Today I bring you an excellent post by Malinda Fugate as she takes us with her on her difficult yet encouraging journey. She has much to teach us!
I didn’t understand why depression kept coming back. I did all the right things: prayed, read my Bible, saw the counselor at my Christian university. After a few months of internal darkness, the sun would shine again and I’d feel good…. Eventually I’d even feel great, back to my old self with lots of energy and enthusiasm – until I suddenly crashed back into the pit of depression. If God was healing my mind, why didn’t I stay healed?
The counseling center noticed the pattern, too. After a referral to an outside doctor, I was given a new diagnosis: bipolar. All the times I felt like a depressed failure were part of my brain’s up-and-down cycle that included happy “high” periods as well. While I would eventually learn that this label came with tools to help me manage the disorder, my initial reaction was fear and shame. Depression was common. This was a serious mental illness. I didn’t know what to do.
Though I was slow to test the waters of trustworthiness, I began sharing my diagnosis with a few select people in my life. I encountered a wide spectrum of responses. The ultra-religious folks believed mental illness was strictly a spiritual problem that required a solution of prayer, deliverance, and strong faith. Others saw the value in therapy but insisted only a Christian counselor was safe. A few had misconceptions about bipolar and insisted I could not possibly be “one of those.” The journey began with a rocky road, but slowly the path became smoother.
It took years, but I learned more about bipolar disorder (and so did my friends and family!). I discovered ways to manage it for periods of time and survived extreme episodes when things got intense. Doctors helped me with ever-changing medication, and I found a skilled therapist. But what truly saved my life was the presence of God through every mountain and valley.
Jesus told His disciples that He would be with us always. Hundreds of years earlier, King David penned a song (Psalm 139) that said no matter where we go, God is there. If I were to write my own psalm, it would surely tell the story of how God walks with me and the bipolar brain He created in me. He speaks to me in the dark nights and gifts me with empathy for other mental health sojourners. He anchors me during the manic highs, inspiring me with enhanced creativity. The Lord provides me with supportive people who love me and aren’t afraid of mental illness – even growing hearts that previously, though unintentionally , perpetuated shame. He keeps me alive when everything in me clamors for the end, and it’s God who gives me the strength to emerge from hiding my bipolar to sharing it openly in hopes that it will encourage others.
My life has been a display of love beyond description. God’s tender compassion transformed my fear and shame into miraculous hope. He pours so much love into my heart that it overflows and spills over onto the people around me. Like the miracle of five loaves and two fish that fed over five thousand people, I’ve learned that His love multiplies. We start out with what little we have, and He turns it into more than we can imagine. It’s His love that gives me strength to reach out when depressive episodes overshadow my life. It’s God’s love that equips close friends, family, and church community to reach out nurturing hands when life gets scary (or have patience with my overexuberance and tendency for mistakes when my thoughts are racing and spirits soar). It’s His perfect love that fights the fear.
Years ago, I prayed for God to heal my mind. I didn’t realize that He had been healing my heart the entire time. My brain feels like a work in progress, but I know that no matter how I feel, the Lord is right here with me. There’s nowhere I can go that’s too far, nothing I can feel that’s too extreme. The presence of such extraordinary love makes all the difference. It gives me peace on the mountains and strength in the valleys; it gives me the courage to reach out a hand to another soul. Because He’s here, I can face tomorrow- whatever difficulty it holds.
Malinda Fugate serves full time as the Children’s Education Director at a church in Southern California. After earning a communications degree with a theatre emphasis from Azusa Pacific University, she worked behind the scenes for Christian radio stations in Los Angeles. She writes about God’s incredible love in The Other Three Sixteens. She lives by the beach with her pup, Yoshi, and often creates art, reads, or explores the many adventures to be found in her neighborhood and beyond.
You can find The Other Three Sixteens (and Malinda’s other books) on Amazon or anywhere books are sold.
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