Riding the Tides of Bipolar Disorder

I have been fascinated with the sea for as long as I can remember. So much so, that at the age of 4, I proclaimed to my dad that I would be a marine biologist when I grew up. I am not sure that he remembered that moment, but my proclamation became a reality by the time I was 21.

The ocean is rich in every way imaginable, but lately; it has been the cyclical tides that have me the most captivated. What a better way to describe the shifting moods of bipolar disorder; the mental illness that I live with daily?

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Although the ocean tides seem predictable, they are not. They vary in intensity and height based on location, time of year and situation. They are not the same everywhere. Tides are much more complex than one would think, as is bipolar disorder.

Bipolar disorder was formerly known as manic-depressive illness, which in some ways is a more accurate description. The term bipolar is deceiving because it implies that there are just two parts to it – the high and the low. However, what many do not know is that there are an infinite number of degrees between the two.

Likewise, there are always cycles and while there may seem to be a beginning and end, there are many stages between. The connections between the highs and lows are complex and manifest in different ways in different people.  The full cycle while similar is seldom the same, even in the very same person.

Lately, the tides of my illness have brought me to a level that I have never experienced – “rapid cycling” and “mixed” episodes. Of course, I have been through cycles of the highs and lows, but up until recently, rapid cycles and mixed episodes were not a part of the reality of my illness; or maybe I was too stressed in my life to really notice.

For me, rapid cycles entail multiple tidal shifts in one day, sometimes just hours apart. If there could be a benefit to rapid cycling, it is that I can count on the tide to shift relatively quickly; all I have to do is hang on until it turns.

Mixed episodes include the depression of the lows “mixed” with the impulsiveness of the highs. There are very few benefits of mixed episodes; they are the most deadly times for anyone with this illness. My own recent experience with these types of episodes has solidified this fact in my own mind. Truthfully, I have never, ever had to fight more to keep myself alive than in the darkest moments of these tidal shifts.

So, when the rushing tides of this illness sweep through my life, I know that my own strength is simply not enough to hold on – I absolutely need God. The fact that I have bipolar disorder will never change but as I ride the tides, I find hope in knowing that God will also never change.  He is always with me, even when I cannot see Him; it’s just that sometimes fighting the tides causes me to forget.

I am also learning to accept that there will be some times that are more difficult for me than others. In spite of that, I have a renewed hope.  I have come to believe that God designed me for a very specific purpose – to provide some level of understanding and acceptance where others may not have the same insight.

For those who are riding the tides of bipolar or another mood disorder, I encourage you to seek out help and support, as often and as much as necessary. KNOW that God loves you equally as much in the dark times as in the light. He is always there right by your side, even when you cannot see Him.  He has a plan for your life and it is one of great significance that cannot be completed without you.  So hold on when the tides shift – there is hope.

Psalm 139:7-10 – “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there you hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.”


Raised in the Midwest, Molly Messer discovered writing as a way of coping with a tumultuous life resulting from an unstable family, sexual abuse and assault, trauma, and a genetic predisposition to mental illness. Molly has had extensive technical writing experience in the environmental field. However, her passion is to share relatable stories and information in ways that encourage and inspire others. Her insatiable desire to learn and teach combined with transparency and deep compassion for others, enables her to reach out in unique ways through the written word. She started her first blog in 2012 (www.godmycomfort.wordpress.com) with the desire to find joy in the midst of sorrow after her father’s diagnosis of terminal cancer. She recently started to write blogs for The Clinical Christian delving into the challenges of mental illness and stigma related to mental health both inside and outside the church.

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Molly Messer

Raised in the Midwest, Molly Messer discovered writing as a way of coping with a tumultuous life resulting from an unstable family, sexual abuse and assault, trauma, and a genetic predisposition to mental illness. Molly has had extensive technical writing experience in the environmental field. However, her passion is to share relatable stories and information in ways that encourage and inspire others. Her insatiable desire to learn and teach combined with transparency and deep compassion for others, enables her to reach out in unique ways through the written word. She started her first blog in 2012 (www.godmycomfort.wordpress.com) with the desire to find joy in the midst of sorrow after her father’s diagnosis of terminal cancer. She recently started to write blogs for The Clinical Christian delving into the challenges of mental illness and stigma related to mental health both inside and outside the church.


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