Love Through Bipolar

This post might be triggering, as it discusses loving someone with a mental illness, so here is the official **TRIGGER WARNING** Topics discussed in this post include bipolar disorder and loss.

I Was Enchanted

I could go on for a while about all the good things about Jake because there were so many.

But yet, he struggled, like many of us do. When I met him, I really had no idea. Mental illness really isn’t the first thing most people talk about when they first meet someone. In fact, our first conversation was about Julian. However, ADHD and autism is a whole different story from bipolar disorder.

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Jake had beautiful blue eyes and a smile that would melt your heart. I didn’t know that he hid so much, even up until the very last day I saw him, the day before he died.

Meds and the Truth

I’ve tried many medications for migraines and one just happened to be Depakote. This is also used to treat mental health illnesses, including bipolar disorder. We were talking about this one day and finally…

I take that too, but not for migraines.”

What?? Was this it? I’d been waiting for Jake to say something. I’d seen signs of something going on, but I wasn’t sure what. Sometimes we would talk constantly and then go days without speaking. His birthday had just gone by and instead of wanting to hang out, he had said he’d rather be alone. He’d even told me he considered himself as a “project” for me to take on. I didn’t see him like that at all and made sure he knew it.

“What do you take it for?”

He looked away for a minute and then back. “Because I have bipolar disorder.”

Well, then, that was explained. He actually asked me if that changed how I felt about him (nope, not even a little). Apparently, this had caused issues in the past. Some people just aren’t equipped to deal with it, but that’s still really painful for the person involved.

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“The stakes are high, the water’s rough..” – “Ours”, Taylor Swift

Jake’s darker side did make a few appearances, but never once did he get aggressive towards me. We argued a bit, but that’s it. In two years, he only yelled at me twice. Me? More. But then, I’m just naturally loud.

Meds? It’s a well-known fact that many people that have bipolar disorder (and other illnesses) have compliance issues with taking medications, and he was one of them. Along with his brother, I tried to remind and encourage him to take his medications, but it didn’t always work.

Jake and I learned how to read each other- I have always been good at reading others. Thanks to this skill, I was able to tell when he was or wasn’t taking his meds, or when he was or wasn’t having a good day. This helped on his end when I was deeply upset and didn’t want to talk.

He tried so hard to hide this from me, but I still saw everything. I told him that I wasn’t scared of what he was trying to hide. I needed to see it to know what I was dealing with. There were days he just wasn’t the person I knew. He wouldn’t talk or return my texts, but everything was in his eyes.

In his manic episodes, he’d barely sleep, get paranoid (this went really bad a couple months before he died and we didn’t speak for a month), and other things would happen. In a depressive episode, he basically shut down. I would literally have to wait for him to come out of these periods.

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Google Became My Friend

I started researching. I knew a lot already about mental illness, but how to love someone with one? Totally clueless. I learned to give Jake his space, even though it hurt. I made sure he knew I was there when he needed me. I learned not to take everything so deeply, especially if he was agitated and it just wasn’t him. None of this was easy, and it hurt so much to watch him struggle.

This wasn’t perfect, not from the first day. Let’s start with the fact that I’m married. Jake was a huge flirt, and that’s a whole different post. I had to learn that just because he didn’t show me that he cared in the ways I thought he should have didn’t mean he didn’t care at all. He just cared differently. He made sure I took my migraine meds and had breakfast at work, asked me daily how Julian was doing, let me cry, and among many other things, he cared about me for me. That is the best thing he could have done. I did exactly the same for him.

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I know you can’t love someone out of a mental health situation, but you can definitely help them through it. Love helps with that. Jake was a bit quiet and distant in the days before his death, but none of us saw anything like what would happen on September 1, 2015, coming.

It is entirely possible to love someone with a mental illness. Just remember to take care of yourself, don’t let them get away with everything because of whatever they may have and as always, reach out if you need to.

NAMI

DBSAlliance

Tips for Teaching Kids About Disappointment

Kids learn a lot of lessons- not all of them are fun. They learn that if they don’t listen to us, they can get hurt, in trouble, or just maybe, we were right.

They also have to learn about disappointment. Yikes. This can happen after not being able to go out with a friend, not being picked for a team or even after finding out that the store is out of a toy/DVD/something else they wanted. It’s not fun to see the look on their face, but it’s a part of life, right?

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Bouncing Back from Let Down

Learning to bounce back is a skill that kids will need to hang onto for life, so it’s important to learn this lesson early. They need to learn that it is okay to ask others for support, communicate in an appropriate way and stay optimistic. It’s best to start with the basics. Some of the following information is from Parents Magazine

  • Teach your child that some things can be changed and some things cannot be changed.  For example, if a storm ruins a trip to the park, explain to your child that we can’t control the rain, but offer a different solution. Also remind them that a tantrum or other negative actions (like whining, my personal pet peeve) will not get them what they want. If your child sulks, choices can save the day.
  • Instead of rushing to fix an issue, let them try to fix it themselves (depending on the age). This may take some time, but your child will learn that they can fix bad situations on their own.
  • Show some empathy. Your child will see that it’s okay to be sad or upset over unexpected things if they see that you aren’t pleased over canceled plans.
  • Create a network of people that your child can talk to when things are a bit rough. Sometimes your child may want to talk to someone else besides their parents and this helps build resilience.
  • Don’t tell them “You’re being a baby”, “It’s not a big deal”, or anything similar. They are kids, but they also have feelings. These phrases make their feelings seem smaller and that hurts as much, if not more than the situation itself.

