Better Pack a Lunch – A First Attempt at Healing Bipolar
Sharon had been admitted to the emergency department for an episode of depression related to bipolar disorder. She moved herself to the gurney and began fastening the seat belts. I gave my partner a puzzled look. No one puts the seat belts on themselves. She asked the nurse to hand her the brown paper bag sitting on the counter. “What’s in there? I asked.
“You brought your own lunch to the hospital?”
“Sure did. Where I’m going, they won’t give you any food until after you’re through the intake process and I’m not waiting that long to eat.”
Obviously, this wasn’t her first rodeo. As we rolled her toward the door, Sharon talked about her previous trips to the mental health treatment facility. She’d been there many times. That’s why she brought her lunch.
After we got her loaded, she filled me in on more recent events that brought her to the emergency department. She shared her frustration over her psychiatrist’s inability to get her mood swings under control. Her medication dosage had been increased until she became toxic. Then the dose was lowered. No matter what her psychiatrist did she continued having radical mood swings and thoughts of hopelessness which led to thoughts of killing herself. We hit the freeway I got a set of vitals. Scanning the hospital face sheet, I noticed she was a Christian. “Sharon….I have a stupid question for you.”
“What’s your question?”
“Could you ever imagine yourself being healed of bipolar disorder?”
There was a long pause.
“Well…. I’m not sure. I mean…Yeah, I want to be healed of it. I’m sick and tired of living like this. But it seems like there isn’t any hope for that.”
I thought about her answer for a few minutes. I wasn’t sure if I should just ask if I could pray with her or go a little deeper. “Ummm…I have another stupid question for you,” I said hesitantly.
She looked at me. “Are these questions going somewhere?”
Not the answer I was looking for. But she didn’t tell me to buzz off, either. I sensed that she wanted to talk, but she didn’t understand where it was leading and that made her uncomfortable. It was time to show my hand. “Yeah, the questions are going somewhere. I’m trying to find out if you want to be healed of bipolar because I think you can be. I’ve been praying with my patients for a few years now and I see a lot of them healed. They’ve been healed of all kinds of things like neck and back pain and migraines. I’ll admit I haven’t seen a lot of people healed of mental illness yet, but I’ve been asking God to teach me how to do it… and I was hoping I could pray for you.”
“I’m a Christian”, she said matter-of-factly.
“I know you are.”
“No….I really am,” she insisted.
“Yeah, I know you are. That’s what it says on the hospital face sheet. Hardly anyone lies about that when they register”. I held up the face sheet and pointed to the word “‘Christian” under religious preference.
“So what are you?” She asked.
I’m a Christian, too.
“Are you really?” She let out a sigh of relief. “Oh thank God. I was dreading even asking you because I just knew you were going to be a Mormon.”
“Nope… definitely not a Mormon. Just your average Jesus freak who likes to pray with people,” I said, smiling.
“This is too weird. Last night before I came to the hospital, I told God I can’t do this anymore. I’m at the end of my rope. This crap has to end one way or the other. I’ve been dealing with it for more than 20 years and I can’t take it anymore. I asked God to do something about it….and then you show up and ask if I want to be healed.”
I smiled. She began crying. She finally knew where it was going.
“How old were you when you were diagnosed with bipolar?”
“I was twenty-one.”
“I have another stupid question.”
“Was there any kind of emotionally traumatic event that happened in the year before you were diagnosed?”
“Yes. My mom died.”
“How did she die?”
“She killed herself. She failed the first two times, but she got it right the third time. It was a few months later when I was diagnosed.”
“That’s what I thought. Y’know… I’ve been interviewing people about the onset of symptoms like bipolar and fibromyalgia and it’s surprising how often the symptoms begin shortly after an emotionally traumatic event.
“I first developed symptoms when I was seven. My mom was bipolar, too. But no one else was allowed to have problems in our house. She got all the attention. It wasn’t until after she died that my symptoms were officially diagnosed.”
She talked about what it was like growing up with a bipolar mom. I wrote my report as I listened.
“Hey…maybe you’re an angel,” she blurted out.
“I promise, I’m not an angel. But I am a messenger from God. He sent me to tell you that He wants you healed. The question is…do you want to be healed? Now think about it carefully, because if you do get healed your life is gonna change. No more doctor appointments, no more medications, no more drama.”
Another long, silent pause.
“Look…I know this is kinda weird”, I said. ” I’m asking all these questions because I know that not everyone wants to be healed. I’ve asked people in wheelchairs if they wanted to be healed and they said no because they were afraid that if they got healed, their disability checks would stop and they weren’t sure if they could find a job. Some people thrive on the drama that their condition causes. They get to be the center of attention and they grow accustomed to it. They know that if they get healed, the attention stops and they aren’t sure they want that. A lot of people get something they need from their illness so they don’t really want it to leave. What I need to know from you is …are you ready for some changes? Because if God heals you, everything is gonna change.”
She tearfully took my hand and asked me to pray with her. I closed my eyes and asked the Holy Spirit to touch her heart and heal her mind and emotions. I asked Him to erase the painful memories and establish her true identity as a child of God. I saw her standing with a man and felt like it represented her husband so I prayed for a strengthened marriage, a removal of the enemy’s work and a renewed commitment to their marriage. I continued praying for a few minutes then let her rest.
With tear-filled eyes, she spoke once again. “There’s no way you would know this, but my husband and I are separated. He filed for divorce. He just couldn’t take it anymore.” We talked about her marriage and I encouraged her not to give up on it. I suggested that if she were to be healed of bipolar, it would also bring healing to her marriage.”What if I don’t get healed?”
“What if you do?
“Sharon,” I continued, “Not every healing is immediate. A few people I prayed for felt heat or tingling when I prayed and their healing came in a matter of seconds. But that’s not how it usually works. For a lot of people, it took 10 or 15 minutes before they realized they were healed. For some, it was the next day and for others, it was three or four days later. Just because you don’t feel a bolt of electricity going through you, it doesn’t mean you’re not healed. I believe you are healed and the best thing you can do is to believe you’re healed and start living as if you aren’t bipolar anymore.”
“It’s been so long. More than 20 years. I’m not even sure how I would live if I wasn’t bipolar. I even have an “I’m bipolar t-shirt”, she said with a smile.
“Sharon, the illness is not your identity. Your identity is not a bipolar person. You’re a child of the king of heaven who happens to have a condition. But the condition is not who you are. You need to start seeing yourself differently. You are a daughter of the most high God. That’s your identity. ”
She smiled. I could tell that she got it. “I need to remember that.” We pulled into the hospital parking lot. The journey had come to an end. We wheeled her inside and got her registered. After she hopped off the gurney, she gave me and my partner a hug. We exchanged a few last words as the nurse looked on.
“Are we done with our little love-fest yet?” The nurse asked impatiently. I gave a quick report to the nurse and got her signature then handed Sharon her lunch. It was time to clean the gurney and get a cup of coffee.
My job isn’t perfect, but there are some days when I love it to pieces.