Faith vs Fear

Faith vs Fear

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.


  1. Sally, I wish I could print this out and bronze it. You have a very strong marriage I think and the knowledge you are bringing to it is amazing and inspiring to those of us who either long for it, or wish we had it too.

    Love you muchly.

  2. Thank you! We were talking about our relationship last night, and the changes that have come over the years. There was a time, several years ago, when we were both ready to throw in the towel. Our children kept us together, and we're both glad we didn't give up when it was hard.

  3. Congratulations on the soon arrival of more grandbabies!!! Your post reminds me of I Corinthians 13--the love chapter. It seems like the times that 'try' us the most are the times when our growth as human beings and believers in God is the greatest.

  4. Thank you, Aimee. I think you're right about the trying times. That really is their purpose, to help us grow, even when it doesn't seem that way. I hope that all is well with you.

  5. This is a pretty amazing post. I have to say that I am in awe of what you are able to do for your marriage. I just couldn't and so I am really impressed with how you can. So glad you have found ways to take care of you during the hardest times.

  6. This is indeed a great post. I can so relate to much of what you share. Used to be my spouse's cycles were evenly broken up every 3 months. And my spouse characterized the mental noise as "spongebob running wild in my brain." Yikes! Our spouses really are brave for fighting to be present in daily life in spite of bipolar. Thank you for sharing your journey!

  7. PS- those messages in the quotes are just what I needed to hear... thank you again!

  8. I so appreciate all the sweet comments. Journey2balance: I like that phrase, 'spongebob running wild in my brain.' I'll share that one with David; he'll love it! They are indeed brave to keep fighting this awful illness.
    Thankfully, right now he's in a good cycle, happy and productive. This is when it makes the hard times worthwhile.
    KJ: Not all marriages can (or even should, for that matter) survive. The important thing is to keep growing and healing from the past pain. For example, I have no regrets at all for ending my first marriage, even though we reconciled several years ago and have a good relationship. He's much better with his current spouse, and I'm glad I'm with David, even through the worst of times.

  9. What a lovely post! How nice it is that you have found a way to be supportive of David, and to take care of yourself. And how terrific that your kids and his understand. Congrats on more grandchildren!



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