Mental Health/Slice of Life/Journal Notes
by – Sheri de Grom

Notes From My Journal – Monterey, California
Continuation of Same Night, Late 1990s

My Grandmother Fromm taught me the importance of keeping a journal when I was 8. She said,

My Grandmother Fromm taught me the importance of keeping a journal when I was 8. She said, “It is never simply a record of daily events.”

The dash clock reflected twelve forty-five a.m. by the time I pulled into the hospital parking lot. My body was starving for air; I needed sleep. It hadn’t helped that my day had been blown out of the water. Nothing had gone as planned.

The time spent with my deputy, Mike, had rejuvenated me. If I had to have a meltdown, at least Mike understood me.

Tom would be asleep but I desperately needed to connect with him, to see him, to touch

Logo for those of us dedicating much of our lives toward advocacy on behalf of the mentally ill.

Logo for those of us dedicating much of our lives toward advocacy on behalf of the mentally ill.

him and it would be sheer delight to see a smile or feel the touch of his hand.

I’d never missed anyone or anything as much as I missed Tom. My heart may as well have been stomped on. I was having a difficult time coping without my mate.

I so wanted to discuss my office challenges but my always-brilliant strategist had disappeared into a drug-induced sleep.

Restless Sleeper

Restless Sleeper

His ragged breath told me his body struggled against an overload of drugs. He’d always been a relaxed sleeper—or he had been before the demons took over.

Some days I never saw Tom awake, either at home or in the hospital. I couldn’t wait for a new life to miraculously appear while he slept. Too many people depended on me. If something positive was to come of the base closing, I had to make it happen. I’d made life-altering decisions before without his input. But, damn it, I wanted my life partner and he was gone.

I stayed an hour and watched Tom sleep. I didn’t wake him. What was the use? I was afraid he might have problems getting back to sleep.

I wanted to strip and get into bed with him . . . but hospital rules were hospital rules and I pushed the bar by being there outside regular visiting hours.

Leaving the hospital at two a.m., I drove the final leg of the trip home. The Christmas lights reflecting off Monterey Bay were magnificent but tonight I was battle-scarred. I could be summed up with one word—desperate. My pain was overwhelming. I needed to feel something other than profound grief.

Monterey Bay Pier

Monterey Bay Pier

I knew my depression was getting worse and that changes had to be made if we were going to survive Tom’s illness. There was no predicting one day to the next. One moment we’d be riding a wild wave of mania. Then the ocean wall holding back that last tremendous crashing wave would break loose and the sinister, dark despair of depression would suddenly slide downward, and all light or hope disappeared.

I wanted to believe normality would return when Tom had energy-charged days with many things happening simultaneously. More often than not, these days were actually the precursor to mania. Each manic phase produced another artistic masterpiece or a broken promise. This could be the spontaneous fun-loving man I remembered. More often, it was not.

I’d experienced that big build-up many times. I reminded myself it was the disease but sometimes it felt downright selfish. Bipolar disorder became a third person in our marriage and I had to find a way to keep it from destroying us.

I’d read that 90% of all marriages where one partner is bipolar ends in divorce. I was not willing for us to become a number in that statistic. Tom and I would survive. Love would show us the way.

Traffic crawled and the road was especially dark. Normally the drive home was pretty at any time of day, but tonight it was just plain black.

I could see our lights in the distance. I wanted to find Farley and Morti and climb into bed, but I still had multiple chores. Final Christmas touches waited, holiday staff bonus awards and recommendations for payments needed to be written for the government Civilian Personnel Office and the list seemed endless.

I found Catherine, Josh (Tom’s apprentice) and other members of my team on the outdoor patio near the fireplace. Catherine had made snacks and hot chocolate for everyone and even Farley was enjoying the festivities.

I didn’t have the energy to get my briefcase out of the car. I looked down to pick up a folder of papers and spotted my wallet. How careless of me. It must have fallen out of my purse.

“Look who’s here,” Catherine said. “Was she surprised to see me?” Wrapping my arm around her waist, my heart lightened. She bounced on her toes and swayed to the Christmas music. I remembered earlier antics that day discussing the Christmas party and smiled.

“Thanks for holding down the fort. I’m almost asleep on my feet. I have to go to bed.”

“Of course, we’ll clean up here.”

“Come on Farley, let’s go to bed. This has been one long day. I bet that Morti cat has already claimed a pillow.”

I tossed today’s mail on the table; my eyes were too tired to read. I couldn’t think; it was too scary.

