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Make it to Me

I’ve opened up to a few close friends and family about this but just recently, with Andrew’s permission, I took it further and mentioned it on Denny’s podcast and so it feels like the natural progression would be to bring it up here on my blog.

In September 2014, Andrew got diagnosed with severe bipolar disorder and was hospitalized for some time in order to keep him safe, get him healthy, and empower us with the tools we would need to manage his diagnosis for years to come. With the help of the most incredible team of doctors, nurses, counselors, care aids, family, and close friends, and by the grace given to us by each other and by our kids, we have managed to get on the road toward healing and growth.

Working the drive thru window at Starbucks is a steep learning curve. Learning how to deal with severe bipolar disorder feels a little more like a naked trek up Mt Rainer while it’s actively pouring hot lava. We’re figuring it out as we go, with only a burn or two…hundred. But we’ll make it. A caramel machiatto and an oat fudge bar would definitely help.

When Andrew was first admitted, they told us that it’s important that he and I still go to the Sam Smith concert together (first row in the Orpheum Theatre!!!) so we did, of course, with the right medication and with instructions as to what to do if things went sideways (the doctors trusted my previous experiences with mental health and I had a lot of support). That night was both the best night of my life, and the worst. Because my Andrew wasn’t really there with me; he was somewhere inside his shell, and I couldn’t find him. I’m bawling my eyes out right now–I can’t see the keys.

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So, remember how I confessed the truth about what happened to my toe that day? Andrew was in the hospital (for the second time), my dad was in a different hospital after having a severe stroke, I was looking after all 6 kids by myself, while one of my step kids was showing up to our house with some issues I can’t mention but had to deal with (I get zero support from Andrew’s ex) and then Freddy breaks his arm at school. While I was running on the treadmill, a Sam Smith song came on, and it reminded me of the concert night, and how hard I prayed for my Andrew to pull through from the abyss of mental illness and come back to me, so I could see him, feel him, and know and remember him. I jumped off the treadmill, chest heaving with guttural sobs, I smashed my knotted fist against the deep freeze and with crazy eyes I spun around and kicked the running stroller as hard as I could and broke my foot.

I’d like to talk more about bipolar disorder but I need to tread lightly because it’s not my direct story. I feel like it’s a wise (and courageous) thing to dip my toe into the water to see how it’s received, and as we go along, if Andrew and I feel safe enough to do so, I’ll walk into the deeper waters.

I have to end this post on this because it’s gospel in the psychiatric world:

Mental illness holds no discrimination on race, age, sex, socioeconomic status, or any other sort of attribute you may name; mental illness knows no bounds.

Mental illness is not only treatable, but it happens to form the palates of the most successful, beautiful, compassionate, empathetic and authentic people that grace this planet.

Here’s an actual video I took from the front row of  “Make it to Me”  from the concert at the Orpheum, and here are the words that I prayed so hard during that time of our lives:

My mind runs away to you
With a thought I hope you’ll see
Can’t see where it’s wandered to
But I know where it wants to be

I’m waiting patiently
Though time is moving slow
I have one vacancy
And I wanted you to know that

You’re the one, designed for me
A distant stranger, that I will complete
I know you’re out there, we’re meant to be
So keep your head up, and make it to me
And make it to me

So sick of this lonely air
It seems such a waste of breath
So much that I need to share
So much to get off my chest

I’m waiting patiently
Though time is moving slow
I have one vacancy
And I wanted you to know that

You’re the one, designed for me
A distant stranger, that I will complete
I know you’re out there, we’re meant to be
So keep your head up, and make it to me

Make it to me
And make it to me
Make it to me

Have you ever felt those words so hard that it hurt? Who were they meant for? What was/is happening?

I’ve never seen Andrew as strong as he is right now, and it has taken a diagnosis like this to push him toward his own freedom. AMAZING. Grace.

Would you guys be interested in reading more about bipolar disorder? How about from the side of the caregiver? Both? I promise I’ll still get drunk and write about poo and running. 

{ 27 comments… add one }
  • Megan @ Meg Go Run August 24, 2016, 4:44 pm

    I know exactly what you’re talking about as far as being with someone but they’re not “there”. It’s such a lonely feeling. I felt horrible when I was with my friend, I can’t imagine if it was my spouse. 🙁

    • suzy.suzyheather@gmail.com August 25, 2016, 6:16 am

      Yeah, it feels helpless when we’re sitting there with them but can’t reach them. I’m just so thankful that these types of things are easily treatable with the right kinds of help.

