Backing away slowly

The past five months have given us the opportunity to move away from the precipice. No longer is our life dictated by K's every mood swing and every bump is no longer a crisis. I had my doubts that we would ever return to normal.

Not that I would have ever voiced those doubts to myself. The constant day-to-day crises didn't allow time for reflection. Even if I had the time, it was too dangerous for me to admit that type of weakness. How could I hold myself and K together if I ever allowed doubt to creep in? I had to believe that things would be fine.

Thoughout the worst part of K's illness, I saw a psychiatrist for weekly therapy. She was amazed by my powers of denial. Denial is perhaps the wrong word for my behavior. When I am faced with a situation, I focus on what I can do and other alternatives are blocked. Let me tell the story of K's heart attack and my reaction.

Initially, I refused to believe that she might have been having one. After she convinced me to call 911, I still wasn't convinced. Even as she was wheeled into the ambulance and lay there looking at me through the glass, channeling all her love in my direction, I didn't acknowledge it. Some might say I'm stubborn, but a heart attack was so removed from my world, it wasn't a possibility. I managed to remain in denial until we reached the hospital and they began shooting her full of morphine. The tears came as I called her parents to tell them their daughter was in ER and going in for surgery.

As the bipolar becomes an integrated part of our life and not the center of it, I'm finally able to begin to acknowledge that K may have easily killed herself during the worst periods of her illness. Although I knew she thought about suicide obsessively, I couldn't contemplate that she would take that step. She never did, she claims, due to her love for me. She couldn't find a way to kill herself and protect me from the pain.

It frightens me to think about these possibilities even with the distance. I can't imagine that result. Thankfully, the meds, therapy, and K's will power have given her the strength to fight and manage the disease.

The positive is that I no longer am as fearful as I once was and I believe she will live a long and productive life.

As I look back, I also wonder how I managed to get through the pain and pressure. My ability to cope came from two sources, exercise and friends.
Much of ability to cope with the stress came from working out on a regular basis. I'm a reasonably lazy person, preferring to lounge in front of the fire than do things. But after gaining 15 pounds in grad school, K gave me a graduation gift of personal training sessions. (Note: I requested them; she never would have done it otherwise.)

The personal training and working out gave me the opportunity to lower my stress levels enough to cope with the on-going stress. I've slacked off the past 2 months, but have returned to the gym again. I'm a bit sore today from my morning weight lifting session.

My other coping mechanisms were being able to talk to friends and c0-workers. My co-workers were there to give me hugs and support when things got bad. Even though I wasn't thrilled with my job, they did not hassle me about using sick leave to care for K whenever it was necessary. (I've since switched jobs to a different group, though the first group keeps working to lure me back.)

Secondly, close friends kept me sane and both of us fed. Never underestimate how important it is to provide food to friends, who are under a great deal of stress. There were times when we weren't fit company for anyone, and friends would bring food and leave.

Things have worked out, as I hoped they would. K is healthy again and working fulltime. We are at a point of having a normal life again.


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