“What was it like?” That’s the question opened up in the last entry. What is it like to go through a mental health crisis with a loved one?
As I begin to answer, it’s easier to start with the dragon.
Those two words leaped into my mind at the question. That’s what it’s like.
No quick fixes. No “better in the morning”s. No “take this and you’ll feel better”s. Medications for mental illness don’t work like that. They are slow and the brain is complicated. For Mr. B and I, we waited 8 weeks. (More, if you count the time it takes to re-establish normal life again afterwards.) That how long it took for the meds to take full effect and for Mr. B to feel stable again. Symptoms slowly, slowly receded; flaring up right to last day of 8 weeks. Symptoms such as paranoia, delusional thinking, high levels of anxiety, trouble sleeping, inability to focus or handle conversation, not to mention the unpleasant side effects of coming back onto the meds.
The difficulties I went through can’t even compare to Mr. B’s suffering during that time. He’s the strongest man I know; I love and admire him dearly for it!
But anyway, I’ve touched on the waiting. That’s easier to talk about than the other one — the agonizing.
A friend asked me the other day, “What was it like?” She was referring to walking through Mr. B’s mental health crash last fall.
Talk about a difficult question to answer! I’ve chewed on it for weeks. Even now, as I sit here, that little cursor is blinking at me. Blinking. Blinking. Blinking.
Where do I even start? I wonder if everyone who goes through a traumatic experience — even non-mental health related — has this trouble. How do you describe something so complicated, so painful, so beyond myself? They never dig into stuff like this in movies!
Imagine you have a fiery, terrifying, life-threatening encounter with a dragon; you narrowly escape, not only alive and whole, but somehow better off than you were before. Unlike the movies, you look back; the obvious is so humbling, so startling, so astonishing.
By no power of your own did you escape.
How do you describe not just the fact you encountered a dragon in all its terror but also encountered God in His faithful defense of you?
Jesus makes all the difference when you live in the land of dragons.
I wonder about Job.
Did Job have anything to be thankful for?
His children — gone.
His riches — gone.
His relationship with his spouse — gone.
His dreams, plans, and endevours — no doubt, gone.
His relationship with God — on the rocks, probably feeling gone, too.
If I was Job, what could I find to be thankful for? An occasional breeze. Ashes to sit in and express my sorrow. A roof over my head. A God who can handle all the wretchedness of my heart poured out.
No matter how bad a situation, there’s always something to be thankful for. Not even Job was forsaken of all goodness.
Here be dragons.
Old medieval maps used to have dragons, monsters, and sea serpents drawn over uncharted regions. They marked the places nobody had gone before.
I like to think that way of bipolar. Here be dragons!
I’ve know others with bipolar besides my wonderful Mr. B. Each struggled with different symptoms, different traits, a different angle of the same illness. Even within bipolar diagnosis, no two are the same. Life with bipolar is new territory. Some may have gone over similar territory — doctors, counselors, therapists, psychologists. Advice from these are useful, no doubt. Yet they do not live this bipolar life with us. We are charting the uncharted.
None have gone where we are going, except One. Psalm 139:7-12. He it is that has plotted our course. He it is who is our Guide. He it is who governs all things. I’m so thankful He walks here with us!
Life with bipolar is a grand adventure.
Mental illness is ugly.
Don’t get me wrong. People with mental illness are wonderful, beautiful fascinating human beings worthy of respect and dignity.
But mental illness, when it manifests, is ugly. It’s ugly the way death is ugly, the way sin is ugly. If you’ve ever been to a funeral of a family member or a friend, you know. No attempts to pretty it up or make it easier do any good. Death is profoundly unnatural, as something not intended for this creation. It’s a vandal’s mar on the canvas of a skilled painter. So it is with mental illness, with any sickness really.
In the face of such ugliness, I’m glad Jesus is coming back to fix it all.
“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” (Rev 21:4-5)
It’s Friday, August 8, 2015 at 6:56pm.
By this time last week, Mr. B was delusional. He could still tell the difference between the delusions and reality. But within 24 hours, on Saturday night, he was gone. His short term memory, his ability to trust others, follow conversations, and perceive his need for food, water, or rest was gone by Sunday morning. It happened that fast.
I marvel at the goodness of God that Mr. B took his meds again on Sunday afternoon. People told me a bipolar episode can happen fast — especially the manic ones. (Depressive ones, thankfully, set in a little slower and are easier to respond too.) I barely had time to wrap my mind around what was going on. In 24 hours, my precious Mr. B crashed and burned.
Now, he’s waving at me through the window, smiling, happily watering his plants, blowing me smooches. How I love him! How glad I am to be able to have a conversation with him! Though to him, he’s never left, but to me I’m glad he’s back. Mr. B is on the mend.
Thank you, Jesus, that because of You even an episode with bipolar is not the end of the world.