Thursday, December 09, 2004

Pulled Under

Mood swings can take me under faster than blinking. One minute I'm fine, humming and clipping freshly washed sheets to the clothesline in the morning sun; then suddenly I'm standing stockstill, flooded by a wave of melancholy so intense I hardly have the energy to lift the next clothespin. For the most part, I try to take one day at a time, sometimes one minute or one breath at a time, and I go on. I'm lucky in being able to do so. A few years ago a very good friend was diagnosed with Bipolar I, and through our friendship and my own research, I've come to realize how very lucky I am, indeed. Mood swings I have, yes, but nothing like what she has to deal with, nothing that turns my own mind back on itself without some serious medication to hold it in check.

I've nothing but respect for people who live with manic depressive illness. People like Bruce, who use their hard-won personal experience with it to encourage better understanding of the condition within the church (which all too often tries to cover it up, exorcise it or poo-poo it away) are to be heartily commended. Another bipolar blogger I've found is David, whose entries documenting unreliable moods and his efforts to walk through them, I've found to be diligently honest without tipping into the self-pity that is so easy and so deadly. As I get more adept at blog surfing, I'm sure I'll find others. For now, these two are a couple of my daily reads.

Jane Kenyon's poem, "Having it Out with Melancholy" is a great comfort, an accurate expression of the struggles of the person with bipolar. Although it deals mainly with the depressive side of the disorder, the poem does convey the helplessness and frustration, the inexplicable and often frightening elements that for the bipolar person are. . .well, quotidian fact.

There's got to be a purpose, I keep thinking. I know the world's a broken, messed up place, but even the broken parts make sense, if you can trace their origins back to what they must have been intended to be in the first place. What about intense moods? I can't accept that their intensity is itself a result of the shattering, although I have no problem believing that their uncontrollableness is. Things happen in these highs and lows--startling, amazing, perplexing things--that don't in the inbetweens. I'm not talking about the obviously rotten stuff (despair, psychosis) but about the inexplicable (enhanced insight, creativity), things that happen during both poles of mood.

Pondering. . .


Joyella said...

It is so true that the best art, music, literature (etc.) is created under the intensity of emotion. There is also some linkage between creative types and depression, something in the way the brain works. A blessing and a curse, I suppose. Cindy, if you really think you may have bipolar, you really should get that checked... there are good drugs which can help...or other means to get you through those especially dark times. I can relate about being totally fine, happy one minute and then washed over with melancholy. But mine is related more so to grief (and hormones)--but I do have melancholic tendancies--it is the artist in me. We can not experience all of the intensity of grief at once, it washes over us in waves, when we are strong enough to take it (sometimes we aren't). Imagine what would happen to us if there was no state of shock, or denial. I think we would just overload our circuits.

I will pray that you find the best way of understanding and dealing with this question of mood. Perhaps it is as simple as just needing more chocolate :)

Feeble Knees said...

Hey Cindy, I can name that tune in two notes. I have terrible swings too. At least one other person in my extended family was diagnosed bipolar, and I've often wondered how many of the rest of us are too.

Good to see other people, specficially Christians blogging about it, because sadly the church in general really doesn't seem to have the foggiest idea what to do with bipolar disorder and mental illness in general.

Thanks for sharing this, and for the links, I'll have to check them out.

Hang in there,

Cindy said...

Joyella--I'd never thought about shock and denial being positives. Thanks for the ah-ha, and for your concern. :)

Feeble Knees--Sometimes I think the church has a lot of catching up to do in a lot of areas. Still, there is progress, and that's encouraging.

Anonymous said...

Cindy, This is Deb, I don't have a password yet, so I just used anonymous. Yes, I also have a great deal of compassion and respect for those who deal with mood swings and depression. Having gone through a very difficult time with it for about 5 years (though mine was due to a continuing string of very difficult events) I have empathy now for those that have this condition. I would agree that you should get this checked out by a doctor who specializes in this. Sometimes it's a chemical imbalance...however be very careful, some drugs can induce suicidal tendencies...I have a friend that this very thing happened with...she survived, praise God. But, if you do need medication (remember, this would be no different than taking medication for pneumonia, bronchitis, etc. if it's just a medical condition)and you found the right kind that works for you, it could bring a great amount of relief to you. I do think the church needs to learn more about the facts of depression. I really tire of the old cliche' regarding this, "Oh, you just need to trust God, you don't have enough faith." This shows a true lack of understanding for the condition. There are cases where this may be true, but there are plenty of others, where the person does trust God, but they just cannot shake the depression...which makes it even more confusing to them. As Christians, we are to help those in need, and to truly help those in depression, we need to understand it, even if it may be a somewhat uncomfortable subject. It's great that there are those Christians who are making it their goal to educate others about the true facts of this condition. With time, I think this progress will continue.

Cindy said...

Hi Debbie. It always throws me when someone I know from real life posts. I think, "Wait a minute! What are they doing here?!" ;)

One of the reasons I've not had the swings medically checked out is because there are some factors that do not fit the bipolar picture. The biggest of these is that the condition has gotten better as I've gotten older. Bipolar, from what I've read, doesn't; it gets worse if untreated. I was on anti-depressants for four or five years, actually, going off of them when we were expecting the Princess. Later, I began looking for other ways to deal with/lessen the severity of the moods. Changes in the way I allow myself to think, eat, sleep and live have done more than the meds ever did by far. Which is another reason I'm skeptical.

You're right about progress beginning and growing in the church--and it's a relief to see. People outside the church often seem to have more compassion and common sense on dealing with mental health and other issues, something that tends to heighten my ambivalence and distrust of the church as a whole. (But that's a whole 'nother story!) Thanks for popping in!