Christy
My Bipolar Disorder Fuels My Passion for Writing #WorldBipolarDay

My Bipolar Disorder Fuels My Passion for Writing #WorldBipolarDay

Having bipolar disorder can seem like a blessing and a curse. It can play havoc on your moods, energy, and relationships but it also provides tons of creative energy. In my case, I direct that energy into writing. And, increasingly, I find myself expanding into expressing my creativity through drawing and artwork.

I’m the author of 24 books. The writing process involves both left and right brain tasks. This is convenient since depression puts me in a logical, left-brained state of mind for long periods and mania puts me in an energetic, creative, right-brained state of mind for long periods.

The creative right brain comes up with ideas—too many for me to ever complete. It generates the major concepts, figures out how they relate, and gets the first draft on paper in short order.

The logical left brain is the inner editor, constantly critiquing and evaluating so when I am depressed switch to editing tasks and let my left brain do what it does best. I do have to keep a rein on it or my left brain can tell me it’s all trash and try to convince me to throw it all away. However, I try to tell my left brain that even if the first draft was trash, the left brain is smart enough to make it treasure. A little flattery goes a long way in coaxing the best out of a grumpy editor like Mr. Lefty (as I call him).

Some projects, like the Crossword Bible Studies, are naturally left-brain tasks. When I find myself overwhelmed with depression, I find ways to produce something that is suited to my state of mind.

I think of my mind as a pendulum swinging back and forth between the left and right sides of my brain. Sometimes it is stuck on one side or the other, but I work with the positives of each side as best as I can. And sometimes I can coax the best out of both of them.

 

 

If it seems we are crazy, it is to bring glory to God.

Christy
Bipolar Happens

Bipolar Happens by Julie Fast (@JulieBipolar)

Julie Fast’s book, Bipolar Happens: 35 Tips and Tricks to Manage Bipolar Disorder, is a quick read, but a thought-provoking one. She covers 35 problems people with bipolar face and describes not only her debilitating problems but her own tried and proven coping strategies.

She covers everything from the fear of going to public events to bipolar spending sprees and more. For each problem area, she frequently offers a list of possible solutions. I had to pause to consider which problems I experience and which types of solutions could work for me.

On one level there’s nothing earth shattering here. On another level, this small eBook does address a variety of concerns for people with bipolar disorder (and those who love them).

One of the things I liked about her writing was her quirky and memorable analogies:

The past is not a frog for you to dissect. Life is not a biology class. Depression wants you to rip apart your life and examine every minute detail of what you have done wrong, what you said wrong and what you didn’t do—what you should have done—what you might have done, ad nauseam. That poor frog of your past. There must not be much of it left.

Julie Fast, Bipolar Happens: 35 Tips and Tricks to Manage Bipolar Disorder

 

This inexpensive and short eBook is worth a quick read. You never know which tidbits might really help you or someone you know.

(Note: It is not a Christian book, but when you have bipolar disorder, you’ll take help anywhere you can get it.)

 


Bipolar Happens

35 Tips and Tricks to Manage Bipolar Disorder

Julie Fast (@JulieBipolar)

2011

45 pages

 


 

Christy
Dysphoria

Bipolar Dysphoria for the Holidays

Because I have bipolar disorder, I occasionally go through cycles where I have a difficult time getting along with people. It’s called dysphoria. In my mind, I’m completely right and the other person is wrong. I don’t realize I’m doing anything wrong. Sometimes I can see it afterwards, but sometimes I still can’t see what I did wrong. All I know is there’s a trail of carnage in wrecked relationships and lost jobs.

God is reminding me of something I already know to be true but somehow I forget it when I’m in a dysphoric state: Sometimes I can do or say the right thing with the wrong attitude.

*Headslap*

Well, duh. How could I not know that?

Yet when I’m in a dysphoric state, I can’t see that.

 

Because I have bipolar disorder, I occasionally go through cycles where I have a difficult time getting along with people. It’s called dysphoria.

 

Now that I’ve used up all my friends, I’m letting God do a little soul-surgery. I’m giving God permission to do whatever work He needs to do in my life to fix things. I’m very much aware that change happens from the inside out as Christ lives through me. In fact, I have a first draft of a book on that subject but I set it aside because I don’t feel qualified to teach on it yet (until God has changed me from the inside out more completely).

Although God changes us from the inside out, I’m also taking steps to create checks and balances in my life. I’ll list some examples below.

Limit my exposure to potential triggers.

  • Check social media no more than twice a day.
  • Designate one day a week as completely offline.

Demonstrate more resilience when I encounter triggers.

