Mental Health/Slice of Life/Journal Notes
by – Sheri de Grom
Notes From My Journal – Monterey, California
Continuation of Same Night, Late 1990s
The dash clock reflected twelve forty-five a.m. by the time I pulled into the hospital parking lot. My body was starving for air; I needed sleep. It hadn’t helped that my day had been blown out of the water. Nothing had gone as planned.
The time spent with my deputy, Mike, had rejuvenated me. If I had to have a meltdown, at least Mike understood me.
Tom would be asleep but I desperately needed to connect with him, to see him, to touch
him and it would be sheer delight to see a smile or feel the touch of his hand.
I’d never missed anyone or anything as much as I missed Tom. My heart may as well have been stomped on. I was having a difficult time coping without my mate.
I so wanted to discuss my office challenges but my always-brilliant strategist had disappeared into a drug-induced sleep.
His ragged breath told me his body struggled against an overload of drugs. He’d always been a relaxed sleeper—or he had been before the demons took over.
Some days I never saw Tom awake, either at home or in the hospital. I couldn’t wait for a new life to miraculously appear while he slept. Too many people depended on me. If something positive was to come of the base closing, I had to make it happen. I’d made life-altering decisions before without his input. But, damn it, I wanted my life partner and he was gone.
I stayed an hour and watched Tom sleep. I didn’t wake him. What was the use? I was afraid he might have problems getting back to sleep.
I wanted to strip and get into bed with him . . . but hospital rules were hospital rules and I pushed the bar by being there outside regular visiting hours.
Leaving the hospital at two a.m., I drove the final leg of the trip home. The Christmas lights reflecting off Monterey Bay were magnificent but tonight I was battle-scarred. I could be summed up with one word—desperate. My pain was overwhelming. I needed to feel something other than profound grief.
I knew my depression was getting worse and that changes had to be made if we were going to survive Tom’s illness. There was no predicting one day to the next. One moment we’d be riding a wild wave of mania. Then the ocean wall holding back that last tremendous crashing wave would break loose and the sinister, dark despair of depression would suddenly slide downward, and all light or hope disappeared.
I wanted to believe normality would return when Tom had energy-charged days with many things happening simultaneously. More often than not, these days were actually the precursor to mania. Each manic phase produced another artistic masterpiece or a broken promise. This could be the spontaneous fun-loving man I remembered. More often, it was not.
I’d experienced that big build-up many times. I reminded myself it was the disease but sometimes it felt downright selfish. Bipolar disorder became a third person in our marriage and I had to find a way to keep it from destroying us.
I’d read that 90% of all marriages where one partner is bipolar ends in divorce. I was not willing for us to become a number in that statistic. Tom and I would survive. Love would show us the way.
Traffic crawled and the road was especially dark. Normally the drive home was pretty at any time of day, but tonight it was just plain black.
I could see our lights in the distance. I wanted to find Farley and Morti and climb into bed, but I still had multiple chores. Final Christmas touches waited, holiday staff bonus awards and recommendations for payments needed to be written for the government Civilian Personnel Office and the list seemed endless.
I found Catherine, Josh (Tom’s apprentice) and other members of my team on the outdoor patio near the fireplace. Catherine had made snacks and hot chocolate for everyone and even Farley was enjoying the festivities.
I didn’t have the energy to get my briefcase out of the car. I looked down to pick up a folder of papers and spotted my wallet. How careless of me. It must have fallen out of my purse.
“Look who’s here,” Catherine said. “Was she surprised to see me?” Wrapping my arm around her waist, my heart lightened. She bounced on her toes and swayed to the Christmas music. I remembered earlier antics that day discussing the Christmas party and smiled.
“Thanks for holding down the fort. I’m almost asleep on my feet. I have to go to bed.”
“Of course, we’ll clean up here.”
“Come on Farley, let’s go to bed. This has been one long day. I bet that Morti cat has already claimed a pillow.”
I tossed today’s mail on the table; my eyes were too tired to read. I couldn’t think; it was too scary.
The above is the continuation of a normal day for me after Tom was diagnosed in Monterey and I worked on Fort Ord. If it hadn’t been for my best friend, Catherine and the team I worked with, I cannot imagine how I might have survived those days and nights of living and learning about mental illness.
Thank you for reading with me. Your thoughts are always appreciated.