An old acquaintance of mine from high school and I reconnected on Facebook. She posted her status as “trying, but not doing so well.”
That sounded like someone who spoke my language. When I saw she was online I instigated a chat. Right away she confirmed what I thought was obvious: She was bipolar.
I think she is the first person I know, outside of clinical situations and in real life, who is also bipolar. She had the privilege of being on the acute floor for twenty-four hours and told me about the guy who used his Bible to call Abraham and Noah and got mad when they wouldn’t pick up.
I got a personal message from one of my Gentle Christian Mother friends who wasn’t sure whether to pursue medication. I wrote to her what my old psychiatrist said, “Bipolar treatment is 50% medication and 50% therapy.”
She asked me to explain.
The point is, you have to have both to pass. Even the very best, most compassionate, insightful and wise therapist can only get you 50% there. The best formula of medicines can only get you an “F”. It’s all things working together.
Writing this out now, I think there is a third element, and that would be community. I think you must have people surrounding you that will help drag you through this when you are down and keep you up, but not too up, when you are high.
1 Corinthians 12 says “11But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.
12For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ.”
14For the body is not one member, but many.
15If the foot says, “Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body.
16And if the ear says, “Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body.
17If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be?
18But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired.
19If they were all one member, where would the body be?
20But now there are many members, but one body.
21And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; or again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.”
22On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary;
23and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable,
24whereas our more presentable members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked,
so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.
And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.
This is specific: All members need to work together. It’s not only the pristinely preserved among us. It’s not to the swift nor the strong. It’s everybody – even if part of it is sick.
Sometimes I think of myself as the brain of the body, because that’s the part of me that is weakest. My brain is broken, I once told my daughter who was asking questions about doctor’s appointments.
I once was counselor at a camp with a gaggle of selfish high school girls. One refused to stay after chapel to talk about her sins because she wanted to deal with them herself. She told me her friends all thought she was perfect. Another prefered to study the Bible on her own – the November before was the last time she studied the Bible and she strongly resisted the idea of going to a small group. After that she never attended church again.
I didn’t know how to handle the first girl at the time. If I had to do it again I would not just be shocked; I would tell her, regardless of what she thought – she really needed other people. I imagine her to be wounded, unable to be healed. I imagine her to be lonely – the body can live without an eye but an eye cannot live without a body.
The second I was straightforward with. I told her what she needed to do and she didn’t want to. I didn’t see her again at church, saving once, when she was there with extended relatives. She tried to get me to remember her grandparents were famous missionaries. I don’t know anything about missionaries, but I do know about selfish little girls and this fifteen year old was just that.
What these girls didn’t know was that they were hurting themselves; they were also hurting the body. I’ve heard before “God doesn’t need you,”and I guess that could be true. What was important is that they were leaving the church without wings. I use wings because I believe working together makes us soar. Without them, the church they affiliated themselves with was at a significant loss. They just sat there – or were too self involved to know how to give.
I’m like that, too. I’ve improved enough to see myself do it. “I’m too sick to do high school ministry anymore” – I did the ministry for three years after that statement. “I’m too new to be helping in any leadership role” – I get asked to lead a Bible study. ” I’m not emotionally together enough to minister” – I get to set up and take down coffee (which is still not my favorite thing to do.)
My medicine makes it possible to cope in order to participate in those activities, but it’s not enough. I actually need to do it. My therapist is a wonderful man, he laughs easily and has insightful things to say. He’s a part of it, too. But I would never be well if all I did was depend on him. I need my community. I need the church. The church extends around the world – and the part that I’m a part of was choosen just for me and my little family. Without it, there is a hurting body and a dying Malakoa.