Faith vs Fear

Faith vs Fear

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving Thoughts

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. I enjoy the opportunity to take time to think of our many blessings, and the low-key family, food, and football atmosphere surrounding it. Notice how relaxed I am about the big dinner? That's because my sweet sister-in-law and brother invited us to their house. She loves to cook and entertain much more than I do. I'm assigned to bring the drinks; I can handle that. We do have a pie party on Sunday with the kids who are in town and available. I'm looking forward to the get-together.

The words of one of my favorite hymns keeps going through my mind, and seems appropriate to share with you this season:

For the beauty of the earth, For the beauty of the skies,
For the love which from our birth Over and around us lies,
Lord of all, to thee we raise This our hymn of grateful praise.

For the beauty of each hour Of the day and of the night,
Hill and vale, and tree and flow'r, Sun and moon, and stars of light,
Lord of all, to thee we raise This our hymn of grateful praise.

For the joy of human love, Brother, sister, parent, child,
Friends on earth, and friends above, For all gentle thoughts and mild,
Lord of all, to thee we raise This our hymn of grateful praise.

And for your amusement, I thought I'd share some funnies that a friend sent me:

I hope your Thanksgiving holiday is a joyful one.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Working with Mood Swings

I recently saw a list at "The Bipolar Spouse" about how not to interact with loved ones who have the disorder. Since I can't seem to link to the page, I thought I'd share them in a condensed form. After looking around the internet, this is the best list I could find on the subject. I have also had to learn the hard way about all of these issues, and I wholeheartedly agree with what he says:
"1. Ignore Suicidal Behavior or Tendencies
"2. Fight Back Over Irrational Arguments
"When the bipolar cycle shifts into a manic/hypomanic or depressive state, the mood and mindset of our loved on may slip into a very irrational state and the basic sense of reality may also deteriorate. Such arguments may arise that include topics or concerns that are normally not a concern or a threat and there may be no indication as to why the topic has been brought up at all. Choosing to fight back on such topics can be damaging to both parties and can enable our bipolar spouse to view such topics as a true threat and may inhibit some intense reactions and dangerous results if not resolved as soon as possible.
"3. Blame Your Loved One for the Disorder
"Bipolar disorder is developed over time and may generally be handed down genetically from the family tree. Those afflicted with the disorder never ask to be affected, nor have they chosen to host the disorder so it is not fair to simply place blame for the disorder on our loved one and how it affects the relationship. Given the progressive appearance of the relationship, younger individuals may witness the slow appearance of the disorder over time and make false assumptions that the changes are planned out by the afflicted individual. This is not the case and blaming our loved one for allowing the disorder to hurt the relationship is simply not fair to the individual.
"4. Enable Abusive Behavior and Disrespect
"There is a fine line between “acceptance” and “abuse” and unfortunately, even our bipolar loved ones can learn to cross this line during an episode if supporters are not willing to place an appropriate amount of accountability into the relationship. There are indeed occasions where our loved ones may make some irrational decisions and lash out without merit, but if we do not make it known that there is a line that must not be crossed, we as supporters can quickly being to advertise that we are willing to take any amount of such factors without much consequence. Although the disorder can push our loved ones over the edge, we must still maintain respect and love in the relationship.
"5. Digging Up Old Bones
"Bringing up the past can trigger off some intensive anxiety which may induce an expected episode and introduce either old arguments, or previously resolved tensions. Rehashing past mistakes or events can repaint an image that was once forgotten, and during an full-blown episode, that past may become the present again.
"6. Pass Judgment on Irrational Behavior
"Along the lines of placing accountability, we must keep in mind that bipolar disorder’s most common symptom involves driving the afflicted individual to act out on irrational decisions and present very ordinary behavior. Although some of these decisions can be managed, mistakes can be made and if we are willing to forgive and/or forget, this must be an all-or-nothing agreement. Mistakes are just that, mistakes…and they must be become an identifying factor of our loved ones.
"7. Support or Offer Self-Medication
"8. Use Physical Restraint or Violence

"During some manic/hypomanic episodes, frustrations and outright anger may ensue during an outburst or argument. Unless there is a threat to human life, it is imperative that physical restraint or violence is not introduced into the situation (unless performed by a paramedic or other trained professional requiring restraint). Confining or restraining one during an episode may result in firing a trigger which may make the episode ever worse.
"9. Leave Loved One Alone During Episode
"The worst time for our loved ones to be alone is during the high or low end of an episode. In some cases, when left alone due to a walk-out after a fight, abandonment anxiety may set in and spur feelings of worthlessness and a feeling of being unloved. It is during these times that irrationality may take over and dangerous decisions and actions may be made that could potentially be life-threatening.
"10. Making Condescending Statements
"Such remarks that may appear insulting or condescending in nature can only add to the challenges of a bipolar relationship. "Some examples of these remarks are:
“Snap out of it.”
“Stop feeling sorry for yourself.”
“So you’re depressed. Aren’t you always?”
“It’s your own fault.”
“You do this on purpose.”
Worst of all, do not say, “I know how you feel…”

True confession time: I used to raise my voice (OK, yell) at David or slam doors when I was frustrated with his irrational behavior and arguments. Unfortunately, all that accomplished was adding more contention and frustration for both of us, as well as for the children. I eventually learned better ways to react, but it was a long, slow learning process. Now when he's in one of his bad cycles (they do happen even though he tries so hard to control them), I listen to what he means, not necessarily to the words he's saying, watch his body language for clues to his mood, ignore insulting comments and irrational arguments and/or change the subject. When he tells me I'm yelling at him (and I'm not!) I calmly remind him that I am not yelling, I am explaining how I feel. It works MUCH better for both of us. The key is to remain as calm as possible to help him work through his mood swing, especially the dark ones when he says he's feeling "angry and hateful."

