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

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

Going to Therapy: Setting and Smashing Your Goals

Therapy is rough work. Some sessions are great, some will leave you in tears.

Everyone goes to therapy for different reasons- for anxiety, depression, substance abuse (in some cases, this court-ordered), grief, and other issues.

I began therapy in 2015 for three out of four of those reasons- the substance abuse part came in later.

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Not As Much Fun To Pick Up The Pieces

That’s part of a Nine Inch Nails lyric from “The Perfect Drug”, one of the best songs from the 1990s. Therapy helped me pick up the pieces of my life- I found Rachel thanks to PsychologyToday. My life had just fallen apart in front of me- Jake died, I quit a job I loved, cut a lot of people off, I had no idea on what to do with my marriage and I was a complete wreck.

Let’s just say my first goal was to manage the grief. I started therapy in October 2015. The tears flowed so much that I wasn’t able to wear any makeup for two months after Jake died. I ate my feelings and started gaining weight, and the alcohol didn’t help.

One of the first things I did was make a list of all the things that I lost when he died. This was heartbreaking, but it helped me come up with ways to make something good out of something so awful. This led to creating this blog, volunteering for the AFSP and other great things.

My other big goal was to figure out what the hell to do with my marriage, or what was left of it. I was supposed to meet with my divorce attorney on September 9, the day before our 10th wedding anniversary (the irony) to sign the papers to file divorce paperwork.

I never made it to this appointment- Jake died September 1 and I didn’t have the emotional strength. I’m almost certain I spent that day crying in bed. This was a tough decision because our marriage was in a terrible spot. Matthew and I were barely speaking, and when we did, all we did was fight. I wanted out. The divorce had nothing to do with Jake, and I made sure he knew that. Our marriage was basically screwed before he ever came into my life.

So where was I supposed to go from there?

Rachel encouraged me to think.

A lot.

I emailed my attorney, who was very understanding about the change in my situation.

Over many sessions, lots of tissues and candy later, I decided to give my marriage a shot. I had changed a lot over the last couple of years, and I figured Matthew deserved a chance at who I had become. As he once said, Jake “fixed what I broke.” I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. I emailed my attorney again and told her that I wouldn’t need her anymore.

I began working on myself- the third main goal. This was work on self- esteem and self-worth. I’d already learned what I would and wouldn’t take, thanks to both Matthew and Jake. This time, I was working on watching for patterns of repeat behavior that I knew I didn’t deserve, feeling better about myself, among other things.

I finished therapy in May 2018. I knew it was time- I have processed Jake’s death as well as I can. None of us know what exactly made him decide to take his life, but I have been able to find some peace with it. This was not easy. I still have days where I feel crappy about myself, but I think everyone does. I’m able to lift myself out of it. I’m sober- Rachel was thrilled when I stopped drinking. My marriage isn’t and probably never will be perfect, but it’s okay. I think I still like Matthew, and honestly, I’m lucky he still speaks to me.

I told my story about therapy for a reason- to explain why having goals is so important.

Tell Me What You Don’t Like About Yourself

If you’ve ever seen the show “Nip/Tuck”, this is what the very handsome plastic surgeons asked their patients when they met them.

In a way, therapy is a time in which you can work on the things you may not like so much about yourself and may want to change.

If you don’t have goals when you get to therapy, your therapist will help you set them according to your needs. Be ready to do the work- it may not be fun. You might even be asked to do “homework”, small assignments outside of your sessions. For example, I was asked to open up to people more, to talk to my friends and Matthew more to help me trust others more.

I developed trust issues after Jake’s death- the people who I thought were my friends were the first people to show me they really weren’t. After that, I stopped speaking to a lot of people and now, I just don’t welcome a lot of new people into my life.

I don’t want to risk that again. I have a hard time telling those closest to me when I’m struggling because I figure they have heard enough of my problems over the last three years, so I tend to not say much.

This is still a work in progress.

These goals will help guide you and your therapist in sessions, help track progress, and most of all, help you see that you are moving forward. Your therapist can help you think of ways to get through your issues and develop coping skills- this is where I was given the idea of adult coloring books for anxiety. It does help and I have at least 10 coloring books and two sets of coloring pencils. It’s soothing and helps take my mind off whatever is bothering me.

Some issues take longer than others to get through and this is okay- smash your goals on your own time. It took almost a year for me to get through a session, talk about Jake and not cry my eyes out. It doesn’t matter how many goals you have- everyone’s needs are different. Don’t compare your journey to someone else’s.

You’ve Got This

I liked to treat myself when meeting a goal or just after a rough session. Sometimes I would go home, color and listen to a podcast as a way to decompress or reward myself. If I had met a small milestone, like when Matthew and I completed an assignment that Rachel had asked us to, we would go out to dinner. It’s the small things that keep us going. She was very helpful in getting us through some of the worst times in our marriage.

The goals can be big or small- but they are yours.

Have you been to therapy and would like to share your story?

Pics courtesy of Unsplash

Two Years of Sobriety

I’m here, and I’m sober.

A Bit Of A Flashback

Two years ago, I woke up from drinking for the last time- I drank until Sara and her husband, Paul, were worried that I had alcohol poisoning.

I was a bit hungover.

Not at all surprising.

I was used to this- so were Matthew and the kids. I’d been drinking steadily since 2013 and after Jake died, it only got worse. I had to escape the pain. Even with therapy, I still had a hard time seeing the days ahead of me.

