Faith vs Fear

Faith vs Fear

Thursday, July 2, 2015


David was diagnosed with parathyroidism in May. He has been good at having his blood levels checked while he was on lithium (about 8 years). In February his pdoc was worried about the calcium in his blood and took him off lithium. His calcium levels still weren't good, so the dr. had a bunch of tests done, and after the diagnosis came back, he called the surgeon for an appointment. When he called, the receptionist said they were booked to the end of June, but then she looked at his chart and said they would work him in as soon as possible. That was sobering!
This is why blood levels need to be checked regularly when someone is on lithium! Here is a link to a site with more on the subject: parathyroid-symptoms.htm

Some more links about the parathyroid:

He ended up having parathyroid surgery the first week of June, and came through it with flying colors. They were able to do the surgery as out-patient, and he came home the same day. The doctor was pleased with the surgery, and said that one of the four glands was not working at all, which put the other three under stress. Right after the surgery, his calcium levels changed from 100+ down to 30 (which is closer to normal).
We have noticed that his kidneys are functioning better, and his mood and energy levels are also better. Hopefully he will at least stay where he is and improve over time. It's amazing to see the difference that one surgery had on his health.
We also had a new garage built this spring/summer, and we've been doing the finishing work on the inside. While a bit stressful for David (and me, too), it was also good to see him work on it, and that has also helped him mentally and emotionally.

Early part of the construction experience

Almost finished exterior

The interior, complete with the shelves David built

And it's finished!

After all the stress involved with events surrounding my father's passing, David's health issues, an office move, and getting the garage built, I realized that I needed a "mental health" day. What to do??? I ended up driving to the mountains and enjoyed the serenity, the view, and the cool(er) mountain air. The peace and quiet helped me restore my spirits.
I ended up going to the canyon where the Mormon pioneers entered the valley. I thought of them and their courage and tried to picture what it must have looked like when they came through the valley for the first time.
View of the Salt Lake Valley from the top of the mountain 
Sign marking the original Mormon pioneer trail

On the trail
 And I loved the wild flowers and the river the pioneers camped by and cooled off in (if I had thought about it, I would have worn more casual clothes that day and waded in it, too).

A day in the mountains put everything back in perspective. And, like the pioneers, I feel like saying, "All is well! All is well!"

Sunday, March 1, 2015

What Would You Take with You?

Not too long ago I enjoyed reading the book "A Thousand Days in Venice," a fun read with great descriptions of Venice and yummy-sounding recipes. The story about a middle-aged American woman who falls in love with a Venetian and moves to Venice, Italy, reminds me of how quickly life can change directions.
I've also been working on family history stories and thinking of those who left behind their possessions to relocate to a new area and rebuild their lives.
It made me stop and think about what I would take with me if I were in a similar situation. Sometimes when I worry about David's health I go through the mental exercise of thinking about what I would do if something happened to David, or what we'll do when I retire. The answers are always changing depending on my mood, and truthfully I expect to be where we are for a long time to come. But it helps me keep my life in perspective.
Our experience of working to finalize my dad's estate was very difficult and sobering. The saying that we can't take material possessions with us when we die sounds trite, but it is so true. However, we can take the things that are of lasting value: love, family relationships, memories, learning experiences.
Dad didn't have many material possessions in his life; instead he focused on his family while we were growing up and during his later years chose to spend his time traveling and meeting new people. In the end, his true treasures were his family and the many varied experiences and adventures that he had during his lifetime.
Dad gave me the book about Venice after he came home from what turned out to be his last big trip. When I received his laptop computer I found a number of his photos on it from the last few years. I enjoyed looking at them, but I wish I knew the stories behind them. Here are some of my favorites from his photo album:

Hells Canyon on the Idaho side. One of Dad's favorite places

The Salmon River; another family favorite

Payette Lake in winter. When he was younger he enjoyed ice skating and playing hockey on the lake 

Every winter Dad and Kathy enjoyed spending a month in Maui. That tradition continued even after her passing. He spent the early spring of 2014 in Maui.

