Thursday, December 29, 2011

I love my bipolar

I distinctly remember the day I started Lithium, the gold standard as a mood stabilizer for bipolar. After years of unpredictable moods and behavior accompanied with bouts of psychosis my mind went from a constant raging mesh of thoughts to quietness.

Lithium is by no means a cure all. Nor a guarantee that your episodes will cease. But it can minimize their frequency and severity. I tried for years a trial and error process of medication after medication to find the right combination as a treatment. Either something didn't work or the side effects dramatically affected my function ability.

For years I sought to find relief. Stability. For years my mind was loud. Then my mind became quiet. It was not something I was used to. Ironically, it was something I didn't like. The music had stopped that I heard many times. The background voices were silenced. It was like losing a group of friends that left me feeling alone. Quieting the inside noises tended to make the outside noises louder. It was something that took some getting used to. So much that I took the Lithium off and on for quite some time until I reached a point that I refuse to go off of it.

Before then I have wallowed in depression and soared through mania. Been resentful towards the pills I will have to take the rest of my life. But no matter how bad my life has ever felt or consequences I have put myself up against, I cannot remember a time ever wishing I did not have bipolar.

How, given the choices, could I possibly choose to battle these ups and downs of a disorder that makes my moods mercurial, my family shaking their heads, my friends wary and others gossiping which turns my life upside down with every changing cycle?

For as long as I can remember bipolar has been a part of me. It has affected every aspect of my life deeply. It alters your mind, playing evil tricks on it, creating false hope and false memories. Bipolar creates imaginary worlds to live in. Sometimes when you cannot deal with the real world's problems.

Much my adult life I have spent coping and figuring out how deal with negative consequences because of my uncontrollable behavior. My lows have been, at times, unbearably low landing me in hospitals on suicide watch. In my manic times, I have come very close to destroying everything I hold dear. I have had to face the reality of unmet goals.

However, I honestly believe that this bipolar allows me to see the world in ways I otherwise would have missed. Ways I think most "normal" people refuse to see. I find the beauty and calm in ordinary things. I feel more deeply, have more emotions, and have a better understanding of myself that I believe I would otherwise.

The creativity sparked by manic times allows me to create in ways that would not otherwise be possible Experiencing the 'absolutes' of emotions is something most people never get to really do. I see the world in colors and pictures. I see it in darks and lights.

Even though I have felt the sting of stigma and judgments, I have also been extended true compassion and forgiveness. Some things most take for granted or never experience. In spite of how many times I feel so alone, I have been that I truly am not alone.

With bipolar I used to believe life's obstacles were too much to bare because of how my own imperfections impended upon it. Over the years I have learned through trials and tribulations life is what you let God make of it, not what it makes of you.

I still experience mania and depression. They are something that are not going away. My last hospitalization was four years ago. I've lived on a roller coaster ride dragging my family behind me. Other than affecting them and the troubles I've gotten myself into, I wouldn't get rid of my bipolar ever. To do so, I would deprive myself of a world I see and emotions I feel that most are not privy to. And those imaginary worlds and false memories somehow become real of which I would have to say goodbye.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The dangers of nothing

Every now and then I'll focus a blog on my bipolar. It's such an engrained component of my being it can't be ignored. It deserves and craves as much attention as everything in my life. If not more. And this may not make sense. But bear in mind, I'm in a severe depression.

I never see them coming. The episodes. They sneak up. But when they make their presence known it's too late and I am at their mercy. You would think after 37 years by now I would be able to spot them a mile away. Maybe the brain just becomes too weak and unable to recognize them; depression, mania, hypo-mania and psychosis.

Today I feel nothing. I call it the Nothing Feeling. There is no happiness. No joy. No sadness. Not even depression. Absolutely nothing. Calling it depression gives it no justice. Today I do not want to exist. I don't want to die either.

Thinking is all but non-existent. Have you ever tried to think feeling nothing? It's impossible. What minimal thinking I can muster up is reduced to thinking how you don't want to do anything.

And that's what I do. Nothing. Exhaustion has set in and even rolling over in the bed I have secluded myself to is a chore. It is where I have spent most of the day with low music in the background. I listen to Standards 90% of time and it seems to fit the occasion. It's just to have something fill my mind.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Part 5 of What marriage has taught me: "The importance of interceding for my spouse"

We did not have a formal wedding. We married at the courthouse. But our vows were just the same and just as real. Vows of forever and of love. We knew remarriages were tough and risky. We knew blending families would be harder. What we didn't know was how much harder the future held.

My ex-wife attacked me attempting to remove my children from life. My wife's ex-husband attempted to take their children. Both consisted of multiple false child abuse investigations. She reacted in her way with anger frustration. I reacted in my way with alcohol and an eating disorder. We both grew apart.

The distance grew longer, and the hurt grew deeper. We lived without living at all.

We moved through our marriage with scuffs and wounds. With cutting open old wounds. I focused on her weaknesses. But not for her benefit. I focused on how I was deprived. What I she wasn't giving.

Life gave us battles that left us on the defense. Life gave us distractions - some beautiful and precious - some evil and malicious, we focused on them, not each other. She closed her heart to most of me, and I resented her.  I made myself distant. We put up walls.

