My Husband, I Think I’ll Keep Him

I want to take this opportunity to brag on my husband a little bit… or maybe a lot. For the most part, he is the kindest, most gentle man I know. You  might think that most women would say that about their husbands, but mine has a proven track record.

As most of you know, I have had my struggles with bipolar disorder. I’m not ashamed of it. It’s part of me, but it definately does not define me. However, there was a time when I was really a pretty sick little chick. I heard voices, I was mean, I was afraid, I was another person. My husband did his best to help others understand I was not myself, that something had happened down the way and I was not the girl he married. Even when I divorced him, he stood by me. I moved to Granger, Texas to live my life separate from him. I had a boyfriend (who no one but me liked), but I went home each and every  weekend I could. Stephen let me stay at the house, took me places, fed me, helped me. I ended up divorcing him anyway. It wasn’t I was a mean and ugly person, I was sick and lost.

When I moved back to Dallas, my husband let me move into our house. I gave him checks for rent, which he didn’t always cash, and I was grateful for being there. He had worked in the mental health industry when he lived in England long years ago. He knew how to help me, how to comfort me when I was afraid.

Many people told him he should just let me go, he should divorce me, move on and find someone else, but he was adamant that the person I was , was not the person he married. He prayed, and prayed some more, he hung in there with me and he loved me despite myself. Then, on Valentines Day, 2000, he asked our children for their permission to remarry me. We remarried on April 22, 2000. I was still not 100% whole, but I was getting there. And he stayed with me during times when my own mother didn’t know who I was. Not too many husbands would stand by their wives when they are not mentally there. My husband did and I’m so grateful he did.

So, this blog post is for him as is all my love. If you have a relative who has a mental illness, hang in there with them, pray for them and love them. They will appreciate you more than you will know.

Thank you , Stephen for hanging with me. It’s been quite the ride and I know it will continue to be for lots of years to come! I love you!11060902_10205518916603978_4508978859742893733_o

Times-They are Emotional

A problem with folks with bipolar disorder, like me is sometimes there are just too many emotions -sometimes all at once. This past weekend was like that for me.

Friday, my cousin posted the first photo we’ve (meaning our generation)  have ever seen  of our grandfather (my mother’s dad). It was one of the most weirdly emotional things I’ve ever felt. I saw my grandaddy’s photo with his teammates- he was a pitcher for Southern Methodist University’s baseball team in 1919- and I was instantly excited and sad all at once. He died in 1955- two years before I was born. He was persona non grata in ours and my mother’s siblings’ houses. Apparently, he stayed drunk most of the time and once went on a bender and never came back. Sad , really as he was a doctor and even gave up his practice (as far as I know) for drink.  At any rate, he was never talked about and we never had any answers about him.

I found his death certificate when I was a member of ancestry.com. I felt such a weird profound sadness for this man I never knew but was a part of. He passed away from lung cancer which had metastisized to his brain and pneumonia. I began to wonder if my mother and her brothers and sisters knew when he died, if they cared or not. Then I wondered if he died alone. I was so sad to think he could  have.

Saturday, my husband found a video with my mother,sister and son in law in it. They all passed away just a couple of years after the video was made.It’s kind of funny because when someone dies, you’d give anything to see them again- to hear their voices. But, I found it to be unbelievably sad. I longed for my mother more when I saw her on the film than when I can’t see her. How odd is that? Same for my sister and son -in- law. I wonder why that is?  See what I mean about the emotions? So excited to see them and hear their voices and laughs, but so sad that I couldn’t have more. I don’t think I meant to be greedy- maybe it’s just natural to long for people who have gone on before you.

Sunday found me mad at the world. Today, I am not quite myself, but almost. I don’t really think people are built for such a range of emotions as this.

Over and Done- For Now

The crash is finally over. I began to feel better when I woke up this morning and feel even better now. It begins when a smile finds itself creeping upon my face. Maybe my eyes squint when I feel the smile on my lips. It’s a feeling of wellness felt deep down -a feeling that hell has left my body, my soul and I can breathe a little bit.

Crashing from a manic phase is – well, it is almost indescribable- except to say I feel no joy, no hope, nothing. Not flat- just lower than low.  When it is finished and I’m back to my old self – well, there is nothing more amazing.

If you wonder why I carry on so about bipolar, what it’s like, how it feels, – well, it’s to educate anyone and everyone. Back when I was diagnosed, every time there was a shooting in Dallas, it was a person with “bipolar.” Well, I’m here to let everyone know we are not all violent offenders. We are regular people trying to deal with a somewhat devastating condition not only for us, but for our families. Bipolar affects tens of millions of people and some very famous people such as Vincent Van Gogh, Vivien Leigh , of Gone with the Wind fame, newslady Jane Pauley, Carrie Fischer  and the list goes on and on. These people struggled to keep their lives going despite the peaks and valleys. If they can, I know I can and so can you.

