Monday, September 8, 2008

Finding meaning in a life with mood disorder

My friend, Peggy, has just started "Mission 4 Monday".

The purpose of MISSION 4 MONDAY is to share YOUR MISSION each week.

I am thankful to God that I can continue to serve Him through this blog.

One of the missions of my blog is to share with others God's goodness and mercies to me in managing clinical depression and bipolar disorder, as well as resources that will benefit a person with a mood disorder and information for their family and loved ones.

Last week, I shared an article "Trust during rough times" which is an excerpt taken from a new book "A Firm Place to Stand" written by my friend and fellow blogger, Marja Bergen. Marja is also the author of "Riding the Roller Coaster: Living with Mood Disorders".

Today, I like to share another very encouraging article written by Marja for entitled "Finding meaning in a life with bipolar disorder". It is a personal testimonies of how God has enabled Marja to find meaning in a life with bipolar disorder. This article is reproduced here with Marja's kind permission.

Bipolar Disorder or previously known as manic-depressive illness is a mood disorder with extreme mood swings ie. manic/hypomanic and depression. It is a medical condition that can be treated.

It is possible for people with mood disorders such as bipolar disorder, clinical depression and other mood disorders to live a close to normal life with medical helps and other helps. Support from family and friends are crucial to their recovery and well-being too.

I am thankful to God that with medical and other helps, I am able to live a more functional and productive life.

It is my prayers that resources and testimonies shared on this blog will continue to benefit people with mood disorders and their family/friends who love them.

Finding meaning in a life with bipolar disorder
by Marja Bergen

Mental illness is not all bad. I have lived with bipolar disorder for over forty years and have found it has many benefits. I couldn’t imagine living without it and am not at all unhappy with my life. In many ways, I value what this illness has made possible for me.

With effective medication to keep symptoms under control, people with bipolar disorder can live a close-to-normal life. Yes, moods will fluctuate and cause occasional problems, and treatment will need adjustment. Suffering will always be part of my life. But I accept the way God, the Great Potter, made me. I am rich on many levels.

Like many people with this disorder, I am very creative. I receive a lot of pleasure from photography and using my imagination. The deep emotions I experience, although painful, are a source of richness; I feel completely human. My frequent hard times have helped me appreciate the good times and I make the most of them. Spiritually, I’m stronger for having had to deal with great trials. The fires I’ve passed through have refined me.

Most of all, I appreciate the compassion I am able to have for others who suffer from depression and other mental health issues. Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 1: 4 hold true for me. I praise God “who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received.” God has shown me his love, and I want to pass that love on to others.

Over the past few years, I’ve been fortunate to be part of a church community that has supported me and helped me grow spiritually. With the Christ-like love they have shown me, I have come to understand how great God’s love is. In turn, I now help others through a support group and one-on-one, in person and through my blog. I feel fulfilled. The language of suffering I’ve learned helps me connect with people in trouble. I am able to understand them in a way many others could not.

I feel a bit like Patch Adams in the Robyn Williams film. While Patch is a patient in a psychiatric hospital, he discovers his ability to connect with people. He learns to understand his severely disturbed roommate to see the person behind the illness and helps him through his problems. Not only does this delight Patch, it makes him a well man.

Patch eagerly tells his doctor he is well and needs to leave the hospital. I connected to another human being, he said. I want to do more of that. I want to learn about people. I want to help them with their troubles. I want to really listen to people. Connecting with other people gave Patch joy. It gives me joy, too. When God places you in this role a role he made for you joy happens. Walking with people through some of their toughest times is rewarding and a privilege.

Bipolar disorder will always be with me, and I suffer many high and low moods. But, I don’t feel I’m a victim of the disease. God has helped me find a way to make my illness work for me instead of against me.

‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’ (Jeremiah 29:11) God has a plan for each of us. Though we might have a severe illness such as bipolar disorder, God has work for us to do. Eventually, we can use what God has given us even the bad and turn it into something good.

Marja Bergen is the author of Riding the Roller Coaster: Living with Mood Disorders (Northstone, 1999) and a new book for Christians about living successfully with bipolar disorder (to appear). She is the founder of Living Room, a faith-based Mood Disorders Association of BC support group. Her blog,, deals with mental health and faith issues. She can be reached at

This article is published on the website of and reproduced here with the kind permission of Marja.

Here are some information about these 2 very useful books written by Marja:
Books by Marja Bergen:

1) Riding the Roller Coaster: Living with Mood Disorders

Mood disorders, such as depression and manic depression, affect up to 10% of the population. Marja Bergen is one of those people. Over the 30 years that she has had manic depression, she has gradually adopted a lifestyle that makes it possible not only to cope, but to live a full and productive life. In Riding the Roller Coaster, she shares very practical tips on such things as escaping the blues before they grab you, what to do when you don't feel like doing anything, and keeping life stable.

