Faith vs Fear

Faith vs Fear

Monday, October 26, 2009

Payday Weekend

We had one of those great weekends that cause us to stop and count our blessings.

We had a family halloween party on Saturday with most of the kids and grandkids in the area (the family with the new baby was excused). It was so much fun to watch 6 of our grandchildren, ages 2 to 8, play together and do some arts and crafts projects, while we visited with our children. Two of them spent Saturday night and most of Sunday with us. We had a good time playing together, and reading a pop-up book of the "Wizard of Oz." They went to church with us, and 7-year-old Gabby sang in the Primary music program. She said, "And I wasn't even scared because I was in a school program." We were proud.

Then, on Sunday, our Soldier Brian came into town for a short visit before heading to Ft. Lewis, and his family. We haven't been able to see him in a year, and he looks wonderful. He just finished five months of officer training on the east coast. Every time I see him I'm impressed by how much he's grown in confidence. I am so very proud of my brand-new Army officer. Sailor Jeff's wife is in town for some schooling, and they talked about military life and argued over which branch of service is better. (Jeff is doing fine on his deployment, but we miss him badly.)

I couldn't help but look back and think of where we were 15 years ago. It wasn't pretty. At the time, we had 5 teenage children, ages 13 to 17, struggling with broken- and blended-family issues, 2 young children at home, and 2 daughters living with their mother. David was undiagnosed, and reacting badly to family stress. Of course, it didn't help when the kids pushed his buttons, as most will do when frustrated. They were a close-knit group, and frequently egged each other on. (Oh, the stories I could tell!)

I knew David had some emotional problems, but I couldn't convince him of that. One time when he had an emotional break I was able to get him into a psychiatrist. Unfortunately, the dr. was more interested in overmedicating David and pushing us out the door. It took another 10 years to get him back to a doctor. I went to a family counselor for several years who helped me through some of the worst times, but he never talked to me about the possibility of David having a mental illness. His counsel helped, but it would have been much more helpful if he had given me some coping skills for David's obvious mental health issues.

Time passed (quickly, it now seems, although at the time I wondered if it would ever end) and our house emptied out within just a few years. Jon left for the Marines and married; Brian served a mission to the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico and later joined the Army; Ben worked and then served a mission to Perth Australia; Lara, Brittany, and Shannon each married and became young mothers. The younger children, Jeff, Katie, and Krista, also eventually grew up, married, and left home.

We wonder sometimes how we made it through those tough years. Mainly with prayer and patience, coupled with good friends and family who helped out. Weekends like this seem even sweeter after all the storms we went through to get to this point.

Update: David went to the p-doc today. The dr. increased his lithium to 300 mg. and put him on risperdone to help control the voices and paranoia. Here's hoping it will help! He also counseled with him to not doing his "walks" anymore. That means I will feel more comfortable about calling next time I see those symptoms start to develop. I just haven't been sure about what to do when David gets in that frame of mind. It makes me feel better to know that more help is available.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Daily Life and Time Issues (again)

One of my challenges is figuring out how much time I should spend with David vs. how much time I should spend on my own projects. I am finding, somewhat to my surprise, that I enjoy being with David, especially when he's in a stable period. A good thing. The problem is that I tend to get drawn into his activities at the expense of doing my own household chores and hobbies. And that can be very frustrating.

For example, David likes working with his hands on projects around the house, and wants me to drop what I'm doing to help him "for just a few minutes." He especially likes working on his pet project: a 1950 truck that he has rebuilt and lovingly calls his "hot rod." Although, when he's frustrated with it, he has less-than-printable words for it. The hot rod has been an ongoing hobby for the last 15 years (I'm really not kidding). Sometimes he's had it running, but he can't resist tinkering with it to make it faster, etc. The nice thing is that working on the hot rod has given him confidence in his skills, and something to focus on. This is the first summer in 3 years that he's been well enough to concentrate on it; a good thing. Jon and Ben have also been able to work with him on troubleshooting, so that he can get it up and running (yet again); a very good thing.

David and his hot rod (during one of its renovations; he later put the cab roof back on)

I listened to the program, Music and the Spoken Word on Sunday, and I appreciated the message (as well as the music) about problem-solving. I especially liked the thought that large problems can be solved by perseverance and taking it one step at a time.

So what's the solution? I don't have all the answers. I did decide that I'm going to relax a bit more and enjoy spending time with him, instead of resenting the time helping him. I also am doing some things just for myself. I started going to a book club with some friends, and we're reading "Three Cups of Tea." (Such a good book!) One of the wise village elders where the author was building a school reminded him that some things take time to build and not to expect everything to be done all at once. He also let him know that it was important to build relationships as well as projects. It was a good reminder.

