Who are you underneath your mental illness?
The other day I took the Myers-Briggs personality test for one of my counseling classes. I expected to get the result I had gotten a few years ago but I was surprised to find I got an almost opposite result. Then it hit me. I’m healing now and I wasn’t before. I took the test when I was navigating the throws of Bipolar Disorder without therapy or medication. This got me thinking about identity, illness, and my faith.
I struggled for a long time with my illness and it genuinely became my overwhelming concern for many years. It quickly became a huge part of my identity. The highs and lows are all I know. I became addicted to the rush of mania and the fourteen-hour days I spent depression napping. I let it take precedent over my relationships, my job, and my schooling. I became bipolar first and Bree second. This flipped identity has caused me a great deal of pain. I felt alone, unworthy, and incapable. The personality test was a good wake up call. I am not my illness; I am the me underneath the Bipolar. I have Bipolar Disorder it does not have me.
This revelation caused me to do some soul searching. I began to ask God “who am I really?” and what followed was a beautiful awakening of my faith and confidence in myself. 1 Peter 2:9 says, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.“ and Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” These verses have become the jumping off point for my journey into a new understanding of myself. I am not so broken by my illness that God can’t use me. In fact, God loves to use broken people to share his love. God has a deeply important plan for my life. This plan cannot be stolen away by illness. In truth, God knew I would be Bipolar when he looked into my future and saw my purpose.
I have begun to slowly recognize that my disorder is a opportunity for ministry from this blog to the future counseling work I will do it is easier to listen to someone who has been through the trials of mental illness. God created me specifically to bring my unique experience into my everyday life and the lives of others. I know that I personally am guilty of pulling a Moses and asking “why me God? I am unable to do this”. Moses had a speech impediment that made him feel unable to speak on God’s behalf to Pharaoh, but God still used him to lead his chosen people. Aron spoke for Moses that day with Pharaoh. Thank God for the Aron’s of the world who spoke for me for so many years as I made excuses to God. Still, think how much Moses missed out on by not stepping into his destiny right away.
I know that for years I have used my Bipolar Disorder as a safety blanket. It was an excuse I used as to why God could not use me. Just think of all the beautiful blessings I missed out on. It almost breaks my heart. I need to live life in the here and now though. I am healing and learning to recognize the person underneath my illness. I am a sister, daughter, friend, student, girlfriend, and above all else a child of God. Yes, I can’t ignore my illness. I need to take the time to care for myself, but I can’t allow my self-care to be at the expense of the rest of my life. I want to live and love with abandon not in a manic way but in a careful and kind way.
So, my Bipolar friends I would encourage you to look within your own heart. Who are you underneath the diagnosis? I’m sure you will find some beautiful things that you forgot existed long ago. Ask yourself, what interests you? Who do you love? And most of all who are you in God’s eyes. Remember, 2 Corinthians 5:17 says “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” Embrace that newness in your life starting today. My prayer for you is that you find a beautiful God given destiny underneath your struggles. God desperately wants to love and use you for his purpose. Remember that!