Praise & Worship: December 31st, 2011

These are 16 of my favorite praise & worship songs in no particular order.  There are so many more I would easily list but that would quickly get out of control! 🙂  Most of these songs I have played over and over during times I was anxious and they helped calm my spirit.   I included the last two songs as I have come to love the music of Van Morrison and I was amazed to realize Sweet Cherry Wine speaks of the Lord’s Supper.  I devote one day a week to music as it has played an important part in my life and I’m hoping to pass that on to you.  God bless you as we enter into 2012.  Allan

Song List

1.  Beautiful-  Vineyard UK

2.  The Wonder Of Your Cross-  Robin Mark

3.  Waiting Here For You-  Christy Nockels

4.  You’re Beautiful-  Phil Wickham

5.  Sometimes By Step-  Rich Mullins

6.  Fall On Me (Set Me Free)-  Vineyard

7.  Breathe-  Kathryn Scott/Vineyard

8.  How He Loves Us-  Kim Walker/Jesus Culture

9.  My Soul Longs For You-  Misty Edwards/ Jesus Culture

10.  The World Needs Jesus-  Malcolm & Alwyn

11.  Revelation Song-  Kari Jobe

12.  I Will Rise-  Chris Tomlin

13.  With All I Am-  Hillsong

14.  Sweet Cherry Wine-  Tommy James & The Shondells

15.  Be Thou My Vision-  Van Morrison

Rocks And Islands

 

I wrote this in 2008. Allan

I have shared a lot about music from my youth and the impact it had on me as I was trying to figure my life out.  This is one of those songs I have written about and it makes more sense to me now some thirty odd years later than it did when I was a young man in high school.

The song that I’m writing about here is a Simon and Garfunkle tune from the 60’s titled “I Am A Rock.” I’m not positive what Paul Simon was trying to say but as I look at the lyrics it seems to be the story of many Christians who have experienced hurt and pain during their lives.  So what follows are my personal thoughts about the song.

The song seems to be the response of some people to that hurt and pain.  I know it describes how I tried to get by and how isolation became too comfortable of a companion.  It was a major mistake for me as it only fed my pain.

The song speaks about being protected by books and poetry.  For some of us it could very well be Christian books and blogs.  It could also be any number of things.  The point being is we do what we can to deaden the pain that we carry.  We bury the pain and find nice distractions.

These lyrics from the song ring familiar to many of us. “Friendship causes pain.”   “If I never loved I never would have cried.”

God didn’t promise us a painless journey.  He did promise He’d never leave or forsake us.  Feeling pain is a scary thing.  It rips away at our core and we’re afraid of what might spill out.  Isolation and withdrawal become our safety nets.  Yet so often when we fall our net has a big hole in it.  God doesn’t intend for us to isolate and withdraw.

He asks us to engage society and individuals and that carries the possibility of being let down and feeling pain.  Yet so often God works through our pain to bring us into a closer relationship with Him.  There are times when we lose heart and don’t believe the truths about God and His love for us.  Instead, we buy into the lies the enemy plants in our mind telling us what miserable individuals we are.

There are times when our expectations of others are too high and as a result they can’t help but let us down.  If we allow these patterns to dominate we run the risk of being what is described in the last two verses of the song….   “A rock feels no pain and an island never cries.”

What this song shares in a sense is why this blog is here.  To help us not lose hope and disengage from the world.  There is always hope for God’s children.  Our circumstances may not be golden but God has so much to offer us.  He has placed individuals in the body who He has designated to help us on our journey.  That could be a close friend, your Pastor, your spouse, a counselor, or maybe even a psychiatrist.  He will never leave us alone.

Many who read these words can relate to what I’ve shared because as me you have lived it.  And like me you’ve probably stumbled along the way.  Hopefully you didn’t make it a science as I did.

We all have this in common.  His name is Abba Father.  God bless

The lyrics to the song are printed below and I have included the video for the song if you care to listen to it.