Walls for safety, to keep each other out, built for the purpose of protection while desperately wanting to be let in to each other's walls only when it was safe. These walls were supposed to offer safety, all I felt was alone. I heard the emptiness fill our home, just big enough for me and no one else.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Part 4; What marriage has taught me: The myth of "Just because someone doesn't love you the way you want them to, doesn't mean they don't love you with all they have."

"Just because someone doesn't love you the way you want them to, doesn't mean they don't love you with all they have."

Sounds like a pretty good liner to make us feel secure, huh? I don't think so and I have never liked this quote. I think it's a cop out. A way of saying, "You know, I can see that you don't feel loved and that our relationship isn't secure, but you're not important enough to me to make an effort."  Pretty shallow and selfish.

Maybe we marry the wrong person. "After all, if they really loved me they would just know. Right?" If that's true we all marry the wrong person. No one ever automatically knows what it takes to make the other person feel loved. We all marry a person who is apparently incompatible with us on all kinds of levels.

To give you another quote: "The husband is neat, the wife is messy. The wife is talkative, the husband is quiet. The husband is always on time, the wife lives more in the moment. The wife is social, the husband is a homebody" - Stephen Altrogge The fact that we are different sexes is enough to complicate things.

The differences go much farther than that. What makes me feel loved and secure does not make my wife feel loved and secure.

What good is love if it is withheld? Even Christ knew and clarified this truth. "He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me." (Jhn 14:24 NIV) Christ clearly clarifies how love is exhibited. He never says the Father will accept love on our terms. He Himself tells us what He needs and wants to be loved. He clearly states what He recognizes it as.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Part 3; What marriage has taught me: The reality of grace.

In our world today "grace" can carry any number of definitions. It's something that I write about often on my blog. It's easier said than done and typically that's acceptable today. Because people need to earn our forgiveness before we give it. We've all heard the expression of some sorts, "Oh I've forgiven "them," but they better not...(you fill in the blank)." Shallow grace. Grace today is generally accepted with words and no action.

The answer to this is a "no brainer." Grace is hard. Grace involves action. Grace being vulnerable and at risk. Actions that makes you cringe at the thought of. Actions that let them off the hook and makes you look weak and gullible.

My definition: Forgiveness without justification.

And it's easier for us to view and accepts God's grace even though we never deserve it and never will. It's easier for us view God's grace as loving and trust that it will always be there. It's easy for us to take it for granted. It's almost impossible for us to see God weak and naive with His grace. Most of the time we accept His grace as if we deserve it.

The first three and a half years of my wife's and my marriage was rocky to say the least. Our devotion to each other was tested like nothing either of us had ever experienced. Our willingness to sacrifice individually was broken on many occasions. For much of that time I failed to extend my wife grace. My illogical reasons: I didn't receive grace. I didn't receive what I wanted or needed.

Marriage has taught me my wife is sometimes God's hands. Sometimes His teacher. Sometimes His mirror seeing my own reflection.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Part 2; What marriage has taught me: My marriage and family are my first ministry

I have been so busy lately that I have not been able to give attention to the part 2 of this series. I've received a new position at my place of employment. I have been focused on school as the semester winds down. I've tried to maintain consistent involvement with Celebrate Recovery. And there are the issues in my home; a son transitioning from a tween to a teen, dealing with a daughter with Oppositional Defiant Disorder. Much of the time that I am able to give to myself alone consists of attempts at gathering my thoughts and catching my breath for the next responsibility. 

I'm at a crossroads today. As this semester winds down I find the drive for my desire to finish school and pursue a career in the field of psychology has dwindled to down to nothing. I even find myself apathetic to the work and even the idea of graduating. Yet I have no idea what to pursue for my future. God says He has plans for me. "Plans to prosper and not for harm. So should I worry about my future?"

We all know the cliché, "Parenting is the hardest job you'll ever do."

I can't just sit back and expect God to handle everything. Of course not. I do have my part to fulfill. And at the same time I must still focus on the here and now and not lose sight of my main calling, what God has called me to do. My first and most important responsibility. That is the calling of my first ministry. My marriage. My wife. My children. Far too often this responsibility goes overlooked in spite of the fact it is something I worry about on a daily basis.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Part 1; What marriage has taught me: The strength of my weaknesses

My wife brings out the worst in me. She exposes all my flaws for what they are. More accurately, I have learned to embrace my weaknesses within our marriage. Yesterday was our five year anniversary. The fact that we made it this far is nothing short of a miracle. More than half of our marriage we faced some of the most hellish attacks and trials. In addition to the struggles of blending our family and excess baggage from our previous marriage, we faced and dealt with parental alienation with our children from both of our ex-spouses, custody battles, my bipolar with alcoholism and anorexia along with the progress of my Parkinson's, jail time, hospitalizations and suicide attempts.

The attacks from our ex-spouses brought out the worst in me. Better yet, the weaknesses within me surfaced. The baggage I carried from my previous marriage showed their presence and dominated both my emotions and behaviors. Many times they became too heavy to bear.

Of all the things for a spouse to bring out of us, the last things we want them to be are our weaknesses. They are painful. They are embarrassing. They are our faults and the last things we want exposed let alone face and deal with.

Paul wrote, "But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base of the world and the despised God has chosen..." 1 Cor. 1:27-28

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

REPOST: Did I Miss Christ This Christmas?

