‘Bipolar’ Is Not My Name

I had my first therapy appointment the other day. It was great.

At one point, I rambled on to my therapist about cyclothymia and bipolar — the differences between them, which one I thought I had been “before” and which one I suspected I was becoming, etc.  When I was done, she said something very profound. I’d heard it before. But for some reason, when she said it, it hit me differently than it had every other time I’d heard it. I can’t quote her verbatim but the paraphrase is this: labels don’t matter. Labels are just one means to an end; overall, labels are simply a mechanism for efficient articulation, and the primary purpose of labeling mental health is to drive the treatment.

I’d heard that concept before, but this time it was freeing.

Bipolar is not my name. My name is……
Well.
Fae isn’t really my name, either. And I’m not going to put my real name out there. Alas, I have thwarted my own melodramatic point.

Let’s start over.

Who am I? (Hey, when you can’t pull off the melodrama, waxing philosophic is The Next Best Thing, amiright?)

But no, really—who am I?

Sometimes I’m happy-go-lucky, little miss free-spirit. Creativity flows through me like blood and my head is clear and focused. I’m motivated, productive, impassioned. I experience self-confidence and a zest for life.

Sometimes I’m depressed. Low-energy, unmotivated, apathetic. Brooding, pondering, stuck-in-my-head. Hopeless, discouraged, wrestling with the accuracy of my perceptions of life (my faith, who loves me, my worth, etc.).

In short, I’m moody.

I have a tendency to jump on bandwagons. To shoot my mouth off about things I feel strongly about. To start things I will never finish. To be “noisy” on social media. To disappear from the face of the earth for days on end. To over-book and over-commit myself. To give up too easily. To fixate on things.

In short, I have tendencies.

There are labels for some of the moods and tendencies I experience. Bipolar, OCD, paranoia, depression, irritability, anxiety — oh yes, and let’s not forget PMS.

But I am not Those Things. Rather, Those Things help to describe various aspects of who I am. And some of Those Things need to be treated because they’re harmful to who I am.

Sometimes, labels can act as a cage, even though they’re supposed to function as the gateway to freedom.

That day in therapy, these labels became irrelevant. I no longer cared if I could be “diagnosed bipolar” or if I was “mildly OCD” or if I “had depression”. It didn’t matter.

Inside the walls of that room, as I sat there blathering on, I was just me. I was me, acknowledging that sometimes I feel sad and hopeless and sometimes I feel great. I was me, realizing that I didn’t know how to handle sad and hopeless and I needed help. I was me, being me, understanding me, and getting me help.

If you experience things that feel harmful to you, I encourage you to get help too. It doesn’t always have to be professional help. Confide in a dear friend; ask for prayer; talk to your pastor; Google “what to do when I’m _________”. Don’t stick a label on what you’re feeling and then go on about your business; that doesn’t fix anything. The purpose of a label is not JUST to articulate what’s going on — it’s supposed to drive the treatment.

Don’t stop at simply acknowledging your tendencies—there’s freedom out there for the taking—because yes, sometimes we really are our own worst enemy and we have to intervene on our own behalf.

The Label is not The Thing. Bipolar is not my name. It’s just a label. ‘Life’ is The Thing and labels are just vehicles for helping us get from one part of it to another.

So don’t just sit there! Start driving. ;)

ENOUGH.

The enemy likes to play this game with me: he chases me with legalism until I rebel and throw myself into the arms of permissiveness; and then he uses guilt to chase me back into legalism. Back and forth, like a poor little ping-pong ball.

Today, God said, “Enough.”

No matter where I am mentally and emotionally, Jesus is Enough.

No matter which side of the Should Fence I’m on, legalism or permissiveness, Jesus is Enough.

No matter how many flaws a sister-in-Christ has lovingly pointed out to me, Jesus is Enough.

No matter how oblivious I am to God’s Kingdom today because I’m too distracted by own agenda, Jesus is Enough.

