Thursday, January 11, 2007

Inappropriate Self-Disclosure

Hello everybody (what, about 4 people?!),

In the spirit of the above title, I thought I'd try this blogging thing... And blow me down if when I logged on (for the first time in months) I found all of these comments! So, thank you, everyone! (I do believe that if Fukitol were available in Australia, maybe BJ would have been OK!)

As some of you might know, there has been a lot going on. This was obviously the result of a buildup of issues, accumulated over the last 12 months, and possibly longer, combined with a mental illness that is, even in the best case scenario, frequently life-threatening. I've been finding that whenever I talk to a human being about any of this stuff, I turn into a basket case for at least the following 24 hours, so I am trying something different by putting it out here (where, I suppose, potentially quite a lot of human beings can read it if they feel like it, but they're not right here in the room with me so maybe it won't seem like it). The basket-case phenomenon is proving somewhat inconvenient, given that I have no more leave available from work, and we are on only 1 income at the moment, so it would be good if I actually was capable of functioning while dealing with all of this! It is probably all going to come out sounding ridiculous. I have never written diary-type stuff (although I have written short stories, novels, and somewhat fanciful research papers); I might have got into the diary thing if my sister hadn't given me a diary for Christmas the year I was 15, I think. I started writing things in it and a few days later she came over and said she'd read everything I'd written, and that was "just how it should be done"...!!! So after that I never wrote another word (maybe I should have written, "this is a violation of my rights of privacy, you snoop!!!").

Anyway. This is not the first time I've had to deal with/support my husband's bipolar affective disorder, but it was the first time he had become so unwell and hadn't felt able to tell me at the time. Maybe it was partly because it was such a slow process, maybe it was because he became suddenly so much worse over the last few weeks - I do know, also, that he was struggling with the whole idea of the partner-as-therapist thing. That is, that your partner is not your therapist. But, there is the whole "in-sickness-and-in-health" thing, that you each support the one you love. Certainly he has always been my greatest support during my episodes of major depression (yep, you got it, BJ's first law- there's never only one in the family!) and other illnesses. Still, I never thought of him as my doctor or therapist... But, as BJ said himself, when you're that unwell, you can't see the wood for the trees (we've been trying in vain to translate that expression, but it sounds good). Also, given the fairly crucial and fundamental crises around self-image and self-worth he was having about who he was/wanted to be, and what he was capable of - thoughts and feelings he has only now been able to crystallize properly - perhaps that was also why it was difficult to know that things had become as bad as they did, until he couldn't contain it all any more.

In any case, it is fairly humbling/upsetting to discover that you "weren't enough" to prevent your partner attempting suicide, even though with the retrospectacle it was probably an event waiting to happen. BJ has told me that it was probably inevitable, given the path he was slowly sliding down. But still, not a great thought. I can, perhaps, at least remind myself that on "that night" (we were each out at different friends' houses), I was asked to stay overnight but refused, because I had this overpowering urge to call BJ (there was no mobile phone coverage in that town); almost as if I felt a "disturbance in the Force" - probably just, as one does, subconsciously knowing that things were Not Right, and not some psychic connection(!). As I drove out of town, towards home and into mobile phone range, before I could call him he had called me - and told me what he'd just done. As he was telling me this, he was driving towards the Royal but believed he was beyond the point of no return, biochemically. So, I stayed on the line talking to him until he got there, and as he parked the car, and urged him onward to the triage desk, where he ended my call in order to talk to staff. He told me later that his plan had been to walk in there, and go sit down in the waiting room, to wait for events to take their course. So at least that didn't happen and he was seen immediately. I think I got there about 20 minutes later (it felt like the longest drive ever) - I may have scorched those dirt roads and blown out a few speed cameras; I didn't think my 18 year old car could go that fast (I was 60km from town when he first called). It may never go that fast again...!

