Four Stages of Managing Bipolar Disorder by Rick Qualls
By Pastor Rick Qualls
The beatitudes of Jesus give us the first four phases of living with difficult disease or trauma in our lives.
I was surprised by this insight as I was getting ready to write my book Bright Spots in the Darkness.
The Beatitudes offer a spiritual pathway through tough times.
I do not like having bipolar illness. That is not a surprise. You don’t either. But the paradox is acknowledging our disease is the first phase of living with it.
I have resisted admitting I am bipolar, not just from the first diagnosis but throughout the time living with the disease. At my last med check I tried to convince my doctor that my illness may be the result of an autoimmune problem. I may have an immune problem that mimics the symptoms of bipolar but the probability is pretty low.
But in the meantime, I need to admit my issues with God and with other people, especially the professionals God has brought into my life, those who help me manage my disease.
But I still remember the lowest black hole of depression. I could not get out of that horrendous place without admitting I had a disease and needed help. I needed God, friends, professionals, and family. I learned that the first beatitude was what I needed to do. “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of God.”
I have grief over my bipolar. Between my illness and meds, I am not the same person I once was. I miss that. I don’t learn as quickly as I once did. I require more time in self-care. I have to be careful of my stress levels, my speech and thinking processes are slowed down.
I don’t like these changes. I wish they would magically go away. But there is no magic wand to wave.
So I had to find another source of self-esteem. True self-esteem comes from being loved by God just as I am. It doesn’t matter what I can do or can’t do, my abilities or disabilities, I am precious to God. He loves us just as we are for which I am grateful.
I am grateful for the comfort of God’s love.
“Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted.”
The third phase is becoming meek or cooperative with our protocols. We worked with our counseling/medical team to find ways to manage our disease.
We have to be humble enough to go along with our treatment. We take medicines and practice self-care.
But there are times when we get rebellious or simply angry about taking our meds or doing things necessary self-care. We may get proud and resist our protocols. This does not usually turn out well. A manic or depressive episode will disrupt our life. It takes time to undo the damage these bouts that false pride cause.
“Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.” Matt 5:5. When we are willing to humble ourselves and keep our regimen we experience remission, our new normal. It is as though we have gained a new life. Our world becomes more healthy.
The fourth stage occurs when we actively pursue our healing. This stage is more than doing those things that brought remission. Now we actively seek self-care. We experiment with new ways of getting better.
Our doctor may help us adjust meds for inevitable ups and downs. We become aware of our triggers and develop plans to manage those behaviors. We take on new healthy behaviors. We adjust our attitude by changing thinking patterns. We do the things that we can do to maintain stability. We are quick to seek help when the road is rocky.
This fourth stage is when we hunger and thirst for getting better. With this phase, we find our quality of life gets even better.
The fourth beatitude puts it this way: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Matthew 5:6
Sometimes we bounce around in these stages. I do. For a time I will actively seek to work my plan. And then I may become stubborn and resist my meds. My self-care will go down the tubes. And about that time I don’t want to admit to anyone, or myself, that I have a disease.
But when I keep in mind these four principles I discover that God is able to use this process to bless me in spite of having bipolar.
May my experiences bless you along your journey.
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