The above is the continuation of a normal day for me after Tom was diagnosed in Monterey and I worked on Fort Ord. If it hadn’t been for my best friend, Catherine and the team I worked with, I cannot imagine how I might have survived those days and nights of living and learning about mental illness.

Thank you for reading with me. Your thoughts are always appreciated.

About Sheri de Grom

Retired Fed/JAG, 5 yrs. on Capitol Hill. Former book buyer for B and N. Concerned citizen of military drawdown. Currently involved in mental healthcare reform, health care strategist and actively pursuing legislative change wherein dual retirees are exempt from enrolling in Medicare at their own discretion without losing tertiary healthcare benefits. Monitor and comment on Federal Register proposed legislation involving Mental Health, Veterans Affairs, Health and Human Services, Medicare and rural libraries. Licensed OSHA Inspector to include Super Fund sites. Full time caregive to Vietnam era veteran. Conceptualized, investigated possible alternatives, authored, lobbied for, and successfully implemented Title X, Section 1095 (known as the Third Party Collection Program of Federal Insurance).
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  1. Hi Sheri – I’m more offline now as I’m writing, but wanted to drop by and let you know I’m reading your journal entries and thinking of you and Tom. I see your tweets from time to time–keep up the research and good work! Take care.

  2. Lisa Mari says:

    Du er så modig og sterk❤️ du har et vakkert hjerte❤️ klem Lisa❤️

  3. I have nominated you for the Sunshine Blogger Award. You can copy and paste the badge from my post if you choose to accept. You can see the details at this link, 🙂

  4. Sheri ~ your honest and heart-felt words always touch me deeply. Hugs ♥ Have missed you. paula

    • Paula – I’ve missed your wonderful Sunday rides into the countryside and down-to-earth thoughts about the world around you; not to mention your amazing photographs. Somehow, your blog fell out of my reader. Hopefully you are securely in place again. Thanks for your lovely comment. Sheri

      • Since the arrival of our twin granddaughters …our priorities have shifted. 😉 I am attempting to be “back” as I have missed you and my many blog friends! Best wishes♡

        • Oh, wow. Twin granddaughters. What fun and lots of joyful adjustments. I well understand the process of being “back.” I’d planned a time away from blogging for me in Nov until after the holidays and then one thing led to another with Tom’s health so it was spring before I appeared on the scene and I no longer blog as often. I do try to get on and read a number of blogs each day but some days, it’s just not possible. I well understand all about priorities and how they change at the drop of a hat.

  5. Sheri, I love to read your journal entries, you take me on a challenging journey in which I feel just a little of what you’ve experienced, and your love for Tom always comes through.

    • Andrea – Thank you for the kind words. I often find myself debating what to disclose and what to leave out. It’s tempting to leave out the challenging times but then I wouldn’t be sharing a true experience or helping anyone else get through the experience of being the mate living with someone who has a severe mental disorder.

  6. Reblogged this on By the Mighty Mumford and commented:

    • Thank you for the reblog, Jonathan. I always appreciate your support. Obviously you made it to the ‘other side’ and that’s exactly what I plan to do.

      • It was a really hard road, but Diana and I and the Lord….and a whole lot of support made it possible. You can get through it…with help! How can I help more?

        • Jonathan – Thank you for asking how you could help. You, my friend, already help by being here and recognizing that we can indeed make it through. Prayer, good friends and my having a few hours to catch my breath here and there have helped tremendously. Tom’s body is deteriorating at a pace that throws us into multiple disciplines of medicine and often that is overwhelming.
          My primary goal with my ‘bipolar blogs’ is to show others that they too can beat the divorce statistics of 90% marriage failure rate with unconditional love, prayer and a willingness to learn everything they can about the disease plus sift through all the information and apply what works and what doesn’t.
          Thanks again. Sheri

          • Well, back in 2000, I took a third-shift job and my wife, who’d been abused as a child, succombed to mania. Her last day in lockup was Sept. 11th of 2001. She had become increasingly dependent on me for her personal care…at a time when that was my job at work. Including most Doctors’ offices and procedures…and into the Ladies’ bathroom anytime we went out anywhere! There were time before and after then that I had to force myself to go home to her…but did. When I had serious medical trouble of my own—diabetes leading to toe amputation—she suddenly couldn’t depend solely on me. And even tho’ I;m back to work and driving again, I need her to help me—we’ve become interdependent. Some day, gonna get that book written by Joni Erickson Tada and her husband, Ken, about their–and his–struggles with being near total caretaker (albeit with some help) of her. Oh well…”Here’s looking at you….” Sheri! 🙂

