“What was it like?” That’s the question opened up in the last entry. What is it like to go through a mental health crisis with a loved one?
As I begin to answer, it’s easier to start with the dragon.
Those two words leaped into my mind at the question. That’s what it’s like.
No quick fixes. No “better in the morning”s. No “take this and you’ll feel better”s. Medications for mental illness don’t work like that. They are slow and the brain is complicated. For Mr. B and I, we waited 8 weeks. (More, if you count the time it takes to re-establish normal life again afterwards.) That how long it took for the meds to take full effect and for Mr. B to feel stable again. Symptoms slowly, slowly receded; flaring up right to last day of 8 weeks. Symptoms such as paranoia, delusional thinking, high levels of anxiety, trouble sleeping, inability to focus or handle conversation, not to mention the unpleasant side effects of coming back onto the meds.
The difficulties I went through can’t even compare to Mr. B’s suffering during that time. He’s the strongest man I know; I love and admire him dearly for it!
But anyway, I’ve touched on the waiting. That’s easier to talk about than the other one — the agonizing.
A friend asked me the other day, “What was it like?” She was referring to walking through Mr. B’s mental health crash last fall.
Talk about a difficult question to answer! I’ve chewed on it for weeks. Even now, as I sit here, that little cursor is blinking at me. Blinking. Blinking. Blinking.
Where do I even start? I wonder if everyone who goes through a traumatic experience — even non-mental health related — has this trouble. How do you describe something so complicated, so painful, so beyond myself? They never dig into stuff like this in movies!
Imagine you have a fiery, terrifying, life-threatening encounter with a dragon; you narrowly escape, not only alive and whole, but somehow better off than you were before. Unlike the movies, you look back; the obvious is so humbling, so startling, so astonishing.
By no power of your own did you escape.
How do you describe not just the fact you encountered a dragon in all its terror but also encountered God in His faithful defense of you?
Jesus makes all the difference when you live in the land of dragons.
I wonder about Job.
Did Job have anything to be thankful for?
His children — gone.
His riches — gone.
His relationship with his spouse — gone.
His dreams, plans, and endevours — no doubt, gone.
His relationship with God — on the rocks, probably feeling gone, too.
If I was Job, what could I find to be thankful for? An occasional breeze. Ashes to sit in and express my sorrow. A roof over my head. A God who can handle all the wretchedness of my heart poured out.
No matter how bad a situation, there’s always something to be thankful for. Not even Job was forsaken of all goodness.
So much is broken and can’t be fixed.
How do I wrap my head around it? Never like other people. Never to be normal. Never to be able to do what others do, feel the ways others feel, be the way others are. In this life, it’s beyond reach. I’ve arrived at the edge of myself. I’ve discovered the full extent of what God has dealt to me for life.
God, of course, can fix all things. But sometimes He says no. Sometimes he choose to not fix it. That’s so hard to reconcile. This God I need so much, who is my only hope and help, does nothing. Where is His love in this?
His love is in eternity. There, someday, in heaven, Satan and sin and suffering He will do away with forever. I will know with sight what I now take by faith. Jesus shared this walk, this suffering, these momentary hardships. He shared my heart, and my pain touched Him as deeply as it did me. He helped me carry it, after all. I will see the great glory of a God who let evil try to do it’s worst, and he conquered nonetheless. Even more, I’ll see the God who privileged me, who let me be a part of it all, by allowing this suffering in my life. All will by more than recompensed.
“For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (2 Cor 4:17-18)
Someday. There in heaven.
Here be dragons.
Old medieval maps used to have dragons, monsters, and sea serpents drawn over uncharted regions. They marked the places nobody had gone before.
I like to think that way of bipolar. Here be dragons!
I’ve know others with bipolar besides my wonderful Mr. B. Each struggled with different symptoms, different traits, a different angle of the same illness. Even within bipolar diagnosis, no two are the same. Life with bipolar is new territory. Some may have gone over similar territory — doctors, counselors, therapists, psychologists. Advice from these are useful, no doubt. Yet they do not live this bipolar life with us. We are charting the uncharted.
None have gone where we are going, except One. Psalm 139:7-12. He it is that has plotted our course. He it is who is our Guide. He it is who governs all things. I’m so thankful He walks here with us!
Life with bipolar is a grand adventure.
It’s been awhile, huh?
Such is the nature of mental illness, or any chronic illness really.
To most of society, dropping off the map isn’t acceptable. But illness doesn’t care about what society thinks. Plans, hopes, and habits collapse when illness takes hold. Consuming all time, all focus, and all energy, it leaves no room for anything else. Everything becomes bent on the long climb away from illness, back to functional, back to feeling okay. Yet such summits provide no security. I cannot tell when the ground will crumble again. I only know, with illness, it’s a matter of “when,” not “if.” Being off the map is a fact of life; this is our normal, for Mr. B. and I. Sometimes society understands; sometimes it doesn’t.
I’m glad that God doesn’t think anything of being off the map. Sometimes, He takes our lives that way on purpose! Yet, His plans are always good, full of His love for us, on the map or off.
Mental illness is ugly.
Don’t get me wrong. People with mental illness are wonderful, beautiful fascinating human beings worthy of respect and dignity.
But mental illness, when it manifests, is ugly. It’s ugly the way death is ugly, the way sin is ugly. If you’ve ever been to a funeral of a family member or a friend, you know. No attempts to pretty it up or make it easier do any good. Death is profoundly unnatural, as something not intended for this creation. It’s a vandal’s mar on the canvas of a skilled painter. So it is with mental illness, with any sickness really.
In the face of such ugliness, I’m glad Jesus is coming back to fix it all.
“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” (Rev 21:4-5)