Sunday, September 27, 2015

tim's 28th birthday and our modern medicine miracle

Tim's birthday marks the beginning of a rough few months for our family.  Unbeknownst to me, the entire day was an anxiety-filled, depressing time for Tim.  For reasons that were completely unknown to him.  I didn't find out until much later in the day, and even then, neither of us had any idea how much this would affect our lives for the next few months.

I spent the entire day totally unaware and trying to make this an amazing day for Tim.  Which, of course, for Tim, always involves lots and lots of food.  For lunch, he got off work and we went to the Pizza Hut buffet.  An odd choice, you might think, but in a town with very few choices, this was Tim's favorite option.

We had lots of pizza.  With a few pieces of lettuce (that we pretended were a salad) thrown in on the side.

After Tim got off work, we immediately drove down to Tucano's Brazilian Steakhouse in Salt Lake City.  It's a place that would normally be heaven for Tim, since 90% of the food consists of all-you-can-eat meat.  We left in a meat-coma to walk around the outdoor mall for a few minutes.  In fact, we even got this baby bump picture (which may have been helped along by the gargantuan proportions of meat I'd just consumed).

It wasn't until the drive home that Tim expressed to me how distressed he'd been feeling the entire day.  No, he couldn't think of a reason.  No, nothing was wrong.  No, he had no idea why he was feeling that way.

That night, he had the first of many panic attacks.

If you know Tim at all, the idea of him having a panic attack seems absurd.  He is the most laid-back, calm, even-keel person I know.  This was weird.  It was really, really weird.

The next day, he woke up and still felt panicky.  He got a blessing and felt moderately better.  We tried to go see Jurassic World together, which in retrospect, was just an all-around fail.  I'd just run out of my nausea meds and felt terrible, and it turns out, watching a movie about dinosaurs is a bad idea when you've just been having panic attacks.  But if you'd asked me that day, I would have guessed that he'd probably never have another panic attack - ever again.

We got to the movie 10 minutes late and left 10 minutes later.

(Because this saga would be hard to explain over multiple posts, I'm going to try to condense it into this one.)

Tim's mental health went downhill really fast.  So fast, in fact, that our doctor ordered an MRI because he thought it might be a brain tumor.  He was anxious all the time.  He didn't have any interest in things he used to have interest in.  He had panic attacks almost daily.  He had odd physical sensations that he couldn't explain.  He said he felt like he was going crazy.

As the wife of a man who is happy 99.9% of the time (no, I'm not kidding) and who had basically never experienced anxiety a day in his life, this was concerning.  Actually, to call it "concerning" is the understatement of the year.  Of the decade.  Of the century.  I was beside myself with worry, and I had no idea how to help him.

This lasted several weeks.  Our doctor prescribed some medication, but we knew that would take at least a couple of weeks to kick in.  He could barely eat.  Barely sleep.  Barely make it to work (and that was on the good days).  I'm not exaggerating when I say that I considered that we might have to sell our house, move in with our parents, and have me get a job instead.  And what really scared me was that I thought I might have to make that decision by myself.

Our GP told us that it would take 6-8 weeks to get into a psychiatrist, so we immediately started looking.  We thought to contact my cousin's husband, who is a counselor, about which psychiatrist to see.  It just so happened that his brother is a psychiatrist and works at his same practice - and as a bonus blessing, they would get us in in about three weeks - a huge difference from six to eight.

On one particularly awful night, our bishop came over to give Tim a blessing.  He arranged for Tim to see a counselor the next day, which in hindsight was an amazing blessing - almost entirely because we learned that the dosage of medicine our GP had put Tim on needed to be doubled - or it wouldn't have any effect.

We still had a couple of weeks to wait until we got into the psychiatrist, but little by little, day by day, I started to notice a difference.  He still wasn't eating, and needed medication to help him sleep, but slowly I noticed that his panic attacks were decreasing.  There were even moments, however fleeting, when he seemed to experience what could almost be called happiness.

