Faith vs Fear

Faith vs Fear

Friday, July 31, 2009

Journal Entries

Jeff left this morning for his deployment aboard the Nimitz. It's going to be a long six months until he's home again! And Soldier Brian leaves today for Ft. Lee Virginia and the last of his Army officer training. He will be done in October.

Sometimes I go post journal entries about my military kids at GoArmyParents.com. When David was diagnosed with his disorder two years ago I added some thoughts about what he was going through. When I updated my journal this morning, I decided to add some of those entries here. It certainly has been a wild ride.

At the moment I'm busy working on my LAST paper (due next week), and dealing with David's mixed episodes that have been fairly intense, but he's slowly doing better.

Sep 22, 2007
I had intended to keep this journal 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, and I managed to survive a magazine class writing assignment and mass comm law test, so life is looking better today.

Jeff called Monday, just as they were leaving Hawaii for the trip home! He sounded happy, and he and Jon were having a good time together. (They were on the last leg of a deployment, and the "Tiger Cruise" is when a family member can join the ship in Hawaii for the trip to San Diego.) The captain left one of his much-appreciated recorded messages about leaving Hawaii as a full rainbow appeared over Diamond Head, and a list of some of the activities they have planned for the trip home. I can hardly wait to see my boys again!

Oct. 20, 2007
David and I went to the psychiatrist on Wednesday, and he was diagnosed with bipolar type 1 disorder and ADHD. That means that he has the type with extreme mood swings happening often (like every day). He's coming to terms with this illness, and is taking some meds that are really helping so far. He also likes the dr., and has been talking to me a lot about what's going on in his mind, and the bishop gave him a blessing, which helps. I'm truly grateful for all the help and understanding from our congregation members who know about this. I've been collecting info about this disorder, and in the near future (when I can figure out how to coordinate schedules) we're going to have a family meeting about what's going on with their dad, and how they can help. Jon has been an absolute angel about spending time with his dad and checking up on him regularly. It's a real comfort to have him only 5 minute away from us.

My job has also been extra stressful with preparing talks given by Church leaders 2 weeks ago for publication. As stressful as it is, though, there's a lot of comfort found in the messages. Said one leader: "It is our faith in Jesus Christ that sustains us at the crossroads of life’s journey. It is the first principle of the gospel. Without it we will spin our wheels at the intersection, spending our precious time but getting nowhere. It is Christ who offers the invitation to follow Him, to give Him our burden, and to carry His yoke, “for [His] yoke is easy, and [His] burden is light” (Matthew 11:30)."

March 5, 2008
David got his disability approved today!! I can't even express how REALLY excited I am! This means that because David has a mental illness, I'm legally in charge of the money and can use it to pay bills—we can even meet our obligations. It's a long story about why I'm so thrilled, but it's a huge relief. He's been struggling badly with anxiety and depression with worrying about the family finances (if he only knew . . . that's one of the hard things about having a spouse with a mental illness. There are some similarities to being a single parent, especially where money is concerned, and I hate that), and Katie's 18th birthday. He went into deep mourning about it because she's his baby girl and he's having a hard time with the idea of her growing up and leaving home before too long. I'm hoping that with at least one thing taken care of he'll calm down a bit. I personally rather enjoy the idea. The 2 dogs and the cat make up for the lack of children at home and keep us entertained.

April 30, 2008
David is hanging in there, but he isn't taking his meds right now, and I'm a little anxious about how long it'll be before he crashes again. Brittany suggested I grind his meds and put them in his drink. (Seriously tempting idea!) I've decided it's similar to raising another teen; he's going to have to take responsibility for his condition and deal with the consequences.

June 30, 2008
It has been a crazy month. Lara came home for a visit from Oaxaca, Mexico. I'm so happy to see her again after 3 long years since they moved there. Katie graduated from high school (our last, and it's so nice to be done with public schools after 25 years!)

We had a party at Jon's house, but David wasn't feeling well, so he stayed home. When we got back, we discovered that he had been throwing up blood, and he FINALLY agreed to go to the hospital. At the same time, Riley cut himself on something outside, was bleeding, and needed help. Lara took charge of Riley, and while David was getting ready to go to the hospital I called Wes (our son-in-law) and Ben, who were still at Jon's house to come give David a priesthood blessing. No sooner were they done, when David threw up more blood and collapsed! Ben called 911, and Wes performed first-aid for shock (that military training really came in handy). Lara and Brittany went to the store to get first-aid supplies for the dog, and when they got back, the ambulance was there.

