CHRISTMAS ALONE WITH AN UNINVITED GUEST – BIPOLAR DISORDER

Mental Health/Bipolar Disorder/Journal Notes
by: Sheri de Grom

NOTES FROM MY JOURNAL – MONTEREY, CA
CHRISTMAS EVE – 1991

My Grandmother Fromm taught me the importance of keeping a journal when I was 8. She said, "It is never simply a record of daily events."

My Grandmother Fromm taught me the importance of keeping a journal when I was 8. She said, “It is never simply a record of daily events.”

I departed Tom’s hospital room at 10:30 p.m. after his last medication dose for the day. I kissed him goodnight as he stared straight ahead. The light had gone out in his eyes and the shadow of his smile was gone.

What happened to Christmas? What happened to us? Tom and I were meant to be together and now we faced the fourth Christmas IN A ROW with him in the hospital. Please, this couldn’t be our destiny. We were meant to be together, not apart.

I had an uneasy feeling as I left Tom’s room that night. Stillness filled the lengthy corridors. Not a single Christmas decoration could be seen. The silence hung heavy, thick with tension. Were there stifled screams locked inside the lungs of lonely, frightened patients behind closed doors? I’d left the mental health unit several minutes ago but the eeriness lingered.

I normally didn’t allow myself to operate on autopilot, but numbness overtook me. I always reminded my team to never, ever let their guard down. Reprieves were deceptions. The world of those we investigated became completely out of control. We were in the business of turning people’s lives into chaos. They were to take nothing for granted and always be vigilant.

Many prominent citizens along the Central Coast considered our team their personal enemy. A current Veteran Affairs investigation had started simply enough when we’d run a routine paper trail to verify that nursing homes were being paid inappropriately for care provided veterans or not paid at all. The veterans, in turn, were to receive quality care and their pitiful $30 monthly allowance. Little did we know we’d end up with a multi-billion dollar fraud case plus thousands of medical and physical/mental abuse cases on behalf of those veterans.

Getty Image

Getty Image

The Veterans’ Affairs Administration had long passed their ability to manage long term-care patients and they contracted privately-owned nursing homes. Unfortunately, little oversight was built into the program and abuse by both family members and private facilities had reached a shameful crescendo.

Many veteran disability checks were sent to a bank account where the family member had signatory authority. When the check arrived each month, the family didn’t pay the nursing home for care provided or give the veteran the cash allowance that was rightfully his. Instead, the money went to support drug habits, lavish lifestyles, fast cars, or to increase an existing income.

The veterans didn’t know why the nursing home wasn’t being paid nor could they understand why their families weren’t coming to see them. The patients would try to do odd jobs around the facilities to help pay for the occasional haircut and the patients that were able would help care for the ones that were unable to care for themselves.

I was reminded of how easy it would be for Tom to fall prey to a situation where someone was supposed to be watching out for him and greed would take over. I vowed never to put him in such a vulnerable situation. I had to make time to set up a trust for Tom and I couldn’t put it off. Tonight, I didn’t want to think about anything except how Tom and I were going to get our lives back.

The fight had drained out of me today. My legs didn’t want to propel me further and I ached everywhere. I needed a good soak in the hot tub. A massage would be nice too. But, that wasn’t going to happen.

A moment later a long, lean shadow slipped along a curved portion of the central corridor I needed to pass through. Sheri, GET A GRIP! For heaven’s sake, at least fifty people were moving about, what was my problem? When had I become afraid of shadows? And, then the shadow stepped away from the wall and became my deputy, Mike.

“Hey,” I said. “How long have you been here?” I took in a deep breath and tried to stand straighter. My body hurt as if I’d taken a beating.

Mike stepped forward holding his arms open wide and I walked straight into them. I set my briefcase down and wrapped my arms about him. I let out a deep sigh as he closed his arms around me. Tucking my head under his chin I caught the scent I’d become familiar with over the years.

I wanted it to be Tom holding me. I wanted the trace aroma of Tom’s woody aftershave comforting me. Most of all, I wanted Tom promising me everything was going to be okay. But, he hadn’t been able to promise me anything for a very long time.

