Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A Long, Windy Road

Tuesday, February 15th.  Life got serious.  I remember standing in the kitchen trying to figure out what to make for dinner.  I really just wasn't feeling it.  I was exhausted.  I was feeling pregnant.  I could feel the nasty UTI nagging me...teasing me that it was going to come back in full force.  The kids were being unusually helpful and nice to each other.  That was great because I just wasn't feeling being "mom" that night.  Around 6, Chris called.  He had a horrid day at work.  Not anything different than most other days for him.  But the stress was getting to him.  He said he was stopping to have a drink instead of coming straight home from work.  I advised that he should just come home.  But it was only a half-hearted attempt.  I know those feelings of being over-stressed and overwhelmed and Damn! I just need a drink.  I told him I'd get a sitter and meet him (although I could not drink) if he wanted to talk.  He declined.  He said the "swirling thoughts in his head" were too much.  He needed to be alone.  Needed to quiet the noise.  I didn't feel good about this.  But I understood needing time alone.  I was a little bitter and jealous because I too didn't feel it that day.  I hung up a little angry but decided not to dwell on it.  I scratched the thought of making dinner and let the kids eat cereal and popcorn and whatever they could make for themselves for dinner. I escaped to my room and watched TV.  I sat in a zombie-like trance as the images changed on the screen but didn't really absorb the program.  At 8, I put the kids to bed.  By 9, I was in bed myself.  As I laid there, I prayed. Not for anything in particular, but just a repition of Hail Marys until I prayed myself to sleep.  I awoke several times throughout the night.  Each time, I prayed myself back to sleep.  Around midnight, I had to use the bathroom.  I noticed Chris' truck was still not in the driveway, nor did I see him in the house.  I prayed again.  This time for his safe return.  I was worried.  I picked up the phone to call him, but didn't.  I said another prayer instead.  At 1:30 in the morning, I awoke suddenly and in a panic.  I got up and checked through the house.  No Chris.  I stood in the middle of our bedroom and cried.  Sobbed.  I didn't know what was wrong with me.  I picked up the phone again to call, but didn't.  I asked God to send a legion of angels to be with Chris.  I had never asked for this before nor did I know why standing in the middle of our room at 1:30 in the morning sobbing made me ask this.  I went back to bed and prayed myself back to sleep.  At 5, I started the coffee and walked through the house hoping to see any sign that he was home.  He wasn't.  I started a rosary but drifted back to sleep sometime during it.  At 6:30 I made breakfast and lunches got the kids ready for school and left.  I asked the kids to say some prayers for daddy that day at school because he hadn't been home yet.  Grace cried.  She's been through this before.  Driving away from school, my sister called.  We were going to take a walk that morning, and I told her about Chris not coming home.  Then I diverted from my route back home.  I don't know why.  Absently and distracted I took a different way home.  One that would take me by his mom's house.  As I was driving in that direction, I saw him.  Walking down the street.  I quickly hung up on my sister and pulled over.  He looked bad.  He wouldn't get in the car.  He wouldn't speak.  He kept walking.  I followed.  I asked again for him to get in.  He wouldn't.  He walked and I followed.  The third time, he got in.  We drove home in silence.  I didn't know what to say.  I didn't know what was going on.  I was making all kinds of assumptions in my head.  Why was he over by his mom's?  Where was his truck?  Where was he all night?  Why wasn't he talking to me?  I wasn't mad.  I don't even know if I had any feelings at this point.  I was numb.  We went home.  Chris went to sleep on the couch in the basement.  I made beds and straightend the house. Then I left.  My sister and I talked.  I cried.  We took a walk and it felt good.  I was worried but it wasn't overwhelming.  I kept praying.  After getting Eva from school, we went home and made lunch. I could hear some ruckus in the basement and assumed Chris was up and moving around.  While she was eating, I went to the basement to switch laundry over.  Chris was on the couch with his head in his hands.  I sat next to him.  I put my hand on his knee.  He still wasn't talking.  I asked what was going on.  He said nothing.  Then I saw it.  The left over cable from the previous installation was hung like a noose around a support beam in the ceiling.  A chair was not far.  A large piece of plastic was spread over the floor.  I spoke.  "Whatever that nonesense's not happening.  Whatever happened last night...WHATEVER it is...we will get through it.  That, THAT is not happening."  Still he said nothing.  I removed the cable.  I put the chair away.  I threw away the plastic.  I changed the laundry over and I went back upstairs.  I laid Eva down for her nap.  I closed my eyes and held her tight all the while praying Hail Marys.  Once she was asleep.  I called my sister.  I paced around in the back yard fretting because I didn't know what to do.  He wouldn't talk to me.  