My best friend and I talked on the porch with masks and social distancing for the last almost three hours. She is the type of friend who you cannot see for 6 months and then pick up and connect just where you left off last.
It was wonderful to know more about how she’s been doing and helpful to feel that I might be of help just listening to some of the things that have been occupying her life — like caring for her teenage son who has had some mental concerns and being a teacher in this time of distance learning and covid-19. The teachers right now in the States are having a time of it.
Talking also helped me put my own problems into better perspective. The challenges of my life seem to largely revolve around my anxiety even when the actual problems themselves are not that dire. Talking to my friend helped me gain some insight into my own peculiar need to always have something to worry about when that is not necessarily helpful or needed.
My friend is also an avid exercise person. I gave her permission to get on my case for not exercising on a regular basis. I asked her to reach out to her son and to her ex-husband and let them know that she respects the work they are putting in daily to overcome anxiety and other related challenges.
Once again, I am reminded how thankful I am for the relationships in my life. It makes me want to invest more time in developing more meaningful relationships across the board. Even when the conversation moves to serious topics, it is good to know we are not alone and that we can do our best to put on each others’ shoes and walk a mile or two.
I am not yet in the habit of giving thanks every day for my blessings. So here goes a try…..
I have a beautiful (inside and out) daughter. She is healthy, funny, smart, caring and resilient. I have a loving husband and understanding in-laws. He is non-judgmental and generally puts up with my anxiety that surfaces almost every day on some level. My in-laws also are not judgmental. I have a very good relationship with my Mom who is 83 though this has not always been the case. Now, she and I can talk pretty openly about events of the day including things that are hard emotionally or difficult because of my diagnosis. I have a solid rapport with my older sister who lives up North but continues to be a support for me every time I ask which is fairly often. I have a therapist I can trust and a doctor/ psycho-pharmacologist who I can talk to about raising or lowering meds depending on what’s going on with me. I have seen my therapist and my meds doctor since 2008 — there is little they don’t know about me and that is a blessing. I take meds that are largely therapeutic for me. I recently had a scare (this summer) with breast cancer but thankfully the mammogram, ultrasound and MRI were all benign / negative. I have strong bonds with my best friend from 1985 forward. She and I can talk to each other about everything and anything pretty much.
In writing this, I am noting that most of the things I am thankful for are relationships and health. Does any one else see a pattern in what you are thankful for?
As an additional exception to the “normal life” rule, my stepmother and my father died respectively in 1988 and 1989 of cancer. I did not have the opportunity to work through the bipolar illness with them as their deaths were within a few years of my diagnosis. I remember feeling secure in the fact that I was able to survive my father’s illness and death without a major hospitalization or illness breakthrough.
On the other hand, my mother and step-dad were quite present in my life from 1985 forward. Over the next 30 years until my stepfather’s death in the spring of 2013, I would continue to develop relationships with each of them as individuals and with both of them together as parents. Granted, they did not always know what to do to help me through my bipolar episodes. Quite frankly, no one did. But they never stopped trying both as a couple and as individuals. In any case, I always felt loved if not understood.
My sister Jane in particular was a huge help during the early years of my illness and always provided an open door for me when I was ill. This was when I was in my mini-break period from about 1988 to 1995 and stayed with her and her family for 3 to 7 days at a time about twice a year. This time with care in a family environment gave me the confidence to begin to seize control of my illness outside of a hospital environment but still taking meds.
Later throughout the difficulties of the postpartum period and forward, my Mom and Step-Dad played an integral role in supporting me through my illness. After two years into my daughter’s birth, my parents moved back to Augusta to be present in her life. Weekly dinners together helped form bonds that were stronger than the bipolar illness itself. My relationship with my Mom grew and grew as she became more involved as a grandmother and I had the opportunity to witness the development of that relationship. Since the death of my step-father seven years ago, we continue to get together with my Mom on a weekly basis, sometimes more often. Covid-19 has changed this frequency some – so we talk by phone at least once a day.