Bipolar - not a lifetime imprisonment


Recently, I shared in my post "Looking through our prisons" on how when I was first diagnosed with bipolar disorder (manic-depressive illness) in end March last year ie March 2007 after about 2o years of mood swings with about 11 episodes of severe depressions, I was both relieved as well as discouraged.

I was relieved to finally understood my confusing past and to know that my condition has a name ie bipolar disorder (manic-depressive illness). I was relieved to know that it is a medical condition that can be treated, and it is not due to my being too emotional or any weaknesses in my character. It is a medical condition just like asthma, diabetes and hypertension.

But when I was first diagnosed, there was a one point of time when I was thrown into despair. When I knew that bipolar disorder is a lifelong condition and that it is cyclical in nature, which means it will recur, I was very discouraged. Every prolonged and severe depressive episode is very unbearable and painful beyond words. I felt as if I have been given a lifetime imprisonment sentence in which there will be no release from this prison. It is worst then a death sentence. A death sentence will end all pain and misery once and for all. But to be imprison in a brain that can malfunction at any point of time and be thrown into severe depression episodes over and over again, is both scary and distressing. How my heart sank when I thought of that.

Thank God He comforted through His Words, the Bible and His love, mercies and faithfulness in many wonderful ways. I realized that no matter what God allows me to go through, He will be with me in it and His grace will be sufficient for me. He promised that He is working all things for His glory and for my good. And He will never leave me nor forsake me. He makes no mistake! If He allows me to have bipolar disorder, He knows that it will be cyclical. He does not delight in my sufferings. But yet He allows it for a good purpose and I can trust in His love and sovereignty.

Thank God that my diagnosis helps me to understand my condition and the necessity to seek helps. Thank God, now with medical helps, counselling and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, regular exercise, Omega 3 fish oil, managing stress level, et etc my condition is under control now and I am able to live a more stable and useful life. I also read the Bible and pray daily for strength and grace from God to live for Him joyfully and serve Him despite my condition and limitations. I thank God for joy in Him daily as I experience His love and mercies in many wonderful ways.

Susan encouraged me that she doesn't think it needs to be a life sentence for people. As people recover from terminal illnesses; why shouldn't they recover from Bipolar Disorder? She felt it's too bad that our doctors aren't more hopeful.

Michelle noted that the trickiest part is learning to control the disease as much as we can, to know what makes it worse and learning to live a rich life even with the illness. She have had a lifetime of illness to learn this and she refuses to let her illness still her joy! Doesn't mean she is always happy but she does always have joy even on the days she has to look really hard for it.

Susan and Michelle's sharing are very encouraging. Thank God that we live in a generation where there are much helps available. Vincent van Gogh, who experienced severe depressions and whose painting became famous after his tragic death through suicide, lived at a time when medical help was not as advance as now. Most people with mental illness like Vincent van Gogh are locked away in asylum. Mercifully, in our age, with medical and other helps, most people with depression, bipolar, schizophrenia and other mental health condition can be helped and we can live a life that is close to normal and be productive too.

I just received a very encouraging comment from Rob. Rob shared of how after 30 years of being on Lithium, he has been able to go off Lithium under the advice of his doctor. For the last 22 years, he did not have any relapse of depression and mania. He feels that those of us with bipolar should not think of ourselves as being helpless victims. There are things we can do that will help us to avoid the extreme highs and lows. Things that are just as important as drugs. Rob hopes that we know that bipolar disorder should not be thought of as something that is going to ruin you whole life. It is not a "life sentence" in that way.

I do agree with Rob that bipolar need not ruin our life. It need not be a "life sentence" of imprisonment for us. We can learn to manage our condition with the various helps available, and look beyond our condition to live a useful life just like every one else.

As much as I feel that medication is important, I too feel that other coping means are equally important. And at some point they may be more effective, as we learn to know what may cause our highs and lows, and seek to learn to manage these. At this point of time, my medication is helping me and I am thankful for that. I am also learning as much as I can how to manage my condition through other helps. It is true that sometimes no matter how best we have done to prevent a relapse, it may still happen. This is the nature of the illness. But we can still learn to either shorten these or how to get better, or if not, then at least to bear these episodes patiently, knowing that they will pass over and we will experience light and joy once again. There is truly a wide spectrum to the experiences of bipolar, our manic and depression may affect us in different ways. But the good news, is there is hope and help. Thank God that I am benefitting from different coping means now. Thank God that by His mercies, I have been able to find some blessings in my bipolar condition, and I am appreciating how bipolar shapes my thoughts and life. It makes my life more colorful and enable me to know God and His goodness and mercies in very real and personal ways daily.