I Am A Rock

A winters day
In a deep and dark december;
I am alone,
Gazing from my window to the streets below
On a freshly fallen silent shroud of snow.
I am a rock,
I am an island.
Ive built walls,
A fortress deep and mighty,
That none may penetrate.
I have no need of friendship; friendship causes pain.
Its laughter and its loving I disdain.
I am a rock,
I am an island.

Dont talk of love,
But Ive heard the words before;
Its sleeping in my memory.
I wont disturb the slumber of feelings that have died.
If I never loved I never would have cried.
I am a rock,
I am an island.

I have my books
And my poetry to protect me;
I am shielded in my armor,
Hiding in my room, safe within my womb.
I touch no one and no one touches me.
I am a rock,
I am an island.

And a rock feels no pain;
And an island never cries.

Wrong Things Said In Church In Response To Christians And Mental Illness

Many of us are familiar with some of the things that are listed below.  Our familiarity isn’t borne from reading an article in a magazine but from personal experience.  These things can be phrased using different words but the point being made is still the same.  These comments can come from friends, a church counselor, or even the Pastor.

Some of the comments made can be quite cruel as they assume an untruth about you.  How do we respond when we are placed in a situation where we are faced with false assumptions about our spirituality?  How we respond can be critical as we seek to move forward.  Will we become angry and bitter?  Can we choose to take the high road and respond in love?  Do we pretend like nothing happened and carry false beliefs about who we are in Christ?  Do we realize it’s okay to be hurt and hurt deeply when confronted with any of a number of false statements?  Are we open to the idea there may be sin in our lives that needs addressing?  I left a church because of this type situation.  I pray you will read the following and be built up if you have been down this road.  Allan

 

“There must be something wrong with your spiritual life.”
Yes, depression CAN be a result of sin. BUT depression is NOT always a result of sin! If it is, God will tell you loud and clear what the problem is.

This saying piles on the guilt for the depressed Christian. It’s unlikely that their depression has a spiritual cause, and this implies that they are not good enough spiritually.

“Repent and ask forgiveness for your sin!”

Depression is a result of sin, in that if there was no sin in the world depression wouldn’t exist. But then, neither would diabetes, or cancer, or any other illness… Sin caused the word to be not-perfect, therefore illness exists.

It is not a sin to be depressed, any more than it is to have any other illness.

Depression can be used by God to encourage repentance, but in that case, it will be crystal clear exactly what sin you should repent of. If you don’t know, or have just a vague sense of guilt, your depression is not the result of a sin. Accusing someone of having depression because you think they committed some random sin is arrogant.

It wouldn’t be the act of a loving God to refuse to tell you what you need to repent of.

“Real Christians don’t get depressed.”

The implication behind this is that someone with clinical depression is not a “Real Christian®”. That hurts, especially if it comes from someone who holds authority.

It is hard to be depressed and Christian, very hard. I’d say it takes more faith to hold on to the fact that God exists when your situation is screaming out that even if there was a God, he hates you, than it does when all is going your way.

“You need to have more faith.” / “Have faith in God.”

Hebrews 11:1

Now faith is the substance [or realisation] of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen

How much faith does it take to hold onto the basic tenets of the Christian faith when emotions scream at you daily to give up, get out and avoid God? Very often a depressed Christian will be hanging onto faith by their fingernails in a situation that requires more faith than the average.

“Taking antidepressants is playing God, He can heal you.”

Yes, God can heal. Sometimes he doesn’t just flick a switch make the illness vanish, sometimes the healing comes through the conventional ways of doctors, psychiatrists, counsellors, therapists and medication. By persuading someone not to take their medication in preference for a fast, supernatural healing that God may not have in store for them, the sufferer is being denied something that will help them, right now.

In John 5:1-15 Jesus only healed one man out of the many who were gathered. Not everyone will receive supernatural healing. We don’t always understand why God does as he does, only that he is God and will do what is right.

“Scripture says everything that happens is for your own good!”

The actual verse says:

Romans 8:28

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

This verse in no way implies that the sufferer should sit back and accept the illness for the rest of their life. It also does not say that illnesses are not to be fought with the intention of a cure. While God may well have things to do with a depressed person, the illness is not a good thing of itself, and it may take years before you see positive results from it.

“You’ve been prayed for, why has nothing changed?”

