Bright Tomorrows - Reflecting the compassion of Jesus Christ to those with mental health concerns
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"In Sickness and In Health: Mental Illness Arrived In My Home Unannounced!"
          My husband, Tim, and I met in 1968 in my hometown of Fort Wayne, Indiana, where he was attending college and preparing for the ministry. We got married in April, 1971, and soon moved to Tulsa where Tim transferred to O.R.U. Tim was always a very upbeat, enthusiastic, outgoing and flying high type of person. I, on the other hand, have always been a cautious, quiet, shy type of person. In fact, many times in the early years of our marriage, I thought something was really wrong with me because I never seemed to get as excited about anything as Tim did.

          Through the 70’s we were very involved in college age ministry. In 1978 we moved to Springfield, Missouri, to assist in launching a university campus ministry. There were some significant stressors that accompanied that move. Shortly before Christmas in 1978, I started noticing things that concerned me, but it wasn’t until right after Christmas, when he was laid off his job, that things seemed to escalate. He tried to sell products door-to-door without much success. Initially distressed and depressed, he started fasting and praying with greater intensity. He began sleeping less and less. From depression and distress, he suddenly shifted to talking about elaborate ideas for success that he was getting from God. He was constantly on the move and seemingly elated, but I noticed little actual success.

          I became increasingly alarmed and confused by his non-stop thinking and talking in order to convince me of his “revelations.” There was also an increase in bazaar behavior. He became less and less the man I had married. It seemed that Tim was seeing, hearing and understanding things in ways he never had before. For him it was all so “mind-expanding” and spiritually enlightening. He became so positive and certain about his destiny. For me, it just became more disturbing and frightening. I was just hoping that whatever the problem was, it would just go away.

          But then one day he took our credit cards and maxed them out without my knowing it and took a non-rational trip to meet the President of the United States in Washington, D.C. It was then I realized that something had to be done. With the help of family, a pastor and the assistance of the sheriff’s office (who sent two deputies to take him into protective custody), we got Tim admitted to a hospital psychiatric unit for observation, evaluation and subsequent treatment.

          This, for me, was one of the hardest things I ever had to do. The month that Tim spent in the hospital was a time of very mixed emotions for me. On one hand, I was very upset and felt his pain and humiliation. On the other hand, I was relieved that I didn’t have to deal with him every day – yet that also promoted feelings of guilt. The doctors decided that he had suffered a psychotic break as part of a “schizophrenic episode.” This proved eventually to be an inadequate diagnosis. They gave him a combination of very potent anti-psychotic medications, but when he was released to come home, I found him no different. In fact, there were ways in which he seemed to be worse—continuing to say and do things totally unlike the Tim I had known.

          Within a few weeks after dismissal, Tim was taken off all medications. The next eighteen months were “hell.” It was like living on a roller coaster that wouldn’t stop. On the up side of the ride were his expansive manic episodes which included enthusiastic, non-stop thinking, talking, activity and argumentativeness. On the down side of the ride were his depressive episodes expressed by anger, frustration, irritability and criticism. Our children were very young at the time and didn’t understand what was going on and it was up to me to shield them and be the “strong one.” And then, eighteen months later, it was as if someone flipped a switch and I had the old Tim back. The roller coaster ride stopped and we began to experience a comparative “calm” as after a great storm.

          For several years Tim seemed to be in a rather slow recovery process. No one had indicated that we needed ongoing health management attention with a doctor. The essential word of counsel seemed to be: “Don’t return to the ministry because the stresses could trigger another ‘episode’ with graver consequences.” We moved into a government subsidized apartment complex and later into a low rent house. Over these years, Tim worked as a janitor, car cleaner, fast food employee, warehouse employee and he mowed lawns. I took care of our small children, brought work into the home and had many a yard sale to supplement our efforts.

          Then one day, in 1982, our fortunes changed. A children’s ministry volunteer opportunity opened at our church, Evangelistic Temple, in Tulsa. Tim and I walked through that door. To our amazement and delight, after a couple of years of volunteering, Tim was offered an associate ministry position on staff. At that time, we did not really know where the storm had come from or why. All we knew was that it had passed and we had survived. We didn’t understand our potential risks and liabilities for experiencing another such storm. Therefore, I was stunned when in 1988 thunder rumbled and lightening struck again.

