MyBlog

Live Your Life (The Feel Good Drag)

How does divorce happen? It’s not a straightforward question. I am not actually asking for your answer. However, it is not a rhetorical question, either. I don’t have a ready answer for you, despite the fact that I have been to brink of it myself.  The end of a marriage is I think one of those amorphous places. You don’t realize you are going there when you are, when you are there you don’t quite know how you got there, and when (or if) you manage to come back you are not sure you ever really left. Once the possibility of divorce rears its head, reality becomes harder to pin down. It is like looking at your arm under the pool and seeing that your arm above the water and the image of your arm below don’t quite match up.

 

There was a time when you could only get divorced for reasons of infidelity (on the part of the wife), failure to consummate the marriage, or physical abuse. Divorce existed in the United States prior to the Seventies, but it was the “Me Generation” that embraced the idea that divorce was a way to find yourself. Hence, the creation of  “irreconcilable differences,” the most commonly cited reason for the end of marriage since the late 1960s.  Even the very term itself doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. How can two individuals have “irreconcilable differences?” The United States and current government of Iran have irreconcilable differences. The United States had irreconcilable differences with North Vietnam. If war “is diplomacy by other means,” then irreconcilable differences is what triggers that war. But people are not nations. Nations go to war, ultimately, because they can. In any war between nations, one side or the other will eventually win. War is expensive. Eventually, you run out of money, resources, and human lives. Eventually, the loss becomes too great and the nation must sue for peace.

 

In a war between nations, somebody is always eventually going to win.

 

But people do not have the resources of nations. When two people fight, nobody is going to win because you cannot destroy your partner, your spouse, like a nation can destroy another nation. There is no atom bomb you can drop. There are no precision airstrikes. There are no weapons factories to blow up. You cannot win because you cannot stop the other person’s ability to fight. And if you cannot destroy the other person’s ability to fight back, the war will go on forever.

 

Individuals can fight forever. The only thing that will end a war between two individual people is surrender and the suing for peace, which is what “irreconcilable differences” really is. It is a surrender. Split the money, arrange alimony, and decide who the kids are gonna live with. A family gets divided like land. Children become the West Bank or the Golan Heights, disputed territory for the remainder of their childhoods.

 

I am a child of divorce, which statistically increases my chances of divorce as well. I guess the idea is if you see divorce as a child your model of marriage is forever polluted. Your parents didn’t stick together and you survived. Therefore, divorce can’t be the end of the world, right?

 

The end of my parents’ marriage was not a mutual decision. In 1990, my father took a job in Minneapolis. We were living in Tulsa, Oklahoma at the time. My dad would drive up Interstate 35 from Tulsa to Minneapolis on Sunday night and then drive back on Friday night.

 

Even at fourteen, though, this struck me as strange. My parents could tell me all they wanted that this was only a temporary arrangement until they sold the house in Tulsa and we followed Dad to Minneapolis, but it didn’t feel right.

 

I will tell you this. Kids are always the first ones to know when their parent’s marriage is over. If you think you are concealing your marital problems from your children, you are deluding yourself. They know. They knew before you knew. They know it is going to end long before you accept it.

 

I knew then that it was only a matter of time. In my case, my father came home on Friday afternoon, after 700 miles in the car, to find a process server on his doorstep. My mother had filed for divorce and taken me and run across state lines into Arkansas.

 

I spent the next twenty years telling myself it was the best thing that could have happened to my parents. There was no love left. In fact, I couldn’t remember the last time they had been affectionate with each other. Sex, sure. I accidentally walked into my parent’s bedroom when I was thirteen and saw one hump under the bedcovers instead of two, with that hump rising and falling rhythmically like an iron lung. I discreetly withdrew. But sex, I learned twenty years later, is the final attempt to save a marriage that is dying. Let’s fuck our way out of this one. It is only natural. You try to use sex to cover up the lack of real emotion, hoping that you can force the love back into the marriage with each thrust. Unfortunately, if you and your spouse have a dramatic increase in sexual relations, it typically means you are screwed, and not in the way you want. You’re beating a dead horse, to mix metaphors.

 

But I was convinced it was the right thing for them to do. They weren’t happy with each other. They fought constantly. When they split it was like a relief to me.

 

Twenty years later, I am still telling myself.

 

I’m right, right? Wouldn’t I be happier if my parents were happier?

 

Holy shit. My happiness as a child depended on my parent’s happiness? How did that happen?

 

So what did my mother and my father think? Did they think this was best for me? Did they think I would be alright? Did they think at all?

 

I don’t think they did. They just had to get away.

 

I can understand that. I am not angry at them. This is not me whining that my life would have been different had my parents stayed together. I don’t believe that. We are who we are and whether our parents split, like most environmental factors, will not, in the end, be the defining moment of our lives.

 

We don’t have defining moments. We just have moments. Every moment of your life you have a choice.

 

And that is why marriages end. You suddenly realize that you do have a choice. You don’t have to live the life you are living. You can change it.

 

Or can you?

