Off The Deep End

“Off the Deep End” is the name of my blog. It’s in the web address, And when I first began blogging a few years ago, I gave it that name thinking I would write some blog posts that were “deeper” and some that were not quite as deep, and some that were light and fluffy, and it would be a cute little catchy title, and I could use a little widget on the right-hand side of my blog tagging the posts “deep” or “light and fluffy” and wouldn’t that be fun. I never imagined that “Off the Deep End” would be a place that I would actually visit. But that’s what happened.
I have bipolar disorder. I share that with some trepidation, as I have historically been fairly guarded with that information. It’s not like I have a Jen Hatmaker-sized blog following – my blog is primarily read by my close friends and family, most of whom already know about my diagnosis. But it still causes me some fear to put that information out there. Maybe because I’m a mental health professional, or maybe because there is still so much misinformation out in the world about this illness. But I have been convicted lately about the fact that I work hard in my everyday life to decrease stigma around mental illness, but I am reluctant to be open about my own. So I am sharing a bit of my story in the hopes that maybe it will be helpful to someone who is struggling, and to give testimony to the redemptive power of a God who has loved me throughout the darkest of my days.
As Kay Redfield Jamison says in her book An Unquiet Mind, “People go mad in idiosyncratic ways.” For me, the descent into The Dark Place was slow at first. I have had bipolar disorder since early adulthood, but by the grace of God, my illness has always been well-controlled with medication, once I finally embraced the fact that I needed to take it regularly. There were some bumpy roads in my 20s, but I have enjoyed a great deal of stability throughout my 30s and early 40s, as medication worked well for me and I journeyed through life giving little thought to my illness on a day-to-day basis. Until the fall of 2014, when the wheels came off.
Ironically, in October of 2014, I had just received an award given by Texans Caring for Texans for the Behavioral Health Employee of the Year. It was a great, great honor, and the awards ceremony was a wonderful day for my family and me. And it’s the last memory I have of The Before. In late October of 2014, I began to notice that things were changing in my mind. People and things around me began to seem far away, and it seemed as if there were a glass wall separating me from the people around me. I became unable to concentrate, lost motivation for the things I usually enjoy, and began a descent into a deep, dark, depression. And this depression progressed into a mixed episode, which occurs when someone experiences depressive symptoms along with manic symptoms – for me, these included racing thoughts, insomnia, agitation, and a feeling like my brain was literally on fire. And I stayed in this dark and terrifying place for the better part of 2 years.
My doctor tried multiple medications, and I had periods over the past 2 years when I would emerge from The Dark Place and spend days or even weeks in The Normal. I would return to work, come up for air, post happy things on Facebook. But each time, The Dark Place returned. And my journeys into The Normal became more rare, until they stopped altogether. Finally, this summer, I was hospitalized for 8 days on a psychiatric unit. It is incredibly humbling for a mental health professional to be on a psychiatric unit, yet not be the one with the keys to the door. Not be the one leaving when 5:00 rolls around. Instead, to be the one sitting at a table struggling to put a 100-piece puzzle together because my thoughts are so scattered. Yet it was here, on this inpatient unit 6 hours away from home, that my God began to heal me. That He began to work in a mighty way. I confess that my faith had wavered over the past 2 years, and that at times I had felt abandoned by God and questioned not only His love for me, but His very existence. But it was here, at Rock Bottom, that my God showed up. And I left the hospital not cured, not “well” yet, but knowing that I was loved by God and that healing was coming, if I could just hold on.
Over the past several months, I have slowly emerged from The Dark Place and re-entered the world. My doctor and I found a medication cocktail that is working, and I am slowing returning to my life. And I am finding that it is possible to not only re-enter the world of The Normal, but to possibly even enter the world of The Better. Because I have a renewed joy in my life, an appreciation for even the tiny things that make up the ins and outs of my days – a new gratitude that permeates every day and every relationship and every moment. I take nothing for granted, because I have seen and tasted The Dark and am now able to appreciate The Light in a way that I never did before.
As I think back over the last 2 years, as dark as they were, I feel a profound sense of gratitude. Gratitude first of all to my God. My Jesus redeems. He redeems it all – every moment of hopelessness, every moment of fear – he is redeeming and making meaning of it day by day. And I am able to see how through it all, He provided for me in a most amazing way. When I was unable to see any light, when I was unable to sense His presence, He loved me through His people. My people. I will never be able to express enough my gratitude to the friends and family with whom He has blessed me. Through this dark 2 years, my friends and family have loved me relentlessly. They have faithfully walked every single step of this road with me. They never gave up, never wavered, never faltered. I remember fearing that they would get tired, and I’m sure they did. But they never left me. They sat with me. Cried with me. Picked me up and took me to get smoothies, when I couldn’t eat much of anything else. Cleaned my house. Most importantly, they prayed for me. Prayed without ceasing. My precious friend Mindy gave me a bracelet this past spring that says, “And Jesus saw their faith.” It refers to the story in the Bible where a man who is unable to walk is lowered down through the roof on a mat to see Jesus. He is lowered down by his friends, each friend carrying a corner of his mat. And this is what my friends did for me. Day after day, they brought me before the throne of God. Carried my mat. I fully believe that when my own faith faltered, healing began to come to me through the faith of my friends. Jesus saw THEIR faith, even when my own was wavering. And I am forever eternally grateful.
So now, as I find myself on what I hope is the other side of this journey, I have a new sense of purpose. A calling to love others as well as I have been loved. A calling to bring glory to The One who never left me and who brought healing to me and who brought me out of The Dark. A desire to squeeze every ounce of joy that I can out of every moment of my life. And finally, a hope that permeates my very being and makes its way down deep into my heart and soul.
“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised IS FAITHFUL.” ~Hebrews 10:23


5 Responses to “Off the Deep End”

  • Amy Burt Says:

    Love ❤️ you L!

  • Classy Says:

    Precious sister,
    Your offering through Off-the-Deep-End is such a blessing to me. I praise Father, with you, for your community that never failed to show up and carry your mat. God was, indeed, the initiator and source of your faith during those darker days.
    You are a treasure to Him, me, and the community that surrounds you. Please don’t stop writing!!!
    I love you muchly,

  • Phyllis Kinnison Says:

    What a beautiful account of your way back to us–you are an amazing young woman and I am so honored to know and to love you.

  • Lynn Sims Says:

    I’m thankful joy has returned for you. Your blog entry is a beautiful piece of ministry.

  • Leslie allen Says:

    So brave my friend-so brave!! Thanks for sharing!

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