I have been married to my wife Carol* for twenty-five years, who’s been a nurse for twenty-nine years. She is very intelligent and has worked in oncology, emergency room, telephone triage, and pediatrics. Always excelling and in control.
About six years ago she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, bipolar depression and anxiety. Since then, our situation has changed dramatically. First, she had to search for a therapist and later a physiatrist. The hardest part of the whole situation is her having to admit inadequacy in herself, and not being able to “control” her situation.
Forgot to mention, she injured her back about twenty-twenty years ago while working the emergency department. She decided to have surgery to remove a disc, which was not successful. In addition there are three bulging discs, and arthritis; the arthritis is a result of the surgery. She realizes the situation is not going to improve.
Carol has not told her family about her diagnosis because of all the worry it would cause, which would add to her anxiety. She didn’t want to hear acquaintances explain they understood, etc. The only person besides me who knows of the diagnosis is our daughter.
What’s saddest about this whole situation; well, I’ll have to start from the beginning. When I first met Carol, I soon realized how intelligent, assertive and comfortable she was in her work environment. She worked as an emergency department nurse in a very large inner-city, east coast medical center. I worked as a police officer in the same center.
It was the mid 80s, and the east coast was experiencing a Crack epidemic, which made for a stressful and “interesting” time. Carol took it all in stride and did very well dealing with all the craziness that comes with working in a very busy emergency department. Her evaluations were great, and management assigned her to assist paramedic/EMT students, and recently hired nurses; we’ll call it a preceptor.
Remembering those times makes me sad. After being diagnosed, I’ve watched as it’s robbed her assertiveness, and now she second guesses herself on just about everything. The constant battle of finding the right medication combination, and visiting her psychiatrist and therapist has taken a toll on Carol. It’s like she’s battling with herself; a constant fight if you will.
Panic attacks brought on by her anxiety are frustrating to her, our daughter and me, and come out of nowhere. Any requests for help with chores come with a price, and they have to be done her way! Her mind is constantly on the move; going from one thought to the next. It never stops!
Carol never sleeps as a result of her medications. She sleeps for two hours and is up for an hour; the cycle usually repeats throughout out the night. Sometimes she feels like she’s going to fall asleep while driving. Her medications have changed so many times it’s confusing. It’s frustrating to our daughter and me. Multiply that by at least three times for her!
Carol has learned to speak up to her psychiatrist and therapist, and ask for what she wants. She’s learning to “feel good” about herself. They are still in search of the correct medication combination, but it’s improving. She’s currently dealing with a lack of appetite.
The next challenge is to get her to realize she is a sick person, such as someone with an allergy if you will, instead of a failure. She’s terrified someone is going to find out about her diagnosis, and that’s sad. There is so much the average individual does not understand in regards to mental illness. There needs to be more information, or should I say education available in regards to mental illness and it should be easily accessible.
Thank you for listening.
*Names have been changed to protect me (lol).