We all have bad days. Depression, mental illness, anxiety affect our lives at the most inopportune times with little we can do to control the timing of it. There are ways we can learn to minimise the damage of our moods on our everyday lives, techniques we can be taught; tried and true methods that work well for some. Yet we inevitably come up against periods in our lives in which these methods and our medications may fail us. These alone are not enough to overcome the debilitating symptoms of bipolar disorder, ADHD, depression.
Bad Day Scenario
You wake up with a headache, the lights are too bright, everything is to loud, and you feel like a simmering pot on the stove. As you get up to get on with your day, maybe take care of the family or get ready for work, you begin to think about all the things you have to do and are struck by how unfair it is these burdens have been placed on you. Thoughts of how everyone seems to be taking advantage of you fill your head, and you are angry at the thought someone might ask you to do something and furious when they actually do!
As the morning progresses things only get worse. Now you are actually angry, maybe you want to punch someone. You are mad at the world and even angrier with yourself. Thoughts begin to flood your mind that maybe it isn’t the world, maybe it’s you. You are not happy because you don’t deserve to be. Everyone else has people who care about them, you have no one, no one who really cares about you. Friends seem to be absent. You think to yourself that you don’t even have any real friends. Your life is meaningless, lonely, and you aren’t true deserving to be happy anyways…
What’s Really Going On?
It’s hard to describe the above feelings in such a few short sentences. If you have ever been there, you know how truly awful these feelings are; How truly out of place they seem in your mind and in your life. When one suffers from mental illness this “Bad Day Scenario” pretty much sums up most of your days on earth, but as you begin to pay attention to your moods and work through learning how to cope with them, you will eventually learn how to manage days like this.
There are wonderful ways in which the psychiatric world have come up with in order to treat these negative moods beyond medication. Mindfulness is pretty amazing, but old-school techniques like mood charts and journaling help tremendously to identify patterns and triggers. Overtime you will get to know your shifts in mood and be able to deal with them much more effectively. But for a Christian, these days can mean something completely different.
The Battlefield of the Mind
I’ll never forget the moment I saw this Joyce Meyers book on my mother’s bookshelf in the hallway. It practically leapt off the bookshelf at me as I walked past. I soon found it in my hands, hungrily reading through it’s pages, finding answers to questions I’d had wrestled for years relating to my bipolar illness. Finally, it all made sense.
Somedays I could journal and chart my moods and figure out why I was feeling the way I was. I took my medication as prescribed, exercised, journaled, charted, yet still overtime even when I made progress I seemed to slip further behind. The one element I failed to account for was the one thing I knew better then most Christians:
I felt like an idiot in that moment! I knew the dangers, I knew the pitfalls, yet I got lost in my moods and detoured straight out of God’s protection and straight into the lion’s den. I began to look closer at my moods, and when an unexplained sudden shift happened I took it as an attack. I also began to draw closer to God and chart the closeness of our relationship just as I kept an eye on my moods, and I began to see a pattern. Bad day’s led me away from God and into more bad days. Even coming closer to God might yield bad days, and even worse days.
The cycle continued for years. This is not an easy thing to identify, especially when you are prone to mild-mania’s and the darkest of depressions. Learning to distinguish the disease from spiritual attacks has been one of the hardest lessons I have had to learn, and I am still learning, (and failing). My moods make me vulnerable, and in those moments of vulnerability it is easy to slip up and unknowingly succumb to an attack.
Becoming cognisant of when you are under attack is the first step. This can not be done outside of a strong relationship with Christ. I had to strengthen my relationship with God before I could properly identify when I was under attack and when I just needed to go back to bed and have lay-in!! I still don’t always get it right. Sometimes it takes me quite a while to realise I’m slipping, and I have had a few bad falls along the way.
It was interesting to note in 1 Peter 5, written above, that satan is prowling around like a lion, looking for someone to devour, and often times I’m serving myself up unknowingly through my actions like a platter of rare steaks! Oh be still my anxiety riddled heart!! Luckily for me, and you, he keeps going and says this in verse 9: “Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.”
OMG! You could have pushed me over with a feather when I fully grasped this concept! Not only can I resist him, hanging on to God for dear life, but there are other believers, other people, all over the world going through this exact thing right now. Its one thing to know God is there, and draw near to Him, but it’s actually an amazing thing to know you are not the only lonely, anxious, depressed human on the planet experiencing these things.
Now, my Bad-Day-Scenario’s go something like this: Get up, I hate this… coffee… Grr… Just listen to me already… I want to punch someone… “Oh wait, that’s a marker, I feel incredibly angry and violent for no good reason, except not yet having coffee, but that doesn’t count… This isn’t a bad-day at all, this is just Satan messing with me!!! Hey God, lets talk…”
It’s not a magic cure all. It doesn’t always lift straight away. Sometimes God is trying to tell me something, and sometimes I just have to get through it. But I can tell you this: Each time I stumble, God is still there. When I humble myself before Him and ask His for his guidance he always provides it.
Knowing God is there helps