On Sunday evening, as I shared about Pray! Shirt Fridays and its beginnings, I dropped a phrase that I tend to use – “I struggle with bipolar.”
It was meant to explain some of what led me to open a business to support an idea that a few camp counselors had that could lead to a region-wide or nationwide movement. The phrase was meant to just explain away why I, a woman with plenty to do, would add more to her plate by ordering 500 t-shirts and starting a website for the business. It was meant to share a bit of who I am so that what I did made more sense.
Sometimes my words open doors in other’s minds.
Later on Sunday evening, as I prepared to roast marshmallows for the girl’s s’more, a woman approached me and said, “When you mentioned you ‘struggle with bipolar,’ what did you mean?”
What does that mean?
It was a choice of words, really.
I could have said, “I am diagnosed with bipolar tendencies.” Instead, I said that I struggle with bipolar. I could have said, “I take medication to control bipolar tendencies.” Instead, I said that I struggle with bipolar.
And this choice of words led to a conversation.
I am open to the conversations that come from the choice of words that I use. I want to be open to sharing my experience – as limited and new as is it – with others. So many people have said that they are shocked with how open I am with the struggles I have, but I am shocked that this is shocking.
We have to stop hiding our struggles from each other.
I know that a lot of our struggles are embarrassing. Why wouldn’t we hide our struggles? Why wouldn’t we keep things to ourselves? Who wants to share about not sleeping for days on end during a mania or about staying in bed for days at a time during a low?
What if hiding from each other is hurting each other?
By keeping all of our struggles to ourselves, we make them taboo. I am not advocating for us to just talk and talk and talk about what we are going through, but I am advocating for there to be more authentic community – especially in the church. Moving into a deeper relationship with others in our church community should be a goal.
This is really scary – I know that. As someone who is pretty open about her struggles, I have been hurt by being honest about what kind of day or week that it is in my life. It has not been easy being open about this struggle in my life. The thing is that I just do not know any other way to be. I cannot keep silent about what is happening in my head and in my mind because I have seen how much silence has hurt others in the past.
Silence about struggles hurts everyone.
When we keep silent about issues in our lives, others – who struggle with similar issues – feel like they have to keep silent as well. And this just makes everything bigger than it is. And it leaves us alone with our issues.
The worst feeling I have ever felt is that of being alone.
God never intended us to be alone. He is with us always, and He gave us community to surround us when we struggle. We are not meant to be alone, and God has provided us with each other to ensure that we are not alone. When we do not acknowledge this and do not share our lives with each other, we work against what God has intended.
I struggle with bipolar – I have been diagnosed with its tendencies, and I medicate to stay balanced. This is not something that makes me jump up and down with joy, but – if it is what I have in my life – I will share it with others because I have benefited when others have shared with me.
I say that I struggle because it is not easy to experience a change energy levels at the whim of my chemistry. I say that I struggle because it is not fun to know that today’s mania will only last so long and the productivity that I love will turn into a lack of energy that I tend to detest. I say that I struggle because this “disorder” is not something that is well accepted in the work place, the church, or just about anywhere. I say that I struggle because I get strange looks when I share about it.
It is a struggle.
We all struggle with something – physical, mental/emotional, or spiritual. Because of sin’s impact on the world, we struggle. And the best medicine out there will not be able to completely take away the impact of sin. When one disorder or illness has been knocked out, another will come along thanks to the impact of sin in the world.
But we do not struggle without the promise of redemption.
On Friday, I read the post of a dear young lady who serves in Africa. She typically blogs about stories of redemption, but on Friday she laid out a brave and raw post about the hard stuff without the redemptive ending. Her post hit me in the heart and reminded me that we have not been promised redemption now. That was never part of the promise, but the promise still remains.
So – I struggle, but I struggle with the hope that redemption for us all is on its way.
In His time…