Blessings in bipolar

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Recently, I am learning to count my blessings through all the ups and downs I have experienced due to bipolar. Bipolar is a chronic and lifelong condition, but with effective medication and other helps to keep symptoms under control, it is possible for most people with bipolar disorder to live a close-to-normal life. It is encouraging for me to read of others who are able to see their bipolar in a positive and beneficial way, and also to strive to achieve wellness despite the great pain and suffering they have gone through. I am prompted to count my blessings through my own experiences and make use of them for God's glory and the benefit of His people, and other sufferer of bipolar and depression.

Bipolar alternates between mania/hypomania and depression, and I believe there are blessings to be derived from both conditions. Though depression is awful and painful beyond words, there are still many precious lessons and benefits I can derive from it. Mania/hypomania also has its advantages and disadvantages. Going through both of these experiences have been enriching to me, though it used to be confusing at one time before I was diagnosed. Now I can look back and see how I grow through each experience.

I share Dr Kay Redfield Jamison's sentiment when she describes how bipolar has shaped her life. Dr Jamison is a Professor of Psychiatry at the John Hopkins University of Medicine. She has bipolar and she authored a very excellent book "An Unquiet Mind", on her personal experiences of bipolar and how it shaped her life and profession. She is able to appreciate her bipolar in terms of her creativity, her passion and energies. She is also one who is determine to master her illness and make use of her gifts of intellect to make a difference. She wrote:

"So why would I want anything to do with this illness? Because I honestly believe that as a result of it, I have felt more things, more deeply; I had more experiences, more intensely; loved more, and been more loved; laughed more often for having cried more often; appreciated more the springs, for all the winters; worn death "as close as dungarees," appreciated it - and life - more; seen the finest and the most terrible in people, and slowly learned the values of caring, loyalty, and seeing things through. I have seen the breath and depth and width of my mind and heart and seen how frail they both are, and how ultimately unknowable they both are. Depressed, I have crawled on my hands and knees in order to get across a room and have done it for month after month. But, normal or manic, I have run faster, thought faster, and loved faster than most I know. And I think much of this is related to my illness - the intensity it gives to things and the perspective it forces on me. I think it has made me test the limits of my mind (which, while wanting, is holding) and the limits of my upbringing, family, education, and friends."


I thank God for some blessings which I can find through the ups and downs of my bipolar, such as:

1) God is more and more precious to me each day. Through all the pain and sufferings I have gone through due to relapses of severe depressions, I am made sensible of God's presence with me, in preserving me, restoring me and delivering me. I would not have been able to survive any of the episodes without God's mercies and grace. I am also drawn nearer to our Lord Jesus Christ over the years and sanctified by Him, so that I can be more useful for Him and to others. Through every severe depression episodes, I will experience as if God has forsaken me because I could not think or feel aright and therefore cannot feel God's presence with me. Whenever I am better or well, I cherish every opportunity to attend public worship, to do my personal devotions and to pray.

2) God's Words, the Bible, becomes more and more precious to me as I learn to derive much comfort, encouragements, strength and direction from it when going through my most difficult days. I began to understand some things that were written in the Bible in different ways after going through those ups and downs. It was also through some severe depressive episodes when I could not be sensible of God's presence with me that I searched deeper into the doctrines of salvation, sanctification and glorification. I appreciates these great doctrines and their impact on our life, and our blessed hope in them because of what Christ has done for us in laying down His life and delivering us from eternal damnation.

3) I learn to value my family, loved ones and friends as I experience their love and kindness through many ways. My mother took care of me while my church prayed and encouraged me, and provided for some of my needs. I have friends who stand by me although they may not fully understand what I go through. My friends also kindly accept me into their fellowship when I am better and ready. I thank God for them.

I read somewhere that True Friends are those who know all about you and still like you, and True Friends go through thick and thin together. I thank God for some friends who continue to accept me with all my weaknesses and didn't despise me because of my mental condition. No doubt, I lose some friends over the years because of my condition, but I gained so many more. Thank God.

4) Like Marja, Dream Writer, Michelle, Susan, Amanda and many people with this condition, I am rather creative. I receive a lot of pleasure from writing, photography and making homemade crafts and gifts for my friends. I believe it is due to this reason too that by God's grace, I am able to develop this blog at this time.