This can be expressed in several ways and spoken by one of two different groups of people: either the person who asked for prayer, or those who prayed for them.

We’ll break the underlying situation into two areas: something definite was experienced in the prayer time: chains were obviously broken and a new freedom gained, or, nothing apparently happened at all. That is, “I know God set you free, [as testified to by experience, or, simply accepted by faith] why are you not walking in that freedom?”

When God steps in and answers believer’s prayer for a person to be freed from the influence of unclean an spiritual influence there may well be a noticeable sense of having been freed. Why is it then that we don’t all immediately change?

The bible speaks of our lives as being like clay; we are moulded through everything we go through. There are 3 sources of spiritual influence on our lives: God’s holy spirit, our own human spirit and unclean / demonic spirits. Take, for instance, temptation – it might not always be the devil himself tempting us, it may be our own human spirit / human nature. Lots of things work to shape this clay, the onus is on us to give ourselves progressively more and more to God and open our lives to His moulding process.

Let’s expand on the clay metaphor some more. Clay is not a very elastic substance. If you press a thumb into it and pull it away you’ll get a thumb print. A balloon, on the other hand, would spring back immediately when the outside influence is removed (the thumb). God’s word talks of us as being like clay, not balloons. Clay is solid, has substance, is useful for creating utensils that can be used in his service. Balloons are insubstantial, have nothing solid inside and are full of hot air.

So, take away the outside “thumb” pressing on our life and we are still left with a thumbprint: habits that have formed, certain ways of thinking or reacting to things, etc. God can (and does) change things like these instantly in some people, however, there are times when such a fundamental change would shatter who the person is and a longer, more sustained healing process is needed. That is, we are freed from the oppressive spiritual influence but over the course of weeks, months and years following the prayer time we see a gradual change as the unsightly “thumbprint” is smoothed out.

God wants us whole and healthy, it also says in Scripture that “the prayer of a righteous believer avails much” but it also says that one the fruit of God’s Spirit dwelling within us is patience and endurance. Prayer gets the job done … it’s just that the process started by the prayer may be an ongoing one.


“Depression is a self discipline problem.”

Self discipline is important to a Christian. We have to be disciplined enough not to break the laws of the land, and to obey our God. But no amount of self discipline will get rid of a medical problem. This statement implies that the sufferer is lazy and could become better by sheer force of will. This is not possible, and causes a lot of guilt.

“You should be praying about this.”

Implicitly, whoever says this is also saying “This wouldn’t have happened if you’d been praying enough.” That’s a big assumption to make about someone.

To a person with depression, it can seem like God left town a long time ago without leaving a forwarding address. It can seem as if your prayers bounce straight back off the ceiling, and that prayer is as fulfilling and satisfying as yelling at a block of wood.

When you’re depressed, you may not “feel” God as you had before. Often you don’t feel anything but numb and hollow. For me, and for many people, depression had a shrivelling effect on my faith. I found it hard to hang onto anything but the most basic elements of Christianity, and sometimes lost my grip on those. When I did manage to pray, it was a yell of pain and confusion. This is why we are supposed to base our faith on facts (God loves you, he loved you when you were a sinner too, Jesus paid the full price for all our sins, etc.) rather than feelings, which are fickle at the best of times. It can be incredible hard to hold onto those facts in depression, like trying to run into a very strong wind.

John Lockley says:

In Christians, spiritual effects follow from the depression, and seldom the other way round. I repeat – in Christians, nearly always the depression comes first, followed by a sense of remoteness from God, rather than depression being the result of “falling away.”

“A Practical Workbook for the Depressed Christian,”

One of the most eloquent and heartfelt prayers a depressed Christian can pray is “Help me God, I’m hurting!” This is a better prayer than the thirty minute waffle that doesn’t actually say anything. It’s honest, open and sincere.

God is listening, even if everything within you is screaming that he isn’t. Prayer during depression can take an awful lot of effort. One comeback to this saying is “I am praying, as best I can. Will you pray for me too?”

“You just need to rebuke that spirit of depression and tell it to leave you. Don’t let Satan steal your joy.”

