A sense of “spirituality” takes many forms—from the glow of the setting sun to times of organized prayer. How does your spirituality or belief in a higher power make a difference in achieving wellness?
Belief in God affects every aspect of my life, except when my brain isn’t working. Just as my body needs nourishment in order to stay alive and accomplish spiritual things, my brain needs my medication to have perspective, to feel love and joy. It’s not that God isn’t powerful enough to cut through horrible depressions and manias: it’s that He has provided lithium and other drugs to do the job. Take your meds! If they aren’t working, keep experimenting. A clear head is not only necessary for a relationship with God, but also to be connected to life itself.
–L.C., Grass Valley, CA
My God is my sustainer. No matter what I go through, He is with me, giving me strength to carry on and giving me hope for my future. When I don’t feel this way, I know I am sick and need help from my support group.
–L.B., Marysville, WA
The anticipation of a first-time airplane flight was thrilling. The day was dismal—gray, oppressive, and drab. But as the plane took off and ascended high above the thick layer of clouds, something wonderful happened. The sun was a huge ball of brilliance! Then something simple, yet profound, occurred to me. No matter how dark the days are, the sun still shines, usually bright and beautiful.When some days are dark with depression, I think of this always. And I feel stronger and more reassured that God is with me and the sun never stops shining.
–A. Z., Valparaiso, IN
I was diagnosed with bipolar about a year ago. I am 50 years old, but I think I have had it since my childhood, as I never felt normal and was always thought to have depressed episodes. No one seemed to notice the episodes of mania that I could always channel into hard work; the anger, I was told, was a bad temper. It is sad that it took so long to diagnose. I now think my faith in God is what kept me alive after many suicide attempts and many meds. I think whenever things got to the point when I didn’t think I could take the noise, the crying, the fear of not being sure of what is real, I prayed and I still do. I feel it’s a great help and also gives me something to focus my mind on and keeps the other noise at bay.
–S. J., Toronto, ON
Spirituality plays a decided role in controlling my bipolar disorder. During manic phases, my Higher Power reminds me that if things seem too good to be true, they probably are. I then take a mental step back and review my situation. I repeat this process with each manic episode that I catch—which is not all of them by any means—if I reassess a mania, then it subsides a little and my thinking is clearer.When the depression demon captures me, breaking out is not as easy. It will rule my life relentlessly and doesn’t offer room for my Higher Power to intervene. He does, however, as He whispers instructions in my ear: first check my meds, then force myself to do something positive like play my guitar. Sometimes this backfires on me, making me feel even more depressed. Then I’ll feel it coming, I’m helpless. I crash. Now my self-help actions are limited. I notify my doc, my gifted guardian angel, and I pray. I beg to have no suicidal thoughts enter my mind. I pray for the strength to make it through another one of these episodes. Even when I did attempt suicide, and came very close to dying, He held me tightly in His arms and kept me from slipping away. Thank you, my God, my Father, my Master for your gentle acts.
–J.N., Wilson, NC
My faith in God and my beliefs kept me for a while, but slowly bipolar took control of my life! Severe depression had ended in suicide attempts. Finally, diagnosed correctly and medicated properly, a journey back to wellness began. My faith in God led the way. It is as if every blessed belief is awakened and renewed; I am able to put actions and energy behind my faith, and every day I am thankful for a sound mind. The whole and complete person I am becoming seemed unreachable, but by faith and taking care of my mind, an abundant life is tangible.
–L.A., Jacksonville, FL
Being a dual diagnosis person (recovering bipolar alcoholic), who is involved in AA, I could not survive the hard work recovery takes without a Higher Power. But prayer and living a “spiritual life” is not enough. I need meds, a doctor, a therapist, a sponsor, a loving husband and family, and peers who share what I go through.
–S.S., Arcata, CA
It has been proven to me time and time again that both my health and life challenges are true spiritual opportunities. Each time I have fallen into a severe depression, I have recovered with a deeper awareness of myself. I have realized that I need not fear going forward slowly, but that I should be very concerned about standing still. Every situation in my life that has caused me to struggle or has caused great pain is really all about learning to be true to my soul. And once in recovery, I can see the meaning of what I have experienced because of my spiritual beliefs, and also because of a most wonderful psychiatrist.
–S.S., Montreal, QC
Lately, I have been achieving a sense of spirituality through the adult partial care I have been attending since my last hospitalization. It’s really about looking at the interconnection between the pinecones, dandelions, and other struggling souls and knowing I am on this planet to learn and survive with them. Spirituality is about striving for survival and not glory. My treatment at partial care has a strong dose of spirituality, and without it I would be as woeful as I was in the hospital. The difference is participating so that God hears your voice so He can try to help.