 

I swore I would never get a divorce. I was determined to do everything right that I felt my parents had got wrong. And for the first eight years of my marriage, it was easy.

 

Even when Jani became sick, became violent, it was easy. It is said that marriages do fine until they come under stress, which is when you find out if you made the right choice. Most marriages break under stress, such as the illness of a child. But I could handle the stress. I was good at it. I put my head down, suppressed my fears, and did what I had to do. I had to keep Jani going, along with Susan (who was falling apart because her daughter who had never been apart from us was now in a mental hospital and didn’t seem to care) and Bodhi. I carried the world on my shoulders, or at least my small slice of it.

 

And then Jani stabilized, relatively speaking. After her second hospitalization (at Loma Linda) and the implementation of the “tough love” approach that they had encouraged us to use with Jani, the violence dropped from 10-12 incidents a day down to one or two a day (she was also on Depakote and Seroquel). She seemed to be getting better. The long nightmare since Bodhi was born seemed to be abating. The crisis was over.

 

Life returned to relative normalcy for us. I had thought she was never going to come out of it but now she, for the most part, had. We had gotten our daughter back, for the most part. I re-entered the life I had left over six months earlier when Jani’s violence first appeared. It was like I had gone to combat six months earlier and was now back from my tour.

 

But I found couldn’t re-enter my life as it had been. I was doing the same things. My external life was the same. But I was different now. I had been to hell and come back and I found I couldn’t just pick up where I left off. My world had been turned upside down. My daughter had been hospitalized twice and was on anti-psychotic meds. In March of 2008, we’d tried to take Jani home from BHC Alhambra. We got no further than the parking lot. Bodhi started to cry and Jani started screaming at him and trying to throw things at him. She wouldn’t get into the car with Bodhi. After two hours in the parking lot, we returned to the hospital. They wouldn’t take her back, telling her and us that it would be a “difficult transition.” Jani cut them off by hitting Susan as hard as she could, which immediately made them take her back. As she was led off, she turned back to see Susan crying and said “It’s okay, Mommy. Just visit me during visiting hours and bring me my food.” We drove home that night totally broken, convinced that our daughter was now fully institutionalized. She wanted the institution. She was happy there. Despite all the drugs, she was still slipping away from us. I was convinced she was going to leave our world, and leave us, either physically or mentally.

 

How do you go back to your life after that? Jani did come home again and she did stabilize, but how could I forget that moment where I was utterly convinced I was going to lose her. My baby girl. The love of my life.

 

I was not the same person anymore. I could not go back to my life as it was. I couldn’t fill the part of my soul that got ripped out that night.

 

Then I met someone and she ignited my passion for life again. She woke me up. She was, I thought, everything that was missing.

 

When a part of your life is out of control, you seek control where you can. I couldn’t control Jani. I couldn’t make her better. But I could make another aspect of my life better. I could replace Susan. Susan didn’t light my fire anymore. We had nothing in common but the children, I thought. I deserve to be happy, I thought. I have done my service to Queen and Country. I deserved to be happy.

 

[video:

100×100]

 

Luckily for me, ultimately we cannot hide who we really are. This other woman liked me because I made her feel young, because I was fun, because I was passionate. But I am really none of those things. At the same time that I thought I was being honest with her, telling her everything inside of me, I was actually hiding who I really was. Finally, days before I planned to commit infidelity and destroy my marriage, she saw the real me. I desperately needed her. I needed her to hold me and tell me everything would be okay. But she had plans and had to go. So I wrote a long and incoherent letter which I stuck on her windshield. In my words, the truth spilled out. I was not young and fun. I was an infinite black hole, trying to suck her into me to fill the void left by the near loss of my daughter. I was going down into the abyss and I wanted to take her with me. I was dying inside.

 

Not surprisingly, I terrified her. She told me she didn’t want to hear from me again.

 

After this, I had to try and repair the marriage to Susan, who was well aware of my relationship with this other woman (I had told her, thinking there was something honorable in that). Susan and I had more sex in the summer of 2008 than we had had in our entire eight year marriage to date. We were trying to fake it until we felt something again, until I felt something again.

 

I have been asked how we got our marriage back. The simple answer is that Jani got sick again. In the fall of 2008, she went rapidly downhill again and eventually got to UCLA and got the diagnosis of child onset schizophrenia and the rest, as they say, is history.

 

The true answer is more complicated. The true answer is that I am not sure we ever entirely came back from my near infidelity. It remains a shadow over our marriage to this day. I nearly left the marriage once. Will I do it again?

 

Actually, the true answer is that we came back, or I came back, because I accepted what I cannot change. I embraced the sense of powerlessness against Jani’s illness that had led me to want to have an affair in the first place. I re-enlisted in the war against Jani’s illness, and now Bodhi’s autism, for the remainder of my natural life.

 

What saves a marriage? It is acceptance that this life you lead is your life and will be your life for as long as you live. And once you accept that, you can be happy. Because you have taken away any other choices you had. You have turned away from the life you thought you were going to have and accepted that this is your fate.

