Double strike: une tranche de notre histoire

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brave

Le 1er mars, mon mari et moi avons passé une audition avec l’intention de participer au spectacle This is my Brave (http://thisismybrave.org/) dont la mission est de mettre fin à la stigmatisation reliée à la maladie mentale.  Chaque participant de ce spectacle vit avec une maladie mentale et présente un essai, un poème ou une chanson.  Ayant voyagé jusqu’à Washington l’an dernier pour y assister, nous avons décidé cette année de tenter notre chance pour faire partie de la 2e édition de ce spectacle.   Nous avons donc rédigé ensemble un texte racontant une partie de notre vécu avec le trouble bipolaire.  Malheureusement, notre performance n’a pas été retenue.  Nous étions déçus…  Mais voilà, un grand nombre d’auditions ont été passées et le nombre de participants était limité.  Nous avons été informés que le choix final avait été très difficile vu l’excellence de chacune des prestations.

Donc, à défaut de performer à ce spectacle, j’ai décidé de vous partager le texte que nous avons composé.  Il n’aura probablement pas autant d’impact que s’il avait été présenté à ce spectacle, mais je crois que ça vaut la peine de le partager à travers mon blogue qui se veut lui aussi un moyen de déstygmatiser la maladie mentale.

Bonne lecture et n’hésitez pas à partager ce billet si vous le voulez!

 

Double strike

(Gerhard)


She was dragged and pushed against her will. She was forced into the bathroom where a bathtub of cold water, with ice cubes in it, was awaiting her. After they stripped her clothing she was pushed into the bathtub making a loud gasp for air. This was my Mom in 1994 in the midst of a psychotic episode. No one knew what was really going on but this was my extended family’s way of being towards her.

Sometime after the event one of my aunts was recalling how my mom reacted to the cold bath to some other family members, laughing and giggling while doing so. It was all a joke to her. The solution was simple, confess your sins and your will get better!

Fast forward 15 years and I was seeing similar symptoms that of my mom but this time at the bedside of my wife. I could see the fear in her face holding on to my hands not wanting to let go.

 

(Geneviève)

I reluctantly let go of his hand so he could drive me to the hospital.  A few hours later, I was laying in an emergency room bed, nursing my one-month-old baby boy and experiencing inexplicable delusions and hallucinations. My right thigh was aching from what I was convinced was a blood clot.  Waves of terror were overwhelming my brain leaving my body shaking uncontrollably.  I thought I would die leaving my husband and newborn baby alone. The doctors I was seeing could not really figure out what was wrong with me. They decided to keep me under observation for the night.  Around midnight, I started feeling better and sleepy so my husband went home to get a few hours of sleep. Three hours later, I woke up fully rejuvenated. The pain was all gone. The terror was gone. “It’s a miracle! God has healed me!” is what I told the nurse in total awe. “I have so much energy I could run a marathon!” Worried that I would indeed leave the room to start my race, she hid my shoes. Fifteen minutes later, two nurses were by my bed ready to take my baby away from me. I convinced them that I needed to nurse him and that my husband would come shortly. I called him in complete desperation waking him up.  My words were racing out my mouth. I was panicking imploring him to come right away so I could keep our baby with me.  

 

When he arrived, I could tell by the look in his face that he was very concerned.  He knew. Something was really wrong. Yet all the tests I went through the previous day and in the morning came back negative.  I was then told by a doctor to go back home. “You have to tell yourself that it’s in your head.  Everything is fine. You’ll be fine” he said. Yes that’s what he told me! Fortunately for us, my midwife had come to see me after talking to my husband on the phone during the night. She could not believe that he wanted to send me home. Thanks to some of her acquaintance at the hospital, she managed to have me stay and be seen by a psychiatrist.

 

(Gerhard)

Here I was at the hospital with my wife. She was a roller coaster! Happy one minute, crying the other minute. I somehow had a pretty good understanding of what was going on. Growing up in a country where mental health resources were sparingly, my mom was officially diagnosed with Bipolar 10 years after she had her first psychotic episode and several more hospital stays. Back then, I spent time reading up on what Bipolar is and how it affects a person. This was a tremendous help when my wife was diagnosed as having Bipolar a few days after her stay at the hospital.

 

(Geneviève)

My manic mind was racing.  I could hardly concentrate.  The serie of words that the psychiatrist had just pronounced were too complex for my brain to grasp.  I then asked him to write them on a piece of paper I was intending to keep.  It read: Bipolar disorder of postpartum onset with psychotic features.  That was my diagnosis. With no symptoms before delivery and no history of mental illness in my family, here I was trying to understand the meaning of my diagnosis that would follow me for the rest of my life.  With medication, my husband support, my psychiatrist help and reading about  my illness in the months that followed my stay at the hospital, I realized fully what happened to me and came to the point of accepting it.  Surprisingly not ashamed of it, I started sharing my experience around me in hopes of helping to reduce the stigma attached to mental illness.

 

(Gerhard)

Then came my own diagnosis of Bipolar about 3 years after my wife was diagnosed. I learned that my illness had impacted me long before I was aware of it. Mostly because my Bipolar had manifested itself as a moderate high, with some minor depressive episodes, which had been easy to tolerate . I had a lot of ambitions in life and lived an adventurous lifestyle. Soon after we got married, it slowly changed and the episodes became more depressive. It got to the point where I didn’t want to live anymore.

 

After my diagnosis and two years of trial medications my psychiatrist found the right mix, which for the most part keep my mood stable. I’ve been told that my diagnosis of Bipolar is very likely genetic. The most difficult part was to accept the reality of my diagnosis. At first I did not not want to think of myself as having an illness much less a mental illness. The mere act of having to take medication seemed out of place. I had always thought of myself as being healthy. At first I told my wife not to tell anyone. Between the two of us we talked about it to some degree but even then I was fine with keeping it to myself. In part because of being a chronic introvert :-). I saw a therapist for a while which helped to come to terms with my diagnosis as well.  

 

I don’t know if I ever see myself being a vocal advocate for mental health but when opportunities arise I will tell my story. My mom’s life has had a big impact on me and it makes me realize that everyone struggling with mental illness needs to find a place to be heard and accepted.   

 

(Geneviève)

In sickness and in health we promised to cherish and to love each other. When we pronounced these vows in August 2008 we did not know what the future was holding for us, least of all being diagnosed with the same mental illness.  But despite this hardship, we live a stable and productive life. We both are successful in our career. We are proud parents of two wonderful children, our boy and a baby girl born last September.   We have learned to recognize and to respect our limits in order to navigate with confidence through the waves of our day to day life.  Our mental illness does not define us.  We are filling our lives with hope, with dreams and courage to be the best model we can for our kids.  We love you Elliot and Teresa!

 

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  • Thank you for sharing your story. Powerfully told. You are right: Our mental illness does not define us. Thank you for your story of hope, new dreams and courage in the face of adversity.

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