It turned out that David had a bleeding ulcer, ended up in intensive care for the night. They ended up having to do emergency surgery, and his psychiatrist came in the next day and adjusted his meds to a coated lithium. He recovered without complications, but he's awfully weak still.

 Jeff and Nikki came home, and we had a small reception for them. It turned out to be a nice event. Now it's vacation time: to Idaho to see my family and go rafting on the Salmon River!


August 26, 2008
It's 1:30 a.m., and I really should be asleep, but we just heard about David's dad's passing. He and Jonathan are with his mother, and it's very fitting that they should be together, but I can't sleep, and thought I'd unwind a bit by writing. We will miss Grandpa, but I know this must be a relief for him, and I don't doubt that he's having a grand reunion with his 2 children and other loved ones who have gone before him. I feel really sorry for his brother---he lost his only sister in May, and now in 2 days time, both his only brother and one of his grandchildren. David is handling this about as well as can be expected. He's been doing much better with his moods ever since he had that bleeding ulcer and Ben and Wes gave him a blessing of health. He still has bouts of depression and anxiety, but he's learning how to handle it better, and I'm grateful. His stomach is still giving him problems, but he's resisting going to the doctor---just like a man!

Sat. Oct. 4, 2008
We've survived the last month all right. It was one of those times in life when you wonder how you'll get through everything, and breathe a huge sigh of relief when things finally calm down. David ended up in the hospital with viral meningitis the same weekend as his dad's funeral. Unfortunately, the meds and the meningitis didn't play well with the bipolar, and it was really tense (with another "wandering" episode) before we realized that the narcotics he was on for the meningitis pain was causing hallucinations. He simply cannot have that kind of medicine any more. He's finally doing better, and as he says, he'll never be "normal," he's at least back to where he was emotionally. The change in weather is always hard for him, but he's pretty good about taking his meds.

The funeral was a bittersweet experience. Lara left for Mexico the week before, so she couldn't be here, but both Jeff and Brian were able to come. In the interest of full disclosure, I have to admit that I wasn't at my best. We planned the funeral Tuesday, and it was an all day episode. I kept saying that I'd call the boys when we were home (because I left my address book at home, and couldn't remember their numbers), but we got home later than expected, so I left a message for Ben to call Brian, and I made a 2 minute call to Jeff (we had to go to our night job, and I was in a hurry). He ended up texting Brian about getting emergency leave. Poor Brian! He told me later that was the absolute worst way to hear about a death in the family. It WAS good to have them here for the weekend. They both look wonderful, and it was so nice to have them home.

My only excuse was that I was under extreme stress with the funeral, and David's illness. In addition to that, school started the same week! I ended up only taking the blogging class (very fun), and I'll take the last one in the spring. I also had to move out of my office to the secretary's desk. Very, very upsetting! I'm finally settling down again. I've learned that during high-stress times that after I stop whining (and I do spend more time whining than I probably should), if I will focus on what I can do, and leave the rest up to God, I can survive and learn from the experience. I do like my job at the teen magazine, and the people I work with are amazing. I'm looking forward to my trip to Ottawa, Canada, in another 2 weeks. We've been working hard at improving the magazine's website at www.newera.lds.org.



Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Family History

I read a lecture by David McCullough about the importance of history to our society. He says, "History is filled with voices that reach out and lift the spirits, sometimes from the distance of centuries." I think that is one of the reasons why I find history so fascinating. I am looking forward to reading his books now that I, theoretically anyway, should have more time when I'm done with school. I know, famous last words, but one can always hope!

When I was going through my divorce, I came across the journal that my great-grandmother kept during the 1930s. She describes her day-to-day life on the plains of Canada, as well as some of her childhood memories. Her story helped me understand that life keeps going on, even when it feels like things will never get any better. Her story gave me courage to carry on during difficult times. In addition to her story, I have collected a number of other treasured family stories over the years that help me to understand myself better. My goal is to put them in a form that my children and grandchildren will want to read. It will probably take me years to finish, but if these stories lie unread in the bottom of a drawer, then what good are they? My hope is that they will help others along the way. I did finish Grandma Zerelda's story for a class project when I first started at the U.

David's grandma Zerelda and I hit it off immediately when we met. I love history, especially family history, and she was delighted to tell me about her childhood in person and through long letters filled with fascinating detail about life in the early 20th century. One of the reasons that I was interested in David's family history was to try to understand his background, hoping it would give me a clue to his moods. Sure enough, Grandma Zerelda described her father: "My first recollections of life were while living with Grandpa and Grandma Garner, Mother’s parents. My dad wouldn’t have me. Boys were all he wanted and was angry about each girl that joined the family. It seemed he was either angry or overly happy; no in-between. This was heard many times; relatives or visitors would discuss the story. Some way, no satisfactory answer was to be mine, although this has been pondered many, many times. I was with my grandparents until age 11, when my baby sister was expected while they were living at Caliente, Nevada."

