Faith vs Fear

Faith vs Fear

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Back from R&R

Usually I try to do too much during a vacation and come home tired, but last week's vacation was just the right mix of activity and rest. And, to make it even better, David's test results came back and were good: he does have some esophagus problems because of acid reflux, but the rest looked all right. He's been feeling much better as he takes the stomach medicine he was prescribed, and his mood has been mostly upbeat.

He had a wonderful time camping and fishing for 2 days with our daughter Shannon and her 2 children, 8-year-old Gabby and 4-year-old Brad. They went to a high mountain lake that they had mostly to themselves and enjoyed the view, the fishing, and the company. It was just what he needed. Camping and fishing are the best medicine in the world for him.

I love going to McCall, Idaho, a small resort town located around a beautiful lake and forested mountains. I feel my stress level getting lower almost as soon as I get there. All of my brothers and sisters were there for part of the time, and I had fun visiting with them and our beloved 85-year-old dad. There was a nice mix of good conversation, good food, fun activities, and time to relax and read an interesting book. And for an added bonus, the weather was just right: warm during the days and cool at night.

We went on morning walks to the lake pictured above, hiked up to a mountain lake, took a chair lift to the top of the mountain at the local ski report for breathtaking views, and went on a day rafting trip on the main fork of the Salmon River.

View from the top of the ski hill.
Mountain lake we hiked to. Rafting on the Salmon. Such beautiful country!

I love rafting on the Salmon with my family. My brother knows the river well and we have a good time visiting, laughing, and enjoying the ride. The river has a strong current, which is why it is known as the "river of no return." In addition to the rapids (so fun! Like a water roller coaster), there are long stretches of calm, clear green water. The river flows at its own pace and reminds me that life is also flowing along as it should, with stressful times as well as tranquil moments. We need to have both present in our lives. I always feel renewed in body and spirit after a day on the river. No wonder my brother lives for it!

Photos of the Salmon River near Riggins, Idaho.

This week verified again to me the importance of getting regular rest and relaxation. We need it to keep our troubles in perspective, and to give our bodies time to rest and heal. I came home happy, rested, and ready to carry on with my life and its challenges.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

On Vacation

I'm leaving tomorrow for a five day visit with my dad and all my brothers and sisters. In the last year we've been able to see each other more than we had previously, and in a fun coincidence we will all be together on what would have been our parents' 64th anniversary. On the agenda, besides enjoying each other's company, is a rafting trip on the Salmon River and hiking. One of my brothers has been rafting on the river for the last 30 years or more, and knows all the best rapids. It will also be about ten degrees cooler than here. I am so looking forward to going.

I also feel a bit conflicted because we haven't heard yet what the medical report is on David. Last Friday he went to have an ultrasound on his gall bladder, and they ended up looking at his liver, kidneys and spleen as well. We're nervous, but he insists on me going ahead with my plans. He's also feeling the effect of not having a part-time job and is starting to have some anxiety. Hopefully he will be able to get something soon. He needs it not just for the money, but also to help him focus. We noticed that having to go to even a part-time job helped him work through his mood cycles. I think the heat is also affecting him.

He and our daughter Shannon, with her two children, are planning an overnight fishing trip while I'm gone. He's looking forward to that, and I think some time to himself as well. I'm just praying that the medical reports will be good.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

David's Health Issues

"Perseverance and spirit have done wonder in all ages"---George Washington
I came across that quote during the 4th of July weekend when I started reading David McCullough's book "1776." This is a great one about the first year of the Revolutionary War with George Washington and the Continental Army. I am in awe of those who were involved in an effort where everything seemed stacked against them. Brave men and women indeed.

One of my favorite things is to relax with a good book. I don't get the chance very often, and it's a real treat when I find some extra time. David's ulcer has been bothering him, so while he rested, I read.

I read a lot when I was growing up, and had a tendency to block everything else out. My family used to tease me that if I was reading a good book the house could burn around me and I wouldn't notice. I used to hide out in the library and read during lunch hours when I was in high school. Then one day a friend came into the library, told me I needed to socialize more than I needed to read another book, gathered everything up, and nearly dragged me to the lunchroom where some mutual friends were. He was right, and I learned to put a limit on how much recreational reading I did.

We ended up having a nice, quiet long weekend, except that we had to miss a family BBQ. David felt progressively worse during the weekend, and finally went to the dr. He ended up having a scope and biopsy yesterday (the 13th). The initial reports are good. The dr. who did the scope is the same one who did his emergency operation when he had a bleeding ulcer two years ago. She said that he's looking much better and thinks the problem is acid reflux.

David came through the procedure well, and his mood is a little blue but stable. I appreciate the fact that he usually can monitor how he's feeling and knows what he needs to do to keep stable. I have a tendency to hover over him when I think he's vulnerable, which irritates him. So I am learning to control that motherly instinct and walk away when he needs to be alone with his thoughts.

In addition to that stress, the company that we work for part-time lost the contract the building that we clean. While it is upsetting, I actually don't mind. I was getting really tired of working 2 jobs. We're hoping they will have something else for David to do. He really needs a part-time job to help him focus and stay calm.

That's why I like the quote by George Washington. It fits my life.

Friday, July 2, 2010

More on Managing Emotion

David has been doing better by degrees for the last two weeks. He went to his dr. last week for some blood tests and we are waiting to hear the results. In the meantime, he is working hard at controlling his emotions. I appreciate that about him. Every time he goes through a bad cycle, when he comes out of it he becomes introspective and redoubles his effort to control his illness. He's learning to use his character trait of being strong-willed and stubborn to fight this illness. David commented the other day that just as he thinks he has it under control, it escapes him again. It's a never-ending battle that sometimes wears him out, but he keeps fighting it.

Even though things have calmed down, I've been thinking more about how to manage my emotional reaction to his moods. Most of the time I can stay calm and fairly detached emotionally because I know it's the illness talking and not him. But every once in a while it gets to me, and I react.

Fortunately for us, after he's had a fit of bipolar rage, he becomes quiet and that allows me the time I need to gather my thoughts and feelings and get back to my emotional center. Only then are we able to talk over what happened.

One of the challenges of mental illness is that it affects people in so many different ways. Because of that, there is no one-size-fits-all method of treatment or coping for mental illness. I have been looking at different sources for advice about handling the emotional roller coaster, and have found some helpful hints. I hope to fully explore the subject in another post.

One piece of advice that I've read in several places is that it is important to acknowledge my feelings so that I can work through them and move on. I appreciate that, because I find it too easy to bury my feelings. That doesn't do either of us any good because my resentments build up and it eventually boils over and poisons my desire to work with him.

Several sources mention the need to take time for myself to de-stress. I have learned the importance of taking several mental health days a year. I know I need one when I start to feel resentful, overly tired, and pre-occupied. I'm planning on taking another one soon.

One of the best ways for me to cope is to turn to prayer for help. When his moods get to be too much for me to handle I rely heavily on prayer to get me through the tough times, and for David to get the help he needs. And without fail, that help comes.

Learning what triggers his mood is also important. Holidays are stressful for him because of expectations that come with them. We decided to stay home and relax this year. We are hoping that this Fourth of July will be a lot better than last year.