My dad is in recovery from his 8th vascular surgery in 6 years. The surgeon said it went as well as could be expected. He is now awake and responsive. There is a palpable sense of peace permeating the air in this expansive waiting area. I’m here with other close family members,. We are sitting in solitary solidarity. All is well.
All was not well two months ago, the last time dad had surgery. We were shoehorned into a cubbyhole with what seemed like hoards of masses of thousands of other families. and clans and troops. Fox News was blaring over the airways. One man in camo jacket, tube socks and scuffed penny loafers did the commentary:
On International Affairs: “Who cares if he has personal relations with the Russians? I say keep your friends close and your enemies closer.”
On Health Care: “They say health coverage is a right. Show me in the Constitution where it says everybody is entitled to free medical treatment. It ain’t there.”
On Domestic Relations: “Those damn Mexicans bring drugs in, steal our jobs, and rape our women. Hell yes, build a wall! Electrify the damn thing.”
This last volley was too much for me. I had not slept well for a week. My grandma was dying. My dad was in surgery. My step-mom was home recovering from surgery. My son was scheduled for surgery. Life, death, dying, healing, suffering swirled around me like a kaleidoscope of jumbled nerves. My teeth gnashed. My head pounded.
I grabbed my journal, thrust my pen in my pocket, fitted my iPod with earbuds into place and started to pace. Back and forth. Fort and bath. Eyes boreing holes into walls. Room spinning. Bright white. Antiseptic. Rubbed raw.
My sister touched my arm gently and guided me to the cafeteria where I swayed smoothly to melodies soothing the seething in my system. I document the experience in my journal:
I’m having a manic episode waiting for Dad to get out of surgery. I am afraid of losing control. I’m sitting with April, Jon, and Amber, hoping their presence will calm me down… I got very little sleep last night… I’m afraid of losing control of something. Deep breath in. Slow breath out. Sip of lavender tea.
I’m exhausted, but there is no way to rest. My mind races. I am agitated. I want to pace. Jump out of my skin. Explode.
Amber and April are discussing what to do with me. I told them to decide for me. Tell me what to do. Benedryl, perhaps. Yes. Amber and Jon went to get some. Amber tells me to keep channeling into my notebook. April escorts me to the chapel where I can pray and read Scripture and write. Listen to music.
Tightness in chest. Deep breath in. Slow release. Sip tea.
Dad made it through his procedure just fine. I found a measure of relief. Enough to sleep that night. Travel home in stages. Concentrate on my journey. Road weary. But I made it, too.
So what did I “take away” from this experience? How can I avoid such episodes in the future?
The answer is: I can’t. Life happens. I have bipolar disorder. Life + Bipolar = Mania + Depression.
Some say that persons with serious mental illnesses like me are out of touch with reality. I say we are more intensely in tune with what is real. Good becomes great. Bad becomes intolerable.
What do you think?