Hope fights fear.
A bipolar diagnosis uncovered a number of fears I had never been forced to face. Trying to cope with bipolar, I found hope in my spirituality. My hope helps me cope.
Fear of Discovery
The first fear was accompanied with shame. I didn’t want to be found out. Competent, I was always known for my work ethic. I did not want people to think less of me and was afraid of people would notice my bipolar disability.
Before I admitted my diagnosis, people knew something was wrong. I believed they thought I had let them down. Realistically, I had. My depression interfered with my pastoral work.
Here is what I discovered. Everyone has some weakness. We do not know the burden each person carries. I was not alone.
I learned my value was not in my doing. At its heart the desire to constantly impress people was a disability itself. We are not human “doings” we are human “beings.”
Our worth comes from being a creation of God. Made in His image we are precious in His sight.
“So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” Genesis 1:27
“But he said to me, ‘“My grace is enough for you. When you are weak, my power is made perfect in you.’ So I am very happy to brag about my weaknesses. Then Christ’s power can live in me.”1 Cor 12:9 (NCV)
Fear of Being Disliked
I am also a people pleaser. Always a danger for a pastor’s personality and the context of ministry, it is difficult to maintain boundaries. This creates a tendency to ignore self-care. Setting aside time and energy for family, diet and exercise, from saying “no” to one more meeting, is difficult for me. Speaking in a way that is both well received and prophetic is a fine line to walk.
I have not practiced self-care or setting boundaries. The drive to be a “people pleaser” may come from an unconscious belief I have felt unloved or unwanted.
What I have discovered facing this fear is that I only need to please one, it is enough to please God. And I am deeply loved by the One who created and sustains me.
“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope is the Lord. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river, and will not fear when heat comes: but its leaf will be green, and will not be anxious in the year of drought, nor will cease from yielding fruit.” Jeremiah 17:7-8.
Fear of Functioning In The World
Another fear I face is not being able to function in the world. And it is true I can’t function as I once did. Both bipolar and medications have changed my lifestyle. I’ve learned that mood stabilizers and antipsychotics can cause tremors. My little grandson asked me the other day, “Why do you wiggle all over?”
I have to maintain my sleep schedule which seems to others to be an inordinate amount of sleep. But it is necessary for my health. Medication has triggered unhealthy weight gain. I struggle to find the right words in conversation. My memories of recent events are not good, even on memory making trips with the grandkids.
For all of those reasons I find myself needing reassurance from loved ones. Confidence builders encourage my attempts to step out into the world. Though withdrawing is more comfortable.
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you.” Isaiah 43:1-2.
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10
Where did all these fears come from? Many were there in my heart before my bipolar but my disease has amplified their effects.
But here is a promise that helps me cope with my fear. “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind”. 2 Tim 1:7 (KJV)
May these Bible promises be your fear fighters.