In a cracked voice, I told Mike, “I can’t take this. Tom’s gone and I don’t know where. I don’t know what to do or who to trust.” Gasping for breath, “I don’t mean you, Mike. I know I can always depend on you.”

“You’ve always got me, boss.”

We sat awhile but I had to get home. It was Christmas Eve after all. Mike knew what Christmas meant to me and his sixth sense had picked up on how fast I was deteriorating.

I couldn’t imagine ever being comfortable in my own skin again. My world continued spinning and I didn’t know how to control it. I had changed along with Tom’s illness. My insides ached as if long fingers had reached in and rearranged my organs. The sensation made me suck in my breath. If only I could turn the clock back. Would I be able to breathe again?

Mike wrapped my cold hands in his warm ones. “Sheri, you’re not alone. I’ll always be here to help you through whatever this damn disease throws your way. You know I’m your friend first and partner second. “

Tom had often teased that Mike and I behaved like an old married couple. In the early years of our working relationship, we’d been together twenty-four/seven. We were both workaholics and our skill levels complemented each other. We knew people talked, but we didn’t care then and we didn’t care now.

Booming thunder met me as I left the hospital that night. Fierce winds and lightning lashed the starless sky. I waited for the Santa driving trolley to take me to my car. I didn’t want Santa, I wanted Tom.

Driving home, I listened to soft jazz on the radio. Again, Kenny G’s soprano sax and his rendition of ‘The Shadow of Your Smile’ haunted me. I wanted Tom’s fun loving smile, not a mere empty shadow.

The raindrops pounded the car. I wondered how high the small brook in front of our house had risen. I was in no mood for hauling out the sandbags.

I wanted to scream or throw something but I was just too damn tired. How much more could I take?

# # #

Rounding the curve of our drive, I pulled the car close to the front door and parked. I wanted to squeeze my eyes shut and crawl inside myself. I wanted calm but it wasn’t happening.

Lightning crackled. The air smothered me. The December storms matched my state of mind. Damn it. I wanted to scream, to rage at the weather gods. I needed the thunder to roll and then . . . I looked down. Farley’s little body trembled. He was without his beloved master. Burying my face in his hair, I let the uncontrollable tears flow. I wanted to promise him that his master would be with us soon and he’d be the man we knew. But, I could make no such promise. Not now and maybe never.

Farley had spent the day at my office, although I wasn’t there. Often when I was going to be away from home all day, I’d drop Farley off at my office and everyone would pamper him the entire day. He always knew he could go from office to office and steal cheerios from desk drawers and then return to Mike’s office to sleep in his basket. Mike loved to pretend he didn’t like little fuzzy dogs but oh, what a fun relationship they had. When Farley saw Mike approaching, he’d take off running and fly into his arms.

It was only natural that Mike turned Farley over to me at the hospital. After all, he was a member of my family.

Looking toward our house a shiver ran down my spine. The front door hung wide open. Black terror enveloped me. Had I forgotten to close the door in my haste to get Tom to the hospital? Again I shuddered at the thought.

I grabbed my trench coat and bundled Farley in it. Tossing my heels in the back, I held Farley close and, barefoot, sprinted across the drive, up the slippery stone steps and into the house.

Setting Farley down and after today’s events, I defied anyone to push me further. Infuriated with myself, I moved through the house, moving back and forth, and sweeping from side to side as I moved from room to room. Shadows crept in from outdoor lighting allowing me to see. Satisfied that I had left the front door open, I flipped the three light switches just inside the door and the entire house and outlying property lit up.

Morti, my twenty-two year old tabby, meowed with force. I must have left the door open, but had I? Morti didn’t like change; I’d missed his dinner hour and the house was cold.

I wished I could change into comfy sweats but I had to feed the cat or he’d never quiet down. I gathered all twenty-five pounds of orange fur into my arms. He responded to the attention by purring as loud as some freight engines I’d heard. I clung to his warmth and comfort.

“Hey, Morti. How are you?”