Time For Processing

Many kids sit in the sadness for a day or so, depending on the situation. We don’t like seeing our kids sad and a bit heartbroken, but this time may give them an opportunity to think things out and come up with an idea of what to do next, how to improve, etc.

They may not even need us to help them. Even if they don’t ask, check in with them to see if they need a listening ear and/or an idea or two on how to move forward. Remind them that you still love them, no matter what. You may get brushed off but it’s probably what they need to hear most.

Listen to your child and validate their feelings. They need you to help them deal with their thoughts. If they need a bit of encouragement, give it. This isn’t the time to demean them or their attempt at making a team, getting into college, etc. Being disappointed is a part of life and part of being a parent is helping them through the rough patches.

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Pics courtesy of unsplash

How well do your kids handle disappointment? Do you have a story to share when your child handled it well? Please share in the comments.

 

RA and Me

I wrote a post a while back about having chronic illnesses and being a mom. Chronic Conditions and Momming was written before my rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis.

1. My older sister has lupus and we had the same rheumatologist at one point. Once we discovered this, we thought it was hilarious. There’s a lot of rheumatologists in Louisville, and we ended up with the same one?

2. My grandfather had severe RA. He died in 2016 at the age of 83. His hands were curled up from the severe joint deformities. He took medications for it, but still had issues that weren’t able to be reversed.

3. I am currently taking a mild medication daily. I had to wait for my thyroid meds to be regulated before I could start RA meds. That sucked but things are good in this area. (Short version: I’m on Levothyroxine due to a partial thyroidectomy in 2017.) Joint pain is REAL.

4. My biggest issues? Joint pain in my hands, knees, and hips. Like many others, I’m super stiff in the mornings and it takes at least an hour to loosen up. Hot showers help. Moving around does help but also hurts. Eventually, the stiffness goes away. Usually. If it doesn’t, then it’s a bad pain day, which leads me to #5.

5. I don’t like taking pain meds. They make me tired and nobody has time for that mess. I usually won’t take them unless I can barely move. I’ll use a heating pad, massage, stretch, etc. The pain meds I do have, however, are non-narcotic.

My doctor is pretty smart- probably not a good idea to prescribe a recovering alcoholic hardcore narcotics. She probably enjoys having a license to practice.
Rheumatoid arthritis sucks. I hate missing out on things because I’m tired, hurting, or both.

Pic with Cameron

It’s possible to live life with chronic conditions. I have two. Some days are just worse than others. I can get through them with humor and my support system.

If you have a chronic condition, how do you get through it?

The Day Before

*Trigger warning: this post discusses suicide. Please read with this in mind.*

I wrote about “A Million Little Things” when it premiered and thanks to the 1/24/19 episode, it gets another blog post.

This episode discusses the day before John, the main character, completes suicide. His death baffles everyone around him. In the episode, he gets into an argument with one of his friends, Gary and promises his wife, Delilah, that they will have a long-needed talk.

John was freaked out about finances. The walls were closing in on him financially. He told his assistant, Ashley, to take the night off.

I’ll stop there with the spoilers, in case you want to catch up on the episode.

“Call Me Blind/But I Didn’t See it Coming”- P.O.D.

August 31, 2015, was my day before. I went to work at the job I loved- a mental health associate at a mental health facility. I worked on a unit for kids with autism and other developmental disabilities. I was days away from filing for divorce – Matthew and I were barely on speaking terms. Jake had been a bit quieter than usual, but I thought maybe he was just in a depressive episode.

Many people who knew about us have asked if I saw any signs, but I didn’t. I could see many things just by looking into Jake’s eyes. This wasn’t one of them. If I had even thought of him taking his own life, I would have done anything to stop it. It beats the hell out of losing him.

Jake and I texted like usual until he went to bed. He worked third shift and didn’t go to sleep before about 9 am. We made plans to hang out in a few days when our schedules would match up- I didn’t know then that those plans would never go through. I meant to text him later that day, but I got busy after work.

Early the next morning, September 1, 2015, I sent him a picture of Tails. He had blue ink all over him from Cameron picking him up the night before after a pen bled all over his hands. His very last text to me read: “Poor Tails”. He was still awake after not being able to sleep the night before. I had texted him on my way to work.

That was it.

Jake died later that day.

The Worst Phone Call

I’ll never forget the pain in Josh’s voice when he told me about Jake’s death. It is one of the worst phone calls I’ve ever had.

The aftermath of losing someone to suicide is.. shattering. It’s one of the few words I have been able to find to accurately describe how Jake’s loss affected me. This kind of loss will make you question a lot of things– I questioned who my friends really were, my strength and of course, my marriage.

Living without Jake has been difficult- but I am here, living the life he made me strong enough to live and having finished the work he started in 2013. I hope so much that he is proud of me, from wherever his caring spirit is.

There is a post about the day after, and you can find it here

Today’s PSA: If you love someone, tell them. You may lose that chance. The regret is hard to live with.

Pics courtesy of Pinterest

Resources:

AFSP