Nothing could have prepared me for what was to come in the days, weeks and months ahead. I had never been in a situation where I was the sole caretaker of someone.
The first few weeks, well months actually, were excruciating. He could not move or sit up on his own; he could barely stand, let alone walk. He could do nothing for himself. He was in an unbearable amount of pain. He needed pain medication every two hours on the dot. He had no appetite and we learned the hard way that taking pain meds on an empty stomach was a bad idea (vomiting plus broken ribs doth not a good pair make). The bruise on his hip started to spread up and down his body, it was the colors of a super intense sunset – the deepest purples that faded out into the brightest yellows. It was the only thing that changed in the beginning. It was a strange evolving work of art in some ways. Each day we would document the progress of the bruise, it was like we were clinging to its movement, the only evidence that there was passing of time - clearly we were in need of serious sleep.
For me, the most unexpected personal struggle in this whole ordeal was sleep (or lack there of). A large part of how I deal with being bipolar involves plans. Lots and lots of plans. Schedules, calendars, rules, exceptions to those rules, non-negotiables, etc. This probably makes me seem super uptight, but it is really not the case. It is just survival. It’s the way it has to happen. I have wrapped my mind around this. I am good at it. It works for me. The number one non-negotiable, must-have, plan above all plans is sleep. One of the first things that they tell you about being Bioplar is that sleep is the corner stone of mental stability. It creates a base line – too little leads to mania and too much can slip you into deep depression. For me either of those ends leaves me experiencing mixed states, which is both anxiety-ridden mania mixed with overwhelming depression at any given moment in the day. Sleep is something that I take very seriously. It takes commitment.
So now, with out warning, I found myself in a place that was completely out of my control. I had to wake up every 2 hours to make sure that pain medication was taken on a non-empty stomach. Not just a quick up then down again, but it required sitting up (extremely painful), standing for a moment (extremely painful), forcing some jello down, plus pain pill (extremely painful) and then laying back down again (extremely painful). It was so terrible, I wished every moment that I could somehow take this away from him, I felt desperate and I was exhausted. I was only sleeping about 45mins to a hour at a time. The first few days I was in a zone, but then it started to wear me down. One week in: I cried any time I was alone, it was uncontrollable. Two weeks in: the tears keep coming...in the shower, in the car, with the door closed in the bathroom. Three weeks in: I started to be short and irritable and dare I admit, bitchy. Four weeks in: I walk the line on the edge of losing it at any moment. Suddenly it was about me and I tried everything to stop it, but it took on a life of its own. I started to feel angry and guilty – here, my dear boyfriend who has literally been hit by a truck has to figure out a way for me to get some more sleep. It became his number one goal. I remember the night we made it to a four-hour block of sleep – it was magical, we celebrated in the morning. I don’t know what I would do with out him.
I still carry some of that guilt. My mental issues prevented me from being the best caretaker that I could be. There were moments that I was less than pleasant. I feel really awful about that. And the truth of the matter is that it could have been so much worse. I knew this, yet it was impossible to get a handle on myself. At the same time it was an opportunity for us to work as a team. I started to realize that this had to be a two way street, by letting him care for me in some ways, he was maintaining the smallest bit of normalcy. And that was imperative to his recovery. Weeks and months passed – he started to get out of bed on his own and into a wheelchair, then he could walk with the cane and now he is in physical therapy and making small improvements each day. It has been and will be a very long and hard road, but he is strong and determined. It is nothing short of incredible.
So that brings us to now. It is the distance that allows us to see a little more clearly.
We stand, closer that ever before, having learned lessons that neither of us expected and thankful for the place that we have come to. While things are still very difficult, our future is bright, and for that my heart is full of gratitude.
End note: I have to take a moment to say that I would have never made it through the early weeks and months with out my mom, cousin, niece and 2 dear friends. They came over and checked on him, they made us meals and were just there. I will be forever grateful for those acts of kindness and love. They are everything to me.