Bipolar Doesn’t Define Me

The Empty Chair

stock-photo-bipolar-disorder-word-cloud-concept-249222136#inhonorofcarrie  In 1977 I saw the first of the Star Wars movies on the day it opened. Something I would do for most of the Star Wars movies which followed. At the time I lived in Baltimore.  After making some hospital visits one day, went by this old run down theater where the movie had just opened. Believe it or not, I was about the only person there. The multiplex’s and long lines were unknown that day. No one knew what this new science fiction movie was about.  It was so different from other movies. It portrayed an unreal world in a realistic way. The characters seemed so human with their faults and flaws.

So it was with Carrie Fisher. Early in life she was diagnosed with Bipolar disorder.   She used her fame as Princess Leia as a platform to make bipolar disorder visible, to bring it out of the…

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Bipolar Doesn’t Define Me

stock-photo-bipolar-disorder-word-cloud-concept-249222136#inhonorofcarrie  In 1977 I saw the first of the Star Wars movies on the day it opened. Something I would do for most of the Star Wars movies which followed. At the time I lived in Baltimore.  After making some hospital visits one day, went by this old run down theater where the movie had just opened. Believe it or not, I was about the only person there. The multiplex’s and long lines were unknown that day. No one knew what this new science fiction movie was about.  It was so different from other movies. It portrayed an unreal world in a realistic way. The characters seemed so human with their faults and flaws.

So it was with Carrie Fisher. Early in life she was diagnosed with Bipolar disorder.   She used her fame as Princess Leia as a platform to make bipolar disorder visible, to bring it out of the dark shadows. Mental illness has always had a stigma  Carrie Fisher demonstrate you could live with a mental illness and not just survive with it, but thrive. As she has quipped  “I’ve received more awards for being bipolar than anything else.”

I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at age 53.  The symptoms were all there, waiting for the pieces of the puzzle to be put together. It took ten years for the pieces to fall together.  1996 had been a stressful year.  As a pastor there were the usual duties pulling at you in dozens of directions.  Then there was the year where I held 60 funerals.  For one 9 week period I averaged a funeral every three days. On several occasions I had two funerals a day.  There were times of going from the cemetery back to the hospital where another church member, a friend, was dying.  After this to say I was depressed was a misnomer.  It was then that the demon of depression began to rear it’s head.

There is more to bipolar disorder than depression. It is too often over diagnosed.  But by 2005 my life was falling apart.  I didn’t know what the problem was.  Didn’t even realize their was a problem.  I wasn’t a drug addict or alcoholic. Didn’t smoke.  On the surface I was rather successful.  But my desk was a mess, addressing issues became difficult, debt was the norm. My ability to think things through was impaired.  All symptomatic of bipolar.

Bipolar disorder is not a disease, it’s a disorder.  You’re not sick, your brain is broken.  It is often genetic in nature. The brain is often unable to focus and concentrate.  I’ve followed it’s trail through five generation of my father’s family, from parent to child, cousins, Aunts and Uncles, my Grandfather and Great-Grandfather.  The last time I ever met with my Father’s Doctor I asked him point blank, “Should he have been diagnosed with Bipolar disorder.”  He just looked at me and said, “Of course.”  It was only later that I wanted to hit him for the years my Dad suffered.

It can’t be fixed, but it can be controlled. Unfortunately many people have difficulty with the medications.  I’ve been blessed from the time of my diagnosis to have gotten the right mix of med’s.  It can’t be healed, but the grace of God can get you through it, and move beyond it.

Today I remember Carrie Fisher, and her mother Debbie Reynolds, and Patty Duke and Robbin Williams and all those other silent sufferers from Bipolar Disorder.  #inhonorofcarrie.

 

The Promise of Messiah

And he shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah the Prophet

At this time of the year the above is one of the most familiar prophetic scriptures of the Advent and Christmas season.  Part of it’s popularity is from the Oratorio by Handel, “Messiah.”  It has been said that when Handel was preparing the music for the oratorio Messiah, he was inspired with such passion that it was completed in only twenty-four days.  So moved was he that meals went untouched, visitors unnoticed, and sleep unknown.  The music of Messiah still moves people today.  When the chorus of Hallelujah begins people stand to Honor and Worship Messiah Jesus.

As is usually translated, at least in English, is a four phrase statement.

“Wonderful Counselor,

Mighty God,

Everlasting Father,

Prince of Peace.”

But it must be asked, is this what the Prophet said.  The Hebrew has no punctuation, no spacing, no structure.  Just a line of letters. If we were to take this passage and write it as found in the original scriptures it would look like this:

Hewillbenamedwonderfulcounselormightygodeternalfatherprinceofpeace.

Try to pick this apart.  What if it was phrased a different was

He will be named (called)

Wonderful,

Counselor,

Mighty,

God,

Eternal,

Father,

Prince,

Peace.

This is different.  Here is an explanation of how we should look at this passage of scripture.

And He shall be called:

  • Wonderful – root, “wonder” or “full of wonder.” Think of the word Awe, as in awesome. Those who see Jesus come to be filled with awe at his work, his wonder, his wisdom, his love.
  • Counselor – “one called along side of you”. Jesus promised His disciples he would send another comforter (counselor in many translations), the Holy Spirit.  God’s Spirit is there to comfort, counsel and guide us in the Christian life.
  • Mighty – Strong when we are weak.
  • God – God as in God, not any god out of many god’s or some abstract god, but the God who created the heavens and the earth, who caused the stars to spin in the sky yet hold you in the hollow of His Hand!
  • Eternal – Always there, never fails. You are never alone.
  • Father – A loving one who cares, provides, protects, directs, and guides us in the journey of life.
  • Prince – not common, born of the royal blood line as the Prince of Judah. A person worthy of respect and love.
  • Peace – the end result of walking with God, peace. Not just the end of war as we are promised a struggle in life. Shalom, peace of heart and life.  This peace is the peace which passes all understanding.  A peace in the midst of the struggles of life. A peace which only Jesus Christ can give.

For many believers today God is too small, too limited, to distant. This is not about non-believers, but those who do accept and know Jesus Christ as lord.  We might believe otherwise, but actions speak louder than words.  Our daily routine does not reflect a God who is present with us. Our prayers are not of hope but self-center appeals for our personal well being with an occasional word lifted up on behalf of those beyond our personal sphere of friends and family. When was the last time you spent vigorous prayer for the people of Syria, the missionaries working the slums of Guatemala, or the lost people in your own community? Have we considered that the Almighty, Eternal God of all creation is able to handle the problems of this world.

May your Christmas be Merry, and the year to come be filled with blessings and peace.