I find writing therapeutic for me personally. I am also grateful to know that others have benefitted from my writings or sharings, or links on my blog. Ever since I started this blog, readers searching on topics regarding bipolar or depression have been directed by search engines to find my blog. WordPress helps me to keep track of these searches and I am heartened to know that others may benefit from my writings and links I placed on my blog. I hope it can help others who suffer from bipolar or depression, to know that they are not alone and there are various help available.

I am also enjoying photography a lot. I am able to enjoy God's creations in many wonderful ways when I started brisk walking and regular exercise. I love to go to the beach and watch the waves. They remind me of God's sovereignty and love. No matter what He allows us to go through, He will never leave us nor forsake us, and He is working all things for His glory and our good. I derived much joy and satisfaction in taking photos of the beach, waves, flowers, etc.

View some of my favourite photos at my facebook profiles:

a) East Coast Beach, Singapore on 21 November 2007

b) Changi Beach, Singapore on 1 January 2008

c) Some flowers and a small garden I took during my brisk walks

d) Some flowers and plants I took during my brisk walks

5) The deep feelings and experiences I have gone through made me what I am. I appreciate life because of the near death experiences I have gone through, and I cherish each day that the Lord has given me to live for Him and serve Him. The many difficult times I have gone through helps me to appreciate the better times, and I make the most out of it.

6) Due to the pains and sufferings I have gone through, I feel for others deeply even though I may not fully understand what they are going through. I learn to show compassion for others and to pray for them, and encourage them. I try to comfort them, whenever possible, with the same comfort which God has comforted me.

7) Whenever I am better or normal, I am sometimes hypomanic - so I have more energies, more ideas and able to do more things. I can take on more projects and can accomplish much more. I do need to moderate myself so that I don't overstrain as prolonged overstraining may bring about a relapse of severe depression. So I am learning to make use of my up time to accomplish more for the Lord, my family and friends, and for our societies at large. That is one reason why I am developing this blog so that it can help others.

To be continued ... still counting my blessings :-)

Dear Reader,

If you too have experienced some blessings from your depression, bipolar or other medical conditions or illnesses, or trials and afflictions, why not share with me and other readers for our encouragement? It is good for us to count our blessings daily so that we can grow and be enriched by our experiences in life, whether it be the ups or the downs. None of these experiences are wasted. They happened for a purpose and they have a lasting effect on us. May we grow through these experiences and make the most out of it for ourselves and others.

You can also email me at mylifewithbp@gmail.com. Thank you.

10 Kind thoughts:

Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Dear Nanci,
I wrote about blessings in your other post. But since you asked me to visit, I wanted to drop by.

During a depression (and mine seems to keep on coming back), quite honestly it is very difficult to feel blessed. I have experienced so many episodes during my lifetime that the only real blessing is to survive each one. And to hope that the people I love will be able to survive with me.

Perhaps other people don’t realize the pain and suffering that our loved ones go through when we are so ill. When I was sick and my son was younger, it would have been a true blessing if my siblings and friends had reached out more to my husband and son. It would have been a blessing if I could have told other parents at his school so they could have done more for him.

But the stigma of this illness is such that I only shared it with my closest friends. I didn’t want my son to be teased or taunted because I had a so-called mental illness.

If there is anything I have learned, it is to be more empathetic with other people who experience their own pain–whatever it is. My own suffering enabled me to be a wonderful advocate, and a patient and loving daughter to my mother, who was suffering with Dementia when she died.

Perhaps it’s also important for people to understand that during a depression, it is impossible to remember the joy, love, laughter, and true feeling of well-being that comes with a hypomania.

Unlike Kay Jamison, I have suffered too many episodes for too long to feel this illness has been a blessing. If I had my druthers, I would have chosen “not” to have it.

But, like you wrote in my blog, I do believe it is heroic of us to persevere over and over in our search for wellness. And we are blessed by those who stand by us, care for us, and love us!

Susan

My Life with Bipolar Disorder said...

Dear Susan,

Thanks for dropping by and sharing! I do agree with you that when going through a depression episode, it is very difficult to feel blessed. I am glad that your difficult experiences enabled you to be a wonderful advocate, and a patient and loving daughter to your dear mother. That is a great blessing to her, for sure. And it is a comfort to yourself that you have been able to cared for her the way you did, because of what you have gone through.

