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I started counseling today.
Again.
You know the old saying – thirteenth time’s a charm. No, I don’t actually know how many times I’ve gone through counseling, but I’ve done it several times. I see myself a lot like the 1989 Buick I drive – it keeps running as long as you do regular maintenance. I go through counseling, do really well on my own for a while, and then life comes along and boots me in the head, and I need help again.

It’s not the major stuff anymore. I don’t feel like I’m lamenting the sexual abuse or resenting my mother for drinking anymore. I feel like I’ve had all the “light bulb moments,” but there are things that rear their ugly heads from time to time, and I have to squash them before they become bonafide problems. I talk pretty openly about this, because I have a general disdain for people that pretend to have it all together, when in actuality they are struggling to keep their head above water. I’d rather be honest about who I am, flaws and all.

I’m also not planning to be in counseling for a long stretch of time, because I am finding that talking to God and staying in the Word on a regular basis does wonders for the soul. I suppose that’s why God tells us to do that, huh? I’ve lived most of my life viewing the Bible as a book of good suggestions. You know, like those ridiculous motivational posters you see in offices. But the Bible is a guidebook for living life. It tells you how to handle anger, disappointment, sadness, how to overcome the past. I’ve spent a lot of money on self-help books over the years, and some of them were very helpful, but they don’t compare to the Word of God.

So, my first session was today, and it was your typical first session – we went over the basics, where I come from, who I think I am (still working on that one), who I want to be, etc. With joy I talked about my dear husband and my good friends and how much they mean to me. This counseling is a good thing. Any time you get to strip away the scar tissue and reveal new flesh, it’s a good thing. God is really good at patchwork.

I made two coffee stops today – the first one at McDonald’s, where I also assaulted the dollar menu, as well as my arteries, the second one at Dunkin’ Donuts… my home away from home. By mid-afternoon, I was so caffeinated I could have pushed my car the rest of the way home. FYI – Dunkin’ has really good hash browns. Ya gotta try ’em.

Shaunti is coming to town next week to do a book event in a nearby town, and she’s bringing my dear friend/coworker Linda with her. I have to say I’m pretty overwhelmed with excitement. I don’t get to see them very often. It is amazing to me how 3 people can have such a close friendship (and can work together) from hundreds of miles away. God is definitely in the mix. And in 6 years of knowing Shaunti and 2 years of working for her, this will be the first time I’ve ever heard her speak in person. I’ll be oozing pride from every orifice of my body. And, as always, I’ll be taking zillions of pictures. 🙂

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Good question, great article.

http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1863220,00.html

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Hey everyone. Sorry I haven’t been around much lately. Been working hard on the book, and feeling a little blue. I got no sleep last night and I felt pretty trashed today. But I’ve noticed that ever since I went on Zyprexa (mood stabilizer – helps with sleep when the restless legs don’t attack me), I have felt very emotionally “flat.” Like it’s nearly impossible to really take an interest in anything. I do what I do because I have to do it, and nothing more. I guess I need to follow my own good advice and go see the doctor.

The problem is, before Zyprexa, I was on Seroquel, which is very sedating and great for sleeping, but it kept me rather sedated all day – to the point where I was falling asleep at my computer. Zyprexa is sedating, as well, but it doesn’t “hit me” as hard, and it wears off enough to allow me to function. The problem with some of these meds is that you’re darned if you do, and darned if you don’t.

I am happy to report, on a related note, that I haven been gathering quite a few interviews of random people for my book. I belong to a few mental health groups on Facebook, so I put the call out in the groups to e-mail me if they wanted to tell me their story. It certainly has been interesting. One woman gave up on Christianity because she was schizophrenic, and when she went to church she believed that she was Jesus’ wife. No more religion for her. I’m not quite sure where or if that fits into my book, but I certainly did find it interesting.

I am having to water down my language, unfortunately. One of the goals of the book is to reduce the stigma attached to the term “mental illness.” It’s to make people realize that heart disease is a disease of the heart, diabetes a disease of the pancreas, and mental illness and disease of the brain. But as it turns out — and I should have known this — people hear “mental illness” and freak out. They don’t want anything to do with it. So I’ve gone from saying “mental illness” to “emotional issues.” Hopefully that is coddling enough to reduce everyone’s anxiety.

Like I said… darned if you do, darned if you don’t.

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I stink at art - especially pastels - but every once in a while, the bug bites me.

I stink at art - especially pastels - but every once in a while, the bug bites me.

When you’re sick and things don’t go your way, doesn’t seem like everything is 10 times worse than it really is?  Being bipolar is hardly the exception.

I cleaned the apartment today and decided I need to go for a swim.  Swimming definitely squeezes the endorphins into me, so I packed up my gym bag off I went.  But once I got there and went to change into my bathing suit, I realized I had packed everything but my bathing suit.  What’s a bipolar chick to do?  So I started crying and told my husband the entire world was out to get me.

After a long shower and some caffeine, I’m seeing things more clearly and I recognize the melodrama.

