Monthly Archives: September 2014

The Darkness Within

Forgive me for the randomness and rambling, but I’m in a strange mood I can’t seem to shake.  …not even with ridiculous Bell Biv DeVoe songs, so you *know* must be bad. 🙂

There have been a lot of really messy things in my life, things I can’t always explain. It’s been easy compared to others, but sometimes I feel as though my own heart, my own mind is taking revenge on me. I know it could be worse, but sometimes it is hard for me to see that.

I have an illness-bipolar disorder-that can make me feel as though there were something else inside of me, controlling my thoughts and actions. I do not want this thing to define me or rule my life, but there are times when I can’t really do anything else.  An ex once told me it was a “demon” or “spirit” that needed to be cast out, which I will explain in another blog post. I would normally say he’s full of shit, and I still think he is, but the truth is that it can sometimes feel as though he is right.  He might have meant well but the truth is that he doesn’t understand this, and probably never will. I don’t fault him or anyone else for that, especially considering the fact that sometimes I don’t understand it either. I can read all the self-help books in the world, can spend hours in prayer, do all the things that work for everyone else but for whatever reason, it doesn’t always help.  I’m not saying these things are useless by any means, but they are not the “cures” they are for other people. Again, I don’t want it to define me but I can’t think of any other reason. I’ve had some form of depression and anxiety for as long as I can remember, but I thought it was just normal pubescent angst or a weakness on my part.  As positive and friendly as I usually am, medication has been my saving grace. Surely there is some reason God is allowing me to have all this-in fact, I know there is -but damned if I can figure out what it is sometimes. People give me advice, and I appreciate their concern. There are just some things that people-however well meaning they might be-simply won’t understand until they have been there themselves.

Sometimes, though, I hear something that speaks to me…that tells me, this person knows what’s in my head. This person has ‘been there’…

I love Nine Inch Nails* for this very reason…listening to Trent Reznor and people like him can be very cathartic. Anyone who writes like this just knows:

Hurt*

I hurt myself today
To see if I still feel
I focus on the pain
The only thing that’s real

The needle tears a hole
The old familiar sting
Try to kill it all away
But I remember everything

 

So I don’t run afoul of any copyright laws, you can hear and read the rest here: http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/johnnycash/hurt.html

And as if that wasn’t dark enough:

Something I Can Never Have

 

I still recall the taste of your tears.
Echoing your voice just like the ringing in my ears.

[Chorus:]
You make this all go away.
You make this all go away.
I’m down to just one thing.
And I’m starting to scare myself.
You make this all go away.
You make this all go away.
I just want something.
I just want something I can never have

Again, copyright: http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/nineinchnails/somethingicanneverhave.html

I’m not quite as dramatic as all that, but it is a strange comfort to me to have this sort of thing to refer to,  if only for inspiration for my own (crappy) writing.

*This is the Johnny Cash cover; his voice just fits so well.

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A Different Look At Being ‘Born Again’

John 3:3-[to Nicodemus] Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (New King James Version)

2 Corinthians 5:17-Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. (also NKJV)

Hi, I’m [river in Ireland], and I’m not an addict. I’m not an alcoholic either, although such things run in my family. I’m not a sex addict, since it’s kind of hard to be one of those when you’ve only been with one person. I’m not a criminal, have never been homeless and had a pretty good childhood. And yet, I am what you could call a born-again Christian. In a sense, anyway.

When I first came to know God, I was part of a very small Independent Baptist church. I was fifteen. For most of the [censored] years since then, I’ve traveled in various Baptist and Pentecostal/non-denominational circles. If you’ve been there, you know that those churches tend to be full of ‘born-again’ Christians. One of the biggest things I’ve heard them say is how God brought them up out of the pit of Hell in the form of addiction, sex, abuse, crime, etc. I’m not discounting their conversions at all-in fact, I admire them. I can’t even begin to imagine what their lives were like or how difficult it has been to change. If this describes you, bravo-you are a better woman than I, my friend. Or man. Or whatever.

One thing I also saw, though, was how these were thought of as the only “real” conversions. It seemed that, the more dramatic the change, the more “legitimate” your faith. I heard it said that people who grew up in traditional churches or always lived on the straight-and-narrow couldn’t be really Christians because they couldn’t be “born again”. We weren’t ‘new creations’ because we have always lived the “Christian” life, even if we didn’t call it that. I wasn’t raised a Christian so technically my conversion “took”, but I had always lived like one. Leaving one denomination for another as many of my sorority sisters did counted because their previous churches were “dead” and they needed to go somewhere else for an “authentic” experience of God. I’m not saying that every new Christian I met felt this way or that this is the Evangelical “party line”, but it was something I hadn’t heard before and it made an impression. Some were downright rude about it, but others just spoke from their own experience. I see their point, but I think they’re missing something.

