Bipolar Church and State

Question: How does faith in a good and powerful God come into play with the struggles of a bipolar?  Do you find you depend on God more or less?

Answer: When I was hospitalized in 1986, following my first breakdown, I had an orthodox Jewish roommate, whose father visited him regularly and heaped prayers and phylacteries upon his severely mentally ill son.  My roommate went through the ungainly rituals of his traditional role as a young man of Judaic faith, but did not serve his father's sense of God well in the disobedient timing of his healing.  God certainly wasn't failed by the boy nor was God failing him; God was speaking through him, at least that's the way that I see it.  For every religious seeker and child of religious seekers of conventional, traditional faith in a higher, creative, omniscient being, there is a chance that childlike mystery, wonder, and spirituality might overcome the adult mind that seeks answers for questions beyond human purview.  Mental illness is one of those chances.  Bipolar disorder was that chance in my life.

     I was raised as a Protestant and felt certain that I understood what it meant to walk traditionally, even somewhat passionately, in faith, hope, and love, until I dwelt in darkness for seven months inside a mental institution.  A personal calamity (like losing one's mind) that can sometimes bring men and women into formal, religious practice shook everything that resembled conventional understanding from my consciousness when I was twenty.  I lost religion in a mental hospital, just as I began to see life in an entirely mystical fashion.

     (God as) a creative, loving, deeply chastening force is a stronghold of my bipolar path, but it is not the God of my ancestors or my friends, or of anyone in the world around me; it is a distinctly bipolar God.  Bipolar disorder is a liberator of the soul, if it is anything at all.  Liberation of the soul is the promise of many religions and I am not inclined to gainsay any of their claims.  My intention in life is to experience the highest possible communion with thought and emotion, to the effect of diminishing my personal sense of thinking and feeling and, therefore, conventional Gods and beliefs have no meaning to me.  Bipolars have a life-and-death struggle on their minds and in their hands, and need to be able to change their beliefs freely, constantly, in order to live well within their natural life limits.  Religion offers comfort in conformity and obedience, two social behaviors that immemorially have driven most of us bipolars into the ground, into symptoms, into breakdowns, into suicide attempts, into hospitals, into conformity and obedience within the parallel religion of psychiatric medicine.  Just as conventional religious believers have the mere potential of the compromised comfort that comes from someone else's beliefs, conventionally-treated bipolars may achieve a semblance of balance in their minds from psychotropic drugs and weekly therapy, but it won't be a liberated mind that gets balanced; it will be the balancing act of a prisoner in his or her or cell, learning the survival art of standing on one foot, with one leg placed in a perpetual, proverbial cast.

     Bipolar disorder comes as unconventionally as it can to us sufferers and, in my understanding, it should be manifested in its healing with that spirit in mind.  What liberates us is what we should believe in as humans.  It shouldn't be forced into our consciousness the other way around - to call something liberty because we believe it to be so.  I would go as far as to say that my bipolar path has been mystical from its onset, a constant reminder of the soul's will to be free.       

-The Blue Bear  

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