Church Members Who Suffer from Bipolar Disorder

The Price of Mania:

God’s Call for the Christian Community’s Mission of Care for Members Who Suffer from Bipolar Disorder

 

There are thousands of souls that are lost every year in the United States.  These are individuals who are afflicted with the diagnosis of Bipolar/Manic Depressive Disorder. Ministries often care spiritually for many illnesses in their respective churches, but find that the bipolar members of their congregations are not so easily aided. This is secondary to a manic-depressive (bipolar) being so biochemically driven. Psychologists quite often will not treat them, because it is difficult to work with a chemical aberrancy, which for the most part rules out psychotherapy.  Psychiatrists, of course, can prescribe medications that will sometimes keep mania at bay, but not to the extent that these poor souls need. They simply want to rest, to be genuinely happy, to be loved, and to feel safe.  It is the ministry’s challenge to assure them that Jesus Christ will provide them with all of these desires.

Bipolar behavior is hallmarked by cycles between states of elation (“I am so happy. I have so much energy! I don’t need sleep! I can do anything!”) and a depression that is so dark as to feel God has abandoned them (This is especially a critical time for the church). Both of these states actually require the same care, that being (you guessed it)…rest, happiness, love, and safety.  Unfortunately, the depth and sorrow of this depression renders mania preferable. So, the ideal period to reach them is both during this depression, and before the inevitable return to mania. With God’s grace and your assistance, this can change.  It did for me.

I am a “recovered” manic-depressive Christian.  I had the best care available in the secular world, but it was Jesus Christ that lifted me out of the abyss (or off the roller coaster if you will)…permanently. I believe I can help you understand a bit better what goes on in the mind of bipolars, and with God’s help, can aid you in reaching these poor souls in your churches.  By the way, manic-depression is nondenominational
The enormity of this task is reflected in the pitfalls that accompany it. From the start, it is important that you understand that manic-depressives are not unintelligent, quite the contrary.  With this, the problem of manipulation on their part is probable.  That being said, it is imperative that the ministry protect themselves from these maneuvers, while still keeping the member in care that will keep them safe as well.  It is important to note here that this manipulation is not out of an evil scheme. It is part of the disease process. Because mania feels so much better than everyday life (and certainly better than the horrific depression), they may have to lie to keep those that care for them from knowing that they are on their way into mania, and they do not want to be stopped.

The model of care by which we are best led is Jesus’ gentle, but firm love for the victim, but not the evil that kept them captive. Just as Jesus prayed to his father for assistance in the care of these poor souls, so should we pray for his. Those in the ministry who are creating the “safety net” for these individuals, need to understand that to reach the soul of that person, you are going into a place where you risk losing your own.  This is why prayer has to be strong, as should be the minister.The minister’s role in all of this is to plan for intense prayer and instruction to a select group from the congregation that the minister trusts implicitly to maintain confidentiality (even with others in the congregation), to provide the afflicted member with encouragement and constant reminders, especially while in depression, that God will not let go of them, and neither will you.

Because God is an “ethereal” entity, like the apple to Eve, mania attracts the bipolar because in mania, they believe that they can share in that ethereal state with God, but in reality suffers the same sorrow as Eve in falling away from God.  I believe that depression ensues because it feels like they were also expelled from the “Garden.”  Again, this is important for the ministry to keep in mind when caring for this population.
Bipolars do much better in a structured, but safe, environment. This can be accomplished by encouragement to attend services weekly, including them in activities in the church on a regular basis, possibly being part of a “prayer chain.”  Ideally, meeting with the minister once a week or so would go a long ways in creating that structured environment.

If conditions are such that this member has to be hospitalized, by all means help in arranging that, but still visit them wherever that may be.  If at all possible, avoid hospitalization.  Hospitals are mainly meant for those who may harm themselves or the congregation in some way. Hospitals are designed to care for the body, and not the soul. Hospitalization may be expedient, but not merciful.  Remember, we are reminded that God “desires mercy, not sacrifice.”

In conclusion, the price of mania (which is an illusion in the first place) is much too high to risk one’s soul.  Let God guide you in reaching these poor souls.  They are suffering and need the rest, happiness, safety, and love that with God’s grace you can help provide.

~~~

S. Gould-Thompson

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