This last week has been nothing short of testing. However, I’ve been so lucky to have my Bugsy and Hats home for the week. It has been so good being able to share the load for a while.
Last Saturday, Dad was not himself at all. He was extremely lethargic and not making much sense. He told me he “didn’t feel at all right.” So Hats and I took both my Parents to A&E. They were very thorough with him; giving him a brain scan, blood tests etc. The scan revealed no second stroke, thankfully. He was then reviewed by the Mental Health team. As I was sat there listening to these two Mental Health Practitioners talking to Dad, it reminded me of why I felt so determined to do a degree in Social Sciences, 8 years ago. I’m so regretful of the fact that I did half the degree, then threw myself back into work. I really wish I’d finished it to pursue a career in Mental Health. Through all my experiences with another member of my family, I’ve always felt that many of these Practitioners are treating patients in a textbook fashion. No two people are the same. No two people present the same problem. They often fail to see the person as an individual, with individual circumstances. Sadly, last Saturday was yet another feeling of dissatisfaction with this service.
After 6 hours in A&E, I felt utterly despondent. We were reassured that the scan ruled out a second stroke, however, the fact still remained that my Dad was very unwell, without much help. Don’t know how I would have coped for those hours, without my Hats. Luckily, my Mum found a crossword book which kept her entertained! By 11pm, we were starving, so on the way home from hospital, I took them to Granada Services for a Burger King meal! A new experience for my parents. Granada services is quite an eye opener on a Saturday night!
Again, one thing I’ve learnt through all this, is that you really do have to be pushy to be heard. Pushy is certainly not second nature to me, but when I feel I’m not being heard, I seem to find this ability from somewhere.
During these last 4 months, I have had to come to terms with a number of things; I have no relationship with my sister anymore. I’ve learnt who my true family are, and they’re not always blood relatives. I’ve learnt that my role as people pleaser can only stretch so far. The harshest of my realities is my lovely Dad. 33 years ago, during his breakdown, he had a manic episode. I know this, I lived this, but I’ve never allowed myself to question why he has taken Lithium, daily, ever since. A relatively small dose, compared to another member of my family, but a prescription all the same. When my Dad was admitted to hospital in July, following his stroke, seeing “Bipolar Disorder” on his records, completely took the wind out my sails. I remember ringing my Uncle John (Not blood relative, but an amazing support to me). I bombarded him with so many questions. I’d been in denial for 33 years. When I asked my Mum, in July, if Dad had bipolar disorder on his medical records, she said “I don’t know, but I suppose so.” I obviously knew the answer, but wanted to hear my Mum confirm it. He’s only ever had one episode in his life, that being 33 years ago. The reality still came as a shock to me. I’ve not wanted to put this in my blog, until now, as I don’t feel it’s my story to tell. However, it is my story to tell, as I’m now living this new nightmare with my lovely Dad.
Most people who suffer from Bipolar Disorder, have a “trigger point.” A point in their life, where things are just too unbearable and the chemical imbalance in their brain starts firing. When my poor Parents lost my brother, Sacha, you would have thought that his death would have been my Dad’s trigger. Losing Sacha was totally out of their control. The cancer stole his life. Only the cancer was blameworthy. 33 years ago, I think my Dad must have felt so completely overwhelmed. Previously, we were a happy family, living in Crediton. He loved his Deputy Head role, but was always pushed to get a Headship. He moved his family to a new town. His Mum had dementia. The former Head of his school was making so much trouble for my poor Dad. I can see the trigger now. He must have felt that he’d let his family down, by uprooting them and taking this promotion. But how would he have known what was going to happen? Unlike the sad loss of Sacha, my Dad must have felt so blameworthy. I can’t imagine how he felt. Nobody in the family would ever blame him. We just felt so sad for him and angry with the circumstances of that school.
Last week, I had to revisit a difficult past. My Dad’s Mental Health Practitioner asked me lots of questions about 1984. My Mum had been asked things, but her responses were vague and inaccurate. Sadly, Mum’s own deterioration means that she’s no longer a reliable source of information. Talking to the Mental Health Practitioner about a time which made me grow up fast, was not an easy task. It brought back memories I wish I could forget. However, this background information helps them deal with Dad now.
Right now, my Dad is one severely depressed man. As soon as I read the stroke literature and saw the words “post stroke depression,” I knew things would not be easy. A stroke patient is susceptible to depression, but a stroke patient with a history of depression, is going to find it even more difficult. He has been put on Anti-depressants this week to try and lift his mood. However, it’s not as easy to do so if a person is on a mood stabiliser… In Dad’s case, Lithium. As the mood can lift too high, sending the person into a manic state. My Dad has had two very broken nights, and his mind is moving fast. I know that the Anti-depressants he’s on are not suiting him or his Lithium levels.
Whilst all this is going on, I’m still as concerned about my Mum as I have been for the past 3 years…… Pass the chocolate!
So grateful for my Hats and Bugsy this week. They’ve kept my head above the water and kept my spirit up. I try my hardest to be myself around my Dad. He’s very attuned to how I am. Yesterday, during a walk, he said to me “Soph, you’re not yourself today.” I told him I was just tired. I was cross with myself for letting my guard down. I never want my Dad to see I’m struggling with this difficult situation. He needs me to fight his corner. Today, I will make every effort to pretend I’m ok, he needs me to be strong for him.