Coming Up From my Bipolar Basement

I’ve been lingering in the basement of my bipolar mind for some time, waiting for some storms to pass before rising to the surface. I’ve taken some risks. Due to a transition in prescription drug coverage and a financial shortfall, I tried to conserve on a couple of my medications to make them last through the end of the year (when the expensive one goes generic). I’m struggling to be productive in a new work environment.  I’ve veered from much creative writing to spend time promoting the indiegogo campaign for my mission. Not surprisingly – with fewer corrective chemicals in my blood, added external stressors, and less therapeutic releases, I’ve experienced a low-grade depression. To cope, I go into the basement.

Some people look negatively on those who escape to the basement.  They picture n’er-do-well not-so-young adults who still live in their parent’s basement, smoke weed, sleep away the day and watch television through the night. The basement becomes more a tomb than a womb.

For me, the basement of my bipolar mind is where I go when the warning sirens are sounding. I think.  I pray. I read and write, though not as much.  I stay connected to the world around me through social media. When the clouds lift and the “all clear” sounds, I take the steps upward one at a time.

As I write this, I’m noticing the sky is much clearer.

God has provided the resources for my medication for the remainder of the year and I am back on my prescribed dosages. My body chemistry is approaching equilibrium.

Thanks to the generous support of people around the world, we have exceeded our mission goal to publish Delight in Disorder.  Now, every dollar donated in the time remaining for the campaign will be used to promote the book on-line and provide seed money for a book tour. 

My responsibilities at work have shifted so I can better use my writing skills and my boss has shown a great deal of grace in accommodating my schedule to optimize my mental health.

I received an e-mail tonight which may be an indication that God is opening doors for me to discuss mental illness within faith communities throughout the state.

Yes, I believe the basement door has opened a crack and some light is shining in. It’s time for me to climb the steps.

Steps

Delight in the Works of the Lord

Praise the LORD!

I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart,

in the company of the upright, in the congregation.

Great are the works of the LORD,

studied by all who delight in them. (Psalm 111:1-2)

Praise is personal, but it is best expressed publicly. When people say. “Faith should be kept private,” I was to yell out, “How can I keep from singing?” If I hear a great song, see a marvelous movie, read a gripping novel, or encounter a compelling work of art, my gut reaction is to share the experience with others. How can I keep from praising?

Today I went to an extended family gathering. Not being a social butterfly, I typically observe others and wait to speak until I’m spoken to. I noticed the flow of conversation was about physical ailments – everything from excessive flatulence to herniated  discs to heart conditions.

In time, I was asked what I did. I talked about my memoir and mission to share hope with folks like me who have a mental illness as well as foster compassion within the faith community.

One woman seemed genuinely interested. (I was later told her ex-husband had bipolar disorder and had committed suicide.) She tried to engage others in a conversation about faith and mental illness but everyone uncomfortably looked down at their food. Very soon someone changed the subject to something more socially acceptable. Hemorrhoids, I think.

Mental disorders like mine can be intensely uncomfortable, even agonizingly painful at times, but there is delight to be found in the midst of the disorder. This delight flows from the Spirit of the Lord, who deeply desires that we share our delight “in the company of the upright, in the congregation.”

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Visit our mission site and help us reach our goal by 11/20!

Making Crazy for You (with Delight in Disorder)

As we enter the last week of our mission campaign for Delight in Disorder, I decided to go a little crazy. I made a Spotify playlist called Crazy for You (with Delight in Disorder).  It’s a fun-tastic blend of classic country (Patsy Cline, Hank Williams), blues legends (Buddy Guy, Billie Holiday), rock standards (Lou Reed, Van Morrison) and alternative twists (The Feelies, Toad the Wet Sprocket, Violent Femmes).

So spend an evening (or afternoon, or morning) going a little crazy. Maybe it will help you discover delight in disorder.

Crazy

Finding Divine Delight in Eight Disordered Days

It’s been some kind of week — full of peaks and valleys.  I feel like I’ve been “rode hard and put up wet.”

Last Saturday, we had a fall family gathering. 41 people showed up to eat chili and coney dogs, bounce in the bouncy house, discuss personality types around the fire and debate gun control around the living room.  A great time was had by all.  My dad was particularly in hog heaven, as he was presented with various hardware valves (including a spigot) and flexible tubes (including one with a light on the end) for his upcoming heart surgery.  I managed to respond well to the crowd (I usually hide in my room), and felt very energized by the event.

