I read the following with dismay yesterday. It is a road many families have walked. I have walked… Some of my friends have also walked this road. It can start gradually, sneaking up on both the individual and those who love them. They don’t want to do what they once loved. They retreat, becoming uncommunicative. They find no joy in anything. You may find that they are drinking more than usual. You may uncover just how much when you put the bins out and see the many empty bottles in the recycling. There is something going on that you can’t quite put your finger on, and they are either refusing to talk or aren’t capable of telling you. It is frustrating, as in social settings, they can be quite animated-jovial even-which masks what is really occurring.
When it all falls apart, it is often dramatic and spectacular. It can be after years of seeking help for the person. Marriage and family counselling, dietitians and alternative healthcare practitioners (to get their diet right and make sure that they have no deficiencies), AA, NA, GP’s, brain scans, blood tests, and so much more. There may be brushes with the law, and unpaid bills and fines. You may feel as though you are grieving a loved one, though they are right in front of you. You would do anything to retrieve their essence.
Thousands of families across Australia are facing the same agony as Grant’s loved ones. Right here and now. Finding appropriate help is time-consuming and exhausting, particularly when you are dealing with someone who denies they have a problem, or who tires of being on the merry-go-round. Who could blame them? Services tend to be dislocated from one another, and having to relay the story of why you came to be in somebody’s office time and again is wearing.
After five exhausting years of not knowing what the heck was going on with their partner, a friend was relieved when a diagnosis of depression came about. It was short-lived, as the antidepressants put them in free-fall. After another year of tumult, it turned out that they actually had bi-polar disorder, and the medication was causing them to rapid-cycle. They are doing so much better today, though life can still be challenging. The whole family or friendship group may have to adapt to a new normal. Stressors which the person may have coped with in the past, may cause them a set-back in their recovery. I hope with all my heart that Grant gets the help he needs, and I hope that his family can feel our support. It highlights the urgent need for prompt and cohesive services.
For urgent help, contact Beyond Blue or the Black Dog Institute.
I have slowed down, and my brain (and life) are better for it. I am actually letting myself feel the physical pain that I endure. It hurts, but it is real. It appreciates being felt. I am still limiting my caffeine intake and exercise in the sunshine each day. I am eating regularly and acknowledging feelings as they come up. It hasn’t been as overwhelming as I feared.
A production crew are shooting the next season of the excellent series Changing Minds in the district I live in. It will be shown on the ABC later this year. A beautiful mum I know was interviewed the other day by the crew. She was so brave as she turned her face to the winter sun and talked about her depression. How it felled her, and how she is making her comeback. I was in awe of her. The production crew impressed me with their sensitivity and empathy. The mental health sector needs more funding, and it needs it now.
I well remember when I searched for help for a loved one several years ago. I was frightened for them, that they may not make it. Time was of the essence. There was a procession of psychologists, doctors, scans, blood tests, and diagnosis’. Some believed this person had an adrenal issue, others believed it was hormonal. Still others believed it was depression. There were about ten different diagnosis before bipolar was diagnosed. I was left to sort through all the information as this person was too ill to do it themselves. Alternative health practitioners became involved in case it was dietary. You will try anything when you are so ill. The person became sicker. I turned to a church who offered counselling. I was asked whether this person’s family had ever been involved in the Masonic practice. I was bemused and asked what this had to do with mental health. I was told that curses can be carried through bloodlines. I was aghast that no practical help was offered. It made this person become more insular, to everyone’s detriment.
Finally, a mental health service opened in our town. A place I was able to get to easily and which was free. As a support person, I was going down, and these people could see it. I was given excellent advice and was able to remain on an even keel whilst helping this loved one. I looked forward to my visits, and finding a workable way of life, for myself and this person. I rang to make an appointment late last year, only to find that this service had closed. The local mental health unit do their very best with limited resources. It is immensely frustrating and heart-rending for the staff. It took years for this person to reach a proper diagnosis. I am so thankful that they held on for it. They are stable, though their grip on life can be tenuous. I look forward to watching the next season of Changing Minds. I look forward to hearing from the dedicated staff, who do their level best in a system plagued with funding cuts and politics. I look forward to hearing the stories of the clients, who have been through hell and keep paddling. You all amaze and astound me with your iron will. There is something inside that makes you hold on; the promise of a beautiful future filled with restful sleep and wondrous times. Keep holding on.