He looked at me as if to say, now what do you think?” He opened his mouth and I expected a howl but once I opened his cat food, he had no time for idle chatter. Pouring his daily allowance of whipping cream in a china saucer, I thought he’d be content. No such luck. Perhaps when I had a fire going he’d relax.

Farley hadn’t eaten either, but he had the patiences of a saint. I poured food for him, changed the water bowls and headed off to build a fire. Dry wood stood by the fireplace. Tom had always taken care of this task, but in the past few months, I’d been forced into chores he’d once performed.

Morti still fussed in the kitchen, but I couldn’t take care of anything else for another minute. I was beat. The house echoed with the despair I felt. Tom wasn’t home and I didn’t know when he would be. Each hospitalization seemed to take him further away from me.   

Falling in love with Tom had changed my life. I no longer wanted to be the fiercely independent woman who cherished being alone and answering to no one. Would I have to go back to being that woman? I didn’t like change any more than Morti did.

Roaming through the house, overwhelming sadness cloaked me. My mind slid backward in time. I dropped to the flokati rug in front of the fireplace and watched the shadows of the flames dance on the ceiling. Christmas decorations glittered throughout the house, the pounding rain on the roof soothed my shattered soul and I drifted back in time. Effortless, considering today’s events . . .

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About Sheri de Grom

Retired Fed/JAG, 5 yrs. on Capitol Hill. Former book buyer for B and N. Concerned citizen of military drawdown. Currently involved in mental healthcare reform, health care strategist and actively pursuing legislative change wherein dual retirees are exempt from enrolling in Medicare at their own discretion without losing tertiary healthcare benefits. Monitor and comment on Federal Register proposed legislation involving Mental Health, Veterans Affairs, Health and Human Services, Medicare and rural libraries. Licensed OSHA Inspector to include Super Fund sites. Full time caregive to Vietnam era veteran. Conceptualized, investigated possible alternatives, authored, lobbied for, and successfully implemented Title X, Section 1095 (known as the Third Party Collection Program of Federal Insurance).
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89 Responses to CHRISTMAS ALONE WITH AN UNINVITED GUEST – BIPOLAR DISORDER

  1. Hi Sheri, Thank you for liking my post. For some strange reason, I was not getting notifications from WordPress about your posts. I hope i will. Hope you are keeping well. Jo

  2. Lisa Mari says:

    Du skriver så sterkt med masse følelser. Man kjenner hvert ord i kroppen❤️Tusen takk❤️

  3. You are a good story teller! Whip cream a secret for long-lived cat?

  4. mihrank says:

    wow – this is very emotional, hard not to let our tears, such difficult words. You are able to share very special and precious moments.

    • Thank you, Mihran. It’s nice to see you. Living with the fallout of bipolar disorder can be trying and more than difficult at times. However, I become enraged when all individuals with bipolar disorder are lumped together as being uncontrollable and violent. Tom is gentle and kind. It’s simply his illness has the upper hand and has often been the third party in our marriage.

  5. I feel deep compassion for you Sheri, to be unable to share special times with the person you Love is very hard and even harder knowing they are not well, I’m experiencing the same with Ron, I find it hard sometimes to believe it’s reality.

    God bless you and strengthen you Sheri for all you have to contend with, may you see His Light always near and know your greatly Loved, He will rise you up and never leave you and all that you do for others you are doing for Him and you will be greatly blessed.
    .

    .
    Christian Love – Anne

    • Anne – Thank you for the lovely version of ‘You Raise Me Up.’ Needless to say, I’ve added Selah to my list of names for playlists.

      You are so right about the anguish of not being able to share special thoughts and moments with the person you’ve always shared your most intimate thoughts and life. Often it’s not something significant: a new bloom on a flower I hadn’t expected to make it through the tough heat we’re having at the present time, a movie that looks like it would be really good but in my heart I know we won’t be able to attend, a conversation I’ve had with a friend we’ve both known in the past but Tom no longer engages with and the list goes on. You are so right, it’s so hard and it’s painful. It may be the hardest part of coping with having an ill mate. It’s a topic I never read about in medical literature. It’s as though Tom is here but in reality, he’s gone and I’m alone. I understand where you are, Anne. I understand the aloneness. I understand how difficult it is to prepare a meal and realize you will be the only one at the dinner table – who wants to eat when that happens.

