Ryan Eamer’s testimony
I was brought up as a Christian since I was seven. I met the Lord Jesus when some evangelists had a tent in a caravan park and I went and did some arts and crafts, as well as learning about God and His Son. So essentially I don’t remember a time that I wasn’t a believer. My mum was converted by my best friend’s mother when I was in pre-primary.
We originally went to Warwick Church of Christ where I went to Sunday School and learnt more about God’s love for me. When I was 10, my mum re-married and we moved church to Rhema, which is now known as Riverview. I also attended the school that was associated with that church for grades five, six and seven. Here (and at church) I started to get a better grasp on the scriptures, and learnt under some very godly men.
Then I began high school at Willetton, where I maintained my Christian ethos and values but my personal relationship with God began to wane. This coincided with my mum having a mental breakdown; a bipolar episode, that left her in a locked ward for a few weeks. I was angry at God for allowing someone who is so committed to Him to suffer so much. Also, she had been attending a women’s group that was a bit cultish and I just decided to ‘throw the baby out with the bath water.’ Whenever my mum would mention God (which was a lot) my typical response was “I don’t want to hear about that God crap.” I never questioned His existence; but I was beginning to question His love and grace.
Then when I was 19 I got hit with the black dog of suicidal depression. After trying a whole host of anti-depressant medication, with only minimal help, one day my mum left a book on my bed called “Finding Hope Again”, by Dr Neil Anderson. It looked at the biochemical side of depression, that it needed to be treated with medication, the need for psychological intervention, and the spiritual component. I read the part about using meds and agreed whole-heartedly. The psychology side of things I was willing to tackle, even though it sounded a bit wimpy. Now when I got to the next part, I smiled and was actually happy, not just putting on a persona, for the first time in years. The book explained how your sense of self-worth cannot be determined by anything you do. If you get and maintain your confidence only when performing well with your studies, what happens when you fail a unit? If your self-esteem stems from your career or accomplishments, what if you lose your job or fail to meet the standards you set for yourself? If you get it from your children, what if one of them dies? In my case, it was performance in anything and everything that dictated it. It was even what friends thought of me or how I perceived friends to think of me.
So I came to see that a sense of self-worth and confidence had to be anchored immutably. There had to be some foundation, something that wouldn’t change no matter what variables were thrown at us. I found this in the love that God has for His children. No matter what I do, good or bad, how I perform, He loves me the same. Finding this hope is what made me smile, and immediately I wanted to read more of Dr Anderson’s material, and this was the impetus behind me wanting to go to Bible College, to learn how to help people in similar situations. It didn’t remove my depression, obviously, but the weight of it was reduced dramatically.
So I enrolled in Bible School at Trinity Theological College, and two years later received a Bachelor of Theology. I was really on fire for God, immersing myself in prayer and the Word daily to learn more about His character revealed in the scriptures, through the person of His precious Son.
I recently watched a Steven Fry documentary on bipolar. Bipolarity, Bipolar Affective Disorder, Manic Depression, however one wants to label it, is associated with exhilarating drug-like highs followed by deep states of depression. One thing that frustrated the hellfire out of me in this show is a lot of people who were asked the question, “If you could push the button and not have this disease, would you push it?” A lot of them said they would not push the button, ie, they would rather live with the illness.
Now, you have to remember, in 2009 I purposely took my hands off the wheel driving 120 km/hr down Roe highway, holding DOWN the accelerator, singing at the peak of my voice with all the adrenaline in the world, thinking Jesus would drive the car home for me, and if not, I would get to go be with Him for eternity anyway, which I so long for. I also said in my heart, “If you are real, God, you will prove it by keeping me safe.” BAM!
One millisecond of pain from the impact, then I’m in absolute tranquility. I was upside down in the car, giggling as I called my mum and told her I was in an accident, and to tell Jessie that I was fine. Not a scratch on me. I wasn’t sure if I was in Heaven because of how nice the feeling was, but I couldn’t reconcile this with the fact that I was still crunched up in the car. It’s hard to know what part shock played into my feelings and what part was the mania.
When the ambulance and police and everyone came and they said they were going to get me out the back window of the car, I said, “Don’t worry, I can fly out the roof.” I wasn’t joking either. I possessed a firm confidence that an action like this would be a piece of cake. By the time I got out, a group of people had gathered around. I was left with a few things to ponder. If I was still left here on earth, what was my role? So then the cops asked me if I was on drugs. I said yes (I’m a pretty honest person, sometimes to a fault). They said, “What?” I proceeded to rattle off the antidepressant and anti-insomnia concoction I was currently on. They seemed more worried about what happened to the car and why I did what I did than whether I was okay.