A big part of being “born again” is recognizing your need for God; that you can’t do it all by yourself. People being brought up from the depths of whatever usually acknowledge that a change is needed, that they are on a path that only leads to destruction. The “good kids”, however, usually think they’re doing just fine. That’s how I was, anyway. They might not see their need for God because, to them, He’s always been there; they’ve never known what it’s like not to have Him in their lives. They never “look for” Him because they don’t think they need to.

Then, enter college. I say college because this is a time that many people are away from home for the first time, but it can happen anytime a big change comes. At some point in our lives we will sit back, take stock of what we’ve believed so far and decide where to go from there. We’ll decide which pill to take and whether or not to walk through the door we’ve been guided to.*

For instance, take my friend D. He was raised Catholic, went to Catholic school the whole way and was pretty devout until he went away to college at 18. The first thing he thought when he got there was, “yay, freedom! I can stay up as long as I want, watch dirty movies and sleep late on Sunday because no one will make me go to church! Yay!” He thought he didn’t need to go to church or keep up a relationship with God because He was always going to be there no matter what.

He was partly right. God was there, just as He always is. However, it wasn’t long before he felt that something was missing in his life. Am I homesick? Not really. Friends? That’s what email is for. Is it a girlfriend? Maybe. When all those needs were fulfilled, though, something was still lacking. Then, he came across a Catholic campus ministry, found a church and resumed the observances that he’d been ignoring. The “hole” he’d felt was filled and he went back to the way of life he’d gotten “freedom” from before.

My point is that, despite his upbringing, he still had to make an active decision whether or not he still needed or wanted God in his life, which is the same thing I did when I “got saved” and my hard-living sister did when she found God and got onto a better path. It wasn’t a dramatic change and it didn’t look like the “brought up from the pit of Hell” things we often see, but he was still “born again” because he had analyzed his circumstances and decided that He still wanted to follow Jesus. However, a lot of people I’ve known would say that his experience isn’t “valid” because he didn’t “get saved” and make the 180° turnabout that many think is required. Even so, he still had to make that commitment, he still had to renew his focus on God and accept the charge that is given to all Christians to do God’s work on earth.

When I first learned about God, I was taught that our past wasn’t of concern to Him so much as our present and future. We often take that to mean that He can redeem even the worst of sinners because they are the ones most in need of it. This is true, but perhaps it’s the not the only “right” way of looking at it. Perhaps the past God doesn’t care about also includes our past of thinking we could earn “brownie points” by being good and of not thinking we need Him at all. Like I said before, the people who know they are on a destructive path usually know something needs to change and will do what they have to to make it happen. They’ll turn to God because they will learn that there’s really no other way. Those of us who think we’re okay without God might not see it this way. However, I still think you could say that we’re even *more* in need of being “born again” because then we will come to the realization that it’s Him that saves, not our good works. It’s not about what we do, but what He already did.

Each person has his/her own path to follow. Whether it starts at age four in Children’s Chapel, age 18 when entering a transitory period or age 40 after decades of hard living, each person experiences God and the message of Christianity in their own way. No one else can tell us whether or not our walk started in a “valid” way; it’s following Jesus and giving Him our whole hearts that matters most. I’m not the best at this, but I guess that’s part of the process that is the Christian life.

My cat Toby agrees, which I guess is as much of an ‘endorsement’ as I can expect. 🙂 He probably just wants me to feed him. Typical cat.

*Please forgive me the Matrix references. It was a big franchise when I was younger, back in the dark ages.