Was he really thinking about hanging himself?  What was going on in his head?  How do I help him? Can I help him? I went back to him on the couch. I saw hospital paperwork and a police report. I started asking yes and no questions.  He'd give me just that.  I deducted he had been in an accident.  He had been to a hospital...there was iodine on his hand where blood had been drawn.  He had been to jail.  He had hit his head.  No one else was involved.  His work truck was towed.  He hadn't contacted anyone at work. He had hit rock bottom.  I asked him to go take a shower.  To get cleaned up so I could assess his injuries.  He went upstairs to the girls bedroom and laid on their bed.  I worried.  If he had thought about hanging himself, would he try to use a razor in the shower to slit his wrist.  Could one even slit their wrists with a regular shaving razor?  I didn't know!  I had never, ever dealt with anything like this before.  Would he try a different way to kill himself?  After pacing the yard and the house a few more times, I called the Crisis Hotline.  She couldn't help me much.  She was kind and reassuring but I still didn't know what to do.  How serious is all of this?  Is it the alcohol in is system doing the thinking, a cry for help, or a serious attempt at suicide?  Regardless, this is my husband.  My children's father.  My life partner, my best friend, my other half.  I couldn't just let this man slip out of  my life.  I owed him more than that.  He needed help...whether he knew it or not.  When I came back inside, he was back on the couch downstairs.  I sat next to him and asked him who I could call for him.  I told him I didn't know how to help him.  But I loved him.  He would not answer.  Finally, I told him I wanted to take him to the hospital.  He did not respond.  But he did not argue.  I called my sister again.  She said she'd watch Eva. I carried my sleeping child to the car and buckled her in.  I brought Chris his tennis shoes and a hat...both which he put on.  He walked with me to the car.  He still did not speak.  I took Eva to my sisters and laid her down again.  I wrapped her in her blanket and kissed her telling her I'd be back soon but I needed to take daddy to doctor.  She told me she loved me and wrapped her arms around my neck.  "Give daddy a hug and kiss for me," she pleaded and I agreed.  We drove to the hospital in silence.  He took a seat in the ER waiting room and I signed him in.  The intake aid asked how she could help me.  I told her I wasn't sure if I was in the right place but that my husband had just attempted suicide.  I choked up and could barely get those words out.  She reassured me I was where we needed to be, and I filled out some forms.  He wouldn't sign, so I signed for him.  After a few moments, a counselor called his name.  He didn't want me to go with him.  I slipped outside to arrange pick up from school for the older kids.  I prayed some more and tried not to cry.  Soon, he was taken to a room in the ER.  I was told to go with him.  A nurse came in and asked for all of his belongings and gave him some scrubs.  She then said she read the form and would have a doctor take a look at his neck and throat.  Then it hit me.  He wasn't just thinking about hanging himself.  Or setting the stage as a cry for help.  He had actually done it.  And it didn't work.  I noticed for the first time the red mark on his neck.  I choked back tears, as did he.  He didn't want me to see him this way.  This low.  I just wanted to hold him and love him and slap him for even thinking anything would be better without him.   Slowly, he began to talk to me.  He texted his work and was relieved to know he still had a job.  They were worried.  His boss wasn't mad about the truck...or that alcohol was involved...or that he wasn't there.  He was worried about him.  That eased his mind some.  But not much.  After sometime in the ER, he was admitted to the Behavioral Health Unit.  I helped him get checked into the "Psych" ward and then went home to get him a change of clothes as well as personal grooming supplies.  I still couldn't process everything that was going on.  I knew he had gotten another DWI. He's had this problem in the past.  I knew he had wrecked the that he wasn't even legally licensed to drive.  I knew we had a slew of legal problems ahead of us.  But at this point, all I could do was thank God for sparing his life.  For letting me have him for awhile longer.  For not taking him home, for his work here was yet to be done.  After taking him some things back and sitting with him in a room full of "crazies", I left him there to get the kids.  It was hard.  To leave the man I love in a room of strangers.  To have faith he was going to get the right help.  Afterall, he hadn't had a "manic" episode in over 3 years.  It was hard to not blame myself for not recognizing the signs.  To not be more aware of what we assume is a bipolar condition.  He has had five "manic episodes " in roughly ten years.  Yet, he's not being treated for bipolar.  He refused to believe there is anything wrong.  And as the time went by since his last episode, I started to believe he was right. Maybe there really wasn't anything wrong.  Maybe these were just bad decisions that caused what seemed like a manic break.  Maybe it was just who he is. But then, BAM! Three years later and out of nowhere we are back to the beginning again.

