Mental Illness

Caregiving: Time

This was meant to be the prefacing paragraph for Caregiving: Parenting (Part 4), but it had problems with confining itself to said paragraph and romped along until it became an article. I would put this down to the sunshine, and the paragraph becoming heady with beautiful summer weather, but alas, it’s been a dreich time here, lately. Where I could usually see fields and the dunes, I can just about see the chimney pots of a few streets over.

Anyway, paragraph. Yes, the paragraph that became an article.

So, I haven’t been Persephoneering (um, slight tangent: if a Persephoneer is a being who delights in Persephone, quite what is Persephoneering, I wonder? Anyway! Onwards.) for a while. I’m trying to remember where our usual routine became a little more requiring of consideration than usual. I think it might have been the beginning of last month (it being that, at this moment, we’re still clinging to June).

That would be in line with a new round of intrusive physical investigations that Mr. Juniper was enduring. For all my regular comments to him suggesting that, once off the phone to one of the many medical professionals involved in his care, he was scheduled to have a lobotomy the following Monday, the investigations were of no direct relation to his brain. At least, of no connection once past the point that the brain is generally regarded as significant in the continued function of human bodies.

Physical investigations are, well, difficult. And yes, I’m sticking with the distinction because there are psychiatric “investigations,” and have on many an occasion walked hand in hand with Mr. Juniper from an appointment with his psychiatrist or community psychiatric nurse, and felt him reeling. I’ve been aware of the emotional bruising coming to the fore. It’s not intentional that these sessions, physical or psychiatric, have unpleasant repercussions, but there’s only so much that can be done before the prodding has to start.

So, to make the delightfully generalised assumption that physical investigations are somewhat ruthless for someone without any mental health issues, it isn’t farfetched to see that they may become more difficult for those with additional issues. Throw into that, that the physical investigation has usually been prompted by (to paraphrase the wonderful John Green novel, The Fault In Our Stars) the mini-universes that are our bodies wanting to be noticed, the physical investigation can feel like adding insult to injury. Or rather, adding insult to illness. But they’re a means to an end. They do have a purpose. Unlike the part of the body rebelling from healthy, the physical investigation is usually done with the intent of helping. But then, what is helping? To paraphrase another infamous notion: the only difference between medicine and poison is the dose.

So I’m partaking in the wondrous pastime of “going off on a tangent.” I’ll try to get back to my point. Anyway, Mr. Juniper had to go through another very intrusive physical investigation. In recent times, this was the third. I think. At least, in the realm of Big Investigations. If we count what goes on between Mr. Juniper and his GP, then, well. Can I use this as an opportunity to quote The Fault In Our Stars again? No? Okay. But Hazel makes a good point about their being infinite infinities. And whilst Mr. Juniper hasn’t endured enough investigations to go anywhere near the quantity that is infinite, he’s endured a lot of prodding.

I did say I’d try to get back to my point. I didn’t say I would succeed. Anyway. The renewed need for physical investigations proved to be a considerable contributing factor to his mind protesting that it wasn’t being given enough attention. So another medication change. Mr. Juniper’s pharmacist and I felt that we were  beginning to see rather a lot of each other.

One of the regions in which his medication needed changed was psychiatric, the other was physical. Except it wasn’t an increase, it was an introduction. And ““ and I didn’t handle it as well as I could have. Mr. Juniper’s psychiatric medications mean that he requires a lot of physical monitoring. I can’t remember if it was the same day, or on a day nearby, but Mr. Juniper had blood tests and an ECG. Somewhere in the days that I can’t recall around then, Mr. Juniper was put on medication for his blood pressure. The factors of blood pressure, blood tests and the ECG conspired to be a delicately-sized emotional wrecking ball for me. It passed. Of course it passed. But for a couple of days, it was as though I was experiencing super-strength PMS and felt liable to burst into tears. I didn’t cry, as it happens, but dear goodness, I couldn’t escape the feeling I was about to.

