Tuesday, January 17, 2017

On Vulnerability, Bipolar and a Renewed Mind {the three R's}

Note: This post is meant to be read in the context of a relationship with Jesus. If you don't have this relationship or have questions about it, go here.

I am just out of the hospital in Budapest, Hungary. I am still not sleeping much for it takes a while to re-regulate this pattern after it has been stripped away.

I have started on too much of a new medicine. So far all I have received are its side effects. That 'jumping out of your skin' steroid-like effect, neuropathy, and a walking gait like an elderly person.

My mind is chaotic. Flashes of 'visions' I had seen in what mental health calls a 'psychotic break' run through my mind. These and other thoughts or pictures are like knives slicing through my brain.

How will I ever get my mind, myself back? I know so little in these days. Just that I am alive and must breathe, in and out. I do not know what tomorrow will bring and I know I am not myself. But I have the inkling of trust for a New Day.

It's not easy to write these things. It is quite vulnerable to do so. To say out loud 'really, it is this bad'.

Yet, the hope here is what is always the hope. There is something greater at work which will have final say in my mind, my heart, my life. This is because I am God's. I am of the redeemed who will One Day see the face of Jesus in Zion, the New Heaven and the New Earth.

But today, right here and right now, is not that moment. It is one where I still live in the throes of a label and its stigma, medicine and its side effects, and the mental chaos which can come with bipolar disorder.

So, how do I, how do you, move forward?

One step at a time. One breath, one moment, one thought, at a time. Over time your mind truly can become one of clarity and wholeness.

As a big surprise to me, friends and my therapist, I entered the hospital again in May. So much of what I wrote above happened again. Some of the terrorizing thoughts were even worse.

I write what I know. Truly, if I can find peace in my mind, so can you!

Much of the process is gradual. This is aided by the medicine which is available.

But, as I have said before, this can only take us so far. There's a gap between the medicine and our minds, emotions and spirits  which can only be filled by God.

And what are His desires for us? Clarity. Wholeness. Peace. Joy. Love. Fullness. Life. All with capital letters and many more beside.

So, the most important part is faith. We believe these things are possible and God wants to give them to us.

Then, we are willing to do the hard work of training our minds.

In order to do this we must prepare them. The tendency of our culture, for all of us and our problems, is to numb them. We do this through alcohol or drugs, but also through things like TV, movies, and fiction. There is a place for these things, just not one which allows us to push our struggles below the surface.

To bring it all together, with faith and minds prepared, we begin to renew our minds with what I will call the 'three r's': rewire, refill and refuel. This is important for everyone to do. There are so many lies weaving through our minds which are rooted in shame or fear or doubt. So this is what we must do:

1) Rewire: This is where we change the course of our thoughts. Instead of them starting and ending in lies, we start and end them in truth.

Example of a Lie Pattern: 'I am bipolar, I will always be bipolar.' In other words, 'I am defined by illness and this will never change.'

Example of a Truth Pattern: 'I am loved therefore I will overcome.' In other words, 'I am known by and loved most deeply by God. Through His love I can overcome anything.'

2) Refill: This is where we fill our minds with what the Apostle Paul says in Philippians 4 'whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think on these things.' If we try to fight the battle only combating lie patterns, we will become weary. Instead, we need to open ourselves to the beauty or right thoughts.

Examples of Filling thoughts: (These all come from the Bible either directly or indirectly) 
3) Refuel: This is where we remember our motivation. We remember we have so much and so many to live for. We remember we are loved ultimately by God and His love never fails. We remember we are strong and have a resilience to keep us in the fight--we are made to be victorious. Bipolar, or any other mental illness or any sickness, is not deeper than the image of God in us and most, His Great Love for us.
These three: rewire, refill, refuel act like a cycle which renews our minds and brings clarity and wholeness to our lives. As we trust God who is Love, as greater than all, we will see victory.

This is my story. It hasn't been easy, but the Greater Strength of God has met me every step of the way. Medicine is not an easy fix on which we can coast. We want stability, but we also want more. We want Life. And this is precisely what God, in Jesus, wants to give us.


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