Broken Brain, Healing Heart

Broken Brain, Healing Heart

I wrote in my journal, “… there are these parts of me, light and dark, love and coldness, hope and despair. It can’t co-exist and eventually crashes all together.”

Is this what scripture means about flesh and spirit? Do other people feel this way? Is this part of my mental disorder? Or is disorder a convenient excuse not to examine these things closely?

I find myself living in extremes. With bipolar disorder, it’s rare to be somewhere calmly in between dark depression and the speeding bullet of mania. I have come to wonder if I’m atypical. My life doesn’t look like the bipolar portrayed on film and TV screens. There are no screaming rages, no delusions of grandeur, and my moods don’t fluctuate by the minute or hour. I have, however, nearly drowned in the depths of darkness and lost control during the chaos of a brain on fire. My disorder influences my life more than I care to admit. It’s intertwined with my personality and the task to untangle where it ends and I begin is daunting.

One thing stands constant in the swing of extreme highs and lows—the God who is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He is Rescuer, Protector, Comforter, and Strength. I love Him with every ounce of my being, even when I’m not full of light, love, and hope. And so I serve Him with all I’ve got.

Life in ministry is not for the faint of heart. As a pastor’s daughter, I proclaimed that I would never serve full-time the way my father did. The cost was high, the drama messy, and the hypocrisy my young eyes witnessed was enough to deter the most faithful. Yet, God designed and prepared me for children’s ministry, and so this is where my 40-hours-a-week are (happily) spent. Life’s surprises never cease! The biggest surprise is how someone so flawed, broken, and—dare I say?—crazy could be used to serve precious little ones. He equips me and I’m obedient, so the whole thing seems to be working out pretty well.

Except when it doesn’t.

Sometimes, the darkness threatens to win. It happened last year, nearly taking my life as it swept over my heart and soul. Even if I lived, how could any parent trust such an unstable person to care for their kids? Someone so broken is surely unfit for ministry. This was failure. This was the end.

My experience with mental illness in the church was limited. I knew I was supposed to love the Lord with all of my mind, but the only Biblical examples of mental illness I could recall involved demon possession. In fact, that’s apparently what those in my previous church also remembered, because they more than once prayed over me to be delivered from the demons of bipolar. Then, they advised me to only see a Christian counselor instead of a mainstream mental health professional. I expected my current congregation to feel the same way. After all, who wants a mentally ill children’s ministry leader?

But what I found was unconditional love.

When I emerged from a few days in the psych ward, I opened my phone to find encouraging texts from church parents. There was a video of my kids telling me how much they loved me and our church time. My pastor asked questions to understand what I was experiencing. A couple of people brought meals as I began to readjust to everyday life. This was my community and they embraced me. It was the last thing I expected and exactly what I needed.

This is the church. While I searched the scriptures for someone like me, I overlooked the people like us. The Lord and His disciples. The early believers. The people of God. They lived and laughed and loved in community. They shared all they had so that no one was in need. All people get sick, hurt, and broken. The pain might be in the eyes, the limbs, the mind, or the heart. God’s love covers all of it. He is the Great Physician who heals. And He always uses His people to wrap each other in His great love. There is love in God’s community. There is healing in God’s community. And while we’re still learning how the church as a whole is approaching mental health, I know that a big part of the answer lies in living His love together. It’s the love of Christ that restores the dead to life. It saves us all from the darkness.


Photo by Leon Biss on Unsplash

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