The Bi-Polar Psalmist?

Deborah Beach Giordano
© March 10, 2012

I waited patiently for the Lord, who finally answered my cries. He lifted me out of the dark and loathsome pit where I was stuck fast and set my feet upon a high cliff where I stood tall and secure.
    ~ Psalm 40:1-2

Reading this psalm today — after watching reports about the flight attendant who apparently suffered a psychotic break as a plane was preparing for departure — brings a new perspective. I hear the Scripture in a new and different way, and respond to the woman’s situation differently, as well.

The psalmist could be describing the experience of bipolar psychosis: the abrupt descents into bleak despair and equally sudden, unpredictable, soaring highs.

Modern pharmaceuticals can treat this illness, of course, and early reports suggest the American Airlines employee was “off her meds.” The medication evens out the ups and downs, allowing the patient’s life to travel along on an even keel.

But those who’ve experienced the high — the joys and laughter and boundless energy and sense of empowerment and intellectual brilliance … well, if you felt like that, would you ever want to come down from “the mountaintop”? And if regaining that enthusiasm and happiness was as easy as not taking some pills for a few days…..

It wasn’t right, but it is understandable. Who, amid these troubled times, wouldn’t want to feel cheery, optimistic, and unstoppable? But then the energy overmasters the mind and, like a nuclear meltdown, it goes out of control.

There have been many nasty comments directed at the passengers who giggled and joked among themselves as the plane returned to the terminal. But to my ears their laughter was the sound of relief. No one was amused. No one was gloating at another’s suffering.

We laugh, lest we cry. Humor is a normal human response to tension and terror. Our jokes cut our fears down to a manageable size; we mock what we’d like to ignore.

In her madness the woman was driven to admit what we, in our well-adjusted silence, would never say. She spoke of fears of aircraft safety and of job loss, of the constant dis-ease in our land since 9/11, of being frightened and helpless and out of control. Like the “crazy” ancient prophets, she brought out into the open the issues no one wants to face.

We live in fearful times. And we are Christians. Our faith should be strong enough to confront the terrors, to admit the troubles, and to seek to heal, to bless, and to change what is to what may yet be. A world shaped by compassion, love, peace, and understanding: it’s not a crazy dream — it’s the Holy Kingdom we’ve been called to build.

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About inklingscommunity

I am a struggling Christian, committed pacifist, near-obsessive recycler, incurable animal lover, inveterate tree-hugger; a nature mystic, a socialized introvert, an advocate for the vulnerable, an opponent of exploiters.
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