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My battle with bipolar disorder: God makes healthy what He doesn't heal

An undated image of the human brain taken through scanning technology. | REUTERS/Sage Center for the Study of the Mind, University of California, Santa Barbara/Handout

“My mind’s inescapable and constant recognition of my own frailty, weakness, and eventual death…I long for my life to have clearly defined meaning and purpose. Didn’t God have a plan for me when I was born? But I can’t escape my daily confusion, anxiety, irritation, darkness, and stress. What am I to do?”— Scott W. Box, Journal, 2011

I pressed the pads of my thumb and middle finger together against my red pen until I could see distinct areas of bright pink and white under my skin. My journal is full of red ink. I have used red ink for 15 years. I can still see the evidence that I printed the above October 2011 journal entry with a red-faced force that nearly drove my pen through the paper. Red ink spills through the backside of the page.

But just like the 30 days prior, and every foreseeable day in the near future, I was seeing my life that day through shades of red as well. I’m not exaggerating; those chaotic days drove me into deep fear and right to the edge of hopelessness. I burned with anger. Despair was pulling at my toes. 

You might expect a man with bipolar disorder to speak in terms of black and white. But no matter, when I was in either a moderate to extreme, low or high mood, I figuratively saw red everywhere — sometimes I raged in irritation, sometimes I raged in depression. So with only a handful of exceptions, I poetically lived all of my life with bloodshot eyes. I felt like I was a purposeless “waste of material.” 

There is purpose in getting healthy

Reflecting on my experience with bipolar, I never did completely lose hope.  I was just arrogant enough to believe God still had something important for me to accomplish in life. No exaggeration. 

Today, I have learned that it is easy for me to confuse a person’s purpose with their ego. Jesus was a man of enormous purpose. His purpose was misidentified as His ego then as much as it is today. But I learned a powerful lesson from Jesus Christ that saw me through my reddest of days: I have a specific purpose. That purpose matters to the world around me just as much as it matters to God that I fulfill my purpose. My purpose is no one else’s. And that purpose requires of me a responsibility to do whatever it takes to get healthy, manage my bipolar disorder, and pour myself out for the good of others. 

So, as twisted as my understanding of God, Jesus and the Bible might have been at times in my campaign with bipolar, I have always believed achieving health was worth any emotional or spiritual bloodbath I would have to endure. Paradox? Yes. But I always knew my heart would keep pumping the blood of life through my veins until my purpose was attained.

I was tested, but I decided I would not end the pain I was enduring to get outof pain. I would not allow my sick mind and sick thoughts to lead me into that sick choice. Call me delusional, but I would go through all the pain God believed was necessary to be the hero I was born to be. 

No, I didn’t always reach for or achieve health. I wasn’t even close to perfect. I made many unhealthy choices. But my trajectory was always aimed at health as the goal. And that was the amazing truth: It was the actual pain of my bipolar disorder experience that kept me connected and reliant upon Jesus Christ. Pain kept me grounded. Pain kept me sharp; sharp enough that despair never overtook me. Ultimately, spiritual purpose captured my heart. 

Health is always an option, even when healing isn’t possible

Years before I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder type II, I set out to understand why I was so desperate. I was longing for something seemingly elusive. Eventually, there were many signs that something was very unhealthy in my mind, body, and spirit. I was a high-functioning train wreck…until I became just an ordinary train wreck. But I was driven every day by an ache to answer the question, “There has to be more to life than just ‘this,’ right?” Every. Single. Day. 

And that led me to one of the most potent realities about my journey. There was one thing I longed for and cherished that eventually became the one thing I needed to always be on guard to manage: hypomania. The joy of the euphoria that always accompanied hypomania ushered away most of my inhibitions and made me into a self-proclaimed genius savant. But, always the curse of hypomania loomed — the dark slide into depression. 

Before the inevitable slide downward, my seemingly innocent but ridiculously potent delusions associated with my hypomanic experiences functioned like desert mirages. Hypomanic episodes built up and caused painful false hope. False hope — that I could somehow save myself — always caused me to lose emotional footing and flail in torturous anxiety. Then my family paid the price.

They paid the price when I was up and when I was down. Not attaining those ghostlike destinations or goals caused me to feel like a fraud. And because I didn’t understand true friendship with Jesus, I was in fact a spiritual fraud. And I always felt like a fraud because I wasn’t living as a perfect Christian. All of it made me see life in flaming bright, bright red. 

But I am proof that God makes healthy what He does not heal. I have learned that health is always an option, even when healing is not possible. One of the men crucified next to the Great Hero, Jesus Christ, asked Jesus to remember him in paradise (Luke 23:42). He became a believer at the last moment of his life. He is proof that health can be achieved even when healing is an absurdity. I had to let that sink in even as I wrote it today.

You see, I am a man who pursues and reflects Jesus. But I also have bipolar disorder and I am not healed. Yet I am healthy. And my purpose has yet to be fulfilled. My adventure is not complete. So purpose lies ever before me. So does hope. 

I conceded, maybe I am lost in a desert of bipolar hypomanic-induced heroic mirages. I understand this is a possibility. But I am medicated and balanced chemically. So I do wonder what it could be. And I am confident I know the answer. I’ve learned that I must always make my choices based on hope. Yes, it may seem derivative, fine, but there will always be hope because there is always purpose — only because there has been, is, and always will be a Great Hero. Jesus Christ is this Hero. So because of Christ’s example of heroism and “disgraceful” death, this means the opposite is also true: 

Unending purpose creates unending hope. Call me delusional. Call me “lost in a desert mirage.” Fine. But I call it the path of heroic disgrace. I’ve now lived many healthy years of my life on that path. I know it’s real. 

Telling my story about how I wrestled with God to answer the desperate question I had about my purpose was how I gave meaning to my pain while I was in the red-hot crisis of my bipolar disorder. Telling my story about how I wrestled with God along that pathway helped me make sense of my life and purpose. Living the lifestyle and sharing the story of HEROIC DisGRACE is my red-hot purpose.

I love it when the beginning links to the end in harmony: In my Bible, the words of the Great Hero, Jesus Christ, are written in red. Jesus Christ’s red words highlight that heroic disgrace is the exact purpose and pathway I am to walk, the adventure I am to live, and the story I am to tell. The Great Hero has absorbed me into His eternal and hopeful promises — His red words carry endless promise. Come along on this red-letter paved journey of heroic disgrace with me. 

Heroic Disgrace is available on AudibleAmazonBarnes & Noble and Target. Additional information about Box is found through his ministry, Worship Hero, on Facebook, Instagram and

Scott W. Box is the founder of the ministry, Worship Hero. His mission is to change the way people understand and practice worship by providing tools to "Pursue Jesus. Reflect Jesus." as a habit leading to hope; to live lifestyles of heroic disgrace. He lives in Central Oregon with his wife Kariann, daughter Ainsley and son Titus. They share their home with a four-pound dog that has no teeth. 

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