Wednesday, October 12, 2016

On Vulnerability, Broken Things and Frozen Hands

Knees are tented in front, bent to hold my school book. College-ruled notebook paper sits atop the thick stack of European History.

I try to do my homework, but with each breath I falter. Why? 

Because these are the breaths I can see. With each draw of air there is a fine mist of too, too cold air. These breaths are the kind that find you though covered in a fluffy pastel-flowered comforter, sweatpants and flannel shirt. These are the breaths in an air which numbs your hands.

These are the breaths that surround your bed at night as you try to get warm. 

It's another month when the oil price is too high and the funds too low.

And these are the breaths shivering in naked shame. Because there is a rule somewhere, somehow, which calls it a secret. And I know. I can't tell a soul. 

On a June day, this one too warm, I will stand as valedictorian and give an address. No one will know the too cold nights with numb hands which lead to this day. 

And again and again it's the shame. The kind staying hidden deep in the caverns of the soul. It's the less-than of a thousand drumming voices. 

It's the broken world I cannot put back together. 

It's hard to write these things. To reach back in time and possibly hurt those I love the most. But secret shame is just this messy. We don't know when the feeling starts to sink in so deeply, but later we can see it there, suffocating our freedom.

And why do I write this part of my life? I have been talking about my journey with bipolar disorder, so how does this connect?

The truth is I don't fully know. Call it a 'hunch'. It's one I feel full liberty to follow, as I continue to make sense of my struggle, in the context of my whole story.

And I know shame is a primary adversary in the journey to overcome. It hovers ominous, wrapping around with the blight of stigma and landing me in the dung pile of 'less-than'.

For me, those days long ago, those experiences of a too-cold house, opened up new places in my soul. Some of those places were outlets of creativity, things like poetry, even theology. This creativity, particularly as a driving need, is a gateway to mania.

But, in these vulnerable days of youth there were more avenues leading towards the dark. Sometimes I think I would have cut myself, if the idea were out there. Sometimes I think I may have turned suicidal if not for the strength and presence of my twin sister.

The shame led to feelings I couldn't escape. It went so deep it felt like what I really was inside. It broke me within. It opened the door for the depressive side of bipolar.

And again, why do I write this out for all the world to read?

Because in the wake of a second hospital stay for bipolar disorder, Hope has called out to me.

The song is one of 'No More!' It's trumpet sounding and triumphant! 'No More Shame! Less-Than! Fear! Doubt! Worry! Pain! No More!' It's the Lion of Judah with fierce eyes standing between the Enemy of My Soul and me. He blocks every lie and destroys all fallen emotions. He releases to joy the deepest places taken over long ago by fear and shame.

When we go to the places in our story holding dark power over us, we find the former things gone and see, hear, taste and touch how God is doing a new thing. 

When we embrace this new thing we become His witnesses to the world.


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