Who knew what a dangerous prayer it could be?
Post-baptism, I spent the next few days in shock at my daring. As much as I knew I believed and my faith was true, claiming the title ?Christian? felt dissonant. Yet, here I was, a fully-baptized, genuine believer and follower of Jesus Christ, and I wondered: ?What happens now??
In our church, we talk about 2 Corinthians 5:17 quite a bit. For those who are unfamiliar, here?s the verse:
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
I mulled on this verse for several weeks. Did this mean I was suddenly going to lose weight? Was this my time? Or, like those reformed drug addicts who are so often lifted up as examples, was my life going to be miraculously transformed in some way? Neither felt like realistic expectations; after all, I reasoned, I?m not an addict and I lived a pretty good life by most standards.
I didn?t know the answer. I couldn?t see the future. All I knew was that I had made the decision to follow where God lead me, and that meant letting the future come as he willed it.
I Didn?t Want to Be a Christian
My Journey to Baptism
Following the guidance of the pastor, I sat back down with my Bible. Having just completed a full reading of the Bible a week earlier, I decided to dive back into the gospels. If I was a Jesus follower, then I wanted to know him better.
Coming at the gospels so soon after completing my prior reading, I was surprised at how new they felt to me. I saw details I hadn?t noticed before, and Jesus was more of a radical than I?d appreciated on my first full read-through.
I was about a week into this new plan when I came across a story in Matthew 9:27?31. Two blind men approach Jesus and ask him to heal their sight. He asks them for a simple profession of faith, which they give. The next thing Jesus says struck me hard: ?According to your faith let it be done to you.?
I came to a full stop. ?According to your faith.? This statement felt equal parts promise and warning to me. As I believed, so would my life go. Having already turned away from God and Jesus several times in the past, I knew the difficulties that awaited me if I didn?t follow through on my commitment to change and walk a Christ-like path. If I released my faith again, I was confident that my life would take a turn for the worse.
But the promise ? oh, the promise! If I had faith, God would work in me and on me. I didn?t know what he would change, but I knew I needed it.
From that night on, my primary prayer became very simple:
?Lord, please heal all my hurts and wounds, down to the very smallest one.?
Little did I know what I had just prayed into my life, and how that verse in Matthew would become the touchstone of my life.
God Works Using ALL His Creation
Taking advantage of medications and therapy are ways we appreciate his creation
Over the next few months, I continued to read my way through the gospels accompanied by commentaries that helped me gain a deeper understanding. I continued to pray my dangerous prayer and months went by where I did not see any changes happening in me outside of my devotion to my Bible and prayer. I started wondering if God would answer my prayer, or if I, too, would live with a thorn like Paul?s.
Outside of my spiritual life, my career was rapidly progressing. The company I worked for expanded my boss? role, which gave me greater exposure and responsibility as well. I gained a much longed-for promotion, and dove into my new role with fervor.
The demands of the role were significant, and I was promised a team to aid me in the work. That team didn?t materialize, and I found myself working unusually long days in an attempt to support teams around the world. My stress levels rose significantly, and I suffered from terrible insomnia. My self-care was non-existent.
On top of all this, my daughter Harper?s special needs challenges escalated as well. Assaulted on all sides, I didn?t know where to begin.
It was spiritual surgery of the most serious kind.
My church ran an organized small group study at this time ? Perry Noble?s Overwhelmed. Whatever you might think about the man, the Holy Spirit moved in me through this study. It became clear to me that my job was quite literally killing me. Also, my husband and I were in agreement that I needed to be freed up to focus more on Harper and her needs. It was time to make a change.
I announced in May a decision to leave the company, and my boss and I worked out a transition plan that allowed me to work reduced hours until my last day.
The plan from there was that I would take a couple of weeks to decompress from the stress and then I would aggressively pursue consulting gigs to make up for the loss of half our household income. Three weeks stretched into four, and then into eight, and then into twelve. I pursued a couple of consulting gigs before I realized that my heart simply wasn?t in it. I quit my last consulting role in December of that year.
