This is my first wilderness mental health talk! 🙂 It is on the topic of bipolar religiosity. Bipolar disorder is a serious mental illness marked by swings in mood between manic highs and depressive lows. I spent fifteen years of my life alternating between bouts of extreme fundamentalist Christian religious belief and periods of doubt and unbelief marked by severe alcoholism and drug abuse. I understand now that those swings in belief and behavior were strongly tied to the bipolar disorder that I didn’t know I had at the time. When I was manic, I was extremely religious. When I was depressed or on a more even emotional keel, I was out of church and I was drinking and using drugs.
I know that the religious feelings I get when I’m manic aren’t actually real, but it’s still difficult not to get caught up in it all. I would swear that I feel the presence of God, but the reality is that it’s not for real. When the mania dies down, so will the religious beliefs. Bipolar mania can range from extremes such as believing that you are God or Jesus or some famous prophet to just having strong religious feelings. That’s what it is for me. Just very strong religious feelings. But that’s probably because I have the less severe Type 2 form of the illness. While the manic religious feelings have often manifested as Christian fundamentalism, I have also had bouts of manic religiosity that showed up as a strong interest in Eastern religion. A few years ago, I was so involved in Eastern religious beliefs that I considered converting to Hinduism. I made a meditation room out of one of my closets, covered the walls with Hindu art, and meditated and chanted in that room. I even attended a Hindu temple a couple of times. But, of course, once the bipolar mania died down, so did the religious beliefs.
I made this video while I was hiking out in the wilderness close to Eagle River, Alaska, on April 8, 2016.
A few years ago, I wrote a book about bipolar religiosity and my experiences with it. You can find it here: http://www.amazon.com/Bipolar-Religiosity-Disorder-Religious-Experience/dp/1489571108.