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

Another Sunday Rolls Around

Back in the day, I went to church and it was okay. It was never anything special until my husband, Stephen and I began going to The Gathering in downtown Dallas. The Gathering is a church for the “unhoused”. The homeless. The Gathering has changed our lives in so many ways. It has certainly changed the way I worship God and my attitude towards others.

The first time we went to The Gathering, it was the first or second week in September 2013. I admit I was a bit skeptical. No other church had really captured my heart. But, it wasn’t just the church I was skeptical of- I’d never been around “unhoused” people. I’d seen them on the street, sometimes hanging out by a 7-11 or similar store hoping to catch some change to get a cup of coffee or maybe even a meal. I  had never really spoken to any homeless people and like so many – I didn’t really even look at them- I had no money I could share and I didn’t want to feel guilty about not giving them anything.

That first Sunday we went to worship with the folks at The Gathering- well, it was just amazing- that’s the only word to describe it. The people, the folks I had never looked at, were welcoming, loving, grateful, happy and worshipped God with a fervor and an appreciation I’d never seen before. All at once, I was inspired to worship in the same way. I wanted the happiness and love they had found. I know what many are thinking- “they are happy, because they are addicts and/or mentally ill.” While some are addicts and some are mentally ill, that is not the happiness I’m talking about. It’s a high, but right then, that Sunday, it was a “high on God” I was witnessing.

My Sundays have been transformed from a “meh” kind of worship to an amazing kind of worship that lasts all week. I saw that even though many of the people worshipping have nothing, they are happy to worship with all their hearts each Sunday. This is what worship should be. God gives us the joy to worship Him this way. We just have to find it in order to do so.

I hope everyone has a place like The Gathering to call their own. There is no better feeling than to worship God on Sunday and have it last all week. Nothing better.

many unhoused people, much joy
many unhoused people, much joy
Father Charlie brings the sermon
Father Charlie brings the sermon

Understanding Cutters- Do You Know Someone Who Cuts?

I used a pocket knife smaller than this.
I used a pocket knife smaller than this.

It is not news to anyone I have bipolar disorder. I do not hide it and I have mentioned it more than once here on my blog.I don’t know if many people are aware, but some folks who have bipolar and other disorders of the mental variety are or have been cutters. Just in case you don’t know, cutters cut themselves for one specific reason,which I will explain. I was a cutter for a certain amount of time and  I feel qualified to speak out.

First, one may wonder why a person would cut themselves. Well, people cut  to feel something.Even if it is pain,it helps. It stings and stinging is to feel something. Medication, although wonderful these days,can leave you flat- like- having no feelings. For example, I tend to become terribly depressed, but also at times, very manic. I used to stay up for days during my manic periods- sleeping only a couple of hours a night. Once medication is prescribed, the depression and the mania meld into a non mood. One is not manic, not depressed, just blah. No one likes being blah. There is a feeling of nothingness deep inside that is difficult to deal with. That is why it is so important to let your doctor know when this happens. Then, the medication can be adjusted to allow feelings to come through- not necessarily the moods, but feelings of pleasure, pain, happiness, sadness.

Sometimes, with the lack of feelings- if I was alone or I had a run-in with someone, I might cut myself. I never cut deeply, as some do, and I only cut my hands- the palms to be exact. Because I had young children at that time, I reasoned, my hands were the safest place to cut since they wouldn’t see it. But, they did.

People have different triggers that lead them to cut, but it all hinges on trying to  feel something, somehow- anyhow. Their doctor needs to know. Encourage them to tell their doctor. They may or may not hospitalize them-but, more than likely, they will prescribe medicine that curbs the need to cut. Cutting can be very dangerous. Some people cut deeply and are transported to the hospital frequently to stitch up their wounds. I was not one of them.

I have not had the need to cut myself in a very long time. The doctor put me on the medication Risperdal which helped me stop. I hope this little missive gives an insight on what it is and what it means to be a cutter. The cutter is already ashamed of what they do. Gently help them . The next time they go to the doctor, offer to go with and tell the doctor or urge them to tell so they can get the help they need. Whatever you do, please don’t judge ,don ‘t nag, don’t yell. These things do not help-it only increases the need to cut.Should you know someone who cuts and you are not sure how to help, call a doctor, or a mental help line. Suicide is not what they are attempting in most cases- just a need to feel something.

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.