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The Grace of My Bipolarity

In my world, it is common for people to tell stories of being saved or of having gone through terrible experiences and now being beyond them with the message that you too can get out of your troubles. I have often been asked to share about my life and have always declined. Sometimes I think that I have not escaped Dante’s dark wood. And yet, it is a good life.

Does my story of a graced life lived under constant temptation to suicide fit into these contexts? I am not willing to share this and am not sure how it would be received. I am not particularly concerned about wearing the mask others see. But I think that some would benefit from knowing this story, or so my wife tells me.

The son of a pastor, I have been a Christian my entire life. I have taken this calling seriously and tried to live up to it. My father was influential in our church and had a reputation, nationwide, for holiness. He is known for his ministry and the lives he transformed. Having entered the world of church ministry, I was reminded of the grace he brought to so many lives. What is not known is the darkness that he kept within the walls of his house. I suppose one never knows what goes on in another family.

But my focus here is on myself and I hope my story will be helpful to those struggling to live the Christian life and who know that certain problems will not leave them alone in this life.

I and all of my siblings in a large family have been hospitalized for suicide attempts. After two stints in the psych ward, I was diagnosed as bipolar a few years ago. I would like to share with you my experience of bipolarity as a Christian.

Many young people struggle with chastity. I barely did, or I did and did not succumb. I approached my marriage with longing but was chaste. On our wedding night, there were signs that my wife did not want to marry me, but I was naive and inexperienced, and over time attributed her struggles to mental illness. Surely she wanted to be married to me, it was just something in her past, or something chemical, this, that, or the other thing that kept the marriage cold.

We were odd in that we did not have children but we avoided discussion of it as I progressed in my studies and ministry. We moved often for various positions and fellowships. By some miracle, our son was born after six years of marriage. A few years later, I saw hints of the deep problem in our marriage but this would only become clear later.

One Easter Sunday, my wife told me that she had never been attracted to me, that she never wanted to be married, and that it was only family pressure that led her to be so. We went to marriage counseling and it became clear that our marriage could not be salvaged. She left and I went on a tailspin: drinking, drugs, and other things that I had never fallen into and thought pushed me away from God.

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