"From this hour I ordain myself loos'd of limits and imaginary lines, going where I list, my own master total and absolute, Listening to others, considering well what they say, Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating, Gently, but with undeniable will, divesting myself of the holds that would hold me."
Walt Whitman (1819-92)
"When I look back now over my life and call to mind what I might have had simply for taking and did not take, my heart is like to break."
Akhenaton (d. c.1354 BC)
And now, the current weather, from some random person we pulled off the street:
Monday, November 24, 2003
Working with Broken Machines
re-fine Function: verb
1 : to free (as metal, sugar, or oil) from impurities or unwanted material
2 : to free from moral imperfection : ELEVATE
3 : to improve or perfect by pruning or polishing 4 : to reduce in vigor or intensity
5 : to free from what is coarse, vulgar, or uncouth
6 : A soul after being touched by God
I wrote the following to Pastor Bill Keller, who publishes the Liveprayer.com daily devotional. He did one that was particularly insightful about mental illness, but I wanted to give him an insider view of it. I am including the text of his devotional following my reply, if you care to read it. After I wrote this I realized that it would be good to post here as well.
Dear Bill Keller,
You wrote the following in your recent Liveprayer posting:
"Depression is the result of being hopeless."
As a person who suffers from Bipolar disorder, of which depression is half, I would beg to differ.
Instead of the above, I would reverse it and say that for a mentally ill person being hopeless is the result of depression. The depression, for someone with a mental illness such as clinical depression or bipolar, is chemically based, and usually arrives first.
For the normal person, an event happens or a conclusion is reached and then they feel joyful or sad or whatever based on that event or conclusion. Changing a conclusion (i.e. realizing that life is not hopeless) can then change the emotional state.
For a mentally ill person, it works backwards. It is all too common for the feeling to arrive first, then for the person to search for a life event that must have caused it, and usually coming to a wrong conclusion. For example, feeling depressed then thinking that a situation is hopeless BECAUSE it is being viewed through the filter of the depressed mood state. Or, perhaps more dangerous, a person with bipolar (which has wide swings to both depressive and manic states) can feel chemically wonderful and this can cause them to have a very inflated view of themselves or their circumstances or their abilities.
For example, this morning I am tending towards the depressive side. I know this is chemical, because there is no logical reason for me to be feeling this way, no life event that should cause this. Before I was diagnosed and knew what was wrong with me, I would have looked at my day and perhaps even made up some sad event or reason for my emotions. I certainly would have been prone to reaching wrong conclusions and even acting on them, sometimes with devastating results.
Now I know better, but it still takes a conscious effort not to go down that path.
As you have said so well, doctors and medications are the tools that God has provided so many people, myself included, to be able to live a normal life. Yes, God can and sometimes does bring healing to a mentally ill person. But we must be careful lest we forget that, as Christians, there is a reason for a mentally ill person to have that particular challenge to deal with, and God may not choose to heal that person miraculously. In that event, the medicines can never be stopped and the trials of the illness must be dealt with and overcome with faith and trust in God.
It is not that God is incapable of healing, it is that this is our particular furnace to refine us into His image.
You also spoke of serving others. Oddly enough, an illness such as bipolar or clinical depression can ENABLE a person to serve in a greater capacity.
A person who does not have a mood altering mental illness has built in chemical barriers to their mood going too high or too low. When they get too depressed, the brain's cells manufacture chemicals such as seratonin and some others to keep the mood reasonably stable. The person may still be depressed, but its within a normal range. (This is the goal of the mood stabilizing medicines that many mentally ill people must take, to keep moods in this range.)
On the other hand, a person with an illness such as mine does not have that stabilizer. Once the mood starts one way or another, there is no mechanism in place to stop it, and often the mechanisms within the cells themselves will initiate and perpetuate such a mood swing without any external stimuli. Once that happens, the mood, in the case of depression, plummets FAR beyond what an average person will ever experience.
And that is a terrible, terrible place.