      My heart goes out to you and I hold you gently and pray you’ll find peace and comfort in small joy throughout the day that will sustain you. With love, Sheri

  6. AWE now this melted my heart for you! I love the way you describe how heavy your felt. This is beautiful though painful to read. I think harnessing all this power to make you stronger and fight is so encouraging! I loved reading this! I pray for the woman that wrote this and the one now! She’s a fighter and a beautiful friend! I hope your night gardening is bringing you much peace! I think of you when I’m outside at dusk and you are probably gardening away with your twinkle lights lost in your garden therapy! Love to you my friend! ❤ Happy weekend! 😀

  7. Aquileana says:

    This was such a touching and well penned post… Proud of you for your way of being and for you struggling to my our world a better place… All my best wishes, with admiration. Aquileana ⭐

  8. willowdot21 says:

    I am speechless with emotion . ❤

  9. GP Cox says:

    I’ve been on a rampage getting that notice sent out, Sheri. If I am able to reach anyone – I’ll consider it time worth spent!!
    [No need to answer – I just want to keep you informed – Best to Tom]

  10. Sheri, your story is unique in that you have persevered where other men with bipolar disorder had wives that left the marriage when the going got too rough for them to stomach. I remember only three patients in my 35 years at VA who remained married for the duration. The wives were regular visitors and called their husbands on the phone. It was a relief to know these guys actually had someone that truly cared.

    I’m still not sure how you managed a demanding career and took care of Tom’s needs too. You are one strong woman and you have my deep admiration.

    I do hope that some things are better for Tom and that you are getting some much needed rest.

    I enjoyed reading this post. It is so well written and engaging.

    Sending love and hugs,
    ~yvonne

    • Yvonne – Thank you. Your words mean a lot to me. So many variants occur with the bipolar disordered diagnosis. I know others with the disease and when manic they’ve developed drug and alcohol addictions to numb the pain of their disease. Others engage in sexual encounters outside of their relationship. Had I come up against any of those behaviors, I don’t know how I would have coped. It would have been far harder on me than anything else I’ve encountered.
      When Tom is manic, he spends money with no thought of tomorrow and with no consideration of tomorrow. Thankfully we haven’t seen a true manic phase since 2000 – 2002.
      At present, he sleeps almost around the clock. His body is riddled with disease, many from the over-load of medications he was on for far too many years.
      I always appreciate your reading with me and leaving a comment. Sheri

  11. Elyse says:

    Oh dear. I know from experience the pain of dealing with sadness when the world demands happiness.

    As always, I am in awe of your strength, your love, and your resolve. Tom really has a knight in shining armour in you.

    • Thank you, Elyse. All the years I worked, I could hide in my work. I carried a loaded briefcase with me everywhere I went. Today, it’s a different story. I still carry my reading and notes for advocacy work and such but my passion was in my career. I continue to search for something that fills the lonely days and nights of silence.

      Insomnia is not my friend and many nights I wonder, ‘world, you are still out there, aren’t you?’

      Thank you for reading with me, Elyse, and for leaving a comment.

  12. Patty B says:

    My heart goes out to you – but at the same time I admire you for printing these journal entries. You are helping so many others from what you and Tom went through. You are truly an amazing woman, my prayers are with you and Tom.

  13. Terry says:

    i remember oh too well the last Christmas I spent with my brother. He slept 23 out of 24 hours, never opening the gifts I bought with so much love and excitement. He did open them the next day, but there was no light in his eyes. He was just suffering way too much

    • Terry – I know this event all too well. What we pray for, God has already notified us, it’s not going to happen. God’s been patient in helping me become used to the idea that the Christmas holidays I always looked forward to so much, filled with so much happiness and celebration, were over and I know they are not returning. It’s a hard fact to accept but it is fact. I too spent last Christmas with Tom asleep. I no longer have family but friends have become my all important life line. Surround yourself with good friends, Terry. Your faith and your friends will make all the difference in your world.

