beer and bipolar disorder

i saw a homeless friend of mine walking down the street the other day. i had seen him twice in one day. i have a lot of homeless friends and used to feel compelled to stop and talk with them evertime i saw one on the street. after a while i realized that if i see a non-homeless friend i sometimes stop and chat, but most often just wave. of course most of my non-homeless friends are driving by in another car at 30 mph . . . but, anyways i stopped and picked up my friend. we’ll call him T.

T had obviously been drinking, but he’s a happy drunk and not dangerous. he had also been working all day, installing a kitchen for the new chinese restaurant in town. he was heading two towns over and i was happy to help him out and a chance to get caught up.

it seems that T’s bipolar disorder was flaring up and he was self-medicating with the alcohol. he’s tried actual medication but always felt like a zombie when he was on it. this seems to be a common complaint of people that are on meds for bipolar. the dosing phase takes time, and i’ve found that the homeless folks i’ve known who have tried to ge their dosing corrected have a hard time. doctor’s seem less likely to take the time necessary to get it fine tuned.

i guess if i were T i would be reluctant to get heavily doped up on some drug some doctor i don’t know or trust is giving me. so alcohol helps him come down from his manic phases. “helps.”

but who am i to judge, really> we all have our methods of self-medicating whatever ails us. T wasn’t ready for me to “have a talk with him” about his drinking as so many people would want me to do. he had a bigger question in mind than other methods of coping with his manic phases.

so why did God give me this problem anyways?” The question hung in the air for several moments.

why do people always want christians to speak on God’s behalf? (maybe because we like to speak on his behalf when it suits us) can you hear the question echoing off into eternity? why did God . . . why did God . . . why did God . . .? can you imagine how often God hears that question?

well? why did God give T bipolar disorder? first of all, we should all honestly admit that we have absolutely no idea about why God would do something like that. well, i mean if God did give T his bipolar disorder. before we start trying to sort out God’s purposes a more fundamental question exist. where did T‘s bipolar disorder come from?

options:

a) God did give him bipolar disorder

b) satan gave him bipolar disorder

c) bipolar disorder exists due to fall of man in genesis and the sinfulness of humanity

d) bipolar disorder (and other diseases) are a result of humanity’s environmental indiscretions

e) some other option I haven’t thought of

in a), God is directly responsible for something we would consider evil. so either our ideas about God or about evil are messed up. in the other options he allows it to happen without stopping it. but why does God seem to stop some kinds of evil and permit others? thorny question. i have some thoughts, but want to see if anyone else has any opinions. comments ? what would you have said to T?

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3 Responses

  1. I’ve had my own struggles with mental illness, some that are probably at least partly biological in nature (major depressive disorder), and part caused at least in part in response to the behavior of others (post traumatic stress disorder). The natural response at first is to ask just that: why did God do this to me? or Why did God let that happen? Ultimately the only peace I got was that God had a plan greater than my ability to understand. At times I think or see things and think that it might be a glimpse into God’s reasoning, but that is more me projecting than anything. My depression and trauma required me to rely on God in a way I don’t think I would have without it. And I learned a lot about the suffering of others and have been able to use it in my work helping people. That I could be a person who had been touched by something like that and been able to come out on the other side.

    I think the interesting question is how does he make sense of it? The challenge with trauma and chronic mental illness is largely in the meaning we ascribe to it. Is god “punishing” you? Has God entrusted you with this burden for a reason?

    Just some not entirely thought out responses.

  2. Yeah – there is a subtle difference for some between God permitting something to happen and orchestrating it from “behind” the curtain. As a follow-up to this post (T) found me again fro the first time since I wrote about this and thanked me for taking the time to talk to him – he seemed genuinely appreciative.

  3. I like your reduction to the 4 or 5 possible answers as to where such things come from. The important part is that only one of those is “God did this”. So unless one believes in a malevolent God, the question shouldn’t be “Why did God…” but “Why does God allow…”. Not that that necessarily makes it an easier question, but at least discussing changing the question buys one a minute or two to come up with a better answer. Alas, it hasn’t worked for me…

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