It seems to me that there are more questions about the nature of mental illness than there are answers. Some believe it to be a genetic tendency; others do not. More research needs to be done before we really understand all there is to know on the subject, but in David's case anyway, I really believe it is a genetic tendency, and her history helps me understand him better.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Saying Farewell to My Neighbor

We went to the funeral for our sweet 85-year-old neighbor Elizabeth on Saturday. It was a beautiful service, filled with tender thoughts from her children and grandchildren. A daughter compared her to a rose that was continually unfolding, reminding us that she picked up oil painting and excelled at it when she was 70 years old. One of her sons gave a rousing rendition of "Country Roads" by John Denver, with the audience spontaneously rising and joining in song. I don't know that I will ever hear that song again without thinking of that moment. He said his mother was given $10 a week for family expenses while they were growing up, and one summer she sacrificed all of it for her son to get a guitar and music lessons.
A mother of eight children, with an alcoholic husband, she was a fine example of someone who overcame great adversity with humor, compassion for others, and joy in living. Her children rallied around her, treating her like a queen. They were the most important part of her life, and they knew it.
We appreciated her patience with our children. One time she alerted us to an underground cave our children built in our backyard without our knowledge. It extended into her backyard, and when she saw smoke rising from the ground she was concerned about their safety. On several occasions they went to her house when they forgot their house keys and couldn't get in after school, and sometimes just because they liked being with her. She welcomed them in, spoiled them with treats, and let them play with her collection of dolls and other toys. I always enjoyed visiting with her about our families, life's lessons that we both had learned, and gardening tips.
This video reminds me of Elizabeth's example. We will sorely miss her.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Deployments

I talked to Sailor Jeff last night, and he said they aren't leaving for another two weeks. I was happy; that means two weeks of not worrying about him. He felt a little let down, but OK about it. He says he just wants to get it over with, but I'm sure he'll find a way to enjoy this extra time at home. We had a good visit with him and his wife, Nikki, when they were here on leave. I didn't want to let go of him.
Even though this will be deployment number 7 for our family, I am still anxious when our boys are deployed. We have an ex-Marine, 1 active duty Army, 1 active duty Army Reserve, and a Sailor. All have been deployed at least once.
I have found some things that help me cope while they're gone:
1. The most important thing is to rely on faith and prayer.
2. I spend more time on military parent forums visiting with other parents who are also experiencing the same waves of emotion that I am: deep pride mixed with fear.
3. Keep busy with other things.
4. Send e-mails and care packages regularly. Though, to be honest, I could do better with this.
5. Keep as informed as possible about what's going on in the area of the world where they are. I depend on blogs that deal with trouble spots to give me a better picture of events taking place.
6. Jeff's captain is really good about leaving recorded messages, and I often visit the ship's website to read and look at pictures about it.
The Internet is a great thing. Our Marine was deployed to the Gulf in 1998 when the African embassies were bombed. I didn't have Internet access, and had no idea of where to look for information on what was happening. I was a basket case. Brian was deployed to Iraq in March 2003, and then it was a case of too much information all of the time. That was also unnerving.
When I have asked my sons to tell me about what they're doing, I get the standard response: "Oh, just the same old thing." But I don't know what "the same old thing" is. It helped me understand Navy deployments last year when PBS aired the series "Carrier" that coincided with Jeff's deployment to the Pacific.
Surprisingly enough, David does better with deployments than I do. He has to remind me that a) they are well trained, and b) in Jeff's case, he is on an aircraft carrier that is well protected. I know that, but I never completely relax until I know they're safely back on US soil.


Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Up on the Roof

We've spent the last few weeks on a "re-roofing our house" adventure, including spending the 4th of July on the roof. We were having trouble with a leaky roof and decided last month that it was time to fix it. Good thing. It would never survive another winter without major problems. We decided during the bid process (something David obsessed over, but we did get a good deal) that we could save money by taking the shingles off and preparing it for the new ones ourselves. Well, yes, we did save money, but it has been more of a labor-intensive project than we anticipated. It took us, along with help from 3 of our sons, 4 days to deshingle the roof. Our house is about 50 years old, and the roof had 3 layers of shingles to take off. Lots of hard work! I ached for a few days in places I didn't know I had. We're starting to realize we aren't spring chickens anymore.
It was, however, nice to spend some time with David and our son Ben, who spent most of those days with us working on it.
David came through the stress of it fairly well. It was good for him to work hard at something and see the benefits of his labor. He was a little (OK. a lot) annoyed that some of our younger, able-bodied neighbors didn't offer to help, but he worked through it. Several of our neighbors are retired, and they came by with cold drinks and encouragement. I have no doubt that they would have been up there with us if they were able to.  He vented at the lack of help to one of our sweet neighbors, and I was a little afraid she would take offense. I was wrong. When I mentioned it to her, she said, "Now that I understand what his illness is, I look at him in a whole new way, and I am enjoying getting acquainted with him." Statements like that make me cry. I wish more of our friends and neighbors had that understanding and compassion.

UPDATE: We are now the happy owners of a brand, spanking-new roof! (I'm sorely tempted to post photos, like a proud new parent, but that might be a little over the top!)
It took a LOT of effort, haggling with the salesman (who oversold his contracts), the supervisor (who didn't communicate with the salesman, and didn't get the shingles ordered when we needed them), the owner of the company (who ended up having to re-negotiate the contract and give us new shingles and a better warranty), and the contractors (who were mad at being taken off another job in order to do ours). I have no sympathy for them; we did our part by doing the tear-off on time, and caught them unprepared to do their part. David did a great job of staying calm, focused, and forceful in getting them to fulfill their part of the contract. The moral of the story: don't pay contractors up front for work that needs to be done, and check with the BBB before signing a contract.
David also has been putting more time and attention to our yard, and just put paving stones in the front yard by the street. It looks so nice, and the project has helped him focus and given him more confidence in his abilities. Our neighbors went out of their way to let him know they liked his work; he was DELIGHTED. 

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Class Assignment

I've been working on preparing an outline for my analysis of argument class. The topic is increasing education and awareness of mental illness. I decided to post my outline here, and would love feedback:

Resolved: The United States government should allocate more of its social services funding to educate the general population, law enforcement, clergy and family members about mental illness.

A. A significant number of Americans suffer from various types and degrees of mental illness.
1. Approximately 26 percent of the United States population ages 18 and older suffer from a diagnosable mental illness.
2. Sixteen percent of the homeless population are mentally ill.
3. 280,000 people with mental illness are in jail or prison, four times more than in state mental hospitals.
4. Approximately 90 percent of marriages involving someone with a mental illness will end in divorce.

B. Society is negatively impacted because of misconceptions about the causes and treatment associated with mental illness.
1. A recent example of what can happen when police officers are not sufficiently trained is the tasering death of Brian Cardall on June 9, 2009 during a psychotic episode.
2. Most insurance carriers don’t cover mental health issues at the same rate as regular healthcare.
a. As a result of inadequate coverage, many are unable to afford healthcare for their themselves or their loved ones who need help.
1. In 2010 a new law will go into effect giving mental health coverage the same amount as other illnesses. It’s a step in the right direction.
3. Mental illness affects family members emotionally and financially.
a. Many are unable to sustain relationships and end up divorcing.
b. Some have impulse control problems and become deeply in debt.
4. The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that mental illness costs the nation at least $193 billion annually.
a. Approximately $193 billion in lost earnings.
b. In 2004 22% of total hospital costs were attributed to adults with a mental health disorder.

C. Resources available to those in need of mental health care are inadequate.
1. Mental health care workers have increasingly heavy workloads.
2. Patients often have to wait weeks or months to see a doctor for help.
3. Social stigma and misunderstanding about mental illness causes many to feel marginalized.
4. Families often don’t know where to turn for help and information.
5. Most of the time the issue of mental illness is only covered when someone acts out and ends up in the news.
A. Most people are afraid of mental illness or don’t know what to do to help.

D. Information should be more accessible through a nonprofit agency, through more accurate media representations and additional research to aid understanding about mental illness and those affected by it.
1. Give national mental health agencies more exposure in the media and increase their presence on the Internet.
a. Create a nonprofit clearing house of information about mental health issues that is easy to find and access.
i. National Institute of Mental Health website
ii. The BBC has a page devoted to mental health issues: http://www.bbc.co.uk/health/conditions/mental_health/index.shtml
2. Encourage the media to accurately portray people suffering from mental illness.
a. Example: the Broadway play “Next to Normal”

Update: I just got my grade back for the outline: a 92! I'm feeling good about this.