Our Lives Disappeared With Bipolar Disorder
The Fourth House
By – Sheri de Grom
Our perfect lives were swept away by my husband’s disease of bipolar disorder before we’d had the opportunity to fulfill our hopes and dreams. When we met, Tom was not yet diagnosed as bipolar disordered nor were the coming symptoms present.
Even when they did manifest, Tom was first diagnosed with single episode major depression.
Two weeks passed and Tom was as emotionally paralyzed as when I’d first admitted him. If anything, he was more withdrawn than he’d been fourteen days earlier. He seemed to take one step forward and then two steps back. His condition, whatever it was, had a mean streak. He wasn’t getting better.
My days rolled into a vacuum and I put one foot in front of the other. Exhaustion overwhelmed me. “Please God, what is going on with the man I love?”
Arriving home after visiting Tom, my best friend had already reached my house. She’d managed to get the wood-burning fireplace going; platters of fresh vegetables, fruits, my favorite cheeses, and a smoothie were waiting for me. I knew somehow it was going to be a long night, and it was. I also knew I could count on my best friend, Catherine. She’s been with me for years, years before I’d even known Tom.
The day wasn’t over yet, not for me. The internist had left a message with Catherine for me to call her right away. She had reviewed Tom’s charts and noted that the attending psychiatrist had changed Tom’s diagnosis to Bipolar Disorder. I held the phone away from me as if it was an unwanted appendage and Catherine took it out of my hand. I fell into her arms as the tears fell heavier than the December rains slamming the house. The hell with being invincible.
Please, God, do not let those magical days with Tom be over. You gave me the greatest gift of all when Tom walked into my life—unconditional love. I beg you, bring the man I married home.
I’d asked for a diagnosis that explained Tom’s long months of depression and then the bouts of unexplained times of endless energy and grand ideas.
I’d asked our internist to keep an eye on Tom’s medical record and to be kept informed. I’d asked her for answers and now I had it. What could I do with a death sentence?
The devastating news of the bipolar disorder diagnosis shook me to my core.
I’d spent hours in my gardens arguing with myself and at times asking for God’s direction in what I should write and how much of the truth I should tell when educating others about this disease of bipolar disorder that we live with every day.
The same arguments traveled through my mind each time I was asked to speak publicly on the subject. It didn’t matter the size of the audience. How much should I tell was always the magical question?
In 2000, I signed on to speak via the DC speaker’s bureau and it turned into a full-time job. They placed me as the keynote speaker before more convention dinners than I ever want to think about again. Every week in 2000, I spoke at least once for the American Medical Association and often two and three times.
In 2001, I asked to sign on with the DC speaker’s bureau for anything mental health related and that brought me more opportunities than I could keep up with. Leaders in the mental health field were hungry to learn how to approach legislation and the steps necessary to have their ideas turned into legitimate proposals. That was a fun, filled year.
I continued to cross the country and enter and exit more time zones than I wanted to think about. But, if I didn’t speak out, who would?
Tom was able to travel with me in those days and we were able to explore large cities and attend cultural events that we would otherwise have missed.
In 2000 I wrote a non-fiction manuscript illuminating the disease and how it tore away at us day-after-day with no relief. As I laid bare the road we’d traveled and wrote the truths of the disease, it dug into my soul with every word put on paper. My mission: I wanted other couples to know they too could survive this beast of a disease as long as they had unconditional love on their sides. I wasn’t promising a life without bumps and scary nights of emergency room admissions but, on the flip side, we had endless days and nights of walks on the beach in Carmel, California, fun trips along the Pacific Coast highway (of which neither of us tired), antique hunting, rejoicing when a piece of Tom’s jewelry design work was mentioned in some well-know artist journal, or when we watched the unveiling of a full-wall stained glass masterpiece he’d designed and meticulously put into place for a church.
We were equally celebratory when I brought a case to a successful conclusion for the government or had located and verified evidence to save taxpayers millions and sometimes billions.
