A Forced Break

Bipolar. It can be heartless and debilitating. I have talked about it before and it has been a long time since it has reared it’s ugly head.

I chose to take on another job to help with things around the house and help alleviate expenses. I knew it was a risk to take, but I wanted to see if I was up for the challenge. Turns out, not so much. Things went well for a couple of weeks and then it was all downhill from there.

A person with Bipolar Disorder has to have a stable environment, a stability in their lives that doesn’t have to remain static, but should be close… a sameness- no surprises, no ups and downs. Or at least not often. When one is working two jobs , that stability is just not there.

Because I put too much on myself, I crashed. It was a hard one this time. My body and mind just put a stop to the whole thing. I didn’t want to talk, write, work or anything else. Just sleep-a sweet release. I put a call into the doctor and got the meds I needed to regain my stability. It took a few days, maybe a couple of weeks, but I’m finally back and going strong.

A crash is like being in a black hole, spiraling  further and further down until, at last, you’ve hit bottom and don’t even feel like trying to get up. It’s like having no energy to engage or be engaged in anything and sleep comes swiftly and heavily. It is a living hell.  One’s brain literally shuts down and there are no words to utter, there are no songs to sing, there is no joy to be had. That must be what the definition of hell is .

To say that I am blessed with this disease sounds ludicrous, I know. But, I am able to sympathize and know what someone else may be going through. I consider that a great blessing. To “get” what someone else may be going through is empathy. To be able to feel that for a person with a mental illness is a huge blessing for you and for the other person. I hope this helps someone to understand the ups and downs of mental illness.

I was finally able to work on Book 2 of The Conservative Congregant today  and it felt so good to write again.  And to be able to blog as well was just icing on the cake!

I’ll be back soon with thoughts on something totally different! Have a good night friends.

 

Preconceived Ideas? Better Think Again!

All of us have preconceived ideas about lots of things. Sometimes, our preconceived ideas have us refusing certain foods because of the color, the smell, but not usually the taste. What do you think when I say “Brussell Sprouts”? Does your lip curl at the smell of them? Do you shriek with terror? Or, do you lick your lips? What about when I say “Cops”? Does it conjure up a good connotation or a bad one? Fear? Anger? Compassion or perhaps, the phrase,

“They give their lives for our safety?”

So, then, what comes to mind when you think of homeless people? “Lazy?” “Crazy?” “Weird?” Do the words “Nice”, “Sweet,” “Funny?” ever come to mind? Have you ever taken the time to speak to a homeless person? Have you even looked them in the eye? Have you escorted someone to a restaurant and bought them lunch? Or does the mere mention of the word incite fear, anger and lack of understanding, fill you? 

I am asking because it seems we all have preconceived ideas regarding some topic or another- some words bring instant visuals to our minds’ eye. I am also asking because I used to have the same visual. I thought homeless folks were lazy, crazy, weird, scary and God forbid I ever look a homeless person in the eye. 

But, I had a change of heart when I began going to “The Gathering.” The Gathering, you may remember (because I write often about it), is a church for the “housed and unhoused” people of Dallas. Some of the most sincere, loving, funny, friendly, wonderful people worship at The Gathering with us.Some are ill, bipolar, mentally  ill, unable to get medications that might stabilize them, unable to get proper help for their illness. Most are so different than we think they are. Some made me feel ashamed I did not worship God with the fervor they did. But I learned and so can you.

“They” are us. “They” are what we might be someday, what the hidden part of ourselves could be. There is no “They” and “Us. There is,however, “We.” Because we could all be walking in their shoes. 

My challenge for this week is to start with a first step- make eye contact and say hi. How hard could that be, right? Well, it can be very difficult for some. Some folks have been taught negative things about homeless people all their lives.  It’s time to stop all of our preconceived ideas about the homeless and come to think of it, anyone else. So, practice… if you dare. Say hi, make eye contact. Maybe next week, you might have a smile. Choose one person. Make them your challenge. Step out of your comfort zone and walk in Jesus’ shoes for a day. Be kind. Love. Help someone else. I’d love to hear about your experiment.

