Category Archives: Peace Shalom Hesed
We all take hits as we go through life. Some of them are just par for the course. Illness, minor injuries, car needs a new transmission, expensive home repairs – that kind of thing. Shit happens. We learn to deal with it. We cope.
Other hurts come from our own poor choices. We make mistakes. We mess up. If we’re emotionally healthy and mature, we own our errors, face the consequences without blaming others, and take steps (maybe with the help of a coach or therapist) to repair, reconcile, learn from and do better.
Then there are the hurts from other people – jilted, cheated, abandoned, divorced, betrayed. We enter into the long, hard task of forgiving so that we can be free.
I’ve written a lot on forgiveness and how to do it:
We get hurt by circumstances, by our own choices, and by the thoughtlessness of others. We can also be abused and hurt by systems and institutions. Those are often harder to deal with because we can’t attach a face to the abuse.
When a woman cannot advance in top leadership because of a glass ceiling no one recognizes, she’s fighting systemic patriarchy.
When Native or African American children have no access to nutritious food, safe housing, and quality education, they are crippled by systemic racism that dates back to the founding of the nation.
When a man works for a corporation for 35 years and then is tossed aside with less than adequate pension and benefits, he’s being damaged by corporate greed.
Religious institutional abuse may be the worst of all because religious institutions are where we’re supposed to find grace, acceptance, and salvation. When a clergyperson uses their position to sexually assault someone, they victim has been hurt not only by the perpetrator, but also by the institution that trained, ordained, and installed the perpetrator in that position of authority. Maybe the institution also protected the perpetrator, minimized the hurt, or denied it and sept it under the rug.
Racism, misogyny, nationalism, institutionalized religion, consumerism, toxic capitalism, and militarism consume multitudes. People are used, used up, and tossed out. Human beings created in the image of God are trampled underfoot.
There is healing for all the hurts. Deep wounds take a long time to heal. We need the skills of soul doctors, spiritual guides, loving souls who can point us to the ultimate Healer.
Mark 12:41 [Jesus] sat down opposite the treasury and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. 42 A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. 43 Then he called his disciples and said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury.44 For all of them have contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.” (NRSVUE)
Such amazing freedom this impoverished widow had –
Clinging to nothing, but rather,
Freely giving all to God, knowing
God would take care of her.
As free as the birds of the air and
The lilies in the fields.
In times past, I pictured her old, bent, in rags,
Walking with a cane; but now I see her as
Ageless, happy, joyous, stepping lightly with
Sparkles in her eyes, full of peaceful contentment.
I like to imagine the women who were always with
Jesus rushing to her with love, embraces, and joy –
Taking her into the fold – this widow now joining the
Disciples at Jesus’ feet, learning and loving; with
Him at the Passover Seder, aghast at the mock trials,
Weeping at the scourging post and the cross;
Dancing with the risen King,
Aflame in the upper room.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 4.4% of Americans are affected with bipolar disorder sometime during their lives. PhD level psychologists and psychiatrists (who are MDs) are the most qualified to make a diagnosis. Similar symptoms can be induced by certain drugs (including alcohol), or caused by a medical condition like Cushing’s disease, multiple sclerosis or stroke. So, you need a qualified person to make the diagnosis.
Bipolar disorder was previously called Manic-Depression, or Manic-Depressive Psychosis because the illness is characterized by wild mood swings. All of us have days when we’re up and feel energized, as well as days when we feel down in the dumps. That’s normal. People with bipolar have extreme manic phases when they have so much energy, they work nonstop without sleeping, sometimes for days, followed by episodes of deep depression where they may become suicidal. Their highs are higher and their lows are lower.
Medication is needed for anyone who is bipolar because the disease is caused by an imbalance in chemicals in the brain. A psychiatrist is by far the best person to prescribe medication for any mental illness, and will also want to follow up regularly to adjust the dosage. Too much can be toxic. Too little won’t do much good. It’s very likely that you’ll need to take medication the rest of your life. That’s ok.
But medication is not a cure-all. The medicine will knock out the extreme highs and the extreme lows so that you can work with a therapist to balance and integrate the lows and highs.
Bipolar disorder is currently classified in two types. Bipolar I Disorder is the designation given to people who have episodes of depression followed by episodes of mania or hypomania. Mania and hypomania are the same thing, except hypomania is milder and lasts for a few days, whereas mania can go on for weeks or months. Hypomania and mania are periods of over-active and excited behavior that can have a significant negative impact on your life.