The past five weeks have been snatched away. I am left tumbled and breathless. I met my husband at seventeen years of age. I had no intention of marrying. Studying and become a learned single woman were on my radar, not a bloke. He came up to me, and said “hey beautiful,” and I ignored him, wandering off. We became great friends, without a hint of romance until after I turned eighteen. He was supportive, rarely drank, and could always be counted on. The little boy he once was had never left, nor receded. He was ever-present, as was a hint of naiveté. It was endearing, seeing life through this child’s eyes. An appreciation of wonder and a soft spot for those in trouble and for animals. Qualities often neglected in adults, and then they wither. Slowly, he changed. The pressure of retrenchment, slap-bang in the middle of fertility treatments was the opening scene. Ticktock, ticktock. We were on a clock, and time was running out. Pressure mounting. You can’t stop mid-way through such an epic journey. Every week, there was a new bill for a fertility treatment in the thousands. Sperm extraction, theatre costs, anaesthetists, specialists, storage, drugs, etc. By the time our daughter was born, he had receded into the shadows. We were visited by this phantom-as though we had contact with the dead- and he came alive whilst interacting with our little girl. Then, back to the shadows. We have spent a fortune on alternative therapies to help retrieve his broken spirit and mind. I would have given anything to see him well.
Just over a month on the new medication, and my husband is eating regularly and healthily. He is sleeping more, and communicating. He isn’t restless, taking off at parties, unable to be found. He is hanging around, standing by my side. He is making great decisions, both for himself and for the benefit of us as a family. When I see glimpses of agitation and frustration, caused by everyday life (dealing with Telco’s, for instance), my muscles tighten and my heart thumps. He is able to retrieve himself from that space, and our life continues. He is healthy and looks better than he has in a very long time, despite currently being on a job where he is working twelve-hour days and travelling a few hours on top of that. He wanted me to make our story public. He wants partners to know they aren’t alone, and we wants people like him to know the same. I commend him for this. We are starting over, tremulously, nervously. We are starting over…
My husband had been unreachable since his disappearance. His movements and speech were slow, and painfully hopeless. He was inside his hell, and I couldn’t get in to retrieve him. I told him about a lovely doctor I had confided in, and he agreed to come with me on Sunday to the practice. This gentle man with a timbered voice listened after asking about my partner’s experiences in childhood and as an adult. He described his restlessness, his recklessness, his over-the-top behaviour and the savage, meteorite crashes onto earth. “I believe you have bi-polar, and have been trying to regulate your moods with alcohol,” the doctor finally spoke. He prescribed two different drug classes, one an anti-depressant and the other Lithium. When he indicated that it would be a hard, slow road, whilst the dosages were tweaked, but that the result would be that my husband would feel better than he had his whole adult life, my man broke down. I cried too. He may start to experience what it means to feel alive as opposed to feeling hyper or under-stimulated. The past five years have been hell. I look at the dishevelled, unhappy man seated next to me, and I know we are on a new journey, one I hadn’t anticipated nor prepared for. I buckle my seatbelt and prepare for blast-off.
I saw the new doctor at the practice, an older fellow with an assuring timbre in his voice. The sort of man one feels immediately at ease with. It was one of the hardest conversations I have ever had. My words tumbled out of my mouth, as I explained that my husband isn’t well. “He went missing. He drinks, a lot.” He listens, leans forward. I cry as I try to explain how down he has been, then accelerating to grand plans and spending sprees often in the same day. “I believe he might be suffering with bipolar,” the doctor asserts. “Bring him in to see me this Sunday.” The first smattering of hope I have felt in a long time. Hubby has been going to AA meetings. It has been a week without alcohol. The sky seems brighter, but he is still absent.
Hubby came home, and mentioned that he was working three hours away tomorrow. Asked whether I could organize public transport details for him. After seeking details and transport links, I said he would have to drive. This is the only day he has worked in a while, since quitting a job in Canberra. Oh man! He hasn’t organised a needed loan, despite coming home early. How will he do it from where he is working? Get message from Vodafone. We are apparently overdue on our bill. Don’t know how this is possible since we have paid consistently in the past six weeks. Speak to India. His dinner goes untouched, and I hear a twist-top being opened on the back deck. He wants me to log onto computer. I have to help our daughter with her homework. Two hours later, I get another message saying another bill is late. He explains that he heard from them yesterday. Feel like my head will come off my shoulders, and when I close my eyes, he says “I can see having me here is doing you no good. You should sign up for a pension and I will go away.” Breathe deeply. Try to locate his resume, which he demands I redo. After an hour of fiddling around, he explains that a former company created it with a unique programme, which is why I am having trouble opening it. Man, I am so tired. Four hours of hell. I have been to ministers, naturopaths, acupuncturists, counsellors, psychologists, endocrinologists, general practitioners and many services over the past six years, begging for help. Nothing has tempered the disquiet inside this man. The man who slept by my hospital bed when I had my Harrington Rods removed at twenty, who was the most committed, loving, romantic man from the time I was eighteen. Where have you gone? What the hell happened? I have brought up the possibility of you being bipolar, but it was discounted. The whirlwind that occurred in my home tonight, and on every other evening, speaks otherwise. I have to get help. Where do I get help?