It is no secret to anyone who knows me fairly well that I am Bipolar. Of this, I am not ashamed. I have no shame in being Bipolar.
But not being ashamed of being Bipolar does not immediately equate that I feel no shame at all.
As I wrote this post very early today, my head pounded from lack of sleep. The night before I had written it, I had none (sleep, that is) – and being Bipolar, drastic disruptions in my sleep cycle have heavier consequences than the healthier person. So when I wrote this, I was having trouble sleeping despite my severe lack of sleep from the day before and will have to watch myself to prevent any more alarming changes in mood.
Also, sleep. I needed sleep. But I had just slept the whole afternoon, so now sleep is difficult.
But I find, in the moments when my thoughts churn and sleep eludes me, that writing always helps.
I think writing for me proves more effective in helping me sleep than anything else does because writing exhausts me of whatever it is I am thinking about.
And I think a lot. That’s just who I am, as an individual. I think. I ponder. I ruminate.
Which leads me to tonight’s blog post:
In my thinking, I found that I experienced a lot of shame.
I do not know why – perhaps because I have never been taught otherwise – but I experience shame when I think and believe in opinions and ideas that are different from others.
Well. Perhaps I’m not being perfectly honest.
I experience shame when what I think and believe are different from everyone else’s.
And this, I think, is dangerous – because shame is a truly toxic thing. Shame is paralyzing. I would even go as far and say that it’s debilitating. Especially if you are a Christian.
And that is another thing about me that is no secret to anyone who knows me fairly well – that I am a Christian. I have not only been raised in a Christian family, I also verily, truly, and undoubtedly believe in what being a Christian is all about: unwavering faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
Which is why experiencing shame in my thoughts and beliefs whenever faced with someone else’s opinions and beliefs is so debilitating – because it means I am ashamed of Jesus Christ and everything he stands for.
And it is only very recently that I realize this.
I cannot stress, to my fellow believers out there, how important it is to feel no shame in believing in Jesus Christ – because I know what it was like to have experienced it.
Before I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder at 17 years old, I was accepted into UP Diliman. It was a height of honor for me. I remember being so, so proud. Happily, I ventured into UP, baby sapling Christian that I was.
I vaguely remember my parents’ pride, as well. Their eldest daughter. Look at her go! So bright and independent! She practically raised herself – does all her homework by herself, completes her projects without asking for help – why, she’s got such a good head on her shoulders!
They helped me settle into the Kalayaan Dormitory. I remember my mother, so concerned with comfort – she bought me memory foam, my mother. Wallpapered my dorm cabinet and study area, she did. Bought me the best bed sheets.
My father scouted the campus – pointing out landmarks, marveling at the vastness of the premiere university in the country. He was telling me about my luggage. “Why’d you bring so much stuff?” My father of course, male that he is, cannot fathom how much clothes a teenage girl requires. He helped carry my luggage, helped settle me in.
What I recall, sharply and painfully now, was how excited I was. College! UP! The campus is enormous and so cool and pretty!
I could not have known then, at the very beginning, how badly my faith was going to be tested.
My father insisted, at the very onset, that I find a church. I didn’t take him very seriously.
In hindsight, that rebellion had drastic consequences, because by neglecting to find a church, I was willfully starving myself.
When you are a Christian, your spirit is alive. People who don’t really believe in anything spiritual, people who believe that there’s a scientific explanation for everything, that God doesn’t exist – wouldn’t ever be able to understand this. That’s because they don’t have the capacity to.
It doesn’t have anything to do with intellect – it’s all about the spirit. Nonbelievers just don’t get it. Trying to understand God (who is spirit) with a very physical mind just won’t compute.
Anyway, by refusing to obey my Dad, I had no idea I was harming myself. Being in a new phase of my life, there were just so many things that needed my attention. I had to go to class, budget, familiarize myself with the campus. There were so many things to see and do in UP, and the campus was so large – it was easy to get lost, especially if you’d never been there before.
Slowly, as I missed church, I stopped praying.
And when you are a Christian, when you stop praying – you might as well be dead. You are no longer connected to the Vine, Jesus Christ. You will no longer grow. And we all know what the Bible says about removing ourselves from the vine, don’t we?
5“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.
John 15 : 5-6
I became so distracted by the world, I completely forgot I was Christian. I was beginning to lose myself, to forget in Whom my whole being is anchored on. To quote Katy Perry (Ha, ha), I stood for nothing, so I fell for everything.
There I was, a baby sapling Christian, in a dorm all on my own, the first time out of my family’s influence – of course, I’d wanted to have what I had back home. In high school, I was the secretary of the SSG, so I ran for House Council secretary in the dormitory. Back home, I had a lot of amazing friends – who supported me, bolstered me, and who I would do the same for.
I thought I found some great friends in the House Council. I thought they were amazing – there was our passionate adviser… there was our loud and outgoing president… there were all these people, who I thought were so talented and brilliant and amazing… but they were also very effective distractions in my faith.
And I don’t know how to say this lightly, because the House Council during my time accomplished so much – but in the end, they were also one of the reasons why I started getting depressed.
Because non-Christian friendships are about what you can take from the other person, not what you can give. As I continued to please my new friendships, all the while neglecting my spiritual nourishing, I continued to get lost.
I started to conform to them – these new friends I made. More and more, I grew further and further away from the Truth. And deep down, I wasn’t like that. Written in my soul, in the blueprints of who God wanted and planned for me to be – I knew I wasn’t who I was starting to paint myself as.
I wanted, so very badly for some reason, to impress them. To please them. But they were wrong for me. It was not their approval or their commendation I needed, what I needed was God. But I had no idea – I was so cut off from church, so spiritually weak, that I couldn’t see this was the case. I continued to find fulfillment and meaning in my new found friends, which would never, ever, ever be enough.
So, when I started to feel like life had no purpose or meaning around September (not even 4 months into my first semester), I had no idea why. My life started falling apart. I could not even muster enough energy to get up from the bed.
I found the world lacking. I found no purpose here.
I continued to fall deeper into depression. It came to a point where I thought about killing myself every single day. Everyone around me started to notice, and it was a crisis – because I had made it my purpose to please the people around me, and when they were not pleased with me, I wanted, desperately, to make sure that they still were.
I started lying. To everyone.
When my teachers would ask me why I wasn’t in class, I made up excuses. Because how was I supposed to tell them that I spent the whole day in my bed, not moving from it – not even to shower or to eat?
I felt so much shame, for some reason – I was so lost and I didn’t even know why. And it all comes full circle, in an ironic twist – that shame in “not fitting in”, in being Christian, in being who I was – would eventually lead me into feeling more of shame.
The depression lasted months. And then, on April 15th, 2011, God called me back to Him. Two days later, I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. Which really shouldn’t have surprised me, after all, God disciplines those whom He loves. The book of Hebrews explains:
“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,
and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
6 because the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”
Hebrews 12: 5 – 6
Now, I look back on everything that happened with 20/20 hindsight.
Right now, I’m in a state of peace that exceeds all understanding. Though I have wavered in my path, I’m all right now.
Though there are still moments where I feel no confidence in who I’m supposed to be, I rest easy – because I know that I’ve been called back.
There is no shame in me. Christ has set me free.