I have been struggling again as of late, with depression. It sucks. I am tired of taking medication. I am sick of being bipolar, and I wish I could have someone else’s life right now. Can you tell I am having a pity party these days?
For those of you who don’t know my story, here it is. When I was thirty-one years old, I was diagnosed bipolar. It’s not something I’m ashamed of. It’s a truth that I am proud to share, and I hope it will give you pause to realize mental health is not about mental weaknesses, or lack of character or even about mental disorders. Mental health is about medical health, it’s a disorder of the human body and as such it deserves a post from me this week.
Being bipolar is not something I focus on a lot these days. I admit life is good for me. I don’t struggle often with debilitating depression or spend my days in the grips of mania. No, for me these days it’s pretty smooth sailing, a fact that I am grateful for every day.
But life hasn’t always been that way for me. There were many years that were an absolute nightmare. Really, a living nightmare. I was suicidal. I struggled with debilitating anxiety. I had many a sleepless, manic night. For me, life was one long endless day of agony. I could barely function.
But people didn’t know that about me. I was good at hiding my misery behind endless smiles and “I’m good,” responses to the “How are you’s,” we ask of each other.
I was dying inside, but no one knew it. I don’t know why I didn’t share. I think I was embarrassed and more than a little bit ashamed of my condition. If people saw what was going inside of me, I was pretty sure they would lock me up.
In fact, one afternoon while visiting a friend in the hospital, I stopped on the wrong floor and realized that I was on the psychiatric unit. A sense of shame and embarrassment filled me. This was me, though no one knew. I was crazy and that understanding filled me with shame.
Shame. Embarrassment. Fear. Loathing for myself. These were the emotions that filled my thoughts and feelings about myself every day. And so I suffered on and on in silence.
People have asked me why I’m so up front about my diagnosis. It’s because I’m not ashamed any more. I’m not embarrassed, and I don’t loathe myself. I am healthy. I am on medication that works for me, and I love life.
I don’t want one person to have to suffer silently like I did those many long years. You can recover. You can lead a healthy and productive life. Stop trying to hide behind those fake smiles and “I’m all rights.” Most importantly remember, there is hope. There is always hope. So, reach out and get the help you need and stop living life in the shadows. Step into the light of the truth that being mentally ill is not your fault and let that truth set you, your mind and your heart free forever.
Remember the story of Joseph—how he went from a favored son, to a slave, to a household legend, to a prisoner, and then finally to second in command over all of Egypt?
Do you ever wonder as I do, why God dragged him through the mud so much? What he was trying to accomplish in Joseph’s life during those down times?
Lately, I’ve been thinking about Joseph’s story, the ups and downs of his life and wondering if there was a reason he went through all he did—maybe there was a point to his becoming a slave and later on a prisoner.
I think what impresses me most about Joseph is the fact that no matter where he was in life, no matter who was watching, he gave everything his best effort. His absolute best. And after a while, people began to notice. Potiphar noticed and put Joseph in charge of his household. When Joseph was sent to prison, the jailer noticed and made Joseph a kind of honorary deputy. Finally, Pharaoh, king of all the land, noticed and put Joseph in charge of everything, except himself of course.
So what’s the point of my rambling. Well, it’s this. My time as a stay-at-home mom is coming to a close. Next year I will be teaching full time as a special education teacher. I’m super excited. This is what I’ve been working toward and waiting for these last couple of years. It’s been a long process and it’s good to know I’m on the other side of it.
But here’s my point, all those years that I was a stay-at-home mom, no one saw what I did. No one noticed if I put in extra effort, extra hours, extra energy to raise my kiddos to be the best they can be. No one paid attention and what’s more, no one probably cared.
But God did.
God paid attention. God cared. And God kept track of what I was doing. I have to believe that all those years of hidden work were his way of preparing me for this next stage in life.
What are you doing now that remains hidden from everyone’s eyes but God’s? What do you do when no one is watching? How do you spend your days? No matter what you’re doing in life right now, remember that your moments matter to God, so make them all count. Even the parts when no one is watching, except, of course, God.
1 Timothy 5:25 New International Version (NIV)
25 In the same way, good deeds are obvious, and even those that are not obvious cannot remain hidden forever.