In the middle of my seminary career, I was struggling to stay stable. I have bipolar disorder. After being pretty stable for years, the pressure of grad school and starting a nonprofit was getting to me. I felt like my mind was coming apart. I walked up to my Hebrew professor and told her what was going on. She looked at me with grace and understanding, the look that says she understood more than she would say, and we walked into class.
I hate seeing my mental illness as an excuse that I can’t do something. I work hard to build habits to keep me going even under immense pressure and struggle. I take my pills. I practice self-care. I see my therapist. I exercise, eat well, and try to manage my sleep. But sometimes, things still unravel. They go sideways, and when they do, having severe bipolar disorder means it feels like my sanity goes sideways too. My mind begins to rise and fall, I start feeling the impulse and the drag of mixed episodes, and I resent having a mental illness.
I don’t want my brain to stop me. I want to do more. I want to be able to keep pushing at work and serving my family at home. I want to be a good father and a good leader at work, a good husband and friend. And in those times, all of the pressure I feel inside bubbles to the surface. I feel my insides wriggle as I want to be able to do and be so much and I can’t. My brain has broken.
In those moments, over and over again, I have heard God whisper in my ear, “You are my beloved son in whom I am well pleased. I’m still working when you feel like you can’t. Relax and enjoy being my son.”
Be Still and Rest
I have to stop and sit. Every part of me wants to run to get things done, to get the laundry, to go get work going, to get the kitchen clean and dinner cooked for my family, and I have to sit in the middle of the panic and just be. I have to sit in a deep pool of belovedness where God wraps me up. When I feel frantic and broken, insecure and alone, God meets me in that place, tells me that He loves me and tells me it is good to be my Father.
Whether it was that day in first semester Hebrew, or surviving the suicide of a friend, a car accident, or the birth of our son, there are things in life that have knocked me off track. No amount of self-care could have prevented them. Most likely, there are many left in my life too. In those moments, my mental health begins to fall off. I try to turn to my friends and family, to take even better care of myself to keep the mental onslaught at bay, to prevent any mental episode, but often it still comes. Smaller when I have good self-care, but the hiccup still comes. I want my sanity, and it feels like for a day or a week it escapes me.
For years, I thought that I needed to be perfectly stable. That would make me good. I realized that I can’t always be perfectly stable. Things still fall apart. The best thing I can know in the midst of the failure is that God loves me whether I am stable or not, and He still wants good things for me. He still wants me to be go on a crazy adventure called life with Him. He wants me to enjoy my incredible wife and family, the great work He has given me, and the rest of life too.
Loved, Even When Broken
God still loves me and you whether we are stable or not. As one of my good friends who is in recovery says, “God still loves you whether you are sober or not.” Whether you are working with special needs, depression, addiction, or any other form of brokenness, sometimes we fall. And in those times, it is important to know that you are loved regardless of whether you are sober or not, stable or not, together or not. God still loves you if you are present or not, caring for your family well or not, successful or not, and failing or not.