This is my bizarre and complicated contribution to "Love Thursday."
Everything's cool, and thanks for all the prayers and good thoughts. Long story short: Combining a highly-stressed person with bipolar disorder WITH a person who's just gone through Sudden Surgical Menopause, and is therefore riding the hormonal roller-coaster...REALLY NOT RECOMMENDED BY ANY MEMBER, OR THE ENTIRETY OF, THE NINJA POODLES CONGLOMERATE. Consider that a Public Service Announcement.
I don't talk a lot, here, about the intimacies of our marriage when it comes to the really hard, nitty-gritty stuff that deals with the struggle with bipolar disorder, because I often think that there's no way that "people out there" could possibly understand the complicated dynamics of this particular union. I'm astonished at the number of people I've run across, in various BP support groups, who, once they find themselves in such a union, turn their attention to finding the quickest route OUT (but I don't judge, because each case is different, and not many BPI's have the dedication and commitment that Alex does to optimize his own health, or too often, even to take medication). But since Tuesday's post, I have received so many emails and messages that are telling me differently, that I've changed my mind. I also have a much larger bipolar readership than I'd have guessed, judging from the emails. So to all of you, whether anonymous or not, who commented or emailed, thank you. That helps me and Alex both, just to know you're out there, and that you KNOW WHAT IT'S LIKE. We both would love to hear more from you "insiders."
So. Number one rule of managing bipolar disorder, besides taking your prescribed meds as directed? MANAGE STRESS. Keep stress levels low. Do not disrupt your good sleep-hygeine. Take care of yourself, eat right, get plenty of rest, and stay calm. Don't take on too much at once. So now let's just run down how THIS bipolar household handled the month of September: Hey! I know what! Let's sell one house, refinanace another one, and perform major maintenance work on both places against a deadline! While maintaining a household and caring for a child, and also caring for 20-odd animals...Oh, and look! Our daughter's beloved pony has almost died while this is going on--TWICE! And don't forget to have your spouse have a major, invasive, and scary surgery as well, that she's sure to come out of in a whirlwind of pain and anxiety...ALL AT THE SAME TIME!
Honestly? Any one of these things would be enough to drive many bipolar-I folks right off the tracks, and all of them together would have presented a significant-to-insurmountable challenge. On the one hand, I should have been giving Alex a medal for simply holding his crap together and not "running," and/or engaging in destructive behaviors, which is what would have happened prior to correct diagnosis and medication (thank you, Dr. Fantastic, our psychiatrist).
Now, imagine, if you will, my side of the equation. I've just had my hormones--all of them--surgically removed, and that quite abruptly. I've lived over a week with no sort of hormone replacement, to the point where I feel INSANE all the time. My hospital room is full of people, and I don't know what to say to ANYONE besides, "Hello! I feel crazy! I think I am dying! Please go get help!" And they get tired of that after a while, because, you see, all of this is "normal" for a post-op hysterectomy in a "younger" (not "young," you understand, just "younger," meaning I had my forcible menopause much younger than I'd have had it naturally).
*Hot Flashes? Normal.
*Freezing, drenching, night sweats? Normal.
*Super-high, gonna-die anxiety? Normal.
*Screaming pain? Normal.
*Bloating that makes you think you WILL explode? Normal.
*How I feel? NOT NORMAL.
Now, let's take these two people, who have been through their own versions of hell on earth for the last month, neither of whom are quite in their "right minds," and let's throw them back together at home, alone. They're like badly, BADLY sunburned people, who just keep on smacking each other right on the burned places. Not smart. But then again, seemingly not avoidable. Between the two of us, we've managed to alienate or offend EVERY single member of our families, not to mention our friends, who think we're a couple of ingrates who don't like them any more. But the simple truth is, we are, at the moment, crazy, each for our own reasons. It is at this point that we realize all we've got is each other, and, well...the rage, frustration, and pain, rational or not, MUST GO SOMEWHERE. So yeah, Tuesday was bad. Very bad. Despondently bad, for both of us.
But what you have to understand, those of you with relatively stable brains that work correctly all the time, so that you just take them for granted (and a pox on you all, really...no, just kidding. Kind of), is that when you've been through what the two of us have been through together, things that no one in the world knows all about, and learned what we've learned, again things not shared with anyone else, that this does NOT signal the end of the world, or even the
end of a marriage. What it does signal is a desperate need to get things "tweaked," and that with PROFESSIONAL help. I've mentioned previously that we have gone back to Dr. Wonderful, the psychologist, after a fairly hilarious experience in which we frightened our "new" therapist to DEATH, for our couples and individual therapy, even though we must pay out the nose to do so. We're also incredibly fortunate that our church pastor, a PhD, has several degrees, including advanced degrees in counseling and therapy, aside from his theological education.
What I'm saying is, we have options when things get bad: Dr. Wonderful knows the most of our history together, when we can afford him, and Dr. Pastor has a quick mind and a knack for getting to the meat of the matter when we need to turn to him. So in that, we're blessed.
We were fortunate to happen to have a scheduled appointment with Dr. Wonderful ON Wednesday, a couple days after everything went so spectacularly off the tracks for us. When I started talking, I don't think I took a breath or unclenched my teeth for at least half an hour. It was unreal. And then Alex vented his spleen, and somehow, Dr. Wonderful spoke a few spare words, reminded us of our individual personal challenges, and promised us that we could call him any time, no matter what. We left Dr. Wonderful's office literally hugging and "I love you"-ing one another, and things have just gotten better by the hour ever since. I don't know how people without therapy stay married. I don't. Guess that's a benefit of both parties being "normal," whatever that is.
By the time we got home, things were happy enough that I was treated to a personally guided replay of Saturday's Arkansas/Auburn game (GO HOGS!), complete with personally re-enacted one-man-show plays by Alex in the living room. I enjoyed this so much that I even wrote about it over at the Arkansas Times Blog. Seriously: me. Football. Talking about. The words don't even make sense when I see them written. But go check it out, and you'll HAVE to laugh, I think.
Anyway, fear not, all my dear friends who've written or called...all is sound at Casa de Ninja. I am, after much reading of the HysterSisters website (thanks to Leslie and Mir for the heads up on THAT wonderful resource), being much more careful about resting and not overdoing things that could cause interior bleeding and adhesions, and Alex is being solicitous and loving, and in turn I am being grateful and loving, and best of all, Bella is soaking up LOVE as we do things like piling into bed together and playing the "Apples to Apples Junior Edition" card game that the more-than-delightful Karen sent us, instead of picking up that weird, sub-vibe of "something's not quite right with Mommy and Daddy" and having to worry about it.
So, in my opinion, love is something wonderful that is not easy. Something that, if all parties are willing to work hard on it together, can overcome any difficulty, and then be better than ever. Love is mentioning to your husband over the phone that the new Sting album of 16th-century music by John Dowland is the most hauntingly beautiful thing you've heard in years (on a "Today" Show appearance), and then having him arrive home with the freshly-bought CD and loading it onto your iPod. Love is your daughter riding home with him, then bouncing into your room and asking, "Mommy, how does your 'cut' feel today?" before hugging you.
Oh, and the proof of love is, when we're in the depths of our "dark night of the soul," and it's the middle of the night, and we've gone to bed terrifically angry with each other...I move the wrong way in bed and wrench something at my incision site, and cry out in pain--and my husband, who went to sleep totally disgusted with me, reaches out with both arms, gathers me up, strokes my hair once, kisses my head and mumbles something unintelligible that sounds like, "It's OK, Baby," without even waking up. Because, no matter what you're going through outwardly, the subconcious doesn't lie. And that was when the healing started for me.
Love is MAKING IT WORK.