The following is a repost. I originally posted this last year (2010) on Christmas Day. I wrote it because of the let down the holidays have become to me. Almost in disgust. Not that I think they are about me or even for me. But as a society we have come to make the holidays about ourselves. I wanted to repost it and make it available before we have a chance to get caught up in the holiday hustle and bustle. These were thoughts last year.

I see Christmas through the world’s eye....

Did I miss Christ this Christmas

I have to confess; I don’t know if this is a rant or more of a profession of confusion out of desperation. There are things weighing heavily on my mind and in my heart. Maybe, hopefully there will be cohesion within these words rather than them winding up being some kind of mixed up hodgepodge that doesn’t make sense. I’m liable to step on some toes. Sometimes I have a knack for rubbing people the wrong way. Usually it’s those that are reluctant to slide out of their comfort zone. But I’ve never been one to not speak what I have to say as long as it’s worth saying and that maybe something will come out of it.

What is irony? Thanksgiving and Black Friday, that's irony!

Thanksgiving is over and Black Friday officially began five hours ago at midnight. Black Friday has seemed to become a holiday in and of its own bigger than Thanksgiving. All you hear the day before Thanksgiving and the day of is talk of Black Friday...oh the deals! You can almost see the sparkles in their eyes. You can almost see the hope they carry for that possible deal that could make their shopping experience worthwhile. The excitement is almost contagious.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

When life is bigger than God....

My life has had good times, and bad times, and really bad times. The value of my life, to others and to God, never made sense to me. The idea that I am worthy of grace simply because I am alive is foreign to me. Yet, it's what I have begun to understand more and more each day.

Inside me is a kid who was hurting, a teen who questioned too much, a young adult who explored too much and got lost, and ultimately a human being in need of grace and forgiveness.

Many of us were raised to believe that blessings and healing and victory belong only to those who believe enough. Good news to those who do, but naive as well. The flipside: belief in that is that failure, sickness, and lack are signs of not believing enough. And what about those with great faith and yet find themselves in life's troubles?

The problem with this belief is that God's goodness is only reflected in the goodness of our own lives. It's not the pain or the difficulty or the challenges. Clearly, those are signs of a wayward heart...a faltering unexposed sin. 
Basically anything but blessings, success, and victory boils down to us not being enough.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Who's Fault Is It?

For well over a year I tried to beat my alcoholism and my eating disorder on my own; by my own strength. Then it came to the point to where I was seriously contemplating going to an inpatient treatment center for both my diagnosis. And to make matters more difficult my bipolar only fueled both addictions. Then it came to the point to where the judge told me I was to quit drinking.

For the most part the no drinking wasn't so hard. I had a newly restored faith in God and a new appreciation for the things I have in my life. Becoming free from my eating disorder was another story. My bipolar had been in charge for the previous four years controlling much of my thoughts and beliefs. My behaviors.

For a few months after the year in mental health court which I was accountable to the court or face prison, I remained sober and fairly stable. However, a few months after graduating the program I relapsed with my bipolar and began rapid cycling for the next few months.

Hospitalized for suicidal depression and suicide attempt. Episodes of mania. Jail. Periods of complete insomnia accompanied with psychosis. And my most recent, a psychosis blackout that has landed me in trouble again.

Many times I have felt the shame of my mistakes that have left me disappointed in my example as follower of Christ. 

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The safe god

There is a dreadfulness about God. Seldom is this said.

Down in our bones, mingled with our blood, silent and potent as instinct, is a dread of God. Part of our essence is a longing to flee. There is a fear of God, the Proverbs tells us, that is the beginning of wisdom, the threshold for knowing God. But that's not what I'm talking about.

I'm referring to a more primal, deep down craven terror, a black hole of unknowing.

We know we should desire intimacy with God. The better and saner part of our being does. But there is in each of us a dark impulse that prefers separation, a love of distance. We want to see God, just not face-to-face, but in rough silhouette, to hear Him, not the thunder of His shout or the sweetness of His whisper, but only rumors of Him, faint and faraway echoes.

Like the Israelites at the bottom of Mount Sinai we want a mediator such as Moses.

We exhibit a primal fear. The voice of God, the presence of God, holds not comfort but terror. The way tigers and tyrants, cyclones and cyclopses frightens us we fear God. So we want it muffled, mediated, caged. We settle for--no, demand--echoes, rumors, shadows. We long for hearsay about God, but do not ourselves want to hear God say anything.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Trouble with Bipolar Blackouts and Amnesia

I have come to realize that there are some portions of my life that I simply cannot remember. And that no matter how hard I try to fill in those gaps of lost time I will never succeed. I can lose spans of time of as little as a few hours or as much as up to a whole day. Stress seems to be the most likely trigger, rather it's stress of rapid cycling or external stress.

Blackouts are usually associated with alcohol. Then there are such things as blackouts from bipolar. I can disassociate from reality completely sober all the while functioning completely normal. You would never know my brain has dragged me into another place out of reality.

Most occasions I come back normal. Awoken unharmed with all my responsibilities successfully completed. But sometimes I'm at the mercy of my psychosis. I play a cat and mouse game. A follow the leader game. As if driven or lead by some strange force. Sometimes I awake after wandering off and in those times by God's grace I come to and am able to find my way home unharmed. I once awoke over 40 miles from my home with no recollection of why I travelled that distance. Another time over 130 miles away. Almost in another state. If there were any intentions I have yet to discover why, but for now it seems I just got into my vehicle and drove.

