Faith vs Fear

Faith vs Fear

Friday, July 25, 2014

Where We Are Now

I recently took some time to read about this adventure we've been on for the last six years. So much progress! And yet we still have miles to go.
I started this blog as part of a class assignment when I was going to school. At the time, David was newly diagnosed and we had no idea of what to do or expect. I wrote this at the time:
    "For most of the time we have been married, David has dealt with mood swings and difficulties in keeping a job. Until last year, he was functioning all right and learning to keep his moods under control. Then he lost another job, and his illness took a turn for the worse. After several weeks of not being able to concentrate, struggling with hallucinations, and taking long walks when he was almost catatonic, he agreed to see a doctor. It was a relief to have a name for what was happening to him, and at the same time frightening because we knew so little about the disorder. This is what I wrote at the time: 'We had a long, very interesting and helpful talk about what is happening to him, and I'm still digesting this piece of news. Fortunately, most of the time he's rational and able to tell me what is going on in his mind. I don't know much about this disease, and I have a million more questions than answers. I just feel my husband has been handed a life sentence for an incurable, but hopefully treatable disease. This feels overwhelming. One of my questions is what do I tell the kids? Another is how in the world am I going to find the time to deal with taking care of him and everything else?'"

One of the real blessings for us was my brother Kent, who was working as a case worker for a mental health organization. We were able to have lunch together frequently during that time, and when I described David's worsening condition he told me what was going on and gave me some much needed information and moral support. Kent and his wife, Chris, were wonderful listening ears and helped David understand and accept his diagnosis.
After David stabilized, we were surprised by the amount of stigma associated with mental illness and decided that we would do our part in our small sphere of influence to lessen it by being open about bipolar and talking about it with family members and friends. It undoubtedly was hard for them to hear what we were saying at first, but over the years they have become accepting and supportive. I especially appreciate the men in our ward who have taken David under their wings and make him feel wanted and needed. With that support, David has worked on his own spirituality and makes every effort to attend church regularly and we have prayer together every morning and evening. His prayers are deeply felt and beautiful. He knows where to turn for help when things are rough, and has been given the strength that he needs.

We have also been fortunate to have great doctors who give him the help he needs. His pdoc is especially good at working with David, and takes the time to call when there is a need. Because of that, David is really good about taking his meds (with an occasional outburst of "I don't need them anymore" and then he realizes he does). From 2007: Sep 22, 2007
"I had intended to keep this journal (at just for the military kids, but I think that on occasion I'm going to talk about David and the battle we are in for his mental health. I find that I'm responding to this much as I do when my boys are deployed—disbelief, grief, worry, small joys, the need to find out everything I can about it, etc. It feels like another type of roller coaster ride.

"I went with him to the Dr. again on Tuesday after a bad weekend and my b-day, and after the Dr. consulted with the clinic psychiatrist, he left some meds for David at the reception desk. After 1 1/2 days of dragging his feet, and several discussions about why he needs them, he picked them up!! I know it's a little thing, but I'm DELIGHTED! I just hope he'll take them, and they'll help. He goes back to the Dr. in 2 weeks for a consultation, and we'll see what happens then. I went to my bishop and he gave me some needed counsel and comfort."
Truly, David would not be as stable without the support of friends and loved ones, and caring doctors.

Now he doesn't have the frightening manic episodes, but he still battles severe anxiety and depression. For example, we visited my family in McCall last Thanksgiving and even though he had a hard time with his moods, we managed to have a good time. Unfortunately as the weekend progressed, David retreated into himself and an almost catatonic state. He was in no shape to drive the seven hours home, so I drove the whole way, except for a 25 mile stretch when I thought he was doing better. It was frightening. I didn't want to drive drowsy, so we found a motel in a little town out in the middle of nowhere—there's a lot of nowhere on that drive— and spent the night. He had a rough night, couldn't sleep, so he took more of his meds. The next morning he could barely move, had trouble speaking and had that vacant look in his eyes were he's there, but not really home. He slept the whole way home (another three hours) and then all afternoon and evening. I worried about his slurred speech and wondered if he was having a stroke, but he woke up the next morning coherent, but a little confused about which day it was. When I called the doctor, he explained that when David gets in that catatonic state it's usually following mania and/or anxiety. His mind is going so fast his body can't keep up with it and shuts down. He gave David a prescription for Ativan to help with the times when he starts to get overwhelmed. The Ativan has been very helpful for times when he anticipates stressful events (such as vacations) or when he feels it coming on. The doctor also says that post-vacation depression is a normal reaction to the excitement and change from the routine. I try to keep that in mind during the often difficult days after we go somewhere.
Scenes from our Thanksgiving trip:

David with my brothers and a horse team

Friday, May 16, 2014

Mother's Day Weekend

This photo of my mother as a child with her dolls sums up her lifetime of focusing on and caring for her family. Even though she was only there for the first 21 years of my life, her influence is still with me, and will continue to be for always. She would be so happy to see her granddaughters carrying on her legacy of nurturing their children and would delight in them and her great-grandchildren. I look forward to the day when I can greet her again, and am truly grateful to know that families can be together forever.

This year the weather on Mother's Day weekend was cool and wet, so we stayed close to home and thought about last year's Mother's Day excursion. We wished we could do it again.
Last April we bought a new-to-us pickup truck.

We were anxious to put it to good use, and since the weather was warm and sunny we headed south to the desert of central Utah. Three of our children, their families, and David's ex-wife, Bette, joined us and a good time was had by all.

We found a beautiful sandy camping area near a small river and spent the weekend relaxing, visiting, and laughing together.

We also enjoyed beautiful desert scenery that included several hikes:

Goblin Valley

Little Wild Horse Canyon

It was a weekend to cherish and one of my favorite Mother's Days ever.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Faith vs. Fear

Several months ago I saw a Facebook conversation about the lack of religion in modern life, and someone commented that she felt that faith was dead. I have found, however, that faith is alive and well, and is the way to work through the trials and challenges that come with life. The words of a Primary song came to mind:

  1. 1. Faith is knowing the sun will rise, lighting each new day.
    Faith is knowing the Lord will hear my prayers each time I pray.
    Faith is like a little seed:
    If planted, it will grow.
    Faith is a swelling within my heart.
    When I do right, I know.
  2. 2. Faith is knowing I lived with God before my mortal birth.
    Faith is knowing I can return when my life ends on earth.
    Faith is trust in God above;
    In Christ, who showed the way.
    Faith is strengthened; I feel it grow
    Whenever I obey.

We have found that faith and prayer are an important part of David's mental health plan along with regular doctor visits and taking his meds faithfully. Even though he still has days when he struggles badly with anxiety and depression, he comes through it better when he makes the effort to go to Church  on Sundays and we have prayer together both morning and night.
During the October general conference I was grateful when Elder Jeffrey R. Holland spoke on the subject of faith and mental health issues.
And from the April 2014 general conference: "Faith is the antidote for fear"

We know that through faith and prayer, David's mental health issues are easier to deal with, especially as he works to control the disorder.

On the family front:
In the last year: Soldier Brian is now Captain Brian! We welcomed two beautiful new granddaughters, Evelyn and Alexis, and a handsome new grandson, Kyle. Three of our children moved into new houses. We enjoyed having Lara spent part of the summer with us in preparation for sending 15-year-old Zach to stay with Brian's family while he attends high school.

We spent a few days in Idaho in June visiting my family:
Burghdorf Hot Springs (so nice on a cool rainy day) 

family pool tournament!
We feel grateful for our blessings and David's improving control over his disability.