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Not having responsibilities reduced or shared. Not being encouraged to rest or take time out. From euphoria or mildly manic phases. Pursuing all one's objectives at once and cutting out breaks, holidays, quiet times. Making arrangements that will utilise every space in the diary.

What to do when a breakdown threatens to repeat itself If you fear a 'low' is developing A good example of this is feeling flat in the morning; everything seeming meaningless, so even the smallest decisions are difficult to make. This is the way ahead that prevents the feeling lasting more than a few hours.

I pray briefly, and have increasingly been able to have faith that I will be helped quickly. Then I recall, from experience, that this is happening because I have more to do than can possibly be done in the timescale I have set myself.


Because this happened in such a drastic way and with such dreadful consequences once before, I am in fact shutting down in panic! To deal with this, I lower my sights and plan to do much less that day, to be kind to myself and maybe do something just for someone else, and to achieve small tasks until I am up to speed again.

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I don't tell anybody how I am feeling at this stage, because their resultant anxiety, and the act of rehearsing my feelings, are not good for me, and I know from experience that if I deal with it in the way I am describing it will not last long anyway. Nor do I allow myself to continue thinking 'Help, this is going to be a disaster!

Instead I concentrate on a practical or easily organised task and get it done. I tell myself afterwards that I am pleased to have completed something even though it felt like pushing a bus!

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Such self-rewards make each successive task or occupation easier and, by the afternoon, meaningful and joyful again. I 'count my blessings', i. To those who have not suffered imbalance, this may seem normal procedure. To someone who has, dips in mood ring alarm bells and actions have to be taken calmly and deliberately. The very act of remembering what works is more difficult than normal.

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If you fear 'going high' As when depressed, but for different reasons, I lower my sights and decide to do less. I endeavour to do things more deliberately and steadily, ask people to lend me a hand with certain things, and make myself remember that this haste is not what God requires of me. I remind myself to 'wait upon the Lord' and work on being kinder to myself and those around me. Resources for learning how to sustain mental health In thinking about the bigger picture during the very long intervals between manic or depressive phases when I have been well, I have had the advantage of being able to work things out on the basis of my studies and my findings as a research psychologist.

Themes around child-rearing, theories about learning, motivation and personality, and some knowledge of neurophysiology have all been helpful to some extent, from whatever school of thought. My breakdown has given me an experience of clinical psychology for which I am grateful. Having chosen a research rather than a clinical career, through qualms about being free to be sufficiently true to scriptural principles in clinical practice, I did still feel the need for better knowledge in that area.

This was so in spite of the fact that I worked closely with practising psychologists and other colleagues in Departments of Psychiatry and Criminology, but that isn't the same as having clinical responsibility. So I am really grateful now that I have been to both extremes of thought disorder, and over time learned how to take responsibility for one patient myself! I have also had the advantage of having been a Christian life-long and privileged to know and love much of the Bible. Testing out my experiences against the theories of my trade, and both against Scripture, has been wonderfully strengthening and reassuring.

Scripture is the bedrock of understanding but for me, going through a valley that has the shadow of death has been necessary as well. I have been asked how I have found what I have learned as a psychologist to be consistent with Scripture. That is a big question, as the most helpful answer lies within philosophy, the discipline which links all the others and it is outside the scope of this offering.

Between them, reformational theology and philosophy have enthused me more and more over time, in enabling me to appreciate both the Bible story - God's story in which we are players who have its light to shed on our path, and the multifaceted, intertwined riches and coherence of creation.

This undergirds whatever understanding I have of my profession. My family is now a huge strength. If we have no family, members of God's family can be just as close to us. We can all strive to gain understanding about what Scripture is telling us, how all-encompassing the good news really is, our experiences of suffering, and our positive learning experiences in the specific areas to which we are called and life events we encounter.

The Spirit of Jesus helps us to do this. However, some of us have more personal baggage to dismantle than others before we gain sufficient insight to apply what we believe to our own individual needs. Finally, on a more light-hearted yet profoundly sustaining note, the dear friend who said, 'out of the blue' as we were happily setting off on an outing together, 'God wants us to enjoy life you know! It's not always easy for some of us, and it's often difficult for all of us who empathise with the many who are suffering from tyranny and its consequences.

But it doesn't make the world a better place if we refrain from delighting in God's good gifts. How Scripture makes sense of my experience. Being treated with dignity, and as if able to comprehend most things normally even while unbalanced, likely to be fine betweenwhiles, and recover fully at some point, is vital because we are made in the image of God.

As such, we need encouragement to live out that privilege as much as possible. Being allowed to suffer but then being restored. The book of Job is a favourite of mine. But Scripture often speaks of learning through suffering. Sinking low like Nebuchadnezzar but then coming back. He was reduced to the behaviour of an animal - humiliated to the point of scarcely being human. I often realised I was functioning at a really low level, and this is probably why at such times a behavioural approach i.

When I did not manage to function even at that level, I had to rely on physical treatment, worked for me in severe manic disorder. Satan is still on the prowl.

We can easily misuse God's gifts if we relinquish the use of our minds and drift. It is only in death that we let go completely - a victory for Satan were it not for the resurrection of the body that is to come. The saying that 'God helps those who help themselves' is a little closer to the teaching of Scripture, though neither is a saying of Scripture. Doing things even when we don't feel like it, which is much harder when we are depressed. Keeping God's commandments is not an option; it is what brings shalom for us and our children and children's children.

God's admonishments are not for some people but for all, and they suggest that we are capable of carrying them out and must spend our lives learning to do so. He gives strength when we move forward in obedience, however small our steps. God's commandments and admonitions are balanced by His compassion and provision for our failure to reach his standards.

This is especially a comfort at those times when we are weak and incapacitated, and motivates us to pick ourselves up and try, with the help of his Spirit, to serve Him better time and time again. The second part of Jesus' summary of the Law - to love with all its implications my neighbour and, equally, myself.

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These have often been played down in the teaching I have received from evangelical wing of the church, in its anxiety about underestimating God's sovereignty and grace, and about swinging too far in the direction of 'do-gooding'. It is exciting to see signs of a more balanced theology springing up in very many quarters. Obeying the command to love strengthens us in times of health, and if we do so as best we can in times of weakness as well.

The restoration of all things. The coming of God's Kingdom of justice and true freedom, that Christ has achieved and is achieving, gives me the greatest hope, and encouragement for continuing in well-doing and not growing faint. Jesus' miracles and amazing manner with everyone show us what he can achieve with us.

There's much more, of course, that needs to be said. There are endless riches to discover for our growth in the Word of God and in the unique lives and the time he gives us. He was reduced to the behaviour of an animal — humiliated to the point of scarcely being human. I often realised I was functioning at a really low level. This can be referred to as philosophical materialism and often leads either to behaviourism or some form of genetic determinism.

On this view we are minds-in-bodies and the mental and the physical are understood as being completely different substances. The approach which I prefer is in striking contrast with these two dominant perspectives that still prevail in unguarded psychological interpretations of research findings. A non-reductionist, pluralist philosophy seems to me much truer to life.