Category Archives: Spirituality

New Year’s Thoughts

I made it through my riskiest time of year. I did get the Christmas delusion and grandiosity a day or so early and lasted for a few days. In fact I still have the fear of the mystical and mysterious that comes with the manic experience.

See, I grew up very religious. From the time I was 9 or 10 I had the experience that I was participating in the birth of Christ in some way on Christmas Eve. It manifested as a sense of the mysterious, mystical, numinous, though I couldn’t use those terms or images until I was a young adult. By the time I was in seminary preparing to be a pastor, the feeling was strong and the experience included the sense that I helped bring/was bringing Jesus into the world and I had a special mission to bring hope or joy or love or unity into the world through Jesus.

I know, a little over the top. I even thought most people had a sense of the mystical on Christmas Eve. It wasn’t until weeks of therapy around this time of year over several years that I knew in my heart and mind that it was a manic experience and that most people don’t have a mystical experience at Christmas Eve, and I couldn’t bring it out with my worship services.

Now that I’m aware of all this, I get anxious as I anticipate this manic experience. I try not to anticipate but I do. I avoid my church during the weeks leading up to Christmas (Advent) because the focus is waiting for The Christ Child to come again and our participation in the peace, joy, and love in the world. Even though I didn’t grow up with this liturgical rhythm, you can see how it would be Not Helpful. Not only do I lose my church support system, I am faced in my mind with what I’m missing. So it’s hard not to anticipate the delusion and grandiosity.

Today is New Year’s Eve, and I am still scared of the mysterious and mystical. I’m glad the weather is bad enough I can’t travel to a New Year’s worship service. There might be too much of “opening the mystery of a new year” or that’s where my thoughts might go. Not Helpful. I’m still scared.

In the new year, I’m hoping for mental stability and the ability to ask for and act on help when I need it. I hope I don’t need the hospital. I’m also hoping to find that special someone.

Advertisements

Progress and Regress

I’ve been tooling along with the stabilization plan here in Texas with family. I’m still getting up at the same time and going to bed at the same time (already good at that); eating regularly (new skill); exercising 2x/day (new that it’s twice and it’s everyday); making lunch and cooking dinner (new skill, still learning); using time to exercise my brain with reading, puzzles and art (re-starting an old skill).

I’m still going to church while I’m here – a Unitarian Universalist one actually since a friend from seminary is the pastor there. Shhh. Don’t tell my family. They already think it’s weird I go to church and Presbyterian is enough for them. They’d probably flip if I went Episcopal! But we have different worldviews.

One funny thing is that we have together found a floorplan we all like that would allow us all to live together. Unfortunately it’s in Texas since my brother is the only one gainfully employed and we’d have to stay close enough to his job. That takes me away from values of long-term relationships, which I’m in back in Illinois and living independently, which may be overrated since I’m doing so well mentally and physically living in community with my family. I’d have a suite with two bedrooms and my own bathroom so I could have a couch, tv, office in one and feel I could live independently within the community.

I’m going on and on about this (unrealistic?) plan because I have been doing well and getting better in the head and body while with my family. Yay! And I don’t have the same live-in community at home. I don’t have someone doing my laundry or cleaning my house (which are things I’m good at taking care of at home, making it easier to let that happen here. But I’m cooking and exercising my body and brain, and those are all things I needed to get better at. The social environment has helped. And I just can’t get the same level of social environment at home. Hence, the flirting with living altogether as a family (boyfriend welcome to live there too – but not with someone long enough for that to be an option, IF he wanted to move to Texas in the first place. IF I wanted to move to Texas in the first place.)
 

Angry and Sad and Anxious

It’s f-ing Holy Week before Easter and I’m imploding. Mostly from the anxiety that turns into tension that turns into a headache that turns into a migraine. I took a walk to see if that would expel some of the energy of the feelings. The walk didn’t really help.

Holy Week is traditionally hard for me since diagnosis of bipolar, which you can see documented throughout the blog. Not as bad as the Christmas mania/delusion which can last weeks, but this Holy Week seems especially bad.

I’m grieving not leading a church through the holy days ever again. I liked making space for mystery and for people to experience something bigger than themselves in the dramatic and formational/fundamental story of Christianity. And I won’t do that anymore.

And I won’t do it anymore partially (wholly?) because when I was leading a congregation through the holy days I would experience manic religious visions and delusions. I had my own high going. I planned everything far enough in advance so that I could enter the experience in my way too, and I hoped my experience and liturgies  would lead others into the experience of Holy Week too. Holy Week and Easter, besides being fundamental to being Christian, exemplified how I approached being a pastor – making space for others to have mystical ,or at least mysterious, experiences of the divine. Like I did.