There are two problems with this statement. One problem is the assumption that depression is caused by demonic oppression. The other problem is the assumption is that joy and happiness are the same thing.

Blaming a “spirit of depression” can be a wonderful cop-out. Just cast out the spirit and you’re cured! No need for long term support, for prayer, for counselling, for anything at all! And with this statement comes the implicit assumption that once again it’s your fault you’re depressed, this time because you’re not “spiritual” enough to get rid of the troublesome spirit yourself.

Yes it is possible that demonic oppression can cause depression. No, demons are not responsible for every case of depression. Imagine what would happen if this statement was directed at someone with cancer, or haemophilia, or osteoporosis (“Just cast out that demon attacking your bones and be strong again! God wants to see you running marathons!”).

The second problem with this statement is that joy is equated with happiness. People with depression are not going to be the happiest souls in the church. I’ve heard it said that happiness depends on what happens, whereas joy can exist in very unhappy situations.

“There’s no such thing as mental illness, it’s all in your mind”

Saying this denies that there is anything actually wrong with the depressed person, and implies that they are just making it up. This piles on the guilt again! A mental illness can be defined as one that affects the mind; the brain is allowed to get ill, just as the liver and lungs are.

“You’ve got nothing to be sad about”

Depression isn’t about being sad, often the real situation may well have no effect on the disease at all. This statement misunderstands the disease, depression can have an origin that has nothing to do with the surroundings of the sufferer. Depression may make you feel as if your emotions have been switched off, leaving you less sad than numb and empty.

“It’s your own fault you’re depressed”

This is the kind of thing that Job’s “comforters” said, and it didn’t help then either. Bad things can happen to good people. Denying this hurts the sufferer.

“Pull yourself together”

If you’ve been trying, someone saying this to you comes across as “You haven’t been trying hard enough, do more, and more, and more until you get it right. ” So back you go, trying more and more, and still getting nowhere because you cannot pull yourself out of depression by your bootstraps, and you can’t fix a medical problem by force of will.

“You’re just being lazy”

One of the common features of depression is a disturbed sleep pattern. This can often take the form of waking early each day (say 2 AM) and being unable to get back to sleep. Multiply this over several months, and the results can be severe.

On top of this, everything is screaming that the world is a horrible place and nothing is worth the effort any more. Acting like a spring bunny is just plain out of the question. It is not laziness, it is a consequence of the illness.

Candy Everybody Wants?: Mental Illness And Medication

 

I wrote this article in 2009.  Allan

There are things in this life as a Christian I have come to realize will never be resolved this side of Heaven.  You might want to call them gray areas or non essentials.  From where you sit they very well may be essentials.  You can rest assured though that whatever the topic, there will be those in the body who are going to disagree with you.  That disagreement will vary depending on who it is doing the disagreeing.

As you know one of these topics is mental illness.  I have written about it often, fully realizing there are those who would disagree with me to varying degrees.  Many of you have first hand experience in this area as you have come across people who have disagreed with you on a personal level.  Some of you have been hurt in these disagreements as you were told in one fashion or other you were responsible for your pain. ” Solid Christians don’t struggle with depression or become anxious.”  Sound familiar?

A big source of disagreement regarding mental illness has to do with the use of medication.  I have shared about the abuse of medication in the past.  I have never been one to say that medication is the answer for everyone who is depressed or suffering in another manner.  At the same time I firmly believe that medication is a gift from God for those who are in need of it.

There are extremes on both sides of this discussion.  Some see medication as a way of people looking for a quick and easy fix to life’s problems.  They see medication as an idol people use to replace the work and power of God in their lives.  Therefore they view those who take medication as being in sin on one level or the other.

On the other hand there are those who would love to see our mice and bunnies on antidepressants as well as every person who has had a bad day.  I imagine there are those who have a huge monetary stake in seeing as many people on medication as possible.  I would go so far as to say this isn’t limited to medication for mental illness.  There are psychiatrists who after five minutes are writing out a prescription for strong medications without doing a thoughtful analysis of the person sitting across the desk from them.  Seeing these people for ten minutes every few weeks adds up to a lot of money for those who are in the business for that reason.  I liken them to teachers who don’t like children.  They do, however, like the nine month work year and the fantastic benefits.

