I can hear you now, both of my regular readers, saying “Holy Shit, Deon!” (Literally) “A (potentially) USEFUL article?!” Uhmm, don’t get your hopes up or anything. It could be the regular installment of shit this blog normally has to offer. And any guests from the actual church are either offended I said the word shit (TWICE!) and had the nerve to joke about it, and have been triggered into throwing their internet device into a bowl of bleach to sanitize it, OR, they’re offended I said shit and just closed the browser window because I’m obviously beneath their standards of holiness, OR, they’re curious enough to continue but reserve the right to choose one of the above options at some point while reading.
If you’re one of the third-option choosers, good for you! I applaud your patient tolerance. You may be one of those who saw a Tony Campolo clip in which he dropped the same expression but chided his viewing audience for being more offended at the expression than the worldwide situation he was trying to draw attention to. If you haven’t, and you’re curious, here’s the quote:
“I have three things I’d like to say today. First, while you were sleeping last night, 30,000 kids died of starvation or diseases related to malnutrition. Second, most of you don’t give a shit. What’s worse is that you’re more upset with the fact that I said shit than the fact that 30,000 kids died last night.”
― Tony Campolo
I do not know if that statistic is still accurate, nor if it was accurate at the time of Campolo’s message, but if it was, and/or is, we oughta do something about Campolo’s awful profanity!! No, I’m kidding. We ought to do something about the starvation and disease. And some are. And sadly, some still don’t give a shit. I’m going to err on the side of promoting life and curing the diseases we can cure, permanently, at the expense of the rest of the world somehow, and not at the individual expense of the human who just needs a vaccine, for fucks sake, they shouldn’t cost so much as to be inaccessible to “the least of these.” I wonder how much it would actually cost out of the worlds gross domestic product or the investors in the world economy, to do that all around the world. I bet it wouldn’t hurt anyone at all, if we weren’t surrounded by greedy corporate fucks and idiot investors who are trying to squeeze every damned penny they can.
That little side rant though is not the focus of this article. Or is it?
I promise, I will get to the point, and if you continue to read it you’ll get it too. If you read it all and still don’t, send me a comment that says “Deon, you’re a fucking idiot and I still don’t get what you were trying to say.” I LIKE comments if they’re not spam. Well, most comments. I’ll let you know if your comment was so mean or overly critical that I decide to never blog again.
So what CAN the church, or more to the point, PEOPLE from the church, do for people with bipolar?
This smacks of a list! I wonder how many things there are. Maybe you can think of a few that I didn’t think of. Go ahead, include those in the comments and if I like them I’ll
steal them and pass them off as my own original thought let your comment stay here published just they way you said it. I’ll guess there are at least 10 things, and that way you won’t think my title was wrong.
10: Love us unconditionally. I hear you saying, “oh, but we do!” Really?
What about that lady near the back who ran out of patience, and fired the person because they didn’t have a satisfactory medical reason for their absence during the last crushing depressive phase, when they couldn’t even get out of bed to eat, much less clean house, and driving to work seemed impossible? She didn’t even bother to check on them, she just signed the papers electronically by check box, the one that automatically files the electronic termination documentation, sends the termination notice by text or email, and demands they turn in their laptop and any other corporate property within 30 days or face civil litigation, and had her HR manager’s assistant get someone new to fill that slot.
What about you, that guy over on the right? You were charmed by her mania, seduced by her hypersexuality, and married the woman, but couldn’t figure out how to live with her flirtations with other guys, or other ladies, or her depressive phases when she just wanted to be allowed to cry and not fake a smile, or be left alone, didn’t shower for a few days (and how to keep her from trying to do potentially dangerous things), or her overly talkative manic phases when all she wanted was someone to pay attention and listen, and go along for the ride (and keep her from trying to do potentially dangerous things). You loved her when she was in between, when she was able to do everything “normal” people do, or force herself to do everything “normal” people do, but you ran out of patience when her mind went too fast and she couldn’t finish, or couldn’t even start, what you think are normal, basic, chores or tasks. You ran out when she was too depressed to try, and the thought of trying and the expectation of failure made her cry and give up without starting, and the regret of wasting her life carried her down even lower.
