Blood dripped down my wrist in small parallel lines and I didn’t know why. Well, actually I did know. It’s not like I just woke up and looked at my arm and saw this. I was the culprit.
Minutes before, had I walked to the bathroom, crying like a baby, opened the drawer and proceeded to slice at my flesh like as if it were the most natural thing—the best way to express how much I hated myself in that moment. After I saw the satisfying blood begin to pool, I etched the words “I’M SORRY” near my inner elbow and then went over the letters again because they weren’t bleeding like the other cuts. I think by that point I was satisfied even though they never really reached the bleeding point, and I went back to my bed and felt better. Actually I felt amazing. No pain, just exhilaration. I took pictures on my cell phone of the cuts like as if they were some kind of trophy of my struggles.
A moment after I did it, I couldn’t figure out why I had. I was not a cutter. But in that height of emotion it was the only option. Something had sparked this explosion of self-hatred in a conversation I was having with a friend thousands of miles away. My careless actions and words during the conversation had caused me to relive and somewhat carelessly reenact the past—the horrible things I had done earlier this year when I was in an altered state of mind—and my friend had judged me. I took it like a blow to the face and in that moment believed myself to be the smelliest pile of poop ever, so naturally I had to make myself suffer for all my sins.
I had learned about coping mechanisms in the psych ward and realized that I had failed miserably at coping with my emotions this time. I decided to write about my feelings in a notebook:
“I’m sad. I’m angry. I hate myself. My mind, specifically. I want a new one. God, give me a new mind. Change it, rip it out and burn it in sulfur and give me a pure, healthy one. F*** my mind. I’m sorry. Forgive me for my sins. I don’t understand. Why did I think it was okay to talk to a complete stranger like that? I’m not like that. I failed the test. Why did he have to test me like that? I’ve never cried so hard before…this week. I cry so much these days. It’s unusual. I’m not depressed. I’m not manic. I feel normal. But I’m not. I’m not. I have a problem and even 900mg of lithium per day isn’t doing jack squat. Okay, it is. I’m better than before. You hear that? I’m BETTER. I’m better…but I know you don’t care. What you saw was a small piece of a large, ugly, f***ed up puzzle in my sick mind called bipolar disorder 1, the worst of them. I can’t make it go away. You saw a tiny slice of its effects. It could’ve been so much worse. I wish you would understand that but I know you won’t. And it doesn’t matter anyway. I cut my arm open several times with a knife. Why? I can’t say. I was angry and needed to break something. So I broke my body….”
I went on for about five pages and felt better afterwards. The next day I would have to go to work and try to hide from the students the obvious cuts on my arm. What had I done? I felt silly for having cut myself and I wished I hadn’t done it. The scars would take a while to fade. My impulsive and emotional behavior would take a while to fade as well.
Sarah shared with me the reason that she had cut herself, and she showed me her arm. I struggled to understand what had happened and why a complete stranger would feel the need to ‘test’ Sarah so see if she had ‘changed’ from what she had been like a month ago. I’m sure he felt it was his Christian duty to call out someone for sinful behavior, but I didn’t appreciation the devestation he wrought in our home with our daughter.
The line between well-meaning Christians and absurd quacks blurs when we take on the role of the Holy Spirit and try to convict people of their sins and faults. No one would ‘test’ a person with a broken leg by removing their cast after a week an urging them to go for a jog to see if they’ve recovered yet. Neither should we try to ‘test’ those who suffer from mental ailments just to see if they’ve recovered yet.#Mentalillness, like physical illness, takes time to recover from. Be patient. Click To Tweet
Summer approached, and I worried about how Sarah would find a job. Her moods had stabalized, but she still angered easily and seemed to have problems focusing on tasks. For example, she worked in the school library whilst the libraian recovered from surgery, but couldn’t seem to reshelve books with any accuracy. I realized that my worrying would not get her a job. My praying would not get her a job, either, if God didn’t think she should take on that responsibility quite yet. And so I prayed for healing and that God would continue to work things out in his time and grant me patience in the process.
Sarah found an advertisement for a summer job at a small bed and breakfast lodge in Alaska and surprised me by applying for the job. We talked about the necessity of full disclosure with her potential employers (something I had learned from reading An Unquiet Mind), and Sarah assured me that she would have no problem in authorizing her boss to contact her psychiatrist.
Within a day or two of applying, the owners called Sarah and interviewed her over the phone. The sweet Christian couple, a retired nurse and teacher, actually wanted to hire Sarah, even after she explained what she had been going through. They agreed that it would be best for the psychiatrist to give the go-ahead before purchasing Sarah’s plane ticket. Bless them. The grace and acceptance they exhibited towards Sarah contrasted so sharply with the person who wanted to ‘test’ Sarah. God knew exactly what this mamma’s heart needed.May we always make an effort to build people up rather than trip them up. Click To Tweet
Sarah still had to overcome the hurdle of gaining her psychiatrist’s approval, though. I drove her to her next appointment and we had a girl’s afternoon out. This time her psychiatrist invited me in and I lerned a new term. Hypomania. Evidently, Sarah was hypomanic and the doctor wanted to change Sarah’s medication and see how she resonded before approving the job in Alaska.
As a newbie to having a family member with bipolar disorder, I really didn’t know much. I’d met Depression (deep and persistant), I’d been introduced to Mania (wild and irrational), and now a new sibling had stepped forward: Hypomania. The dictionary calls it a more mild form of mania.
Sarah and I joked about hypomania being better than mania, but the affected person still lacks a filter. Sarah started the new medication and we settled in to await the results and the approval of her psychiatrist.