I’m coming to terms with mania. Not judging myself, but noticing. For months I’ve been getting in touch with the depression side of being bipolar. When I accepted the depression, I was able to move on a bit by admitting to myself that I can live with this until it passes, though it’s rough. My God is it rough.
At the same time I’ve begun exploring the past, beginning with last summer, moving backwards to college years and seminary years. And I found mania. Phases of mania that have affected all the major decisions I’ve made, and even what I’ve experienced as faith.
Deep breath. Don’t panic.
Who am I? It seems that somewhere underneath the mania that has influenced the decisions I made while feeling Good (i.e., manic) is someone I don’t know. Because all the decisions that I thought shaped me into who I am, I made while manic. What would I have done had I been clothed and in my right mind?
My past is not what I thought. I felt good and up and able to tackle problems during semesters, and then during busy times of ministry. This was mania, a time of increased energy, of euphoria, of knowing I could take on the world and succeed. I felt depressed in summers and breaks and vacations, when I wasn’t in the presence of ideas, and conversations and too much to do. I made major decisions when I was feeling good, i.e., when I was manic. I made most of my life’s decisions, even those made in prayer, during these manic phases. Were they good decisions, or right decisions?
In fits of mania and anxiety I decided about changing majors and a life direction and marriage and a sense of call to ministry and a sense of call to churches. Some decisions were adiaphora – things that don’t matter, don’t have cosmic significance for who I am as a person. Others do matter, or did matter. And during depression, in other fits of anxiety, I would question these important and unimportant decisions or maybe get some clarity and see some individual patterns in my life that were unhealthy – such as working too much, or taking advantage of my family.
My faith is not what I thought either. I’ve articulated to CPM’s, spiritual directors, other pastors, parishioners, friends and family a continuing sense of God’s presence that feels something like a shadow behind me whispering, nudging, comforting. That feeling in my center is what I’ve relied upon when making big decisions. I’m coming to terms with the fact that other people describe euphoria and grandiose thoughts with the same kinds of words that I use to describe God’s presence. A key part of my faith may in fact be a symptom of mania. Which could explain why being medicated has taken away my experience of God.
Lord, have mercy.
So, mania has had an impact on my entire life. How I’ve spent my life has been affected by mania. How I’ve experienced God has been affected by mania. Take out the mania, and what is underneath? Who am I without the mania, and especially without the same feeling of God’s presence? That’s the question of the hour.