(July 10, 2007)

Yesterday someone googled the above and found my blog. I thought I would write on this to see if I can help by letting this person know roughly what I told my pastor when I first started coming to the church I’m now a happy member of.

My pastor has learned a lot because he has wanted to learn and has always listened with interest when I tried to teach him about my disorder. I’m very fortunate to have him in my life. He is a great supporter.

Soon after I started going to this church and had decided I wanted to keep going there, I went to see the pastor because I wanted to tell him about my disorder. I knew symptoms would come up that I would need support and prayer for. It was insurance to make sure he was fully aware of what I was dealing with.

I told him how my moods are much more severe than the average person’s, with my hand describing a slight wave for how the average person’s moods are and then showing the roller coaster style fluctuations of moods I go through.

“These moods are caused by a physiological problem in my brain. I’m on medications for this and they help me lead a close-to-normal life. Even then, my moods can affect me, making my life very painful. The medications don’t keep me well all the time and sometimes they need adjusting. My life has been very difficult (and I described some of my past). There will be times I’ll need prayer. Since I became a Christian, life has been easier to deal with. I know I’m not alone when I suffer.”

Because I’ve taken it on myself to try to reduce stigma in whatever ways I personally can, I told him about this and gave him a copy of my book, Riding the Roller Coaster.

He then prayed with me, asking God to help him learn about bipolar disorder from me. And he has learned much about what I deal with. I often email him about things I’m going through so he has come to know me and my disorder very well and been supportive. My support group, Living Room, would not be as successful as it is without his support for me. If only all pastors could have this kind of attitude!

Others in this church have also been loving and supportive. One person in particular became a huge support for me – and mentor too. And there’s another person who I call almost daily now. Gradually, many others in the congregation have come to know my story. Yet I feel accepted.

My biggest supporters have been those people who have taken the trouble to learn about bipolar disorder. They have asked me questions. They have a curiosity about how things are for me. They care enough to do all this. As a result, I’ve had the strength and encouragement to do much in what I care most about – raising awareness about mental illness. I’ve had people around me who want to learn and that is so very important. If it weren’t for these people in my life, I don’t know if I would have written the new book – one that still needs a publisher – A Firm Place to Stand. I know I would not have started Living Room. How important a caring church congregation is to how we survive…and thrive!

So many people in society are not willing to learn. How can we get through to them? How can we better educate people and remove the stigma that is so damaging? I would like others who struggle with mental illness to be able to find the kind of love and support I have.