My appointment with my new PCP was precipitated sooner than I had anticipated due to escalating insomnia issues and anxiety levels. While I have always been the “strong one” in the family – the one to hold everything together in times of crisis – to help everyone else through their crisis – and remain calm and steadfast, the fact is that this just isn’t workin’ for me this time.
As a bit of background, my kids’ father was mentally ill. He passed away in 1992 of a heart attack, the on-set symptoms starting a solid 18 hours before the attack. He refused to go to the doctor – we did not have health insurance at the time because we could not afford the family premiums even though I was working full time, and he had a home-based business. He was classically bi-polar if he had been diagnosed in this day and age: Manic highs, extreme low depressions, instant spirals into rage or depression with little or no cause. There were abandonment issues, verbal and psychological abuse towards our kids and me. He suffered from intense migraines, and was a prototype addictive personality.
Unfortunately, both of our children (now adults in their 30’s and 40’s) genetically inherited his bi-polar disorder. At least one (if not both) of my grandsons has inherited bi-polar disorder, along with other social behavioral disorders.
My daughter (in her 40’s) also has genetically inherited (from her father’s biological mother) IGA deficiency – a blood immuno-deficiency factor that leaves one subject to infections. She also has migraines and fibromyalgia. The bi-polar disorder causes not only the normal highs and lows, but also addictive tendencies and she is OCD (she has been “in the rooms” for 22 years). She also has epilepsy (mostly night seizures with stress as the major trigger) for which she takes seizure meds. She is a single parent of two teenage boys, a 15-year old who was diagnosed as bi-polar as a child and is on meds and in an ED special ed program at school). The 18-year old is ADD/ADHD (non-medicated).
My son (in his 30’s) was 16 years old and unfortunately alone with his father when he had his heart attack and died on our living room floor. Though he participated in his funeral service and attended youth grief counseling after for a year or so, he pretty much pushed the trauma down. He got his first apartment at barely 18 (he was graduated from high school and working full time) because he didn’t want to be a financial burden on me (not that I ever told him he was). Five years (1998) later he moved to Brooklyn to be with his now wife, and they have lived there since. About six or seven years ago he started therapy due to a growing problem with depression. It was at that time that he was diagnosed as bi-polar and placed on mood stabilizers and anti-depressants. Over the last two or three years, there have been a series of serious issues in his and his wife’s life and marriage including a serious injury to her, a job change for him that was suppose to be a promotion (at a different company) but turned out to be a disaster from the first day, and increasing stress in their lives that finally last spring started him on a depressive spiral. Nine months later he is still in a deep depression – and we are looking at inpatient mental health services that treat not only mental illness, but also addiction issues.
Mama isn’t coping so well these days. I know that their genetic illnesses are not my fault. But the three of us are all we have. There is no father, no grandparents, no other siblings ….. just me and my son and daughter. That he is being non-communicative with me (we have always been close) and is 2000+ miles away rips my heart out. His wife has taken the role of caretaker (not so much wife any more) in trying to see him through this episode – the FIRST one he has had. She works full time and is trying desperately to take care of the pieces of their life. He is not doing well and I am lost – I cannot get my head around what is going on with him.
Result? Seven months of insomnia – anxiety – tears always just under the surface – terrified the phone will ring and it will be the worst possible news. I need to understand. I need to learn – I need help getting through this … me … who never asks for help – who is always the helper.
My PCP prescribed me Xanax last week – I take half the dose he recommended so I can sleep. As soon as it wears off, the ripping ache in my gut returns. I don’t take it, I don’t sleep. At all.
Monday I see a therapist for the first time since my kid’s dad and I did joint counseling back in 1990. My fear is that there are still unresolved issues for me from his dysfunctional life and our dysfunctional marriage and family. And then, maybe I can begin to cope with the wreckage that continues to reveal itself in our children so that I can help them the best I can.
Namaste – I honor any of you who silently deal with similar issues. It’s ok to get help – to reach out to professionals to help you sort out and understand. I never made the time for myself before now – I was too busy fixing. It’s time to fix myself.