolar. There is some good support here.