A Fearless Moral Inventory, Part 2

Shame ©Runar-Pedersen-Holkestad

My moral indiscretions are countless. Before I was diagnosed with bipolar 2, during the hypomania cycles the decisions I made were reckless. I stumbled often; my choices were folly at best, dangerous at worst.

I used drugs, promiscuously engaged in unprotected sex, stole clothing from boutique apparel stores, and for over a year dated a married man. It was only due to God’s enduring and unconditional love I didn’t become addicted, wasn’t arrested, and didn’t find myself in highly perilous situations.

My love affair with cocaine began in my late 20s. I quit on my own when I discovered how much I truly loved it and how much it would cost me to continue to use it. In my 30s (between marriages, in spite of my self-proclaimed serial monogamist misnomer), I sought love through indiscriminate sex with men and women. I desperately wanted to hear the words, “I love you,” never knowing the One Who Loved Me sought to throw His arms around me in a non-sexual way the moment I was willing to surrender. Instead of love, I received a lifelong “gift:” genital herpes.

In my 40s, I hooked up with a best friend who was as broken as I was; we traveled together and help each other steal our way through small boutiques and travel sites. In my early 50’s, I fell hard for a married man. He was the brother-in-law of a friend of mine. My friend was a fun-loving, smart, independent woman; her sister was the opposite – mealy-mouthed, judgmental and an absentee mother – someone I had never liked, so used my dislike as an excuse to give myself to her husband.

I sought love through indiscriminate sex with men and women. I desperately wanted to hear the words, “I love you,” never knowing the One Who Loved Me sought to throw His arms around in a non-sexual way the moment I was willing to surrender.

My life was filled with lies and I tried keeping up with the lies, but couldn’t. It was right after the break-up with this man I was diagnosed with bipolar. I think I allowed the dam to crack, and once it did, all the vulnerability poured out at once. I couldn’t remember my address or phone number. Immediately I called my doctor; I thought I had a brain tumor.

Remarkably, my doctor did not admit me to a hospital. He sent me immediately to a psychiatrist who asked all the right questions. He diagnosed me with bipolar 2, started me on medication, and critically took time to explain to me how bipolar can show up in an individual. Together, we discovered I had been afflicted with the depression side since I was about eight years old, which coincided with my molestation by a cousin. And as I did more research, I discovered that bipolar 2 comes with a 40:1 ratio of depression to hypomania.

My faith has helped me a great deal in the management of bipolar 2. Faith, medication and a continual personal inventory are the triumvirate of my mental health care and management. Before I feel overwhelmed, I pray, journal, and abide in the Spirit. As long as I follow Jesus, I know my thoughts and behavior are aligned in His Light and Love.

Faith, medication and a continual personal inventory are the triumvirate of my mental health care and management.

Maintaining my medication saves my life. And I know I am lucky because I have been diagnosed with a milder form of bipolar than many other people. I understand when my thoughts and behavior begin to feel out of control, my first call must be to my psychiatrist. I know I must never stop taking my medication. Those who have a more severe form of bipolar 1 and experience manic behavior, thoughts, voices and visions have a much more difficult time making wise decisions during those cycles.

Additionally, I have been told when rapid cycling occurs – that is, cycling within minutes or hours between depression and mania – it is a frightening experience when logic leaves and bipolar dominates thoughts and behavior.

So I am appreciative for my diagnosis. I am grateful for my faith. I am indebted to all those who have blogged before me about bipolar and faith, about their own struggles and management of this soul-stealing illness. Mostly, I’m thankful to Jesus for releasing the chains of shame I once had for all the mistakes I’ve made, all the embarrassment I’ve felt, and all the friends I’ve hurt and lost.

And if you suffer from this illness, look to the right-hand sidebar. You’ll find lots of links at the top of the blogroll list (the ones with an “*” in front”) to help you manage and navigate your way through the good, the bad and the ugly.

Thank you to Tony Roberts at Delight in Disorder who inspired this post.

16 comments

  1. Very brave and honorable of you Susan! 🙂 ❤

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  2. Your transparency is inspiring to me. Thank you:)

    I grew up with a sister, two years younger than I, that has struggled with Bipolar disorder 1 since she was 2 years old. Our childhood was very difficult because of this disease. My sister cycles between utter disdain for me and extreme jealousy (she ‘came on’ to every boyfriend I ever brought home). There have been countless hospitalization over the years, numerous suicide attempts. Dozens of psychiatrists, even more attempts at treatment. None have affected any more than barely keeping her alive. I don’t try to make sense of it any longer– or dare ascribe God’s will to it. So very much suffering surrounding mental illness. For the patients AND for their loved ones. Heaven must be pretty amazing to necessitate such a difficult path for us here on Earth.

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    1. “My sister cycles between utter disdain for me and extreme jealousy” I hope you understand these are not cycles of bp, but manifestations of the disease. The manic cycles cause her to act out in these ways, and she has no more control over her behavior than an alcoholic has control over drinking. It is a difficult “thorn” to carry around. (See https://susanirenefox.com/2017/04/28/thorns/ )

      Yes, there is suffering for patients and loved ones, and all we can do is continue to love one another and offer grace as best we can.

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      1. Regardless of the cause, the effects on those around her are the same. That is the nature of living in a fallen world– we all still hurt, and are hurt by, others. Praise God for His continued mercies showered upon us all. Not one of us are deserving, yet they are offered to all:)

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      2. I add your prayer and thanks for God’s mercies on us all, Kristen.

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  3. What unabashed courage it took for you to share this story. I would like to share my walk through the 12 steps, and my own fearless and searching step 4 moral inventory. However, I don’t want to share it with you on social media. If you can share your email with me, I want to send you my account of my 12 step journey. My email is: stevesaw@gmail.com. Congratulations on a miraculous come back from your wilderness journey and encounter with bipolar. I admire you a lot.

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    1. Thank you, Steve. I would feel blessed to have you share your journey with me. Email coming. ❤

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      1. Thanks. There’s aback story I can share with you as well

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      2. Did you receive my email?

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  4. What a wonderfully candid testimony filled with hope. I pray your story helps others who feel trapped by these things find freedom and hope, too.. Blessings to you, sister.

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    1. As always, Mel: ❤

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  5. Sometimes God allows things in our lives because we are the type of person who can be a big help to others with the same maladies. It is quite obvious He can use you to reach out to those who suffer from Bipolar disorders. He has incredible confidence in you, Susan. I appreciate your openness and your ministry.

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    1. Thanks, Pete. Things are “up” for me now, and I am blessed by my faith in God during this year of struggles. I want to be sure to let others know, though struggles occur, God walks with us daily, hourly, moment by moment even though we may not know it.

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      1. Amen to that, my friend

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