By Shannon Toller
Finding Help and Hope
I’m in the painful process of lengthening my short fuse, while simultaneously putting out the constantly-burning brush fire in my heart and mind. It’s a delicate dance of putting out just enough heat to cook something but not so much that your dinner gets incinerated. It’s one of the hardest things I have ever had to overcome, but I know that when I do, Jesus will be meeting me on the other side. Yes, this might be a life-long battle with the darkness and the voices in my head, but I am not fighting these enemies alone. I have Jesus with me, behind me, and before me.
Writing well means writing about what you know. So, here it goes. Here’s what your resident faith blogger knows. I know that I have been an angry, anxiety-ridden bird for a while now.
I turn Hulk-green on a dime, and I yell at the top of my lungs for my kids to stop screaming in the house. I’m a work in progress, obviously. But, up until about a month or so ago, I was wondering why instead of getting better, I started getting worse. My fuse was non-existent. Self-control was nowhere in sight. My kids were crying, my husband was disappointed, my Spirit was shot. I was heading down a wrong-way road, headed nowhere good, at about 100 mph.
I saw a few Christian counselors, but thoughts and prayers only go so far when you are struggling with mental illness. I figured out, rather quickly, that I was going to need more than just a willing ear. I was going to need medical intervention, and I was most definitely going to need a diagnosis. I couldn’t just be “hormonal” or “crazy” for the rest of my life. I needed to know, without a shadow of a doubt, why I flew off the handle so quickly and why I succumbed to a puddle of tears afterward. I needed more concrete answers than “You’re just tired” or “Maybe you could just pray it away.”
After more than thirty years on this big, blue planet, I finally swallowed my pride and saw a psychiatrist. I was shaking like a leaf, sweating like a pig, and sick to my stomach. This must mean something is about to break through, I thought. Maybe I will finally find the “me” that has been hiding away for so long. I had this awful thought that maybe my psychiatrist would think I was nuts and wouldn’t prescribe me medicine or give me that dreaded diagnosis. Maybe he would look at me and think, “Okay, this girl is as normal as they come. Why is she here?”
But he didn’t. After thirty rotations around the Sun, I finally have the diagnosis. Bipolar 2 disorder.
Yep, I’m full-on bipolar. The highs and the lows and the racetrack frequency of the two make complete sense now. The days when I would run on an hour of sleep and a handle of tequila, followed by the weeks of not leaving my bed or taking showers. The immense feelings of love and excitement when I would make a friend, followed by the soul-eating guilt that would envelop me when a text or call would go unanswered. The flirtatious girl who could get at least ten numbers a night at a club usually turned into an inebriated mess who couldn’t walk a straight line. The girlfriend who was so cool one minute, and a stage five clinger the next. The mother who could play Barbies and sing princess songs by day, and completely shatter little dreams and hearts by night.
For the first time in my life, I feel like I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. It doesn’t seem like a life sentence anymore. Jesus is on the parole board.
Satan and his schemers want you (and me) to hide in our pain and our anguish. Satan craves suicide, self-harm, and anything we can do to ourselves that he doesn’t have to waste precious resources on.
The enemy cannot tell the truth: he can only lie. So, when you hear the voices in your head calling you worthless, stupid, damaged goods—feel free to shut that voice up with the power of Scripture. God calls you fearfully and wonderfully made, and He set you apart to carry out good works for His Kingdom. He wouldn’t have done that if you were worthless.
The enemy cannot give, he can only steal. If you think you are getting a better bargain from the used-car salesman, Satan, you are sorely mistaken. The devil’s dealership only sells lemons and no warranties. He is a swindler and a snake.
The enemy cannot spread life, he can only kill. Satan can’t promise you the goodness of God, but he can trick you into eating an apple that has magic God-powers.
Satan is a manipulator. God is a masterpiece maker.
The biggest lie the enemy has told my generation is that you don’t need Jesus to get to heaven. Just do it on your own, Satan lies. You don’t need anyone but yourself, Satan manipulates. The world would be better off without you, Satan seeks to destroy you. But, take heart, sweet friend! If you were just a mediocre person, living a dull and mediocre life, then why are you causing such a ruckus in the heavenly realms?
You were made for a reason, dear one. And it isn’t to hide under a rock until the bullets stop flying. When the going gets tough, the tough get going.
And when the tough cannot take it one more day, they call a trusted professional who can help lift them by their shoulders. When the tough cannot take one more step, Jesus steps in to carry you the rest of the way. When you think you cannot make it one more day, Jesus reminds us that joy comes in the morning. You’ve got this, friend. He will never leave you, nor forsake you. And that includes in your mental illness. God is going to be glorified in this, and nothing you have gone through will be wasted in the Kingdom of Heaven.
So, friend, keep going. This world needs you.