And I believe the same compassionate heart remains with you in your continuing battle with depression, and will enable you to sympathize with others who are suffering. This is a special gift and calling, because many people who have never been through much trouble or suffering, are sometimes not able to sympathize with others. They might even say hurtful things to a person who is suffering.

And yes, we are very blessed by those who stand by us, care for us, and love us. May our persevering, despite our difficulties, in turn also encourage them to persevere in the difficulties they may go through in life too. Thanks again for dropping by and sharing. Take care!

With sincere thanks,
Nancie

Dreamwriter said...

This topic has come around so many times within our support system within Bipolar Planet. I have yet to see the “Blessings” with having Bipolar. I do believe that my “Creativity” would be the only blessing as I published a book and do write as often as I can.

I have been through so much and had so many issues with family and friends who truly don’t understand what it is I am going through. It is not a blessing to be misjudged or misunderstood or looked at like a hypochondriac.

Having these ups and downs, when I am up - I always question it, when I am down - I always question it as well. Never truly knowing my true “Mood.”

Your post is very inspirational and I value your blessings and positive inspiration. I am glad that you are at a place of peace and serenity.

My Life with Bipolar Disorder said...

Dear Dream Writer,

Thank you for dropping by and sharing. I am glad to know of your creativity and that you have published a book and do write as often as you can. Like you and many others, I appreciate my creativity and ability to write. I hope with this special gift, we can make a difference on our blogs and other writings, to let those who suffer from depression, bipolar or other illness that can cause depression, to know that they are not alone.

I can identify with you that it is not a blessing to be misjudged or misunderstood or looked at like a hypochondriac by our family or friends. In fact it hurts a lot. What I learned from my own painful experiences, was to show more empathy towards others who are in pain, whatever that may be. I don’t want others to go through what I have been through for I know how that can hurts so much and aggravate one’s condition. I look at that as a blessing to me and others, because it makes me a more compassionate person and I am able to comfort others to some degrees.

‘Having these ups and downs, when I am up - I always question it, when I am down - I always question it as well. Never truly knowing my true “Mood.”‘

I agree fully with your above statement. I used to be very confused before my diagnosis. When I am up, my thoughts and feelings are different. When I am down, they are totally opposite. I used to wonder what is wrong with me and which is the real me. After my diagnosis of bipolar, I began to understand a little of my confusing past. Bipolar alternates between 2 extremes, mania/hypomania and depression. Both of these conditions shaped my thoughts, feelings and behaviours. Not that I have 2 personalities but they are a part of me, and they give me different experiences.

I am learning to understand that bipolar is a medical condition and it doesn’t define who I am. I am still myself despite my extreme mood swings. This can be rather difficult to understand. But I am learning to appreciate the many precious lessons I can learn from these 2 extreme conditions. That is why I am learning to count my blessings from my bipolar, as I do want to know how some good have come out of both of extreme experiences.

Hopefully as we share with one another and others on the cyber world, our understanding of our conditions will help us to know how best to manage it so that it can be of maximum benefit to us and we can be more functional. We must not admit defeat to this condition. With advance medical and other helps, hopefully we can triumph and make a difference in our generation!

Thanks again for dropping by. I am learning from you and others whose experiences differ so much from me though we may have almost similar diagnosis. I think Bipolar is a spectrum and it affects various people in different ways and degrees. Better understandings of the various conditions, will enable me to search and post more relevant articles for the benefit of all. Take care.

With sincere thanks,
Nancie

Anne said...

Hi Nancie: Sorry it took so long to hop on over here.

Your writings about bipolar are a good resource for anyone “googling” bipolar. Good work.

Regarding depression, I take 20mg Prozac a day and it pretty much has my depression under control. As you know, depression comes with the diagnosis of any serious disease - mine being Multiple Sclerosis.

However, long before MS, I come from a long line of depressive types….every single person in my family suffered some kind of depression, many attempted suicides, many drug overdoses (legal drugs and not) and parents who just plain weren’t happy with anything or anyone.

This probably belongs on my blog and not here but I would like to share this with you and your readers.