I cried constantly. I was still trying to move forward from the grief. Losing a man I loved so deeply was something I never saw coming. Drinking took that pain away, if only temporarily. I didn’t realize, however, the internal damage I was doing to myself.

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The Wake-Up Call (Literally)

It’s a well-known fact that I have RA and hypothyroidism. The journey to detect and solve both issues began with blood testing in late 2016. I have a great PCP- she later found the nodule that was removed from my thyroid in 2017, along with other issues. She knew I had been drinking but not the whole story.

I’ve met many alcoholics and addicts and not one has been super honest with their PCP if they have one.

Dr. Tobe called me herself- not her Medical Assistant, Stacey.

YIKES.

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I don’t remember the conversation verbatim, but let’s just say my labs looked pretty interesting, especially my liver enzymes.

You see, the liver is an interesting little piece of your body. It can grow back from being removed, injured or otherwise messed up.

In my case, as Dr. Tobe explained, if I stopped drinking right then, I could stop the damage and not end up with cirrhosis.

I saw that as a hard pass. Matthew’s best friend’s mom died from cirrhosis, and it is a terrible death.

I thanked Dr. Tobe and hung up.

Some Serious Thoughts

I’ve got kids, y’all. Nobody is grown yet and somebody’s gotta be here to get Julian to adulthood. This isn’t saying Matthew couldn’t but he knows he would be lost without me.

I don’t think I’m quite done living, so I decided to have one last night of drinking and be done. I did just that.

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Having a bit of sober fun

I also discussed this at great length in therapy. I won’t say sobriety is easy, because that would be a huge lie.

My liver gets tested every few months thanks to Plaquenil because it’s known to affect liver functioning. So far, it seems to be getting slightly better. This process can take years.

It’s A Hard Life

I read The Big Book cover to cover once and part of my plans for this year is to read it again. I’ll be tracking that reading in my bullet journal.

The 9th step talks about amends and making then except when it would hurt the person to hurt more. This one has been hard. I’ve apologized to my kids, Matthew, my friends and even my mom.

Jordan is that one person I hurt terribly. I wasn’t sober when I attempted to apologize and I am almost certain he wouldn’t hear it now. He’s Jake’s younger brother, the one whose now ex-girlfriend I seriously upset.

I never meant to hurt him- you couldn’t pay me to. I’m hoping one day he realizes that and maybe we’ll speak. I haven’t seen him since Sara’s mom’s funeral in May.

This is the kind of thing that happens in alcoholism and addiction. I know I’ve tried and that’s the best I can do. I also know he’s okay and that’s enough for me.

I struggled a lot with apologizing to my kids and not feeling like a good mom. I’m a lot more present these days. They’ve brought me all kinds of stress, but that’s how parenting works.

The Sober Life

Relapse is part of recovery. I’ve come close. I’ve had horrible days in which all I want to do is go to the closest store and grab a bottle of vodka, but I’m able to talk myself out if it.

I remind myself of the progress I have made. My kids haven’t really said it but I know they’re proud of me. I would lose that progress the minute I opened the bottle or took a shot. That would be heartbreaking.

I also know one wouldn’t be enough because I would become horribly depressed.

Also, I’m pretty sure that alcohol doesn’t agree with my meds.

I recently joined a 12 Step Yoga for Recovery class and I love it. I realized that I needed a bit more support, plus, yoga is great for me. It helps a lot and I look forward to each class.

Two years has gone by so quickly! I still take this one day at a time- it’s what works best for me.

Photos courtesy of Pinterest

Other pics are mine.

Song Lyric Saturday with Ariana Grande

I’ve known about Ariana Grande since her days on “Sam and Cat” because my kids watched it. I thought her voice was super annoying but I loved her (then) red hair.

After that show was over, she got into music, but I wasn’t into that either. I like her personality a lot better- she’s very outspoken. I follow her twitter and Instagram. She has a pet pig (Piggie Smalls!) and a few dogs. If you say or do something that she is not pleased with, she will let you have it. Recently, she slammed Piers Morgan because he was rude to her mom.

Bad move. This guy’s been going at famous people, like the model Tess Holiday, and she flattened him as soon as she read his tweets. Ariana went at him immediately and it wasn’t pretty.

She’s had a pretty rough time in the last year or so- the bombing at her concert in England, then the death of Mac Miller. I read her tribute to him and cried.

I understood what she meant by saying he had demons he never deserved and that she hoped he would rest. Jake never deserved the demons he had, not for a minute of the years he battled bipolar disorder. I hope every day that he has found the peace that he couldn’t find here.

She also said that she wished that she could have taken his pain away. Same, Ariana, same. I would have done anything to take away Jake’s pain. I hope he knew that. I’m hoping she takes some time to take care of herself, because it would be good for her.

Her new album, “Sweetener” came out, and I think I might actually like it. I’ve liked a few of her songs here and there. I loved her collab with Nicki Minaj on “Bed”- I highly recommend listening to that. Can’t pick a lyric out of that one.

“Breathin” is good.

“I know I gotta keep

Keep on breathing”

Simple as that. If nothing else, I have to keep breathing. Sometimes my anxiety gets so bad, it’s hard to catch a breath. When the days are bad, I barely want to move. My mind is blank. If I can breathe, I can keep going, even if I’m moving like a snail. As long as I am moving and breathing, that is what matters, right?

Picture courtesy of Pinterest