Saddling Mood Swings: A Pastor Comes to Grips with Bipolar Disorder
By Bill Sherman – World Religion Writer
To the hundreds of young people who have gone through children’s church at Evangelistic Temple in the last 16 years, he is simply Coach Tim, a high-energy guy who loves kids and is passionate about helping them.
The children never see another side of the Rev. Tim Reside, a two-decade struggle with a disease that has lifted him to the heights of delusional euphoria and plunged him into a hellish nightmare of depression.
Reside is BIPOLAR.
In an earlier time, he would have been called manic-depressive.
Nothing in his early life alerted him to the mental roller coaster he would step on in the spring of 1979. Active in his father’s Indiana church, he came to Tulsa with his young bride, Nancy, in 1971 to attend Oral Roberts University.
He was in full-time ministry with Tulsa Christian Fellowship while attending ORU part time, and in May 1978, moved to Springfield, Mo., to establish a ministry to students at Southwest Missouri State University. In early 1979, during a time of high stress and money problems, Nancy began to notice changes in her husband that alarmed her.
He began to sleep less and less, often just a few minutes a day, stopped eating regularly, and grew more and more excited. “He was starting to say things which didn’t make sense,” she said. “He’s always been Mr. Enthusiasm.”
Over a three-month period, January to April, his condition worsened. “I knew something was terribly wrong,” she said, “but I didn’t know what it was.” “I tried to talk to him, but he was so happy, so euphoric, he wouldn’t listen.”
Reside said he was feeling better and better over that three- month period, his mind flooded with new ideas and fresh insights, which he assumed were from God.”I was euphoric. I felt like I could do anything.”
As Reside became more delusional, he rented a car, bought three new suits on credit, and headed east to see a brother. On the way, his mind racing, he became convinced that he was receiving insights that then-President Carter would want to know, so he stopped in St. Louis and boarded an airplane to Washington, D.C.
“Had you sat down with me on the airplane, you’d have seen me as an intense, enthusiastic young man, but not crazy.”
He rented a hotel room near the White House and attempted to see Carter, who was out of the city at the time. He called Nancy in Tulsa from the hotel. Unable to get through to him, she put his father on the phone.
“He said to me, ‘Tim, this is your Dad.’ He repeated it three times.” “Then paranoia struck me,” Reside said. “I thought, ‘They’re coming to get me.'” Reside decided to go home and make his family understand he was OK.
Nancy met him at the Tulsa airport, friends came over to pray for him, and eventually a doctor friend of the family got him into the psychiatric ward at Osteopathic Hospital, now Tulsa Regional Medical Center. Reside left the hospital the next morning and went to the Tulsa Police Station downtown, where he told them he was trying to get away from a cult group.
After riding around town on a city bus, Reside went to see the Rev. Dan Beller, pastor of Evangelistic Temple, his parents’ church, because he thought Beller could mediate between him and his family.
While he was in the office, Beller alerted the family, who called the sheriff’s office, and two deputies took Reside to the psychiatric ward at St. John Medical Center.
He spent a month there, under heavy drugs, going into the opposite side of the BIPOLAR swing — deep depression.
“I was having nightmarish hallucinations,” he said. “I was terrified by what was happening; I couldn’t imagine how I could process life.” “I thought, how did I get into this hell?”
But in his darkest time, he said, he felt God say to him, “I’m still with you. I haven’t lost track of you.” “They were calling it a schizophrenic episode,” he said.
“They didn’t talk in terms of BIPOLARity then.” After his release, the Resides moved with their two small children into Fairmont Terrace subsidized housing because they were broke, and he was unable to think clearly enough to work. He later got a night job cleaning floors and toilets at McDonald’s.
“I was chasing cockroaches off my babies’ pillows at night,” Nancy said. Over the next 18 months, no longer on medication, his mood swings and depression gradually leveled off, and his mind cleared.
He did warehouse work, mowed lawns and moved into telephone sales at W.L. Walker Co. downtown, even taking some classes in accounting at Tulsa Junior College, now Tulsa Community College.
“One of the really great things about this time,” he said, “was I found out I could be a contented man mowing lawns. I found God in a special way during that time.”
“We still didn’t know what had happened,” he said. “We thought it was some kind of a nervous breakdown.”
“At Evangelistic Temple, we were realizing healing for our lives, and restoration.”
In 1980, Reside volunteered to help with the children’s program and in 1985 went to work full time for the church as associate pastor, responsible for the children’s ministry.
In January 1988, Nancy noticed Tim was spiraling again into the same pattern of less and less sleep, euphoria and grandiose insights.
One Sunday he delivered a 30- minute children’s sermon in which he rhymed every sentence. Other teachers who heard it were amazed, unaware it was a manifestation of the racing mind of a manic, he said. “I was confused by what I was seeing,” Nancy said,” and I was in denial. I didn’t want him to experience again the shame and humiliation he had been through.
“Finally I prayed, ‘Lord, if it’s not just me, if someone else is seeing this, have one of the pastors call me.'”
Almost immediately, another associate pastor called and asked, “Is Tim OK?” I just broke,” Nancy said. The pastoral staff confronted him, and he went back to the hospital, this time voluntarily.
During his month-long stay, doctors identified the problem as BIPOLAR disorder, a chemical imbalance in the brain that is probably genetic. For the first time, he knew what the problem was. He was treated with drugs and was functioning normally in a few months, a less severe trauma than the first episode a decade earlier.
“This (disease) has affected the whole family,” Nancy said. “I wasn’t aware (until later) of how it was affecting me emotionally.”
“The hardest thing,” Reside said, “was coming to the grips with the fact that you’ve caused tremendous pain to the ones you love.” Of his wife of 30 years, he said, “It’s amazing she hung on. It was by the grace of God.”
The Resides say they have learned a lot about God’s grace and help in difficult circumstances. Reside said that with God’s help, he and Nancy have learned to manage the disease.
He is careful about his medication, watches his stress level, avoids missing meals, takes naps often and sets aside time to rest and relax when his mind begins to speed up. Nancy has learned to nudge him gently when he needs a reminder to slow down.
His medication levels were reduced last year. It has been 13 years since his last manic episode.”I don’t anticipate ever having to go through that again,” Reside said.”It no longer has me saddled,” he said. “I’m saddling it.”