Imagine not being able to trust your own feelings. Not knowing whether that rush of joy was caused by a pretty girl’s smile or a random rush of chemicals. Not knowing how long that feeling would last, or even whether or not you will be punished for this great feeling with crippling depression. Imagine what it would be like to be excited about a great opportunity only to question the feelings and shift to dread and fear in minutes, with no reason. This is what bipolar people go through daily. We are constantly a slave to our own irrational emotions and the only people who can offer solace are others afflicted with bipolar. It is my hope that through sharing our stories and lives, we can offer hope to the broken, those who live cycling between two extremes.
I started noticing the symptoms in middle school, and like many people with bipolar, I was diagnosed many different ways. At first, we thought I was just experiencing teenage depression so I met with a counselor and was prescribed anti-depressants. The problem was that I would have times where I felt limitless, everything came easy and life was sweet. I figured that the pills were working and stopped seeing my counselor. Then the depression would return, sometimes lasting a day, sometimes weeks. This was before the warnings about suicidal thoughts in teenagers were prevalent with this medication, and I almost threw myself out of a car once the highway. I decided that “now the pills aren’t working” and without any doctor’s suggestion, I stopped taking them. I experienced withdrawal symptoms so bad that I could hear my eyes move. I soldiered on and finally got off the pills. Interestingly, this was a time of great highs in my life and I didn’t feel the extremes of bipolar for quite a while. There were times when I would feel limitless and times where I felt limited, but I never felt really down. Unfortunately, as is the case with many of us, a tragic event spun me down, deep into depression and I paid for my year or so of feeling up with many months of low. During this time I wished for apathy, I was tired of my emotions and not being able to trust them. My wish was answered.
I met with my doctor and I was formally diagnosed with bipolar-mania. I was put on a different medication and it took away most of my emotions. I felt neither highs nor lows. Nothing brought me down but I could not feel excited about anything. Though many of us may long for apathy, it is truly terrible, so I got off those pills too. I was relegated to a life of extremes, but I realized that I would rather suffer the lows in order to have the highs. Anything is better than apathy and indifference. I received the Call to ministry while in Mississippi doing Hurricane Katrina reconstruction. Honestly, I felt like Moses, asking God why he chose a broken unbalanced man like me to do his work. God showed me on that trip all that he saved me from. While low, the suicidal thoughts never turned into anything, the times of wrath and anger never put anyone in the hospital, and he spared me from self-medicating with alcohol or other drugs. Even when I didn’t want him, he was always there and he reminded me that his grace is sufficient, and his power is made perfect in weakness. He used my highs to fire me up for ministry, to encourage others and through those times, I created art and composed sermons. He taught me to trust him, since I cannot trust my emotions. He even uses my lows to remind me that I cannot do this alone and to seek comfort in Christ, Scripture and prayer.
It is a constant battle, and though I may never win the war, God has helped me through countless battles. I take a new medication that helps my lows, but allows me to still experience a normal range of emotions. I still cycle, but I am learning to realize my emotional state and alter my actions accordingly. Most people would not know I struggle with this illness, and that is my hope for all who read this story. May those of you who live between two extremes find stability and may those who are stable assist others.