A Good-And Long Overdue-Change Of Mind

It’s not *my* change of mind I’m talking about here, although I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately. Don’t worry, I’ve got the fire extinguishers handy in case anything starts burning. 🙂

My friend J posted this on Facebook today, and I just felt the need to share it. It’s “old”, but it’s an interesting viewpoint on an issue that has been breaking my heart.

http://www.salon.com/2011/03/27/presbyterian_minister_changes_mind_about_gays/

I for one am glad to see someone change their stance on Christianity and homosexuality. It breaks my heart how hateful I’ve heard some of my ‘co-religionists’ being. Actually, I should probably say, ‘former co-religionists’, because I no longer belong to a church or denomination that would condemn someone for something they can’t control. To be honest, I’m kind of embarrassed to ‘claim’ some of the people this pastor says he used to be and that he mentioned being in his church. I’m including myself here too, since I used to be one of them.  There are even some people I used to know who I simply *can’t* claim. Here is a quote from the article that says a lot of what I feel:

The truth is, I was put out that this was an issue. Feeding the hungry, preaching the gospel, comforting the afflicted, standing up to racial intolerance — these were the struggles I signed up for, not determining the morality of what adults did in their bedrooms.

I don’t really understand why it’s an issue either. Aren’t there a lot more important things we should be thinking about as Christians trying to figure out how to best live our lives in service to Christ? I’m not saying that sexual sins shouldn’t be thought of because a lot of them should-things like adultery that can destroy marriages, pedophilia, etc. I just don’t see why this *particular* issue-the issue of which gender a person sleeps with-is really all that important, or even interesting. I’m not saying that all people who hold to the “traditional” view that homosexuality is a sin are somehow knuckle-dragging bigots; if I did that, I’d have to include some people very dear to me. It just bothers me that so much more attention is paid to this issue at the expense of others.

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Mental disorders are NOT adjectives!

I’m as guilty of doing this as anyone else. Thanks for calling me on it!

Youth Of A Nation:Bent not Broke

The most challenging part of changing or removing any thought or feeling (stigma) is removing it from our “self”. I genuinely feel that I do not want to be considered “normal” in a world where people accept disrespect, dishonesty, lack of compassion, empathy, and lack of unconditional love. Once you remove the stigma from yourself, and do not accept it from others, NO ONE can put that stigma on you….whatever they say has no meaning, if we do not accept it.

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How to be a good friend to someone with bipolar disorder

Hi, I’m [river in Ireland] (*cue twelve-step group greeting here*), and I have bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression. To people who have known me for a long time, this isn’t usually much of a shock. Actually, I take that back. People who have known me and been close enough to have seen some rough times aren’t usually that surprised.  As for everyone else, my friendly and talkative exterior can hide pretty much anything I want it to.  I’ve had to use this skill a lot in the past because I have had some people find out that I have bipolar and not be very nice about it. I think my favorite comment was that I was ‘demon-‘ or ‘spirit-possessed’. *roll eyes* Others think I’m not as much fun anymore since I have begun taking medication that doesn’t allow me to bounce off the walls like I did before. Still others think I’m just a freak. Of course, I was pretty freaky before, but that’s not the point. 🙂

The point is that people with bipolar disorder can be quite complicated; things can bother us that won’t bother ‘normies’, and our medications and treatment can take a lot out of us.  The disorder is very complex and there is more being learned about it all the time. There are various different symptoms or signs that can be mistaken as something else entirely, which makes it really difficult to figure out.  It can really screw with someone’s life.  For instance, it wasn’t uncommon when I was first diagnosed to get four hours a sleep a night for two weeks straight and clean the house up and down at 3 am**…only to crash the next week and not shower or leave my bedroom for two days.  That’s not even counting the episodes where I was crying and throwing things one minute and dancing a jig the next (only a slight exaggeration), with major swings like this happening in the same day.  It’s kind of hard to hold down a job when your boss can’t figure out what planet you are going to be from one minute to the next!  That’s not even talking about the medications and their side effects-I’ve been through several changes and can’t even keep track of them all. One of the medicines that worked the best for me also gave me shakes so bad I had to see a Parkinson’s doctor.  Another gave me gas you wouldn’t believe, and still another made me gain so much weight that I was nearly too fat to fit into my wedding dress! And you know what’s scary? I’m one of the luckier ones, because I can even take medicine;  I know some people who haven’t been able to find anything that doesn’t mix badly with their other medications, assuming they can find something that helps at all.

Bipolar has a strong tendency toward comorbidity-meaning, it often occurs alongside other similar disorders.  I’ve lost friends and had others change how they relate to me, although I have had some actually come closer because they had similar problems and felt I wouldn’t judge them.  Generally, though, it’s one of those things you don’t really understand very well unless you have it yourself.  In this spirit, I thought it might be fun to give sort of a ‘guide’ on the care and feeding of your bipolar friend. 🙂  So, let’s get started:

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