(May 22, 2007)

I’ve almost finished reading a great book by Mark Buchanan called The Rest of God: Restoring Your Soul by Restoring Sabbath. Something he said hit me hard and made me look at something I’ve never considered before. He said, “It’s the most natural thing to befriend your sickness, even, after long association, to depend upon it.” Buchanan carries on by talking about some of the people Jesus healed, “Their entire lives…have taken shape around their injuries or diseases.”

In John 5:6 Jesus asks a crippled man, “Do you want to get well?” That seems to be an odd thing to ask a person and, to think that a person doesn’t really want to get well, might make us think ill of him. We might think he’s feeling sorry for himself or wanting pity. But this man had been crippled all his life – 38 years. No one had ever expected anything from him. He had never had responsibilities. To suddenly be well would mean a drastic new way of living, a way of living that would be hard to adjust to.

And this made me think that perhaps I’m a bit like that. To be perfectly honest, having lived with bipolar disorder for my entire 40 years of adult life, my illness does – in large part – define me, even though I do a wide variety of things. The major part of my current life involves raising awareness about mental health issues and supporting others who live with them. My BP is responsible for the kind of person I’ve become. When I become hypomanic, which often happens, I become super creative. I value that in myself. My moods are what makes me who I am, though I would love to get rid of those depressions.

If Jesus asked me, “Do you want to get well?” would I say yes?

I’m sure that if he had offered to make me well when I was twenty or thirty, or forty, I would have gladly said yes. I would then have been able to go back to school perhaps and start a career. My illness has kept me from that, the stress being too great. I’ve tried. I might have been able to make photography a full-time career. But now, at sixty-one, I have learned to turn the bipolar – the bad – into something good. I’ve learned how to help others cope with their illness. I’ve learned to build awareness. That has become my life. I could not do these things the way I do without experiencing the disorder myself.

But you know, although I still have bipolar disorder, I think Jesus has made me well. In helping others, I am helping myself. The work I do gives me great joy. I love the life I live.