Vivien Leigh
Vivien Leigh
Artistic genius Van Gogh
Artistic genius Van Gogh
Jane Pauley
Jane Pauley

Just Like the Theater Masks

theater masksFor some, bipolar disorder is entertaining. It is for me everytime I have a manic phase. Manic phases are like being hyperactive. It’s fun, exciting and everyone laughs. Then, the crash. Lower than low, tears flowing, keeping to yourself and isolation – not so entertaining It’s kind of like the theater masks you see from time to time. One minute laughing , one minute later- crying. It’s confusing not only to the family- but to the one afflicted with the disease.

Yesterday, I was as happy as a lark- having more fun than a barrel of monkeys. Today- not so much. It is rather curious to me how one’s brain can do that. How weird is it that one day, a person can be fine and the next- wake up lower than the digs of a snake?

I am fortunate in that it doesn’t happen as often as it used to. Oh my. Literally, my mood would change from minute to minute- hour to hour. No one knew what to expect. I would imagine it was very frightening to my family. Just when they thought they could kid around with me–I’d blow up or cry or scream. It’s a bit like watching the movie, Sybil. The lady who had so many different personalities and was finally integrated into one. The mind can play amazing games and tricks. But , it can protect one from the most hurtful and harmful things by wiping them from your memory. I am not clear on all or even some of the things that occurred while trying to find out I had bipolar disorder. My family will ask sometimes-“Do you remember when we did this or that?” And I cannot remember . It’s my brain’s way of protecting me from remembering the bad times or the times that hurt me the most.

One of those times, in particular , was my dad’s funeral. I know I was there. I don’t remember any of it. I couldn’t tell you anything about the funeral except they sang “How Great Thou Art.” I cried every time  I heard that song thereafter. I’m okay wih it now.

Anyway, should you know anyone who has bipolar, please know it is as hard on them as it is on you. Pray for them and for me. We need it!

Uncomfortable? Think of Other Guy

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An old Scottish pastor, upon hearing I have Bipolar disorder, asked me what it felt like. I’d never really had anyone ask me what it “felt like.” I’m not sure there are words for it. But, pictured here is what it  looks like.  I have been stable with medication for a while. But, I painted these two examples of what bipolar is and what it feels like only yesterday. “But,” you may be thinking, “You just said you were stable.” Well, see that’s the whole thing about bipolar.

Bipolar means manic depression. Some folks may be more depressed – some more manic. And still more may be mixed-yep, depressed AND manic at the same time.  And that’s where it gets complicated. That’s when there are no words to describe it because iit all becomes too much. Too many feelings racing through my head, too many things that irritate and agitate me- too much noise, too much frustration- just too much. Overwhelming sadness, overwhelming hyperactive behaviour- all at once. Organizing, cleaning, music, laughter, crying- all symptoms of mania.

Overwhelming, crippling sadness, the inability to get out of bed, the inability to care, the inability to move.The tears, the screaming, both in my head and out of my mouth.

A call to my doctor decreases a med here and maybe add a med there. An atypical anti psychotic, she says. “I don’t want to if i can get away from it,” I say.” It makes me feel flat, takes away my imagination, my ability to write, communicate and paint. My creativity gone- in one fell swoop. That is why folks diagnosed with bipolar don’t stay on the meds they are prescribed. Ridiculously expensive and highly effective as far as curbing the feelings, non-feelings, voices, weird behaviour and activity, they come with a bevy of side effects not the least of which is flat affect or no real feelings at all. More of a numbness. So, the plight of the mentally ill  is basically too many feelings, thoughts and more or none.

I have a wonderful psychiatrist who has worked with me for long about 20 years or more now and my therapist is so in tune to the cycles in my mind. She can usually help me ward them off before they actually come to the surface. I waited too long to go see her this time. I’ll know better next time.

Mental illness is debilitating at best. I have tried to use words to describe what happens- what goes on- but it is difficult helping a non-mentally ill person sort it out. The triggers that set a mentally ill person off may be nothing to someone else. That is why it is so difficult to understand and so difficult to relate to. It is like folks say, ” Just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not a disease.”

People are sometimes not nice to people like me. I don’t really have that problem since i’ve been stable. But, just let me cycle- let me go manic or depressed and then some people think “pulling myself up by my bootstraps ” should do the job. Righty-o. Please try to have patience, empathy and if nothing more than a modicum of understanding if you see someone on the streets talking to themselves, making gestures to no one in particular. If you think it is uncomfortable for you- imagine what it is for us.