Both brothers were drug addicts by age 12 and suffered depression as a by-product. One brother OD’d on heroin at age 39. The other brother was diagnosed with schizophrenia at age 12 and was drug dependent for the rest of his life. He died in 2004. When my mother got sick in 1985, I became his guardian until he died.

Today is 2/8/08 and my mother died on this day in 1989. She had tongue, jaw, throat and lung cancer, weighed 70 pounds at time of death. When cleaning up the “after” mess in her bedroom, under the bed, I found a dirty ashtray with about 10 butts in it - which clearly told me she didn’t stop smoking like she said she did a few years before. I also found empty bottles of valium (100 count), sleeping pills (30 count), Xanex (60 count) and a variety of drugs for other ailments she had. The bottles had just been refilled the day before. She took them all.

Even though she was depressed enough to kill herself, my depression was in dealing with her, her illness, my illness, my two babies at home, my work, her doctors, my doctors, her family phone updates, hiring and firing nurses aides for her, medicine runs for her and for me. I realized then that sometimes depression ends when a problem goes away.

The night before she died she called me on phone (after not speaking to me for a week for some now forgotten crime I committed). She asked me to arrange for her to be admitted to a hospice nursing home for the terminally ill, since I had privileges at the facility.

Because she was still taking chemo (up till that week), the facility only takes people who have given up hope, who only take medication for comfort care, and who have prognosis of two weeks or less. She did not qualify. The doctor’s saying “she could die any time now” was not good enough. You have to be in the last throes of death. Geez, you may as well die at home. So she did.

She got mad and hung up on me. Next morning I get a phone call at 9AM that she was found dead in bed by the day aide.

She changed her will two weeks before she died. Her will was vicious to say the least. For a woman who didn’t want children in the first place, divorced 1st husband and married her sister’s widowed husband, cut off contact with one son and institutionalized her other son, constantly told her daughter that all her ills were in her head and “after all, I’m the one who is sick here” she left nothing to the imagination (about what she thought of each one of us) upon reading of the will.

She didn’t have much by way of possessions, but what she had was sentimental value (to her and some others) but I am not a sentitmental person. I also am not a coveter of “things” that other people have.

So what she did have was left to others and the one thing left to me was stolen from her house during the reading of the will by my brother who sold it for money to buy heroin.

One would think that depression would have kicked in with me during that time. Nah….what kicked in was “well, that’s one down and three more to go.” (Father, two brothers)

Sounds callous? Not really. When you come from a family who all have the “me” complex, who can write off natural born children and not talk to them for months or years, who attempt suicide by turning on the gas jets while the three children are upstairs sleeping, who goes on a seashore vacation and leaves the children to come home from school to an empty house and a note on the dining room table, relief is an expected emotion.

The deep dark black moods that come with depression are thankfully a thing of my past. Yes, I may get depressed about not being able to work anymore. Or about not being able to do physical things for myself or around the house. Or get mad at myself because my brain takes periodic vacations and memory is gone.

But deep dark black depression is hopefully and thankfully a thing of my past.

I expect when I enter that next phase of life (death) when my immediate family of husband and two children, the depression will all come flooding back. But also hopefully I will be wiser for it and better equipped to handle it.

Thank you for addressing this much needed topic.

Anne

My Life with Bipolar Disorder said...

Dear Anne,

Thanks for dropping by and for sharing! I really appreciate your openness and willingness to share with me and other readers of your difficult experiences.

My heart goes out to you as I read of your difficult family background. It pains me whenever I read of people with difficult family backgrounds and childhood. I am glad that you are able to take care of your mother and brother. I am thankful that you survived those very difficult times and able to care for family despite your struggles.

I am thankful to read that those dark black depression is a thing of the past. Take care and keep up your good works of writing.

With sincere thanks,
Nancie

Amanda said...

Hi Nancie, Wow you brought tears to my eyes explaining the feelings and how you learned to deal with them is amazing. I think we can all help each other and one day make understood as more people suffer with it that don’t even know it and as their life goes through hell they don’t realize it doesn’t have to be, it may not be cured but it can be fought on a rational basis as long as we the person take notice to do the things that make us feel good and not bad.