            • Jonathan – Bless you for understanding and honoring the commitment you made in your wedding vows. I well understand about writing ‘that book’ and did. I spent over 7 years involved in documenting everything I said with research, etc. along with truthful anecdotes of our own experiences. Tom also wanted the truth told. I had publisher after publisher tell me no one would touch the manuscript because we weren’t nationally known stars, etc. After 2 years of pitching the manuscript I said no more. I put 100% of my energy into advocacy, writing and promoting legislative change on a number of subjects I feel strongly about and of course – taking care of Tom. Thanks for a bit of your story. Tom and I are both diabetics. I’m a bit obsessive about some things and now have a problem keeping my blood sugar high enough and Tom is settling into a routine where cheese cake does not reign supreme. Neuropathy has provided him a slow emptying stomach and that’s led to no appetite which creates it’s own set of problems.
              Thanks again for sharing your story. I know that’s just a tiny bit as I’m more familiar with child abuse than I care to admit.

              • WELL…both my Diana and I…are diabetics—both Type 2 taking insulin. My medical crisis was started last year being hospitalized for Congestive Heart Failure…and coNtinued through to last Sept. when I opened up a sore on my big toe…which I largely igNored (DUMMY!!!) TIL LAST OCTOBER when my legs, increasingly in pain since Sept.,—wouldn’t hold me (at work) and had, eventually, two toes amputated. After 6 months out of work, I’m beginning my 4th month back—with restrictions. The client wanted me back, so both they and my agency (I’m in Security) were very supportive. Now you know…some of…the rest of the story. I’m nodding off at the keyboard—time to stop talking and go to bed!!!! 😀 GOOD NIGHT!

                • Jonathan, I wanted to acknowledge receipt of your response and say thank you for sharing. Tom and I are also both Type II. Tom is the only one on insulin. I’ve managed to keep my a1c around 5.5 since 2009. Tom has so many other medical problems, his usually runs in the high 9s but not because of what he eats.
                  Please don’t ignore any further leg or feet issues. That’s how most diabetes end up in wheelchairs. One of my issues is that I can’t feel my feet and therefore I fall and thus have multiple head injuries.
                  I well understand why your company wanted you back. Please don’t do what I did and go back early far too many times. Tom used to threaten me that he’d have, “she’s glad she stayed so long art the office,” engraved on my tombstone.

                  • WA-A-A-A-LL…six months seemed long enough! Doctor/Surgeon says I have to get the weight down…again…and watch the sugar. You aredoing really good keeping your A-1-c around 5.5-!!!!!!! Can’t feel most of my feet either, which is partly how I got into trouble. My wife and I help each other out. Good to hear back!

  7. Gallivanta says:

    Sheri I would like to put your last two posts on huge banners and highlight them on every building in town. I am so tired of the ‘poor deal’ which society gives to the mentally ill. It is hard work to suffer from poor mental health, it is hard work to stand by someone with poor mental health, but we must give that person dignity and equality in treatment of every kind. My daughter has severe mental health problems. She is losing her temporary accommodation at the end of the week. She has been searching for a month for alternative accommodation. Each time she mentions her disability she is rejected as a tenant or room mate( other pretexts are given of course ). Her choice now is a backpackers’ hostel which will use up her entire allowance, and leave no money for food. Of course I will not let her starve but these are the difficulties people face over and above the harshness of their mental health. It is so heartening to hear how you support Tom and how others support you.

    • My heart aches for both you and your daughter and the millions and millions around the world who find themselves faced with the tragedies your daughter is in at the present time. There’s not enough housing available, affordable housing where adults with a mental disability may live both in safety and comfort. I know you aren’t going to abandon your daughter any more than I’m going to abandon Tom, but I also know first hand the terrible toll it takes on the caregiver.
      In all my years of advocating, volunteering with and helping those individuals on their own with no one to help guide them, years of fighting bureaucracy for additional set-aside-housing [not in a slum location], this is one of our most urgent needs. We don’t want to take away the independence of those with a mental illness that are capable of living on their own yet we know specific safeguards must be built in to protect this population.
      God bless you for not abandoning your daughter. You are the exception as many parents simply walk away and refuse to have anything further to do with their adult child.
      I applaud your efforts in helping to keep your daughter safe.

      • Gallivanta says:

        Sheri, I admire your fighting spirit. Mine is just a weary one, at the moment.

        • I too have to pick my battles. I learned long ago that I couldn’t take on the entire world. I had to learn to prioritize what was the most important to Tom and myself.
          In your role as the parent of an adult child, you are in a more difficult position. Programs have been in place in the U.S. for over 2 decades and we are now beginning to see parents included in treatment plans and other facets of their child’s life. However, it’s still not unusual for a parent to be completely shut-out and that makes me sad each time I hear or see another case.