Sunday I crashed.  I missed church, and spent most of the day with my head buried in the television.  This is one of my coping strategies when I feel a depression coming on, but it’s not a very good one. Basically, I become numb and rather than face my feelings as they arise, I suppress them for later and they come out more aggravated, often attached to physical symptoms.

Dad went in for surgery early Monday morning.  A friendly chaplain (a nun, I think), was one of the first on the scene and she offered a lovely prayer.  Dad’s friend and pastor Marvin arrived with a deacon from his church, so he was well prayed for.  The procedure lasted about four hours.   They implanted a pig valve and transplanted a vein from his leg.  I wrote to Dad’s Facebook friends that, when he felt better, he would be “dancing on the inside and be happier than a pig in slop.”

My mood imbalanced started to come out as “mixed states.” These are like having porcupine quills all over your body, with nerve endings on the tips.  When people try to relate to you, you both get hurt.  I laid down in the family waiting room with my ear buds on, listening to soothing story songs and simply apologized for not being responsive.

I slept fitfully Monday and Tuesday nights, experiencing what some people call “night terrors.”  Mine come in the form of regrets over past decisions and images of a lonely, hopeless future.

Dad likewise had a tough row to hoe.  His heart went into “A-fib” and they put him on  an IV drip.  It took nearly 24 hours before it was back to a regular beat. He said it felt like he had run a marathon. To add insult to injury, they had to put him on an IV-drip of Lasix, so he could only sleep in 15-20 minute intervals before having to pee.

By Thursday, dad was again making progress.  So was I.  I finished a project at work. I did an update video for our Delight in Disorder indiegogo campaign, and had a very positive meeting with my pastor about membership.  He had read and enjoyed my manuscript.  My mood had leveled off by week’s end and I was looking forward to enjoying some Sabbath rest  on Saturday and worship on Sunday.

Unfortunately, it didn’t come to pass.  Again, I slept fitfully and wallowed in bed nearly all of Saturday and Sunday morning.  Dad made progress, though, and we brought him home Sunday afternoon.  This (and the smell of apple crisp my sister was baking) boosted my spirits some and I was able to write this thank you note (below) to those who had attended our party last weekend –

Dear family members,

We want to sincerely thank each of you for coming to our family gathering last weekend. 

As you may well know, Dad is a man who enjoys the simple pleasures of life –

… the taste of a fried bologna sandwich.

… the sound of George Jones singing “He Stopped Loving Her Today”.

… the sight of a hummingbird feeding on Connie’s homemade elixir.

Nothing pleases Dad more than the taste of a family feast, the sound of children playing in the bouncy house, and the sight of loved ones surrounding him.

As a token of our gratitude for your participation in this special day, we are including a CD of the great photos taken by Andrea.  We hope they might bring a smile to your face as they have to ours.

Dad has a big heart, and now, thanks to his new pig valve and transplanted leg vein, it should work as good as ever.  If not, thanks to your generous gifts of valves and hoses, he’ll have plenty of spare parts.

Thanks again and God bless,

Now, after downing a delicious dinner of jambalaya and fresh salad, I feel almost human again.  God is in his heaven and all is right with the world.  Or right enough for the time being.

Van Gogh

“Van Gogh” from Harry527

Reaching Out with “Delight in Disorder”

When I first conceived writing a spiritual memoir about my faith journey battling bipolar disorder, I had no idea where it would lead.  It took almost four years for the seed to really germinate.  In March of this year, after the suicide of Matthew Warren, I sensed a greater urgency that God was calling me to share the hope of Christ with my brothers and sisters who wrestle with mental illness and foster greater compassion among my brothers and sisters in the faith community towards those of us with “disordered minds.”

When God gives direction, He also paves the way for us to follow.  God guided me to Leanne Sype who first helped shape my disordered devotions into a marvelous house of meditations.  From March – July, Leanne helped me craft a second and third draft.  Once we felt we had a good working draft, Leanne helped me write a query and synopsis to see if a conventional publisher might pick us up. August and September was a “pruning season,” as God snipped away at branches that would not bear fruit.

In late September, after much thought and prayer, we came to the conviction that God was leading us toward self-publication and that the best path would be to recruit a team of gifted specialists to see that the final product was more “delightful” than “disordered.”  Lyn came on as a prayer captain. Nicole was brought in to design the cover and produce the video. Kevin has served as music consultant.