I am reproducing Rob's comment here for our encouragement. Thanks again, Rob, for sharing!

Dear Nancie,

In 1976 I became manic, was diagnosed as bipolar, and was put on Lithium (and also temporarily Stelazine, a tranquilizer). I came back down to normal after a few weeks, but then slid into depression for 5 long months. I had to drop out of fourth year university that year. I got back to normal, finished my Bachelors degree the next year, and went on to get a Masters degree. I was quite normal until 1985, when I became manic again, and was hospitalized for 12 days, though this time the mania did not last as long as before, and miraculously I did not rebound into depression. Since then it has been over 22 years, and I have had no further episodes of mania or depression. I have been quite fine, and have had a very nice and productive life. About 2 years ago I started to feel that the side-effects of Lithium were getting more bothersome than before. I asked my psychiatrist about drug alternatives, and much to my surprise he suggested that I try going off Lithium and take no drugs at all. After 30 years of taking Lithium every day, for the first time in my adult life I was going to experience my body drug-free! I read a lot on the Internet about going off Lithium (most said it was very risky), and we agreed that for safety I should get off it very gradually over 3 months. I did that, and it has now been 16 months since I took any Lithium or any other drug, and I've been fine. I have had no bipolar episodes at all, and I don't have those bothersome Lithium side-effects to deal with. I watch my moods carefully, try to sleep well, get exercise each day, eat nutritiously and keep my stress level down. So far so good! I just want others to know that bipolar disorder should not be thought of as something that is going to ruin your whole life. It is not a "life sentence" in that way. I hope my example makes you and others feel a bit more optimistic. I used to feel that Lithium was my only real defense against this illness. Now I feel that Lithium and other drugs do work, and are necessary in many cases, and I certainly wouldn't recommend that anyone stop taking their meds without consulting their doctor, but I also feel that those of us with bipolar should not think of ourselves as being helpless victims. There are things we can do that will help us to avoid the extreme highs and lows. Things that are just as important as drugs. I think your blog is an excellent resource in that regard, and covers many great ideas. Keep up the good work, and be confident in your efforts to manage your bipolar tendencies. You have a good attitude. -- Rob

I took this rose at the Sentosa Flower exhibition at Sentosa Island, Singapore.

"Cause me to hear thy lovingkindness in the morning; for in thee do I trust: cause me to know the way wherein I should walk; for I lift up my soul unto thee. Psalm 143:8"

5 Kind thoughts:

JC said...

You made a lot of really positive references, and I thank you for that... but the one that was the most encouraging for me today was the one about how the Bible was helpful for you. I am so bad with reading my bible. Somehow I always feel it won't help. I know it's just lies, because when I do read it, it does help and perhaps it's the most powerful encouragement of any other words one can receive and also more penetrating than a prn medication at times. Thank you for the reminder!:)

Michelle-ozark crafter said...

Very good post hon. Nothing we suffer need ruin our lives or control it completely. We may need help and may have to make changes to live better with it but we can do it.
Your post today was much needed. I have been struggling greatly the last week. My doctor started me on lithium Friday so we will see if that helps. I could feel myself heading for a very bad, dark spot but I believe God and you and my dear hubby have saved me from it.
So pray for me and I will pray for you. It is so nice to have another with bipolar to encourage me. i must introduce you to another lady who is a Christian with bi polar.

Nancie said...

Thanks, Jenalexa. I am thankful to God that when you read the Bible, it does help you too :) I do whole heartedly agree with you that God's Words are in fact the most powerful encouragement we can received! And it is God that makes medication and other help effective for us. How I have been helped time and again by God's Words and His presence with me especially when medication and other helps failed me. Praise Him! May He draw you near to Himself to know His love and goodness daily in many wonderful ways. Take care!

My heart goes out to you, Michelle, in you difficult situation now. May you continue to take comfort in God that He loves us dearly and will sustain and restore you! I am keeping you in prayers. May God draw you very near to Him and enable you to know His love in many wonderful ways daily (Jeremiah 31:3). Take heart, underneath is His everlasting arms. Thank you for your prayers for me too. Thank God that we can uphold one another in prayers and we can be of mutual encouragements to each another. Take care.

Spin Original said...

I am glad I came across your blog. I've been looking for blogs of Christians who are bipolar. I was diagosed in December. I look forward to reading through your thoughts.

Nancie said...

Dear Paula,

Thanks for dropping by. I had a quick look at your blogs. Thank God for your lovely family :)

Pray God will continue to guide you as you seek to understand and manage your bipolar. It is not easy, but God is our help and strength. Take care!


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