Saturday, July 28, 2012

Breaking Rules

I am writing this post via invitation from my wife Melissa. As all of you who have been reading this blog know, Melissa has suffered through a long period of heightened anxiety and deep depression. She had been through depression before, and it had been very difficult for her, so she warned me a lot during the first year of our marriage that one day I would have to deal with her and her depression. I knew this was most likely the case, but neither of us knew how difficult this particular time would be.

To give you a little idea of where this is going, let me explain to you that I am a man of rules. There are certain situations in which specific actions need to be taken; my rule is to always do them. If I make an appointment I keep it. If I enroll in a class I attend. If someone holds out their hand I shake it. If I make big plans I stick to them. If I am unable to keep my rules I struggle a lot.

The first real difficult situation for me was when we were supposed to head to Utah for Christmas. We had made a plan that we would drive with Melissa's parents to BYU-Idaho for Brittany's graduation and then make it down to Utah from there. We then had plane tickets after Christmas back to Portland where we would again be picked up by the Riries (Melissa's parents). It seemed like a good way to go to Utah for Christmas. But then Melissa refused. She just could not make the long trip in the car with her anxiety levels as high as they were. It wasn't really her fault, but she became a stubborn mule. We ended up getting emergency tickets to fly out instead since the Riries were now driving off without us. This arrangement was more expensive for both us and my parents, but it was worth it to go to Utah for Christmas. Then Melissa got very anxious about this as well, and we almost didn't even fly over even after having already bought the tickets. Being a man of rules this was very hard for me. Fortunately we did make it to Utah and had a wonderful trip. Melissa's anxiety and depression seemed to ease somewhat while we were there, and that was very helpful. Her anxiety would likely have been a lot higher if we had driven out instead, so flying really was a huge blessing for her and for us.

Back in Eugene at the beginning of January things started getting worse again for Melissa. One day we decided to take her to the ER. The visit took forever. Mathematically this is an exaggeration, but many of you have been to the ER and know exactly what I mean. I was to teach a class at the University that day. Showing up to class when I am supposed to teach it is definitely one of my rules. I could have left early. I knew what time to catch the bus to make it in time, and I could have easily done that. Melissa, however, was more important to me. I had to break a very difficult rule of mine. I called my office-mate and very good friend Chris who agreed to substitute for me while I stayed with Melissa the rest of the day.

Through the rest of January and the fist half of February things got perpetually worse. I began to be exceedingly worried about Melissa. I was even more worried about leaving her alone, (and for good reason which I need not explain). I had to ask Chris a couple more times to cover my class for me. He was teaching the same course, so that made it a little easier for him, but I am still deeply indebted to him. I had to stop trying to do research. This was also breaking a rule since that is the main thing I am supposed to be doing at the University. I had to temporarily quit Taco Bell. This was breaking a rule since I knew our expenses were at an all-time high due to Melissa's condition. I was doing a lot of things that I was very uncomfortable with, but I thought it was worth it in order to help my wife and keep her safe. Sometimes however, I didn't know whether my sacrifices were even making a difference.

During this hardship Melissa's mother Sandy, Melissa's sister Brittany and my mother spent much time here in Eugene to help me take care of Melissa. In this way I was able to begin again on my research and working at Taco Bell. About a week after my mother left Melissa started showing real signs of improvement. Now I didn't have to worry quite as much as I had.

I had to break a lot of my own rules in order to help Melissa. I'm not saying my rules were bad or unjustified. However, I am saying that when you put your priorities straight the Lord will help you out. Chris is now an even better friend to both me and Melissa, and we go biking and on other activities with him a few times each week. As soon as I started back up on the research I started to get good results where I hadn't had much at all in the previous few years. At Taco Bell, the managers I work with and those at the above-store-level all understood the situation and were glad to take me back when I was ready to start up again. I had an enormous outpouring of love and sympathy from many members of my family, Melissa's family, those we know from Church and those I know at the university. Many people told me that 'people usually forget how hard this is for the primary care-giver,' but in my case they did not forget. Everyone was very supportive of me as well as of Melissa, and for this I am grateful.

Melissa's condition is improved, but this trial is surely not over. I still continue to struggle at the times when Melissa is the most depressed, but I know the Lord will help her and me, and I am sure of the continued love and support from those we love. Thank you for all your help.


Matt and Haley said...

Loved reading Tom's perspective!

Anonymous said...

You are amazing Thomas! Thank you for sticking by my sister no matter what. She needs you and loves you so much!!

It was great to talk to you today!



LeaAnne said...

Thomas, You must know already that your continued support is exactly what the Lord would have you do. But, speaking as a wife and a person who really suffers from an anxiety disorder.. You really don't know what a blessing your unconditional Love is to your wife. I know how grateful she is to have you stand by her as a friend & as her husband. Thanks for being a good guy and knowing that rules sometimes have to be broken.