Friday night, I unleashed my Facebook Author Page, which already has 104 “likes.”

Sunday night, we unveiled our mission campaign on indiegogo – Delight in Disorder: Ministry, Madness, Mission which, as of this writing, has attracted 149 views, has 10 followers, and 5 funders for a total of $300 (towards a goal the $2,000 goal).

More than the numbers, however, God is reaching out through the mission campaign to share hope with those battling mental illness and promote compassion within the faith community.  Here are two testimonies that have already been shared –

 I just spent the morning getting to know a gal who is in the trenches of a heavy spiritual battle at this very moment. She’s fresh out of drug rehabilitation, looking at incarceration from past choices that she’s trying to clear up, and going to counseling with her non-medicated bipolar husband, all while FULLY knowing the Lord and clinging desperately to his promises and his will for her life… I was actually able to mention Delight in Disorder to her and share a little bit about the book and the mission. I showed her just the video on the campaign page and she started to cry. It’s already touching lives, my dear.

I appreciate what you’re doing with this ministry you’ve started. We have a son who has battled depression on and off since late elementary and sadly the church has sometimes been the last place we wanted to talk about it!  Keep up the good work—the church needs your message as much as the “disordered”!

Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

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For more information on our mission campaign, click on –

Delight in Disorder: Ministry, Madness, Mission

Stereotypes Suck

Reblogged from Writings and Ruminations:

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Bear with me while I have a moment…

I had an interesting conversation with someone very close to me who said, “The thing about stereotypes is they exist because more often than not, they’re true.”

It’s hard to argue with that.

The problem is, where does that leave the people who don’t fit the stereotypes? The people in the minority. Or even those in the minority of the majority?

Read more… 830 more words

Leanne marvelously battles the stigma of mental illness not with the sharp spears of political debate, but with the smooth stone of story. Thanks, Leanne!

Share “Delight in Disorder” with the World

Having served in ministry with madness, I now have a mission.  And I can use your help.

Help me share Delight in Disorder with the world.

Delight in Disorder is a resource we have long needed. We all need to hear from people who have struggled with mental illness and have found, indeed, that nothing can separate us from God’s great and redeeming love. This book is honest about the experience of living with bipolar disorder, and it’s full of compassion toward the many people whose own moods betray them so treacherously. It’s also full of hope—not the cheap kind we use to varnish over the truth about ourselves and about this life we live. But the only kind of hope that can stand when everything else falls: hope in Christ and his grace.  Amy Simpson — Author, Troubled Minds: Mental Illness and the Church’s Mission

We are on a mission to share the hope of Christ with people who, like me, wrestle with mental illness.  Our mission is also to foster the compassion of Christ within the faith community towards those that have often been  like bruised reeds broken by false accusations and wrongful judgments.

To find out more about our mission and, as the Spirit leads, offer your support, go to our indiegogo site by clicking on the following link –

May you be blessed as you are a blessing,
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For Hurting Hearts and Barely Burning Spirits

Behold my servant, whom I uphold,

my chosen, in whom my soul delights;

I have put my Spirit upon him;

he will bring justice to the nations.

He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice,

or make it heard in the street;

a bruised reed he will not break,

and a faintly burning wick he will not quench;

he will faithfully bring forth justice. (Isaiah 42:1-3)

The prophet Isaiah portrays God’s chosen One – the coming Messiah – as one who will set things straight in such a way that no undue harm is done – no “collateral damage” (to borrow a terrible euphemism). He brings justice to the nations faithfully not through fanatical force, but through spiritual sacrifice.

When Jesus of Nazareth entered Jerusalem, people formed a spontaneous parade — waving palm branches and crying out “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Matthew 21:9). They believe Jesus was their kind of Messiah – one who would lead an army to conquer Roman rule with military might and re-establish Israel as God’s kingdom on earth.

But the kingdom of Christ was not of this world. His mission was not to overthrow a government and his method was not to kill. His mission was to release captive hearts and his method was to die.

God does not force faith on anyone. God knows our hearts are like bruised reeds, our spirits like faintly burning wicks.  Instead of compelling us to believe and thereby destroying our souls, God gently offered up His son to accept the punishment for our sin. Christ died so we might live.

As we begin our Delight in Disorder mission in the coming days, it is essential to keep Christ’s Messianic mission and method firmly in our minds.  People with mental illnesses have been bruised by false accusations and wrongful judgments not just from the world, but from Christians as well. The Bible has been used as a weapon against already deeply wounded souls — and there has been terrible harm done in the name of Christ.