In major depression or the depressive side of bipolar, the mood is not one of sadness. It is one of overwhelming emptiness. This is due to a complete imbalance of several brain chemicals at that point. The emotional void can be so awful that many people take their own lives rather than suffer it. The rate for suicide in males during the first year after being diagnosed is close to 30%.
(Of course, a person who has bipolar also has the same experience in the other direction. I won't go into those details.)
What this does in the long term for the person with a mental illness is that it strengthens their capacity to empathize with others in pain, to help those who are hurting, to share emotions with those who are truly hopeless. We can understand, we've been in those dark rooms. And we seldom mind helping others out of theirs, given the chance.
We strive to put our experiences in words or music or express it in art. Most of the great writers and musicians and artists showed symptoms that indicate they were either clinically depressed or bipolar.
In the ranks of those who are emotionally crippled are warriors that God has specially prepared through the fire, uniquely qualified and willing to help others who suffer. And it is in this service that we can, as you said, find a measure of healing because we will be used as the tool we are being fashioned to be.
Our purpose in life is to glorify God. We glorify Him more in suffering for His sake than in being comfortable, I think.
And the crucible is the only place to be refined.
It's hot, but that's OK.
It's worth it.
Hopefully, this will explain some facets of these illnesses to those of you who don't have to suffer through them. If you are a person who does suffer with this, remember you are never alone in this even when it feels like you are the only person in the universe.
If you need help, go get it. There are multitudes ready to catch you when you fall. And if you can help someone else, best get about it now before it's too late.
Just remember that a person with this type of illness can't "snap out of it." It does not work that way. If you are dealing with a person who has this, first and foremost, love them. The things that may bother or offend you aren't them. The good parts of them that you love, THAT'S them. Never forget that.
The brightest crowns that are worn in heaven have been tried, and smelted, and polished, and glorified through the furnace of tribulation.
If this devotional is a blessing to you, maybe you have a friend or family member that would like to start receiving this daily word. You can forward this to them, and they can use the following link to subscribe. www.liveprayer.com/signup.htm
***A WAY YOU CAN HELP LIVEPRAYER!!! I have something I want you to pray about and a way that you can help the work here at Liveprayer. One gentleman that has helped us in the past, got 12 of his friends and business associates together and I flew in, literally for an hour, to meet with them to share the Liveprayer story and vision. The net result was 10 of the 12 ended up making a significant gift to the work here. I want to ask you to pray about getting a group of 10 or more people you know that love the Lord, who would be in a financial position to help if God moved on their hearts, and set up a similar meeting. If you are interested, please contact me for details at: email@example.com . For complete details, go to: www.liveprayer.com/arc/111803.html .
***THIS DEVOTIONAL TODAY ON MENTAL ILLNESS AND DEPRESSION WILL BE A BREAKTHROUGH FOR MANY PEOPLE TODAY. IF YOU SUFFER FROM SOME FORM OF MENTAL ILLNESS OR DEPRESSION, PRAY RIGHT NOW AND ASK GOD TO OPEN YOUR HEART TO RECEIVE THIS WORD. IT CAN CHANGE YOUR LIFE TODAY!!! IF YOU KNOW OF SOMEONE THAT IS SUFFERING FROM SOME FORM OF MENTAL ILLNESS OR DEPRESSION, PLEASE GET THIS DEVOTIONAL TO THEM. IT CAN CHANGE THEIR LIFE!!!
Mental illness and depression. An issue the church and most people refuse to deal with, is the reality of mental illness and depression that so many suffer from. Let me say right up front. Mental illness is just as real as a broken leg. Just because it is not a visible illness, does not mean it is not as real as someone with a broken bone, a bad heart, or any other illness. MENTAL ILLNESS AND DEPRESSION ARE REAL!
I have shared with you in the past that God's number one instrument of healing is called a DOCTOR. One of God's chief methods of healing is called MEDICINE. Where do you think the incredible intelligence and the special gift to be a doctor comes from? It comes from God! Where do you think the incredible intelligence, and the inspiration to create medicine comes from? It comes from God!