By the time we finally got in to the psychiatrist, I would say he was about 40% better.  He still had a long way to go, but the doc felt that was still a huge improvement since he hadn't been on the medication even close to a full eight weeks yet.  Tim was diagnosed as having a Major Depressive Episode, with anxious symptoms.  We were both surprised, since both of us felt that the anxiety was the major symptom, but the more the psychiatrist explained it to us, the more it made sense.

We were told that his outlook was really good, and that he probably wouldn't need to be on the medication for very long.  (Though, truthfully, neither of us were concerned about how long he'd be on it.  It was making a difference, and that's all we cared about.)  We were also warned that this could happen again at some point in his life, totally unexpectedly yet again, but that at least we would know what was happening.  That this had nothing to do with anything Tim had or hadn't been doing, or how strong he was - but that for some reason his brain had experienced a glitch.  It was an incredible blessing for both of us to get some answers about exactly what had been happening.

Over the next few weeks, a miracle occured.

I got my husband back.

Happiness crept back into our lives, and Tim's laugh became the most beautiful sound I'd ever heard.

I know that some might not consider this a miracle, but this experience has absolutely confirmed to my soul that modern medicine is just that.  A miracle.  A gift from God.

I know that God answers prayers.  Even, and maybe especially, the ones we aren't sure He is hearing.  He is there, and He is listening.  Always.

“Don't you quit. You keep walking, you keep trying, there is help and happiness ahead. Some blessings come soon. Some come late. Some don't come until heaven. But for those who embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ, they come. It will be alright in the end. Trust God and believe in Good Things to Come.”

-Jeffrey R. Holland

memorial day 2015

The weekend after my family left Utah was Memorial weekend.  Thus, on that Monday, we decided to do something special as a family: go to the Living Planet Aquarium in Draper.

It was such a fun experience!  It's not just an aquarium, either - it also has some fun jungle-y areas to walk through.  Most of it was over Ellie's head, but she enjoyed herself as much as a two-year-old can.

I didn't think she particularly enjoyed touching the sting rays in the water, but it's something she still brings up every once in a while, so it must have had some impact on her!

Trying to get a picture with Ellie, Awkward Try #1:

Trying to get a picture with Ellie, Awkward Try #2:

After the aquarium, we ate dinner at Tony Caputo's in Salt Lake City.  It was an amazing day with my beautiful family!

sparks fam visits 2015

My family visited at the end of May, and somehow I managed to take a grand total of two pictures.  We went out to eat (a couple of times), went on a day trip, and did all manner of fun things, and I have two pictures to show for it.

How?  HOW?

Alas, it was kind of a historic trip in my family, since, firstly, it was the first time my brother Eric had been up to Utah to visit us.  (My dad and brother, Jeff, came, too, but they'd already been here.  So.  Not historic.)  And secondly, it was the first time my aunt Ginny, grandma Joyce, and uncle Paul had been up to Utah to visit us...or anybody else in Utah for that matter...for about 15 years.  Which is kind of a big deal, since my grandma grew up here and has relatives up the wazoo living in the area.

It was kind of a special trip for my family.

(And I only have two pictures.)  (But I'm not bitter.)

We managed to squish everyone into our house for a few days, and somehow I always feel like being squished in with everyone only enhances the experience.  It's magical to spend so much time with family, am I right?

We ate out at Maddox...twice...and went on a short shopping trip to two of my favorite places to buy candy: Idle Isle (yummy gourmet candy) and Smith & Edwards (yummy penny candy).  One of the days, we also made a day trip to Cache Valley.  The first stop was to a yummy donut (er...spudnut) shop.

They're partially made with potatoes...or something.  I think.  But regardless, they were really good donuts.  Like maybe the best we've had in Utah.

Then we drove over to Clarkston, which is where my grandma grew up.  We visited the cemetery, and I think we're related to like 82.3% of the people buried there.  Or something like that.  I'm not sure.  But it's a lot.

It's a beautiful place.

It was amazing to be able to have those experiences with my family.  Hopefully it was just the first of many future experiences!

Thanks for coming, guys.  You made Utah 2000% better just by being here.