–A. N., Atlantic City, NJ
My spirituality, my belief in our Higher Power, is just knowing that He is there to help us, if we let Him. I, myself, am but a small speck of dust in this world. But when I let our Higher Power become part of me, I become infinitely larger, wiser, calmer, stronger—and more importantly: caring, loving, and kinder. I pray for guidance for the right answer, not for what I want, but for what I need. He always shows me the way to go. It is difficult to have the faith, open-mindedness, and strength to change your course at times. On my own, I am like a blind man in a dark room, looking for a black cat that is not there. But for the Grace of God—I thank Him every day: I am nothing without Him.
–D.D., Fort Erie, ON
My spirituality is based on faith and hope. It can be pretty challenging to grasp those two concepts when your world is falling apart, as mine has been in the last couple of years. Faith—I have borrowed from my friends. Hope—I’ve borrowed from my ECT team and the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance. Something must be working because I’m still alive and kicking, sometimes even passing on the hope and faith I’ve been given during hard times.
–L.V., Rochester, NY
Spirituality has been integral in my journey toward wellness. Religion remains important whether I’m manic, depressed, or stable. When manic, I believe I have special connections to God. When depressed, I feel unworthy of God’s love but find comfort in prayer. This relationship keeps me from committing suicide. Now that I am stable, my relationship with God is very strong and helps me deal with my bipolar issues. Prayer and church attendance are part of my regular routine. I use specific Bible verses to help me through difficult situations. My spirituality is a very important part of who I am.
–Name withheld, Burlington, WI
I have always maintained a sense of spirituality. It was not until I had my first “breakdown” and hospitalization that I sought return of my Christian faith and support from my pastor, who is also bipolar. My faith in God certainly helps me get through those rough days.My spirituality helps sustain me when it’s time to change medications because the last nine didn’t work, or when, after six months on a job, I’m ready to leave. It’s certainly my faith that makes me pick up that phone and call my pastor when I feel like I can’t live like this anymore.
–Kim, Durham, NC
My greatest strength, peace, and love come from spirituality. About eight months ago I hit a very low stage with depression because of challenges I was facing at work. Suddenly my daughter started to ask about Jesus and her need to learn how to pray. Within weeks, she and I started to go to church in search of guidance, mainly for her, but before I realized, I was the one getting guidance, inspiration, hope, love, and peace. It was incredible! I’ve always believed in Jesus and prayed from time to time, but I was not involved with a church or being an active Christian. Now I spend three days a week at church being in the praise team and church activities. One of the things I love the most is singing to our Lord; it gives me inspiration, peace, and harmony within my heart! I believe it is important to find that piece of spirituality anywhere we can. Finding the feeling of love that surrounds us and total forgiveness are the greatest gifts I was given from above! Now, there are no more hopeless nights, no tears of loneliness, or isolation. All I have now is hope, love, and peace deep within my soul, enriching every bit of my daily life. I could not ask for more. I am truly happy and at peace with myself. I’ve learned to accept myself as I am, even with this disorder I face every day. Heavenly love gives me the strength to go on, taking one day at a time.
–J.H., Bonita Springs, FL
I offer up my day to God, good or bad, and make sure I give Him lots of thanks and praise. This helps me a lot. I pray in the morning, at night, and during the day, and take my medication with prayer. I leave all to Him. When life gets the better of me, I cry for help, and He is always there. I read a lot of books, trying to learn about my illness, during which I have had a long struggle with being manic. Sometimes it is very difficult, but I now know that I have lots of support and resources at hand, and I believe that things always happen for a reason and that my cup is half full. I love nature and all the wonders out there. I count my blessings every day and am grateful for them when life is tough.
–P.M.H., Hamilton, ON
Several years ago, I was in and out of the hospital, on disability, abusing drugs/alcohol, and having legal difficulties. I declared myself to be an atheist. After an outreach effort by a local church, I began to attend a Bible study. Slowly, I immersed myself in Christianity. I was saved, baptized, and filled with the Holy Spirit. My life changed drastically. It wasn’t that God took all of my symptoms away; He just helped me manage them better through prayer and the belief that He would not give me anything that I couldn’t handle. I have been sober ever since, have had minimal hospitalizations, am successfully working full time as a professional, and am pregnant with my first child after much planning with specialists. I thank God for all of this. Times still get tough, but I have Him to lean on.
–L.B., Pullman, WA
The bipolar experience induced me to integrate “good” and “evil.” The world of contrast was no longer a viable option—it was intolerable. So, I made the devil merge with God. And I began to experience a new world where nothing could be judged good or evil—in fact, where nothing or no one could be judged at all. And that world is the “Now”—where unconditional love fuses the two opposing poles together. Thank you, bipolar, for waking me up!
–K.A., Sandnes, Norway
Printed as “SOUNDOFF! Spirituality”, Summer 2006