By the time I got to the Royal, he was unconscious and intubated. This is all one hell of an experience when you're on the other side of the stethoscope... But I will say that not only are the ED staff at the Royal excellent at their job (resuscitating my husband without destroying any important parts), but their ICU staff were tremendously supportive and understanding. And, so was Dr Tesla, when he happened to appear in the ward the next day, to see someone else apparently (I accosted him and updated him on what had happened). With his keen clinical eye he noted that I had been awake for 36+ hours (the last 20 or so clutching BJ's hand in the ICU), and he arranged for me to have some medication (no, not Fukitol) to take, so that I could actually sleep in the hospital's residential wing, rather than lying on the bed feeling like I had taken speed (but with none of the positive effects, unfortunately - none of my housework got done!). Eventually, after about 36 hours, he was extubated (and I was able to let go of his hand!); and as he has told you, the next few hours/days were quite difficult.

But, I/we do believe that a corner has been turned. Perhaps the only way to confront these various demons was to plunge into the abyss, and then, somehow return with a new understanding. I don't know. But things are certainly a hell of a lot better now than they were before, even after his previous admission. And I am thanking all deities everywhere for the safe deliverance of someone who has always been the cornerstone of my existence. A future without BJ would be completely inconceivable. I usually present as reasonably sane and self-sufficient, but for me there would literally be no point in existing in a world without BJ. Of course, at the point he had reached, he believed that all who loved him would "get over it", if he passed. I'm here to say that nothing is further from the truth... Still, that is the way the depressed mind works; it's a pattern I've seen before, in others and even myself at times.

Anyway. The problem with one's brain generating its own speed-like analogues, is that after an event like this, it seems to keep doing it (for reasons best known to itself). Fairly inconvenient... Random episodes of rapid heartbeat and breathlessness don't do a lot for your reputation as the laid-back, cool, calm and collected methadone doctor; neither is it helpful to be sleepy, lie down in bed and then spend the next 8 hours with a hammer pounding in your ears from your palpitations. I now sympathise with my patient whose chronic anxiety became so bad that he tried to hang himself (I'm not about to do that, but I can relate to that feeling that it's never going to end). This is, I have been told, quite common after an event like this, and is known as an acute stress disorder. Even copious cats don't seem to make a difference. Some of this may be because I'm at home sleeping alone - this is usually not a problem if BJ is away or on night shift, but of course right now the reason for it is different. And of course even in the private sector, psychiatrist availability is rare and precious, so thus far there ain't much help in that direction (it is probably a conflict of interest to see BJ's psychiatrist).

So, what to do... It's not very constructive if this all gets in the way of being the best support possible to BJ... I am hoping that just by whining about it as I have, I might clarify my thoughts a little, and possibly get the feelings "out there" without the increased stress and anxiety I seem to experience when talking to real people (dunno if it's worked so far!). The social worker at Clearwater has told me that stress reactions like this are extremely common, and there are also all the attendant feelings that come along with a loved one's attempt at suicide - should have seen it coming, should have done X or Y to prevent it (I've got quite a list of these), shouldn't have said or done A or B (and these), why didn't he say something (why wasn't he able to say something to me?)...? Going through that laundry list can really crank all of this right up... and results in the end-thought being, God what a mess...!

Oh well. I've asked BJ if he can ask Dr T to make a few calls (he had previously offered to) and see if I can get in to see someone sooner, and we'll see. Because at the moment, my prime directive is to be the best help I can be, and make things as easy as possible, for BJ while he recovers from a truly horrific year. We really don't want this happening again... And I think it might help to focus on our trip to the snow we'd like to take this winter, and our plans to become slum landlords to get ahead (buying a cheapie investment property), and our plans to live and work overseas eventually. Also, to remember that we work to live, not live to work. And for BJ to remember that he is loved and valued, that he is "good enough" no matter what direction he takes. And, that he's gorgeous, smart, funny, interested in interesting things, and (TMI alert) fantastic in bed (taking a leaf out of Kira's blog here!)...

More blitherings later, I'm sure...