Happy Birthday to Me
Usually, when I write, I have the audience in mind. I picture people reading this and try to think about how they might react, how my words might affect them, what they might think of me. In full disclosure, today, this post is just for me. I'm writing to an audience of one, myself. What's more I'm okay with that and here's why.
Last month, during the month of October, I wrote a series called The Pieces of the Puzzle. It was a good series and one that I hope is helpful to others. However, I was a bit hasty in writing that my final piece of the puzzle The Pieces of the Puzzle, Part IV, had been laid and the puzzle was now complete. There was a final piece that was missing unbeknownst to me. The piece of self acceptance.
You see, the truth is, I have never really accepted this crazy brain of mine, the bipolar in me. In the dark and secret places that no one likes to look into, I had always blamed and hated myself for this disability. I was ashamed of it, afraid of who I was, unwilling to accept that I didn't make myself this way. I lived in a state of self-loathing and self-hatred.
Here's what that feels like. When I was little, my grandpa used to play a "game" with me that was, in fact, no game at all-one that I hated. He would ball up my two fists in his own and begin to pretend to hit me with my own hands. Then in a taunting voice, he would say, "Stop beating yourself up, Nici. Why are you beating yourself up?" That "game" haunted me for a long time and recently, I've had to come face to face with it.
You see, instead of using my own two fists to beat myself up these past 47 years, I've actually been using shame and self hatred to do the job for me. It was a constant pummeling as I compared myself to others, always thinking I was never enough and everyone else was better than me. What's more, I was constantly feeling like I was missing the mark. It was a terrible dark and lonely place to be. I am happy to report that these days, I am learning to put shame and self hatred into God's hands and let him teach me how to love and accept myself for who I am, even the parts of me that are "crazy", even the parts of me I don't understand.
Here's the deal with having a mental health disorder. While it's true you can't always trust your mind, you can trust your heart. Before I was diagnosed, the Bible was my go to, particularly the Psalms. I found so much comfort in them, especially in the Psalms of David. I always wondered why his psalms spoke to me so clearly. If you read the psalms of David, his thoughts bounce around more than a pinball in a pinball machine. He almost writes as if he were, well, unstable. You know something else about David? He was called a man after God's own heart. Maybe David couldn't always trust his brain, his thoughts, his emotions, but he could trust his heart, because it was patterned after God's.
Here's what I've come to realize about being diagnosed with a mental health disorder. I think God likes a bit of crazy- a person who can't always trust their mind, certainly learns to trust their heart. More importantly, they learn to trust the God who made their heart. So, here's why I wrote this post for myself and here's where I'm standing on this, my 48th birthday. I accept myself, in this moment and hopefully forevermore, for all that I am-the good, the bad and the ugly. I've put the fists of shame and self hatred down and am letting the God who knit me together in my mother's womb, wrap me up in his everlasting arms and teach me to love myself.
I won't write again for awhile. Look for a post in the spring, after I've had a season to rest. Here's my final thoughts. We are in a mental health crisis in our country for a reason. While I might have a formal diagnosis, I'm not the only one who struggles with anxiety, depression and racing thoughts. The difference? I've had to learn "all the tricks" to living a full and healthy life in spite of the mixed up bag that comes with being bipolar. I hope my Pieces Series has been helpful. More than that, my prayer is that it would make a difference to those who find themselves trapped in a prison of shame and self hatred. My prayer is that what I've learned, what I've experienced, what I've written would help many find their own path to freedom. 'Til next time.
Susan Mandl Tafini
12/3/2021 08:39:26 am
Thank your for sharing. My oldest daughter was diagnosed with bipolar 2 this past year. Leaning to deal with how her brain works has been a challenge. Prayers for all who have mental issues.
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