It seems a little strange, perhaps, that I can tease Mr. Juniper about lobotomies, that I can question why he didn’t take all the pills, but the physical repercussions get me so. And I think it’s because they’re more immediate and more of a threat. Sure, his mind is telling him to kill himself, but it isn’t actually killing him. I mean, sure, there are a lot of things the brain can get up to. But the mind, the emotional, the shenanigans, is a little more subtle in the grand scheme of things, when it comes to the human body functioning. The blood pressure, the blood tests, the ECG. It’s the reminder that there are things which can kill him. I can help him come back to a place where he isn’t about to kill himself, but I can’t talk his heart out of failing him. It’s always scared me. Perhaps it is what has come with time.

There are a lot of substances which people can ingest to their detriment. And I’ve come to learn what the effects of some of them are. So when the time arrived and I knew it’d happened, my regard for Mr. Juniper’s emotional state was always just shy of nil, because it could wait. My immediate worry and fear are for his body. And so often, his heart. The common thoughts of detrimental substance ingestion tend to be concern for the liver. This isn’t without good reason, but there are substances which attack other body parts. In Mr. Juniper’s case, this risk has too often been to his heart.

So when his blood pressure gets worrisome and he needs an ECG, it’s the same fear of finding out he’s Done Something Detrimental that gets me. A charity here in the United Kingdom, Rethink, has a campaign: 20 Years Too Soon. It’s what comes to mind time and again.

The physical investigation happened. The changes to medication continue. And I don’t want to say it takes its toll, because that is such a … negative suggestion, I think. Sure, I certainly had a few moments to myself over all that happened for the investigation to happen and the medication changes, too. Mr. Juniper doesn’t have the monopoly on having difficult moments, that’s for sure. Although, he does undertake his difficult moments with rather a professional vigour.

I would say that it doesn’t rain but pour. Especially relevant given that it is currently pouring outside; whether the fog can live with this intrusion on its previous monopoly regarding air and water is to be seen. But I think it’s more appropriate to think more in terms of oscillations. It isn’t just a case of wondrous ups and inconsiderate downs, but comfortable, manageable in-the-middles. Periods of time where things are simply okay. To be fair, Juniper Junior lives in a world of permanent wonder. Sometimes frustration, true. Sometimes disagreement with the concept of broccoli, but his oscillations live permanently just above the base line. His downs are not given the free reign to do as they wish – he has the world to explore. Mr. Juniper and I have our own oscillations, we’re our own people after all. But they are aware of each other. They have to be. At least, if our partnership is to continue in the vein of happy.

Again, it may seem strange to others that during a period of time where ““ everything considered ““ life has been very difficult for Mr. Juniper, that he’s been looking out for me as he has. In the past few weeks, a parcel turned up. It had Mr. Juniper’s name on it, but inside ““ he asked me to open it ““ were several Discworld books for me. I couldn’t quite think what to say to him apart from variations of “thank you” and “I love you”, because they were perfect. In every sense of what they meant and were. And so, to balance the loveliness, I’ve put more effort into ensuring we have a Date Night every week. A meal that requires minimal effort; the moment to remember, and get out, the gorgeous wine glasses, even if the drink they’ll be entertaining will be strictly non-alcoholic; a movie afterwards that we will endeavour to watch through. Presuming that Juniper Junior goes to sleep easily, content with sharing the meal, rather than the movie, too.

So I guess, in a bigger nutshell than I had thought I would need to employ, a lot has happened ““ indeed, Mr. Juniper’s physical investigations and medication changes are only a part of what has happened ““ and so, while we adjusted to what this meant, we also had to spend time reminding ourselves that our little family is our priority. That whatever happens with regards to Mr. Juniper and myself, it is Juniper Junior and Juniper Puss who are our priority and even if it means we ignore other things for a while, there’s nothing wrong with doing Grown Up Household Things in the evenings, or at another point of free time, if it means we spend time watching the Power Rangers movie for the hundredth time, or try and do jigsaw puzzles with Juniper Junior while Juniper Puss tries to steal the pieces.

Sure, there has been a lot happening, where come the evenings, Mr. Juniper and I have to talk, but the rest of the time, our time has been for Juniper Junior and Mr. Juniper to build Lego while I bake a cake and try to convince Juniper Puss that the vet was trying to help. The Lego gets built, they play with whoever it is in the Lego world that day, and Juniper Puss sits on a chair beside the kitchen table while I bake, and meows back his disagreement.

By Juniper

Rarely to be found without herbal tea nearby. Team Unicorn. Often in pyjamas. Also: TEAM KATNISS!

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