This time seems different, though.  Chris seems to know that something isn't right.  The hospital social workers and psychiatrist only seem  to be treating him like an alcoholic.  Afterall, this is his 5th DWI over the course of 10 years.  One would tend to believe that his problem is with alcohol.  However, it's his fifth in ten years.  And I know this man.   It's his go-to coping mechanism.  He has family history of alcoholism...even if those alcoholics aren't being treated.  It's frustrating because how do you argue with a professional that he's not an alcoholic when he's had five alcohol related infractions?  Yet, alcoholism is a bi-product of something else.  Something that we've self-diagnosed as bi-polar.  Although, putting a label on what's going on in is head doesn't really solve anything.  I agree that Chris would be better served if he never had a drink again.  Shoot, I think we'd all be better served if we didn't drink.  Alcohol isn't known to solve problems.  But I also believe that even if alcohol was removed completely from his life, a few years from now...if not before, he will suffer another "manic" break.  And what will he turn to, gambling, running his car off a bridge?  There will be some extreme behaviour.  I guess what I'm witnessing is that it's not the alcohol that causes the extreme behavior but the "extreme behavior" that causes an over consumption of alcohol.  We've yet to find a professional that is willing to listen.  They are so quick to diagnose and calling him an alcoholic is a quick fix in their book.  But, it's not fixing anything.

Since the "episode", Chris has been taking Prozac.  Prozac that was prescribed by the hospital psychiatrist even though he diagnosed him as being an alcoholic.  Prozac is one of the worst drugs to be taking for a bi-polar patient.  Although it does seem to be helping with the deep depression he is proned to experience following a manic break, it is not what he needs to be on.  Chris has gone to one counseling session in which he didn't have positive or negative feelings about.  Life has sort-of gone back to normal.  But that is what scares me.  Each time life goes back to normal.  So normal that we stop thinking about bipolar.  We function just fine as a family.  He functions just fine as contributing member of society.  Life is good.  Until it's not.  And as history has shown, each manic break gets more severe.  More serious.  More deadly.

I'm not sure where to turn for help.  I've researched bipolar and I see exactly what I see in him.  It's a tricky, tricky disease.

As far as the legal ramifications of this manic break, we still don't know.  I know it has cost us already everything we had saved.  I know we will now struggle more financially then anticipated just a few short weeks ago.  He has an amazing lawyer (or so we've been told).  But he's looking at five DWI charges.  Jail time is not out of the picture.  His driving priviledges may NEVER be restored.  His boss his helping him but is also worried that he's not taking it serious enough.  He thinks the world of him and knows he can become very successful....but doesn't feel 100% confident that he won't "break" again.  Daily, he has to prove himself.  And as a bi-polar person, that constant feeling of pressure, stress and judgement could lead to another "manic episode" even quicker.

My life has not been my own since.  As the sole driver with the sole vehicle, I spend my days shuttling everyone to every place they need to be.  I try not to dwell on the "what could be" and focus on the task at hand.  Yet, then I doubt myself.  Am I doing enough? Am I taking this serious enough? Am I enabling him to not get the help he needs? The line between wife and parent has become blurred.  I'm floundering...hoping we are doing what we need to do.  Worried that we aren't.

Mainly, I've been praying.  I feel a sense of peace about it all.  That somehow, someway it's all going to be okay.  I believe that God and the legion of angels were with Chris that night and are still with him now.  I believe that it was God's saving hand that allows me to sit here today and talk about an uncertain future as opposed to grieving the death of my husband.  Sometimes I'm  paralyzed by all the miracles surrounding these events. Keeping faith is the hardest and simplest parts of my day.  When I have the faith it's freeing...peaceful to know God is working on our behalf and working miracles that I could never have even imagined.  It's hard to sit back and let God work and wonder if I'm doing enough.

This has been long, windy road.  There is still so much more to the story.  So much more that I still need to process.  This is where the story begins.  We are still living the rest.


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What an incredibly difficult thing for you and your family to go through. I hope things will work out for you.