  • Ask myself—On a scale of 1 to 10, is this worth dying for? Anything 7 or less is not worth destroying relationships or my Christian testimony.
  • Ask God to love the person through me (because I can’t do it on my own).
  • Walk away when I feel angry and do not go back to revisit the situation.

Practice healthy actions when I want to fight.

  • Ask God to meet my emotional needs.
  • Expend energy by vacuuming, cleaning the bathroom, or doing something productive.

Evaluate my interactions by asking myself questions.

  • Was my attitude in the situation Christlike?
  • Was my response to that person Christlike?
  • Did others hear the mercy and love of Jesus in my voice and tone?
  • Did others see in me God’s grace and forgiveness?
  • If not, am I willing to ask others to forgive me for my lack of love in handling the situation?

Take advantage of other support and information.

 

I’m thankful the baby in the manger was more than just a baby in a manger. God gave us the most precious gift when Jesus came to us. We don’t serve a God who is far off. God is with us. Immanuel. Because of God’s precious gift, Christ is in us and we are in Christ. He lives His life through us so we become transformed to be like Christ. And when we fail, as I so often do, we are in Christ so God sees us clothed in the perfection of Christ. Grace is a marvelous thing. By God’s grace, I will continue to let Him smooth out the rough edges in my life as He reveals more of Himself in me.

 

God working through me

 

Christy

At the Corner of Mania and Depression

From the middle of August to the middle of September, I was in a blissful state of mania. I needed very little sleep and was happy, energetic, and productive. I cranked out one writing project after another because mania produces a high level of creativity. I understand how drug addicts feel because I crave this state when I’m not in it. I grieve its absence and pray God will let mania come again soon.

Since my manic state, I’ve had a bumpy ride. The transition out of a major mania or depression can be a lot like high-speed chase on a road with potholes—you get jerked around out of control and risk a blowout. It’s an unstable transition causing micro-moods, which are short-lived periods of depression, mania, and dysphoria.

Dysphoria is the opposite of euphoria. Whereas mania is a high-energy euphoric state, dysphoria is a high-energy agitated state. I have a difficult time identifying lower levels of dysphoria, but other people can tell I’m agitated. It’s not until it escalates that I feel the angst more profoundly. For me, dysphoria looks like speaking my mind a little too freely, even at the expense of the feelings of others. It involves being a little bit (or a lot) of a bully, talking back to others, rebelling against senseless rules, and determined to win arguments. I may not even realize I’m doing it until I start losing friends.

Here’s a confession for you. I’ve been kicked out of every Facebook group I’ve ever been in. I can’t even count how many times a group has blocked me for belligerent comments. People on social media have unfriended, unfollowed, or blocked me, too.

Even more disturbing is when long-time friends give up on me or get tired of my behavior and walk away for their own sanity. Then I know I’m out of control, but I can’t always identify what I did wrong.

If I can’t keep friends, there’s little hope of ever keeping a job. But I won’t go into the despair that causes because that’s not my main point here.

This is why I rely on God’s Crazy Grace. I’m far from perfect and my (sinful) actions seem beyond my control much of the time. But God’s grace is enough. God is changing me from the inside out, not as quickly as I’d like, but I can see His work changing me and making a difference in how I think and react. Most of the work so far has been focused on managing my thoughts, choosing to reject negative thoughts and seek out positive thoughts. God has helped me change my thoughts so my periods of depression are less severe and (hopefully) less often or shorter.

I believe God will continue working through the mental health issues that affect my life. He will bring me to a better way to think about the angst of dysphoria, too. One thing I know, it’s not on my shoulders to force change. God is the agent of change in my life so I can rest in knowing He will complete the work He has begun in me. Amen?

All this is to say please be patient. God isn’t finished with me yet. I’m a work in progress. A beautiful, broken, work of art being restored by a Master Craftsman. I ask you to bear with me when I’m a little rough around the edges. Please cut me a little extra slack. Please be my friend, even if I’m not feeling very friendly. And pray that God will work healing in my life.

 

Let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes (Ephesians 4:23).

Christy
Am I broken beyond all usefulness? Making Peace with Imperfection

Am I Broken beyond All Usefulness? Making Peace with Imperfection

In the past few months I have experienced God’s healing in so many ways. I learned to take every thought captive and bring them to Christ, which greatly improved my outlook on life. I thought my bipolar ups and downs were a thing of the past. I even dared to say God had healed me of the effects of bipolar disorder. And I planned to start a new ministry in January to help people with bipolar disorder and to help others understand bipolar disorder. I felt qualified to do this because I had come so far with God’s help.