          • Gallivanta says:

            Yes, privacy laws do make it hard to be properly involved in an adult child’s care. Fortunately, I have been consulted on really important issues.

            • I’m happy to hear you are included. We have a debate going at the national level, within the mental health community, about rather adult’s with a mental illness should have a medical power of attorney and a civil power of attorney. My vote is yes, and for me, it makes sense for all individuals to have both. However, other individuals advocate the mentally ill individual ‘might’ be taken advantage of if they have either.
              My thought: we all walk a fine line when we place all power over our lives into the hands of another but it’s a necessity forced upon us by today’s society.

  8. raphaela99 says:

    Oh my beautiful friend, my heart identified with what you wrote. I was married to a Tom too, also bipolar. I now take care of him and he lives with me. It is a hard road. xxx

  9. Just wanted to touch base and let you know how much I appreciate reading your story! Can’t say it enough…thank you for sharing!! As always, best to you both!!

  10. Patty B says:

    these comments mirrior my thoughts – Sherri you are a remarkable woman. In my own struggles I think of you often and thoughts of you strengthen me.

    • Thank you for the kind words, Patty. How did your coloring party go? I’ve thought about it often and it always brings a smile to my heart. Did you know that 2 coloring books were in the top 10 for Amazon book sells for 2 weeks in a row a month or so ago. Coloring is getting a lot of press regarding it’s relaxation value and I couldn’t agree more.

      • Patty B says:

        We still have not decided on a date, but my daughter and I often color in the evening, yes it is very relaxing and I am amazed at how popular it is getting. But it is not expensive and no thinking required or equipment to buy – my type of craft. 🙂 Keeping you and Tom in my prayers.

        • Patty – I’m so happy you and your daughter are enjoying the coloring. The very nature of the craft is now being woven into many therapeutic models across the country. I do believe my cardiologist was onto something. I’ve discovered I’m able to use the Prismacolor Art Markers. They come with both a broad and fine end and oh what magnificent colors.

  11. mooonalila says:

    Thank you for putting in words what is beyond understanding for people who don’t go through the illness… I try to write and explain myself my bipolar disorder as much as I can, but I feel less and less energy. Sometimes I give up and I’d rather remain misunderstood. I guess I’m becoming less sociable.
    You and Tom take care.

    • Thank you for stopping in to read with me and more importantly to leave a comment. I always love to hear from those whose lives are directly touched by mental illness in one way or another. It’s in talking with individuals such as yourself that I gain my most valuable feedback.
      I understand the feeling of having less energy. It’s hard to keep explaining something that we honestly don’t understand ourselves. Sometimes when people would ask me why Tom was in the hospital again, I’d want to scream and tell them, “Don’t you understand; your brain can become sick the same as any other part of your body.” This is a hard concept for individuals to understand, especially if they’ve never walked in the path of someone with the disease or been close with someone like myself who lives with a love that has the disease and I’m exposed to it 24/7.
      When the doctors tell me they don’t understand themselves, where does that leave regular individuals like us?

  12. tough, tough… I’m always amazed at how people cope with what seem like un-imaginable challenges, and then i look at my life, and realise that we all have them, and somehow others challenges seem harder than our own. And that’s the courage I feel from reading your account of your life and the stretch it is.. go well, you sound as though you;re doing wonders in a situation few of us would want to face.

    • Valerie – Thank you so much for stopping in to read with me and comment. The unimaginable challenges you speak of have made me a stronger person and shown me how much others suffer and that I have the full capability of not only being an advocate for my husband but for many others. Mental health is on a slow path of change but if we don’t give up, future generations will have better care and less stigma. I honestly believe we must carry the torch as far and as fast as possible. We use the tools we have in our toolboxes to bring positive change forward and I’ll never forget that Tom is my first priority. There’s so much that must be changed within the system it can easily boggle the mind. It’s a little like eating an elephant one bite at a time – but then an elephant is not what I want to eat – I want to bring about positive change and improve the quality of care for patients such as Tom that would otherwise get lost in the system.

  13. Mae Clair says:

    Your experiences always leave me overwhelmed. As always, I amazed by your strength, determination, and the love that held you steady. We tend to think of fairytale marriages with the once-upon-a-time HEA, but the truth is fairtytale marriages come in many varieties, and what you have with Tom is clearly magical. God bless you both.