Friday, October 7, 2011

The dark night of the soul

Up until about three days ago I hadn't done much but lay around with a blank stare on my face.  I didn't even have the urge to write anything. So this is much overdue. Other than that I did only what was required of me to get by. Even some of my responsibilities I failed to follow through on. I could muster up a giggle now and then for something I found humorous. But for the most part I was indifferent to everything else.

In all accounts there was no external reason for my lack of emotions. As a matter of fact, just days before the oncoming of my depression I had been caught in a whirl wind. A whirl wind that apparently that had been taking me for a ride for the past three to four months dragging me up and down like a roller coaster. Rides of hypomania, depression and mixed states.

Now once again I was in a free-fall. Plummeting into that pit I am so familiar with. Again. I know the darkness all too well. Often times I become tempted by old vices when the darkness surrounds me.

Every time I am blind to the coming of my mania, whether it's full or hypomania. Others see it before I do. I never see it coming. But the depression is like an oncoming storm rolling in. It announces its presence and slowly creeps in until it has completely surround my whole being.

It's in my depressions that I feel the farthest from God. It's in my depressions my mind makes me feel the guiltiest over any mistake I make. Sometimes like my earthly relationship that neglect, I neglect God as well.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Bipolar: I Need To Goodbye

Bipolar is tiresome. It can be a constant chase while at the same a constant running. A chase for something normal, whatever that is, and running from whatever current episode your cursed with. It's exhausting. And after 37 years of it it's wearing me out. Today I feel dull.

I have caused more than my share of problems. Legal problems. Financial problems. Alcohol abuse. Relationship problems. Hospitalizations.

My actual diagnosis is Bipolar 1 mixed, rapid cycling, severe with psychotic features. Though I only experience those features in major manic and depressive episodes. Which are not very often. If you don't know what mixed is imagined either being the worst depressed you have ever felt in your life but at the same time having the most physical energy you have ever felt in your life happening at the same time, or it's also when you cycle between mania and depression rapidly anytime as little as within hours, a day, a week, a month, etc. Never knowing what is coming next.

Out the entire bipolar spectrum, mood swings, depression and manic episodes are the worst with rapid cycling bipolar type. Rapid cycling is diagnosed when one has four or more depressive, hypomanic, manic, and/or mixed episode in a single year. I can experience an episode at least once a month.

Moods must immediately follow one another or have a short period free of extreme mood swings.

But no matter how mild or severe any episode or not it's always about management. During any stable period it's important to stick to any routine especially medication in order to avoid any kind of trigger. But during any episode it's a whole other story.

Say goodbye to the person you want to be. The one you know you can be. One of the ugly ones returns. Maybe it's the one that takes everything you feel away from you. Maybe it's the one that feeds you lies and drags you around to keep up. Both tear you down.

It's always the same. I never know it's coming and I never know it's here before it's too late.  Not until after I have begun to believe some kind of lie my mind has begun to feed me. An overreaction. Irritability has begun to become my norm and I have made some kind of stupid decision.

It's been 37 years of depression and mania and my mind still doesn't get it. I am open to being well. It's always my goal, but so far, the episodes always come back.

Logically I'm ready for them in my mind, but when they start I'm always so mad, mad, MAD!

I have numerous tasks I need to complete yet I can't find the concentration to even to stare at the TV. I feel dull. Which is the best description to describe the feeling of nothing. It's such a pervasive feeling. It soaks up all of my cells.

Getting out of bed in the morning is not a problem for me. Unlike most who experience depression my brain in its continual cruel manner refuses to allow me to sleep. Too many sleepless nights and the shadows become my company whispering amongst each other.

The past 6 years have really been a struggle for me. Mostly due to outside stressors. My mania is more short lived than my depressions. My depressions typically come with suicidal ideations. Feelings and emotions are chemical reactions. They are biological. As is bipolar. Bipolar depression sucks the capability to feel right out of you. There is no sadness. Depression is just the closest term to describe it.

I always wonder, "Will this depression ever end?'

When I'm seriously depressed every minute feels like I'm living in hell and I am just closer and closer to death. I even begin to revert to my eating disorder thinking of which I have been in recovery from for well over a year.

Sometimes I get so depressed I can't even have a conversation. Just spitting out the words is something I have to force myself to do. Every minute when I am well is filled with the possibility because I can choose what to feel and what to do. People take this granted. I may hurt deeper than others, but I see the sun brighter than others. They take for granted they can decide not to be mad about something or not let something worry them.

Bipolar disorder is not about fixing problems. I will always have screw ups. I can fix my problems. I have a choice with that. The main problem I have is that I can't always fix bipolar disorder. I can manage it, or at least do my best, but I can't fix something that is so broken. I feel that this will last forever and nothing will change the future. I will be suicidal again and hospitalized again at some point. It's inevitable those days will come.

I fear the possible bad choices I may make in the future and their consequences in my mania. I tend to wander off. I get very generous with my mine and my wife's money. And worst of all, I crave alcohol. Mania tells you that you can do anything, go anywhere, be anyone and that nothing bad will ever happen! That you have no one to answer to.

Tomorrow I will call my psychiatrist to see him as soon as I can. I've been taking the same dosage of the same medication for years and I think my body has just become tolerant of it. I am tired and exhausted. Not just physically, but mentally and emotionally from fighting against my bipolar. It's heavy and relentless. It does not give up. But neither do I.