The week before Thanksgiving, I got sick and wasn’t able to take my medication for three days. I went into a manic high followed immediately by an angry-depressed rage. Because of the public nature of my crisis, I withdrew for the past several weeks to nurse my physical and emotional self.

Not only was I mortified by the way people saw me act, but I was heartbroken that my healing hadn’t been as complete or permanent as I had hoped. I felt like I was no longer qualified to lead a ministry to bring people to healing in Christ if I couldn’t demonstrate His healing in my own life.

That’s a fallacy the church teaches, I think—the idea that we have to be perfect to minister or serve God. Perhaps it comes from verses like 1 Timothy 3:2 and Titus 1:6-7, which say church leaders must be above reproach, but it seems like that thinking has ballooned into a bigger, unrealistic ideal that implies perfection and spiritual mastery.

Although I feel more broken than ever, I feel God reminding me that He loves to work through broken vessels so He gets all the credit. I am a broken vessel in so many ways it’s difficult to imagine how I can be useful, but God wants to pour His power and love out through me to others. I guess this broken vessel will leak like a sieve so maybe He does know what He’s doing after all.

Christy

Imagine Bipolar Disorder

Imagine you just spent a month accomplishing things other people could only dream of doing. You feel powerful and invincible. Everything you set your mind to do, you are able to accomplish. Things that might otherwise seem out of reach are not only within reach, but easy-peasy. You’ve spent hour after hour conquering goals, creating amazing things, and devising plans for the future.

You have amazing purpose and passion. You’re driven beyond reason to pursue lofty goals. And when you achieve them, it’s like a euphoric drug that makes you want to achieve more and more. You have little need for sleep, but a voracious hunger and thirst for victory over ambitious goals.

 

People with bipolar disorder are often highly creative thinkers. During mania, they often experience a rush of creative output.

 

One day something startles you so you slam on the brakes, go flying through the window, and land in the mud. Threatened by the sudden change of situation, you turn into The Incredible Hulk.

 

Having bipolar disorder feels like turning into the Incredible Hulk without warning

 

People try to help you, but in a reflex-like reaction, you attack them to protect yourself.

 

Bipolar disorder can cause a reflex-like reaction causing you to attack friends and those who try to help you.

 

Unable to understand what is happening, you run away from the wreck and leave a path of carnage behind you. The power that made you feel invincible seems out of control. You struggle with fear, frustration, and anger.

 

The euphoria of mania that made you feel invincible can get out of control and turn into anger, frustration, and fear.

 

In a fit of inner rage, you return to your home or office and begin to tear up many of the things you worked on, especially the things that were not yet complete or somehow seem imperfect now. You wonder why the projects that previously excited you now frustrate you.  The delete key, the shredder, the garbage can—these are your new friends.

 

Bipolar disorder makes you destroy creative projects that seem imperfect or incomplete.

 

Nothing is satisfying. Nothing is meaningful. Nothing is working. In another fit of anguish, you change back from The Incredible Hulk to yourself, stripped of the power you once had, stripped of the relationships you just destroyed, and naked before the world in a moment of shame as you realize what you’ve been doing.

 

Having bipolar disorder is like being the Incredible Hulk

 

 

What follows is the only thing that can follow: Depression. You feel more isolated than ever after leaving a path of carnage. You once stood on top of a mountain as conquering hero and now the mountain has crumbled on you and you are left to sort through the debris. But that’s not as easy as it sounds. Your body needs sleep and lots of it. Going for weeks without sleep can take a toll on you. When you finally crash, you may sleep around the clock for as many as three days.

 

What follows mania is the only thing that can follow: depression.

 

The confidence you once felt has been reduced to doubt and regret.  You previously felt purpose and passion, but now you feel panic and pensive fear.

 

Fears become magnified and distorted out of proportion.

 

Bipolar depression means looking at the world through negative lenses. Everything changed. In addition to regret for your behavior, you feel lost and directionless.

 

In addition to regret for your behavior, you feel lost and directionless.

 

The days, hours, and minutes move in slow motion. It’s all you can do to get through a day, let alone tackling any of your projects. You are completely disinterested in the projects that once excited you. In fact your whole life feels hopeless and it seems as if this painful existence will never end.

 

It seems as if this painful existence will never end.

 

Even though you know it’s just a cycle, it can’t end soon enough. And the negative cycle seems much longer than the positive one. You can barely remember the euphoric cycle, but you would do anything to get back to it. Like a drug addict, you long for the high you have felt. But this isn’t drugs. This is bipolar disorder.

 

I hope this will help you understand bipolar disorder.