Reviews in the Media

Mood Disorders Association of BC

Robert Winram, Executive Director
This excellent first person account is filled with encouragement for those managing mood disorders. It delivers understanding, insight and very tangible strategies on how to overcome the difficulties of depression and manic depression. Marja Bergen gives us a very human perspective drawn from her experiences. Her path to recovery is exciting and positive.

Burnaby NOW
Annie Boulanger
The publication of her book is very timely as there are indications that mood disorders are a growing problem in the workplace.

Personal vignettes and real-life examples abound in Bergen's book, including frank descriptions of her own history, from her first treatments in Riverview, to problems adjusting medications in later years.

The book is easy to read, and while Bergen's style is warm and encouraging, it is also clearly written from her own experience.

The book is not only helpful to sufferers of mood disorder related illnesses, but also to their families to understand what it is that their family member is undergoing.

2) A Firm Place to Stand : Finding meaning in a life with Bipolar Disorder

"A Firm Place to Stand is a must-read for Christians who struggle with mental health challenges and the faith communities who minister to them.

For too long, society has misunderstood and feared individuals who live with mood disorders. This book dispels the lingering stigma attached to mental health conditions and encourages people to lovingly welcome the sufferers into congregations by understanding them better and supporting them in practical ways.

Most importantly, for the sufferers themselves, A Firm Place to Stand shows that it is possible to have a mental disorder yet be close to God and derive strong support from a growing relationship with Christ.

In her sincere and candid style, Marja Bergen reflects on her forty-two years with bipolar disorder, showing how faith in God can help a person with a serious illness turn weakness into strength. She describes how God transformed her from an insecure, withdrawn person into a leader, an activist, and the founder of Living Room, the growing Christian support group for people with mood disorders."

If you are keen to buy these 2 books by Marja, do check out Marja's new website.

Do visit Marja's blog, if you can, and get to know her. You will be greatly encouraged by her.

Hope the above article and resources are helpful to you or your loved ones/friends with mood disorders.

May God continue to enable us to know His love and mercies through all the changing scenes in life. May God enable us to love, pray and support our loved ones/friends with mental illness or mood disorders, and reflect Christ's love and compassion for His suffering people.

Thanks again for stopping by! Thanks for all your prayers and encouragements!

Take care and God bless :)

For more Mission 4 Monday posts, visit Peggy.


Anonymous said...

You are such a helpful blessing being used by God to help others. I love you my friend.

Anonymous said...

Blessings to you, Nancie. You are so good to share about your journey and offer assistance and guidance to others that walk this same road.

Happy Monday to you, my friend!

Anonymous said...


At the church we went to before we moved there was a gentleman there who had bi-polar disorder. He once went off of his medication and became very distraught. I know there is a name for it but I'm sorry, I don't know the proper medical term. He had two teenage children. I am happy to tell you that the church rallied around him. He was actually harmful even to himself. Everyone helped him with the children and helped him get back on his medication. He and his children are now doing well. It is the awareness of how to deal with the illness that made all the difference. I was proud of the way the church family rallied around him and didn't look down on him.

I have great hope for he and his children. And I have great hope for you and how you share with such boldness! May the Lord bless you and bless others as we learn about this and help others.

Anonymous said...

Blessings Nancie, I'd better comment while I have Power-both electrical, server, internet...
and physical&mental strength though
I'm a bit better.

I am so thankful to see you share in such honesty Marja's beautifully
written books and your own personal struggles and blessings.

I totally agree with both of you:)
IT IS SO TRUE! We can be thankful for WHO we are...and that we do have strengths even in our weaknesses. I appreciate that you make clear so many myths that people have and still carry...a stigma against others, even Christians treat people with mental conditions as somehow unloveable or untouchables like a plague but yet you have pointed out or Marja has that we are highly creative and functional as we cope with our difficult illness. I read her and all your links. This is excellent if only readers would take the time to read and hear these words!

I'm so glad and thankful for you sharing again on Mission 4 Monday in your MISSION sharing and exposing myths of bpd and how we can be more than conquerors thru Christ Jesus and our faith.

I'm sorry if being linked does not bring more readers or if your regular Bpd, mood not visit because of your great faith in God, and Jesus Christ as Your Lord and Savior. He is Our Healer and Our Great Counselor!

You have Overcome and learned how to cope. Earthly means may fail us at times but Our Heavenly Father will not fail or abandon us! You are a living proof of God's healing as you walk with Him and you have such words of wisdom and encouragement for everyone. That is the PLUSes of someone with a heart for God and empathy for people suffering from mental or physical illnesses. We each have a cross or thorn to bear and carry, to draw us to our spiritual need of a Savior & remind us, we can't make it alone but we can make a difference for others by sharing! Thank you once more for your inspiring words and those of Marja! God bless your week

Anonymous said...

