Monday, January 23, 2012

The luxury of distance - part two.

Less than 24 hours later I found myself in our car going 20 miles an hour, trying to avoid every pothole and crack in the road (which in downtown LA is close to impossible). Cars sped around me and honked as they passed. People gave the same dirty looks that I am sure I have given while in a rush to go about my life. In the passenger seat was my love, still in his hospital gown because it was impossible to get pants around his broken pelvis. The morphine they had given him was starting to wear off; every bump we hit was an unnecessary reminder of broken ribs. His right arm was bandaged in this bulky monstrosity of a situation. They had gotten him to the car in a wheelchair, but only sent him home with a cane. Somehow I was supposed to get him from our car, up 4 stairs in the entry and then to the elevator, up three floors and down the hall to our loft. We got there. It was painful, but we got there.

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 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.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The luxury of distance - part one.

Have you ever been so deep in something that you know you can’t truly process what is even happening? One of those places that you know that you need to just survive and get a little distance before really understanding what is going on? But then, as time passes, you are able to step back and take a look at the whole thing. And you begin to process...

Four months ago, on a Wednesday afternoon, I got a call, the kind of call that you never want to get. There’s been an accident. My boyfriend is very hurt. He was on his bicycle and hit by a truck. A stranger is telling me these things. My heart stops and my brain gets fuzzy. He holds the phone up to my love. He is frantic. He tells me that he is hurt bad. He tells me that he does not know what is going to happen. He tells me that he loves me. I fight tears and tell him that I love him back. He tries to tell me where he is. The stranger gets back on the phone. The whole thing is so confusing to me. We hang up. I am still not very sure what has happened. I was on my way into a meeting. I walked in and apologized for having to leave. I could hear myself speaking but I felt like a robot. I knew that I had to keep it together. All I can think is that it is a good thing that he was talking to me and I hold on to that thought as I spend the next hour searching for where he might be.

I finally find myself in the waiting room of the USC Los Angeles County Hospital Emergency Room. After what feels like an eternity, they finally come out and tell me that I can go back to see him. He is all bundled up. He has a neck brace on. He’s super out of it. I immediately tear up, but then decide that I had to stop, he can’t see me cry upon looking at him. That is not reassuring at all. I finally see a doctor. Broken arm. Broken pelvis. Broken ribs. Broken finger. Liver laceration. He will be kept overnight for observation. This all sounds bad. I find myself fighting tears again.

Its time to go into problem solving mode – there are police officers to speak to, a cell phone to find, a broken bike to get into the car and phone calls to make. I speak to the officer, who was pretty much a jerk, so that was pleasant…not. The cell phone was nowhere to be found (striking out here) and after quite the process, I did manage to get the bike into my car. As I sat in my car it was time for phone calls. Dread. I called my mom first, I knew I needed her and as soon as I heard her voice I loose it. She says she is on her way. I am so thankful. I had also texted my cousin (and bestie) and she was already in route to walk and feed our dogs and grab something to eat for us. Once my mom arrived we went back into the hospital, they had moved him to a different place and as we walked there I knew that I had to make the worst call: his parents. They live on the other side of the country and while I do not have kids of my own yet, I can only imagine that getting a call of this nature is a parent’s worst nightmare, even when your kids are grown adults. And the distance makes it worse. They were amazing; I remained calm and gave clear and concise facts. I am so incredibly thankful for how lovely his family is and how they have welcomed me with open arms. That made the call just a little bit easier.

My mom and cousin sat with me in the observation waiting room for hours. We were allowed to go in and see him once an hour for 5 mins. We ate takeout, thankfully my cousin knew that cookies were in order and oddly enough, we laughed a lot. We had not seen each other in a while, so it was a catching up of sorts. I do not know how I would have made it through that night without them. Like for serious, they were above and beyond wonderful. As midnight approached the nurses let us know that he needed to sleep (and frankly, so did I) and that I should go home and come back in the morning. As my mom and I walked to the car I felt like I was in a dream and I was not quite sure what to do with myself.

Earlier, on the phone, his mom offered to come out. I said that we needed a few days to get settled and then we would see how everything was. Looking back, I should have said YES immediately because I had not the slightest idea of what I was about to be thrust into and once I was in it, there was no turning back...