Feelings and Mental Illness
In the early years of my mental illness, even before being diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I was selfish.
I believed, as a victim of childhood abuse, I was deserving of anger and unforgiveness. If my mind was broken, or my heart was hard, and if my walls were 12 feet tall, it was all justified because ‘I was a victim.’
Over and over again, I genuinely felt justified in my emotions, in my pain, in my anger, in my self-pity, in my seclusion, or obnoxious behaviors. I deserved to be depressed or filled with anxiety, or manic, or whatever. After all, I was abused, and this is the result.
In the middle of my feelings was deep guilt. I tried to blame the guilt on people making me feel bad and not allowing me to express the pain. I mistreated people, and was selfish more than I can count. I brought the trauma of childhood into adulthood, and carried resentment to many I claimed to love. I never trusted while living untrustworthy.
When you choose Christ.
God grabbed my attention in my early 20’s. I learned He never granted me ‘permission’ to live in my anger- even when it seemed reasonable. Not only was there no go ahead, but living like I did was the opposite of living for Him. I chose imprisonment to my abuse most of my life to that point. The Lord desires us to live in freedom.
The biggest lesson I learned early on was the Father should be the center of my life. I lived with myself as the focus up to that point. My mental illness was more significant than my Redeemer, and I was my idol. My desire to justify all the feelings, the emotions, and thoughts relating to my trauma, was over God’s place in my soul.
Every day I rolled in the muck of my mind and put something in me above Jesus, who I decided to follow years ago. On the outside, I did the right things. I attended church, raised my kids in that community, and taught Sunday school for years. But on the inside, I only gave half of me to Christ. The other half I set aside and reserved for self defensiveness and excuse.
The truth is, I cannot live in two places at once. I am not made to embrace that life. Every day I focus on me, is a day I lose sight of Him. But we don’t live in a time where that is acceptable.
For decades we have been pushed into believing our feelings are everything- yes, everything. What’s worse, as our loved ones help us (unintentionally) to live for long periods in our emotions, the more we begin to justify that separation from God and put ourselves above Him in our life.
Mental Health Living in Jesus
Today, in 2020, I recognize my weaknesses. No doubt, Satan loves when I fall back into old habits. Every time I focus on anxiety or depression, it means I’m not focused on the Lord. It is a big win for the lover of deceit. He uses my brain malfunction to do what he’s meant to do – separate me from God.
You see, mental illness is not my curse. However, Satan uses it to torment me from the outside. Much like a bully teases and insults over and over, the evil one taunts us by spotlighting our feelings and telling us they are the priority, even over God.
So we isolate ourselves, physically, mentally, and spiritually. We voluntarily walk into his cell, lock the door, and throw the key. We batter ourselves within our mental disorder until it is all we focus on; all we can see. I played this game until I was locked up in a facility that focused on feelings- every minute! I was evaluated based on how I felt in every group discussion or activity. The only thing that saved me was the visit by a church, and the song “As The Deer.” I stay centered on myself or my God, but I can’t do both. Healing begins when we want nothing more than the Lord.
It was humbling to realize how small I was. While God created me to feel, he didn’t create me to live in those feelings. God heals, he corrects, and disciplines. The voids we experience internally were always to be filled by Him. When we surrender, He can work in us to bring profound change for His purpose and will in our life.
When I struggle with my bipolar, I no longer linger there. I fight my desire to plant myself in the mania, or the depression, or my anxiety. Understanding, because God matters, if I linger there too long, I lose Him in the haze of feelings and emotions that arise. For me, it’s not worth it. No one else can combat mental health for me. Medication can help neutralize the peaks, and therapy can hold me accountable, but it takes personal effort to overcome the battle.
I don’t know where you are in your mental health journey. As a Christian, I hope you keep God in his rightful place- above every piece of your struggle. If you do this, I promise victory.
Victory is won in the Name of Jesus Christ.