“Along with the wondrous favors God bestows on the soul comes this terrible, beautiful torment: she is filled with longing to unendingly drink of the One who gives these blessings.
She yearns to die. The yearning is so intense that all she can do sometimes is weep, begging God to rescue her from exile. Everything she sees in this life wearies her. She finds some relief in solitude, but the torment always comes back. And yet, without this pain, the soul feels as if something vital were missing.”
St. Teresa of Avila, The Interior Castle
Christian mystics provide a good template for positive contributions to society by individuals that may have a mental illness. Some reflections inspired by St. Teresa of Avila’s book The Interior Castle. I am convinced that she might have been diagnosed as having bipolar disorder if she lived today. I feel God is calling me to advocate for the mentally ill, those who often live in darkness, in the church by sharing my story there. Individuals with the trait of bipolar disorder often “cycle” between distinct emotional states with differing periodicities ranging from slow to fast. I believe I am prone to rapid cycling due to the fact that I can oscillate between elevated and depressive moods with great rapidity.
A couple of years ago, I started to utilize social media such as Facebook and web logs (blogs) to record my thoughts in the digital public. There are conflicting opinions as to whether or not this is a “good idea.” Should one be open about something so personal as possessing a mental illness? I believe the answer is yes if others can benefit from the information. The answer is yes if such writings can help to dispel some of the stigma associated with mental illness. The answer is yes if such writings can save lives from the all too common symptom of a mental illness, suicide. Finally, the answer is yes if it helps my friends and family recognize attributes of my mind in real time. This is one of the major reasons I blog and write on Facebook. In a sense I am already sharing my story in the church. I would love to write a book on this topic one day. A book that relates brain chemistry to religion. Seeking ordination in the Episcopal Church may provide an avenue towards credibility for authorship of such a book. In such a book I would like to connect social media, neurochemistry, bipolar disorder I, and my own Christian faith walk.
I think being able to “cycle” between theism, deism, agnosticism, and atheism can engender into a person great compassion and empathy. This can only help one be better at ministry. You are able to relate directly to a person’s feeling of God’s absence. We all want to be held in the Light, we all should encourage each other to walk in this Light of God. Neurochemical and religious aspects of my past month have served as a painful reminder that bipolar disorder I is here to stay. A lithium level of 0.5 (below the therapeutic dose between 0.6 and 1.2) and being on the wrong anti-psychotic medication (Abilify instead of Zyprexa) for bipolar disorder I is enough to cause an existential crisis and to doubt one’s and God’s existence. Caffeine (and other xanathines) increase the excretion of lithium. I have up to this date been drinking coffee liberally. Now that I know caffeine can lower blood lithium levels goodbye coffee, it’s been nice drinking you. I am glad writing a blog and Facebooking helped me identify the need for me to go to the hospital by communicating to others my stream of consciousness. Proper and effective use of social media can save lives, even your own.
I don’t have it easy. I have to fight this bipolar disorder I with everything I have because I know I have a contribution to make! Trust those who love me unconditionally to provide a hand along this struggle. Additionally attending church can be a support. Reasons why attending church for me can be a challenge, a challenge that with proper medication, prayer, and meditation can be overcome. Also, participating in the Community Action Network may be essential for me to remain focused on God in seminary. I think NAMI Mercer might be a good place to give back to my community by focusing on contributing to mental health advocacy via field education and volunteering.
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