  14. ksbeth says:

    this is so sad to read, yet so beautiful in so many ways. you have helped to change so many lives for the better, and with your words and actions you continue to do so – i love your bond with tom and your connections with the others you feel close to and trust and it is these very bonds that keep you going when times get so unbelievably hard. hugs to you and tom )

    • Beth – Hugs accepted. The past 18 months have been the hardest in dealing with all of Tom’s physical crisis. When I look back through my mountain of journals and those early fears, emotions, situations that built up and yes the ability to lean on trusting friends – if I hadn’t kept the journals I would have lost so much. I continue journaling every day. I know it’s not for everyone but it helps me keep everything in perspective.

  15. Sheri, as always your words provide inspiration and encouragement and tonight I needed a fresh dose of faith. Hugs.

    • The days and years march by and we all seek inspiration and encouragement to continue our journeys. I believe it’s human nature to want the best for not only those we love but for ourselves. It took me many years to learn I needed as much love for myself as the love I so easily poured out for Tom. Once I figured out that equation, life became much easier. I have to occasionally remind myself of that when the house is silent as Tom sleeps and I want to share a thought or a magical flower opening in my garden. I then must remind myself of how blessed I am to have fought the fight for him to live and for us to still have hope that one day we’ll be able to do some of the things we’ve talked about over time.

  16. I want so badly to be close enough to you to come give you a huge HUG….

  17. When I finished reading I was emotionally spent and felt myself staring in to your fire. But above all I feel the power of your love Sheri. Above EVERYTHING.

    • Colleen: As always, thank you for reading with me and commenting. The Christmas holidays were always tough on me [and still are]. I’ve finally accepted I must be responsible for my own celebration because Tom will be unable to participate. It’s been one of the hardest facts for me to accept. It may sound selfish on my part but I grew up in a family where Christmas was celebrated from Thanksgiving Day Night until January 10. The traditions are steeped into my soul and mean so much more when shared with the person you love.
      For whatever the reason and I’m sure by now the reasons are cumulative, Tom is unable to participate and is always very ill during the holidays. It’s taken me over 20 years to go on and attend candlelight services and the other traditions I hold tight in my heart.

  18. Oh my hart goes out to you. Where does the strength come from, Sheri.

    • Jacqui – It’s amazing the drive unconditional love lends when the going gets tough and sheer willpower to survive any situation sets in. I was always passionate about my career and even more passionate about Tom’s well being. It’s amazing what we humans can do when we make up our minds we are going to conquer something. Thanks for dropping by and commenting.

  19. Sheri, I (like everyone else) love your writing and this memoir/journal is just wonderfully written. I love it. I think it’s a shame that no one is interested in taking it on. Then again, I’m so sick of “agents” holding the cards with regard to our writing – I don’t even want to “go there”. Which is why I love it that self-punishing has come about and that there are small publishing houses that will take many of us on who aren’t interested in doing 100% of the work all by ourselves.
    Anyway, I think of you often, as well as Tom.
    Patti

  20. I have recently come to the conclusion that the bipolar patients who recover do so DESPITE the poor quality of care they receive. In my experience, patients who are highly intelligent and have strong family support somehow manage to recover.

    • Dr. Bramhall: Thank you for stopping in to read with me and comment. I’m a firm believer that the individual with the disease may only have a reasonable lifestyle and survive the disease if they have someone who loves them unconditionally and they know they can trust. Due to bipolar disorder not having a cure, it’s inevitable the disease will always have some degree of unrest within the body. For Tom, the vast number of medications he was prescribed over the years have led to the total deterioration of his body.

  21. Sheri, I can feel your despair, your longing for things to be different, the weariness of not being able to cope with one more thing. I hesitate to say how much I enjoy your wonderful writing, knowing that this is your life, but you do have a gift for words.

    • Andrea – Thank you for dropping in and yes, I’ve longed for things to be different so many times. I have so many wonderful memories of our lives together but I also want others to know if they enter into a relationship with someone who is diagnosed with bipolar disorder what it is they might experience in their life’s journey. Tom hadn’t been diagnosed when we met and married and I can’t say I would have done anything different had he been. When things are right – my world is magic – but those times are further and further apart.