What about you? You were his best friend, you should have seen the trend and understood the symptoms. He told you he was bipolar, trusted you with that information. Then you and him got into a fight over nothing when he was raging, and now you refuse to even talk to him. You might not even remember what the fight was about, and he certainly doesn’t.
Unconditional love means staying, at least trying to understand, and helping. And then, staying, to be there when understanding and helping is needed again.
Matthew 5:43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?
9: Don’t presume anything demonic. Just. Don’t. Do. It. I mean, if the person has an “I ❤ Satan” or a “Fuck Off and Die, Idjet!” bumpersticker, a tattoo of an inverted pentagram with a goat head inside, and a fully-reassembled chicken skeleton mobile including skull and feet hanging where your normal neighbors would hang their wind chimes…it’s probably a joke, so still just don’t do it. They’re probably trying to frighten away annoying little children, their local PTA, their landlord, and the Homeowners Association. That tattoo was probably buzzed on them when they were either drunk off their asses, or they were trying to be edgy or funny, or both. Most people aren’t that kind of darkest-satanic-evil-evil. Most of us are just normal-evil-evil, and a few of us have those very occasional episodes of if-you-don’t-leave-me-the-fuck-alone-I-will-murder-you-and-they’ll-never-find-the-body-evil. ALL of us, even the pious holier-than-thou jerks, have our various favorites from the sin-buffet that we routinely, habitually choose. I think the rumors about the rock and roll bands are mostly publicity grabbers and the song lyrics may very well be intentionally geared to “stick it to the right.” If you get the song from those 5 words, well done, music fan.I mean, I want to scare away annoying little children, the PTA, the landlord, the HOA, other people’s damned pets, who feel it’s necessary to crap well into my yard and the owners don’t have the decency to pick that shit up, and their owners, and sales people, and burglars, and my own family… do you think the chicken skeleton mobile would work? I would LOVE to have that, as a work of art. With an artsy, colored wax decorated egg hung on the inside. (note to self…) Why, WHY, are these called “Devilled?”
Would an I ❤ Ruthie Connell bumpersticker work as well as the others above? Because I do. (Note to self… ) I don’t ❤ Satan, but I think that’s hilarious. A lot of things that Jesus healed on the spot when He was here were mental illnesses, most were more obvious physical illnesses or birth defects, and a few were legitimately demonic. Only a few. If medication helps in any way, it’s probably an illness and not a demon, so just don’t presume that. Don’t judge, just love. God is big enough, and good enough, to convict the world of sin, or to convict a person with bipolar, if it’s important enough to Him. Let God do that; don’t “help.”The bipolar person you know may very well be an atheist “on the highway to hell,” but you’re never going to reach them and get them to even consider Jesus unless a) you get the joke, because if they don’t believe in God they probably don’t believe in Satan either, and b) you don’t judge but instead you work really hard on #10 there, which points squarely at you, Christ-follower. But you can
8: Help them in spiritual ways. I know people who claim to follow Jesus, who will openly, even pridefully, say they don’t pray for people who aren’t Christ-followers, except to pray they repent (admit that God’s standards are right and they are sinners who need a Savior, turn from whatever sin, and ask Jesus to help them follow Him). Well if you’re one of those legalistic pharisaical “Christ followers,” a) fuck you and b) I pray YOU’LL repent, you sanctimonious prick! You’re putting a condition on God’s love that He didn’t put there. If Jesus commands you to love your enemies, and if you have an enemy, there’s a good chance they don’t exactly follow Jesus. If Jesus commands you to pray for those who persecute you, and if you’re persecuted, there’s a really good chance they’re not Christ followers. If you refuse to pray for God to help, however God sees fit, or pray for God to tell you what to do to help them, you’re just plain doing it wrong. And just to clarify, having a mental illness does not make someone your enemy, so why not pray for their need to be met, since that’s the smallest thing you can do? Or are you a chicken-shit, afraid God will ask you to handle it personally for Him? Which brings us to
