Take a deep breath. Here's today's question:
Someone who wears her St. Dymphna medal all the time said...
Sister, I am in need of advice.
I was somewhat recently (about a year and three months ago) diagnosed with bipolar disorder type 2 (that is, with less severe mania) and while drugs and therapy have helped me out a lot I find that I cannot understand how to go on with the rest of my life.
Everyone of us lives with the possibility that our life will fall apart, from unforeseen disease, economic or environmental catstrophe or an accident. Because I know that there is no way to know which of these or whether any of these will affect my life, I do not worry about them unduly and take reasonable precautions. However, I know that my life will fall apart again at least one more time (and probably more) because of the bipolar disorder. It would be extremely unrealistic to expect anything else.
I have already gone through the plunge into depression and the slow crawl back up to normalcy and reliability several times and I am still in my mid-twenties. I never worried about how it would affect my life in the future before being diagnosed as bipolar because I had always been diagnosed as having major (unipolar) depression, an illness that one has good chances of eventually overcoming and much better chances of keeping under reasonable control. Thus, I thought that at some point it would leave my life. I had even had a few years in a row without a major episode of depression and had come to think that it had, indeed, gone from me.
But bipolar disorder never goes away and now that I know that I am stuck with it for the rest of my life (and I am sure that this is the correct diagnosis) I don't know how to carry on. I feel as though I have no hope of a future, that I will be forever mired in work for which I am not suited but which will be the only kind I can get with such a spotty work history. I have been rejected romantically specifically because of this disease more than once, although this does not bother me too much. It just feels as though all the gifts and talents that God has given me are being cancelled out, negated and smothered by this disease. I don't feel that I can ever be of good use to anyone. This is compounded by the fact that many people who would take a heart attack or diabetes seriously and with sympathy and concern recoil with disgust and ill-will from someone suffering from the extremes of mental illness.
It is a great relief to know the nature of my illness but knowing that nature I find I am stuck and no longer know how to put one foot in front of the other, or how to hope.
It is easy to say snap out of it, everyone has stumbling blocks (and they do) but I am genuinely lost, even if it is only my own stupidity and unknowing that are the cause of it. I cannot find my place in God's world, I do not know how to be of use and I'm scared. What should I do to try to figure this out?
I won't be able to figure it out. Unlike Dr. Laura, I know when I'm in over my head.
So I marched my giant shoes down to the rectory to talk to Brother Martin. Brother Martin works there at the rectory doing whatever needs to be done on any given day. Some days he's not there. He actually is there. He lives there. Some days he just can't do much of anything.
He has the same diagnosis that you do. Bipolar disorder type 2. I asked him how he copes. He explained to me how his anxiety can begin a downward spiral at the drop of a hat.
I told him I've always admired how he soldiers on, given what he has to surmount, sometimes just to get through breakfast.
I told him that I believe that courage is what we call it when we are afraid, but continue on anyhow. A person can't be called brave if he isn't afraid. Brother Martin seems very brave to me. What makes him so brave?
Brother Martin said that all he can do is his best with what God has given him that day. Sometimes just getting out of bed and eating a bowl of soup is his best. Some days he paints the entire rectory and the gazebo.
He wanted you to know that it's important not to be so hard on yourself when God doesn't give you so much on some days. Just concentrate on what God has given you today, not what he's going to give you, or not going to give you, tomorrow. And do your best with it, whatever it is.
I don't think Brother Martin realized that he is showing anyone how to be brave, or what it really means to believe that God loves you, but he is doing just that. He is fulfilling his mission as a Brother, just by coping with his illness.
I hope this helps you in some small way.