    • Mae – From the very beginning, you’ve been one of my strongest supporters in this journey I’m on. You’ve accomplished so much in your career of novel writing and I’m so happy for you. I decided to take a different path and that’s to be a full time advocate. I believe I can touch more lives and bring about some of the changes we need by using my words where they will be heard faster. Thank you so much for your continuing support. You’ll never know how much I appreciate you on-going support.

  14. Oh dear, Sheri, I never did return on the comment from your last post. I’ve been so busy and so tired but I read every word that you wrote about the death of you precious little dog and how the one remaining is now Tom’s sentry. It really is a love story about how dog’s love the ones in need and I’m sure that Tom is finding a great deal of comfort from her presence.

    But aside from that, I find your journals to be quite valuable for anyone that has the good fortune to find your blog. A FB page might help spread the word.

    I do understand Bipolar Affective Disorder. At work I often un-officially called it BAD and indeed it is. Most of our patients no longer had any family support by the time they were in their forties. Wives and children had left and parents were dead. Most of the patients only came to the hospital when extremely depressed and therefore many did not get the proper diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder because no one bothered to question the patient about what his life was like when not depressed.

    I was able to determine several individuals as having manic episodes and alerted that patient’s MD about what the patient had confessed to me during interview.

    So all I can write at this point is that my thoughts are with you and Tom. Stay strong for your man and I so hope that at some point he will have a reprieve from being so physically ill.

    I have not mentioned this before but my mother was Bipolar and only had manic episodes about every 8-10 years. The rest of the time she was either neutral or depressed but never suicidal.

    ~ A cyberspace hug to you, Yvonne

    • Yvonne – Never feel like you must apologize for not responding to a comment I’ve left for you. That’s not the reason I leave comments.
      My dog is still in the role of “doctor dog” and she’s taking her role seriously. I’m still in charge of taking her out and fixing her dinner and of an evening if Tom is up for awhile, then she will sit with me. I miss having her as a companion in my office but she knows she has a greater calling now.
      I’ve seen so many patients with Bipolar Disorder show up at clinics and especially the ER at hospitals for treatment and primarily because they have no family and know of nowhere else to go. And, you are exactly right. The patients are usually in their 30 – 40 yr old range.
      I’ve been oh so lucky in that Tom has a gentle personality and he’s never had the throwing and fighting episodes I’ve heard take place in many families. He also has an even temperament and doesn’t use illegal drugs or drink. I think the substance abuse is a big problem with this population. They’ll do anything to escape how they feel.
      Tom was a rapid cycler until he had ECT in 2000. ECT was the biggest mistake we’ve made in all our decisions concerning Tom’s care. He lost 55 years of memory and very little of it has returned and we’re not sure if the bits and pieces have returned or if I’ve told him the stories enough time, maybe he remembers the stories because I’ve told them so many times.
      It’s always shocking to me how much of the homeless population is bipolar. The entire disease is scary.

      • Sheri, you are right on all accounts. In many ways it is worse than schizophrenia. Both diseases are devastating but for some lucky individuals medications have helped a good many remain semi-productive. But those are folks that were diagnosed early in the disease before it became a train with no brakes. Yes ECT can destroy memory if not done properly or the patient is given too many. I suspect that Tom got more than was necessary when it appeared that he was not responding. Often the patient is not apparently better for weeks or months after ECT. And perhaps some of the meds that he had been taking could have played a part in that. I have talked to several people who never had ECT but said the benzos and some other meds affected their memory. It is such a shame that the government or some pharmaceutical company has not funded more research for a cure for a disease from hell. If man can go to the moon then surely there are folks who can find an effective treatment for mental illness. ~yvonne

        • Yvonne – Tom had 1 ECT treatment and then our lives changed as nothing had ever before. My blog: tells of our experience. In my opinion, ECT should be considered a criminal assault on the brain. Now that Medicare and Medicaid have approved payment for ECT treatments, ECT is being prescribed at a 172% increase. Doctors still don’t know exactly how it works or if it ever does. There’s no way to have a controlled study because the subjects would all have to give informed consent. I’m a firm believer that a patient ill enough to consider ECT cannot possibly make an informed consent of this magnitude.

          • Sheri, I am so sorry that things went so wrong with only one ECT. I’ve never heard of one stripping the memory like that. My mother had one a week for 3 weeks and it did not affect her memory and really brought her out of a severe mixed state. This was in late 1958- a very long time ago. I will go to the link that you have provided.

            As with all treatments for mental illness, I think it is a roll of the dice and many patients were harmed severely with anti psychotics and had permanent TD from those powerful medications. To me all of it is criminal and there is hardly any choice of what to give a patient.

