Continuing the Surviving Bipolar Series.
The Surviving Bipolar Series recounts the early days of my bipolar disorder journey. This is part 12. Read the story from the beginning by clicking here.
When we last left off, I was feeling sorry for myself because the hospital staff labeled me an alcoholic. I hated the A&D (Alcohol and Drug) classes. The group sessions felt like a lot of whining and complaining and people crying about feeling powerless.
I felt powerless enough and needed someone to show me I could be more than I was at that moment.
Time would prove that I was not an alcoholic, but I’ll come back to that in a future post.
As much as I hated A&D sessions, I needed them. I was using alcohol as an unhealthy coping mechanism, one that almost cost me my life. While I wasn’t addicted to alcohol, the A&D groups helped me face other addictions that were just as dangerous.
Struggling To Be Awake in Pointless Classes
Before going to the hospital, I had gone two weeks without sleeping. And I mean never once closing my eyes in 14 days.
During my first two days in the hospital, I slept very little until my second night, and then I slept for a whole six hours.
My third night, I started taking the Navane medication my doctor told me about. Not only did I sleep that night, but I found it nearly impossible to stay awake during the next few days.
I wrote in my journal, “Today I slept through two classes. You feel bad for snoozing when someone is trying to teach you something, but I just couldn’t stay awake. At least I wasn’t the only one sleeping and drooling in my lap.”
Day four sent me to a required parenting class. It made no sense to me, as I was 23 years old and didn’t even have a girlfriend. I finally realized the staff stuck me in the class just so I would have a place to go until my next session.
What I stayed awake for was interesting, but made me instantly angry at my parents. Our relationship was already bad and would take me years to fix.
The parenting class was about the importance of the C’s in caring for your children. In case you wanted to know, the C’s are: care, concern, compassion, commitment, consistency, and communication.
I tried my best to pay attention to what was being said, but there were kettlebells pulling my eyelids down. Not being a parent myself, it was hard for the presenter to hold my attention. Finally, I gave up and curled into a ball in the brown corduroy armchair and went to sleep. When someone woke me, the class was over.
And I was still sleepy.
Visitors and False Beliefs
On day 4, I finally got to have visitors.
While I was super excited to see my friends, it was a painful reminder of another one of the false beliefs I had. Let me give you a little background first.
My faith and relationship with God are the most important things in my life. The people in my congregation are my family, and they have seen me through the best and worst moments of my life. Patrick and Margaret, my friends who took me to the hospital, were my anchors to reality. They helped me find myself when I didn’t feel like I was worth saving, and they’re only two of the wonderful friends I have in the faith.
However, there were some people then who felt that strong Christians could never have mental health issues. They believed a weakness of faith caused mental illness, and it was a false belief I let take root in my mind.
It scared me to think about what people in my congregation would think of me when they found out that I was in a mental hospital. My friends tried to tell me that everyone loved me and would be supportive, but a part of me knew it wasn’t true. At least, not entirely.
Sadly, there were a few people who were harsh and demeaning after I returned. Not the people who mattered, but some close-minded individuals who never had a positive opinion of me anyway. One jerk even restricted the time I was allowed to talk to his children because I was a “potential danger” to them.
The false idea that my manic depression was the result of weak faith was soul-crushing. I felt like I was failing God, my family, and my congregation.
I’m going to get up on my soapbox here for a minute.
The idea that faith and mental illness are in any way related is complete garbage. While strong faith can help bolster your mental health, it will never cure a mental illness. At the same time, weak faith will never cause a mental illness. My faith—and your faith—have nothing to do with bipolar disorder.
Bipolar disorder is an illness, no different from cancer or diabetes. The quality of your faith won’t cause you to have a physical illness, so don’t believe it will induce a mental disorder.
Believing the lie caused me a lot of pain. It took years of hard work to root it out of my brain. Even now, there are times I miss Bible study because I mentally can’t handle being around people. A part of my mind still tries to tell me it’s because my faith is weak, but I know that’s not true.
If you learn one thing from me today, make it this: your faith and your mental health are two completely unrelated things.
When someone tries to tell you your anxiety or depression are the result of weak faith, call them out and identify the lie. Speak up and protect yourself. You’ll save yourself years of heartache.Start Today!
The Best Part of Day 4
Day 4 also brought the best part of my hospital stay.
It came as a handwritten note carefully traced out with a red crayon. One of my friends brought it to me from her little boy.
He wrote in big block letters (original spelling):
I hope you get beter soon. I hope you don’t get seker than you are.
Those brief words reminded me that people cared about me.
I can’t say why the words of a child meant more than anything else that was being said, but they did. I felt if a child could see there was still something good in me, then maybe there was.
I carried the little scrap of notebook paper with me for years, stuck between the pages of my journal. Somewhere along the way, the paper got lost, but the words will forever warm my heart.
People care about you too.
There will be times you feel like no one loves you, but there is always someone thinking of you. You never know how much you matter to other people. As humans, we’re not always great about telling people how much we care. I promise you that you are somebody’s hero. They may never tell you how much you mean to them, but it’s true.
There’s someone who finds strength every day because you exist.
It’s another reason why you have to keep fighting.
There’s a lot of mental blur and journal gaps in the following days of my journey, including some awful decisions I made right after getting out of the hospital. I’ll share more in the next installment.
Until next time, keep fighting.