In 2010, Dad visited my brother Mike who was teaching school in Tokyo. The trip was especially meaningful because he had served in China during World War II as a tail gunner fighting the Japanese. The trip gave him closure from a difficult time in his life.

Dad and Kathy visited Europe several times over the years, and he always enjoyed the experience of seeing new sites and meeting new people. In July 2013, he and a friend visited Paris and Monet's garden at Giverny.

In September of 2013, he and his friend spent two weeks exploring Venice, Italy, and the Adriatic Sea on a cruise ship. He relished the sites and sounds of visiting new places and loved the adventure of traveling.

On the Albanian Coast

Roman Colliseum

Interior of the Roman Colliseum

Glass maker

Italian dance scene

Making lace

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Worried, but Not Panicked

This fall and winter has been harder on David than usual as he's struggled with more depression. I'm sure my issues about my dad didn't help, but he was great about giving me moral support to work through it.
David went to his regular dr. appt. and had blood tests to check lithium levels. Unfortunately his sodium levels are way too high and the lithium is low, so the dr. took him off lithium completely. He came through the withdrawal from it ok, but he's not doing very well with the depression. He says, "my body is ok, but my mind isn't."
His dr. is obviously worried and called him again yesterday to have his blood levels checked today with another dr. appt. coming soon. I haven't talked to the dr. recently, but I'm going to go to the next appt. After David stabilized, I felt that it was important that he be in control of his disorder as much as possible so I don't go to the dr. with him very often. He's good about telling me what was said, and I know I can call the dr., but with this latest wrinkle I need to talk to him about what's going on and what to expect now.
He hasn't had the wild mood swings from mania to depression that I was worried about when he stopped taking lithium, but his depression isn't lifting either. He said the Dr. told him that it was part of having the elevated sodium levels that can damage the kidneys and affect his mood. 
Have I mentioned lately how much I hate this disorder? 

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Season of Sorrow, Season of Hope

“He loved the warm sun of summer and the high mountain meadows, the trails through the timber and the sudden clear blue of the lakes. He loved the hills in the winter when the snow comes,” Hemingway said. “Best of all he loved the fall … the fall with the tawny and grey, the leaves yellow on the cottonwoods, leaves floating on the trout streams and above the hills the high blue windless skies. He loved to shoot, he loved to ride and he loved to fish.” Ernest Hemingway

Shortly after I wrote last, my 89-year-old dad was diagnosed with terminal cancer and after a short battle with it, passed away in September. We were all able to gather around him for one last visit over Labor Day weekend, then a few weeks later he was gone.

The funeral, held on a beautiful fall day, was a fitting tribute to this kind, funny man.

Granddaughter watching the grave being dug.

At the cemetery. The coffin was built by my brother.

In a nod to the Native Americans living near the area, we each took a handful of dirt, turned once in each direction, and as we passed the coffin, placed the dirt on top of it. 

Filling in the grave

 Normally I love the fall, but this season has been difficult for me as I've worked through all the emotions that come with burying a parent. David has been supportive and understanding, and I have found great comfort and solace working with our ward's children. This time has been bittersweet, but there have also been the blessings of drawing close together as a family and renewed faith that sustains and comforts during the hard times. I am grateful for both faith and family, and especially for the mother and father who loved us and taught us so much.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Where We Are Now

I recently took some time to read about this adventure we've been on for the last six years. So much progress! And yet we still have miles to go.
I started this blog as part of a class assignment when I was going to school. At the time, David was newly diagnosed and we had no idea of what to do or expect. I wrote this at the time:
    "For most of the time we have been married, David has dealt with mood swings and difficulties in keeping a job. Until last year, he was functioning all right and learning to keep his moods under control. Then he lost another job, and his illness took a turn for the worse. After several weeks of not being able to concentrate, struggling with hallucinations, and taking long walks when he was almost catatonic, he agreed to see a doctor. It was a relief to have a name for what was happening to him, and at the same time frightening because we knew so little about the disorder. This is what I wrote at the time: 'We had a long, very interesting and helpful talk about what is happening to him, and I'm still digesting this piece of news. Fortunately, most of the time he's rational and able to tell me what is going on in his mind. I don't know much about this disease, and I have a million more questions than answers. I just feel my husband has been handed a life sentence for an incurable, but hopefully treatable disease. This feels overwhelming. One of my questions is what do I tell the kids? Another is how in the world am I going to find the time to deal with taking care of him and everything else?'"

