being bipolar is hard. being mormon can be hard, too. being a bipolar mormon is, at times, complete torture.
a lot of people with bipolar disorder become hyper religious when manic, either as a coping mechanism to deal with psychological pain, or as part of delusional thinking that is a trademark of psychosis. i sometimes wonder if hyperreligiosity would have been a nice side effect for me, considering that i went in the opposite direction and almost lost faith entirely in the religion i’ve known and loved my whole life. if you know many conservative mormons, you know that a loss of religion can sort of be a loss of self–family, friends, social activities, and many other aspects of life are so wholly shaped by the culture of the church that to lose faith is to experience something akin to emotional death.
the truth is, during manic episodes, i am another person altogether, a shadow version of myself who acts solely on impulse without thought, or even awareness, of consequences. in my mania-addled brain, there are no consequences. there are only sensations, and the manic mind is on sensory overload. everything that normally feels good now feels like the best thing that’s ever happened, so i should probably do that as much as i can, for as long as i can. this is the irrational thinking–and subsequent behavior–that leads bipolar people to shop till they are bankrupt, drink until they have liver damage or have ended up in jail for driving while intoxicated, or to abuse drugs until they end up forcefully committed to a rehab facility. none of these things happened to me, thankfully, but they easily could have.
unfortunately, that is also the thinking that led me to no longer feel like i was worthy to sit in a church pew. imagine me, a 20-something mother of two, sitting next to my husband and children during sacrament meeting, everyone showered and in their sunday best, listening to a congregation member bearing her testimony. she is another mother, someone like me, and i listen to her as she tearfully admits that she feels inadequate because she has failed, yet again, to get her family to church on time. and imagine me, still somewhat drunk from last night’s manic bender but maintaining appearances for the sake of my family, thinking, “well, if you’re inadequate, i guess i’m lucifer.”
that was just one of many self-destructive thoughts that ran through my head as i went to church week after week and heard people speak from the pulpit, or at the front of sunday school classes and other meetings, casually condemning themselves and others for sins of what i considered to be little magnitude (not to scoff at the way another person experiences remorse; i’m merely relating how i felt about myself at the time), when the ways in which i was sinning felt something like murder in comparison.
the thing was, i couldn’t stop myself from capitulating to the unrelenting compulsions. physically and mentally just could not, and i didn’t know why (i was still undiagnosed at the time). so i just was like, well, i’m a terrible person, apparently. it hurt so very much to hear my actions, which i felt to be uncontrollable–and which i now know were out of my control, to a certain extent, as i was unmedicated and untreated–categorized as actions that made me unworthy to have an eternal family. made me a sub-person, basically, in my mind. the cognitive dissonance eventually became so great that i told myself that none of it could possibly be true, that the church wasn’t for me. i kept going to church services because i’d made promises to my family to remain active, but on the inside, a light had turned off.
i never stopped self-identifying as mormon, even though i told myself over and over that i shouldn’t allow myself to participate in a culture that made me feel so terrible about myself as a human being. why? because the truth was, i still believed in something. i still believed in god, his son, and in the possibility of a personal relationship with deity. throughout my life i had had many experiences that defied all logic and spoke to a spiritual part of me that never died, even when i tried so hard to smother it out of existence. there was no way i could deny those experiences, though i made my attempts. i knew i had felt something beyond myself, and in my mind, that “something” will always be called god.
so what am i left with? i am a bipolar woman, who in manic episodes is sometimes incapable of controlling impulses to do things that are framed in mormon doctrine as very serious sin, and yet i’m a mormon, for better or worse. how do i reconcile that?
i’ve realized that my problem is actually that i keep trying to reconcile that. alone. when i was never meant to do it alone. i go to church and i’m so consumed by my own feelings of failure because i sin and sin and know i will keep on sinning, that i leave no room for grace, or mercy, or love. and i say to myself “your sins are so much worse than everyone’s around you, you’re worthless, you don’t belong here,” because it’s easier to redirect my anxiety about the church at other people, rather than focusing on healing from whatever pain i’m dealing with inside.