  • Nicole @ life after heels August 24, 2016, 6:27 pm

    I would love to hear more about living with bipolar. We believe my nephew has bipolar and I am scared for him, as his parents both suffer from their own mental illnesses, and I am afraid he is not getting the help he needs. Thanks for wanting to speak out about this terrible disease.

    • suzy.suzyheather@gmail.com August 25, 2016, 6:20 am

      This might sound totally weird, but I don’t believe bipolar disorder is (or needs to be at all) a terrible disease and in fact one of my favourite psych nurses told me that people with bipolar disorder are her favourite people to work with and I don’t blame her one bit! They’re magnetic, full of great ideas, empathetic (to a fault), and they are usually EXCITING!!! But obviously the mania can be destructive which is why awareness and management is so important. I hope your nephew gets help; it’s so hard as loved ones to have to sit around and essentially wait until they’re ready to get help.

  • Erin@ErIntuition August 24, 2016, 11:58 pm

    Suzy! This post is so touching. This topic is so heavy and personal but also so important to share. Your perspective and voice are needed. Andrew is very kind and brave (you all are!) to allow you to share this and speak your truth. A lot of people share their first-hand experience with mental illness, but we don’t often here the stories of those who care for and love the person directly struggling. Their voices are just an important to hear. Keep sharing when you can. ?

    • suzy.suzyheather@gmail.com August 25, 2016, 6:23 am

      Thank you, Erin! It IS really rare that you hear stories from people other than the direct sufferer, eh? I think it’s a delicate balance, and Andrew and I have to be so connected and in tune with each other, and everything I write needs to be written with care and respect which is pretty easy for me because I respect Andrew in big, big ways. My love for him runs deep. We’ve been through so much together, and we are very close because of it.

  • Amanda August 25, 2016, 1:27 am

    See, this post is a perfect example of how we all need to treat each other with kindness and respect b/c you just never know what people have going on behind the scenes. I read your blog daily, and I love how real you are. Thank you for sharing this very personal story. I’d def be interested in hearing more about it. Keeping you and your family in my thoughts 🙂

    • suzy.suzyheather@gmail.com August 25, 2016, 6:26 am

      Hey Amanda! I know, right? Like we always think that the beautiful people have it all together. Andrew looks like a movie star for crying out loud!!! He is successful in real estate, loved and adored by everyone he meets. Bipolar disorder doesn’t define him, not for a second, but it’s a very real presence in his life. Thank you for your kind words!!!

  • Lisa @ Running Out of Wine August 25, 2016, 2:01 am

    I heard you mention this on the podcast and was wondering if you would share more. I would love to read anything you write- whether it be serious or funny or anywhere in between.
    Have you every heard of Mental Health First Aid? Not sure if they teach it in Canada, but it’s basically a first aid course for mental health. (How to recognize the signs that someone needs help, what to say/do until professional help can get involved). I teach the youth course but am interested in teaching adult as well. I think its so important for people to understand mental health. Stories like yours really connect it with real life. Andrew is lucky to have you!!

    • suzy.suzyheather@gmail.com August 25, 2016, 6:28 am

      I haven’t heard of anything like that but man would that ever be helpful up here! I only knew what to look for from having experience with mental illness in the past. I can’t even imagine what I would have done had I not knew what was going on when Andrew had his major crisis. I’m so glad I knew how to help him.

  • Susie @ Suzlyfe August 25, 2016, 3:53 am

    Oh gawd. I knew a bit more about the story than most people, and a bit more about what was going on in your life at other times, but it still guts me to read it. I don’t have bipolar, but I do know what it is like to not be in control of your own emotions, and also to feel like you are sitting within yourself and detached, even when you should be the most in the moment and enthralled with life. For me, I was realizing that I was overmedicated–at that time, I knew that I should be feeling a certain way, but I couldn’t. It wasn’t that I didn’t, it was that I COULD NOT have that connection.

    • suzy.suzyheather@gmail.com August 25, 2016, 6:29 am

      Detached!! Yeah, like stuck inside yourself. I get that way with anxiety. I totally shut down. It’s like my emotions run so high that the engine burns out and then I’m just like BLAHHHHHHHH. Done.

  • Laura @ This Runner's Recipes August 25, 2016, 5:40 am

    Oh Suzy, if I could I’d hug you right now. I heard you mention this on the podcast and I both felt sad for you and Andrew and admired how strong of a woman you are. I enjoy everything you write and mental illness needs to be talked about. I’m so glad to hear that Andrew is doing better and that he has the incredible support that is you!