Practical Tips to Support Someone You Love with Mental Illness
We need your help, even when we don?t act like it
During this time, I clung to that verse in Matthew and continued to pray. With the increase of available time, I devoted myself to my daughter, joined another small group, and rediscovered my love of knitting. In fact, knitting became my primary preoccupation. Most mornings I would wake up, get my daughter to school, eat breakfast and do some light housework, and then sit and knit for hours and hours. I would pick her up from school, make dinner, and then knit for a few hours more.
My couch and I became one with my yarn and needles.
Harper, however, was not doing better. In fact, things between us continued to degrade. I hated mornings because they were full of raised voices and frustration. While her medications helped her make her way through her school day, our home life was terrible. It was evident that Dan, already exhausted from working extra overtime shifts to provide for us, dreaded coming home to our chaotic home.
Here, God intervened again.
Our pediatrician referred me to a behavioral therapist. At the time, I thought the therapist would work directly with Harper to help her learn new behaviors and responses. Instead, most of our visits were just he and I, as he educated me further on her diagnosis and key techniques to use in parenting her. It was hard work, but we started to see changes with Harper and our home transformed from a place of chaos to one of peace. Along the way, I learned enough about her diagnosis to suspect I might have it, too.
That?s how I found myself in the psychiatrist?s office on a Tuesday morning, sharing my story and why I suspected I had ADHD. The doctor took many notes before stopping and looking at me. ?Well,? she said, ?I?m not convinced you have ADHD. There are some signs in here but not enough to be definitive. Before we can diagnose you with ADHD, we need to get your depression cleared up.?
To say I was in shock would be a gross understatement. I knew of depression and knew I had suffered from it periodically as a child, but it was not a word I naturally attached to my present state. I wasn?t suicidal, though I did feel profoundly that I was letting my family down.
I knew I was spending inordinate amounts of time on the couch and that, most days, the only reason I changed out of my pajamas was so I wouldn?t embarrass Harper when I dropped her off at school. I felt guilty that the house was a mess and that laundry hit the to-do list only when we were at a crisis point.
Still convinced that I had ADHD, I started therapy to clear up the depression as quickly as possible so that I could get (what I considered to be) my proper diagnosis. I attended classes on depression, anxiety, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy. I started to see some changes in my mood and my work with Harper began to get easier ? partially because she was doing better, but mostly because I had more energy and emotional capacity to address her better.
Deciding against medication (?I want to know what I feel is real?), a few weeks into my work with my therapist, Mike, I accepted that the depression was real. My work with Mike covered childhood hurts, traumas, and emotional wounds that I never properly addressed. I was fortunate that Mike is also a Christian, and he brought Jesus into most of our sessions. Over the course of that summer, real healing happened.
How to Get the Most Out of Your Talk Therapy Experience
We talk a lot about mental illness and what it is (and isn?t), but we don?t talk enough about the long and difficult?
My prayers changed from ?heal all my hurts and wounds? to ?help me at this moment? and ?forgive me for what I?ve done.? Many of my traumatic experiences were at least partially self-inflicted, and I started to see how my sinfulness impacted my story and my life. Realizing that Jesus was with me in my darkest and most sinful moments was soul-flogging, and I gained a deeper understanding and appreciation of the grace he offers me.
In addition, my small group was a tremendous support to me. They prayed for me, they cried with me, and our studies helped me find my significance in the Body of Christ. Ephesians 2:10 gave me strength when I was weak, and that verse in Matthew gave me hope when hope was thin.
For we are God?s masterpiece, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Eph 2:10)
Through all this, the possibility of ADHD never left my mind, but it ceased to be a focus for me as I saw the gains I was making in battling my depression.
I made enough progress that summer that I finally looked at Mike and asked him to refer me to a psychiatrist to get on an anti-depressant. My therapeutic work was good and helpful, but the depression continued to nag and claw at me. I saw the medication as a tool that would help me make more progress faster, and having tasted a little of the healing God offered me, I was starving for more.
