Should I take medication for my bipolar disorder?

Question:

Greetings Brother,

I have been reading your site for some months since I was investigating the church of Christ, and I was baptized about six months ago. Your articles on marijuana and drinking have been a great encouragement to me and have helped me walk my thoughts through the Scriptures in making some decisions. Thank you for that.

The problem I have now is just plain coping with life. I was been diagnosed bipolar when I was a child and stopped taking my medications when I got heavily into using drugs and alcohol because it would be pointless. Now that I am free of these other substances, though bad still, they did help me keep my mood stable ... sometimes. What am I to do? There was only one stint of me living without substances where I was really able to do good, but that was at a drug rehab where we were in a controlled environment. Now that I am out, I have trouble even going through the day.

Am I making excuses for my reactions to things, or do I really need to take these medications? My wife says I make her afraid when I get either depressed or manic and thinks I should see a doctor. But if I had faith in God shouldn't that be enough? My preacher and good friend says if I had a bunch of doctors say I have a problem, then I probably should listen to the doctors. I just don't want to do anything that is against the Bible and the way the Bible talks about anger or hate or depression, it kind of sounds like, "Just carry your cross, dude!" So anything would be nice.

Thanks.


Answer:

The Bible teaches Christians to be sound of mind. "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour" (I Peter 5:8). The Greek word translated as "sober" is nepho, which literally means "drink no wine." From this it derived a broader meaning being self-controlled, free of confusion, clear headed, sound of mind, or keeping your head. Because of this, Christians are to avoid intoxicants that cloud clear thinking.

However, there are diseases whose symptoms cause mental incapacity. For example, thyroid hormone imbalance can cause nervousness, insomnia, depression, or irritability. Correcting the imbalance causes the mental symptoms to disappear. I would argue that the disease is causing a lack of soberness in the person. He is not operating to the best of his ability and for some problems, the mental problem causes his mind to give him a false sense of what is real. Since a Christian is to be sober-minded and of sound judgment, medicines which correct problems that hinder in these areas are useful in a Christian's life.

You have a recognized mental problem. It is affecting your ability to think clearly. There are medications that counter that problem. Then it makes sense that you ought to take those medications so you can function well. It is hard enough to battle sin. Trying to fight temptation when you can't think clearly is extremely difficult. Therefore, you do need to take the medication.

What you tried to do, unsuccessfully, is use street drugs to self-medicate. All that ended up doing was making things worse. Instead of improving your sobriety, it worsened it.

"Carrying your cross" in your case is dealing with the fact that you have mental difficulties that require medication to make the problems manageable. It would be no different that people with leg problems having to use a wheelchair. The fact that they use a wheelchair doesn't mean they are not carrying their cross.

Jeffrey,

Thank you for your response and explanation with I Peter 5:8. Now I have something to attach to my understanding of being sober-minded.

Grace, peace, and mercy to you!