because honestly, who wants to focus on their own pain? it hurts.
but i think that’s what i’ve been missing for the past few years that i’ve been going to church and feeling nothing. i’ve been forgetting that i can relieve that pain, if i want to. all it takes is the humility to say, “i can’t do this on my own,” and the savior is there. or at least, that’s what i’m remembering i believe.
i’m not glossing over the many questions and doubts i have about the church and its culture that i still have to personally address on a daily basis. that is another issue entirely. i still have those issues, and i wrestle with them. i think most mormons do. and i’m also not saying that i can just go about my life doing whatever the hell i want and then go to church and poof!, i’m clean. no, there are a lot of intricacies to my membership in the lds church that aren’t so easily explainable.
but of one thing i have become sure: i’ve chosen to stay. it sometimes feels impossible to be a believing mormon with a serious mental illness, but meh. life’s never really been easy for me, i don’t know why i expected this to be. i guess it’s a good thing mormons believe in eternal life, i’m going to need a while to sort this whole “being a good, albeit clinically insane, mormon” thing out.
when i was first diagnosed with depression, i made the difficult decision to be honest about my condition with family and friends. the first thing they said when they found out i was suicidal was, "but you don't seem depressed at all!" while i was happy i didn't outwardly appear to be the wreck i knew i was in the privacy of my own home, it … [Read More...]
so when i saw this blog post with the title "modest is NOT hottest," i was all yay! someone is going to talk about what a horrible slogan for a movement that is! and then i read the post, and i was like, nope. worst post about the modesty movement i have ever read, EVER. there are just so, so many things wrong with this post that i'm not sure where … [Read More...]
when i was teaching writing & rhetoric at byu, most of my students were freshmen, and they were not always the most self-aware of humans. i loved teaching them, but sometimes they would say/write really stupid things, as we are all prone to do. one paper i remember especially well; it was an opinion editorial about why byu students should be … [Read More...]
today is sei's and my 12-year wedding anniversary, and i should probably write about that, but i don't want to. maybe later. instead, i want to talk about why a mother would murder her own child. this is megan huntsman, a 39 year-old woman from pleasant grove, utah, who was arrested today after seven dead infants were found in her house. … [Read More...]
it's been a long time since i've written. when i was at my lowest with postpartum depression, blogging helped me through some of my worst times, and that's why i'm starting up with depressionsandconfessions again. i miss the outlet, i miss the creativity, and most of all, i miss the people. i know it's been a long time, so i hope some of those … [Read More...]
i am not a violent person. or at least, i never thought i was. my family is about as pacifist as one can be--i didn't even hold a gun until i was 29, and the most violent thing we ever did as a family was paintball and the occasional all-out warfare game of trivial pursuit. but the night of my psychotic break, i was forced to face the violence … [Read More...]
this is the most honest account i can give of my first (and i hope only) psychotic episode. i won't give any analysis of what happened, just the details--i don't want this post to be too long. i'll talk about the implications of this episode later, maybe in my next post. if you're at all uncomfortable with depictions of violence associated with … [Read More...]
the first time i saw charlotte, she was looking at me through the glass window of a pet store. she was all alone in her cubby, and she looked...human. as though she was regarding me with some sort of emotion, like expectation or suspicious. it freaked me out a little, since i'm not the type of person who thinks of animals as having human qualities. … [Read More...]
One night about two weeks ago, I woke at three in the morning convinced of something. So I stumbled out of my warm bed, walked down the hall in my underwear, and regarded the six piles of clean laundry on my laundry room floor with suspicion. I knew there was something I needed to do about it, but I couldn't figure out what. So naturally, I went … [Read More...]
well...this is embarrassing. i haven't blogged in over six months. but i miss writing for fun (as opposed to the writing i do for school, which is less "fun" and more "chinese water torture"), and i'm getting too wordy for facebook--i'm at the point that i have to revise my status updates for length, which is a sign i should be blogging more often. … [Read More...]