How My Faith Kept Me Going On My Bipolar Journey

Last Updated: 6 Aug 2018

When bipolar disorder seems too tough to navigate alone, faith can help provide lasting support.

by Susan Johnson


Living with bipolar disorder is like a perpetual roller coaster.  It’s too hard a journey to make alone.

You “Gotta Have Faith, Faith, Faith!”

George Michael sang it best in his ’80s song “Faith.”  Looking back on the past 20 years as a woman living with bipolar disorder, I realize what has kept me going—my deep-rooted faith.

I was baptized as a baby and grew up Catholic.  Beginning in preschool I learned about Christ and His endless love for me, and I felt His love early on.  At the time, my parents didn’t realize what a gift they had given me, a gift I would need the rest of my life.

Growing up we went to church Saturday nights, rain or shine.  Afterwards, we would go out to dinner, which helped when I didn’t want to go.

I attended Catholic school for the first few years of elementary school. I didn’t have the fire and brimstone experience that many other people had.  I learned the Church’s teachings and began to understand what being a Catholic meant.  The Golden Rule says it all.

In high school I was actively involved in our church’s youth group. It was a strong, safe place to embrace my faith.  My wonderful group of friends had the same morals I had. I have fun memories from those years.

It was my junior year when things began to get rocky.  One summer I experienced my first case of the blues. I felt like I was alone on a forgotten island.  I could not snap out of it.  My parents quickly identified that I was depressed.  I was unhappy and sleeping excessively.  Both bipolar and depression run in our family.  My parents took me to my first psychologist, and I was able to beat the depression.  Having faith helped me during this time.

My first manic high was on a cruise ship at age 19.  I swear God was sitting in the same room.  “This is incredible,” I thought. I didn’t want that experience to end.

My college years were a real tumultuous ride. I often experienced mixed mania. One minute I had faith, the next I was crying.  It was exhausting having both feelings at the same time.  I was taking Lithium then, but was unable to stabilize.

The highs were typical especially during the summer months.  The lows were hell.  I experienced them during the Iowa winters.  I couldn’t get out of bed. I wanted to die because I felt that was easier than living.

We had a new church very close to my house.  There I found solace in my faith. I attended religious studies and volunteered with the youth group. One of the neatest experiences I had was a women’s retreat. Women shared their testimonies in the midst of tragedies. I realized I was not the only one struggling. I went to confession where I asked God for forgiveness for some of the poor choices I had made. It was like a weight was lifted off me.

Recently I wrote a book titled Some Dreams Are Worth Keeping. It took years, but during that time I was amazed at how God worked in my life. I understood clearly how He kept me out of harm so many times. He protected me as I experienced promiscuity resulting from bipolar.  God never left me and, at the lowest times, carried me.  He gave me a mom and dad who supported me through it all.  He sent me a therapist who helped me though those college years.  God gave me a best friend who stood by me.  Because of God, I graduated college.

I couldn’t have traveled this journey alone.  I believe without my faith, I would not be alive. I don’t believe you have to be Catholic to have faith. Perhaps another religion suits you better. I do believe the journey is easier when you put your faith in a Higher Being.  So if you are struggling, know there is something to cling to in faith and the belief that that things will get better. I have experienced it in my life, and I know you can, too.


About the author
Susan Johnson was diagnosed bipolar 1 in 1995. She graduated from Drake University with a B.A. in Sociology. She is the author of “Some Dreams Are Worth Keeping” A Memoir of My Bipolar Journey. She is an inspirational speaker. Her true passion in life is helping break the stigma of living with a mental illness and bring those living with one hope. She currently works with special education students as an Instructional Assistant for a school district in Nevada. She is proud to be a Christian. She enjoys hiking, baking, traveling, yoga, spending time with her Goddaughter and trips to Cancun. She makes her home in fabulous Las Vegas with her husband Gary and Siberian cat Angel-Ann. Visit her website.
  1. I can’t even begin to tell all of you how much my faith in Jesus Christ has helped my journey. It wasn’t until late 2015 that I really gave my illness over to him. I have struggled with it since the early 2000’s. Not wanting to deal with it and the affects that it had on my life. Once I began going through my divorce of 20 years I realized that He is there to take on own burdens. Then I met a wonderful person at church that has always been there for me. She mentioned to me that I no longer needed to say “I have bipolar disorder, but it belonged to Satan himself.” It was at that time I began to pray that I would see the light at the end of the tunnel. I quickly changed my way of thinking and saying towards this illness. Since then time I rebuke Satan and yelling at him that he can take what he believes he has given me back. Since that time I am only on two medications and able to manage my bipolar much easier. I have since become to know my triggers, exercise, what to eat and not to eat. Most importantly, you need to research and research and have plenty of questions for your doctor. He/She can’t know everything that would be best for you without you being proactive.

  2. In my experience, faith is actually causing mental illness, apophenia and paredoilia. I have had a tough time with my health throughout my life, and am now believing my own delusion that God is going to miraculously turn my life around. I see random messages on Pinterest and I believe they are actually coming from God. But it’s nonsense, I see that when I snap out of my delusion. God leaves behind wrecked lives. In the old days people were brutally killed, whereas today they are medicated into a stupor or locked away in mental hospitals. I know I am going insane. Religion has done that to me. Please stay away from it.

  3. I respect that everyone has a different experience and relationship with their Higher Power, and so it is not upon me to pass judgement for what works for others.

    I was only able to find the self-confidence and stability I needed to manage my BP when I REJECTED the god and faith of my upbringing. It brought to light the many ritualistic, obsessive behaviors I had regarding totally unrelated causal chain of events. I used to believe that bad things happening in my life were a result of God’s punishment for some “sin” I did previously (fail a test because I masturbated earlier in the week; break my arm because I lied to my mother; etc). It also caused me to impose this false sense of “everything happens for a reason” that resulted in insane mental gymnastics to justify the rationale for events beyond my control. Lastly, it absolved me of personal responsibility to seek help and aim for self-improvement, believe that if I just prayed a little harder suddenly everything would be ok.

    In hindsight, to me these are clearly irrational patterns of thinking… yet it took years of psychotherapy and personal growth the break the mental confines of this mode of thinking. I feel freer than ever now to face the fact that sometimes things happen for no reason, that unrelated events are truly unrelated, and that the meaning of life is whatever we choose to embrace and create in this world.

    To me, this is liberating. To others, it may be terrifying. I’m okay with this fact, and I’m okay with the fact that others find benefit in their faith and deity. There’s nothing wrong with this duality; in fact, I find that the world is a richer place because of it.

    My family prays for me because they believe I am going to hell. This is painful for me to hear, because I know I can never change their mind unless they are ready to do so themselves. I am sure some of the BPHope community may feel the same way regarding my “final destination”. I just ask that people please respect that what works for someone may not work for someone else — there’s no requirement that we all agree– and we certainly don’t have to bring damnation into it at all.

    Thanks for the opportunity to post; I just wanted to bring this up because I think it’s very interesting that my experience is the opposite of much of the rest of the community. Stay strong everyone, whatever it takes!

  4. Can you help me?

  5. still struggling terribly at various unpredictable times.
    Faith helps but I’m to afraid to reach out and find a dream team. Any suggestions? My family is somewhat dysfunctional and I never properly learned social skills. This situation has gone on for a very long time even with psychotherapy.

Load More Comments

Leave a Reply

Please do not use your full name, as it will be displayed. Your email address will not be published.