Hypomania and mania are terms used to describe periods of overactive and excited behaviour that have a serious impact on your day-to-day life. Mania is a common symptom of bipolar disorder and those affected often experience massive ‘highs’, intense moods, hyperactivity and even delusions. This might sound ok, but the reality is terrifying: especially when followed by periods of depression and despair.
Today’s guest post is from the lovely Cat, who talks about her experience with mania – and what gives her hope:
“This,” I say, brandishing one trainer with a knowing gleam in my eye “is how you cause a disturbance.”
I am 25 years old, hospitalised for mania and my world has sharpened to a razor edge. Anxiety and adrenalin are flaming through my body – but they have been for so long now that this hardly registers. My consciousness has narrowed; on one level I am seeing everything more clearly than ever before, but that is the problem. My brain is whirring with an overload of fears and sensations and ideas – wound up so tight that I can’t sort it out into coherent sequences that would sit nicely in normal conversation.
Take the trainer for example – the trainer represents the end point of a prolonged analysis of hospital dynamics. In the hospital there are some girls with highly disordered eating habits who do not want to eat the hospital food at the required time in the required place. I want to give the girls food. I can achieve this through exploiting the patients’ general paranoia about people stealing things. If I throw one trainer along the hospital corridor, shouting ‘Lost property!’ this will generate more than enough mayhem to cover my getting food to the girls. To me, this is an appropriate course of action given current circumstances. But my heightened senses still clock that to the normal person, this is just another distressing indication that I am very unwell. My friend’s eyes widen and she swallows uneasily.
One of the most terrifying aspects of my experience of mental illness was the isolation it generated. I was scared. I was distressed and ashamed – and these feelings were at once weighty and imprisoning, anchored in layers and layers of restless thoughts that I couldn’t explain. It was pretty impossible for anyone to comfort me. I couldn’t find rest. It felt like the worst case scenario, one that was so bad that I hadn’t actually ever contemplated it – losing my mind – had happened.
That was what it looked like. I’d say that humanly speaking, those days in the hospital were the most disastrous and wasteful of my life. But that wasn’t the whole story. I was unreachable and largely unrecognisable in my mental disorder and pain. But God was with me. I had a deep and wonderful sense of his presence, loving acceptance and Good Shepherding sovereign hand on my life.
And that was unexpectedly enough, and remains enough.
It’s easy to get the wrong ideas about what it means to be at peace, what it means to be ok with the brokenness around us and inside us. What it means to be secure. You can think that you need:
– Immediate resolution to your problems
– Concrete realisation of your dreams
– Definitive removal of your worst case scenarios
Weirdly, those things won’t silence your fears, and they can’t comfort your hurt. They can’t restore to you all the things you’ve lost, and give you the courage to lift your eyes again.
But Jesus can. He is the ‘God of all Comfort’, whose rescue is much deeper than the rescue we think we want. We want control-alt-delete, take it away, make it like it never happened. He pulls us into his sufferings and floods us with his comfort (2 Corinthians 1). Best of all, he is with us. He is not ashamed to call us his sisters and brothers – in our mess, now. He is not fazed by things that would faze even the most understanding and compassionate friend.
He comes to us, way before the hardest moments of our life have overwhelmed us and says: ‘Simon, Simon, Satan has asked for you, to sift you as wheat, but I have prayed for you.” (Luke 22) That is incredibly comforting. I think it’s fair to say that my friends and family did not expect me to end up in a mental hospital: it certainly wasn’t on my ‘To do before I’m 30’ list. But Jesus is not taken by surprise by the things that shake us up. He has prayed for us in advance, and his powerful, actively protecting presence in our lives is our security. Robert Murray McCheyne put it well: “If I could hear Christ praying for me in the next room, I would not fear a million enemies. Yet distance makes no difference. He is praying for me.”
Maybe life is much harder than you ever thought possible for you today. Don’t let your hope be in a change of circumstances, or in your gritting your teeth and getting through. Jesus is your salvation. He is already, stubbornly, faithfully with you. He understands when no-one else does. He is praying for you when you can’t pray. His rescue may not be what you expect, but it is total and it is guaranteed. “
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