  22. inesephoto says:

    Sheri, I am reading your journal like a novel, except that I know that you have lived every word of it. You are true to yourself in your work and in your love.
    Wish you a peaceful week. Inese

    • Hi Inese – Thank you for reading with me and your kind comments. It’s always a joy to find you here. I do hope all is well in your world.

      • inesephoto says:

        Everything is all right, thank you! Just came home after visiting an old friend in the Nursing Home. It is amazing how one can forget absolutely everything, but remember songs 🙂 We had such a fun singing in the common room, and so many old folks joined us 🙂 God loves them.

        • Bless you for remembering your friend in the Nursing Home. As long as the elderly have visitors that help them remember the days when fun was a part of their daily existence, it is indeed God’s grace.

          • inesephoto says:

            Alzheimer’s is the saddest disease ever. That lady had a great life and has seen the world. She even used to teach English to some Arabian Shah’s wife. She doesn’t remember all the songs anymore, just a word here and there. My friend and I were singing our heart out to trigger her memory, and it worked. She had no clue who we were though.

            • I so agree with Alzheimer’s being the saddest disease ever. Tom and I are both concerned about so many medications being hard on our memories and some even having evidence leading to problems with dementia. We’ve both started efforts to cut down on those medications.

              Whatever bits of memory you were able to retrieve for your friend must have been delightful for her. I’ve read individuals rarely remember people they used to know. Often the patients seem to like doing simple repetitive tasks – almost like they remembered doing them in the past. I specifically remember a woman at the VA in Oregon where I worked and each time I saw her she was folding face cloths. The staff told me the laundry send their department about 1/2 of all face cloths the hospital used on a daily basis and the one woman folded all of them perfectly.

              Tom lost 55 years of his memory in 2000 when we agreed for him to have electroconvulsive shock therapy. He only had one treatment and it was and still is a problem. He’s had to relearn everything he ever knew and many things he’ll never regain knowledge of,

  23. Maureen says:

    Your writing draws me in, and I feel for you. God Bless you Sheri. I’m going to share this on Facebook as it’s not only veterans who are neglected when things are privatised. I think this post can speak to all of us…

    • Thank you for your kind words, Maureen. I always appreciate it when you read with me and leave a comment. I firmly believe our government began to fall apart when we started contracting everything out. Greed and corruption has taken over every facet of our lives from the formula undernourished babies receive to wars fought. If we cannot take back our own government I firmly believe it will be the end of the United States as we once knew it.

      After I retired from government, I continued to work the investigation of veteran abuse in nursing homes in various states we lived in. The practice is still prevalent today along with adult children doing the same thing with their parents social security benefits and other retirement income.

  24. Having just edited the memoir of a bipolar doctor, I could really feel for Tom and you and the mistreatment/lack of treatment and lack of basic respect for people with mental health issues. In particular, the lack of ‘whole person’ treatment, including medical issues really opened my eyes in both Tom’s case and in this doctor’s case. As a doctor he knew far more than the average patient but because of his depressive bipolar type II disorder, his medical knowledge was utterly ignored. Missed: gangrenous gallbladder, metastatic thyroid cancer, kidney failure, etc. That he has survived these and three major suicide attempts (i.e. on life support for days after each one) is a true miracle. That Tom has survived all he has gone through these many years is not only a miracle but a testament to your tenacity as his only health advocate. And yes, the parallels of your career experience and Tom’s health path are beyond mere coincidence. I’d say there’s some divine intervention at work.

    • Thank you, Mary. I’m looking forward to reading the book when it’s published. I’ve often thought the medical profession itself was our worst enemy. I look back at some of those early journals and wonder how we survived the day in and day out stress we encountered. Of course this past 18 months hasn’t been a ‘walk in the park’ as they say!

      Hope you and Jacques are doing well.

  25. Sheri, I’m in awe of how well you journal. Incredible writing. I regret having tossed my journals years ago. Have a couple of leftovers beside my bed that survived the purge. I love and identify with this statement of yours: “Falling in love with Tom had changed my life. I no longer wanted to be the fiercely independent woman who cherished being alone and answering to no one.” Amazing what loving a mate does.