            • Yvonne – There have been times when I was beginning to believe that all treatment for Tom was a mixed bag of voodoo tricks. ECT was the last stop for me. I knew I could do better for Tom than a doctor that was literally slicing away parts of his brain as if he were using a surgery blade. ECT is used as a money making tool in hospitals, clinic settings and outpatient surgical clinics across the country. It is making a mockery of what could be good medicine. I will never be a supporter of ECT. I live with the destruction on a daily basis and I can’t believe to tell you of the terrible pain we’ve lived through as the result of one doctors greed.

              • Again, Sheri, I am so sorry for Tom’s and your pain. I’m sure it’s a living hell and a nightmare that will never go away. Yes, doctors are greedy and I see that all the time in MDs that I have seen and still must see.

                All the best to you and Tom.

  15. inesephoto says:

    Sheri – thank you for sharing your jorney!
    My best wishes, Inese

  16. Sheri, the sadness of these passages are bracketed with what has held you together all these years … love. Your love of you work, those who helped you. The love of a man you would never abandon. The love of a life you dreamed and I am certain … one day you will realize.

    Keep writing and keep the faith … for you and Tom and all the millions of others who have no voice 🙂

    • Florence – Thank you. I know I can always count on you to understand. I honestly believe if individuals could love enough they too would be able to stay with and fight for their loved one with bipolar disorder. In days long ago when there truly wasn’t much of anything in the psych world to work with, it was unbelievably difficult to gain assistance in any direction. Families and loved ones had no idea where to turn.
      However, in today’s world, resources exist. The answers aren’t always what we want to hear but if we keep putting one foot in front of the other, we just might find a way to get through the maze of mental illness.

  17. ksbeth says:

    by sharing your very challenging stories and opening up your deepest heartfelt thoughts, you are helping all of us out here who live with or know someone who lives with these challenges. it shows them that we are all human, and as hard as things may get we go on, always hoping for a better day and a chance to rest at night, no matter how bad the day. thanks for all you do and hugs to both of you as always – beth

    • Beth – Thank you for your warm and thoughtful comment. You’ve summed up what I attempt to relate when I share from my journals.
      BTW, those stacks of books I have everywhere – since there’s no vaccine for the incurable disease, I invite you over to go through my stacks and pull from mine and thus, add to yours!
      I must take a day to reorganize the stacks in my office.

  18. You give us an inside role with this Sheri. I thank you for sharing your’s, and Tom’s, story. It’s a love story.

    • G.P. – I love your greeting. I wish the same for you my friend. When we lived in DC, Tom and I used to take a picnic basket on the metro and head to the Capitol Mall to wherever they were going to do the 4th celebration. All the years we lived there, we never missed a 4th of July or Memorial Day celebration on the mall. Now we have to be content to watch them on television.
      Those were days when Tom would start planning a couple weeks in advance of what delicacies and surprises he could put in our ‘Out of Africa’ basket [my best friend gave us as a wedding gift]. Oh, how I miss those days.
      If we lived close, I’d call you and say, “Come on over and let’s take the metro to the Capitol. There’s plenty in our basket to share and we’ll even toss in an extra quilt to sit on.” Tom and I both loved that part of living in DC.
      Matter of fact, Tom made the comment the other night that except for how hard I worked and how sick he was much of the time, he wouldn’t mind living in DC again! What a shock as he loves to tell how he managed to stay out of DC his entire military career and he married me and I had him there within 5 years!
      Your Little Rock Veterans are going to what’s called the River Market area this afternoon for a big fish fry and homemade pies plus storytelling. [They get to do the storytelling and it will be held in the LR Library until time for the fireworks over the Arkansas River with the Arkansas Symphony as accompaniment].
      Somehow the head of the entertainment committee managed to get the Little Rock Library to agree to do so many events per year for the veterans. This will be the first where they will be doing storytelling. Wish I were going to be there. I’ve been assured it will be recorded.
      Look what you started my friend – you are a super hero!

  19. Sheri, thank God for your friend Catherine and your team at Fort Ord to help support you as you went through this journey with Tom and that third party, bipolar disorder.

    • Kitt – You are so right. If I hadn’t had such a close and loving relationship with my friend Catherine I simply can’t imagine how I would have made it through all the trials we went through in those early days. Often it was simply a phone call of encouragement but those were at times as important as having her take a tasking off my shoulders. My team at Fort Ord worked hard because they knew Mike and I worked doubly hard and we set the standard. Mike was the only one who knew exactly what was going on with Tom. I would have lost my security clearance if the ‘powers that be’ had learned my husband had a mental condition and that it was as serious as bipolar disorder.
      The government likes to tell civilians and soldiers alike that we now have an open door policy but that is not true. If an individual doesn’t have any rank and doesn’t plan to make their career within the government, that’s one thing. However, if you are climbing the ladder or have a position such as mine wherein I’d worked hard to be well on my way on that ‘ladder of success,’ well, there’s no telling the government that you have mental illness anywhere in your family. Mental illness is a deal breaker and you find yourself out of a job or placed in a dead end position.

