I’m a very lucky man. I am very; very fortunate to have people around me that have been prepared to put up with me over the years despite my shenanigans.
I have a wonderful wife who, despite myself sometimes, still loves me and keeps me on the straight and narrow and lends me her shoulder when I need it, great kids, who have come to terms with my earlier actions and understand to a great degree what caused some of them, and a few friends who are not affected by the fear of mental illness.
I also have the ‘magic’ world of the Internet where I have found stories of anguish that have brought tears to my eyes and a lump to my throat as I have read the stories of fellow bipolar sufferers and realised that I am not alone. There are others just like me.
Actually, there are many others far better than me when I read of the challenges they have suffered and come through without the support network I have been blessed with!
That support network is something that all too often I have taken for granted.
March was a difficult month for family and myself and because of the stresses my moods were not a stable as they had been. At the weekend my wife and I finally had the time to sit down at home together and as she talked to me I realised how close she also was to her limits.
She is in a very stressful work environment dealing with people suffering from cancers and similar disorders, with long hours and then a hectic drive home each day. On top of that, she has to deal with my illness and that of my eldest daughter, who lives at home with us, and who suffers from major depression.
Add to the mix a terrific 6 year old grand-daughter, who we adore, and two little Chihuahuas that shed hair like you wouldn’t believe and have a tendency to leave little messages around the place, and you don’t really have the recipe for a stress free environment at home either.
As we talked I realised how under appreciated she felt at the moment. How she felt that she had to walk around on eggshells in case mine, or my daughters’ moods were out of balance, and how badly she had been affected by a car accident she had been injured in last year. After a while we worked out a few things and she felt much better about the situation.
What really made me feel bad as I thought about it later, was how easy it is to be so absorbed by the bipolar and how it effects me, that I either forget or simply don’t notice how it effects those closest to me.
In essence I had become selfish, only thinking of my needs and worries. I had forgotten a very basic fact of life. We are all like batteries – we have only so much ‘power’ inside us at a given time and if we don’t have the chance to recharge then eventually we will run out completely. I needed to help my wife recharge too!
I suddenly realised how difficult it must be for someone to tell whether I was teetering on the edge of a high swing or just being silly. Was I just being grumpy and miserable or was I heading for a down swing again. Had I forgotten my medications again; or a number of different possibilities. If I have difficulty telling which way I am heading some times – how could someone else, and what a strain it must be for them.
I am writing this article today because just as I was about to pull that trigger and end the anguish I was feeling – the image of my wife came to mind, and that was the factor that got me over that split-second of peril.
Reading the stories of many brave people who have shared their experiences, I have been struck by how many have had someone; a friend, a relative, a doctor, or sometimes just a complete stranger who has made that brief difference at a critical time.
To the support network of my family over here in Australia, and my cyber family around the world whose shared experiences with real and ‘cyber’ hugs have made my life a much better one. Thank you so much. You have recharged my batteries many times! Particularly last month.
I hope that I have learned my lesson in appreciating those who support me. Without them I don’t know where I would be. Perhaps there is someone who has really helped you when times were rough – give them a hug (real or cyber) – they may need you too!
Collie and gang – special thanks for letting me have the therapy of writing a column. You too have made a difference. <Hugs> See I kept my promise!
13 April 2003
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