I will never be qualified to advise you as to what you should do when it comes to the idea of medication for yourself.  I will never be qualified to counsel you as to what you should do in terms of counseling you might need.  That is why I try to post as much information as possible for you to review to help you make a decision.  I list churches for you to consider, knowing that they will not condemn you for having a mental illness.  I also have a list of counselors who I believe will offer you sound and Biblical advice if you choose to ever visit one of them.  The bottom line is these decisions are ultimately yours and I trust God to guide you as you seek possible help for yourself.

I know many readers are taking medication for various reasons.  It might be depression.  It might be bi-polar disorder.  It might be OCD or PTSD.  I take medication for agoraphobia and panic disorder.

Do I take these meds to make me feel happy?  Do I take them to avoid work that God may be seeking to do in my life?  Do I take them to dull the pain life brings my way?  I certainly don’t take them to feel happy as that has never been the result.  Laughing gas or drinking a six pack of beer would seem more appropriate!  Am I avoiding what God is seeking to do in my life?  That’s a valid question and I’ve had to wrestle with it more than once.  I can say that while on medication God has done the most deep and profound work in my life I have ever experienced.  I believe I am at a point where I don’t have a bunch of pain that needs to be dulled.  I’m at peace with God even though I struggle with agoraphobia and panic disorder.  Like everyone else I have good and bad days.  I wouldn’t blame or credit those days on my medication.

So then why do I take them?  I take them because I couldn’t function at the level I do without them.  I would have panic attacks all of the time and I wouldn’t be able to do the things that I am able to do without them.  I will readily state there are many people who have been worse off then I have been who have recovered and are living life to a degree that I long for.  Why them and not me?  I honestly don’t know.

I do know that God’s love for me has not diminished one iota.  I do know that as I seek to travel the road to wellness He has met me constantly and given me strength for challenges I never thought I could face.  And He does it while I’m on medication.  The only condemnation I have ever felt does not come from God.  As I have written in the past I have made mistakes along the way.  God has seen fit to stay by my side, even during the times it seems He has left me alone.  His word tells me He will NEVER leave or forsake me.  Do I have an answer for everything?  I never will.  Am I a failure for being on Social Security as well as medication?  You’re free to believe what you will.

Sadly many people won’t consider medication because in their mind it equates to being a failure as a Christian.  As a result help that God has provided will never be taken advantage of.  Returning veterans who are clearly suffering with PTSD won’t consider medication because that’s not what real men do.  They pull themselves up by their boot straps.  In the process many of them end up taking their own lives.  Others won’t consider medication because their church has declared that Christian psychology and psychiatry are in fact not of God.  They will counsel you through the Bible and if you mean business you’ll be fine.  They might even tell you that you are in sin of some sort.

I imagine there are those who want medication carte blanche.  Others obtain meds on their own or drink alcohol instead.  It numbs the pain……  for a time.  That’s sad and we all know of those who have died due to  self medicating.

I don’t believe Christians are clamoring to be on medication more than they desire God.  I realize this isn’t always the case.  All we do when we broad brush a segment of the population is to draw lines and those lines lead to a “us and them” mindset.  In the church there is no room for that.  We are supposed to be known for our love for one another.  We aren’t to be known for alienating one another.  Is there room for discussion?  Yes there is.  Are we as Christians up to the task of not crossing lines we shouldn’t be crossing regarding these things?  I believe the jury is still out on that one.  I pray it changes soon.

Mental Illness: It’s A Family Affair

Steve Pitman, left, board president of the Orange County chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, is shown with his older brother, John Pitman, 66, who has has had a decades-long struggle with mental illness.

 

 

Taken from the Orange County Register which is located   HERE.

Steve Pitman understands what it’s like for families of those struggling with mental illness. At 64, he still looks out for his troubled brother.

The brothers sit side by side at a table in a Carl’s Jr.

John Pitman fuels the midmorning with a large Coke and several refills. Steve Pitman sips at his same cup

John is the older one, 66. Steve, 64, is, in a way, his brother’s keeper.