But when I shopped the completed manuscript, editors and agents alike told me I either had to be a psychiatrist or a famous person before anyone would pick up our story and read it, let alone believe what I reported. No one wanted to hear the truth of how one couple continued to love and cherish amid bipolar disorder. After all, the statistics tell you it’s next to impossible to achieve.
Life continued to pass by and I wrote another manuscript as I dealt with Tom’s illness. This one was pure fiction. It was a great distraction from everyday life and I had so much to learn about writing fiction. Using the written word for maximum efficiency was my best weapon for twenty years of government service, but that was government writing. I had to learn fiction writing from the ground up.
I’ve been blogging since December, 2011, and it’s now or never. I can do what I said I was going to do or I can forget about the subject most near and dear to my heart. Unfortunately, the latter is just not possible. Tom and I are forced to live with bipolar disorder in our marriage twenty-four hours of every-day.
What I will do is tell you the truth. It may not always be in the order that events happened but I’ll do my best to keep our story in sequence. My desire is to give you an idea of how the disease progresses. After all, no one with bipolar disorder is supposed to live beyond fifty-five and Tom is now sixty-seven.
I’ve gone through many of my old journals and have shocked even myself that we managed to stay sane when going through so much unreasonableness in the healthcare community.
I’ve read and followed some amazing blogs written with an openness and willingness to share. These individuals allow us into their home and show us exactly what’s happening. It’s time for me to do what I promised myself I’d do: to reach out and let the world know statistics are just statistics. When everyone else tells you to walk away, that’s their opinion. They don’t have your strength or the love you have to share with another individual. I listened to my heart and never once have I regretted that decision.
Additional blogs told from the heart include:
- http://kateswaffer.com : Creating life with words. Kate’s blog is uplifting. She’s diagnosed with early age on-set Alzheimer’s and is approaching the disease as if it’s the Olympics training for her life.
- http://pifuk.wordpress.com/2013/09/15 : Patrick Fisher’s parents live with him. He shares the caretaking of his father, who has Dementia and roams the house at night. The blog I highlighted above speaks directly about the emotional see-saw we caregivers find ourselves on from time to time and what happens when we can’t take it any more.
- http://terry1954.wordpress.com/2013/08/18/a-sisters-thoughts : Terry has been the primary caregiver of her brother Al for a long time. Not only is she his physical caregiver, but she offers him unconditional love, spiritual guidance, recreational choices—and above all—she provides him the knowledge that when it’s time for him to slip away, he will not be alone.
- http://albuthomeless.wordpress.com : Cheryl and her husband are recovering from financial ruin. She speaks humbly about the ordeal her family lives on a daily basis in today’s economy.
- http://miketerrill.wordpress.com/2013/09/12 : Mike writes the most selfless blog I’ve yet to encounter. He has cancer and knows the end is near. However, the lead to his blog reads: “Living Life to the Fullest from the End Stage. Just because they say the end is near doesn’t mean you can’t live.”
- http://notdownorout.wordpress.com : Cheryl’s blog is a representation of daily life and surviving a serious bout with cancer. I strongly recommend you follow her blog. Little things I’d never given a thought cause me to stop and ponder, why didn’t I know this before? It’s these truths that writers such as Cheryl share with us that educate and allow us to perhaps be somewhat kinder and, gentler toward those who are in remission but in need of our continuing outreach. Cheryl also is a terrific story teller. Don’t miss out on her wicked, twisted, plot twists.
- http://unshakablehope.com // : Bill writes one of the newer blogs I follow and I unconditionally recommend reading his uplifting words without hesitation. He was thirty-six and living the American dream when he was diagnosed with ALS. Within a year he could not walk or talk. Bill believes a disease or any life-change should not define the individual.
There are many other blogs I could share. Each one writes something different and offers a slightly different thought. These writers have given me the courage to go forth with ‘The Fourth House’ series.
I’ll still have my opinion pieces plus Morti and me and we can’t forget book reviews. I just wanted to do a little housecleaning before I continued.
Thanks to everyone for their continued support and encouragement.