2 Corinthians 12:8-12
Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Today seems like a deeply ironic yet fitting day to be writing a post about my mental health. It’s finals time, so there are a million things I should have done this week, including writing this post; however, I haven’t done those things. As a person who is a JD/PhD student, a teacher, a cat mom, a friend, and a fiancé, I don’t have time to have an episode. Yet, here I am, anxiety, depression and all. As it turns out, bipolar disorder doesn’t work with your schedule—you can’t pencil an episode in at a time that’s more convenient for you.
Whenever I have an episode, I feel incredibly weak. Despite my therapists’ and doctors’ better advice, I frequently succumb to the social pressure to blame myself rather than my brain chemistry for what’s happening to me. I wonder why my brain can’t just be more resilient or normal. I mean, what has all the therapy and careful dosing of my antipsychotics been good for if not to make it possible for me to do ALL the things at once? And do them perfectly at that?
Yet, I am reminded that in my moments of weakness, I am strong. I’m human. I have limitations. I’m frequently exhausted by my bipolar disorder. But I’m also incredibly resilient, and I’m not ashamed. Bipolar is the worst, but my bipolar journey has also created opportunities for personal growth. It’s taught me patience and empathy and allowed me to critically interrogate my emotions. But more than that, it’s taught me that sometimes, weakness is part and parcel of being human. This is a harder pill for a perfectionist to swallow than 3 mg of Vraylar per day.
It’s hard to see my bipolar disorder as something that is in any way positive; however, as an advocate, I realize that there’s nothing wrong with me in my moments of weakness. Society tells me that I’m flawed because I struggle with mental illness—but God doesn’t think that. God thinks I’m strengthened and perfected through my weaknesses, including my bipolar disorder. That’s a really empowering realization for me.
God, give me the strength to use my moments of weakness as opportunities to grow and reflect. Allow me to see myself as resilient and powerful because of and not despite my weaknesses.
Note from Bailie: In so many spaces, the voices of people who live with mental illnesses are stigmatized. People with bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and other major mental illnesses work in your schools, your churches, and your workplaces. Many of them advocate for their own communities daily, while also needing to remain reserved about their own experiences because even social workers, mental health professionals and advocacy groups stigmatize people with mental illnesses. It was especially important to me to include this voice in the Lenten series, to reflect the longing and the hope that we all have to be accepted as we are, fully and completely.