Christy
My Journey from Gray Skies to Brighter Days

My Journey from Gray Skies to Brighter Days

Many of you know I have bipolar disorder. Half my life has been spent in the darkness of bipolar depression. It’s a miserable place to be, tormented by negative thoughts about life. The Bible describes it this way:

“Some sat in darkness and deepest gloom, imprisoned in iron chains of misery” (Psalm 107:10, NLT).

That is such a fitting description of depression: imprisoned in chains of misery, sitting in darkness and gloom. That’s what it feels like. The psalmist goes on to explain why they were in darkness.

“They rebelled against the words of God, scorning the counsel of the Most High. That is why he broke them with hard labor; they fell, and no one was there to help them” (Psalm 107:11-12, NLT).

They stopped listening to the words of God. There are many “voices” playing in our heads: our own thoughts, God’s thoughts, and thoughts put there by the Accuser. When we stop listening to God’s thoughts and start believing the Accuser, we find ourselves imprisoned in misery, beaten down by Satan’s tormenters with a barrage of negative, hopeless thoughts. But things can change when we turn to God for help:

“’Lord, help!’ they cried in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. He led them from the darkness and deepest gloom; he snapped their chains. Let them praise the Lord for his great love and for the wonderful things he has done for them. For he broke down their prison gates of bronze; he cut apart their bars of iron” (Psalm 107:13-16, NLT).

Sometimes God will allow us to get to a place of deep despair so we will turn to Him for help. When we admit we are helpless, God can work. In the psalm, he led them from the darkness and deepest gloom. He snapped their chains of misery. He broke down their prison gates and cut the iron bars. In other words, he set them free from their bondage to the gloom and misery by destroying the strongholds that held them there. This psalm isn’t talking about a literal prison; it’s a metaphor for the hopeless bondage of depression. Hopeless, that is, until God shows up.

The past few months I’ve been taking Bible classes to help me identify negative thoughts and emotions and replace them with positive ones. The Bible explains it this way:

“We are human, but we don’t wage war as humans do. We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:3-5, NLT).

Thoughts put in your head by the Accuser can be identified as such and rejected. For many years (and increasingly over the years as my bipolar worsened without treatment), I allowed the Accuser to build a home in my head, and his lies seemed more believable than the truth of God so I would get caught in a mental prison. Now I’m learning to knock down the strongholds the Accuser has built in my thought processes. I’m learning to kick his false arguments out of my head. And I’m learning to capture those rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ.

All those thoughts from the Accuser were keeping me from knowing God. They were holding me in chains, in deepest gloom. Now I’m listening to God’s voice and hearing the truth about me and my life. It’s so refreshing; I don’t want to be mired in the old thoughts any more. I’m training my brain to choose the right thoughts to listen to and rejecting all others.

I don’t know if this will result in healing from bipolar disorder, but I do know it will make my depression cycles more bearable. Even if my body is physically depressed, my mind and spirit can be free of the chains of misery. I no longer have to live that way. Christ has set me free! And he can do the same thing for you.

To those who have never struggled with depression, this may seem obvious, but to me, this has been a life-changing transformation process. And it’s not done yet. I’m still working with God to bring his healing love to all corners of my heart, mind, and life. The difference has been amazing so far. I can’t wait to see what things will be like down the road.

 

My journey from gray skies to brighter days

 

And now I would like to leave you with a blessing-prayer:

  • May the Lord fill your heart to overflowing with His love (Romans 5:5).
  • May He rescue you from the kingdom of darkness (Colossians 1:13).
  • May the Lord shine his light in the dark places of your heart and life (1 John 2:9).
  • May living in the light make you clearheaded and protected by the helmet of salvation (1 Thessalonians 5:8).
  • May you listen to the voice of God above all others (John 8:47).
  • May God identify the voice of the Accuser in your thoughts (2 Corinthians 10:5).
  • May He evict and destroy any strongholds (thought structures) that hold you captive (2 Corinthians 10:3-5).
  • May He expose your innermost thoughts and desires and clean out old wounds with His sharp scalpel (Hebrews 4:12).
  • May He break the bonds of misery and fill you with joy (Psalm 107:10-16).
  • May He transform your thinking so you have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16).
  • May God’s resurrection power work in your life to bring you from death and darkness to life and light (Ephesians 1:19-21).
  • May you use the weapons of righteousness to take back the ground the enemy of your soul has claimed (2 Corinthians 6:7).
  • May God give you gladness in proportion to your former misery (Psalm 90:15).
  • May you find rest in the shadow of the Almighty (Psalm 91:1).
  • May the Lord give you the power to accomplish all the good things your faith prompts you to do (2 Thessalonians 1:11).

May you experience all of God’s blessings! Thank you and God bless!

Christy Bower

Servant of the Lord Most High