Please pray with me that our Delight in Disorder mission would bring the the healing of Christ and not break hurting hearts or quench barely burning spirits.

Jesus
from Ethelyn

“Troubled Minds” Author Endorses “Delight in Disorder”

I’ve been on quite a roller-coaster ride as we move closer to the indiegogo campaign (very soon) and publication (March, 2014) of my spiritual memoir Delight in Disorder: Ministry, Madness, Mission.   Last night I was telling my sister I had been cycling emotionally as well as craving alcohol.  By God’s grace and with prayer from friends and family, I’ve managed to stay safe, clean, and sober.  Yet, I’ve been fretting over many things, fearing that all I and others are investing in the mission might come to naught.

This morning when I checked my in-box, I noticed there was a message from Amy Simpson.

In 2012, Intervarsity Press published Simpson’s book Troubled Minds: Mental Illness and the Church’s Mission in which she shares the story of her mother, who has schizophrenia and the Church failed to respond to her needs or the needs of the family.  Troubled Minds offers a ray of hope in the end, highlighting a few church ministries across the country where there is some openness to folks with mental illnesses, but largely Simpson’s voice is a prophetic one — the Church is called in Christ to do more.

After reading Troubled Minds, I was inspired to write to Ms. Simpson first to thank her for sharing her story.  She very thoughtfully responded.  I then boldly asked if she might read my manuscript and consider offering an endorsement.  She graciously accepted.

Today, I received her response, with the following endorsement attached –

Delight in Disorder is a resource we have long needed. We all need to hear from people who have struggled with mental illness and have found, indeed, that nothing can separate us from God’s great and redeeming love. This book is honest about the experience of living with bipolar disorder, and it’s full of compassion toward the many people whose own moods betray them so treacherously. It’s also full of hope—not the cheap kind we use to varnish over the truth about ourselves and about this life we live. But the only kind of hope that can stand when everything else falls: hope in Christ and his grace.  

Yes, it has been a roller-coaster ride.  A delightful one.  And it’s only just begun.

I thank you, Ms. Simpson.  And I praise God from whom all blessings flow.

Sharing Delight in Disorder

Delight

Over four years in the making, my spiritual memoir – Delight in Disorder: Ministry, Madness, Mission has finally grown legs and is moving forward thanks in large part to an incredible team of young, creative, faithful artists I’m dubbing “Team Delight.”

Team Delight is comprised of….

Leanne came on board as editor back in March and has help shape a disordered collection of meditations into a delightful house of prayer.  She is now directing our indiegogo campaign to raise money for publishing costs and 100 advance copies.

Lyn has been a faithful reader and a strong supporter for many months.  She has recently become a prayer partner.  She will serve as the “prayer captain” for our Delight in Disorder mission.

Matthew  is a young Australian poet whose words both inspire and console.  He has contributed seven of his poems to Delight in Disorder.

Nicole was recommended by Leanne as a graphic artist who could design our book cover.  Working diligently and faithfully, she has conceived and produced a visual representation of Delight in Disorder that is riveting.  We have now contracted with her to produce a promotional video for our book.

David Zucker, a mental health advocate with University Presbyterian Church in Seattle has agreed to write the foreword.

Kevin – This past weekend, I had the pleasure of staying with Kevin and his lovely wife Megan.  We talked about Delight in Disorder.  On the drive home, I was inspired to contact Kevin and he has agreed to serve as musical consultant for our promotional video.  Kevin is also doing a beta-reading of my autobiographical prelude.

This is the current “starting six” for Team Delight.  There are others actively contributing to the mission, including –

– Pastor Andy, Gary G., Gary M are doing a “theological beta-reading” and serving as spiritual advisers.

Jen is doing a beta-reading.

I have also received offers to help from –

Katie of White Fence Media.

Iona of A Whispered Wind.

Chris from The Musings of C.p. Singleton42′s mind.

Rara of rarasaur

I have been tremendously blessed by this group of people.  I would encourage you to check out their websites and blogs.  If you pray, please pray for each of them.  I may be delusional (in fact, I have paperwork to prove it), but I also know there are very real “powers and principalities” at work preventing hope from reaching those struggling with mental illness.  Please pray for our mission – to share delight with those wrestling with disorder.

(image above from Hannah Zapf)