One new home project at a time (continued)

I tackled another clutter spot in the house — this time a storage area under the stairs. This project was motivated by the fact that we are getting a new dining room table from my Mom as she goes into a facility for the elderly. And we need a space to keep the extra leaves. Tackling this storage area spurred me to find pictures of my daughter when she was younger and pictures of me and my husband when we were younger (and much, much fitter).

I hung several of these family portraits and a few other paintings that had been sitting in storage. The picture of my husband and me is when we were first engaged almost twenty years ago. I hung it downstairs as a reminder of how far we have come in that time period and also as a reminder that we could be healthier, lighter, fitter these twenty years later.

So all in all the decluttering under the stairs led to updating pictures around the house and making it homey. It also led to a visual reminder that I would like to get 20 to 30 pounds off and would like the same type of resolution for my husband, though I cannot make that call for him. All I can do is set an example of proper eating and exercise.

My goal now is to find a declutter project once every two weeks and see where it takes me….!

How I met my husband

Pan back to 2001. I had been engaged once and that engagement did not come about. I had been celibate for about 7 years after the first engagement broke off and spent a lot of time exploring things that I was interested in including quantum mechanics and medical intuition. Largely I was exploring these things on my own at my own pace and one day woke up thinking I should meet someone.

So I went to my best friend and we talked about the possibilities of meeting someone online. This was way before online dating was “a thing.” I decided to submit an online profile but got cold feet at the time it was due. My best friend helped me out – I would answer a question then she would answer a question and so on. So in reality the profile I was submitting for myself was only half accurate…..

It ends up my husband-to-be was the first name that popped up when we did the search. He and I communicated by email for several weeks and then decided to meet in a public place. We met at a coffee shop and I brought my 100 pound Labrador/Newfoundland in the car. After the coffee talk we decided to go ahead with the date and walk some nearby trails. Of course I brought the dog for safety. I also continued dialogue with two or three other guys I met online, but there was no spark there.

From the first meeting at the coffee shop it was just a series of get togethers – a comedy show, a picnic in the park, out to dinner and so on. Soon we both felt we were a match – within several months together. My family was having a family reunion and my husband-to-be joined us. This got my family’s thumbs up and within a week or two we were engaged. My husband proposed on a walk in the woods near my house. It was lovely! After about 9 months of engagement we were married!

Something I forgot to add was that after we started dating we found out that each of our first cousins each with the same Christian name grew up as best friends in Nashville. It was and is truly a small world! While my husband and I met on the internet, our families had known each other for 30 years!

I can’t say married life is easy. There are a lot of ups and downs. But by and large we are able to manage through the chaos and come up on the other end with a largely solid relationship.

My Sojourn through Bipolar Illness – Family Then and Now (part two)

After the postpartum period began to become more under control, my relationship with my own mother blossomed.  She was able to step in and care for my daughter when I was overwhelmed by postpartum depression.  In addition to her developing as a grandmother to my child, I felt that she over the years began to learn to let go of feeling responsible for my illness or for controlling my illness and was more able to be just “a support.”  She became someone to talk with about feelings and issues when needed.  At other times she was a person to bring the family together in a weekly meal at her house.

I attribute NAMI (the National Alliance on Mental Illness) to a lot of my mother’s development and understanding of behavioral health issues.  NAMI programs helped her just to be there for me as a Mom and a friend.  NAMI taught my mother I believe the importance of just being there – not necessarily doing anything but just “being there.” Granted there were times in the past that I felt that she wanted to be intimately involved in my care and in my therapy in a way that I did not want.  When she gave up this control and decided to focus on being a support, our relationship blossomed as did the growing relationship between her and my daughter. 

Over the sixteen years of my daughter’s life, my mother has become a great presence in our family interactions.  We get together most times weekly or more than weekly for a meal or a soccer game or both. Today in covid-19 times that has migrated to a daily phone call and some outside social time with masks and social distancing. 

My relationship with my husband James has also matured as my health has progressed.  We continue to have our favorite arguments, but in general we are on the same page of putting our daughter first including school time, school work, hobbies like Cross Country, Track and Chorus and her spiritual development.

My husband has continued to be one of my most staunch supporters but not in a way that is easily described.  More than giving me a safe harbor in which to rest my myriad of thoughts and perceptions, he has challenged me to find my rock bottom and work my way out of it.   He is no way gets involved in my illness but rather gently or sometimes not so gently reminds me that my illness is mine to deal with.   This expectation that I will deal with my illness is both verbal and non-verbal.  In addition to working though my illness, my husband has largely been accepting of the fact that a high paying job is likely not going to be something that I can stick with and maintain.   It is with his support that I have been writing this text off and on for the last several years.

In addition to my Mom and my husband in recent years and my sister in years’ past, my in-laws have been extremely supportive of me and my efforts toward financial security.  From the beginning of my relationship with my husband, they have provided fiscal support that has allowed me to work from home on a variety of health and health measurement concepts. Through this work, I have traveled for presentations in Zurich, Switzerland as well as in Brighton, England.  Work also has been presented at CJR School of Public Health.  Without the fiscal support of my in-laws, none of this work would have been possible.  

My family support over the years has grown in parallel to the understanding of the illness among the public and among medical providers.  My family always has provided me support over the years even through some of the most heart-wrenching episodes of my life including fits of blaming them for my troubles. 

My Sojourn through Bipolar Illness – Family Then and Now (part one)

That I have felt loved by my family of origin as well as my family by marriage including my in-laws who put up with a lot of crazy behavior from me in the postpartum period has made a huge difference in my ability to move forward in my prognosis.  Although it felt at times I was going it alone, in reality I have had and continue to have huge support from my family – as much as they were capable of providing given knowledge of the illness at the time.

Throughout my twenties and thirties, I seemed to pivot back and forth between the two models of successful marriages that I knew.  At times I would fall for a guy who had no delight in earthly things (more like my Dad).  At other times I would fall for a guy who was very established in his career and financially secure (more like my stepfather).  This back and forth continued through the time that I met my first fiancé and ended when I met my current husband.  My husband James was a perfect blend for the most part of the values of my Dad’s remarriage and the values of my Mom’s remarriage.

When I met James, he was very informed for a lay person about bipolar illness.  He was successful in his own recovery from addiction and had heard many stories of bipolar illness in that context before hearing mine.  Most of my prior boy friends had little if any experience with bipolar illness.  In addition to his familiarity with my illness struggles, another aspect of our relationship was that we tended to fight well.  Regardless of the topic, our fights were usually brief and seldom fell into the same old rut that marriage disagreements often follow.  We continue to fight well today although we do have our marriage ruts to get through.  The third aspect of our relationship which seems to help a great deal is that we share a faith journey.  This faith journey has shifted in the past year due to a situation at our church which caused a massive leadership change. James and I still stay vested in helping to develop a faith journey for our daughter even though we as a family are not in a church right now.

James’ and my shared goal right now is for me to be volunteering or working a stable but not particularly demanding job preferably part-time.  We are in agreement about what this goal is and what the desired future looks like. We continue to fight about money from time to time but in general our goals are on the same page.