    • Kitt – My Grandmother Fromm was a wise woman. I’ll always be thankful for the gift she gave me when she expressed over and over that journal writing was so much more than writing about what you did each day. She always put the emphasis on ‘how did you feel about what you were doing?’ In terms of journal writing, she was definitely a woman ahead of her time. She was a farm wife but dreamed big and wanted so much more for her grandchildren and I was fortunate to be one of them. She passed when I was still in high school but I talked with my fraternal grandmother about the journal writing and she insisted I keep up the practice and we talked about it often for well over 30+ years.
      Often my journal was my best friend and confident. I kept it in my purse at all times and wrote in it whenever I felt the need to get something ‘out of my system.’ Thankfully, once I graduated college I stumbled onto a refillable leather journal I really liked and have used it all these years and thus they are relatively easy to store. I haven’t a clue how many journals I have but I continue to write in them daily.

  26. cindy knoke says:

    You write so eloquently Sheri about a situation that everyone will face in one way or another since mental illness affects us all and we are all connected. Hugs & love~

    • Cindy – Thank you, as always, for reading with me and commenting. I like to think the disease will become easier to manage but as the physical diseases become more debilitating they seem to add so much more to bipolar disorder. Two of the best drugs Tom needs for managing 2 of his new diseases have had to be discontinued due to their disruption of his bipolar condition. It leaves us in a quandary of which way to turn. All 3 diseases are life threatening and I don’t especially like those odds.

  27. Very nicely detailed. Your story is full of heartbreak and sadness. I know what it’s like caring for one with mental illness. My son too seems to be drifting further and further away from me.

  28. Sheri, you’ve got a FABULOUS novel here — the fact that it’s all true doesn’t make it any less of a captivating read. I hope you’re going to save up these blogs and publish the whole story!

    • Laurie – Thank you for your encouragement. I leave out bits and pieces as they seem too dramatic to post in a blog. Whenever I’ve pitched this idea to agents (and I have numerous times) I’ve always been told no one would publish it because I’m not a movie star or a practicing PhD or other credentialed person in the mental health profession.
      I spent 7 years with a non-fiction version (extensive research sites and all) and no one wanted that manuscript and that was when I turned to fiction.

      I spent from 2007 to 2012 writing fiction and pitching and still no takers. I so wanted other couples to know that despite the rising divorce rates, with unimaginable hard work, heart ache beyond any I’ve had before – I felt driven to let others know through some of our own experiences that you really can survive to wake up in the morning and say, “I love you more today than yesterday and not as much as tomorrow.”

      The part everyone needs to know now is that when Tom was first diagnosed, I was told over and over that he wouldn’t survive a year and then it was 2 years and so on. Doctor’s told me bipolar patients never made it past 55. I kept asking for information because I knew Tom would be alive, he had to be! Tom’s now 67 and his body is falling apart because of the drugs prescribed. They’ve literally eaten his body from the inside out and I’m more afraid of the physical ramifications of the disease than I ever was of the mental episodes (and those were of nightmare proportions).

      Thank you for reading with me and commenting. I always love to hear from you.

  29. GP Cox says:

    Your friends will always be there for you, Sheri – as you discovered back in ’91 and I know that anyone who has met you since, will be there for you now. You and Tom have such a strong bond, despite the illness, the pain and terror that comes with it all – or is it because of all this? One thing you always prove with the memories you publish here for us, is that each one of us, no matter how terrifying the problem, are stronger than we ever realized. You are a very special person!

    • G.P. – Thank you for the uplifting comments. I so agree, friends and a strong faith are the most important links in surviving most anything thrown our way. I’ve always been grateful I had my father for a role model and his belief that I could make the right decisions and survive. As I look back over the years, I think I was able to fight so hard for justice for those who didn’t have power because #1-I came up through the ranks and #2-I saw first hand the greed and corruption going on everyday around me. I had to be strong for Tom and be able to maneuver through the medical maze wherever we lived and that was always a challenge. It was almost like what I mastered in my career taught me what I needed to know to take care of Tom all these years. It’s interesting how our lives run parallel.

