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Saturday, October 29, 2005 

O to the C to the D

One thing the pastor of my church says semi-regularly in his sermons is that people come to Korea for a lot of reasons, and oftentimes God does a lot of healing in their lives here. Add me to the list. I'm going far out on a limb in sharing this, and I'm going to try not to be wordy about it, but as it's a tender issue, I will try to concern myself with being understandable rather than concise. (Concise is nearly impossible for me anyway.)

I have a mental illness. Thankfully, I also have a really good sense of humor...without which, I'd have a lot more problems than I do. Humor and laughing are one of my coping mechanisms for all of life, but especially here. It's one of those ironies...I spent all my childhood vowing never to be crazy, and became that which I despised. First of all, allow me to define terms. Crazy is not PC, I know. I'm not crazy in the certifiably insane sense of the word. But I think it's a lot more to the point than saying "I have a mental illness." Plus, it usually can be used in a joking sense better than "mental illness" or "mental disorder." When I make reference to those of you who are "normal," I mean those of you without a mental illness and/or disorder. I long ago gave up the idea of normal because it's too subjective and impossible, I think. Many of you, especially those whose blog I read everyday and who frequent my blog, would fall into the category of normal...at least you would given what I know of you. This was my experience in college - most people seemed to have it together pretty well (again, in a mental, not spiritual sense). Back to the thing about Korea though...here I meet a lot of people who are in a healing stage in their life (from all sorts of issues - mental, emotional, and spiritual) and I see how what my pastor says is completely true. I don't know what it is about this place, but it's true. (And by healing, I don't mean the charismatic laying-on-of-hands, Benny-Hinn kind of healing...I mean the slow healing work of the Holy Spirit in the heart of a believer.) Evidently I'm at one of those "It's getting worse so it can get better" parts of life, especially relating to my mind. I'm working through a lot right now...and that's why I'm sharing all this.

Honestly, the day I was diagnosed was one of the most liberating moments of my life. I just thought I couldn't handle anxiety...while I do have a difficult time with anxiety, it's not "normal" anxiety. It's obsessive worrying and horrible thoughts. I've been in counseling off and on for the past three years or so (starting just after my mom died) and was diagnosed with OCD in December of 2003. I was on medication for a year, but didn't get counseling regularly throughout that time. I went off the meds shortly after coming to Korea, and have been off them until about a month ago. I've been seeing a counselor through my church, and he encouraged me to think about getting back on them for a short time, just to get me through a rough spot. Thank God for giving that man wisdom, because I don't even want to think about where I'd be right now without the medication. And now...for my take on the whole thing...

Disclaimer: I am speaking only of my own life and experience, and perhaps of my interpretation of experiences from my mom's life. That is all. No one be offended.

I've been struggling lately over the obvious dissonance between my mental state and my theology. I say that I believe in the sovereignty of God, yet I obsess to the point of nausea about any myriad of issues, problems, and potential disasters every day. What gives? A really wise friend of mine told me that I need to separate myself from the OCD, that it wasn't a behavior I was choosing, that it was beyond my control. She had a valid point, but I think I disagree on the specifics. I haven't studied it, so I don't know of course...but I think that the idea of a chemical imbalance is/can be used to eradicate personal responsibility. In my case, when I look at my life (with a God-given-clarity rather than a deer-hit-by-a-car-wide-eyed-victim mentality) it makes perfect sense to me why I am obsessive-compulsive. And maybe I do have a chemical imbalance, but I'd say it's due to nurture, not nature. And so, back to what my friend said, I think some separation is in order - I need to remember who I am in Christ and how God sees me, and remember that He will not abandon me. My OCD is not stronger than God. Yet at the same time, I need to pursue counseling and actively seek to change the way I think and reprogram my mind. And so that is what I am doing.

As for being crazy, it's tiring. It's honestly very old...at least if I were bipolar there'd be some novelty in the mood changes (my mom was bipolar, and I lived with it, so I'm entitled to joke). For me, the novelty is what new irrational thing am I going to obsess about today? But I do believe in the sovereignty of God, and I do believe there are reasons for what I'm going through, despite my own sinfulness. I've been suicidal multiple times, I've nearly been admitted to the psych ward once, I live every day with the reality that the torment in my life is coming from within me. And lately, it's worse than it's ever been. But God is so faithful. And I'm thankful for it all, because He has already used it to minister to others through me.

Anyway, this is my version of coming out of the closet. Only I'm not gay. I'm just a little crazy. Thanks for listening.

Abject failure at not being wordy...my apologies everyone who made it this far.

I was going to comment, but it was turning out rather lengthy so I'm going to post of my blog with a link to your comments. Suffice it to say I have many thoughts, but also please allow me to say that I think you are incredibly brave, and self aware, and I want to be like you if I ever do grow up.

All I can say is AMEN. I do believe God will (and is) healing you! Just as I have faith He will heal me, even when I feel at my lowest, and think I cannot live through another day.

I forget where, but I once read a quote by C.S. Lewis that said something to the effect of this:

It's not that we don't believe God doesn't want good for our lives, it's that we worry over what it is going to take for that to transpire.

So basically, we might really believe God is sovereign, yet worry about what His sovereignty might bring. Maybe that thought is an oxymoron, but it runs through my mind often.

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