7: Help them in practical ways. If you’re a Christ follower but in any way light on your own available resources, this one could suck, honestly. I mean, REALLY, God?! I don’t even have enough for myself! Praying is free, and You’re my witness that I did that already! Now You want me to do WHAT?! Yes. He wants you to help in practical ways. Your church, or a church in their area, may have ways to help. If you are at a distance, maybe you could refer them and if you’re really bold, call or email the church and ask them to try to make contact. Other than the time you invest being a reference, or researching what’s in their area, and passing that information on to the person, that shit is FREE. And the church will be (or damned well should be) delighted to reach out to offer help, unless their hearts are cold and they’re already spiritually worthless and dead. You might find other free resources the person could use. If you live nearby, you could personally deliver helpful things. Bipolar is a mental illness. It’s an illness that for some, is a disability. The person may look completely normal in all ways, because mental illness doesn’t always show on the outside.So, what the fuck is wrong with me? Why don’t I just find a better job? Well, after you do it for 20 or so years, the routine is comfortable. It was hard finding a job, and then we moved and it was hard finding a job again, and it depresses me to realize that no one wants to hire me unless I’m completely helpless and at their mercy to offer whatever shit wages they want to offer. I tried to find a job that worked with my professional training and experience, and then after yet another few doors were slammed in my face, by churchy people, I’ve kind of given up on most churchy people. They say they care, but when it comes right down to it, they just don’t give a shit about anyone but themselves and anyone who looks and acts homogeneously, and fits in their clique. And when you get to know me, you realize that my cyclothymia/bipolar won’t let me fit into ANY clique. I’m not even “normal-cyclothymic.” But I’ve found more genuine, heartfelt acceptance, maybe even LOVE, from the bipolar community, than from churchy people.I hate change. I hate not having a shred of control. I hate not having money, sure, but even more than that I hate change. The job may be shit, the pay may be shit, but it’s a job and keeping it is easier and less stressful than quitting, becoming helpless, doing the resume thing again, going out searching and begging for another job, trying to find something that fits my qualifications and pays more, having those doors slammed in my face, only to wind up being forced to accept being shoved into some new entry level job where I don’t know shit about how to do it, so where is the benefit? Fuck that.I know a few churchy people who said they’d pray for me when I asked them for practical help. One pridefully said he “could” pay our bills for a while while I looked for a better paying job, but never actually gave us anything. The church, at that time, was helpful, when it was really really dire, they’ve helped with food, and they actually made one of our house payments, which was a huge blessing that kept our heat and electric from being shut off. I am VERY grateful for that. But when we were short on income several months later and we asked, we got a letter that said they’d pray for us but wouldn’t help with the actual practical need. Fuck that. When I’m depressed, when you withhold the good it’s in your power to do, because you think I should be, or I look, strong enough to “just” dig myself out of this hole you think I’ve dug myself into on purpose, you only depress me more.HELP PEOPLE IN PRACTICAL WAYS, if you can afford it. Don’t brag that you can and then do nothing. I realize I am applying a rather liberal interpretation to Proverbs 3:27, but I believe God wants you to help in practical ways. Maybe you can spare an extra something around your home. Maybe you can afford to go to Goodwill and you might find something they can use. God’s funny like that; I’ve found things there that I am still using for myself. Pray about that one, and go, and PLEASE tell me if you found something that just happened to be there that would be perfect for the person on your heart. Maybe you could even save up a little and give them a small financial gift, or you were given something you can re-gift, that they need more than you do. OK, I know the next few are actually things that fall under #7, in the strictest interpretation, but maybe you can do something, and again that might cost nothing but your time and a little sweat. Consider it as sweat-equity, invested into a positive relationship with a person God wants you to love in His name. You’ll have to ask permission, because some of these things are kind of personal, and some people will tell you to fuck off, but here are a few ideas:
6: Bring them a meal.In my geographic region there are churches, including the one I’m currently attending, who run food pantries and some even deliver meals at Thanksgiving and/or Christmas and/or Easter. If you live close enough, bring over a hot meal, or if they have a kid, maybe some milk or bread or chocolate, or wine. Yes, WINE. See also, Proverbs 31:6B. No, I didn’t make that up. It reads, “Give… wine to those with heavy hearts.(KJV)” If you know the person is an alcoholic, obviously, don’t encourage that destruction. But if they’re not, and you can, then DO IT! A meal a depressed person doesn’t have to burden themselves with preparing, and leftover meals, are literally a God-send. See also Psalm 104:15, which in context teaches that God creates “…wine that gladdens human hearts, oil to make their faces shine, and bread that sustains their hearts.” You should ask first because a person may have food allergies or whatever. Be mindful, be respectful, be humble about it.