John has been diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, characterized by paranoia, delusions and moods that swing from mania to depression.

Steve is the only one of John’s five siblings who wants contact with him.

In recent months, John’s troubled life has settled into a state of relative stability. Steve, who sees his brother at least once a week, is a big reason for that.

They came to a fast-food restaurant not far from John’s board-and-care home to talk about something many families have tended to keep private – until recently.

Mental illness has become a much discussed topic in Orange County since the beating death of Kelly Thomas in July. Two of the Fullerton police officers involved in the altercation are facing trial.

Thomas was 37, schizophrenic and living on the streets without medical attention. His family provided what support he would accept, but under current law they could not make him seek treatment for his condition. Thomas has become the face of the renewed debate over Laura’s Law, a 2003 state law that allows a court – with input from health care providers and family members — to order assisted outpatient treatment for the severely mentally ill.

Counties must decide to put Laura’s Law into action. So far only one – Nevada County – has fully implemented it. Orange County officials are discussing whether to enact it.

Steve Pitman can relate to the Thomas family’s anguish all too well. He has lived it with his brother John for nearly 50 years.

The past few years he’s been involved with the National Alliance on Mental Illness Orange County, or NAMI-OC, an organization that offers advocacy, education and support for people close to the mentally ill. He started out as someone seeking insight for himself, and now serves as president of the organization’s local chapter.

But Steve’s concern goes beyond the organization and even John. As it does for a lot of people related to the severely mentally ill, the issue touches his entire family.

There’s his 25-year-old granddaughter, Melissa Nemeth, who has major depressive disorder. She has accepted help from her family and the treatment of doctors in a way that John didn’t at her age. Will she stay so accepting? She and her grandfather can only hope.

BLAME

John Pitman is the oldest of six children. His father served as an Army chaplain until retiring as a colonel after a 25-year career.

As a young man in the mid ’60s, John’s trajectory seemed as promising as his country’s efforts to put a man on the moon.

“If not the perfect son, he was close to it,” Steve says. “My brother was the one that was always held out. You know, ‘John’s so well behaved. John does his homework.’ John won science fairs. John got straight A’s. John was going to be an astronaut. We all had great hopes and aspirations for John.”

But John, at about 19 or 20, began acting oddly while in college in Marin County. Or, as Loraine Pitman says of her son, “He wasn’t right.”

His parents brought him back home to live with the family in Okinawa, where his father was stationed. John continued to act strangely.

John, blinking behind his thick glasses, remembers how he liked to take walks that stretched six to 10 miles, “not every day but a lot of times.”

He pauses to think when Steve asks if those walks had anything to do with being manic. “Well,” John concedes, “it’s possible.”

More worrisome was John’s combativeness. He and another brother got into such a fight one night that Loraine Pitman feared they would kill each other.

A psychiatrist told John’s parents that his behavior was their fault and they should just leave him alone – something that Steve says he still hears from many parents today, resulting in the same kind of self-blame that his parents felt.

“We were almost tempted to send our youngest children to someone else to raise, if we were that bad, if it was our fault,” says Loraine Pitman, now 90 and a widow living in Indianapolis.

Steve, away at college in Missouri, heard long distance about what was going on: “I would get these letters from my parents, my mother in particular, about John’s unimaginable and unexplainable behavior. I used to just weep because how could my brother, who we had such great expectations for, how could he be this way? I mean it was just completely beyond my understanding.”

DENIAL

John returned to California and settled in Orange County. Between episodes of mania and depression, he managed to get married, have kids and hold jobs.

He also was extended credit. Loraine Pitman recalls cleaning up John’s mania-induced spending sprees on items he would give away or abandon – cars, jewelry; once even a huge crystal ball.

She describes seeing him in jail for the first time as “shattering.” Later she decided he was better off in protective custody.

Over the course of his disease, John has been prescribed various psychotropic drugs. Some helped for a while, some didn’t. Others, he just refused to take.

John doesn’t like to talk about the multiple times he’s been hospitalized. Most times it was after authorities determined he posed a grave danger to himself or others, the standard that current law requires.

