|The night before...|
40 is the biblical number of completion. Moses was 40 when he fled Egypt and it was 40 years later when he returned to lead his people to freedom. It was 40 years after that when the children of Israel arose to take the land promised them.
Jesus was in the wilderness for 40 days, fasting and being tempted by Satan. Only after that did He begin His ministry. Noah and his family endured rain for 40 days and 40 nights. No doubt there are other examples.
(I haven't seen the Noah movie. I don't plan to either. When I heard there were Ents in it, and Noah tries to kill his granddaughter, I knew it wouldn't get my hard-earned money.)
Many people would turn 40 with dread. It didn't even register with me. I guess one of the reasons is that I'm just happy to have survived my 30s: a decade that very nearly killed me. I'm not kidding. It certainly did see my life almost destroyed in too many other ways.
For the past few months things have gone very horrible in my personal life and I'm struggling to understand the whys and the hows of it. I'm no closer to understanding. God isn't providing any wisdom, but I guess He doesn't have to to begin with, does He?
Last week though, He did provide something that, well... it has come as both a great relief and a saddening understanding.
It was a friend with a far more brilliant mind than most who passed along the news to me. I'm glad she did. In the week since I've studied everything I can about these findings and more than I can express in words, I have felt a tremendous burden lifted from my heart and soul.
Last week new research was published by a team at the University of Michigan, having to do with bipolar disorder. Which has been the biggest bane of my existence, for far longer than I initially realized. My bipolar intensified severely beginning more than ten years ago and if it hadn't been for counseling and coming across the right combination of medication, I would probably be dead.
The researchers at University of Michigan took skin samples from volunteers who did not have bipolar, and an equal number from those who are afflicted with bipolar. Those skin cells were induced to become stem cells and with further coaxing, made to develop into neural tissue (something that never ceases to amaze me). For the first time, the behavior and function of bipolar disorder neural cells could be examined at length.
|Neurons of Bipolar Disorder individual|
(photo credit: Univesity of Michigan)
Another group of researchers a few weeks earlier announced that 3 genes have been found which are associated with bipolar disorder. Between that and the study of bipolar neurons, it is truly an exciting time for bipolar disorder research.
It's stuff like this that makes me thankful for modern medical research. And this is only the beginning. At last, science is starting to have an understanding of bipolar disorder and how it may be treated. In the future, treatment may be possible for those with bipolar on an individual basis, instead of trying one drug cocktail after another attempting to control it.
But even so... I have a mixed reaction to all of this.
Because now I know that there wasn't a choice. There was never a choice. None at all.
I was going to have bipolar disorder. I was going to have bipolar disorder.
For those in the future, there may well be effective treatment for bipolar disorder. But for me, it is too late.
From before I was ever born, the chromosomes were poisoning the well. The neurons were working their mischief. Subtly altering how my brain was developing. Making seemingly inconsequential shifts in my brain's structure. Setting up a time bomb set to explode years down the road.
It was going to happen no matter what. We know without any doubt now.
My grandmother, we are now certain, had bipolar disorder. Her father before her suffered mental illness and we also now believe it was bipolar. My grandmother had two children and each of those have two children. Neither my father or aunt have bipolar. Nor do my sister or my two cousins have bipolar. Instead the genetic roulette wheel landed on your friend and humble narrator, Robert Christopher Knight.
I guess if it had to be someone, I should be glad that it was on me. Bipolar disorder is something I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy. If somebody had to lose the dice roll, I would volunteer myself rather than see anyone else suffer.
I have bipolar disorder and from the earliest possible point, it was something I was doomed to be hit with. There is a sense of relief and vindication (as one commenter on this blog put it) in knowing at last that this wasn't a "character flaw". One of the things that being bipolar has taught me is that the mind and soul are two VERY separate things. There is the flesh, there is the mind, and there is the soul.
My heart and soul are untouchable by bipolar. But this fallen world can - and has - done plenty of damage to my body and mind.
It was a disability that was poised to strike without my having a say in the matter. Another thing that bipolar disorder has taught me is to have a much deeper humility and appreciation for those things that I do have, because there are many people who are worse off than I will probably ever be. You can't understand a disability until you yourself have one... and I pray that nobody else would have to suffer a disability. Especially this one.
I am relieved. I am thankful for the new research. And at the same time I have a sense of grief.
Bipolar disorder, I see now, has always been there and making me "different" from others. Bipolar disorder has destroyed opportunities which I regret were missed. It has cost me friendships. It cost me my marriage. And lately it has come very close to completely derailing my freelance writing career.
And apart from a regimen of medication (which sometimes is not completely effective) and regular counseling, I never stood a chance to not lose all of those things. Things that were very precious and dear to me. And still are.
But again, if a person, especially a person in my family, had to be hit with bipolar and suffer the consequences of everything associated with it, I would rather it have been me and not them.
And yet, I can't bring myself to rail against God for any of that.
Have I cried out to Him before because of this? Absolutely. But this is something that I just can't find a reason to charge Him with anything.
Because if He knows that I have this and was always going to have bipolar disorder, then I have to trust that He understands completely, and even better than I possibly could.
I have to trust that God didn't allow this to happen without some purpose. What that purpose is, I have no idea. I may never have any understanding of it.
I trust that God knows all of this, and that in His own time He brings healing. He brings restoration. He brings wisdom.
And He brings hope.
I have a hope now that those yet to come will never have to go through what I have because of bipolar disorder. If I can play any part in that, however small, then I will consider that to be the greatest honor that one can have in this life. I may have had no choice in being hit with bipolar disorder, but I can and do choose to do what I can to help others who have this devastating mental illness.
Actually, come to think of it... that isn't really a choice at all, either.