This I Believe

Jennifer - madison, Wisconsin
Entered on August 18, 2007
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: illness
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This I Believe

I believe in holding fast to that which is good. I began learning this lesson years ago as I struggled and watched in disbelief as mental illness consumed my husband. Slowly it inched its way into his body and whittled away at this once pleasant, easy-going personality. His eyes so familiar, bright and enthusiastic became cold and dull. Things once thought to be humorous were now a plot against his intelligence. Irrational thoughts took the place of common sense. The sadness presented itself as anger and controlling behavior became the norm. I walked on eggshells never knowing what accusations would be next. Still I walked on, sure that the medication would kick in; the counseling would help. We just had to get through this rough patch.

I did what I could to be supportive, educated, and empathetic. I took a class; I read books and went to my own counselor. And in keeping with the theory of putting on one’s own oxygen mask before helping those around you, I joined a book club, I went for long walks, and I took up Yoga. I was holding fast to that which is good and helpful and comforting. It kept me afloat, my head above water. Yet, still I had a sinking feeling we hadn’t reached rock bottom yet.

Meanwhile we adopted a dog, rescued a cat, and planted perennials in the yard. The ‘plans’ were for a bright future. I was confident it would come; that it was just around the corner. But my dear friend was, by the end, covered in a veil of darkness, no hope for a future, no confidence in today, incapable of remembering the past. He was deeply rooted in the dense, dark forest of mental anguish, with no sign of looking for a way out. Seeing no other option, I made the difficult decision to grab hold of my prized possessions, my daughters, and head for the daylight.

The day following my decision however, I became quite ill. What I thought was the ‘flu’ turned out to be an aggressive, rare, bacterial infection that nearly cost me my life. I was put into a drug-induced coma. I lost my legs and suffered severe damage to my hands. Following three months in the hospital I came home to a life now empty of my friend of 25 years, a house full of memories and many obstacles for a new amputee. Family surrounded me, as did friends. My neighbors and my faith community, joined forces to add ramps, widen doorways, remove rugs, rearrange furniture, put on fresh coats of paint; fix dinners, clean house, and provide transportation. I felt lucky.

I feel lucky. There is much to hold on to. It’s what keeps me upright; steady on otherwise shaky ground. As I scan the horizon, looking for uneven terrain, not always sure of my footing, I hold fast to that which is good and forge ahead.