 I Need To Say Goodbye

I need to say goodbye. I have to go now.
I'm sure I will be back someday.
If you see myself somewhere tell me I miss me.
And if it's not too late tell me that I can stay.
Please ask me why I always have to go away.
I know my goodbye was so short and I am sorry.
The lights were just too bright for these two eyes.
I need to draw back and retreat into the darkness
of a world I know.
A world of pains disguise where I hide myself,
it suffocates my cries.
I hate this pounding; it's so loud I cannot hear me.
Why do demons wish to kill me inside?
My mind cannot suffer through this life of pain much longer.
If I cannot breath again then I rather die.
With every beat I clench my fists and scream out, "Why?"
The pain has grown now to engulf my numbing body.
The blood throbbing to burst out of my skull,
pressing my face against the floor.
I try to free me.
from this blinding, spinning, stabbing, pounding hell.
Pain has bound me to its everlasting cell.
I feel possessed by pains pressure on my soul, grasping, reaching for the unaffected me.
Screaming aloud the blood escapes my weighing eyelids.
I know I lost the battle towards becoming free.
At least I had the chance to say goodbye to me.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

A Bad Rap

Thomas. Was he so wrong? Most think so. How dare he? Who did he think he was asking Christ to prove Himself? Come on, if he didn't get it after spending the last three years with Him what more does he need?

Thomas was probably more right than any of them. He knew what to look for in the risen Christ. He didn't doubt He would be back. He believed Christ's warnings about false teachers and none of them could have pulled the resurrection off.

My opinion, Thomas had the guts to speak up and ask Jesus face to face what the others were to cowardly to say before. Didn't they dismiss the ladies who tried to convince them after they ran from seeing His empty tomb before they got to see Him person? Thomas wasn't present during that time. Double standard if you ask me.

Thomas receives such a bad rap. "Doubting Thomas" we have dubbed him. "Doubting" that has been mistranslated from Hellenistic Greek. Jesus doesn't call him doubting. He simply tells him he can believe He is Who says He is. That He is not an impostor.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Doing The Most Good

There is a large sign in my town for a local business that reads, "Doing The Most Good." Why don't they do their best? Or try hard? The "most good" is good enough I guess. I find this rather odd for an advertisement. Either they are just being honest or just not trying to get my business.

If I need an attorney would I hire the one who just does his most good? Or the one I hear goes that extra mile for me? If I need a physician would I see one who does his most good? Or visit the one who refuses to give up and get down the bottom of my ailment?

Good is the root of complacency. Complacency becomes the feeling of good. Complacency is the weapon that leads to our downfall. Complacency plays no favorites. It creeps into our marriages. Into our jobs. Into our recovery. Into our health. Into anything we find good enough in our lives.

Complacency is an affliction that saps energy, dulls attitudes, and causes a drain on the brain. The first symptom is satisfaction with the way things are. The second is rejection of things that might be. "Good enough" becomes today's motto and tomorrow's standard. Complacency makes people fear the unknown, distrust the untried, and abhor the new. Like water, a complacent attitude follows the easiest course--downhill. It causes us to draw false strength.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Bipolar, Boxing & God's grace

I think Bipolar is like boxing. You win some rounds. You lose some rounds. You can even get knocked out in the last round and still win.

Oh mania, the thrill of you! Things are good, my mind is sharp, quick and more clever. I remember the feeling. My energy is flying and I can handle everything that comes my way. Life is grand. I just don't see how life could get any better. Nor can I understand how everyone else can be so slow and take life so serious.

Whoa, wait a minute! It's not as great as I thought. I almost forgot about this part. I can't seem to control my thoughts. They're too fast. One starts before one ends. I'm confused and everybody is really getting on my nerves. Now my thoughts are bouncing around in my head at the speed of light and I can't catch them. Everything is coming so fast. Where is that music coming from? Why am I clenching my teeth? My jaw hurts. I'm out of control. Now I've made everyone mad. Wait, I forgot all about you God. I didn't need you.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Dead church...Cheesy clichés

I've never been one to bend over backwards to make people happy. You know a, "people pleaser." As a matter of fact I've been known to piss a few people off from to time to time. It seems my lack of willingness to conform to the norm or my refusal to shed the very core of my being is not well liked. And there is probably no doubt I may piss some off with this blog.

Sell outs come in all shapes and sizes, from all walks of life. We've all met them. I almost bet you that we've all been one to some degree. Could I look you in the eye and tell you I have never done it? No. I said I've never done it to make others happy. But for me? That's different. Insecurity. Loneliness. Personal gain. Revenge. Advantage. Who knows. Our reasons are as many as the number of settings in our walks of life.

In the darkest time of my life I reached out to those who I thought would reach back. I expected them to reach back. I opened up. I poured my heart out. My words flowed only to fall on deaf ears. My wife had left taking our children. Soon after I fell into alcohol and was fighting its grip. I turned to my church family and pastor. It was the church my wife and our children attended at the time. It's a large church made up of bodies. That's it...bodies. People who are busy doing programs and church activities. I soon realized my church family did not seem like much of a family.

Mahatma Gandhi once said, "I like your Christ; I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ."

Friday, September 2, 2011

Have you lost your hearing?

