Addressing All Aspects

There was a point in my life, actually a couple months prior to my first episode, that I really felt like I was being used by God more than ever before. I was sharing my faith constantly, reaching out to others with insight from God and He was aligning so many things. It felt like I had some sort of divine appointment several times a day, and I was hearing from God persistently. Every direction I turned, there was an assignment for me, and I had so much joy being obedient to God’s call. I thrived living outside of my comfort zone for Jesus. Walking with Him was so exciting, a real life adventure of building His Kingdom on this earth. 

The thing about that season was that it was real, God really was working and moving, but timing happened in such a way that it was a lead up to my initial manic episode. It happened rather suddenly, and there was a shift from an obsession with Jesus to an obsession with being used by Him. This was when I began having a false view of reality, racing thoughts, grandiose ideas not based in truth. This is when the chemical imbalance manifested itself. This is when I got sick and ended up in a police car on the way to the hospital.

I’ve been extremely confused by the manic times in my life, trying to separate what was physical and what was spiritual. What was a chemical imbalance and what was Satan twisting the truth? What was a physical disease and what was a result of something spiritual?

I’m no professional, but over the years I’ve landed here. I DO have an illness that manifests itself through mania and sometimes depression. It IS a chemical imbalance that I cannot control. However, pride is something that I’ve always struggled with in my flesh. And let me tell you, that pride is on steroids the few times I’ve been manic. It’s magnified out of control so much so that I feel like I’m the star of a movie and the whole world is revolving around me. 

This is a result of the mania, but it’s definitely an issue of mine that seems to be blown up when I’m sick. It’s a twisted mess of imbalanced chemicals, my own pride, and Satan’s lies. This is exactly why I believe it’s so important to address both the physical issues of mental illness as well as the spiritual and emotional components. 

  • Doctors and medication, true provisions from God, are used to get those brain chemicals back in order. I take medication daily to manage my bipolar disorder, just as someone uses insulin to manage diabetes. It’s case by case for everyone as far as if they need medicine and what works for them, but taking medicine is NOT a weakness or something to be ashamed of. It’s not a lack of trust in God. It’s something He provides, a common grace from the Lord. 

  • Faith based counseling helps to understand your emotions. I’ve had phenomenal Christian counselors who have helped sort out feelings and provide an outside party perspective. They are professionals who have degrees, as well as the Holy Spirit to speak wisdom and truth. 

  • Digging into the Bible allows God to speak, and you learn more of His character. God has never used the Bible more powerfully than when I’m seeking truth to combat that lies that I believe when I’m manic. It’s the living, breathing Word of God. It’s where truth and hope and life is found. 

  • Christian community provides a shoulder to lean on, people to lift you up in prayer and support. I’ve had disciplers and parents who visited me daily in the hospital, a mom who moved up to my college town to help me graduate during a time of recovery, brothers in Christ who have rallied around my husband as he was acting as a caretaker for his new wife. I have amazing friends who have loved and supported me through thick and thin without judgement. Best of all, I have an incredible husband who loves me unconditionally and seeks after God’s heart, so that I can fully trust him. These people are absolutely crucial. 

  • An authentic, honest, and intimate relationship with Jesus is where healing and restoration are found. It’s where the power of the Holy Spirit defeats the Kingdom of darkness, and tramples over Satan and his lies. It’s where God overwhelms us with His love, displayed in the Gospel and in our lives moment by moment has He holds us so close. It’s where we find grace and forgiveness for our sins, and grow in our sanctification and holiness. It’s where our true identity is found, and where we discover who we are made to be. It’s life and life abundant. Hope and joy restored. 

This is a holistic approach to mental health and managing mental illness. I’ve been blessed beyond belief to have these resources, and they are why I can live a thriving life despite this diagnosis. It’s not because of anything I did, but truly because of the grace of God. But because I had these resources, I want to share with others how to find recovery. It’s very much case by case for each individual, but these things certainly come into play.

It’s fully possible to see and hear from God without being manic, this is something I’ve had a hard time with for years. But in fact, He is bigger and better than anything I could have come up in my own head and own strength when I’ve been sick. Don’t let an illness that you had no say in and no control over dictate the outcomes of your life. You can make it through, you’re not alone. God loves you. He loves you so much and He wants to use you. He wants you to use your pain to find purpose in Him. To use your brokenness to build His Kingdom. The adventure of walking intimately with Him is real and exciting, it’s true living. Give yourself fully to that adventure of each day, and know that He is with you. He is working and loving relentlessly, and He wants to work through us. He provides healing through many different means, and He wants to make you whole.  

