Monday, September 10, 2007

Finding meaning in a life with bipolar disorder

A while ago I had an article published on with the above title. The first person to comment did not like my view at all, arguing that: "It's bad. It's a defect in our brain functioning. There is no gift from God about it. Mental illness is bad"

I wondered whether I had gone too far with finding good in it. But today I once more looked into Harold Koenig's Faith and Mental Health and found that this doctor and author whom I respect, says some very similar things:

"A religious perspective on mental illness can lighten the burden by emphasizing that even these dreaded conditions have the possibility of good. Pain, suffering and fear associated with mental illness are not experiences that anyone would seek after. However, what does a person do if he or she has such a condition?"

"In order to survive and maximize quality of life, it may help to adopt a religious view that sees mental illness as having a special meaning or purpose-that something good may someday result from the illness. Religious faith makes it possible for people to see their illnesses as serving a higher purpose.

"Religious faith may help to transform a person's view of his or her illness. Although not easy, it is possible to view mental illness as a gift that not only helps to deepen and sensitize the person who has it, but also can serve a key role in the 'formation' of our faith communities.

"From this perspective, mental illness can have at least three purposes. It can
  1. sensitize the emotionally or mentally ill person to the pain and suffering of others, uniquely equipping them with the insight and ability to help;
  2. draw the sufferer closer to God or deepen their spirituality; and
  3. challenge those in the faith community to support and include him or her as an integral part of the congregation."
I'm not crazy after all!!! I'm not alone in feeling this way - in believing in the importance of developing this kind of attitude.

And for you who have doubts, I can tell you that your mental illness CAN be like a gift, though not one you would ask for or one you would just love to receive. Yet if you believe in God's love and trust him, you will find out that " all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." Romans 8:28

And...standing on my evangelical preaching stool...I will tell you that this can happen for you too. TRUST God, BELIEVE what the Bible tells you (it really makes a lot of sense), hold up Jesus as your example to LOVE OTHERS and to LOVE GOD, and believe that Jesus took all the bad stuff we have done - sacrificing his life for us. WE ARE FORGIVEN and free to live the kind of life God means for us to live. And living that kind life is not a burden - it is actually very freeing and brings great joy.

Honest!! I promise.


Di said...

Wise words for anyone, those with mood disorder and those of us who walk along side and try to encourage. We all can learn to lean on Christ more.
Everyday, every step along the way.

Zawadi said...

Just stopping by to say,"hello".
Hope all is well with you.


Mel Avila Alarilla said...

Wonderful article. God bless you for your articulate defense of God's words against the unbelievers. They could not understand where you are getting your strength despite the fact that you are suffering yourself. These things are discerned by our spirits as we are endowed with the gift of discernment. Don't mind them. God will reward you richly for all your ennobling efforts to educate people on their misconceptions of mental illnesses. My prayers go with you in all your endeavors. God bless you with a wellspring of His mighty power, wisdom and love.

Daily Dose said...

My meaning for life with bipolar is slowly deteriorating...

I am so struggling right now...It seems like everytime I lift myself up - I fall back down.

I truly despise Bipolar right now.

marja said...

Thank you Di, Zawadi, Mel, and Tery for visiting and for your support.

Tery: I'm very sorry you're feeling discouraged. But you're going through a very stressful time, adjusting to your return to being a student at the age of forty. You're amazing for doing that! You're courageous in doing that! But don't be too hard on yourself, ok?

I know you have faith in God. I also know how hard it is to trust God when things get difficult. But you need to keep remembering that God loves you and - if you stay close to him - all will go according to the plan he has for you. You'll be a wonderful therapist and will receive a lot of joy from the work.

I find that spending some quiet time with God each morning - journaling, praying, reading a bit from the Bible - helps the entire day go better. Those times are crucial to what I do.

I especially receive a lot of comfort from the journaling. I write about whatever my thoughts are, addressing them to God. For writers like you and I that's a wonderful way to connect with God. Why don't you give that a try too?

bipolar_girl said...

Hi Marja! I'm baack! I missed you so much!

marja said...

Hi Desiree, I missed you too. Have thought about your often. I'm so glad to hear from you.