Faith vs Fear

Faith vs Fear

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Just for Fun

You know those "getting to know you" quizzes that come every once in awhile through e-mail? I recently received one, and decided, just for fun, to post some of my answers here.

"Welcome to the new 2009 edition of getting to know your family and
friends. Here is what you are supposed to do, and try not to be lame and
spoil the fun. Change all the answers so that they apply to you. Then
send this to a bunch of people you know, INCLUDING the person who sent
it to you. Some of you may get this several times; that means you have
lots of friends. The easiest way to do it is to hit 'forward' so you can
change the answers or copy and paste. Have fun and be truthful! I want
to see your answers!
1. What is your occupation right now? editor/secretary
2. What color are your socks right now? tan nylons (I have to wear dresses to work)
3. What are you listening to right now? office-type sounds
4. What was the last thing that you ate? Planters peanut bar (so good!)
5. Can you drive a stick shift? Yes
6. Last person you spoke to on the phone? My son Jeff who just came home on leave from the Navy
7. How old are you today? I've already confessed my age, but a day older than yesterday, younger than tomorrow
8. What is your favorite sport to watch on TV? Pro football (go Packers!)
9. What is your favorite drink? Lately, it's lemon water, but I also like Sprite
10. Have you ever dyed your hair? Yes. Unfortunately it's more and more often
11. Favorite food? Anything with cheese. Lately I've become addicted to Mexican cheese thanks to my daughter
12. What is the last movie you watched? Star Trek. I really enjoyed it
13. Favorite day of the year? First day of vacation
14. How do you vent anger? swear (or sulk, as the mood hits)
15. What was your favorite toy as a child? barbie doll, the kind with a bouffant hairdo
16. What is your favorite season? Fall
17. Cherries or Blueberries? Blueberries
18. Living arrangements? Husband, me, 2 dogs and a cat
19. When was the last time you cried? Last week when David hit bottom emotionally
20. What is on the floor of your closets? shoes, misc. junk (I SERIOUSLY need to clean closets)
21. What did you do last night? Read a chapter for my class about establishing credentials in an argument
22. What are you most afraid of? something bad happening to David
23. Plain, cheese, or spicy hamburgers? cheese
24. Favorite dog breed? Lab, followed closely by Poodles and Swedish Shepherds
25. Favorite day of the week? Friday evenings
26. How many states have you lived in? too many, let's see....6
27. Diamonds or pearls? pearls
28. What is your favorite flower? wild flowers, daisies, and irises

Monday, June 22, 2009

Father's Day

Yesterday I chatted briefly with my dad and wished him a happy father's day. The best part was that he was in great spirits and was having brunch with 3 of his 5 children for the first time in nearly 30 years.
I have always been something of a daddy's girl, and am grateful that he's still with us at 84 years and going strong. Here are some of the lessons I learned from this wise, witty, fun man:
1. People are more important than meetings. I worked with him the summer after I graduated from high school at a sawmill he was struggling to build (it never did work right), and one day, when I was impatient to leave for a church meeting, we stayed extra long to visit with a lonely old man who lived across the highway. His comment stayed with me, and taught me about proper perspectives.
2. Always do more than what is required. That piece of advice that he gave me at my first part-time job stuck with me. I can't say I always have followed it exactly, but it has worked well for me when I have.
3. Life is an adventure. You can make the most of it. He demonstrated it through financial reverses, disappointments, the loss of my mother at age 53, and struggles with his second wife. His example helped me deal with the various challenges of my life, including mind-numbing postpartum depression when my oldest daughter was born, before such things were mentioned in polite society.
4. Always turn to prayer and your spiritual leaders for counsel and comfort. Another piece of valuable counsel that has never failed.
5. Stay active and involved in life. This is from my dad who walks his dogs daily, still hikes, fishes, cross-country skis, goes rafting on the Salmon River with my brother, travels, etc. We sometimes have a hard time keeping up with him.
6. Follow your dreams, and don't give up when it gets hard. Dad served as a tail gunner in China during WWII. He lost his best friend and regular crew during the war, and always wanted to go back to China. He was finally able to realize that dream in 1989, just before the Tianamen Square massacre and wrote a book about his experiences "In search of ghosts: China perspectives, past and present, by a former Flying Tiger." When I decided to go back to school, he was one of my biggest supports and cheerleader.

