We all have thoughts that go through our head each day. Some are more pleasant then others, some are fleeting, and some stay with a us little longer then we’d like them to. For someone dealing with bipolar disorder you may have some thoughts that become obsessive, overwhelming, and/or distorted. You may feel like you are trapped by your own mind, held hostage to whatever your mind randomly chooses to assail you with today, unable to make some thoughts stop.
All of this and more has been my experience with bipolar thoughts. Being an intelligent rational person my upbringing led me to believe I could trust in my mind. When I began to have thoughts that were not normal, I didn’t notice. I continued in life, shaping my world view from my own experiences, relying on my intellect to guide me. Slowly the negative thoughts, the obsessive thoughts, the slightly skewed thoughts, settled in without me ever realising. It was as if the whole world changed within me, yet I still believed I was the same as ever.
Negative and Obsessive Thoughts
The first manifestation of the kind of destruction my thoughts could create came with my first major depression. I began to obsess over perfection in everything I did. Nothing was good enough and I was afraid all the time that everyone could see how badly I was failing, and then I did fail: Big! After this the negative self-talk erupted out of control within my mind. Eventually this became a part of my inner landscape making it incredibly burdensome to try distinguishing between what was normal and what was unnatural. In a few short years I lost the ability to see rationally without the taint of unnatural bipolar thoughts.
I could not see, standing in the middle of my personal storm, just how far my mind had fallen. The thoughts continued to worsen, and as I looked for escape I found none. From the onset of my first major depression and struggle with perfectionism, I was increasingly bombarded with unwanted thoughts. I did immediately get help, but even throughout the years, the doctors, the medication, the thoughts continued to worsen.
Tackling Unwanted Thoughts
Nothing I found seemed to help, not meditation, exercise, medication, drinking, dancing, drugs, relationships, school, work… The list could go on and on! I knew that my thoughts were not always my own, that somedays they were completely irrational and absurd. Yet, they were my thoughts, and they were dangerous because they seemed so rational to me. It wasn’t just a sense within myself that my thoughts were not normal, but it was the reaction of other people to my words and my actions.
Luckily, I have always been incredibly self aware. I danced in ballet most of my early life and with it I learned discipline and self-awareness that I believe helped me in tackling my destructive thoughts. I began to take notice of my thoughts and what I was thinking about 16 years ago. For years it was an overwhelming to distinguish between my rational thoughts and the irrational ones. I tried to make the irrational ones stop but this proved to be beyond my capabilities, I could hardly differentiate between them.
“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5
My Saving Grace
2 Corinthians 10:5 was the first verse I came across that finally made any kind of sense to me as to how to tackle my negative thoughts. In those first 8 years of the onset of my bipolar I did everything but turn to God. When I did, I found this verse. I used to chant in my head, “take captive every thought,” over and over again and plead for God to give me guidance, to make it stop.
Eventually I began to take notice of how the thoughts were effecting me. Slowly I was able to dissect the way the negative thoughts were working in mind, in various situations, and confront them before they could affect those around me, as well as myself. It has taken me the better part of the last decade to be able to isolate the different types of thoughts in my mind. I used to analyse every word I said, every word said to me, every inflection, tone, gesture, and dwell on outlandish “what if” scenarios for hours. Now I am able to stop myself before it spins out of control. I haven’t stopped the thoughts, but I am better able to stop the thoughts from raging out of my control.
That was my starting point of recovery. Nothing I could do made any difference until I humbled myself before God and pleaded for Him to make me whole. I literally came to a point that I realised I could not do this myself. As I grew into a deeper relationship with Christ, my mind eased, my life progressed. It didn’t happen overnight, or swiftly, but over the months and years my mind has began to heal and I have more confidence, more joy in my daily life.
“Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Six years ago I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, and six weeks later I plunged into a deep postpartum depression which brought back those old overwhelming feelings so fast I was paralysed in a matter of hours. My thoughts were swallowing me in an overwhelming tide, so fast, so hard, I couldn’t breathe. Over the course of one day, I returned to the girl I had been, unable to stop my mind from eating me alive. My husband, never having known me during that time, was absolutely terrified how quickly I devolved into someone else in one day.
Luckily, things were in place and my depression was taken care of within a few months, but it was an eye opening experience to look back on how destructive these thoughts had truly been. I was utterly overwhelmed by how bad my thoughts had been every day of my life and how far I had come. There is only one explanation for me as to why my negative thoughts have lessened, and that is through my obedience and devotion to Jesus Christ.
In thinking about writing this post, I tried to think of all the things I did, the steps I followed, to come to such a healthy place that I could share with you. I can’t think of any steps that would be of any use to anyone else except one: Pray! Pray without ceasing, as Paul tells us in 1 Thessalonians. God is the great healer, in all things.