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Southern born, Southern reared. It's a quirky place and we are unique folk... These are my people and these are my stories.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Friday's Southern-style Faith

Uh ...  yeah. Okay. I've been gone a while. I've been in one of my favorite places on the globe, North Carolina. Specifically, I've been in Salisbury, NC for a couple of days, followed by my annual trip to Ridgecrest, NC for the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference.

While there I saw folks I've known for years now. They've "grown up" with me in this business of writing. We've loved on each other, prayed for each other, and kept up with each other's lives. So, hearing "I'm praying for you and your family" was not an uncommon line for me to hear over this past week.

I love knowing that ... Especially from these people, because I know they mean it.

I also got to see two of my favorite people: Laura and LeeAnn. Both diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. Both successful. Both agree that it is time for the covering up and pretending to stop. LeeAnn is so open she practically adds her diagnosis to her introduction. Like going to a support group and saying, "Hello, my name is ... and I have ..." Her daughter had me laughing out loud as she talked about her mother's openness.

I love the openness.

from: KidsHealth.org
So why do so many want to go on pretending? Why do we think BD is any worse than any other disease? Do we think our loved ones--over 57 million Americans have BD--got up one morning and thought, "Wow! I think I'd like to have Bipolar Disorder. Only I don't want anyone to know it. I want to be ashamed of it. I want the world to think I'm okay, when clearly the world will think I'm not."

Bipolar Disorder is not something you buy on the sly at some tacky online store. It's not something you plan. Not an achievement to work toward. It's an illness. Think: a cold. The flu. Pneumonia. Diabetes. Cancer. Cystic Fibrosis. Carpel Tunnel Syndrome!

I've had CTS. It hurts. I had to wear a brace on my arm/hand. People would ask, "Carpel Tunnel Syndrome?" and I would smile and say, "Yep." I didn't try to hide it and I didn't shy away from the treatment, as uncomfortable as it was.

My friend Kathleen was diagnosed with breast cancer about five years ago. First part of October. By October 31, she'd gone through not one, not two, but three opinions. Seen several specialists. Had a number of tests. Prayed like crazy. And, by Halloween night, while many walked around in costumes and masks, she'd had a double mastectomy. She wasn't quiet about it either. There was nothing to be ashamed of, so why be ashamed? It wasn't like she'd gone out and bought breast cancer in a bottle, silly girl ... After October 31 and to date, she has aggressively done everything necessary to make sure the cancer doesn't return and that she lives as normal a life as everyone else. She's also a voice among many to those on the brink of the same to say, "It's okay. You'll be okay."

Because that's what you do when illness strikes. You take a pill. Wear a brace. Cut away the bad parts, if necessary. But you don't pretend it doesn't exist. Or that "love and love alone" will cure it. And then you do whatever you need to do to let others know ... it's gonna be all right.

Treatment may not be painless. It may not be fun. No one who has undergone chemo has said, "Man, I wish I could do that again!" No one who has worn a brace for Carpel Tunnel Syndrome has thought, "If only I'd have that kind of pain again ... so I could wear that horribly uncomfortable brace ..." No one who has taken several types of medication before finding just the right prescription, undergoing the side affects but wanting to get better more than wanting to stay sick, ever said, "Goodness! If only I could go through the vomiting ... the diarrhea ... the headaches ... the hallucinations ... just one more time for old times sake."

But to get well ... to get better ... to live life ... we'll do whatever it takes. Because human nature is to live life. To survive, even.

So let me ask you a question ... if your child were diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, or any disorder, would you want your child to live life ... or go through it sick? And, would you allow your child to make the decision as to whether to live life as normally as possible or to live life sick? Would you insist on trying anything ... everything ... to assure they can reach adulthood, happy and whole?

Or would you hide behind the lies? The lies that say this disorder is to be ashamed of. This disorder is the worst of all disorders. This disorder you could help ... if you really wanted to. The lies that say this disorder will keep you from any dream, any goal, any life whatsoever.

What would you do?


  1. There are several people in my family who have this diagnosis and it is painful to watch. Each one has decided to go a different route towards recovery. Sometimes, they like the "high" that comes with the mania; once my husband stayed up for two nights organizing spices and painting rooms. But the highs are often few and far between and depression looms often when the "lows" come. A quick change in personality can lead to increased family drama, as sometimes the others in the family wonder which personality they will encounter. The Lord seems to have healed my husband and he was never one that became mean except one time when the medication he tried made him irritable. He decided to go off medication and got on his knees one night and gave it to the Lord. But for many the right medication may be a God-send. It is a painful dilemma for sure for so many families and we pray that the Lord intervene and heal all those affected by bi-polar.

  2. Sometimes, when you get your house painted and the spices organized, it can be seen as a good thing! LOL I'm kidding, of course ... and you are right. It IS awful to watch. Especially in ones so young. We only want the best for our loved ones ... we would chose NO sickness befall them. What I miss most are the giggles. The long talks. The trust ... Bipolar robs not only those diagnosed with it, but those who love those diagnosed with it.

  3. My mother is an un-diagnosed bipolar - and refuses to get treatment. We watched her self-destruct a couple of different times, losing everything - yet the rest of the family refuses to admit that she has all the symptoms - they all have the attitude that "mental illness is what happens to other people."

    Several years ago, after another cycle where she crashed and family refused to take action, I had to just cut myself off from her, as cruel as that sounds. But it was the only way I could keep myself mentally healthy. Today, we talk a few times a year, but the relationship is more that of acquaintances than mother/child.

    I do think we should be open and honest about BPD. Then others who need help might not be so embarrassed to seek it.

    1. Sweet person ... it IS a most difficult decision to make, that of cutting oneself off from those we love. If your family as a whole cannot agree that your mother needs medical attention, then BD and illnesses like it only destroy those who are forced to watch disaster as it unfolds.

      I hurt for you.

      Keep praying for your mother. God opens doors we cannot fathom. In fact, we didn't even see the doors were there. But He does.

      Eva Marie

  4. It's one of those "hidden" illnesses, like depression, like fibromyalgia, like chronic fatigue, like other mental illnesses. It's hard to admit to people because their response is often, "But, you don't look sick, so it must not be that bad." And then you feel ashamed and think, maybe they are right. It really is just you.

    I agree, it needs to be more openly discussed. And we need to be less judgmental and more loving.

  5. Thanks for the post, Eva. Opened my eyes just a little bit more and gave me material for a possible novel in the future.

    Hiding is wrong, and yes, it should be openly acknowledged. What trials families/people go thru w/all the lies and deceit we blatantly try to pass off as truth to others. Openness w/provoke more understanding and love being shared.