  20. Elaine says:

    you are a very strong and amazing woman Sheri! Hugs!

  21. Thank you for allowing us even just a glimpse of your journey. It’s heart wrenching yes, though it’s also very inspiring in so many ways. It’s very rare to see anyone, be it man or woman these days stay and honor the love and commitment they made in marriage when the tough gets going. Thanks again for sharing.

    • You are more than welcome. I originally started my blog with the hopes that I could help others understand how to navigate the difficult hurdles of assisting a mate with bipolar disorder. If I can help just one couple stay together and to find happiness in their relationship, my time here on the blog will be worth it a million times over.

  22. Your openness with such a difficult subject is what deeply helps others. It’s the compassionate honesty that goes right to the heart. ❤ Bless you dear Sheri & Tom

  23. This so reads like a lovely novel though I know it’s the facts of your life. I love the way your feelings come through, Sheri. I can’t imagine living with bipolar disorder. Another very sad mental illness that many people do not understand. My heart breaks for you and for Tom.

    • Patti – Thanks. I want it to read like a novel, otherwise someone I might help with how to live and love a bipolar mate might not take the time to read some of the tips I’ve learned along the way. Bipolar disorder is the most difficult of all mental illnesses to treat and we’ve wrestled with it for a very long time.
      The hardest part for me now is the destruction of Tom’s physical body due to all the harsh drugs he was on over the years. We’ve come a long way but it’s a shame we’ve taken so many brilliant minds by giving harmful and deadly drugs.

  24. You were lucky in one respect–that you had such a solid support network. Still, I don’t know how you did it. And continue to.

    • Jacqui – My real support system consisted of my best friend, Catherine and my deputy. They stood by me then and I talk with both of them at least once a week still today. Once I had to leave California because of my career I felt that support system fall away as I knew no one in DC.
      I was on my own in DC with Tom’s care. I was hired by the higher-ups to come in and kick butt. Of course that wasn’t the job description but my reputation preceded me and I knew exactly what was expected. They wanted me to clean house plus continue with the difficult work we did. In DC it was even more important to keep Tom out of the light when it came to his mental illness for it could be used against me.
      The hardest part, still today, is that I never know from one hour or even one moment to the next how Tom is going to be medically. Mentally he’s been very depressed because of his health. I’m a person who used to make list everyday and I wanted everything marked off that list before I went to bed. Most days, I added more things to do on the list than I was actually able to mark off the list and this was frustrating.

  25. Another heart-wrenching blog, Sheri. So glad you are sharing your journey with Tom’s mental health issues. It’s beyond time to end the stigma so mental health care is put on the same level or even above physical/medical health care. I’m sure it’s also really good therapy for you to get and keep all this out in the open. Big hugs!

    • Hi, Mary. I feel I must be as honest and open as possible about our journey with Tom’s disease as we move forward. Everyone’s situation is different but the bottom line is mental illness is a difficult challenge for every family, despite their circumstances.
      My therapist kept asking me when I was going to start weaving in my story along with Tom’s – and for that I have to return to my journals. I’ll always be grateful that my Grandmother Fromm had the foresight to tell me how important it was to include emotions and outside influences in journal notes. She told me over and over, “your journal is so much more than a series of recorded events.” When I was 8 I wasn’t sure what she meant about writing down my feelings but over the years her words came back to me time and time again. I hear her words as I still journal each day.
      Little did I know of the value of her wisdom. She provided me a life-line to my survival.

  26. diannegray says:

    This is amazing (and beautifully written) Sheri xxx

  27. cindy knoke says:

    When are you publishing this in a book Sheri? It is riveting and so well written.

    • Cindy – Fifteen years or so ago, I was all about wanting to publish our journey with bipolar disorder. I approached it as a story of survival and courage but no one and I do mean no one was interested in taking the challenge on. I was given all types of excuses of why it wouldn’t sell. Finally I decided I could do far more good working on legislative issues, helping individuals with disability both federal employees and social security and that’s what I did. I also took on several VA cases and found a great deal of satisfaction.
      Coming out of government I had many contacts in DC, but none from the mental health community other than Tom’s doctors and a few close friends. I signed on with the DC Speaker’s Bureau and that gave me a platform for speaking out about mental health in a number of venues.
      With all of that being said, it’s my therapist who said some time ago, that she thought it was time I showed my readers the ‘real’ side of me and the battles I’ve won and the battles I’ve lost. With that being said, I’ve started reading my journals from the beginning of when I first met Tom and moving forward — oh yes, the good times were so very good and the onset of bipolar disorder was a decent straight into the pits of hell. I’d been in the pits of hell before and survived and knew I could do it again.

