Bright and early one Monday morning my phone rang. I saw with shock that it was my dad, awake and calling before 7 a.m. Clearly something was wrong.
“Could you stop by on the way to work?” he asked, sounding cheery. I sighed. I was already squeezing in a workout and still hoping to get to work early.
“Sure,” I said, reverting to the little girl who doesn’t want to say no. “I’ll come by when I’m done working out.”
Five minutes later the phone rang – Dad again.
“Can you come over? And can I talk to your mother? Oh, you’re working out?” The rapid-fire, repeating questions were the second sign that something was amiss.
An hour later I walked in and found my Dad sitting at his table furiously writing. “Hi,” I said. “I’ve had an epiphany!” he replied.
My heart sank – he was textbook manic. His hands and voice were shaking and he was overjoyed to tell me about the religious awakening he had had overnight. The saddest thing about a manic episode is that the person having it feels fantastic. With a spark in his eyes, my dad told me how he felt the best that he had felt in five years.
Luckily, by this point the family has a pretty good system in place: run symptoms by someone else to confirm your suspicions; gently bring up a trip to the ER; wrack your brain about who you may know in the mental health fields; pray.
When your loved one is constantly in and out of crisis care it is exhausting. So many emotions overwhelm you: rage and bewilderment as you ask “Why couldn’t you just stay on the meds?”; hope as you think “Maybe this is the time”; and contentment when you realize that – maybe just for today – your loved one is doing the right thing and seeking help.
Now I’ve tagged in another relative and Dad is in the ER, waiting to be evaluated. He called me just before walking into the hospital to reiterate what he had said this morning – he wants to share the journey. He asked me to write about my feelings and to share his writings. Part of that is the mania speaking, but part is a man speaking about something he believes is important, no matter what his mental state. So, I’ll do it.
And in the meantime I’ll ask a favor: if you can spare a prayer, join me in hoping that maybe – just maybe – this time will be different.
Kelly Burch is a freelance writer and editor who is passionate about sharing her family’s experience with mental illness. She writes about the impact of her bipolar father on her blog, www.kellyburchcreative.com. Kelly is also the editor of Renew Magazine, a national lifestyle publication for people who are in recovery from addiction.
Kelly can be found on her blog.
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