One of the real blessings for us was my brother Kent, who was working as a case worker for a mental health organization. We were able to have lunch together frequently during that time, and when I described David's worsening condition he told me what was going on and gave me some much needed information and moral support. Kent and his wife, Chris, were wonderful listening ears and helped David understand and accept his diagnosis.
After David stabilized, we were surprised by the amount of stigma associated with mental illness and decided that we would do our part in our small sphere of influence to lessen it by being open about bipolar and talking about it with family members and friends. It undoubtedly was hard for them to hear what we were saying at first, but over the years they have become accepting and supportive. I especially appreciate the men in our ward who have taken David under their wings and make him feel wanted and needed. With that support, David has worked on his own spirituality and makes every effort to attend church regularly and we have prayer together every morning and evening. His prayers are deeply felt and beautiful. He knows where to turn for help when things are rough, and has been given the strength that he needs.

We have also been fortunate to have great doctors who give him the help he needs. His pdoc is especially good at working with David, and takes the time to call when there is a need. Because of that, David is really good about taking his meds (with an occasional outburst of "I don't need them anymore" and then he realizes he does). From 2007: Sep 22, 2007
"I had intended to keep this journal (at just for the military kids, but I think that on occasion I'm going to talk about David and the battle we are in for his mental health. I find that I'm responding to this much as I do when my boys are deployed—disbelief, grief, worry, small joys, the need to find out everything I can about it, etc. It feels like another type of roller coaster ride.

"I went with him to the Dr. again on Tuesday after a bad weekend and my b-day, and after the Dr. consulted with the clinic psychiatrist, he left some meds for David at the reception desk. After 1 1/2 days of dragging his feet, and several discussions about why he needs them, he picked them up!! I know it's a little thing, but I'm DELIGHTED! I just hope he'll take them, and they'll help. He goes back to the Dr. in 2 weeks for a consultation, and we'll see what happens then. I went to my bishop and he gave me some needed counsel and comfort."
Truly, David would not be as stable without the support of friends and loved ones, and caring doctors.

Now he doesn't have the frightening manic episodes, but he still battles severe anxiety and depression. For example, we visited my family in McCall last Thanksgiving and even though he had a hard time with his moods, we managed to have a good time. Unfortunately as the weekend progressed, David retreated into himself and an almost catatonic state. He was in no shape to drive the seven hours home, so I drove the whole way, except for a 25 mile stretch when I thought he was doing better. It was frightening. I didn't want to drive drowsy, so we found a motel in a little town out in the middle of nowhere—there's a lot of nowhere on that drive— and spent the night. He had a rough night, couldn't sleep, so he took more of his meds. The next morning he could barely move, had trouble speaking and had that vacant look in his eyes were he's there, but not really home. He slept the whole way home (another three hours) and then all afternoon and evening. I worried about his slurred speech and wondered if he was having a stroke, but he woke up the next morning coherent, but a little confused about which day it was. When I called the doctor, he explained that when David gets in that catatonic state it's usually following mania and/or anxiety. His mind is going so fast his body can't keep up with it and shuts down. He gave David a prescription for Ativan to help with the times when he starts to get overwhelmed. The Ativan has been very helpful for times when he anticipates stressful events (such as vacations) or when he feels it coming on. The doctor also says that post-vacation depression is a normal reaction to the excitement and change from the routine. I try to keep that in mind during the often difficult days after we go somewhere.
Scenes from our Thanksgiving trip:

David with my brothers and a horse team