5. Do something to help them around their house. Maybe they need plumbing help and you can do that. Maybe they need their lawn mowed or their snow shovelled, depending on the season. Maybe their car needs something you can provide, like an oil change. Maybe it’s a small, simple household repair kind of project, and you know it needs to be done and you know how. Ask first, tools in hand, and then do it. I struggle with certain house things, with certain others I can hold my own, but if someone offered to help me with something, I’d say yes in less than a heartbeat.
4: Detail their car. Or maybe buy them a car wash package or coupons or something. I’d love to get my car washed and waxed and vacuumed. And my tires need to be checked for proper inflation. And my oil needs changing, and that damned check engine light for the sensor is on. They’re on my list, but if anyone wanted to do any of it for me? A God-send. A gift of energy and/or time that I didn’t have to invest, or think about investing.
3: Clean their house. Well, maybe not the whole house. Maybe you can afford to send a hired maid. If not, maybe you can go wash their dishes, or take out their trash, or do some small thing(s). And I said it before, don’t judge. Their house is not teeming with filth and squalor (why are those two words both needed when they mean the same thing?) because they want it that way. It’s that way because their energy levels are on a time limit, and they’ve run out of energy before they got to that sink of dirty dishes, that basket (or three) of laundry, that floor that needs sweeping/vacuuming/mopping, those windows that need washing, that woodwork that needs dusting and polishing, that trash that needs to be disposed. (of.? Where is my grammar-enforcing mum when I need her?!) Maybe they ran out of dish detergent, or whatever other cleaning supplies, so they can’t do the thing, unless they can find the energy to go to the store. I get to a point where I just can’t do any more, and sometimes Mrs M pushes me and I can fake it, and sometimes, I can’t. I think everyone does. But if you can help someone, even a little, be a blessing. Maybe you CAN clean their whole house. So why not ask, and then DO IT!
2: Offer to run errand(s), or drive them to the store. Offer to go to the store, or go with them to do the things they have to do that are out of their comfort zone. Offer to drive them to the doctor, and then show up and do it. Offer to watch their kid(s) so they can have a little genuine alone time. See also
1 a) : Be a friend. Get to know them, their family, their situation. Be there. Show up, check in, ask about them in ways that show you genuinely care and understand their disability. Learn about it. I’ve only ever been asked ONCE before about my personal care, when I was depressed, by someone who knows what bipolar does, and it wasn’t my doctor. It made an impression. Did I shower today? Brush my teeth, comb my hair, dress? Take my medications? Did I eat anything today? What the fuck?! Wow! In my depression I wanted to ask, what fucking difference would THAT make? But holy shit! That level of caring about me, impressed the hell out of me. And, 1 b) : Be a friend, and remember that at times people with bipolar just need to be alone, so when that happens, remind the person you love them, tell them you’ll check back later, and then, fuck off. And then come back later for 1 a) , when it feels right.
Ever wonder what Ephesians 2:10 means for you? Well, maybe (puts on sunglasses like CSI Miami’s Horatio Caine) it means one of these things. (YEEEAAAAAAAAHHHHH!!!)
I wrote this whole top 10 list and I am aware that I am teetering on the brink of another depression. Ugh. These are things I would dearly love for people to do to help me when I am down again. But right now, I need to go home and fake some mania for Mrs. M. Wish me luck. Or pray for me. Or something.