Our land is dry right now. Rain is sparse. Clouds are few if any. Weeks have gone by since the temperature has been below a one-hundred. The flowers in front? Withered or burnt. The lawn? Burnt down to the dirt. I can water with the hose, or the sprinkler, but it's just as dry by the next day. Or worse, within hours. What we need is rain. What we need are clouds. Neither are exactly what we aren't getting. It's Fall this month and it's been this way all summer.

Without rain, there is nothing but empty fields. Without rain, there is no harvest--no life. Our Oklahoma storms seems to have deserted us.

Sometimes I find myself reflecting on the past five years. The attacks. Some personal, some for selfish gain. Some of out spite and vindictive motives. The years of fighting for my children and the toll it took on me. The toll it took on my wife, our family and our marriage. What I reflect on is how I failed to embrace the storm.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

4 dirty words

What would it be like to live in a world where every living person had to carry with them a list of mistakes they have made? Whether it be moral issues, spiritual misadventures, physical offenses, emotional turmoil or any other situation that someone would deem inappropriate. This could be a huge list for any one of us. What might be immoral for me, may not be for another, but you would have to carry it on your list because I find it offensive in some way. My list would be pages of discrepancies, sins, bad judgments, and offending moments.

Can you imagine a world where we had to wear our thoughts on our sleeves? Where people could see our judgments of others as we pass by them. They would know how we see ourselves, and they would never have to imagine what we thought of them. It would also mean that we would not have the opportunity to rethink our initial impression of others.

But we don't live in that kind of world. We don't see into people's lives unless they allow us too, and unfortunately we sometimes (probably more often than not) take that opportunity to cast judgment on others and lower them in to a place that we have reserved for people we want nothing to do with.

At times people have done this with our lives as well.

Our walk with Christ isn't primarily about growth for the sake of personal improvement, but receiving the basics of His death and resurrection. Even we, who follow Christ, often times find ourselves in danger of needing to shrink from our elaborate, self-involved spiritual aspirations of do more, try harder.

See, we tend toward "doing" because, well...doing is about self-progress and we like to take credit for our achievements. We've become a society based on measurements. But the gospel is about the foundation of what has already been done for us.

And to be blunt, we are narcissistic people. For all our striving to live the holy life, Scripture isn't about us, or ability to achieve for God. Instead, it is about God's work done for us in Christ. Traditional spiritual wisdom teaches us that discouragement is normal. What happens is that we seek God for selfish reasons. We get emotional highs out of religious services, or out of prayer, or any other experience we attribute to His Spirit.

Let's face it. We Christians take the gospel for granted every day. Surely there's something more flashy about the Christian life than beginner, baby-Christian, Sunday school stuff, right? Wrong.

The gospel is simple, profound, and glorious. It's the stuff that changes hearts. Want to stay Jesus-focused, gospel-centered, and keep the big picture in sight? Don't get self-absorbed in your own sin management. It's tragic how His Word can so easily become a self-help guide.

At times in our history there have been incredible people who have questioned the systems that have been established. Systems that say you are better than me because of your income level or your childhood advantages. Systems that differentiate criminals from innocents, offenders from the offended, even sick from healthy. They have questioned the path some have outlined for raising some people to an upper levels and leaving others in subpar levels where only those who appear equal will connect with them.

They did this through grace.

These people, they moved. They are the ones that enter hospitals, prisons, back alleys, school, office buildings and everywhere in between with a message of, "our lives are equal because grace covers all.”

I see people who have lived a life, and continue to struggle, just like mine was and they are often full of anger, hatred, bitterness, vengeance, fear, doubt, and self pity. They are terrified of what the future holds fearing their pasts will not let them go.

They are unfulfilled, ungrateful, selfish and have a strong desire to be empowered but not to empower others. They just don't know how to be grateful. Or selfless. Or empowering.

The difference is grace. Unconditional grace.

Unconditionally. That means the what doesn't matter, but also that the who doesn't matter. Lost, found, and everything in between--we all need grace.

Now chew on this: who is it easier to give grace to? The "lost," or "saved" people?

Who is it easier to offer prayer to? To utter the words, "What can I pray for you about?" or "You are in my prayers." Who is it easier to send a Bible verse to? Who is it easier to unexpectedly offer help to?

Who is it easier to say, "I forgive you" too?

For me, the answer would be is someone who's saved. Why? Because they "get" it. Prayer, scripture, random kindness, and fellowship are just part of the same as I. The only thing for me to overcome is my laziness. To get off my butt.

Someone outside the church, on the other hand, is all kinds of complicated: Do I need to ask permission to pray or read scripture? Will they think it's weird that I'm dropping food off? Will they drop an f-bomb if I have a Bible study? Even though my "saved" friends know I'm human and still sin, will "these" people think of me as a hypocrite trying to be something I'm not?

This conflict is a tragedy. Biased Grace

It's the unconscious bias way we approach grace in our everyday lives. Here's the danger: bias perpetuates itself. If one kind of person is consistently shown grace, and another person is consistently ignored, the gap between the two grows bigger. And bigger. And bigger. Until you or I am afraid to bring a plate of cookies to someone because we're afraid they'll think we're weird.

It's easy to say, ”I'm called to minister to the church" and use all your energy as such. It's your calling, right? Well, so is this, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation."

So, make unconditional grace a purposeful part of your life.