Bipolar II is the designation given to people who have had at least one major depressive episode and at least one hypomanic episode, but never had a manic episode. Just to confuse things further, there is also cyclothymic disorder, which is the same thing only milder still.
The depressive stage of bipolar is dangerous because it can lead to suicide. Like any deep depression, you are sapped of energy, feel hopeless, sluggish, disinterested, and disconnected. People in the depressive phase want to get out of it.
In some ways, the manic (or hypomanic) phase is even more dangerous because you feel on top of the world. You feel highly creative, full of almost supernatural energy; you are over-confident, feel invincible, are full of swagger. You might even feel like you’re a genius. You may get narcissistic. Some people are also be highly angry and irritable.
It is in the manic phase that people spend themselves deeply into debt, ruin their credit, destroy good relationships, are attracted to highly toxic relationships, and create a plethora of marital, familial, financial, interpersonal, and legal problems for themselves and others. People in the manic phase often love the high and won’t listen to warnings until they crash and burn.
And then the cycle repeats.
There’s no more shame in being bipolar than there is in having high blood pressure. It’s genetics and neurochemistry, not sin or choice. You can’t just snap out of it.
Bipolar Disorder is very treatable.
First, you (or your loved on) need a qualified person to make an accurate diagnosis.
Second, you need a psychiatrist to find and prescribe the right medication at the right dosage for you.
Third, you need a good therapist skilled in helping you recognize your triggers and bring your highs and lows into balance.
And finally, I’d highly recommend spiritual direction with an elder in the faith. Spiritual direction and therapy fit nicely together – the latter addressing emotional issues, and the former drawing us deeper into the ever-loving heart of God.
God loves you. God wants you to be whole.
Depression can make your body so heavy it’s nearly impossible to get out of bed. It can rob you of interests, ambitions, the motivation to do almost anything. It can cause you to be irritated with everyone around you and upset by any circumstance, no matter how inconsequential.
Depression kills – obviously by suicide, but also more slowly. It can exacerbate any illness, lower your immunity, contribute to an unhealthy lifestyle and bad habits. It is impossible to will yourself out of it, to simply buck up and be happy.
There’s a lot of helpful stuff out there on depression – stuff researched, studied, written, and broadcast by very caring and knowledgeable people, but unless you’ve been through it, you cannot imagine what it is like to be clinically depressed.
I’ve been there. And not just briefly, nor only a long time ago. It’s an ongoing struggle, like sobriety is for the alcoholic. One day at a time. Because I’ve been there, I know what it feels like and what it can do to you and those around you.
I also know there’s hope, a light at the end of the tunnel.
Often, healing begins by finding a good psychiatrist who will eventually (often by trial and error) find the right medication and dosage to enable you to do the hard inner work of uncovering the causes and cures. Depression either causes neurochemical imbalance in your brain, or neurochemical imbalance in your brain causes depression. Either way, there’s a physical element to it and you need medication just like a diabetic needs insulin. Medication won’t make you happy or solve the problem, but it will assuage the symptoms enough so you can attack the core issues.
The depressive feelings – the heaviness, the lack of energy, the cloud of isolation – is on the surface. Under it is a cognitive layer of negative thought patterns. Deeper still, in the core of your being, are childhood wounds that lie buried in your unconscious.
Medication, diet, exercise, and relationships counteract the top layer of feelings.
Cognitive behavioral therapy slowly peels away the middle layer of thought patterns. Most people stop there. Please don’t.
Depth psychology and spiritual guidance dig into the deepest level, the inner core, to expose personas, integrate the true self, connect us with the divine eternal, and bring about wholeness, shalom, spiritual maturity.
Be patient. It takes a long time. There are no quick fixes. You don’t want to simply remove the symptoms. You want to be healed in your innermost being.
Start with the psychiatrist and the right medication. A psychiatrist is a medical doctor.
Connect with a good therapist who will help you over several courses of therapy to deal with behavioral and cognitive issues. Psychotherapists are either Ph.D. or Master’s level clinicians.
When you’re ready, find a spiritual director to whom you can relate over a lengthy period of years, and dig deep into the realm that only your spirit knows. This will likely either be a Jungian psychoanalyst or a certified spiritual director.
As your spirit becomes more open to the Spirit, transformation will occur.