Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Blessings in bipolar

Recently, I am learning to count my blessings through all the ups and downs I have experienced due to bipolar. Bipolar is a chronic and lifelong condition, but with effective medication and other helps to keep symptoms under control, it is possible for most people with bipolar disorder to live a close-to-normal life. It is encouraging for me to read of others who are able to see their bipolar in a positive and beneficial way, and also to strive to achieve wellness despite the great pain and suffering they have gone through. I am prompted to count my blessings through my own experiences and make use of them for God's glory and the benefit of His people, and other sufferer of bipolar and depression.

Bipolar alternates between mania/hypomania and depression, and I believe there are blessings to be derived from both conditions. Though depression is awful and painful beyond words, there are still many precious lessons and benefits I can derive from it. Mania/hypomania also has its advantages and disadvantages. Going through both of these experiences have been enriching to me, though it used to be confusing at one time before I was diagnosed. Now I can look back and see how I grow through each experience.

I share Dr Kay Redfield Jamison's sentiment when she describes how bipolar has shaped her life. Dr Jamison is a Professor of Psychiatry at the John Hopkins University of Medicine. She has bipolar and she authored a very excellent book "An Unquiet Mind", on her personal experiences of bipolar and how it shaped her life and profession. She is able to appreciate her bipolar in terms of her creativity, her passion and energies. She is also one who is determine to master her illness and make use of her gifts of intellect to make a difference. She wrote:

"So why would I want anything to do with this illness? Because I honestly believe that as a result of it, I have felt more things, more deeply; I had more experiences, more intensely; loved more, and been more loved; laughed more often for having cried more often; appreciated more the springs, for all the winters; worn death "as close as dungarees," appreciated it - and life - more; seen the finest and the most terrible in people, and slowly learned the values of caring, loyalty, and seeing things through. I have seen the breath and depth and width of my mind and heart and seen how frail they both are, and how ultimately unknowable they both are. Depressed, I have crawled on my hands and knees in order to get across a room and have done it for month after month. But, normal or manic, I have run faster, thought faster, and loved faster than most I know. And I think much of this is related to my illness - the intensity it gives to things and the perspective it forces on me. I think it has made me test the limits of my mind (which, while wanting, is holding) and the limits of my upbringing, family, education, and friends."

I thank God for some blessings which I can find through the ups and downs of my bipolar, such as:

1) God is more and more precious to me each day. Through all the pain and sufferings I have gone through due to relapses of severe depressions, I am made sensible of God's presence with me, in preserving me, restoring me and delivering me. I would not have been able to survive any of the episodes without God's mercies and grace. I am also drawn nearer to our Lord Jesus Christ over the years and sanctified by Him, so that I can be more useful for Him and to others. Through every severe depression episodes, I will experience as if God has forsaken me because I could not think or feel aright and therefore cannot feel God's presence with me. Whenever I am better or well, I cherish every opportunity to attend public worship, to do my personal devotions and to pray.

2) God's Words, the Bible, becomes more and more precious to me as I learn to derive much comfort, encouragements, strength and direction from it when going through my most difficult days. I began to understand some things that were written in the Bible in different ways after going through those ups and downs. It was also through some severe depressive episodes when I could not be sensible of God's presence with me that I searched deeper into the doctrines of salvation, sanctification and glorification. I appreciates these great doctrines and their impact on our life, and our blessed hope in them because of what Christ has done for us in laying down His life and delivering us from eternal damnation.

3) I learn to value my family, loved ones and friends as I experience their love and kindness through many ways. My mother took care of me while my church prayed and encouraged me, and provided for some of my needs. I have friends who stand by me although they may not fully understand what I go through. My friends also kindly accept me into their fellowship when I am better and ready. I thank God for them.

I read somewhere that True Friends are those who know all about you and still like you, and True Friends go through thick and thin together. I thank God for some friends who continue to accept me with all my weaknesses and didn't despise me because of my mental condition. No doubt, I lose some friends over the years because of my condition, but I gained so many more. Thank God.

4) Like Marja, Dream Writer, Michelle, Susan, Amanda and many people with this condition, I am rather creative. I receive a lot of pleasure from writing, photography and making homemade crafts and gifts for my friends. I believe it is due to this reason too that by God's grace, I am able to develop this blog at this time.

I find writing therapeutic for me personally. I am also grateful to know that others have benefitted from my writings or sharings, or links on my blog. Ever since I started this blog, readers searching on topics regarding bipolar or depression have been directed by search engines to find my blog. WordPress helps me to keep track of these searches and I am heartened to know that others may benefit from my writings and links I placed on my blog. I hope it can help others who suffer from bipolar or depression, to know that they are not alone and there are various help available.

I am also enjoying photography a lot. I am able to enjoy God's creations in many wonderful ways when I started brisk walking and regular exercise. I love to go to the beach and watch the waves. They remind me of God's sovereignty and love. No matter what He allows us to go through, He will never leave us nor forsake us, and He is working all things for His glory and our good. I derived much joy and satisfaction in taking photos of the beach, waves, flowers, etc.

View some of my favourite photos at my facebook profiles:

a) East Coast Beach, Singapore on 21 November 2007

b) Changi Beach, Singapore on 1 January 2008

c) Some flowers and a small garden I took during my brisk walks

d) Some flowers and plants I took during my brisk walks

5) The deep feelings and experiences I have gone through made me what I am. I appreciate life because of the near death experiences I have gone through, and I cherish each day that the Lord has given me to live for Him and serve Him. The many difficult times I have gone through helps me to appreciate the better times, and I make the most out of it.

6) Due to the pains and sufferings I have gone through, I feel for others deeply even though I may not fully understand what they are going through. I learn to show compassion for others and to pray for them, and encourage them. I try to comfort them, whenever possible, with the same comfort which God has comforted me.

7) Whenever I am better or normal, I am sometimes hypomanic - so I have more energies, more ideas and able to do more things. I can take on more projects and can accomplish much more. I do need to moderate myself so that I don't overstrain as prolonged overstraining may bring about a relapse of severe depression. So I am learning to make use of my up time to accomplish more for the Lord, my family and friends, and for our societies at large. That is one reason why I am developing this blog so that it can help others.

To be continued ... still counting my blessings :-)

Dear Reader,

If you too have experienced some blessings from your depression, bipolar or other medical conditions or illnesses, or trials and afflictions, why not share with me and other readers for our encouragement? It is good for us to count our blessings daily so that we can grow and be enriched by our experiences in life, whether it be the ups or the downs. None of these experiences are wasted. They happened for a purpose and they have a lasting effect on us. May we grow through these experiences and make the most out of it for ourselves and others.

You can also email me at Thank you.

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