~~ Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV84)~~ Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.
by Carley Cooper
|My dog, Casey is afraid of Chicklet, our lovebird.|
Casey: "Mommyyyy. It's gonna hurt me. Help!"
Photo by Carley
Are you a ‘glass half full’ or a ‘half empty’ kind of person? Do your clouds have silver linings? Everyone in this world has to struggle and go through hard times. It is how we were designed to learn. Sometimes learning that is, in itself, one of those struggles that must be overcome. Every struggle, battle, and side trip is a lesson or a series of lessons to be learned. If we are not paying attention we can miss some very important signs that are meant to guide us on our journey. Of course, this applies to the good times as well. Even if you have a very difficult time seeing the bright side, you need to be creative enough to turn it into a usable lesson.
This concept reminds me of a lesson in my Interior Decorating studies many years ago. Almost every house has some sort of niche that you wish was not there. Surely your house has some sort of odd corner, alcove, or unusual shape to a room that seems to prevent proper furniture placement. As decorators we are taught to turn this into a positive thing. Use it to create an attractive feature that you could not have without it. Another example is from my healthy living program. There are so many people trying to lose weight and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Many times I have read blogs by these individuals listing, for example, “75 Things I Learned from my 75 Pound Weight-loss”. People are finding unexpected blessings in their times of trial.
One of these struggles for me has been my battle with Bipolar Disorder. Sharing my story is something that I like to do because, like sharing weight-loss stories, it is encouraging to others giving them hope, as well as a reminder to myself about how far I have come. Battling with this health issue has taught me a great many things. A few of these things are:
- I have learned that I am never, ever to give up. Do not quit and you will not be a failure.
- I have learned more details about the disease than I ever thought I wanted to know (symptoms, characteristics, treatments, etc.).
- I have learned that I am not alone. There are many people out there suffering in the same way.
- I have learned that no matter how severe my depression episode should happen to be... I know that my mood will be going up very soon. I also believe that one day, in God’s timing, my mood will go up for the last time. There will be a day when I will no longer hit a rock-bottom depressive episode. I believe the day is coming in my future when I will no longer be Bipolar. A special friend once said to me “It is when things look impossible, that God does His best miracles”... but the key is that you have to have faith in Him. You have to repent from your sins and let God mould your heart to be like that of Jesus.
- I have learned (thanks in part to my healthy living journey) that there are certain foods that can trigger bad episodes in me. I know what foods I am to stay away from; what foods contribute toward keeping me from going into a severe depressive episode or a severe mania period; and how to strive for a healthy lifestyle.
- As a result, I have also learned a huge amount of nutritional information.
- I have learned the importance of regular exercise for my mental health.
- I have learned just how much of a gift that music (especially Worship Music) can be. Many days music is the wall that keeps me from falling into depression.
- I have talked about my battle with Bipolar before in an earlier blog entitled “The Truth”. I have learned, as I said in this previous article, that Bipolar is “not a choice, a sin, a crime, a weakness, or a character flaw”.
- I have learned that mental illness is not something to be embarrassed about, afraid or ashamed of.
- Through some amazing therapy and recovery programs offered in the area where I live, I am being taught how to “reprogram my brain” by learning how to change my thinking. As a result, I have learned that:
- Bipolar does not mean that I am broken.
- It is not my fault.
- I am not crazy.
- I am not bad.
- I am trustworthy.
- I am loveable.
- I am good enough.
- I belong.
- I am worthy.
- I have learned that the stigma placed on me is not who I am. Those negative beliefs by others are false, uneducated, shameful, and fearful; and are not connected to the truth. I was told once that “you do not know how to count your blessings, because if you did then you would not be depressed”. This kind of uneducated lie from the enemy is exactly the kind of stigma that the public needs to be educated about. More and more, science is proving that mental illness is indeed a physical disease. It is caused by chemical and hormone imbalances, and personally, I believe; also from chemicals, preservatives and artificial sweeteners in our over-processed food supply. Those of us, who suffer from mental illness, have known this for years because often the physical symptoms show up before the emotional symptoms.
- I know that judging others by their appearance; or rather by their Bipolar, is about as efficient as judging a book by its cover.
- I have learned to reach out for help and support when I need it.
- I have learned that I am incredibly strong. I am stronger than I ever would have thought I could be. I have to be or it would be impossible to survive this; especially considering that I am doing it as a single woman living alone. With all the wonderful support I get from family, friends, counsellors, church family, and my medical-care team; when I am at home, I am alone. If I cannot care for myself, than who will? Thankfully, I am a child of God and He has sent Jesus, to take care of me.
- Depression is the place the enemy wants many of us to stay; even those without Bipolar. I have learned that this place is a glimpse of just how dark and scary the world would be without God. I have learned that I do not ever want to go there.
With all these points mentioned, I believe that the biggest lesson I have learned is that I need to turn to God whether I am at the bottom or at the top. I cannot get back up out of the pit of depression, or come down from a mania period, or stay supported and stable at a healthy level in between; without Him. No matter what level I am on, I need Him. Whether you are going through a stressful period or a happy period, listen to God’s voice. He is trying to teach you something. God has designed every struggle to bring us closer to Him and to teach us how to lean on Him. Look for the silver lining in each and every cloud. After all, no matter what kind of mess you are in right now, there could be much scarier things chasing you!
(I welcome you to share your stories with me in the comment section below. I would love to hear them.)
~~ Dear God ~~ Your ways and Your understanding is beyond anything that I can comprehend. They are perfect. No path I can choose, no solution I can apply is as perfect as those that You have already set in place for me. I thank You for leading me closer to You with each and every day; and for moulding my heart to be like that of Jesus. Open my heart, mind, eyes and ears to receive the message of love that You are sending me. Please make me willing and able to receive that message, and give me opportunities to share it with others. Help me to see the silver lining in every cloud, and use me to teach others about mental illness. In Jesus name, AMEN.