It’s true that Christ’s death on the cross gives us the power to overcome sin and the flesh. But all too often, we forget that’s not all. That’s not all Jesus accomplished; how could it be? It wouldn’t be enough, since we continue to sin anyway.

No, Jesus’ sacrifice in taking all our sins upon Himself was not just about giving us the power to break away from them; it was also about giving us the freedom to fall.

I can fall down because of Jesus…and I can get up and go forward because of Him, too.

When I am walking upright, I am walking in the power of His death and resurrection—but especially His resurrection.

When I fall, I fall on the power of His death and resurrection—but especially His death.

Jesus is Enough.

The world will surround us with Shoulds when Jesus has poured out Enough. Embrace Him back today; His love is true and will be sweet to your soul.

Happy Valentine’s Day. ♥

The Cure for Anxiety – Part II

via Google image search

I have long used Psalm 4:8 to help quell anxiety at night, as I’m falling asleep (that seems to be when it hits the hardest).

I will both lie down and sleep in peace,
for You alone, Lord, make me live in safety.

It helped a lot of the time, but there were also a lot of times it didn’t help. This morning, in my Bible study, I learned that part of the reason it didn’t always help was due to a lack of context for Psalm 4:8.

Didn’t I mention earlier that context is everything? ;)

There’s a verse that comes before Psalm 4:8, that I was previously oblivious to:

You have put more joy in my heart
than they have when their grain and new wine abound.

Wow.

After the season we’ve come through (unemployed and living with my parents for 10 months with 95% of our belongings packed away in a storage unit during that time), I have a brand new understanding of joy. Despite the hardships we experienced over the last year, God literally poured joy into our lives the whole time. There was always something to be thankful for; numerous times that He displayed His powerful provision and gracious compassion. I spent a surprising amount of the past year filled with exuberance and gratitude! How weird, right? But it seems the tapestry of trials is God’s favorite backdrop for displaying the power of His joy. Coming out of this past year, I am more aware than ever before of the “tiny treasures” that He has peppered my life with:

  • hot water and showers
  • tea with cream and sugar
  • my bright and adorable children
  • internet access
  • a smartphone
  • video games
  • a comfy bed
  • more than 5 outfits to choose from
  • nail polish
  • the beautiful landscape of New England
  • the crisp and cheerful air of fall turning into winter
  • tv shows that make my husband and I belly laugh together
  • music
  • a variety of textures and flavors in food
  • books
  • sparkly things
  • and the list goes on!

Dwelling on these types of things on a daily basis has increased my joy such that, I don’t freak out when things go wrong (the check engine light is on in my van right now), and I’m more peaceful, calm, and content.

Despite the increased sense of peace and experiences of joy, however, I still suffer nights when my anxiety is extra-tenacious. Last night, it was fear of my children being taken from me while they sleep. I was exhausted after a long week of unpacking but that didn’t stop me from getting out of bed two different times to check the door locks and then to check the window in their bedroom. The second time I crawled back into bed, I breathed a fervent prayer to my Heavenly Father to “please quiet me with Your love”…I knew I wasn’t going to fall asleep without His help that particular night.

My time in God’s word today expounded on this issue for me, pulling two different areas of my life together — the joyful part and the anxious part — and sewing them together beautifully.

You have put more joy in my heart
than they have when their grain and new wine abound.
I will both lie down and sleep in peace,
for You alone, Lord, make me live in safety.

It’s not just focusing on the Lord that keeps me anxiety-free; it’s also soaking in the joy that He has graciously poured into my life! This is where the aspect of mental discipline comes into play — a pivotal part of managing anxiety. Trusting in my Heavenly Father’s goodness and sovereignty is a huge part of the battle, but the other part is taking ownership for what my thoughts are about.

Can I make an embarrassing confession? Last night’s anxiety was my own fault. My husband and I watched a show together that made a reference to a “classic” horror movie. Against wisdom and sound judgement (and mind you, the Holy Spirit definitely nudged me on this one but I ignored Him), I looked up this horror movie on Wikipedia. Right before bedtime. Really. And of course it involved sweet babies and helpless mothers. So you can make a very educated guess as to what my thoughts were about as I was trying fruitlessly to fall asleep!