When we help others, we forget our own troubles. Isn’t that worth it?

There But for the Grace of God….

would you help this man?
would you help this man?

Homelessness should be a crime. Not for the homeless, of course, but for those who let it continue. Those who vote against help for the homeless – those who disallow communities to be built for them or those who choose to disallow help for folks because they don’t want their property “devalued.” Wow. Really? Before you label me a bleeding heart liberal, follow through reading . 

I have epilepsy and bipolar disorder . In the last few weeks,my mood had crashed. In other words, I was so depressed, I could only sit and cry. That is what bipolar disorder does to you. Although I have been stable with it for a good long while, meds suddenly quit doing their job- in need of tweaking. I spent the last month in great despair because the meds quit working. I don’t choose that. It is a chemical imbalance in my brain that sometimes has a mind of it’s own. One might wonder why I was in such despair for such a long time. Well, the answer to that is because it usually takes about that long to find out if it is, in fact, a medication problem. Sometimes, depression comes about because of situations arising that we are not sure how to deal with. It does take time to sort out why one has crashed.  During that period of time, it is not easy to continue functioning. It is so easy to just stay in bed and sleep through it all. If one is asleep, no pain is felt, no tears, no hallucinations, no voices . It’s just easier. 

I called my doctor and she added a medication. She had samples for me, so I went to pick them up. It worked and for a change, it was a medication which worked quickly. I called to let her know it worked and could she call the prescription in. She did. When I went to pick it up, imagine my surprise when the clerk told me it would $262.00! And that was with my insurance paying part of it!  This is where it stops being about me .

Homeless people don’t choose to be homeless. Sometimes, it is because they  are mentally ill, sometimes because they are on drugs- addicted to some drug – maybe not for the high they get, but for the feeling of “normalcy” they get from it. Most people who are on drugs are on them because they are self -medicating. They want to feel like a “normal ” person. They don’t want to hear the voices that tell them to do bizarre things, or feel scared because there is something real there . 

Stay with me, please. I told my story to say homelessness is a vicious cycle. Let’s say someone has a good job, but has mental issues and  don’t really know or understand what is going on. Let’s say, then, our person tries a drug.. let’s say meth. From what i understand the meth high is a very short time period. But, meth is fairly cheap and may make someone feel “normal.” Therefore, he continues to take it over and over again to feel okay. Well, this person  may not know that meth causes massive paranoia, mini-strokes, tics and brain damage. He does, however, know it makes him feel right. All of this exacerbates his problem with his mental illness. Jobs are lost, relatives don’t want them because they are addicts. Where else can they go but the streets. Let’s say with their job, they had insurance. Even though they go to the doctor and get prescriptions for meds, the meds, like mine are so expensive our guy can’t afford to get them. Yes, there are generics- but not on all meds. The medications that do work well are third generation drugs- new drugs-expensive drugs. 

Yes, there may be addicts among the homeless. In most cases, the person has been through rehab many times and it can’t help because being sober means not feeling “normal.” How then, can we make mental help possible for people like this? There are low cost mental health clinics, but many times, one still has to pay something. How can one pay something if they can’t work? 

The cycle continues, cities are not willing to step up to help make the situation better, homelessness runs rampant and nothing is done.

People are afraid and shun the homeless folks. Why? People are afraid of what they don’t understand. That is why I write this missive. I want people to know there is nothing to be afraid of- say hi to a homeless person. If they ask for money and you don’t want to give it directly to them, why not take them to a sandwich shop and buy them a meal, a drink, a cookie? Treat them like they are human beings. Because that is what they are. They love and are loved. They get hungry,tired, sad, happy. Just do something out of your comfort zone. They will truly be grateful.

And there but for the grace of God go I.