I’m angry because I won’t get to live out Holy Week again with a church, and I’m angry at mania for being the reason I can’t. So I’m mad at myself too. I’m angry that my response is an inability to deal with my feelings and therefore not being able to take care of myself very well. I’m doing the best I can, I guess. Give myself credit for getting out of bed? For getting dressed? For going for a walk? Still haven’t figured out meals today. It’s hard every day and I get so messed up in feelings that I don’t want to eat, but I need nourishment to prevent hangry outrage or turning on myself.

I’m sad because I miss leading people through holy days. I was good at it. I’m grieving the position I lost because of the bipolar. I’m sad that I’m susceptible to being ruled by these feelings so that I’m not at my best and not taking care of myself the way I want to be. I’m using skills to deal with feelings, such as reminding myself they are just feelings and I can go about my life anyway. I’m so bogged down in sadness that this skill is not working well. My therapist reminded me this is probably a week to focus primarily on distraction techniques to move through the week. I’ll get there. The time will run out, and I’ll be ok again. The moving through is what is so damned hard. Slogging through quicksand is the best image I can think of.

I’m anxious, well, because I’m anxious. I’m always anxious. Yet this anxiety is fueled by the anger and sadness. I’m anxious that I’ll take this too far and end up in the hospital again, after 70 days of being out and stable, even through the time change and equinox, traditionally difficult times for me. I’m anxious that the manic visions and delusions will happen even without participating in anything religious. Maybe just by reading about or hearing about something religious.

I’m stuck. I won’t always be stuck because time marches on, and it will be next week soon. These four days are trying to the soul, to the mind, to the body. I’m not taking good care of any of those, despite some trying such as taking a walk.

Winter Mood Problems

snowflakeWow, it’s been a while since I blogged. Sorry, dear readers.

One reason is that I met someone special and we are beginning to share our lives together on a more permanent basis. The process is slow because he also lives with mental illness, and putting us together means my or his illness can interrupt plans to spend time together.

Another reason is that I had shoulder surgery in December. I’m now in physical therapy and function is getting better, but strength is still elusive. All in good time.

The major reason I haven’t written in a while is that I have struggled with my Christmas delusion (that I am bringing Jesus to the world and have a special mission to bring unity or hope or joy to the world). Fortunately it only showed up a week ahead of Christmas Eve. I was on haldol to keep me in this plane of existence, but I did experience psychosis from time to time when I was not in touch with reality.

I went off the haldol – as my doctor indicated – when the delusion passed. Unfortunately my mood tanked and I ended up in the hospital for a few days before the new year. Putting me on low dose haldol brought my mood back to mostly stable so I went home for the holiday.

Then last week my mood tanked again – no trigger. So frustrating. So shameful to me to have to go back to the hospital for no apparent reason. Especially after only 10 days. No med changes were made, much to my chagrin – fix something! I thought. Suicidal thoughts eased up as did my depression, and I was discharged on Friday. Another short stay! Hooray!

Now, it’s been a couple days. I can feel the suicidal thoughts again building up steam. I can feel my mood tanking. I don’t want to go to the hospital again, but I feel it coming up again. It seems the only time I stay out of the hospital are the times I mostly seem “up” which means hypomanic or manic, usually the summer. And I hate the summer. I’d rather be in the hospital then, than the rest of the year when I like the weather better and can find some solace in the times of the year.

I don’t know what to do now. I committed to teaching middle school at church next week. But I might be in the hospital again. I see my psychiatrist tomorrow and she may send me there. I try to make plans and my mood always wins. This is so freaking old. And I always feel ashamed when I walk onto the adult unit – again. Why can’t I take care of myself? And it’s hard to explain to a new person in my life. Though being in and out of the hospital shows part of the story.

 

Religious Euphoria and Mania

adventToday begins the ban on contact with religious anything for Advent and Christmas. Since childhood, and worse in the last 23 years of bipolar expression, I’ve had a religious euphoria where I get delusional around Christmas. The experience usually culminates on Christmas Eve. But the mystery and mysticism that many churches infuse in their Advent celebrations has been known to trigger the delusion earlier than the week of Christmas. Last year, for instance, I had the delusion for the whole month of December.

It is common for bipolar mania to be religious in nature. Mine happens to take the form of a heightened sense of spiritual and physical unity with all of the world – people, animals, nature. That’s the euphoria part. The delusion is that somehow I personally – not Mary – am bringing salvation into the world by bringing Christ into the world, and I have a mission to help everyone experience the mystical unity with Christ and with all of the world in order to make the world a more peaceful place. This experience is long ingrained into my experience of Christmas, and I don’t know that it will ever go away.