Unconditional grace means tangible grace--the kind that actually causes physical change in the world around me. Around you. Around someone. The giver. The receiver. That is, after all, the model of Jesus, whose grace brings about salvation, healing, addiction, recovery, and any number of other miracles. But more often than not, I'm guilty of displays of grace that amount to simple "good" deeds. It's entry-level stuff, far removed from the potential that God has placed in me. I wonder, do put my full potential into the 12-Step class I teach?

There is a question that tragically kills grace dead in tracks every single day.

It is the pathetic question: "What will people think?" 

Sadly these 4 dirty words dictate so much of our grace giving and receiving.

What will people think if I take my cheating husband back?

What will people think if I forgive the a-hole that took advantage of me?

What will people think if I move on from my mistake and find happiness again?

What will people think if I admit I'm addicted to pain killers?

What will people think if they see me talking to "that" person?

What will people think I walk down the aisle of a church and surrender my life to God?

Those 4 dirty little words. Questions like these kill grace.

Grace does truly cover all, giving you a fresh start and a hope for better and brighter days. Grace is the one event/action/emotion/conveyed experience that can give you a new outlook on your life and towards others.

Let grace cover all that you have been, and then see who you can be.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

My worst enemy

Our enemies come from any number of places. From every walk of life. We know of them casually. We know some of them intimately who once were close friends. Some even have our same blood running through their veins. While others have been that of a betraying spouse.

Some of our enemies were vindictive and malicious with intent. Purposeful with a goal. For some we were simply collateral damage caught in their wake of destructive habits leaving us burned. For some, our enemies came about out of sheer naivety. Clueless on their part.

But what if our enemy is closer than our closest friend? They know us better than our family? More intimate with us than that of our spouse? When our worst enemy is ourselves. When we ourselves have inflicted our deepest wounds. When we alone caused ourselves the highest financial burdens. When we alone drove away those that loved us the most. When we alone caused ourselves the most damage. When we are left with shame and guilt.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The wounds we share

Suffering. We are both its creator and victim.

Being a Christian implies forgiving people that hurt you, even when they don't deserve it. Then again none of us "deserve" forgiveness. Come on, let's be honest; even when we know we should forgive, the context of our story can get in the way. Forgiving can be so frustrating!

Suffering is a reality we all wish never existed. We try our hardest to flee from its sight. Repulsed by its touch and sickened with its embrace. Rarely do we see it coming like an impending storm that's been building before it hits and we can at least prepare for it.

Mostly, out of nowhere it assaults us like a venomous snake attempting to fill our hearts and minds with deadly poison; especially our spirits. It wraps around us, squeezing the life out of us. We want to be free from its clutches, free from its influences, from its pain. But we can't. It is a part of us, a byproduct of what we are. An integral part of our fallen world. We ARE both its creator and its victim.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Grace To A Bipolar Husband

I know if you would've asked my wife five years if she had any kind of idea what she was getting herself into when she married me she could've looked at you with a, "What are you talking about" look on her face.

After multiple arrests where she swore to herself to leave me in jail, the loss of my driver's license, multiple late night outs, inappropriate friendships, angry outburst, financial burdens, alcohol abuse, two marriage counselors, manic and depressive episodes with suicidal ideations and suicide attempts followed by inpatient hospitalizations, at times on the brink of divorce, today I'm sure she could tell you a different story.

I am a bipolar spouse. I am also a bipolar spouse with a failed marriage and a (currently) extremely successful marriage (that wasn't always the case). My ex-spouse despised my bipolar in spite of the fact that it was under more control during our marriage. She hated everything about it. Even the site of my medications. It just did not fit into her world of a "perfect" marital relationship. So after years of her lack of support she walked.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Unconditionally Biased Graced

We all have set opinions and beliefs about grace and second changes. For most of us it's our culture (church, or lack of), upbringing, friends and even our own prejudices that craft these beliefs. One of the most widespread believes about grace is that it is conditional. That it can be poured out based upon "this" criteria or "that" criteria. But not "this" criteria or "that" criteria.

Grace is biased. Grace is conditional. People are comfortable with past drinking and partying; especially if you throw in there in some church outreach. But what if I abused my wife or was unfaithful? People aren't comfortable with infidelity, or abuse, maybe because it hits too close to home. Whatever the reason, this kind of grace isn't unconditional; it's biased.

Biased grace alienates and isolates -- and it's what real grace was never meant to be.

Our ideas about grace are way too small. Second chances are the greatest gifts we can give someone. Grace is a lifestyle, not an idea or concept. It can be debated, discussed, and preached along with second chances but that won't change anything. Grace has to be unleashed in our day-to-day lives. Our real beliefs about grace will be carried out in our actions whether we realize it or not. Are we real or are we fake? And we can't hide it.

Many people I meet are reminders of why we need to be purposeful about Grace. We have to strive to be like Christ, and actively fight against our grace bias. We need to look for opportunities, not just to practice "grace equality," but to practice this radical grace....uncomfortable grace,--even for the adulterer, the bigot, the blasphemer, the broken.

When we don't show grace to someone who doesn't show grace, we've lost sight of the meaning of grace.

We are called time and time again to give big grace to others. We've taken on the job of extending friends and strangers with this grace. Admitting that people ruin us, abuse us and wound us we will still extend (or at least try to extend) God's infinite grace to them.