          I had begun to notice telltale signs in January of that year. I really didn’t want to believe it. I was in denial. In so many ways I had been seeing Tim’s personality, gifts, talents and skills restored as well as his self-confidence. Once again, however, I was witnessing the racing speech indicative of his racing thoughts and noting the illogical flights and disconnectedness. He began resting less and less – living life with extreme intensity. Self-confidence lost and regained was turning into delusion and I was afraid of the outcome.

          I didn’t know what to do. I wanted to shield and protect him. He had already suffered the pains of humiliation and shame in front of his peers and “elders.” I didn’t want him to experience this again. One day I remember praying and asking God to let one of the pastors Tim was working with, call or approach me so that I would know I wasn’t the only one noticing these symptoms. Within a short period of time, the first associate called and asked if everything was all right with Tim. I remember I began to cry. A mental health professional was consulted. The description of Tim’s behavior suggested the real possibility of something called “bipolar disorder” (manic-depressive illness). Tim was taken aside by his peers and told that he had to get help. Although in a false state of euphoria and resistant to the idea that he was dealing with a mental health challenge, Tim agreed to a doctor’s appointment.

          The initial diagnostic work-up and evaluation supported the original suspicion. It was determined that Tim needed to again be hospitalized to undergo treatment. Tim began to rapidly cycle back and forth between episodes of high manic energy, delusional thoughts, and hallucinations shifting into episodes of weeping in distress, despondency, and fear that reduced him to childlike dependency.

          I’ll never forget how he sat on our stairs at home, just inside the front door. We were both weeping and holding on to each other. I knew it was best for him, for me, and for the children, but it was still hard to talk him into going. That night after leaving Tim at the hospital, I came home, put the kids to bed, went into our bedroom and pulled a pillow over my face and started to sob. I was crying out to God, “Why? Why God? What have we done wrong? I don’t understand.”

          There are things I may not ever understand, but I discovered that I had choices to make. I could choose to hold on to my feelings of anger, bitterness and resentment and leave Tim, or I could choose to believe God loves us and knows where we were at. 

“I will praise You, O Lord, with my whole heart;
I will recount and tell aloud all Your marvelous works”(Psalm 9:1).

          I thought back and remembered back to the night nine years before when God’s word to my heart was “be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). So on that night in 1988, I chose again to trust God with what I didn’t understand. In choosing to remain faithful to my vow to God and to Tim, God gave me a song in the night of the storm that to this day gives me strength and peace and calm.

"I choose to praise You, to lift my hands to You, Turning away from all my struggles,
confusion and strife. I choose to worship You, to lift my hands to You,
Knowing that You will work all things together for good in my life."

          When I married Tim, neither of us could have foreseen the challenge of this physical illness that would become a part of our life experience together. However, I’m glad that I made the choice to stay in our relationship and to be a “caregiver” in response to the life opportunity that God has entrusted me with. Today, Tim is my best friend, my encourager, my nurturer and my lover. I love him more today than I ever thought possible.

          You see – we are each other’s caregivers. Yes, there are times when he needs “special” care from me, but there are also times when I need “special” care from him. As Tim says, that makes us both “care-givers” and “care-receivers” experiencing the truth that it is in the giving that we receive – not in a co-dependency relationship but an inter-dependent relationship. There are special challenges that go with being a caregiver. I’ve needed – and continue to need – the support of God, pastors, counselors, family, friends and others who are caregivers. I am continuing to learn more about how to take better care of myself in order to be a better caregiver.

          Today Tim and I have a better understanding of what his particular health challenge is in life. We both appreciate the power of good prayer, good medicine and good therapy, along with good physical and mental health practices. Again, as Tim would say, “together we not only survive – but we thrive.”

Nancy Reside is the Secretary-Treasurer of Bright Tomorrows and wife of Tim Reside its President. Nancy and Tim have been married and working together since 1971. She is the proud mother of two married children and grandmother to five grandchildren.

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