David had a better weekend than he's had all month. He was able to talk to most of the children, and we had a good visit with his mother. We also watched "Star Trek" and thoroughly enjoyed it. We're in the process of getting a new roof, and he's been occupied in checking out all possible options, including doing it himself, along with our sons. I can see some improvement in his mood, but its been a long, frustratingly slow climb out of this cycle. Hopefully he'll get his blood levels checked SOON, and we'll have a clearer idea of how he's doing.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Setting Boundaries

David's mood is still very much up and down: he becomes a little hypomanic for a short time, then it's right back to depression.

The other day he really hit bottom. When that happens, the schizoaffective part kicks in, he puts on his "traveling clothes" and becomes obsessed with wandering away. He says something like: "I need to quit taking my meds and see what's out there for me. I have to know what's at the end of the road. I have to go away by myself." Every time he gets like this I mentally start to plan his funeral because there's no way of knowing where he'll end up.

The only thing I can do is put my arms around him so he can't leave and let him talk through it. It's such a relief when he finally says that he'll take his meds, changes back into his regular clothes, and becomes more rational. We also talk about what would happen if he did leave or if something happens to him. This last time he told me he wants his funeral to take place early in the morning because it's his favorite time of day. Sunsets really bother him. Fortunately, after it's all over with, he doesn't remember much of what happened. He says when he's like this he has a hard time distinguishing reality from hallucinations. He is, however, becoming more aware of when this mood is coming upon him. And when he says something hurtful, he apologizes to me. The whole thing is so emotionally draining!

We've been talking a lot lately about boundaries to behavior. One of the best things about David is that years ago he decided what his personal boundaries are (no drinking, drugs, cheating, etc.), and has stayed true to them, even when he has the urge to do all of those things and more. My job is to help him remember and keep his boundaries intact. One of the ways he does that is to go to church and pray frequently. Another is to go to a gym to work through his frustrations and temptations and to visit with his friends who understand where he's coming from.

I admire him for his strength. I know it's ten times harder for him to make and keep healthy choices than for those who don't have this disorder. As he frequently says: "I wake up every day and have to fight to be normal."

On a happier note: I took a test this morning, and I feel pretty good about it. Only one more test and a paper to go! Hooray!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Summer class

I'm taking my last class at the U this summer. I had planned to take it online, but that didn't work out, and now I'm really glad. "Analysis of Argument" is a great class to end this portion of my schooling with. It's about how to plan and present a logical discussion on a topic.
We're supposed to do a paper on a subject of our choice, using the methods taught in the class. My topic, big surprise, is: "Resolved: The U.S. government should allocate more of its social service funding to educate the general population, officers, clergy, and family members about mental illness."
We have a mid-term test on Tuesday, and an outline for our case due July 2. I'm a tad nervous about the test, but excited to get started on the outline. As the semester progresses, I plan to post what I learn.
Our Sailor son, Jeff, and his wife will also be here next month before he's deployed for 6 months to the Persian Gulf. I'm looking forward to having them home for a few weeks, but not looking forward to the deployment.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Post Vacation Depression