    • suzy.suzyheather@gmail.com August 25, 2016, 6:30 am

      I think I’d let you hug me! Ha ha ha see how I brought that around from last week? I AM SO CLEVER. Thanks, Laura. I am a strong woman, and Andrew is my pillar of strength just as I am his.

  • San August 25, 2016, 8:31 am

    <3 you're so brave to share this, but also IT NEEDS TO BE SHARED AND TALKED ABOUT and people need to understand that a mental illness is just like any other illness and that all people need love and support.

    • suzy.suzyheather@gmail.com August 25, 2016, 3:59 pm

      Exactly. It feels a bit though that mental illness IS a lot like any other illness but the people who go through it often feel really isolated, just because it’s not widely talked about. It fucking sucks.

  • Maddie @ Dixie Runs August 25, 2016, 9:13 am

    Love love love your honesty. Of course I would want to hear more about it… and just know that you always have an ear with your readers when you need help getting through stuff! This is the kind of stuff that should be discussed without hesitation (as long as everyone involved is okay with it) instead of being hidden. Too many people are afraid to do what you and Andrew have just done and for that you are AWESOME (as always)

    • suzy.suzyheather@gmail.com August 25, 2016, 3:58 pm

      Well I mean mental health IS a very private issue, understandably, which makes it difficult in our quest to combat the stigma. It’s kinda like we’re damned if we do (talk about it) and we’re damned if we don’t.

  • Christina @ The Athletarian August 26, 2016, 5:54 pm

    Okay so I read this the day you posted it. I was reading from my phone and it’s a pain in the ass to leave a comment on a phone. I always make typos and we all know how I feel about those. Anyway thank you for sharing and thank you to Andrew for letting you share. I honestly don’t know much about bipolar disorder so I can’t even begin to imagine what either of you are going through/how you’re dealing with it. It’s obvious that you two have an incredible, strong, loving relationship. This disorder is just another thing that you guys are going to NAIL together.

    • suzy.suzyheather@gmail.com August 26, 2016, 6:06 pm

      Well I promise you that you’ll meet up with someone who has it, because it’s everywhere; it’s just not widely talked about. So I feel kinda scared, you know, being one of the few that steps out and sticks the ol’ jugular out but someone’s gotta do it! Andrew is strong, and amazing, and so full of love. He wants to help, and I’m more than honoured to be his voice.

  • Corinne August 27, 2016, 8:47 am

    Hi Suzy, I started reading your blog after Christina mentioned loving you. She’s got great taste and I have really loved your writing these last few months. It’s raw, real and insightful.

    Mental illness is so very difficult and scarey. Thank you for talking about it – it’s a big step towards helping all of us learn about it, how much it affects lives. I love that quote you shared – That it affects the most compassionate people resonates with something I heard growing up. My grandfather was a psychiatrist and often said that the people he ‘treated’ were “the sane ones” because they felt what went on around them and responded whereas the rest of us just ignore. Glad to hear you’ve got a great team guiding treatment. As you’ve said to some of the comments above – it really can have a great treatment response. Sending you lots of love from Australia.

    • suzy.suzyheather@gmail.com August 27, 2016, 10:56 am

      Hi Corinne! Your comment means a lot to me; thank you for your kind words. It’s also great to hear encouraging things said by experienced people regarding mental illness–hearing these things gives me hope and helps me not feel so alone!!! Thank you!

  • Meghan@CleanEatsFastFeets August 27, 2016, 2:44 pm

    I puffy heart you. I’m so glad you (and Andrew) shared this. You both are rock stars.

  • Sheila August 29, 2016, 10:17 am

    I see you and Andrews super love through your blog. The world needs more of you two. Openness is a gift and one people appreciate.

    • suzy.suzyheather@gmail.com August 29, 2016, 10:48 pm

      I take it as a compliment that I can write in a way that shows you how much I love that pain in the ass. I really really do. It’s not pretty, it’s not tidy, but it’s real and raw AF. <3

  • Nikki August 31, 2016, 1:39 pm

    I’m so glad you guys have opened up about this. Phil and I can relate and it’s people like you, Andrew, Phil, that can bring awareness and help break the stigma. I’m always thinking about you guys and talking about “my friend from Canada”. Lol

    • suzy.suzyheather@gmail.com August 31, 2016, 6:15 pm

      Same. Exact same. You have saved my life, honestly. I don’t know what I would do without you.

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