Last night, Psalm 4:8 was not sufficient to bump my train of thought off the tracks and my JOY was derailed.

God’s compassion never ceases to amaze me; He didn’t let me suffer long. He answered my prayer last night and not only quieted me with His love before sleep, He continued the process in our time together this morning. “Here,” I could hear Him saying. “This part is important and it would have helped last night.”

It’s not the first time I’ve received the gold nugget of truth that my thoughts are a powerful component of anxiety but for some reason, it hit me anew this morning. God is merciful and ever so kind to me, teaching me this lesson over and over, in a myriad of different ways and I think this time, it’s going to stick.

I have a hunch tonight’s sleep will be even sweeter…

The Cure for Anxiety – Part I

“This is why I tell you: Don’t worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the sky: They don’t sow or reap or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth more than they? Can any of you add a single cubit to his height by worrying? And why do you worry about clothes? Learn how the wildflowers of the field grow: they don’t labor or spin thread. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was adorned like one of these! If that’s how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and thrown into the furnace tomorrow, won’t He do much more for you—you of little faith? So don’t worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For the idolaters eagerly seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”  (Matthew 6:25-34 HCSB)

You don’t have to be a follower of Jesus to benefit from the last part of this passage:

“Don’t worry about tomorrow…Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

If you are a follower of Jesus, there is even more benefit in this passage: Jesus tells us that our Father God takes care of sparrows and GRASS — how much more will He take care of us, in spite of our “little faith”, because we are worth more than many sparrows?

It is an incredible encouragement — one I’ve held onto tenaciously these last ten months, and one that has even been proven by God’s provision in our lives these last ten months.

Nevertheless, I want to focus on verse 34 today. There is something for everyone, in this verse,  and perhaps even enough that one who is not yet familiar with the friendship of God might be spurred forward toward it.

“Don’t worry about tomorrow…Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

If one were to treat this as a pill, prescribed by a well-known and trusted physician, how might it change one’s life?

Rather than hypothesize, I will tell you how it has changed mine.

The other night, I was sitting in a home school meeting, listening to the mothers discuss — what seemed like at the time — HUNDREDS of THOUSANDS of things that their children had to do in order to finish high school. I began to feel overwhelmed…and then I began to feel anxious.

“I will never get all of this done!”  I thought. “It’s impossible! It’s too much! I must quit home schooling now!  (I’d only been doing it for three days, mind you.) Oh, but I  can’t quit! I am positive that God has told me to school my children at home! Whatever shall I do?!”

It is a true wonder that I did not throw myself to the floor with wails of despair. God is merciful in His sovereign interventions, is He not?

It must have been in just the moment I might have considered throwing myself to the ground with wails of despair that God spoke in my spirit.

“Fae,” He said, gentle and deep — He almost sounded amused. “Is all of this happening today?”

The wailing and spazzing in my brain immediately paused. “Well…no…”

“Then you don’t need to be thinking about it, do you?”

I gave a little laugh (internally, mind you). He was right. (He’s always right.) But just in case I had inclinations to doubt or disregard Him, He brought to mind Verse Thirty-Four.

Truthfully, that is not the first time we’ve had that conversation — and it undoubtedly will not be the last.

But it works. It nips anxiety in the bum and anxiety scurries off yipping every time.

As I said in the beginning of this post, you don’t have to be friends with Jesus (also known as The Great Physician) to benefit from His prescription. I like to call it Verse Thirty-Four.

And perhaps, when you’ve experienced His remedy for this particular malady in your own life, perhaps you might just be curious enough to find out more about this Man and what He wants with you.

Curiosity inevitably breeds bravery, and bravery will serve you well — for, as C. S. Lewis taught us through the “person” of Aslan,

The Great Physician is not safe –
but He is good.