Embracing Our Story

I have a passion for storytelling, and the desire to see people accept and even embrace the journey that makes up their own personal story. It’s taken some time, but I’ve grown to see the beauty of the path I’ve walked. My hope is that we can can discover the purpose of our trials, and ultimately encounter the passionate and furious love of God, the Savior who refuses to leave our side. Here’s a little bit of my journey:

As I’ve explained, when I was nineteen years old I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. This illness, a chemical imbalance that can be debilitating, led me to two hospitalizations in psychiatric wards throughout my time in college. After my recovery, I was convinced that things would never be the same. Fear suffocated me, my future seemed dim. I had a desperate desire to be normal, to accomplish my goals. 

I managed my illness but as time passed, I truly wanted to be married. With that desire came the lie that I could never be loved by a potential husband because of my disorder. I played the constant “what if” game. What if I get sick again? What if he couldn’t handle it? The questions haunted me, they caused me to doubt my confidence and not believe that I was worth being pursued. I couldn’t find freedom and acceptance of my circumstances. The cultural stigma created an ideology early on that I was somehow less than because of my diagnosis. 

At a time when I never imagined it would happen, a long time friendship with my now husband Tripp, blossomed into a beautiful romance and I found true acceptance from someone who had been there all along. On Thanksgiving of 2016, he proposed to me and we got married in April of 2017. Two months later, the inevitable happened and I had my third episode. This time, I had the love of my life by my side, who showed me the most unbelievable support and unconditional love through my mania. Through unwavering faith in Christ, we pushed through it as a team, and I was back to myself in a matter of a couple months. 

My greatest fear came to fruition as we dove into the unknown, and resurfaced more resilient than ever before. I now don’t just have a life that’s managed, but a life that’s flourishing. The experience infused my life with joy at the very time I least expected it. I talk about my illness often and provide support to those who currently find themselves where I’ve been. Simply put, I let them know they’re not alone. 

I now know that a mental illness doesn’t have to define you, but it can shape you. Bipolar disorder isn’t a crippling disease, but a means to connect with others and an opportunity to demonstrate that struggles have a profound impact in showing you what you’re capable of overcoming. I have a passion for breaking the stigma of these disorders, and show that with support and faith, no matter how long it takes, you can thrive. It’s never too late to have the life you’d always imagined, one that’s a beautiful expression of restored hope.

In this new year, I’m compiling stories of my own along with tidbits of insight, as well as stories of others. These stories will highlight those who have faced seemingly hopeless situations to do with mental health issues. Some have found freedom and restoration, some are still in the midst of it. Both stories are beautiful and worthwhile. Both showcase the redemptive love and power of Jesus - who remains faithful despite the hard things these issues throw at us.

Whether mental illness is something you deal with personally, know someone who deals with it, or you’re simply interested in learning more, stick with me through this new little venture. My hope is you’ll find a new perspective through the stories of others. We need each other, we need a personal relationship with God and experience of His love. We need openness and vulnerability when it comes to the hard stuff, a way to embrace our stories. 2019, I’m excited for what you have in store. 

I've Been There, Too

We were standing in the parking garage elevator. Freshman year of college had just begun, and I really was thriving. I became instant friends with some amazing girls in my dorm, pledged with the sorority I was hoping for, and classes were going great. 

The garage where we parked for our dorm was attached the campus hospital and we ended up landing on the floor that had a bridge to the psychiatric unit. I immediately began clicking the button to close the doors several times. “That’s where the crazy people are,” I said condescendingly.

This was the very unit I would find myself living in less than a year later. 

I guess you could say it’s ironic. Maybe humbling is a better word. All I know is that I was naïve to it, ignorant even. Bipolar I disorder runs in my family, but never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be diagnosed. I had it all together. I was normal. I wasn’t one of them.

I want to share that I too had a lack of understanding up until the time I was diagnosed. Even then, I didn’t necessarily understand it nor did I want to admit that I had a mental illness. However, my past misunderstanding and judgement has helped me to see the desperate need for an open door to discussion on the topic.

This is one of the reasons for Bright-Eyed. There’s so much confusion and shame surrounding mental illness, and only through support, resources and faith have I found a way to change my own perception.