“It was just almost hopeless,” Loraine Pitman says. “I just felt powerless.”

Looking out for John eventually became Steve’s responsibility. The toll of his illness extended beyond money.

“My brother had a home that he lost, had a wife that he lost, had children that he lost.”

Since Steve became his conservator – after having to prove that John was gravely disabled – the two brothers have developed a relationship closer than at any time before.

Steve, who runs his own insurance agency, knows John’s behavior patterns and will suggest that his brother visit his psychiatrist to adjust his medication when he senses a manic episode is coming. But it is still John’s decision.

John’s other siblings – who live out of state – might ask their mother or Steve how John is doing, but otherwise keep their distance. Steve says it is because of painful memories.

John seems both wounded and indignant that he got only one birthday greeting – by email – on his last birthday.

“If you are mentally ill, an awful lot of the family doesn’t stay as close as it used to,” he says. “It does take extra work. I don’t think the average family wants to be that involved.”

ACCEPTANCE

Steve Pitman is convinced things would have been better for John – and his relationship with his family – had John gotten the same kind of consistent intervention as his granddaughter, Melissa Nemeth.

“The difference is John was in denial. Melissa was willing to embrace it.”

Melissa, raised in Lake Forest most of her life by her grandparents, lives in San Francisco. She works as a nanny while saving to pursue a master’s degree in psychology. She also teaches classes for the National Alliance on Mental Illness, something she did along with her grandfather when she lived in Orange County.

The family says she was molested by her biological father at 13. She reported it to authorities when she was 15. A few days afterward, her father killed himself. Already depressed, Melissa sunk even deeper. She withdrew from family and friends, began drinking and cutting herself, became suicidal.

The last 10 years have been marked by hospitalizations, intensive therapy, prescriptions for antidepressant and antipsychotic medications. It made a difference that while she was underage, her grandparents could make decisions about her care.

It made an even bigger difference that she continued to live with them as a young adult and, with their help, willingly sought treatment.

“I look at him,” Melissa says of John’s life, “and I wish that I could give people some of the willingness that I have, some of the hope. There are a lot of people out there who don’t have a lot of hope about their future. Even with a mental illness you can still do a lot of amazing things with your life.”

The medications she has to take – Abilify, Seroquel, Pristiq and Wellbutrin – cause bothersome side effects: drowsiness, lack of concentration, tremors. She doesn’t drive because of it. But she accepts it.

“I totally understand when other people don’t want to take meds. It’s not something that I really enjoy, but it is something that I need,” she says. “I want to be well bad enough that I am willing to deal with it.”

Contact the writer: 714-796-7793 or twalker@ocregister.com

The Unreal World: ‘Homeland’ And Bipolar Disorder

 

Taken from the Los Angeles Times which is located   HERE.

The premise

Sgt. Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis) returns as a hero to the U.S. after spending eight years as a prisoner of war in Afghanistan. Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) is a mentally unstable CIA officer who is convinced that Brody is an agent of Al Qaeda. She gets antipsychotic medication and lithium from her sister, psychiatrist Maggie Mathison (Amy Hargreaves), but she fears she’ll lose her job if she gets medical treatment through normal channels. In this episode, Carrie is hospitalized after being burned and bruised in a briefcase bomb explosion. She hasn’t taken her medication in several days and is becoming increasingly manic. Saul Berenson (Mandy Patinkin), her mentor at the CIA, is alarmed by her behavior, and Carrie admits that she is bipolar. Her sister arrives and gives her a ramped-up dosage of lithium as well as clonazepam to “level her out.” When she is discharged from the hospital, Carrie tries to run away and is nearly hit by a car.

The medical questions

What is bipolar disorder? Is it possible to hide the symptoms from one’s co-workers, especially in a high-stress job such as Carrie’s? Can the condition be exacerbated after a traumatic event, such as a bombing? Is it proper for a doctor to treat a close relative, even if the patient won’t get medical care any other way?

