A Close Encounter with a Combative Commentator3 min read

Some time ago my dad had his 8th vascular surgery in 6 years. I wrote this in my journal that day…

The surgeon said it went as well as could be expected.  Dad 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 prior 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?


About the Author:

I am a man with an unquiet mind who delights in the One who delights in me.
  • I echo your last two lines, “We are more intensely in tune with what is real. Good becomes great. Bad becomes intolerable.”

    When life piles up like that, I usually need to take a 4 hour nap. In your situation, that was not an option–you were stuck out there in the world, with more and more piling up. I think you handled it as well as any human could.

    Keep breathing!

    • Thanks for your affirming words, SueAnn. Yes, sometimes we can avoid triggers so we have to aim them at less harmful targets.

  • Wow! I do believe there are just some things that are totally beyond our ability to control with any known coping technique, medication or spiritual discipline. Some earthly pains must simply be endured through faith in God’s promise to one day right all that has gone wrong.

    I don’t want to sound flippant, but perhaps what we consider to be an “illness” is actually a thinning of the spiritual veil between the seen and the unseen as such people become hyper-aware of things that so-called “normal” people are not? Maybe the human mind just does not comprehend how to properly interpret the information overload?
    At any rate, it may well be a blessing in that it brings the sufferer to an undeniable realization that there really is something wrong with the world, something many of us miss as we go about our everyday, uninterrupted routines. It offers the potential for a very real, vital relationship with Christ as the only possible solution.

    • Keen insight, Heather! Perhaps some, if not much, that is now considered to be madness was once deemed mystical.

  • Sam

    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.

    I agree, well said Tony. Stay strong my friend.