David is having a bad spell with post-vacation depression.
I'm not really surprised, given all the stress that we've experienced in the past month: Our youngest getting married, my graduation, becoming empty-nesters, and our favorite dog getting killed.
I can see the signs when it starts getting harder for him to control, and I feel frustrated and sad that I can't do much more than give quiet sympathy when it overtakes him.
In the bad old days I took it personally when he distanced himself from me emotionally. That's when we argued the most. Now I realize it's one of the symptoms of his illness.
Here are some hard-won lessons that I've learned over the past 20 years on how to work with him. It's not that I'm perfect at it, but this is what works the best for us:
When he says he wants to be left alone, I've learned to give him space and continue on with my own projects and life.
He tends to say unkind and inappropriate remarks; I either ignore them and leave the room, or tell him as calmly as possible that he's out of control.
Most of the time when I ask him how he's doing he gives me full sentences about how he feels. When he's in this frame of mind, he gives me one word answers or a cold look. I've learned to accept the answer and not press for more.
David has very little energy and motivation right now. I accept what he does, and don't demand more than what he can give.
We usually have a nightly prayer together, and that always helps. Now is the time when I also need to put his name on the prayer roll at the temple.
I try to remember that a loving Father in Heaven knows him, his needs, and how best to help him. I've learned to "let go, and let God" take charge.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Road Trip Report

We had a wildly successful first empty-nester trip over Memorial Day weekend.
The day before we left David had a major struggle with pre-trip anxiety. He always has a panic attack before we go anywhere outside of Salt Lake Valley and usually tells me that we can't/won't/shouldn't be going. He worked through it by going on a walk along the Jordan with the dogs. Sadly, Riley bolted off just before David could put his leash on after a swim, and ended up half a mile from David at a busy road, and was killed by a car. We were heartbroken. All through the weekend we felt peace and comfort in the loss of Riley, and David made it through the weekend without any more anxiety or major depressive episodes. We felt blessed and grateful.

Everyone else who had planned to go with us bailed at the last minute, but we were OK with that. It was important and healing for us to be by ourselves, talking and mourning as we needed to. We also enjoyed being by ourselves, coming and going as we pleased, and exploring little-traveled side roads. Usually that gets us into trouble, but this time we managed not to get stuck or lost (well, only a little, one time).

We love going to the desert in the early summer. The weather was still cool, and with recent rain, desert flowers were out in full force.

Cactus in bloom

David and I like to camp in out-of-the-way rough camps, and the first night we found a beautiful campsite near a river bottom. David had a good time fishing.

The next day we went to Goblin Valley and had a great time hiking and climbing in the rain. The weather forecast all week had been 80s and sunny. They were wrong. It was more like 70s and showery, but we decided we weren't going to let a little thing like rain destroy our vacation.

Goblin Valley

The cliffs at Goblin Valley

It was raining when we drove through Capital Reef, so we kept on going.

View of Capital Reef area from a mountaintop scenic view stop

We found a beautiful place to camp near the little town of Boulder in the Grand Staircase Monument. I was just starting to cook dinner, and David had started to put up a new tent that we bought from Kevin, but hadn't put the rain cover over it yet (he decided to go fish in the creek nearby instead), when it started to rain. The rain turned into a downpour! So there we were: David trying to put the rain cover on the tent in a driving rainstorm (it didn't work: we hadn't figured out how to put the tent up, and the weight of the raincover filled with rainwater caused the tent to collapse with most of our camp gear inside! Fortunately, our bedding was safe and dry in our SUV) and I was trying to cook pork chops in a pan that filled with water faster than I could empty it out and keep cooking. I'm not a great cook anyway, but this was by far the worst thing I have ever cooked: soggy, cold pork chops. But we choked it down, then sat in our car, looked at the soggy mess and laughed ourselves to sleep.

The weather sort of cleared up off and on the next day, and we went on to Escalante and Calf Creek Falls, then over to Kodachrome Basin and Bryce Canyon.

Calf Creek Falls

Kodachrome Basin

Bryce Canyon

We camped by a beautiful mountain lake called Pine Lake, where David caught a 3-5 pound trout! He was a happy camper.

Pine Lake

We were reluctant to join the rat race of the freeway, so we slowly made our way home on the backroads and enjoyed looking at the small towns along the way home.

We were able to relax and reconnect with each other in a way that hasn't happened very often. We noticed that David's moods were much better, and when he could feel himself slipping into depression because of the loss of Riley, he was able to pull himself out of it. It was wonderful to have some time with a well David. 

We're planning on doing some more trips like this one by ourselves.