Monday, June 26, 2017

Seeking and Finding

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“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.”
 Matthew 7:7-8
According to statistics from the National Alliance on Mental Illness, as well as many other sources, mental health disorder affect one out of five people in the United States. This translates to at least one out of four people having at least one member of their family with a mental health challenge. For me, an adoptee, I’ve never known my family history in this respect and this has always been a mystery. And this is where my story begins.

It was the evening of Father’s Day last weekend when I received an email with the subject line, “Genealogy Searching – On Father’s Day.” The message caught me off guard. It was from a woman who I will call Tess (to preserve her anonymity). Tess stated that she had obtained information from her brother’s Ancestry DNA account. She went on to say that he had no desire to pursue any “matches” or learn anything about his family origins. Finally, she asked if I was interested in pursuing this potential connection.

As an adoptee, you can imagine my excitement with receiving this news. In typical fashion, I replied immediately stating that I would be willing to work with her on the mutual goal of learning more about how I fit into the family tree.

(Side note: A year and a half ago I initiated a search for my birth parents through the New York State Adoption Registry. Initially I received scant information but shortly thereafter I received records that contained non-identifying information about my birth parents (appearance, occupation, activities they enjoyed, etc., At first I figured that this was far as I would go. But after further consideration I decided to pursue learning more by joining Ancestry DNA. I did receive data about my ethnicity as well as potential “biological matches” however after reaching out to the two most likely candidates I gave up my search.)

Tess was quick in her response and explained how I could potentially fit into the family history and that she had a theory about who may birth mother might be and that she may still be alive. She explained that this connection was on her biological father’s side of the family. She also said that this man did not raise her and that the brother of my birth mother was reluctant to provide any information to Tess’s mother’s due to the time that has passed or the fact that her mom was “on the other side.”

Regardless, she and her mother do have information from Tess’s father’s side of the family that leads us to believe that I, in fact, am a part of their family. I also communicated with Tess’s mother (who I will call Dolores) who provided more specific lineage information.

Tess and Dolores said they’d be open to speaking the next weekend. This past Saturday evening I received an email from Dolores asking if I was available to speak then. I jumped at the opportunity and was astounded that I could be speaking to people with whom I may be related, and especially Tess, who would be the direct biological connection. Turns out she would be a second cousin. I shared my gratitude for them reaching out to me and they both responded with the same kind of attitude of thankfulness for finding me.

We spoke for well over an hour. The conversation was wide-spread covering everything from information about my potential birth mother as well as family stories and the mutual interests of Tess and myself.

At one point in the discussion I felt compelled to ask a question about any history of mental illness in the family. Dolores affirmed that there was a pretty significant history of mental illness in Tess’s father’s family. She went on to share a few specific incidences of mental health issues with my possible family of origin. Of course, this was of great interest to me considering my own history of bipolar disorder and addiction. This knowledge simply affirmed what I already knew about the risk factors of mental disorders and family connections.

It was remarkable how much Tess and I related to each other. I told her and Dolores that I believe that God is at work in this experience and that this connection is far more than coincidental and they both agreed. For instance, the information that Tess shared in one of her first emails stated that my possible birth mother was born in the same year that would have corresponded to the year of my birth. Also, the profession that she said that my bio mom was in was the same as what was stated in the documentation I received from the adoption agency that holds my records. Finally, when I mentioned that my document stated that my birth mother enjoyed horseback riding and waterskiing, Dolores laughed, saying that Tess’s father’s family enjoyed those activities.

This story is still unfolding and there is more work to be done. Tess and I are going to do some additional DNA matching work and she and Dolores are going to continue to reach out to other members of Tess’s father’s family. However, the simple knowledge that I may now have a biological connection is helping me to truly understand that things happen in God’s time. For God knows when we are ready. Stay tuned!

Be well!

Monday, June 19, 2017

Guest Post -My Christian Faith & Bipolar Disorder - Katie Dale

Vigeland - Blessing (V)

This week’s post is written by Katie Dale from Bipolar Brave. Katie’s story is grounded in her faith and is a testament that having a spiritual core can be a valuable tool in recovery.

I thought coming off my medication to declare healing in Jesus' name would be the faith to move mountains, but it was merely walking off the cliff of one. Instead, the mountain to be moved was the wholeness that came back to my mind in the application of my medications. I just needed to surrender to the instruction and wisdom of the doctor's and medication God placed in my life to experience the gift of healing He gave me. God doesn't ask us to do the moving of the mountain. He does the heavy lifting. 

Now I take my medication daily. I should do it with a prayer of thanksgiving, though I don't. But I am always reminded of God's goodness and power in swallowing two small pills each morning. It could have turned out worse. More challenging. More painful. Thank God He spared me from worse.

