Monday, August 27, 2012

From Hospitalization to NPR

Yes, I know this blog is waaaay longer than is suggested by the blogging experts. If I blogged more often perhaps it wouldn't be! This was posted on The Balanced Mind Foundation. Check out this wonderful organization!!

It has been an incredible three months. It started in May with the release of Perfect Chaos, the book my daughter and I wrote together. This was followed by book launch events, national interviews, presentations, book readings and signings all across the country. Linea spoke in the opening session of the National Alliance on Mental Illness conference in June and received a standing ovation from over 1,500 people. A week later, she was hospitalized. She spent ten days in the psychiatric unit at a major hospital in Seattle. Shortly after her discharge, we were interviewed for Tell Me More, an NPR program that just aired on August 14th. The host, Jacki Lynden, caused me to reflect on this most recent stage of my life, a life affected by my daughter’s bipolar disorder.

“Were you angry after this last hospitalization?” Jacki asked me during our discussion. "It seems you have the right to be." I hadn’t really thought about anger but I think it was there, buried beneath many different and conflicting emotions. There was sadness, relief, fear, pride, anger, acceptance, hope and many more emotions that I will likely need my therapist to help me define. Yes, I was certainly sad that once again my beautiful daughter was hospitalized with a depression that was quickly escalating into the I-am-not-safe zone. “WHY??? WHY??” was running through my head, and this certainly may have been anger speaking. But I felt immense relief that she was receiving the care and treatment she needed. I also experienced a higher level of acceptance of this nasty illness and a strong belief, colored by past experiences, that her symptoms would be treated.

As well, I felt a huge sense of pride in her ability to care for herself and to ask for help when she needed it. We have been on a journey for more than seven years with a goal of Linea managing her health conditions. She met that goal. Her dad and I were out of the country when she knew she needed help. Linea recognized her symptoms for what they were, she put a support plan in place to ensure she'd be safe, she spoke with her medical team over a weekend when offices were closed, and she, once again, was completely honest with her family. We arrived home on a Sunday and she called to say, "We need a family conference." I went with her to her psychiatrist on Monday and she was hospitalized that afternoon. She even managed to call her medical insurance company just hours before her hospitalization to ask if she needed to do anything more than let them know what was going on.

It was also easier because we had all been through this before. I neither felt anxious when telling our family members and friends, nor did I feel compelled to provide support as they struggled to understand the illness and Linea’s symptoms. The phone calls and conversations took much less energy than during her previous hospitalizations. They moved into support mode quickly and efficiently.

There were still thoughts, deep in the night, about what brought this on and what could have been done to prevent it. Were the activities surrounding the book the cause? Was sharing our story the reason? Should we have not launched this book at this level of energy? Our dear friend Dr. Delaney Ruston (filmmaker, Unlisted: A Story of Schizophrenia) called me from across the country to see how Linea was doing. She said at first she was thinking that perhaps Linea was exhausted from all the book activities and then she said, "One of the main things I got from Perfect Chaos was that this illness is not caused by outside factors. Linea is ill because she has bipolar disorder, not because she didn’t do something good enough or did something wrong."

Managing one’s lifestyle, rest, sleep, stress, diet and exercise is an important part of managing bipolar disorder but it is not an absolute guaranteed cure. Linea is continuously learning to balance the life she wants with a chronic illness. This is a chronic illness that can be well-behaved, providing opportunities for a person to live in recovery. But it can also snap and snarl and need extreme attention until it can be tamed once again. When it causes problems, I do not want to give Linea the message that, somehow, it is her fault. She had been doing everything possible; lots of sleep, tweaking medications, seeing her psychologist weekly and her psychiatrist every two weeks, rigorously doing all the therapy suggested to her and yet, she still became ill again. She has a brain disorder.

Treatment worked once again and she is happy, moving back into work, having fun with friends again and relishing living in recovery. Will it last? How severe might the next episode be? When might it happen? We don’t know. If anything, bipolar disorder has taught us to appreciate every moment of health and happiness in all of our family and friends. Life is short, full of challenges and surprises yet, somehow I think we all live with seeds of hope inside of us somewhere; seeds wanting to fully blossom and allow us to live every minute noticing the good things, the small things, the kind people around us, the millions of moments we shouldn’t take for granted.

Listen to Linea describe where she is today on NPR’s Tell Me More!