I have been struggling with depression because the time I take some of meds changed, and I have to really fight to remember to take them… which I haven’t, more than a time or two.  So I’ve thrown myself out of whack, and that’s how it goes.

Ten lashes for being irresponsible.

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In my first post, I mentioned that I was going to be talking about mental health/illness in this blog.  What I didn’t mention was why.  Well, I’m working on a book project about exactly that.  Let me explain a little further…

Longtime readers of my old blog, Fidler On The Roof, know that I have Bipolar Disorder, anxiety, and I’m not afraid to talk about it.  It’s a part of who I am, and I treat it as such.  I discuss it the same way I discuss having a head cold.  But now I’m going to talk about mental illness, including my own, in a much broader spectrum, and I’m doing so out of frustration, sadness, and mostly a desire to educate.

When you’re open about your own mental illness, you encounter a wide variety of reactions.  When you are a Christian that is open about your mental illness, the reactions are often very harsh.  I am not the type to shrink back from a difference of opinion, but when someone thinks their opinion usurps scientific fact, I am often rendered speechless.  I often sense fear, shame, and a basic lack of knowledge in Christians when it comes to this topic.  We’re supposed to have joy, aren’t we?!?  Isn’t that what the Word tells us?  If we’re depressed, bipolar, schizophrenic, and we don’t have joy, then how can we say we’re walking with God, right?  Isn’t the problem that we’re just not spiritual enough?  Surely, mental illness can’t be a REAL illness.

The Bible describes a demon-possessed man in Mark 5:1-13.  Verse five says, “Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones.”  (And, by the way, how many teenagers does this apply to!)  Jesus calls the demons out of this man, and sends them into a herd of pigs nearby, who drown in a nearby lake.  I truly believe that a lot of Christians see mental illness the same way – a demon possession that needs to be driven out by Jesus Christ.  I can’t say they’re wrong, but I can’t say they’re not always right.

I’m here to say anything is possible.  Never say never.  Some people are touched by the living Christ and forever healed from what ails them.  I believe that God’s supernatural healing power is just as potent and available today as it was in ages past.  He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  Every one of us who has claimed Christ as our Savior has the Holy Spirit living inside of us, meaning He is closer than the air around us, and perfectly capable of healing.

But even in the Bible, Jesus healed in so many ways.  He didn’t always command demons into herds of pigs.  What about the blind man whose sight was restored when Jesus spit on the ground, made mud, and rubbed it on his eyes?  For the life of me, I wish I understood why so many people are opposed to the idea that God heals with modern medicine, INCLUDING psychiatry and medication.  He is not physically here, but here spiritually.  Why is it so hard to believe that sometimes those antidepressants are a form of God’s healing?  Doesn’t all of man’s wisdom come from God?

And why is it so hard for us believers to believe that God doesn’t heel everyone, He doesn’t always rub mud in our eyes, or heal us by merely reaching out?  He doesn’t promise we’ll have perfect lives, but He promises to be our shelter in the storm.  My storm is Bipolar Disorder.  His promises give me hope, His medications give me physical help.  Why does that rub us the wrong way?

This concept was never a big deal to me until I found the right kind of medication combination to treat my illness.  Before that, I was angry, irritable, I had an out-of-control sex drive, and I was often suicidally depressed.  I lost jobs, I lost friends, I dropped out of college, and I nearly ruined my life.  I loved the Lord, when my depressions drove a big wedge between God and I, and I was physically incapable of reaching my full potential because I was so sick.

Now, if I had refused psychiatric help and refused to seek help due to spiritual reasons, and thus destroyed my life… is that any better than agreeing to take medication and turning into an extrovert with goals, dreams, and a heart for ministry?  Which one is the sin?

Going on those meds was hard.  I had so many negative questions swirling around in my mind.  Was I only a real person when I took meds  Was I really saved if I couldn’t live up to my potential without popping pills?  Then this amazing thing happened.  My medications began working.  I was no longer an insomniac, I was no longer angry and irritable for no known reason, nor was I sinking into the deep hole of depression anymore.  My marriage began to heal, I could hold a steady job, I developed wonderful friendships, and the Julie that God intended came out and showed herself for the first time.  I began developing my ministry.  I credit the Lord with my transformation.  The psychologist that diagnosed me was a great Christian lady, and I am grateful to her.  But all of her knowledge comes from God, so I give Him the glory.

I know that God brought me back to life.

Do I think sometimes people are plagued by demonic influence, and are not truly mentally ill?  Yes.

Do I think sometimes people are dealing with a painful past and need therapy and temporary meds?  Yes.

Anything is possible.  I’m not interested in dismissing any of those things.  All I want to do is educate Christians – specifically the church – on what metal illness is and isn’t, how they shouldn’t and shouldn’t address those issues, and how they should and shouldn’t minister to those that are ill.  I’m not a psychiatrist or a psychologist.  I’m a writer, a reporter, a mental illness sufferer who has been told many times that what I REALLY need is to pray harder and read my Bible more.  Ditch the pills!
These people mean well.  They just don’t know…

Someone has to start the dialogue.

He works in myserious ways...

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