Friday, 19 March 2021

Say something

My dad is bipolar. He has been since his first manic episode when I was just a baby. And it ain' all 'A Beautiful Mind' with a sweet maths professor who shows up at work everyday to draw squiggles but thinks he's solving great problems. 

The short of the tale is that my dad is currently in a manic episode, complete with delusions and paranoia, and blowing all his money on his girlfriend (who is maybe 10 years younger than me), investing in her non-existent businesses... It reeks of the situation a few years ago when he transferred a large sum of money to some 'woman' in Thailand he'd been chatting to online (the perils of online dating) and who was going to marry him and have his babies. 

The trouble with mental illness is that it is really hard to help people that don't want to be helped. It is really hard to get someone committed. It is really hard to get the person to their doctor or a hospital if they do not want to go. It is really hard to put a stop to large transactions through the reserve bank. It is really hard to stop a car dealer selling a brand new car to a crazy guy. Never mind hard, it is impossible. Willing buyer, willing seller and all that (as the guy at the reserve bank told me a few years ago).

The manic and depressive episodes of bipolar causes progressive brain damage. The episodes get deeper and normal periods get less and less 'normal'. 

My dad had a good run of 'normal' a while ago when he was actually taking meds. Of course, he knows better than the doctors so he plays with dosages. But for a while he was ok. He blames the meds for making him feel unmotivated and purposeless. As I've tried to explain to him, he is like a drug addict who lives for the high and thinks that flying high is normal and that anything less than this is stuffy in the head. On the contrary, struggling to get out of bed in the morning, lacking motivation to do stuff... well, even the most motivated probably wake up feeling like this almost daily. It certainly applies to me. There are more days than not where I talk myself into getting up and facing the day. And I have work and a purpose. Not working, he has none, so it would be even more challenging for him to find motivation. Being off the edge is a far more attractive and alluring option, which he keeps going back to.

When a person is manic, their reality is altered. It is like they're in a parallel universe where what they see and hear and feel is real to them but doesn't exist for the rest of us. While I can be mad at him for being a stupid ass who stops taking his meds, I can't be mad at this poor person who is under the influence of their affliction - like a person possessed in a movie. The person you know has left the building.

So what can I do for my dad? Very, very little. 

Voluntary admission is not going to happen.

Involuntary admission is an oxymoron. How do you get a person who doesn't believe anything is wrong with them to go into hospital? I've been down this road so very many times.

All that is left is to wait for something to happen. I'm waiting for a call. In the interim, I'm in contact with his friends and our family. With his psychiatrist. 

One of my dad's friends dropped me a note last night. He started with "Just had a visit from your father. Instinct tells me I shouldn't get involved."

This is when one SHOULD get involved. I was so pleased to get his message. When times are tough, friends are few... I 'use' the friends to keep an eye on my dad. I need the friends to help me when I can either not be there or when my dad avoids me (he knows that I know that he is not well).

I'm writing this post not as much to tell about my dad, but to say that when you are a friend, it is your OBLIGATION to get involved. If the person on the other side is not receptive, that is their choice. 

You do need to say something.

For me, many messages and a long phone call later, this friend is more in the loop. They care about my dad and will assist where they can. For now, I've told them that when my dad visits, they can provide him with a safe space, food (he doesn't eat well when he is like this and he loses weight dramatically), a calm environment and even encourage him to have a nap. Good sleep and food isn't a cure but it improves things. 

The friend also now understands that my dad is unable to see reason, he can't just pull himself together.

Mental illness is unkind. To the person. To their family.

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