18 January 2009

Knitted Together

Before I had my diagnosis, I always thought that the euthymia that I experienced was the Holy Spirit. Even though I will use the technical term now, I still think it's the Holy Spirit. I don't mean that in a delusional, I think I'm the second coming way; I mean that it feels like the Holy Spirit.

I do strongly believe that mental illness has a physiological basis. I have no doubt that the extraordinary mood swings I experience have their root in a neurological defect. However, I also believe that God is everywhere, which means that there is no reason that He can't be in illness as well as health.

It seems a little perverse to me sometimes that a very, very good mood could be a symptom of illness but the way it comes on does seem to suggest that something has been triggered in the brain. I can feel it happen and it comes on the way the effects of a drug come. One minute I'll be sitting there feeling nothing out of the ordinary and fifteen minutes later I'll be filled with a luminescing joy that has come from no discernible place and that will not go away nor change in degree. It just is.

It's not strong enough to be called hypomania but it's not an ordinary state either. It might last a day, or it might last a month. It's a wonderful feeling.

The advantage of knowing Greek is that one can parse all these psychological/psychiatric terms. Euthymia comes from 'eu' meaning good, lucky, happy. The -thymia part comes from 'thumos' meaning spirit, heart. Euthymia is closer to 'high spirits' than 'good mood.' So it seems not incompatible to me that euthymia could be an experience of the Holy Spirit. By suffering are we made holy and by the Holy Spirit, Christ's own first gift to the faithful, is not called the eternal comforter as a joke. (Although it does conjure up the image of an enormous fluffy duvet sometimes.) Euthymia does feel like God's peace and comfort and a kind of earthly compensation for the rest of it.

It's not an accident that I have bipolar disorder. I wouldn't have chosen it but that doesn't mean that I have to experience it as a meaningless invasion of what would otherwise be a more ordinary life. I don't always know what exactly to do with it but it is mine to do something with. It is part of me, in my inmost self, and though it has a pathology (laws or order (logos) of suffering (pathos)), it takes its form from me and not mine from its.

We had Psalm 139 in church today - one of the really lovely ones - and it put me in mind of all this. And really, am I not, are we not all, marvellously made that even an illness can bring me joy?

Domine, probasti

1 LORD, you have searched me out and known me; *

you know my sitting down and my rising up;you discern my thoughts from afar.

2 You trace my journeys and my resting-places *
and are acquainted with all my ways.

3 Indeed, there is not a word on my lips, *
but you, O LORD, know it altogether.

4 You press upon me behind and before *
and lay your hand upon me.

5 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; *
it is so high that I cannot attain to it.

6 Where can I go then from your Spirit? *
where can I flee from your presence?

7 If I climb up to heaven, you are there; *
if I make the grave my bed, you are there also.

8 If I take the wings of the morning *
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,

9 Even there your hand will lead me *
and your right hand hold me fast.

10 If I say, "Surely the darkness will cover me, *
and the light around me turn to night,"

11 Darkness is not dark to you;the night is as bright as the day; *
darkness and light to you are both alike.

12 For you yourself created my inmost parts; *
you knit me together in my mother's womb.

13 I will thank you because I am marvelously made; *
your works are wonderful, and I know it well.

14 My body was not hidden from you, *
while I was being made in secret and woven in the depths of the earth.

15 Your eyes beheld my limbs, yet unfinished in the womb;all of them were written in your book; *
they were fashioned day by day,when as yet there was none of them.

16 How deep I find your thoughts, O God! *
how great is the sum of them!

17 If I were to count them, they would be more in number than the sand; *
to count them all, my life span would need to be like yours.

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