      This will be my last journal entry for awhile. It’s time for me to get back to blogging about some of the issues going on in the world of Veterans Affairs, the Military Drawdown, generic drug rising costs and all the other items I like to keep an eye on.
      If you know veterans who’ve applied for disabilities using the electronic system, especially the promised 100% disability payment for any vet who served in Vietnam and now has diabetes or kidney disease, there are problems. It’s expected to take a minimum of 3 years to adjudicate each of those claims and the Vet MUST add new information to his/her claim every 6 months to keep the electronic claim active. I see this as a crime in itself. Please help get the word out in any way you know possible. Thanks.

      • GP Cox says:

        I’ll repeat it to everyone possible and I know one in particular who can reach even more than I. Thank you for the info, Sheri. You take care and give my best to Tom.
        PS. I don’t know why I sent you Ft. Hood the other day, it was the pictures of Ft. Or to send. oops ^^’

        • I know I have an e-mail marked with a red flag in my in-basket. I planned to read e-mail this afternoon.
          We’re setting up a group of volunteers to do mass mailings about the slow down on electronic claims and what veteran’s must do to keep them live. I know we’ll miss hundreds of thousands and that scares me – but – as long as school is still out we have girl scouts and church groups that are great workers and take direction beautifully. All materials have been donated for notification.
          You do know, G.P., none of this would have ever started if it hadn’t been for you!

          • GP Cox says:

            Without you, the blog and its application would never have reached the people you brought it to! The program itself would never have developed without your organizational skills and contacts. You are a workaholic who thinks only of others and none of us, especially me, can possibly thank you enough!

            • I plead guilty to being a workaholic. I’ve been one all my life. It’s one of the ways I cope with Tom’s illness. Have a great day.

              • GP Cox says:

                Yesterday I put a notice on my post and gave the information to Colonel Grice for his newsletter out to the vets. Your words, “This in itself is a crime.” truer words never spoken!

                • Thank you, thank you. Now we have a new issue and I know we can’t keep up with all of them. Tricare [pharmacy service for many retired military and their families plus active duty and their families] has mailed out letters by the thousands taking independent pharmacies off the approved pharmacy list. Tricare is attempting to force everyone into a mail-order category. Some independent pharmacies did not renew their contracts with Tricare as they are reimbursed as if we lived in the stone age but many others did [such as mine]. I know you are incredibly busy but our veterans and military are being tossed around as if they were yesterday’s trash.

                  • GP Cox says:

                    I really don’t know what to think about that mail order thing – my own medical ins. (medicare) is trying to force me into it too.

                    • FIGHT IT EVERY STEP OF THE WAY. Write your congressional representatives. Medicare loses more money on their prescription mail program than on any other component. I must find my statistics – they are shocking.
                      Once we are forced into mailorder, it will never be overturned.
                      Additionally, you can argue your scripts will sit in a mailbox with extreme temperatures for unknown periods of time [mail carriers do not bring them to the door], the medications are easily stolen and then your only recourse is to pay for your prescription for the month. Imagine the number of seniors who go without because they cannot afford to pay for the entire prescription out of what limited income they have. I’ve been fighting this issue for at least 15 years on behalf of everyone. It’s come about because of the middle managers in the pharmacy benefit programs. We cannot let them win. The pharmacy benefit managers don’t care how much money it cost medicare and other insurance companies because the more medications that go out, the more the managers make.

                      A prime argument is against the 90 day refill. Your doctor writes a script for 90 days and you receive it but suddenly you have to change medications. Whatever is remaining that you haven’t taken is pure waste and all you can do with it is turn it in on ‘drug turn in day.’

                      Some community outreach programs will take your old prescriptions but not many. I think I need to find my research on how much money Medicare is wasting on their mail order program and prepare a blog. We all need to be proactive on this one!

    • I don’t think I can improve on the beautiful comment from GP Cox and so I second it with great emphasis on the part about you being a very special person!

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