The reality

Bipolar disorder is a serious mental illness involving extreme mood swings, in which people go back and forth between periods of elevated or irritable mood (mania) and depression, explains Carrie E. Bearden, associate professor of psychiatry, biobehavioral sciences and psychology at UCLA. Other characteristics, all exhibited by Carrie Mathison, include grandiosity, decreased need for sleep, pressured speech, racing thoughts, distractibility and obsessive goal-directed behavior. In addition, 60% of people with bipolar disorder experience psychotic symptoms.

“People with bipolar disorder can function extremely well and continue in their jobs when their symptoms are effectively treated,” Bearden says. Lithium, a mood stabilizer, is one of the first-line treatments. Stopping it precipitously can provoke a manic episode (50% of patients will develop such an episode within three months after coming off the medicine). Clonazepam, an anti-anxiety medication, is often used for short-term relief of anxiety or agitation.

Bipolar disorder can be difficult to treat, and a high-stress job such as Carrie’s makes it harder. The situation is even more challenging when a second condition is present, such as psychological trauma. An acute stress such as a bombing could definitely trigger a relapse or the onset of a manic or psychotic episode, Bearden says.

Should a doctor treat a relative? This is at best controversial and probably the answer is close to never, especially in psychiatry, says Dr. Stephen M. Stahl, adjunct professor of psychiatry at UC San Diego and author of the book “Depression and Bipolar Disorder.” One cannot be objective, records are often not kept and the person inadvertently receives substandard care.

Bearden agrees that it would not be appropriate or advisable for a patient’s relative or close friend to prescribe medications and/or provide ongoing psychiatric treatment.

Siegel is an associate professor of medicine at New York University Langone Medical Center. His latest book is “The Inner Pulse: Unlocking the Secret Code of Sickness and Health.”

Diamond In The Rough: Streams In The Desert, December 25th, 2011

“The hand of the Lord hath wrought this”  Job 12:9
Several years ago there was found in an African mine the most magnificent diamond in the world’s history. It was presented to the King of England to blaze in his crown of state. The King sent it to Amsterdam to be cut. It was put into the hands of an expert lapidary. And what do you suppose he did with it?
He took the gem of priceless value, and cut a notch in it. Then he struck it a hard blow with his instrument, and lo! the superb jewel lay in his hand cleft in twain. What recklessness I what wastefulness! what criminal carelessness!
Not so. For days and weeks that blow had been studied and planned. Drawings and models had been made of the gem. Its quality, its defects, its lines of cleavage had all been studied with minutest care. The man to whom it was committed was one of the most skillful lapidaries in the world.
Do you say that blow was a mistake? Nay. It was the climax of the lapidary’s skill. When he struck that blow, he did the one thing which would bring that gem to its most perfect shapeliness, radiance, and jewelled splendor. That blow which seemed to ruin the superb precious stone was, in fact, its perfect redemption. For, from those two halves were wrought the two magnificent gems which the skilled eye of the lapidary saw hidden in the rough, uncut stone as it came from the mine.
So, sometimes, God lets a stinging blow fall upon your life. The blood spurts. The nerves wince. The soul cries out in agony. The blow seems to you an apalling mistake. But it is not, for you are the most priceless jewel in the world to God. And He is the most skilled lapidary in the universe.
Some day you are to blaze in the diadem of the King. As you lie in His hand now He knows just how to deal with you. Not a blow will be permitted to fall upon your shrinking soul but that the love of God permits it, and works out from its depths, blessing and spiritual enrichment unseen, and unthought of by you. -J.H. McC.
***
In one of George MacDonald’s books occurs this fragment of conversation: “I wonder why God made me,” said Mrs. Faber bitterly. “I’m sure I don’t know what was the use of making me!”
“Perhaps not much yet,” said Dorothy, “but then He hasn’t done with you yet. He is making you now, and you are quarrelling with the process.”
If men would but believe that they are in process of creation, and consent to be made–let the Maker handle them as the potter the clay, yielding themselves in resplendent motion and submissive, hopeful action with the turning of His wheel–they would ere long find themselves able to welcome every pressure of that hand on them, even when it was felt in pain; and sometimes not only to believe but to recognize the Divine end in view, the bringing of a son unto glory.
“Not a single shaft can hit,
Till the God of love sees fit.”