Red Vine Spirituality

Taylor K. Arthur balances Bipolar 1 Disorder, marriage, and motherhood with a nitty-gritty faith inspiring a twisted, blissful life.

Tag: Living with Bipolar 1 Disorder

When You Feel Alone in Your Pain

Then God opened up the hollow place in Lehi, and water came out of it. When Samson drank, his strength returned and he revived.
Judges 15:19

Crank it up with me this morning, friends: “Rise Again” by Need to Breathe

You looked at me the other day and you said, “I can’t find anyone like me.” What you meant, really, is that you can’t find anyone who has been through what you’ve been through. I nodded, because I get it. I get it not because I’ve experienced what you have, but because I, too, have been set apart by the events of my life.

I know what it’s like to stand in a room full of people and feel utterly, entirely alone. I know what it is to not be seen in broad daylight, to bleed loud and violent in the middle of a holiday and marvel at how they cannot hear me, how they walk through my blood and don’t slip.

I wondered why for years.

You spoke true words this week on the phone, and you took my breath away, “I don’t want this to be my life.” I knew what you meant. This isn’t the life I signed up for either, and every day I lose my breath in one small moment of clarity: yes, this is my life. I thought eventually it would sink in, but I’ve been swallowing lithium for a long, long time.

The word Bipolar still sticks in my throat.

Even just today, I missed the son we gave back to heaven. Surrounded by children, happy and free on a spring break adventure, there’s always some detail–their three to my two, another mother leading three little boys around–to prick this mother heart. I keep aching for my missing child. I do, and that’s the truth, and I hardly ever like to admit to it. Admit that some aches don’t leave. Admit to you that I just keep bleeding.

Admitting to you scares me, because I worry you don’t understand.

You asked me two springs ago, before the loss that changed your universe: “How can you stand to listen to someone talk about something so much less important than samkicker?”

I looked at you, and I knew you didn’t know yet: there is no hierarchy of pain.

True, deep pain has one Godly purpose on earth: to open us up. We get to choose: are we going to wall it off, cope, lie, freeze our pain into shards of glass we tiptoe around all of our days? Are we going to interview perspective friends and lovers until we find someone else who has been through enough atrocities to understand ours? Are we going to climb high up into an ivory tower and look down upon those who haven’t felt this much death? Are we?

True, deep pain opens us up to each other if we let it.

I see you, friend. I see you lonely, and I see you afraid. And I know that anger roaring when your pain gets compared, belittled, stepped over.

If I could tell you anything? View this chasmic shift in your heart–this breaking–as a chance at new life. See every redefinition, every bitter pill swallowed, as your way through.

Yes. I know what I’m saying, and I hate it as much as you do. But my pain unresolved is the piece of me that connects the best to others. It’s the piece of me that writes to you today.

Let your pain live out its life cycle. Don’t suppress it. And understand this: when you suffer chronic, when you live through the unimaginable and the unnatural, your life will look different. Like ground the farmer tills and seeds and plows and tills again, so are our hearts. So are our yields if we let Him work.

You are the holy ground, friend. Your heart bleeds and breaks and floods. If you allow it, your heart can yield crop after bountiful crop of beauty.

This brokenness that sets you apart was never supposed to be understood. It was meant to be given. So go give it. Flood it out into another’s barren waste land. Open it up for another’s nourishment. Stop trying to fix it, and start trying to share it.

True deep pain, like the stream carving a canyon into mountain, will find its way through to fertile ground. There, friend, as you water another? There, for one blink, your pain transforms into nourishing purpose.


Bipolar Mama: The Walking Drowning

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned,
Nor shall the flame scorch you.

Isaiah 43:2

He looks at me this morning in his office, “I’m sorry I don’t know what this is like for you.” We are holding hands and my face is wet with sob. I want to run away and crumple on the floor and disappear. All at once. I ask him to forgive me for being so difficult, beg him to pray over me. I need prayer and God seems far from my grasp.

It’s been weeks of pain now and I am exhausted. Strep throat in the ER twice in one weekend requires steroids and heavy painkillers and my brain hasn’t been the same since. I feel a drowning, a slipping, as my very own thoughts can’t catch a foothold. And it is worse now because I have grown accustomed to healthy and I am angry that something as simple as Strep Throat takes this much from me. I am angry that my world is so fragile, that so many things have to go right for me to just keep my head above the water.

What I know, however, is that this drowning is a feeling, but it is not my reality. Water floods me at family parties, I choke, tear, tell myself to breathe, and remind myself that the rising waters are not real. My darling niece wearing a new princess dress at her 4th birthday party: that’s real. Pushing past drowning waters as I put the boy’s clean clothes in their dressers and kiss them goodnight: that is real. Toasting my little brother and his beautiful bride at their engagement party: real. These memories, people, loves of my life will outlive this torture of today. I will feel whole again.

I used to climb into bed when I was this depressed and hate myself all the while I was missing those eternal moments, the moments I will carry with me to heaven. But now I know I can walk through water, I can push through tidal. I can even put my makeup on, blow-dry my hair, and balance in heels through the ebb and flow of invisible waves.