Have you ever felt the glaring eyes of judgment from someone? Have you heard words that have left you feeling like you weren't good enough? Have you been in conversations where you've heard someone get run down, and you wonder what they say about you when you're not around? Have you ever felt like you didn't belong? Have you ever felt like something you did in your past now defines you to the people you know?

How often are we the one's quick to judge? How often do I make assessments about someone before I know the whole story when I have my own story?

Do I freely give grace and second chances?

No, I cannot change people...control people...make people behave in a way I think is appropriate.

I CAN be more...ask their perspective before forming my grace...Love never fails.

Our ability to offer grace and forgiveness cannot be dependent on if we receive it first or not. We just have to give it. And while it can be hard and uncomfortable, God gives us what we need to help us dispense complete grace and forgiveness when we feel like doing anything else but that. Grace and forgiveness never begins with a feeling.

One act, one comment, one hug, could radically change the destiny of someone else.

Today exists not because the sun and moon need something to do. Today is the double-overtime opportunity for grace to battle our culture where pain is entertaining, and brokenness runs rampant.

We all will have chance after chance before the day is done to show grace to someone, it may take effort, it may feel awkward, but it is a very real choice.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

This is not the Cosby Show

Every day on Facebook I see posts from people begging for 5 o'clock to come around. Fridays I see posts from people; TGIF! Sundays I see posts in dreads of impending Mondays.

As stressful as it can be I love my job. I have the hardest to please bosses I have ever had in my working years. They are the most demanding, most obnoxious, rudest bosses ever. I have never been able to please them all at the same time.

They are the most ungrateful and unsatisfied people I have ever worked for. Their demands are unreasonable and give out impossible deadlines to meet at all hours of the day (and night). In fact, my job never ends. There is no time clock, no 5 o'clock. No TGIF. Friday never comes and every day is Monday. No holidays either.

Monday, July 25, 2011

I am not a lie

I have a nasty little secret that rarely makes its presence known. It's not a secret that tries to remain unknown from the world. It's a secret because it tries so hard to disguise itself and blend in making it difficult to be distinguished. I'm talking about the hardest to explain episode of bipolar: the dreaded "mixed episode."

Often times the most dangerous episode and more often the most overlooked and forgotten. Even by myself until it's too late and after it has subsided as I look back in its wake do I realize has just occurred.

Not quite depression, not quite mania, but a hideous combination of the two. Sometimes flip-flopping from one to the other, from one day to the next or as quick as from morning to night. Sometimes the despair of depression laced with the energy and urgency of mania all in one. Trying to explain how a mixed episode feels is like trying to explain colors to the blind. Or the vast differences of the sounds of languages to the deaf. Impossible. But I'll give it a shot.

Consistent research has shown that people with bipolar are like vampires when it comes to sunlight. Too much is not good. Exposure to extended amounts of sunlight has the capability to trigger mania. I do my best to avoid it. So it would go without saying the summer months carry the highest rates for manic episodes. Sleep deprivation is another trigger; of which I am accustom to, never having been successful at obtaining a healthy sleep cycle.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The comfort of guilt

Bipolar is haunted with a number of emotions. Anyone who walks around carrying the diagnosis will tell you so. Any mental illness carries its own number of lingering emotions. It is after all a mood disorder of depression, anger, frustration, excitement, happiness, joy, pride...I could go on.

Even the most caring people in a person with bipolar's life can stigmatize against them without realizing it by most often associating them with the "stereotypical" bipolar emotions. Of all the emotions related to this disorder the one most overlooked is the feeling of guilt.

Growing up, and even in our adult years, we've all had things we swore we've never do. We've had dreams and goals we wished to accomplish. An idea of the person we wanted to be. But what happens when that changes? What happens when those dreams don't come true? What happens when you realize you're not the person you'd hoped to be? Today I am no where close to where I had hoped to be years ago.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Hating haters makes me a hater

Have you ever been hated? I mean truly hated for one reason or another. For what you are. For what you have. I'm not talking about some spat between friends who piss each other off. I'm talking pure hatred that would cause someone to literally go out of their way to destroy your life or at the least make you miserable.

I have. I have known and experienced true hatred. Hatred that was bread out what of what I am, bipolar. I don't care what people say trying to be positive and supportive. Bipolar is who am. It's not what I have. It's been a part of me since childhood so you can't separate the two.
What is it about me, that makes people hate? I wish someone would tell me. God they're so mean. I've been mocked and ridiculed by law enforcement. Told my wife and children would be off without me. Told I wasn't worthy to speak. Told I was a piece of a shit and slammed down onto counters and the ground more than once by law enforcement. Yes, I made my mistake of driving under the influence. But in my defense I was under psychosis. I was locked in a cell wearing nothing a paper gown after informing them of my condition and denied medical care.

Where my inspiration comes from

A Recycled-Dad with Bipolar & Parkinson's, reflections on fathering and family life and other stuff thrown in'll love my Soap Box Rants

Blog with Integrity\\ Auhor Lupe Picazo

Why I call myself a Recycled Dad

I call myself a Recycled Dad because of the struggles with remarriage and being a step-parent and weekend dad. This is also about my life living with bipolar and how it affects me personally, my family and my job. It also reflects on the grace God has poured out on me throughout recovery from alcohol and an eating disorder. Recycled Dad is about my reflections on the wisdom God teaches daily on fatherhood and being a better husband in spite of being bipolar.

Please feel free to leave comments. I welcome them