David has done a good job lately of keeping his moods fairly even, with a few dark days thrown in to keep us on our toes. We've also had some fun family events: our granddaughter was baptized a few weeks ago. It was a sweet experience made sweeter by having all the children and grandchildren in the area there; something that doesn't happen very often because of conflicting schedules. Then, a few days later, we added a beautiful new granddaughter, Kylee, to the family. They make everything that we have struggled with worth the effort.

Isn't that the way life is: a mix of trials and joys? The trick is to learn to relax and enjoy the ride, which is sometimes easier said than done.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Learning Coping Skills

David struggled this last month with increasing bouts of paranoia and mixed episodes. For him, it seems to run in three-month intervals. The pressure and noise in his head, which he calls "buzzing and voices" builds up until the need to run away by himself becomes overwhelming. "Don't take this personally," he says when his illness starts to get the better of him.

Last weekend I was busy with a work-related project, and he went to help our daughter Shannon with her car. He came home and said all he could do was get her the parts she needed, but he couldn't focus enough to repair it. They did, however, have a long talk about his illness to help her understand what's going on with him. And early Sunday morning he left before I got up to take one of his "walks." The weather had turned cool and overcast with rain showers. He came home several hours later, and said, "I'm cold, hungry, tired, and I couldn't find a 'safe place,' so I came home." Welcome words!

When David comes home, I have to fight the urge to smother him with attention and affection until he feels ready to talk. I have learned to make home a comfortable place for him so that he wants to be here. Sometimes that means giving him lots of space. Then, when he's ready, we have a good conversation about his feelings and experiences (not very specific, but enough to help me understand where he's been). I have learned to stay very calm while he's talking, and spend most of the time listening to him. But he also is understanding of my feelings and encourages me to write down what has happened and how I feel about it.

I know he's feeling better when he jokes about "that other guy," and makes fun of the voices (he calls it "THEM") in his head and what they encourage him to do or not do.

We had a similar episode in July. After skimming through Julia Fast's book, "Loving Someone with Bipolar Disorder" and browsing through helpful sites on the Internet, I (finally) figured out what I needed to do during these so very difficult episodes:

1. Remember that I cannot "fix" David. This is a hard one for me. I have a caretaker-type personality, and my instinct is to hover over him, and try to make everything better. There are times when he tells me to leave him alone. I have to respect his wishes, and leave him alone. He use to pick fights with me as an excuse to leave. Now he tells me what's going on with him, and is apologetic.

2. When the urge to leave hits him, there is absolutely nothing I can do or say that will help. The only thing I can do is pray for him and his well-being and safety. I feel comforted and reassured that all will be well. Though, human nature being what it is, I still worry, and as the hours tick by, find myself mentally and emotionally planning for the worst.

3. While he's gone, I keep myself busy instead of pacing, and waiting by the phone for a call. Last July, it coincided with one of my rare days off, so I took myself out for some retail therapy, and had a great time. This time, it fell on general conference weekend, so I listened to the sermons and crocheted baby blankets for 3 more expected grandbabies that are due in the next several months. I can handle the stress better when I do something for myself. For me, I need/want to be left alone when David is gone. I guess it's my way of coping. Our children have been wonderfully supportive of us. Shannon called to see how he was doing, and we had a good conversation about her father. Then, later, when David was home and feeling better, Jon and his family came by with a plate of cookies that their 8-year-old daughter made especially for "Grandpa David." We feel blessed by the care of our children.

I thoroughly enjoyed the shopping trip in July, but there were several messages that I needed to hear this weekend that helped me keep things in perspective.

"We are important to God not because of our résumé but because we are His children. He loves us because He is filled with an infinite measure of holy, pure, and indescribable love. He loves all His children, even those who are flawed, rejected, awkward, sorrowful, or broken. God's love is so great that He loves even the proud, the selfish, the arrogant, and the wicked.
"What this means is that, regardless of our current state, there is hope for us. No matter our distress, no matter our sorrow, no matter our mistakes, our infinitely compassionate Father desires that we draw near to Him so that He can draw near to us.
"We increase our love for God and demonstrate that love by aligning our thoughts and actions with God's word. The pure love of our Heavenly Father ever directs and encourages us to become more pure and holy. It inspires us to walk in righteousness—not out of fear or obligation but out of an earnest desire to be like Him." President Dieter Uchtdorf, Second Counselor in the First Presidency

"Sometimes in our repentance, in our daily effort to become more Christ-like, we find ourselves repeatedly struggling with the same difficulties. Like climbing a tree-covered mountain, at times we don't see our progress until we get closer to the top and look back from the high ridges. Don't be discouraged. If you are striving and working to repent, you are in the process of repenting." Elder Neil L. Andersen, Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

I appreciate these words of counsel and support to help me through the hard times.

Monday, October 5, 2009

A Quick Note

I feel badly that I haven't been able to post anything lately. I'm in the middle of a hectic work schedule (I'll explain later). But I'll post again soon. (It's my reward for all the work and stress!)