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.


Tuesday, January 3, 2017

On Vulnerability, Bipolar and Being Exposed

I sit by the edge of the lake. It's a Sunday afternoon walk where I think and pray. Where I breathe in grace and breathe out the broken.

These days are not easy. I wake up each day with a label and it wants final say of who I am. I take medicine which tastes bitter before bed. The numbers of which have increased since I was in the hospital in May.

How do I keep alive to hope? Keep alive to the New Day? Keep alive to Heaven come to Earth?

I feel on the edge of a cliff with one foot bent over. I don't like heights. Yet I can believe one of two things before I jump. One is that I will crash far below and die. The other is God like an eagle will rescue me and cause me to fly upon the heights.

Each post I write here is like one of those jumps. It's the faith which looks all of the doubts, fears and lies in the face and says 'No more!' It's the one that repels all of the shame of exposure and remains one step ahead.

It's the home in sea and sky and land which God promises to create. He promises the embrace. He promises the hands to hold. He promises it will all come to a glorious conclusion in Life forevermore.
He promises, in that Day, to vanquish all darkness never to be known again.

And this brings me back to my walk.

I noticed them the last time. The roots exposed along several trees lining the edge of the lake.  They dip below to the water and lose their covering of earth and grass. 

This might seem like it would make them fragile and weak, but it does not. They are strong and resolute. Their trees are flourishing, tall, healthy and impressive.

It makes me think of Jeremiah 17:

"Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
    whose trust is the Lord.
He is like a tree planted by water,
    that sends out its roots by the stream,
and does not fear when heat comes,
    for its leaves remain green,
and is not anxious in the year of drought,
    for it does not cease to bear fruit.”
~Jeremiah 17:7-8 

Leaning on, pressing into God makes us like a tree planted by water sending out its roots to the stream. It's as if they are sent out in mission. But to complete it they must be exposed.

And so it is with me, with all of us. If we would truly trust God and flourish, we must be willing to be exposed. That doesn't mean showing off our strong trunks and pretty, wispy leaves blowing freely in the wind.

No, it's the roots. Found in the deep and muddy. All of those gnarled things which God is strengthening; redeeming. Yet, in this process, He asks us to shed our cool, comfortable covering. He asks us to be known for the weak things. He asks us to be real about the struggles. He asks us to let the battle scene be played on the big screen.

He asks us to trust. 

He wants to give us the eyes to see the truth of our flourishing. When we allow ourselves to be exposed we learn our true nature. It's the one He gives us because of Jesus. This Jesus who exposed the infinite of God to a world bent on judgment, misunderstanding, and shame. 

It's Him, this Jesus, who touches those naked roots with His forever love. He makes us strong, brave, hopeful, loving, determined and so much more.

Trust. Rest. Send out your roots on mission. Take the leap and fly on eagle's wings.


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