Looking through our prisons


Recently, I was thinking of the way my diagnosis of bipolar disorder have affected my perspective in life. When I knew that bipolar is a lifelong condition, I was at first very discouraged. 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.

There are different kinds of prison in this world. When I was diagnosed with proneness to bipolar disorder (manic-depressive illness), it was a relief to me because it helps me to understand my confusing past. 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 productive life.

But my diagnosis last year did at one point of time throw me 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. The nature of severe depressive episodes is such that our brain can become so malfunctioning and can't receive/send the appropriate messages which cause our thoughts or feelings to be either blank, flat or distorted. Depression robs away all joy and hope, and makes living itself very difficult. I am often tempted with suicidal thoughts during severe depression episodes and I often pray that the Lord will take me home. The inability to enjoy my family, church, friends, work and even God Himself (as my brain simply can't function), makes life very meaningless. The hopeless I faced each day is beyond words description. Day in day out, night in nigh out, every hour, facing such hopelessness and helplessness is like living in hell. Oh, how the Lord preserved me! I cannot imagine how I could have survived those distressing episodes without God's mercies and preservation. Though I couldn't feel God's presence with me at times due to the chemical imbalance in my brain, God is still with me to sustain and deliver me.

When I knew that bipolar is a lifelong condition, I was at first very discouraged. 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. But thank God that He will never allow us to be tempted or tried more than we can bear. I found comfort in God's Words and His love, mercies and faithfulness. 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.

I prayed much for grace to submit to God's will, to trust in Him and His mercies, and to live for Him despite my condition. Bipolar disorder does not define me nor my life. It is merely an illness just like diabetes, hypertension and asthma. People with these illness can live a life close to normal despite their limitations. So with medical and other help, people with bipolar, depression and other poor mental health illness can also live a life that is close to normal and be useful and productive.

There are different kind of freedom. I realized then that I still have the freedom to make choices. Would I smile when I see my family, church and friends or would I weep? Would I rail against God in bitterness or would I ask Him to strengthen my faith and give me grace to live for Him despite my condition? Would I allow my condition to rule and ruin my life, or would I seek to find and apply whatever help that is available and within my means to make use of? Would I allow my life to waste away in despair and hopelessnes, or would I look to God for strength to be useful and helpful to others by giving them hope in their own sufferings? In other words, what would I do with the free will that was still mine?

I decided to live as fully as I could, as the Lord enables me, to look for ways to transcend my physical and mental limitations by making use of my available mental capacities and expanding its use to help others. I could choose to be a role model to others who suffer in various ways, or I could wither and die, emotionally as well as physically and mentally.

There are many kinds of freedom. When we lose one kind, we must look for another. We can look at our illness and our limitations, or we can look through them. I thank God that He is strengthening me day by day and giving me the grace to trust in Him, to look beyond my condition to see His love and faithfulness, and to make use of whatever helps He has provided for me to help others too.

I thank God for the joy of developing this blog which is not only therapeutic to myself as I journal my thoughts and feelings. It also has been helping others who are suffering from depression and bipolar. I thank God that I can share His goodness and mercies, for it is only when we view our pains and sufferings in the light of the sovereignty and love of God, that we can find hope and help in our prisons. In God is our freedom and liberality. One day we shall leave our earthly prison to go to a far away land where the roads are made of gold, there are many mansions for us to live in, there will be no more pains and sorrows, and we shall enjoy our Lord Jesus Christ's love for all eternity. Maybe then we can understand a little better the path He has chosen for us. It shall redown to His glory and we shall be awed by His love and faithfulness, through all the changing scenes of life. What a mercy! And what a comfort! It is these thoughts and knowledge that gives me the courage to face each day joyfully in the Lord, looking unto Him alone who is the Author and Finisher of our faith. He who laid down His life for me, loves and cares for me daily. Praise Him.

My friend, HH Sau, took this lovely photo at Combodia.

"For thou wilt light my candle: the LORD my God will enlighten my darkness." Psalm 18:26

8 Kind thoughts:

sbwrites said...

Dear Nanci,
I truly don't think it needs to be a life sentence for people. We know that people recover from terminal illnesses; why shouldn't they recover from Bipolar Disorder? It's too bad that our doctors aren't more hopeful.

For your sake, I'm glad your belief in God helps you cope--plus all of the wonderful healing activities in which you participate. You're truly taking charge of this illness.


Michelle-ozark crafter said...

Nancy dear, 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. I have had a lifetime of illness to learn this and I refuse to let my illness still my joy! Doesn't mean I am always happy but I do always have joy even on the days I have to look really hard for it.

Nancie said...

Dear Susan,
It is a mercy indeed that we live in a generation where we can find various helps to manage our conditions. And yes, God truly is my source of strength and help daily! You are coming along very well too in continuing your search for wellness. May you take courage and press on too! Take care.

Dear Michelle,
I fully agree. The most difficult part is to know how to manage our conditions, know what can trigger off relapses or make them worse and how best to cope. And in the midst of all these, to strive to live an enriching and joyful life. Glad you are finding joy in the Lord even when it's very difficult at times. Thank God. Take care.

Unknown said...

How great that you keep a blog. :) I was diagnosed with bipolar back in 94, was on lithium until 98 and during that time I had a hysterectomy. I have felt soooo much better since my hormones no longer rage, even my diagnosing doctor thinks maybe she got it wrong. :)

Unknown said...

One of the biggest things I hated about being on meds for bipolar was when I would go into the ER for some problem and they would treat me like it was all in my head. Do you run into that?

Nancie said...

Dear Lisa,
Thanks for visiting my blog and your kind comments! Glad to know you are so much better.

Yes, it's sad that there are still much misunderstandings about bipolar and depression. Others sometimes think it is all in our head or that we are either weak or just being emotional. In actual fact, bipolar and major depression are real medical conditions and mercifully they are medical conditions that can be treated.

I had a quick look at your blog. Wow, your children are all grown up :) Will be returning to read more. Take care.


Anonymous said...

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

Nancie said...

Dear Rob,

Thank you very much for your kind sharing and encouragement!

Your sharing is very very encouraging to me, personally, and I believe to others who have bipolar too. It is indeed scary to me when I was first diagnosed last year with bipolar and to know that bipolar is lifelong and cyclical. It took me 20 years and almost 11 episodes of severe depression before I was diagnosed. The thought of entering into another prolonged depression episode (mine usually last 3 to 6 months or longer) can be very discouraging and distressing. My depression episodes are more prominent than my manic.

I thank God for my diagnosis last year which enable me to understand my confusing past, to realize that my condition is actually a medical condition that can be treated, so that I can seek appropriate treatment and other helps. After my diagnosis in March 2007, I had another relapse of severe depression in July 2007 despite being on medication, because I did not know yet how to recognize early symptoms or how to manage my condition. But I am learning slowly now and am thankful for all the resources and helps available.

Your testimony is indeed very encouraging! It will be wonderful if I too can be off medication one day. But for now, I know that I still need to be on medication as I slowly learn how to manage my condition. I hope that I may learn to manage my condition by and by, my condition may stabilize, and my down time may be lesser and lesser, and I can continue to serve God and live a useful life.

Truly, as we learn to manage our condition with all the helps available, we need not be helpless victim to it. We can still live a meaningful and productive life, and make use of our gifts and talents to the best of our abilities.

Thanks again for your sharing and encouragements! Take care.

With appreciation,


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