It’s not without floods of tears. It’s not without faltering. But it is progress.

Julie Fast wrote a book, Get it done while you’re depressed. I was so relieved to see someone else packaged these truths into black and white. Her beautiful book made me realize that I am not the only one in the world trying to walk on water, trying to walk upright while my lungs fill with the drown.

Julie asserts that We can push through a feeling, whether it’s depression or anger or jealousy or broken-hearted grief. Feelings are not our reality! Our reality is a set of light houses we have erected. When the storm is at its height and the boat feels as if it will surrender to the waves, we seek out those light houses, we chart the stars, we follow the moon back to shore.

When I feel myself capsizing, I first look to the unalienable truths of my life:
1. God is always with me, whether I can feel Him or not. If I cannot feel Him, I will go to the people and places where He abides. I will turn on praise music and flood my ears and heart with words of thanksgiving. I will search deeper, knock harder, kneel longer.
2. My husband loves me, and he is on my side. I can go to him and he will help me navigate. I can confide in him my suspicions, my paranoias, and he will help me see where my illness is clouding my ability to see clearly.
3. My doctors are my first line of defense. I make an appointment, ask for immediate help if necessary. No one–not even Jack–can love me enough to address this ocean of insanity anymore than they could cure cancer. Love is not enough; this girl needs professional guidance.
4. Benadryl is my best friend. When I am climbing into a mania, when I am falling into a hole, benadryl takes the edge off. It helps me sleep, it helps me not scream at my family. Hey, I’m being truthful here.
5. Maintaining my gluten free, low-sugar, diet and taking supplements becomes more of a challenge, but is even more important.
6. When every fiber of my being wants to curl into a ball and disappear, getting some light is always what I need. In Seattle, this can prove difficult (as it rains from October to June), but it’s not impossible. Even working next to a sunny window helps.
7. Reaching out to others–even if all that entails is a simple, one-line text–always lifts my spirits. It is harder to believe the negative tapes playing in my head when I know I am contributing, encouraging, and giving to others.

If you live with depression, run to your computer and order Julie’s book. We can persist, friends. We can march through night until the dawning. As Terri Cheney says, “The cruelest curse of this disease is also its most sacred promise: You will not feel this way forever.”



Bipolar Mama: Pulling Weeds, Watching Bunnies (“A Diet of the Mind”)

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. 1 Corinthians 10:13

To live well with Bipolar 1 Disorder requires a learned ability to starve your mind’s appetites. My mind wants to explore more of reality than what is healthy; it yearns to dive into the abyss and linger in the mud. Even on meds, I have spent days arguing with accusing thoughts in my head; I have spent years haunted by ghosts from my past and paranoid delusions that simply are not reality. And over time and with a lot of good therapy, I have learned to recognize a thought in my consciousness like a weed growing or a bunny hopping: the weed and the bunny need to be recognized to the only end of extricating them immediately or watching them drop down a hole into their own nothingness. In either case, I do not follow the weed to the yard waste bin; I do not follow the bunny rabbit down the dark hole. I do not choose to spend my time on this earth in yard waste bins and dark holes.

Still, there are days that all I seem to do is weed and watch bunnies hop across the landscape of my mind. Let me be honest: I wish these thoughts were as innocent as dandelions and bunny rabbits, but they are not. These thoughts chill bone and stop heart. These thoughts infiltrate one’s core if a mind allows. These insidious, haunting, demonic (yes, I just said that) intrusions are enough to convince an angel he is a demon, enough to topple a four star general and leave him rocking himself in the corner of a padded room. And I have done just that: given myself over to the insidious belief that these thoughts are who I am. And that giving over almost killed me twice.

These thoughts ARE NOT who I am, and they ARE NOT who you are.

When we can separate ourselves from these thoughts and see them as a symptom similar to a cough or runny nose, we can begin to ignore them. We can use them to help understand our illness better, report them to our doctors, or just let them hop on by instead of succombing to them.

In the movie, A Beautiful Mind, John Nash says,

[to Thomas King] I still see things that are not here. I just choose not to acknowledge them. Like a diet of the mind, I just choose not to indulge certain appetites; like my appetite for patterns; perhaps my appetite to imagine and to dream.

Like John Nash, I choose to starve these appetites. Even though this starvation of the mind has not been easy, I have grown more and more accustomed to my “diet.” I endeavor to live a normal life, to put away insanity and to feign normalcy even if I don’t feel normal all of the time.

So, now, I pour a cup of coffee, watch a bunny. I feed the kids breakfast, pull a weed. Oh, another bunny! as I get them dressed and out the door. There are whole days where you would see me smiling, and I am fighting, fighting, weeding, letting bunnies go. There are whole days when I am exhausted simply by the activity I am ignoring in my own head.

On those days, I remember these truths like balm for my scraped-up heart:

It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light–
Ephesians 5:8

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. Philippians 4:8

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7

I may weed and watch bunnies hop every day of the rest of my life, but I refuse to believe I cannot live free.

God bless you all in your fights,

Live free. Forward,


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