Have you read the updates on Praying for Emily??? WOW! PTL!

You shared about her last week and took her under your wing and upheld in Prayers...she became a Mission also...and praise God..prayers are being answered!

Anonymous said...

Hi Nancie! You are a wonderful encourager and full of blessings from the Lord. I believe your openness about your journey will help and encourage many people. Thank you for your faithfulness!

I know you've been super busy, but I was wondering if you would play a little game with me. I love getting to know a bit more about my wonderful bloggy friends, so... You've been tagged! Please check out my "8 Random Things About Me" on my blog and then play along! Blessings! :)

Anonymous said...

I agree with just about everything written on this blog, by Nancie, the many other contributors, and especially Marja. I've pretty much run out of ideas on what "wisdom" I can pass on (though I do have some practical tips to share in the future).

So let me engage in a bit of light-hearted humor, something I'm known for in my "real-life"...

1. Crazy things I've done while clinically manic (OK, maybe just hypomanic):

(a) driven my car around town without my glasses on, while listening to loud heavy-metal rock music

(b) driven my car with bare feet

2. Crazy things I've done while perfectly normal:

(a) driven down Topanga canyon road in L.A., a very difficult twisty, dangerous road, with heavy-metal rock music blaring, and my brother scared to death sitting beside me

(b) While stopped at a red light, I got bored and distracted, and just drove right through without thinking, later horrified at what I had just done

(c) Stepped out of the shower with my wife pointing out that I had completely forgotten to rinse the shampoo out of my hair, and was now drying my head with a towel
(I've done this at least 3 or 4 times!)

By the way, although my wife always says "Rob - you daydream too much", or "Rob - you are blank minded", I have NEVER had an accident in 36 years of driving!
(I'm serious, not even a "fender-bender", just a few mild "bumps" with no damage at all to either car!)

Go figure.

(I'm also an extremely lucky person :-))

-- Rob
(I'd rather be crazy than normal!)

Anonymous said...

private message to Nancie:

Thanks for deleting 1c.

I don't know your visitors as well as you do, and I was worried that 1c might be a bit too much for some people.

I expect I'll post some practical tips in the future, mostly about issues like the importance of sleep, but I do think you have covered just about every important area so far. Clearly my illness is much milder than that of many other people, so I need to be careful not to offend people, when I am trying to help them.

I'll drop in again sometime.

Keep up the good work. I'm beginning to think that your illness is also not as bad as you have sometimes believed in the past.

I'd like to stay "anonymous", so I can be free to speak my mind.

Rob (a fifty-something guy from Canada, with an excellent driving record. No kidding!)

Anonymous said...

Denise: Thanks for your encouragement. I love you too my sweet friend :)

Melanie: Thanks for stopping by and your kind words of encouragement. May you have a blessed week!

Debra: It is very encouraging to read of the wonderful support your church family gave to that gentleman with bipolar. Praise God for such love and compassion shown to His suffering children! Thanks for sharing with about it. And thanks for your prayers and kind words of encouragements! May the Lord bless you too.

Peggy: Thanks for hosting Mission 4 Monday and encouraging me to participate. It has been a blessed and encouraging experience for me! Thank you for all your prayers and encouragements. Thanks for following up on Emily. Praise God for His mercies to her! I intend to share the update on WFW and TT with our friends who prayed for Emily. We served a great God!

Blessed One: Thank you for your encouragements! Thanks for tagging me. I will look into that when I have the time.

Rob: Thanks again for stopping by and sharing your experiences with me and my readers. Sorry I deleted 1c as I don't feel comfortable publishing it. Thanks for your understanding. Actually, I too have done "crazy" things during my hypomania but My depression is more severe and prominent than my hypomania. I am thankful to God for preserving and restoring me over the years before I knew this is due to bipolar and it can be treated with medication and other helps. I day dream a lot too :) Sometimes I seemed to be lost in a world of my own as my thoughts raced about :) Personally, I don't believe in luck but I believe in a loving and sovereign God Who watches over us. I am thankful to God for preserving you through your driving! May you know more and more of the love and mercies of God! Thanks again for stopping by. Do take care and keep in touch :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Nancie - thanks for sharing this. I have been here at your blog for a while now, just reading the many posts regarding mood disorders. As a frequenter of depression, I want to comment further, but I think I am going to read more first...

But, I wanted to just say thank you for sharing your Mission 4 Monday... I'll be participating in that meme soon, myself. Love and blessings! Cristine

Anonymous said...

Hi Nancie,

Thanks so much for your passion and dedication...I honestly had not heard about bipolar disorder before I started reading your blog. Thanks again and God bless.

Anonymous said...

Hi Christine and Sharon, thanks for stopping by and your encouragements. Thank God that we can meet through Mission 4 Monday and encourage one another. Take care and God bless!

Anonymous said...

I really appreciate your help, it is very useful for me,you will get good grades!