I have had the euphoria experience many, many times, each an expression of bipolar mania, and not a rich spiritual life as spiritual directors and other pastoral colleagues I’ve confided in have thought. Each euphoria, when it reaches its peak, has a piece of the delusion in it. I am to save the world with my actions using the power of Christ. During one manic experience, the mania before my first suicidal depression, I was inviting strangers into my home for movie discussions about the efficacy of religion. Fortunately, no one showed up for the series. I was convinced at the same time that my religious experiences were pushing me to become a Benedictine Oblate. I was flying so high in my euphoria that I was blogging about the breathless unity and clarity of vision and the visions I was having. I even started preaching about them (I was the solo pastor at a church at that time). That was the highest mania I have had, and it crashed hard into a suicidal depression that I have been dealing with off and on for over 5 years. It was the first time I felt suicidal. It is common for manias to be followed by an equal descent into depression. The higher you fly, the lower you crash.

Back to today. In order to prevent or lessen the euphoria and delusion that I’ve had at Christmastime since I was a child, I do not participate in anything religious about this time of year. It’s hard to give up what was my favorite season and holiday, but it was my favorite because of the manic expression and delusional euphoria I experienced. It felt good to fly so high and have a purpose for my life! It will still be years until I might be able to tolerate or celebrate Advent or Christmas again. Maybe it’s the way it’s celebrated in mainline churches that makes this time of year so hard for me. I find it hard to tell because I started attending mainline churches at the same time as my bipolar flowered and my mood cycles kicked in.

I’m having an especially hard time this fall, and now it is likely to get worse as the euphoria and delusion will probably kick in. I’m acutely aware of the community I’m missing by not attending church or fellowship. Even people I only know by sight. I’m losing a significant piece of my support system.

I will return to church after Jesus’ Baptism Sunday (baptism and communion as sacraments are hard for me too – a little too mystical and could trigger some euphoria). So sometime in January I can go back to church – until Holy Week and Easter, another banned time for me because of my tendency toward religious euphoria during mystical or special times in the church year.

I ❤ bipolar.

Holy Week Blues. Still

I’m not attendinholy weekg church today, Palm Sunday, or Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter. In the past I didn’t go because it triggered grief about not being a pastor and how special it was to lead a congregation through these victorious and agonizing days. It was always a marathon, from the pastor’s perspective. Perhaps also from the perspective of those who actually attend all of the services.

So that’s the reason I didn’t attend before. I was avoiding the trigger of what it was like to be a pastor. As a pastor and during the formation process (of 15 years) I also had manic euphoric experiences several times during Holy Weeks. They were of the unity with the Godhead and all creation kind, a little like the feeling on Christmas Eve, without the delusion of a master plan I was supposed to carry out.

Now, I’m not attending because I fear the trigger, but for another reason too. I’m worried about the manic experience coming back if I go through the week. I don’t really believe Jesus is divine anymore, so that makes the services moot too. I might have no danger of Godhead manias then. I still don’t know why I fear this week in the church year. I just want inspirational sermons and community organizing and not liturgy. Liturgy might be the trigger. But so are Youth Sunday and Pentecost (liturgy again). All have to do with my loves and work as a pastor.

I haven’t processed enough. The fear is there and I can identify one set of triggers. But there’s something else. And that’s why I’m not doing Holy Week. I hope it’s not a hard one. I have a lot of pastor friends and Holy Week is rightly consuming. I just don’t want it consuming me!

——————————————————————————————–

If you see your way clear to help me pay for the miraculous experience of ending suicidal obsessions I had at La Paloma, check out my “Saved My Life” Go Fund Me page at www.gofund.me/nlckak

A Familiar Feeling in the Mania

As I’ve struggled this past week with Mania rising again (pushed along by the prednisone for the rash, my dr says), I’ve experienced what I missed most about Manias Past: the mystical feelings of oneness with the world and the ability to foment ideas that could solve problems well beyond a normal person’s life or ability. I haven’t reached the very top yet, but I’ve seen it. And the heightened senses and sensitivities (even the skin) are very much a part of Mania for me. I just haven’t put those pieces together before, since this past month is the first time I’ve experienced Mania since being medicated for and educated about Bipolar.

Part of me is enjoying the wave. “Oh boy! I remember this. This is fun! There is purpose, and mystical unity which feels so good.”

Part of me is scared $}!~less. What if this goes higher, or I start behaviors with difficult consequences? I need stability. I know this. Sane me knows this. Sane me hates the Mania that clouds my thinking, possibly all the way to delusions and grandiosity. I don’t have energy, means, or cushions to fix manic consequences.

Then there is the potential mixed state where I’m feeling Manic AND Suicidal. All I need are obsessive suicidal thoughts (as happened in July) to be in danger of fatal consequences. If I’ve got the energy and grandiosity to pull off an act (Mania symptoms), and the OCD obsessing about suicide (don’t have to be depressed for this), then I could be in danger. Sane me jumps into coping skills and support systems. But a trigger that starts the obsession, could just as easily cause a delusion that skips coping skills and plans suicide with the obsessive visions in my head that the OCD gives.

Cue a death in the community this week (previous post). Just the kind of trigger that has caused confusion and ruminating. So far Sane me has been in ascendance. Let’s hope she stays. I wish I knew the way to keep her in ascendance.