In my daily life, I desire to make sense of the pain and the tragedy of mental illness that reared its ugly head. All I've understood by having this disorder is that God works all things together for His glory and our good, and if that is what will come of my hardships with bipolar disorder, then I know my chronic illness is a blessing in disguise. Like Paul, I will boast all the more of my infirmities  "... 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." (2 Corinthians 12:10-11)

The curse of a disorder or any hardship we experience in life is not the end of our lives, but it's the beginning of the story to share with others how we overcame its grasp by the victorious power of God. Every day I'm reminded that the Creator in His sovereignty, has infused my life with redemptive purpose and calling. It is like the faith I have built my life's foundation upon has already shown me it's trustworthiness. God is my rock on whom I stand. He had me at my worst, and will ever have me no matter what depth of depression or height of mania I find myself in.

In Him I hope and place my trust every day. It's not easy, but it's not impossible either. I have to make more of a conscious effort when things aren't going my way and when situations become difficult, but you do get what you put into it. If God was not there for me, I would have given up long ago. But it's because He's proven His faithfulness to me, and believed in me and in what He could do through me when I trusted Him, that He is worth living for. 

You can't take Jesus from me. Bipolar disorder you can have. And I know it won't always be my lot - one day in glory I will stand perfected like my King. But I won't give any doubts to whether God has abandoned me because He was the Way out of my mess. And I made a big one!
I hope for you, if you struggle with a mental illness, you can trust in God's timing for healing and His perfect plan for your peace. He is able to keep you. Just think of Him and what He suffered at Calvary to make a Way for us to see His power in our lives. He is worthy.

God bless.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

How Soon is Now

“When you say it’s gonna happen “now”
well, when exactly do you mean?
See, I’ve already waited too long
and all my hope is gone”
The Smiths
How Soon is Now (1985)

Out of the depths I have cried to You, O Lord.
Lord, hear my voice!
 Let Your ears be attentive
    To the voice of my supplications.
      If You, Lord, should mark iniquities,
O Lord, who could stand?
But there is forgiveness with You,
That You may be feared.
I wait for the Lord, my soul does wait,
  And in His word do I hope.
My soul waits for the Lord
   More than the watchmen for the morning;
    Indeed, more than the watchmen for the morning.”
Psalm 130:1-6

There’s one question that is often asked by those living with an active mental health or addiction disorder: “How long do I have to live this way?” The pain and suffering can be unbearable, and for some, so severe that they believe that there is no recourse but to take their own lives.

I know this feeling very well. From February 1981-April 1989 I was on the carousel of psychiatric hospital stays that I couldn’t get off of. Early on I was prescribed a virtual hodge podge of medications. Mind you, these were first generation antipsychotic medications that produced horrible side effects. But I had, at least in my mind, no other choice.

It was also during this time period that I sought relief from God. I tried everything from prayer to the 700 Club and even Jim and Tammy Faye Baker. I was desperate. But I’m not the only one. Countless numbers of individuals seek healing from a Power greater than themselves. For me it was God, in the form of Jesus.

But let’s take a step back and examine this concept further. If you asked most Americans, they believe in God. In a Gallup poll collected in June 2016, 89% of those surveyed responded that they believed in God. (

If this holds true, then most Americans believe, at least to a certain extent, that there is something Greater than themselves that may have some kind of “extraordinary” power.

But this begs the larger question: if God does exist, why do so many suffer, in this case, from mental health and/or addiction disorders? It is my personal belief that when we are in pain, whether it be mental, emotional, physical or spiritual, God is experiencing this pain with us. Granted, this does not make the prospect of living with any kind of malady easier. But having the knowledge that God is present in our struggle can help us to endure this insufferable pain.

The other question, which pertains to the title of this post, is how soon will I feel better (if at all)? There a number of factors that can affect the outcome of this question. Sometimes it’s the correct type of therapy, whether it be medication, psychotherapy (otherwise known as “talk therapy”), or holistic practices like mindfulness meditation, relaxation techniques, yoga, or other exercises, to name but a few.

What I have learned through my own personal as well as professional experience is that the key ingredient in this particular wellness equation is time. It can take time to discover what works in relation to the various treatment methods I mentioned previously. And this is what can be the most frustrating, if not angering, part of recovery. Having patience when you are in despair can be hard to come by.

But as is stated in this post’s opening scripture from the Psalmist:

“I wait for the Lord, my soul does wait,
            And in His word do I hope.”

Hope is essential to recovery. Hope can be the one thing to hold onto when all else has failed. When I was experiencing the rocket-like experience of mania and the crushing blows of depression all I had was hope. And hope is what got me through.

I will be perfectly honest and say that there are many days I cannot believe that I ever got through those dark days. But I do know that it was not just of my own doing, nor was it the medication, family and peer support, or simple “right place, right time” circumstances. I truly believe in my heart that God, through the power of Christ, helped me to overcome what seemed to be insurmountable odds to find health, healing and wholeness.

If you are reading this and are struggling to find your way and if you have even faith the size of a mustard seed, know that God is present with you in your suffering and wants nothing more than to see you find relief. Yes, there is hope, and it is God’s time, not ours.

Be well