  28. kiwiskan says:

    You’re a winner! So many would give up…

    • Ninety-percent leave their partners and of the 90% bipolar disordered left on their own, 73% become homeless. Tom saved me from myself when we met many years ago and I’ll be writing about that one of these days but most importantly, we fell in love with each other unconditionally. I was already a career woman and he a successful artisan. Nowhere in my internal book on morality does it discuss walking away from a marriage when the going gets tough. I cannot imagine walking away. I imagine taking care of the man I married until death do us part.
      The years of harsh psychological medications have taken a toll on his body and destroyed his physical health. Those are the hurdles we’ve been fighting for the past 10 years or so. Thank you for stopping in and reading with me and leaving a comment.

      • kiwiskan says:

        I have been married for fifty-one years, and we also have had our ups and downs, although perhaps not as difficult as yours. I totally agree with your commitment. Love to you both

        • Hurray, hurray – I believe every good marriage has it’s ups and downs. After all, I don’t want Tom to be a carbon copy of me and vice versa – that would get real crazy real fast. I so wish we could somehow teach the younger generation what commitment is and exactly what it means. Have a great holiday.
          BTW – your photography is exquisite. I shared it with Tom yesterday as he used to be involved in professional photography along with all his other artistic endeavors.

  29. lbeth1950 says:

    The start of the roller coaster ride. Been there.

    • The roller coaster ride of mania is a scary place to be. Tom has turned out some world class artwork and won major awards when manic but the downside of mania for us is that he spends out of control. Money suddenly means nothing. I’ll be blogging on that in the future. I’m trying to lay it out there just like it is.
      Of course the crash into the deepest and darkest depression is so tough and each time the depression seems to last longer. Bipolar disorder is a mean disease and I’ve learned through the years to be prepared. I cannot simply hold on and ride the waves. I must be available to ensure reality is always present for us to survive.
      Thank you so much for stopping in and reading with me.

  30. Terry says:

    I have wondered how you are. I was thinking that this was from your journal and not as today. Let me know how everything is

    • Hello, Terry. Yes this is from my journal. Anytime you see the photo at the top of the blog with the girl writing in her journal – that’s a dead give away of the entry being from the journals I’ve kept.
      Things are about the same here. Tom continues to have his good and bad days. Actually, he might have a good 3 or 4 hours and then suddenly he can’t breath and we go from good to panic.
      From my journal entries, I hope others will be able to see how I was able to manage a highly demanding career and take care of Tom at the same time. I know I didn’t do everything perfectly but we’re both still alive and Tom is still at home where he belongs. Thank you for stopping in to read with me and leave a comment.

  31. GP Cox says:

    The fact that you share so much of Tom and yourself with the world shows just how open and caring you are. So many would hide the facts and secret the results, but you hope to help others in a similar position. I have such the highest regard for you both – you can not imagine!
    Take care and you know – Give Tom my very best!!

    • G.P. – It was my favorite therapist that said, “Sheri, when are you going to show the world your real experiences of having a successful career and still be present for Tom.” I talk often about how the statistics are stacked against us, and they are. Bipolar disorder is one of the toughest mental illnesses to treat but, that doesn’t excuse me from being the best I can be when it comes to caring for Tom.
      I loved my career and had no plans to give it up for I had worked many years to achieve my goals but hadn’t reached where I wanted to be. I knew there had to be a way to manage both. That’s the reason I decided it was time to stop and tell part of our story now and will then tell more of it later.
      Thank you for being such a great supporter. You are indeed heaven sent.

  32. Thanks for stopping by, Mihran. Bipolar disorder is a difficult mental disorder to work with. However, at the same time, Tom and I have had a wonderful and exciting life. He’s an exceptional artist. And, I’ll never give up on the rights of all individuals with mental illness. We often listen to your music and find it comforting and soothing at the same time. When we listen to your music that lends itself to ballroom dancing–I’ll turn to Tom and with a smile say, “Remember when.”
    Unfortunately Tom’s physical health is difficult at the present time and he’s very ill. However, I have faith.

  33. mihrank says:

    wow – this is such deep, emotional, sad experience to read and appreciate. I am out of words…

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