Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Cringing with regret

In 2007 I had a piece published at canadianchristianity.com with the title "Finding Meaning in a Life with Bipolar Disorder." This also happens to be the subtitle of my book A Firm Place to Stand.

Since then 19 people have commented on that article, some of them quite upset with me, especially with my opening line, "Mental illness is not all bad." I have often wished I could rewrite that article, leaving out that line. Because, as people commented, it IS bad. It's like saying cancer isn't all bad. I guess what I was trying to say was that good can come out of trials.

But I agree with those who commented, bipolar disorder is a horrid disease. I believe I myself said in a recent post how I hate this disorder. Last year was a very bad year for me.

This morning I wrote a comment on my own article, saying how I would like to eat my words. I was so wrong to talk the way I did.

I've been invited to write a follow-up article and think I will do that soon. A good project to keep me occupied while I'm without a voice.

I would love your feedback on the article and any thoughts you might have on the topic.


Nancie said...

Dear Marja,

Personally, I am greatly encouraged by your article at CC and I share many of your sentiments. I think the biggest reason is because of what our Lord Jesus Christ has done in our life. Bipolar Disorder and other illnesses like cancer, or even other difficulties and problems that come into our life, may not be good in itself but by the mercies of God, our Lord work it for our good, even in the worst tragedies. This is something the world will never understand and something that even we as believer struggle to grapple with at times. And yet it is a precious and comforting truth.

Like you, I too have found many blessings associated with bipolar disorder. Just like we are all made differently and have our strength and weaknesses, bipolar is just one part of me. Learning to understand it, manage it and make it work for me and others, and not against me and others, has become my mission and an experience that make me dependent upon God daily. In these ways, God becomes very real to me and I found meaning even in a life with bipolar disorder.

These things are hard to be understood by many people but I know these are yours and my experience, by God's grace and mercies. The painful and awful experiences with bipolar (and other trials in our life) makes me realize how weak we really are and how much we need our Lord. Without Him, we can do nothing at all. And apart from His keeping, we are totally undone. The struggles we go through sanctifies us, tried us as gold is tried in fire, and strengthen our faith in God. It helps us to appreciate how precious the Lord is to us and how He can comfort us and give us peace as we sojourn in this imperfect world.

And through our suffering we understand a little of the suffering that our Lord went through for our sake and in order to save us. His suffering far surpasses ours and through it He redeemed us and give us eternal life. In His mercies, He also uses our suffering to make us feel for others in their sufferings, whether with bipolar or other illnesses or difficulties. We learn to cry with those who cry. You mentioned, "Walking with people through some of their toughest times is rewarding and a privilege." This has been my own experience too. For this I thank God for all the sufferings He allows me to go through so that I can walk with those who are suffering and share God's love and goodness with them, so that they too may know something of His love and comfort.

I know this is a difficult subject but I want to encourage you that I am greatly encouraged by your writing. It has helped me when I first learn to manage my condition and it has always been a good reminder to me. May God guide you as to how to write a follow up article. I pray mostly that some of your readers may come to know the peace and comfort that only our Lord Jesus Christ can give, through all the changing scenes in life.

Sorry I wrote so long! Take care and God bless your labours of love!

With love and prayers,

marja said...

Dear Nancie,

Thank you for all that. What you wrote wasn't too long and will help me to formulate my own thoughts when I start writing the follow-up article. I've been putting off starting that, waiting for a good time - when I'm in a good writing mode.

The thing I regret is - especially - my first line. Obviously people who suffer would take great exception to having their suffering referred to as "not all bad." I know what I meant by that and you understand what I meant by that, but not everyone gets it. I need to spell it out a bit more.

I think I need to also talk a bit now about how bad the suffering can be and what it can do to our lives and relationships. Last year was bad for me and even my marriage was in trouble for a while.

But I agree with all you said. These trials have - in the end - strengthened me and changed me once again.

It was so good to hear your thoughts about this, Nancie. You've encouraged me.

Love, marja

marja said...


Also, the general public needs to hear more about how tough life with bipolar disorder can be. It's our responsibility to tell it as it is - the bad stuff as well as the good stuff.


Nancie said...

Dear Marja,

I think you are right. That first sentence can cause misunderstanding to some reader. Not everyone understand or share our experiences. Bipolar is indeed a terrible illness and its experiences are painful and difficult beyond words. No two persons experience the same. It is important for the general public to know how bad it can really be and so to be able to emphatize with such sufferers, especially if its their loved ones or friends.

But I guess when you wrote that article, you were writing about finding meaning in it, and so you were looking at it in as many positive ways as possible. This is very important in my personal view too. Despite all the bad stuff of bipolar, we need to find the good stuff and find ways to live a meaningful life and not be crippled by it or defeated by it. Just thinking of the negative parts of bipolar, can be very depressing and make one feel hopeless. You were doing the right thing in finding the positive aspect, no matter how awful the negative are. This is an important perspective to help keep us live with hope.

Sometimes I don't like to read bipolar blogs because they make me feel very depressed and hopeless through some of their sharing. Some sufferers see no hope at all. Though I can understand their suffering to some extend as I go through the same too, I could not find any comfort in their self-defeating and hopeless view of things. I like to read your blog because you share openly about your struggles which are very real to those of us who suffer in the same way, and yet at the same time you share of your triumph in Christ too. This gives one hope.

I try to write in the same way on my blog. I share my ups and downs, but I try not to share it in a hopeless or very negative way. There is always a light at the end of our tunnel, a silver lining behind the cloud, and that is Christ my Lord.

I think it's hard to strike a balance at time, to write the awfulness of the illness and yet to let the readers know there is hope. This is indeed not easy but it is also the truth. May God guide you. When you write your follow-up, I pray you will be able to write in such a way that in telling the truth about the bad stuff, you will continue to emphasize the fact that there is yet hope and that one can live a useful and meaningful life.

But no matter what you write, there will always be readers who disagree with you. So try not to feel too bad about it.

Oops, here I go again, writing very long! I just want to say, continue writing with hope, through all the ups and downs you share. May God guide you.

With love and prayers,

Unknown said...

Trying to deal with this horrendous cycle of being on the medication and getting off the medications is the biggest challenge that bipolar individuals and their families have to deal with on a daily basis.
lamictal withdrawal

lamictal side effects

marja said...

Hi Mike, Thanks for visiting.

Yes, changing medications can be tough. I've experienced that as well. But with a good psychiatrist - someone you can trust - it's not the worst that can happen, esp when you know that in the end it will be the best for you.