Thank you Nancie for mentioning my name and I’ll be linking you to my blog and visiting yours as often as I can. I’m in the middle of writing 8 blogs and two businesses, all because my bipolar became my blessing.

Keep encouraging everyone Nancie to talk about it, then we can come together and live life free of anger and pain.

My Life with Bipolar Disorder said...

Dear Amanda,

Thanks for dropping by and sharing! I too hope that we can all help each other and support each other and others who either suffer from bipolar or depression. These conditions are so painful and difficult, and sadly they are often recurrent. It is too easy to lose hope in the face of such overwhelming pain and sufferings. And before diagnosis, it can cause much confusions. Knowing that someone else understands can be very therapeutic and can sometimes bring hope and comfort in the midst of extreme pains.

Glad to know that you are able to develop 8 blogs and 2 businesses because your bipolar became your blessing! Do come by, whenever you can, and share with me and others more about the blessings from your condition. Take care.

With sincere thanks,
Nancie

Amanda said...

My apologies for anything I may have indicated as being offensive or heartless. I have had 25 years of suffering and today still suffer, and little by little I’m getting out my say as a bipolar person. I am also tired of the stigma and trust me I have many stories to tell and encourage many other people who are tired of being treated badly for it because we have a sensitivity to the outer world that “normal society” seems to have. Just like the destruction of our girls because of Hollywood and their interruption of beauty. I need to explain I put that picture up in my blog as a double meaning…

If anyone would think I’m trying to make money off my illness just to promote yes and no. yes because I need my bipolar to finally work for me and my first reasoning for all this was I wanted to create as much awareness to bipolar as I could. Spending years going through horrible times before I came out feeling I just beat another horrible event in life.

I love for anyone to post comments on any of my blogs and I will try my best to visit and answer as much as possible. I’m trying so hard to keep my family together and my sanity as sane as possible.

I have many obstacles to overcome as I am now.

I hope this is not to long of a comment as I am in a super manic mood right now and would love to have someone to talk to right now who knows how I feel. I use the radio crew because I found my blessings in music but that’s another story. My blogs are the different personalities I hold through the day. I live a life of hell on the inside in so many ways.

I never meant to offend anyone and my true meanings behind it all is to make awareness so we can finally stop being discriminated agaisnt and taken seriously with finding the real way to deal with it, not just drugging us so much it affects our moods as soon as we have a shift in hormones or life events that keeps us struggling harder, but every time we get through another string of bad events it has to make us that much stronger or the illness wins.

I hope anyone will forgive me for offending, never my intention.

My Life with Bipolar Disorder said...

Dear Amanda,

Thanks for your note. I am also on the hypomanic side at the moment and I tend to write a lot. Whenever I suffer a relapse of depression, I usually shut down totally and I will not be able to write at all. Now that I am better and well, I hope to make use of my up time to do as much good for others as possible while I am equiping myself too.

I think we all go through different experiences at different time in our life, and with bipolar our mood swings can be very extreme. But we try to understand one another as our experiences and background are very different too. So the sharing or comment by various people will naturally differ depending on which stage we are in, our personality or background, and we also have our personal opinion and stand on certain things. I think it is ok to differ and I do appreciate each comment.

I saddens me to know that so many are struggling with depression and bipolar all over the world, and not just in Singapore. I didn’t realize the global impact bipolar and depression have until recently. I really hope with more sharing and openness of people who are suffering such, more advance and useful medical and other helps will be made available to us. I hope by our mutual encouragements and sharing of our wellness tips and coping strategies, we can learn from one another and further equip ourselves to manage our particular condition better so that we can live a life as close to normal as possible.

I really hope too that the stigma we all feared and dreaded so much, will be eventually removed and we can be accepted as a part of the society and live a useful life just like anyone else.

Hope we can continue to share, support and learn from one another, increase our knowledge and coping skills, and persevere and triumph and make a difference in ours and others’ life.

Once again, I thank you, Amanda, and also thanks to Susan, Dream Writer, Anne, Michelle and Marja for dropping by and for your sharing whenever you can. Thanks too to Merelyme and Desiree for dropping to read. Hope we can continue to learn from one another and others on the blogs, and share each other’s burdens and joys to some degrees. Take care.

With sincere thanks,
Nancie

 

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