Lithium. The most prescribed medication for Bipolar Disorder and yet it seemed to make things worse. My moods were still out of control. I was mean. I was severely lethargic to the point that I shouldn’t have been driving, but I was manic, so I did anyway. I gained weight and developed cystic acne. Why is a drug that is supposed to make me well again making me feel worse?
Then there’s my deeply scarred abdomen. I couldn’t think any worse about myself. And I pleaded the expected, “Why God?” And He was silent. Or at least I thought.
My body had failed me.
My mind had failed me.
My spirit had failed me.
Body image is a hard thing for a lot of women. We compare ourselves. We find worth in our appearance. We’re told, “God made you perfect just the way you are!” But it’s a hard truth to take hold of. And what if my imperfection is not how God made me? What do I do with that?
Once I got on the right medications. Once my days weren’t monopolized by a full-time job I didn’t want (and, frankly, not very good at), a messy house and a small child. Then I finally found the space to eat right and exercise. I finally found space to take care of me.
Throughout 2020 I was able to get into better shape than I’ve been in probably ten years or more. I started biking with my son in a bike trailer. I started gardening. I started running for the first time since 2009.
I weighed myself today. I am exactly 30 pounds down from March 2020. I weigh less than when I first became pregnant in 2016. I fit into my wedding dress after nine years!
And yet. And yet I look in the mirror and see the eight inch scar darting down the middle of my abdomen. It doesn’t matter how thin or toned I look. I still don’t feel whole. And maybe I never will. When I go shopping I only buy tops that don’t cling to my body. I bought a tankini top the other day. It has ruffles all down the front to disguise the obvious divot in the fleshy part of my abdomen.
I used to feel so good about how I looked when I was physically fit. When I was a college athlete. I used to be able to wear just about anything. And now I’m ashamed of what I hide beneath my clothes. I cannot erase my scar but maybe someday I will learn to accept it.
I wish my poor self-image just stopped there. But it reaches much deeper than my scar.
I’ve always struggled with mental illness. My anxiety has had me dwelling on silly little mistakes or perceived mistakes years after they happen. And I’ve known about my depression since 2009 and it made sense. Depression is simple. It’s just sad. Deeply sad. Unendingly sad.
When I was diagnosed with manic-depression in 2019 I couldn’t cope with such a severe illness. It seemed scary and with so much unknown complexity. How can I be so completely broken? Who will take this unbearable burden from me?
It took two years to find the right medications (not Lithium!) and, even now, my doctor is still adjusting my dosages. In that time I’ve destroyed relationships with those closest to me. In that time I made poor financial decisions without the knowledge of my husband. In that time I abused my body for the mere reason that I just couldn’t care for myself.
Like my abdominal scar, bipolar is not something that can be erased. It can be treated but not removed from my mind. Most days I cope well now that I’ve found the right treatment. But there are some days that remain painful. That I try to do more than I’m capable of or I struggle to get out of bed.
I’m finding that my broken brain contributes to my poor self-image. I look at myself and wonder how many people think less of me because I’m dealing with such a severe mental illness. There are times that I think less of me because I have such a severe mental illness…and for so long I didn’t know and it shaped my relationships. It shaped me. And I feel misshapen.
The need for such deep healing of my physical body and my mental sanity led me to doubt God severely. How could a good and loving God let His child experience so much pain? As a person who has sought God deeply and served Him fervently, I look at the pain I’ve experienced and wonder what I did to deserve it. I wonder how He let me be such an evil person to those around me when my mood swung it’s pendulum of euphoria and rage and depression.
I’ve done a lot of praying about this. I’ve had a lot of arguments with God about this. I can’t say I really have an answer. However, my relationship with Him sure is stronger because I’ve seen the exact moments, the precise provisions, and the intentional grace He afforded me. On the days when I thought He had forgotten me and left me for dead He lifted me up. He put the right person in front of me. He presented me with time and space to take hold of myself.
God gave me a husband that literally wrestled me to the ground when I was out of control and told me that it was going to be alright. And no matter how many times I yelled at him to divorce me and find someone better, someone more worthy of his love, he clung all the tighter still.
And then God paved the way for my healing – not just physically, but spiritually as well. He gave me the time to pray. To read His word. To study truth. And I recognized all the ways He hadn’t deserted me when I felt so desperately alone.
My body may be
But I have found
My mind may be
But I have found
My spirit may be
But I have found
My wholeness may be
But I will find