Growing up in the Christian Reformed Church, I learned to appreciate my Reformed heritage. Even though my Reformed faith did not make me exempt from bipolar disorder, it helps me see that I am a part of God’s creation. Along with the psalmist, I can say, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well” (Ps. 139:14).
Since my diagnosis in 1983, I have had many ups and downs. I have been in the hospital many times. Several times I quit taking my medication—I don’t know why. Sometimes I felt like I didn’t need it; other times it seemed like the Lord told me to quit. But I know that my mind can play tricks on me. It wasn’t the Lord who told me to stop. It was my own irrational thoughts.
After my last hospitalization, I made a promise to the Lord that I would not stop taking my medication. God has held me to my promise. It is vital for me to keep it. Not only are my moods in control, but I also have peace of mind. It makes a difference to those around me. I take my medication for the people I care for and who care for me.
When I take my pills, I can live a normal life. I can live on my own and do the things I need to do. I believe I can also be a more effective believer in Christ. With my moods in control, I am more rational and more pleasant to be with.
A case manager I once had told me how important it is to have positive thoughts. When I think negatively, I get depressed. He told me to replace a negative thought with a positive thought. Throughout my illness, I have made it a practice to think positive thoughts. Most important, I see how God has used my illness to increase my faith as I rely more on him. Because I live alone, I don’t always have someone checking up on me to see if I am taking my medication. So I rely on God to keep me accountable.
There are times when it is hard for me to accept that I have bipolar disorder. I am like the apostle Paul, who pleaded with God to remove his thorn in his flesh. God answered that his grace is sufficient (2 Cor. 12:9). God didn’t take away my bipolar disorder, but he has brought healing in another way.
I am thankful for all that God has done for me. God has used this illness for my good. He has helped me to grow in my faith and has given me boldness in it. I am thankful to have Jesus as my Savior and Lord. He has been with me through it all. He is my hope.
Now it is my prayer that God will use me to be an encouragement to others who have walked this journey. There is hope for people with mental illness. Help is available. Seek treatment. Take your medications. Jesus is there night and day. He is ready and willing to help you. Just cry out. He is listening. He loves you. God can turn your illness to good.