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 Depression

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: Anyone Can Serve

Anyone can serve, no matter how tired or sick or broken. We all have a gift to give to the world. The trick is discovering what that gift can be. As I dig deep within myself to discover my gifts, I am constantly surprised at how He heals me as I serve. Anyone can serve, and everyone can benefit from service. Continue reading

Bipolar Mama: Every morning

It’s my privilege to read this to you:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”

Lamentations 3:22-24

I had a bad day yesterday. I’m not sure if it was hormones or the fact that I didn’t get enough sleep the night before or if it is was just that one thing that someone I love can say that pierces a hole through the wall in my heart: the wall that I keep up so I that I don’t feel and so that I can forgive and so that I can get up out of bed every morning. It was a bad take-a-bath-in-the-middle-of-the-day day. It was a take-the-bowl-of-Halloween-candy-to-bed day. It was a day.

Something happens on those days: my brain plays this funny trick on me. My brain focuses on the “bad” things I did and the things I didn’t do, not the fact that I drove Abraham to school on time and played with Samuel (in my bed for part of the day, but we cuddled and watched movies and he was “Dr. Sam” and checked my blood pressure and gave me shots) and read him books and fed him and made lunch for Jack and a big pot of white chicken chili for the week and fried pork chops, sautee’d green beans and potatoes covered in this fantastic gravy for dinner that I almost took a picture of it was so beautiful a sight on a day when everything seemed hopeless. And my family ate this glorious dinner, which is a miracle. And then I was tired and my back was freaking out and I sat on the couch while Jack put the kids to bed. And I beat myself up for being lazy. Yeah.

So I grabbed the bowl of halloween candy–not a glass of wine or a cigarette, mind you (which is a miracle, too!)–and crawled in bed to watch back to back episodes of the Good Wife. And as I sat there eating m&ms and Skittles and wondering if I would even have the energy to get out of bed again to brush my teeth or wash my face and how that is just terrible and my skin won’t regenerate all night and I’m going to look like I’m 50 when I’m 40 and my teeth are going to rot out of my head because I’m just so lazy I can’t get out of bed. But I did get out of bed. I did wash my face, but skipped the wrinkle cream. I did brush my teeth, but damn the floss!

And as I cozy in deeper, pulling the comforter up to my chin, this diseased brain of mine loops around and around the Halloween candy, and tells me that because I ate too much Halloween candy today, tomorrow has to be a bad day, too.

And the crazy thing? I believe my silly, diseased brain. I go to bed feeling like a failure.

When I woke up this morning, I was still believing the hopeless lie. I made myself take a shower, even though it felt like I was moving through concrete. My sweet husband brought me a cup of coffee, and I curled up in my fluffy robe and read my morning devotions, even though I told him I felt terrible and hopeless and didn’t know how all of this pain could ever be put in perspective. Then I read this:

I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Phillipians 4:2-3

Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”
Genesis 28:15

And after all of this time and so many of these days, I see Paul’s words differently. I see that I am going to have desperate days, and I am going to have joy-filled days. And I am going to have to walk through both. Somedays will feel like they never end. 7 pieces of halloween candy will haunt me, and shame will whisper in my ear. But just because I have hungry days, lonely days, curl-up-in-bed days, doesn’t mean that I am a failure or lazy or broken. Today’s depression doesn’t define tomorrow. And if I know anything, it’s that tomorrow is a brand new day.

As I sat there and reflected on this God of mine, on this Best Friend who loves me and will never let me go, on this promise that He will keep me through the good and the bad days, the fog lifted. I heard the pitter patter of feet in the hallway, and remembered who I was, all the good that makes me who I am, my life worth while, this day brand new.

I am the daughter of the King, regardless. When I can’t trust my own head, I can trust His promises.

He is all I need.
He is my strength when I am weak.
He is with me.
He is bringing me back to the Promised land, because that’s what He promised me He would do.
He always keeps His promises.

So, if you’re hungover this morning with regret, if you feel poisoned with the drug you used last night to just make it through, know this: today is a new day. And His mercy is fresh every morning.

Go take a shower (I know how hard that is!).
Get dressed.
Look for mercy. He’s showing up for you, my friend.

God bless you,


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.”



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