Living with bipolar disorder is like a perpetual roller coaster. It’s too hard a journey to make alone.
You Gotta Have Faith, Faith, Faith!
George Michael sang it best in his 80’s song “Faith.” Looking back on the past twenty years, as a woman living with bipolar disorder, I realize what has kept me going — my deep-rooted faith.
I was baptized as a baby and grew up Catholic. Beginning in preschool I learned about Christ and His endless love for me, and I felt His love early on. At the time, my parents didn’t realize what a gift they had given me, a gift I would need the rest of my life.
Growing up, we went to church Saturday nights, rain or shine. Afterwards we would go out to dinner, which helped when I didn’t want to go.
I attended Catholic school for the first few years of elementary school. I didn’t have the fire and brimstone experience that many other people had. I learned the Church’s teachings began to understand what being a Catholic meant. The Golden Rule says it all.
In high school I was actively involved in our church’s youth group. It was a strong, safe place to embrace my faith. My wonderful group of friends had the same morals I had. I have fun memories those years including pillow fights with our retreat priest.
It was my junior year things began to get rocky. One summer I experienced my first case of the blues. I felt like I was alone on a forgotten island. I could not snap out of it. My parents quickly identified that I was depressed. I was unhappy and sleeping excessively. Both bipolar and depression run in our family. My parents took me to my first psychologist, and I was able to beat the depression. Having faith helped me during this time.
My first manic high was on a cruise ship at age nineteen. I swear God was sitting in the same room. “This is incredible,” I thought. I didn’t want that experience to end.
My college years were a real roller coaster ride. I often experienced mixed mania. One minute I had faith, the next I was crying. It was exhausting having both feelings at the same time. I was taking Lithium then but was unable to stabilize.
The highs were typical, especially during the summer months. The lows were hell. I experienced them during the Iowa winters. I couldn’t get out of bed. I wanted to die because I felt that was easier than living.
We had a new church very close to my house. There I found solace in my faith. I attended Bible studies and volunteered with the youth group. One of the neatest experiences I had was a women’s retreat. Women shared their testimonies in the midst of tragedies. I realized I was not the only one struggling. I went to confession where I asked God for forgiveness for some of the poor choices I had made. It was like a weight was lifted off me.
Recently I wrote a book Some Dreams Are Worth Keeping. It took years, but during that time I was amazed at how God worked in my life. I understood clearly how He kept me out of harm so many times. He protected me as I experienced promiscuity resulting from bipolar. God never left me and, at the lowest times, carried me. He gave me a mom and dad who supported me through it all. He sent me a therapist who helped me though those college years. God gave me a best friend who stood by me. Because of God, I graduated college.
I couldn’t have traveled this journey alone. I believe without my faith, I would not be alive. So if you are struggling, know there is something to cling to in faith and the belief that things will get better. I have experienced it in my life, and I know you can too.