Dr. Gupta is a shorter man, lean of body and gentle in demeanor. He sat me down, and we discussed my situation. I addressed the possibility of ADHD with him, and his professional opinion was to start with an anti-depressant to see how it impacted me and if it might alleviate some of my ADHD-like symptoms.
And here, I had another God moment.
We agreed on a low dosage of an anti-depressant called Lexapro. I was to take it for four weeks and see how my body responded to it. The Lexapro lifted the depression, and I had two particular experiences where I felt a surge of energy, one of which was fun and helpful and the other, scary and uncomfortable. Dr. Gupta heard me through as I told him about my prior four weeks and then dove into another set of questions.
- Do you have periods of insomnia? What are they like?
- Do you have bursts of creativity and energy?
- Do you have times where you are unusually self-confident?
- Are you inclined to take risks that others think are unreasonable?
- How are your finances? Do you go on spending sprees?
- What is your sex drive like? Is it pretty even and consistent, or do you have periods when it higher than usual?
- Do people have trouble following your speech? Do thoughts jump from topic to topic?
After each of these, he asked me to share more details. After asking a few more questions, he looked at me with a grin. ?You?re more than depressed,? he said. ?You have bipolar disorder.?
Instantly, I rejected that diagnosis. While I was generally familiar with the disorder, to me ?bipolar disorder? sounded like a crazy person. Manic-depression, however, absolutely sounded like me. (They?re the exact same thing; the psychiatric community updated the name about twenty years ago.) I don?t know why, but I could accept being a manic-depressive more easily than bipolar disorder. Somehow, bipolar disorder struck me as being more severe and having more symptoms than manic-depression.
Regardless, Dr. Gupta stuck to his professional opinion, and I departed his office that day with a new prescription. If I responded as he expected, it would confirm this updated diagnosis.
Control Issues Aren?t About Control
There?s something deeper going on
I now had four weeks between visits to reconcile myself to this new possibility. I researched bipolar disorder, familiarizing myself with its symptoms and how it expressed itself in the lives of those who live with it.
As I did my research, I came to two inescapable conclusions: It described me perfectly, and it explained many of my life experiences.
At that moment, I had a profound realization: My whole life, I?d been fighting a battle I didn?t know existed. What I considered to be moral failings were instead an unknown medical issue. While I still have responsibility for the sins I committed, the relationships I damaged and the mistakes I made, I could look at them in a new light and have compassion for myself.
God?s grace covered me at that moment in a way that is indescribable. Pounds and pounds of emotional weight lifted off my shoulders. I felt light and joyous in a way that I hadn?t felt since before the death of my oldest sister.
I spent the next month waking up every morning to new thoughts: ?I am unchained. I am unbound.?
I finally understood Chris Tomlin?s Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone): When we allow God?s grace to fully cover us, when we acknowledge that our sins are not greater than his love and compassion for us, he frees us of all the guilt we carry. In truth, to continue to carry guilt after accepting his love and grace is hubris. It says that our sin is greater than God?s grace and Jesus? sacrifice.
God answered my prayer for healing, although in a way I never would have expected. My miracle took several years, and it requires that I continue to take a medication to maintain my stability. It was difficult; it was painful, and I became extraordinarily vulnerable in the process.
It was spiritual surgery of the most serious kind.
Had I known the journey God would take me on when I prayed for healing, I don?t think I would have had the courage to ask. But God, in his wisdom, gentleness, and love, didn?t take me on the entire journey overnight; instead, he asked me to trust him for just the step in front of me. He led me slowly, patiently, giving me space to grieve, rage, and grow. He surrounded me with an incredible church and amazing small group. And, he blessed my husband with oodles of overtime so that my lack of employment didn?t harm our family.
He provided everything I needed to experience the healing he offers. To me, I have resurrection-in-life. If I don?t make it to heaven or experience the promises of Revelations, I am OK with that. I?ve had my miracle.
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