When they asked me why I did what I did, I said, “It was a test of my faith.” I asked them if I could have a minute to sit down and process it all. At one point I remember saying, “You didn’t believe Him when He came either, so why would you believe me?” I went over to the people waiting around on the side of the road and one of them had a dog. People who know me know I love animals more than anything, more than humans. I went up and cuddled that dog like you wouldn’t believe and felt a huge connection with him like I’ve never known before. I also had this uncanny ability to perceive people’s disposition towards me without them even having moved or spoken. It was like some sort of stance of the soul. I have no idea how to describe it. Yeah, “stance of the soul”. Words are my tool.
Anyway, I got it right every time. For example, some ambulance officers were nice, some were harsh, and I knew immediately which it was going to be. Some needed to check my spine and would be nice about it, the others were rough, but I could sense it before they spoke or made eye contact. I told them I had zero injuries and that my body felt better than it has ever felt in my life. They weren’t willing to take that risk (obviously), so they strapped me up and took me to the hospital. I remember in the ambulance I looked at one or two of the guys riding along with me, who I thought were angels and said, “Can you read minds as well?” The Bible does say that angels exist on earth and sometimes take on human form, depending on how you interpret certain passages. Then they laughed and said, “No we can’t read minds.” They obviously weren’t angels, but this was how my brain was processing things and trying to piece things together.
Once we reached the hospital, and they wheeled me through, I asked one of them if they could call Jessie, but they said it was a bit late and they didn’t want to wake her up. I thought this was the wrong move because she would be worried about me, and she told me the next day when she spoke to me that she knew something had happened.
They got me up on the bed to examine me. I asked a few of the nurses if they were Christians and they replied in the affirmative. So I told them what happened and they reminded me that you shouldn’t test God (Deuteronomy 6:16 and Luke 4:12). They did some spinal scans et cetera and had told me everything looked okay. I was still elated the next day when I got out of my bed in the hospital after having some breakfast, but the intensity had dropped to a degree. I now didn’t think I was in Heaven but I KNEW God existed instead of being 99.9999 per cent sure. I called Jessie and told her, “We worship a great God.”
She asked me what happened and said she knew something was wrong when I didn’t call her. I wandered into the TV room to see if there was anything about the accident on the news. While I was there, one of the nurses said that the radiology dude may have over-looked something minor so they put me in bed with a full neck brace et cetera. I wondered why my mum hadn’t come to visit me, but she was apparently communicating with the hospital and they said they would call her back. I had my phone so I called my friend Cherie who I met in Bible College. She always had my back and still does. She came in and was feeding me while I had this big-ass neck brace on and that’s when I started to come down.
I didn’t fall into depression at all (because I was on Lamotrigine, which is a mood stabiliser, that effectively treated the depressive mood swings in my particular case). I just thought to myself, now I’m going to have people feeding me my whole life. I wasn’t that worried about not being able to do it properly, but about inconveniencing everyone. Plus, I was looking forward to my new writing project in Japan. Anyway, this is all to show that, regarding the symptoms of bipolar, I have experienced the elation and adrenaline rush like nothing else (before the accident) and the Heavenly peace and tranquility (after the accident). So anyone who says they would still take the trade-off has never been into the depths of depression as I have, if that’s the case. I find it sickening to think about anyone who says they would not push the button to take away this illness.
Still, I really experienced the warmth of God and a very real sense of His presence that I had never experienced before and haven’t again. It was truly amazing, and so vivid.
In late 2010 I had my first psychotic episode, and a host of them to follow. I was subsequently diagnosed a schizophrenic and locked up in hospital for about a month, going in and out of the emergency department at Sir Charles Gairdner hospital. A layman hearing the term psychotic could conjure up images in their head of a gun-man on a roof, killing school children as they left the classroom. In reality, psychosis is a severe mental disorder in which thought and emotions are so impaired that contact with objective external reality is lost. When someone becomes ill in this way it is called a psychotic episode. Psychosis can lead to changes in mood and thinking and to abnormal ideas where one can no longer trust their senses.
Throughout this period in hospital, I experienced a lot of spiritual warfare, even seeing a nurse that I believed was demon possessed. I spent most of each and every day in my room in fear, reading the Bible and memorizing passages. My faith was the only thing I felt I could hold onto and trust, because schizophrenia makes one paranoid, and I didn’t even trust my closest family members. I thought they were “imposters.”
When I was finally released from hospital I still wasn’t well, but I returned to work nonetheless. I was also probably the closest I’ve ever been to God. I still relapse every now and then, but overall I praise God that He is sustaining me through my mental health problems. We worship a mighty God.