Wednesday, August 20, 2008

"I've Had A Really Rough Road"

She was brought in for a dirty urine tox screen. She has a pre-trial agreement that allows her to be out of jail until her hearing if she follows certain conditions. The trial is for attempting to kill her boyfriend with her car. He survived, but is permanently disabled.

The other side. It really can suck to be bipolar. Off medications, she is slender and cute, charming and the life of the party most of the time. When she is only hypomanic she has friends, people like her, she gets promotions at work. Only when that crests a little higher does she get angry, grandiose, and uncontrollable. Eleven months out of twelve she has a good life. One month a year she is dangerous. On mood-stabilizing medication, she gains weight, she feels tired all the time, she tries to work full-time but usually cannot. She then has few friends and hardly anyone pays her any attention.

Predictably, she hates feeling rotten, and has chronic temptations to cut down or eliminate her medications or to take some fun chemicals. It is just plain hard – perhaps impossibly hard for some – to feel that lousy for months on end. Some people with affective disorders are much luckier – they have fewer side effects, better supports, or milder symptoms. The substance abuse has made all this much worse. When you live in a wash of fun chemicals, that becomes the new normal. Your old baseline mood now feels like depression. Would any of us do better up against that wall?

Which is true? Both are true. How can one feel sorry for her? Yet how can one not feel sorry for her? Oh by the way - she used to work here many years ago. We love her and hate her.

Love does the right thing for a person, even if it breaks your own heart and theirs. Without us putting restrictions on her, she will become more and more of a misery to herself and to everyone she meets. If you cut her slack, she doesn’t learn. So we are very hard people at my hospital when we have to be. People try to avoid reality, we turn them back to face it. We don’t rub their noses in it – their noses are already in it.

You can do this job without feelings of love and still be doing it right. Ideally a Christian should be both loving and firm. Easy to say.

Autobiographical accounts from folks who were going wrong but then turned around often stress that it was someone who loved them, someone who wouldn't give up on them, someone who believed in them that made the difference. I'm sure it seems that way, and I wouldn't want to discourage any Christian from hanging on and believing in their prodigal against all sense. I imagine there is something to it if people keep mentioning it. Yet you should notice that biographies written by outside observers don't usually see it that way. Facing a tough reality and compensating for it seems a more common theme there.

An ideal agape love likely includes both, and I can find scripture in both directions which is more important. I say that I lean toward firmness even at the risk of coldness, but that may just be a story I tell myself. With my own sons I may have done the opposite, while only threatening to be a cold hard guy. But however well I did in practice, I'm pretty sure my theory is true. Love does the right thing, though it breaks your own heart and theirs.

1 comment:

Jonathan said...

This is one reason to get to know a potential mate for several years before even considering marriage. OTOH, that didn't help the boyfriend in this case. But perhaps he ignored red flags or decided to commit to her in spite of them.