I want to encourage anyone today that is suffering from any form of mental illness or depression to seek out the best professional help possible. God has raised up mental health professionals and given men the wisdom to create drugs to treat mental illness, so that you can live a normal and productive life. Just like there is no reason to be ashamed to see a doctor if you break your arm, just like there is no reason to be ashamed if you have to take medicine to treat a kidney problem, there is no reason to be ashamed to see a doctor or take the proper medication if you suffer from mental illness or depression!
For many people that are suffering from depression, I want to help you find the joy in life again. Many who suffer from depression have simply allowed the events and circumstances of their life to overwhelm and paralyze them. We learn at an early age how to deal with the day to day issues of life, how to deal with problems. What happens to many who are depressed, is they have simply been unable to cope with the things that have happened to them and can't seem to get past certain problems in their life.
Feelings change all the time. Our feelings are based on our perception of an issue or problem. For example, if you have $20,000 of debt and you are only making $30,000 a year with nothing left over after the basic living needs are met, you might perceive that $20,000 of debt to be a mountain that is impossible to move. If you continue to focus on that mountain, it starts to get bigger, and bigger, and soon your perception is that it is impossible to ever be free from your debt. The longer you focus on the problem, the bigger it becomes and that is when depression can set in. Depression is the result of being hopeless.
However, even though you may have $20,000 of debt and are only making $30,000 a year with nothing left over after your basic living needs are met, you might look at that $20,000 of debt, not as a mountain impossible to move, but simply an obstacle that has to be dealt with. In other words, you don't focus on the mountain, but you focus on a way to move the mountain. You come up with a plan to retire the debt over a period of time, and instead of letting depression set in due to looking at the situation as hopeless, you maintain a positive outlook since that debt is simply an issue that has to be taken care of. Depression can't set in where there is hope. Let me say that one more time. DEPRESSION CAN'T SET IN WHERE THERE IS HOPE!
The other part of the answer to depression is serving others. The Bible teaches us that if we will be about our Father's business, our Father will be about our business. If we will serve others, it is amazing how our own problems become more manageable. If you are suffering from depression, let me encourage you today to get out and start finding ways to serve others. You see, when we serve others, we are serving God. Our God-given purpose in this life is to serve and glorify God with our lives. Depression can't set in when you are serving others. Let me say that one more time. DEPRESSION CAN'T SET IN WHEN YOU ARE SERVING OTHERS!
I love you and care about you so much. I realize many people suffer from some form of mental illness that is just as real as any other type of illness. I will be praying today that those who are suffering from some form of mental illness, will seek out the best professional help possible and take advantage of whatever medication that is prescribed to treat you. God is still in the healing business, and GOD CAN BRING HEALING TO THOSE SUFFERING FROM MENTAL ILLNESS.
I will also be praying for those of you today who are suffering from depression. The two-fold answer for overcoming your depression and finding the joy of the Lord again in your life, is hope and service. Seeking the Lord to give you wisdom and direction in finding a solution to whatever problems or issues you are facing in your life. If you stay focused on Christ, He will give you the hope to get victory over whatever you are facing today.
The other part of the answer is finding ways to serve others. I pray that you will get serious about finding ways to serve others. God has called us to serve others, and when we are doing that, fulfilling our purpose in life, our own problems simply don't seem as great. When you are busy serving others, you don't have time to get depressed.
I pray that this word today will be a breakthrough in your life if you are battling with mental illness or depression. God loves you very much. He wants you to have joy in your life, despite whatever trials and tribulations you may be experiencing. That joy comes from knowing Christ as our Savior. When we know Christ, there is no such thing as being hopeless. When we know Christ, we have a desire to serve Him by serving others. It is through Christ that you can have victory over mental illness and depression!
In His love and service, Your friend and brother in Christ, Bill Keller
If I can help you in any way you can contact me through my personal email at firstname.lastname@example.org
***I am excited to let you know that the Liveprayer Daily Devotional is now available via AUDIO each day. Simply go to http://www.liveprayer.com/DailyDevotionalAudio.html