A different "Coming out" to church
I wrote the following on my blog, in the hopes that some folk at my church might read it. Here, I am going to just bitch about the reaction.
When I "came out" to my Committee on Ministry and church about being diagnosed Bipolar II, they have responded in true (C)hristian fashion (as opposed to christian or Christ-like fashion). To paraphrase the report from both the COM nad session, "we are not sure someone who is mentally ill should be ministering to this church." God love 'em.
Of course, these are the same people who have complained that the articles I write on my personal blog "do not conform to the beliefs of the church."
The reaction to all kinds of emotional and mental disorders can be interesting, especially in my line of work. While you would think that church folk would investigate before coming to conclusions, that is really a quite rare occurance - church folk are no less prone to believing myths than any other groups. I have found this out firsthand recently. I announced to my Committee on Ministry and my church that I had been diagnosed with Bipolar II disease and, after twenty years of misdiagnoses, I am now on a much lower regimen of pills than I previously took for depression.
Now, it seems, no-one had too much difficulty with my previous addictive behavior or my depressions as such, since they were known issues. But Bipolar II, now that’s a different story - and the reaction is understandable when we take into account so little is known by the general public, except for the few movies about famous people. I will get some facts later.
The fact is that I have been Bipolar II for 10 to 20 years by the doctors estimation, and incorrectly medicated during that entire period. This left me susceptible to elevated and more severe mood swings, and occasionally prone to erratic behavior. Despite that, I have functioned well as a business person, a church administrator and a pastor - although the jury is still out as to how I perform as a pastor. One of the primary differences between Bipolar II and Bipolar I is that, in the first, there is no mania or psychosis to deal with - just long periods of either elevated or depressed mood with little in the “normal” range.
On my new meds, I am considerably more stable and experience far fewer drastic mood swings than I can ever remember. My depression is all but gone, although it could return - it’s just less likely to be as intense as it has been in the past. I have gotten much 0f my creativity back - initiative and creativity tend to take hikes during depressive episodes, no matter the cause. Given the potentially difficult times ahead, I feel much better equipped to handle them than I can remember ever being. Even poorly medicated, as I have been in the past, I have little difficulty functioning.
Now, my level of functioning should be so much better - as long as I take my meds. That is the critical condition. Just like other conditions that are physiological and result from a genetic predisposition, regulating meds is crucial. I see this as no different than taking my blood pressure cocktail and cholesterol lowering pills. It’s health maintenance and, just like BP and cholesterol, I know there are no “signs” or specific symptoms that go with it. The only appropriate choice is to stay on a preventative regimen.
There are some facts about Bipolar II disease that should be kept in mind:
It is not “manic depression” - that is only one form of Bipolar I.
Over 6 million Americans have Bipolar diesease - 2.6% of the population. It breaks down to approximately 1.6% having Bipolar I and 1.0% suffering Bipolar II. Diagnoses have increased drastically, but that is a result of better diagnostics, not a huge increase in occurance. In years past, it has been misdiagnosed and mis-treated as either depression at the more minor end and schizophrenia at the severe end of the spectrum.
Many famous artistic, creative and scientific have been Bipolar II (such as Albert Einstein, for instance), with minimal difficulties in day-to-day functioning. It is sometimes nicknamed the “creativity” illness.
Bipolar II is more easily manageable with meds than many other physiological disorders, once the appropriate regimen is determined. Even without meds, in between episodes of hypomania and depression, many people with bipolar II disease live normal lives. On meds, the incidents of both extremes are greatly reduced and, sometimes, almost totally eliminated.
During a hypomanic episode, elevated mood can manifest itself as either euphoria (feeling “high”) or as irritability.
Symptoms during improperly medicated hypomanic episodes include flying suddenly from one idea to the next; rapid, “pressured” speech; increased energy, with hyperactivity and decreased need for sleep. People experiencing hypomanic episodes are often quite pleasant to be around. They can often seem like the “life of the party” — making jokes, taking an intense interest in other people and activities, and infecting others with their positive mood. The danger is that the more elevated the hypomania, the more severe the crash into depression.
Depressive episodes in improperly medicated bipolar II disease are similar to “regular” clinical depression, with depressed mood, loss of pleasure, low energy and activity, feelings of guilt or worthlessness, and sometimes thoughts of suicide. Depressive symptoms of bipolar disorder can last weeks, months, or sometimes even years.
I hope this helps some, at least, understand the nature of the disease and those who suffer from it.
- Andy's blog
Sins are always worse when they're different than mine