I also found some good suggestions on how to deal with biplar disorder at I especially agree with the counsel to NOT take anything he says when in one of his moods personally. He doesn't mean it, and most of the time doesn't even remember what he said.

Even though this illness is hard to deal with on occasion, there are also many happy moments and a strong bond developing between us that makes it worth all the hard work.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Trip Report

Duck Creek, on the way to Kanab

We've been unwinding, getting back up to speed at work, dealing with David's post-vacation depression (thankfully, fairly mild) this week. We keep looking back at last week, wishing we could do that again SOON. The sign of a good vacation.

We drove south through Cedar City to Cedar Breaks national monument; so pretty, but cold with snow on the ground. We eventually made our way down to Kanab in southern Utah and spent the rest of the time exploring the area.

Cedar Breaks National Monument

Cascade Falls Viewpoint, near Cedar Breaks

On the second night we went down a canyon looking for a camping spot when all of a sudden we saw the set for the old TV western "Gunsmoke!" That brought back tons of memories of watching old westerns when we were kids.

Old set for "Gunsmoke"

The next day we went to Paria Canyon and had fun exploring an old ghost town and abandoned western movie set. Even though the setting was beautiful with leaves changing color, old ghost towns seem forlorn, filled with withered dreams. I thought about the people who once made the area their home.

The Paria River

Remnant of an old ghost town

Remains of an old movie set

At an old western movie set

We decided to go to the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument instead of going through Zion's National Park. It was a good decision. We spent most of three days exploring the area, and saw maybe 5 cars go by, and 6 people who were there besides us. We had the area to ourselves, and enjoyed hiking, exploring, camping and spending time talking about where we had been, and making plans for the coming months and years.

Look at the fall colors!

David hiking in a slot canyon in the Grand Staircase Escalante park

Grosvenor Arch

We hiked up to the back of Grosvenor Arch for this breathtaking view

We had our dogs, Sunny and Lucy, with us, and they had also had a grand time running and climbing. It turns out that Lucy is an excellent guard dog (she raised the alarm when she smelt coyotes nearby and scared them off), and Sunny is good at pointing out the best trails. He doesn't realize he's just a five-pound toy poodle.

Sunny (our poodle) and Lucy (our 10-month-old lab/pointer mix)

We were less than excited about coming home, but I admit that I was happy for a warm home, running water and a soft bed. We noticed that David's mood was sunny and upbeat while we were down south, and when we arrived in the valley (at rush hour), his mood almost immediately started changing. We realize he does best in sunny, wide-open, slow-paced places, and we are hopeful about spending more time exploring in areas such as southern Utah.

Sunset from our last campsite

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veterans' Day Thoughts

I've been thinking about those serving in the military all day. Partly because we were out in the wilds when the Ft. Hood tragedy occurred, and partly because of my boys who serve. I read the account of what happened and the tributes, and feel heartfelt sorrow for all those involved, as well as pride in how these Soldiers responded. When I became a military mom I discovered that I feel a sense of kinship with those who serve, as well as their families. When one is lost, I feel their pain and pride. Obama is right: we have heroes among us.

When I was growing up Veterans' Day was a day out of school, and the big football game between two rival high schools (my brothers played football, and it was a big deal).

Now I stop to think of those who have served in order for the rest of us to have the freedom to pursue our hopes and dreams. I just finished "Three Cups of Tea," an amazing book that made me stop and realize how truly blessed we are to live in the United States, even with all of its faults. It also gave me a small insight into that troubled area of the world where my son will undoubtedly end up at some point.

I think of ancestors who fought in the Revolutionary War;
the Civil War (I found the story of my great-great-grandfather's regiment, and it brought to life someone who was just a name on my pedigree chart);
WW1 (both grandfathers, one of whom saw action in France);
WWII (my dad, who served as a tail gunner in China), and my father-in-law (a Navy mechanic);
my former father-in-law (one of my favorite people, and a Vietnam Vet);
my brother, an 82nd airborne paratrooper and chaplain;
Jon, the Marine (he reminded me today that there is no such thing as an "ex-Marine");
Brian (who served 2 deployments to Iraq, and is now an officer at Ft. Lewis);
son-in-law Wes (who served a year in Iraq, and is now active Reserves);
Sailor Jeff currently in the Gulf onboard the Nimitz (and struggling a bit with missing his wife);
and family friend Bodie (Air National Guard).
I owe them all a debt of gratitude. As long as we have men like these, as well as so many other dedicated men and women who sacrifice and serve, our nation will remain strong and free.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Celebrating Our Anniversary

We're off to celebrate our 23rd anniversary with a road trip to Southern Utah! I'm pleased to say that David has not said even once that he didn't want to go! That's a first!
I'll give a report when we get back! Have a happy weekend.