Present Day, February 26th, 2017

The Big Three: Medications. Sleep. Therapy.

I have heard it time and time again. These are not the ONLY secrets to managing Bipolar or just about any other mental illness. However, they are three CRITICAL ones. In other words, do these three things right…and you are heading down a good path. Neglect them…and just about all other efforts will not likely make up the difference.

There is a catch tough. Probably more than one. But the one I am thinking of today is that they each carry a degree of humiliation to them.

Medications? I take a disgusting amount of pills every day, am practically a zombie by 10 p.m. at night, and live my life in the position of having to be held accountable to the periodical question “Have you taken your meds?”

Sleep? I take naps like a toddler. I wear a Fitbit to make sure I average out the necessary amount to keep my sanity somewhat in check. Like a teenager with an early curfew, I rarely get to “stay up late” and often pay a price if I do.

Even therapy has its humiliation. And I am not even talking about the phrases that exist in my life referring to having my own personal “therapist” or having to get to a “doctor appointment”¬†every other week or sharing how “therapy went today.”

I am talking about the cold realities that therapy can put you through during the best of times. Because it is a reminder. Sometimes a slap in the face, that I am fucked up between the ears, as well as somewhere extending down into my heart (or soul, or wherever you ascribe as the seat of our feelings).

That was especially the case this past week. My wife joins me for therapy roughly once a quarter. It is a chance to make sure everyone is on the same page, and for my therapist (who…let me be clear, I greatly appreciate and enjoy meeting with) to see if there are any hidden issues that should be addressed. This time around I knew we would be addressing the management and handling of my next crisis experience. That’s right, no matter how good I was going to be feeling walking into those doors, we were going to address the when…not the if…of me losing my shit again. Because we all know I will.

As is often the case, following the session my wife and I grabbed an early dinner. A chance to debrief. To unwind from the tension the session can create.

By that point, I had entered a rather sober, somewhat discouraged place. We had just spent an hour talking about how my keys would be taken from me and locked in a safe that I didn’t have the combination to in order to ensure that I didn’t run away or park my truck in the garage with the door closed and a hose in the window. We had talked about whether I had the ability to load any of the antique guns in the house and blow my own brains out. We had talked about how I was allowed to sequester myself in the bedroom, but if I walked out the door my wife would have an acceptable authority to call the police and notify them that I was a danger to myself…and possibly others.

I’m pretty sure that you aren’t normal (and truly are insane) if that type of a conversation doesn’t sober you up a bit. Was it necessary? You bet. But so is sleep and medication. Doesn’t keep any of them from being at least somewhat humiliating.

Present Day, February 14th, 2017

A Valentine to My Wife,

First, the most important thing a Valentine should say, I. Love. You. Stealing a phrase you once gave to me, “You have my whole heart.” At least, all of it that I know how to give.

People like me, with mental illness, are often the unseen millions. However, if that is the case, there is a much greater unseen tens of millions of spouses, loved ones, family members and friends that stand by us each and every day. People like you that care for people like me.

People that cry themselves to sleep after we have broken your heart yet again. People that collapse in exhaustion after holding up the household when we let it down. People that fight for us to live when we would just as soon die.

I appreciate you reading a book with me to help us manage my illness (The Bipolar Relationship, Bloch). I appreciate you attending a class to learn how to walk with me (courtesy our local NAMI chapter). I appreciate you driving to Chicago to retrieve a husband who had abandoned you, scared you, and left you almost without hope because he couldn’t find any within himself.

All of us, the ill, wish that we could promise all of you, the partners, that the worst is behind us…but it probably isn’t. We wish we could promise the pain won’t come back, but it almost certainly will. We wish we could promise that there is nothing to fear, dread or be leary of. And whilst those are no ways to live life…the future likely holds plenty to make each of those emotions reasonable.

However, on this day, this is what I can promise you…you have my heart. My love. My life.

Happy Valentine’s Day from one crazy heart to another. 

I. Love. You.