 

The way to save a marriage is to stop thinking you have a choice, even though you do.

 

Susan and I still argue. Hell, most of our segment in the 20/20 episode was us arguing. Sometimes it feels like I just can’t get my point through Susan’s head, like I’m shouting underwater but she can’t, or won’t, hear me. Sometimes she seems as illogical in her thought processes as Jani.

 

Just yesterday we were arguing. Susan had done something that I felt was going to blow our opportunity to get the Jani Foundation off the ground. Susan wanted to restart the intern program for other families, which I didn’t want, fearing liability and insurance issues and all the things I have learned about non-profits. I had stopped the car and gotten out to get some money out of the ATM. I told Jani to wait in the car. I was on the phone with Susan, who was telling me that we could do the Jani Foundation on our own, and I was telling her that we couldn’t, that we needed help, that we had to stop driving people away who want to help us, like we drove the interns away.

 

“Don’t blame me for that,” she retorted. “The interns left because of you! They complained that you wouldn’t give them time with Jani.”

 

“That’s because I couldn’t trust them. Nobody can do what I do. I can’t trust anyone else to keep Jani safe.” Which includes Susan, I felt at that moment, but I didn’t say. “You are putting at risk everything I have worked hard to build!” I hissed at her.

 

“I’ve worked hard, too!”

 

I hadn’t wanted to shout. I didn’t intend to. But I was now shouting. Screaming. Cursing.

 

Jani opens the door of the car.

 

“Daddy?”

 

“Jani, get back in the car!”

 

“Why are you so angry?” Jani asks me.

 

“Just get back in the car!”

 

She does what she is told, but I can see her watching me through the windshield.

 

For a brief second there, while I had been yelling at Susan, divorce popped back into my head. I can’t let even Susan stand in my way of what I want to do for other families with mentally ill kids.

 

But then I saw Jani watching me. She knew. I knew she knew. She knew, just as I had known when I was fourteen.

 

No.

 

I cannot.

 

At the end of the day, all Jani has is me and Susan. And she needs us together. She needs us as one. As individuals we are not enough to keep her going. Only together can we give her what she needs.

 

And once I accepted that, I felt at peace. If the Jani Foundation falls apart before it even gets off the ground, so be it. If those who work for it don’t like what Susan is doing, so be it. No matter what Susan does, I have to accept it. I have to give in. Because in the end the only thing that matters is that we stay together.

 

Not that I am a dream to live with either.

 

My point is that Susan and I are still together, and will remain together, because we can never quit. There is no other life left to go back to. Jani took us across the Rubicon and there is no going back.

 

Susan and I are Jani and Bodhi’s parents, friends, advocates, and defenders. That is who we are. And that is who we will remain for the rest of our lives. We cannot do that as individuals. We cannot survive this as individuals. We can only survive, we can only prosper, together. Together, we hold Jani and Bodhi’s lives in our hands. Separate us, and we will surely drop them.

 

I still make the mistake of letting outsiders sometimes come between Susan and myself. I still make the mistake of not defending her as much as I should. I’m working on that. I have to. I will follow her wherever she goes.

 

I can accept that.

 

There are worse fates than that.

 

[video:

100×100]

 

 

23 comments on “Live Your Life (The Feel Good Drag)

  1. In the year and a half or so that I have been reading your blog, I believe this is the most authentic post you have ever written… True, raw and real. There is great value in that. I hope it only serves to strengthen the communication between you and Susan in a way that allows you both to accept each others vulnerabilities and celebrate each others strengths.

    My very best to you and Susan, too!
    Carrie

  2. I don’t remember you mentioning it in your previous blogs, but has Bodhi been officially diagnosed as autistic, or is that just speculation? If Bodhi is autistic, he could not hope for more dedicated, devoted parents, but you certainly don’t need your life to be more draining than it already is!

    As always, your writing is so inspirational :).

    Note from Michael: Not officially, but his therapists are leaning that way. It’s not the end of the world. His therapies are really helping.

  3. Lightbulb moment
    “What saves a marriage? It is acceptance that this life you lead is your life and will be your life for as long as you live. And once you accept that, you can be happy. Because you have taken away any other choices you had. You have turned away from the life you thought you were going to have and accepted that this is your fate.
    The way to save a marriage is to stop thinking you have a choice, even though you do.”

    This is the most powerful set of words that I have read, possibly in my entire life. These are thoughts that I have had in my head for a long time, I have just never been able to put it into words. Accept your fate, and live on. Happiness will come, or rather you will make happiness come because it is your choice to either be happy or be miserable. Unlike our society would like to believe, happiness, in itself is not a “right” it does not just happen. It is not dependent on outside variables and it is never a state of unbridled bliss. It is a state of mind, not a way of life. I have always rationalized is this manner, but most people in my life believe is it my own mental illness that contributes to this way of thinking, I, however think it is just my personal truth and logically applies to myself and my marriage.

    I can not put into written words what this blog post has provoked in my mind, but I would like to thank you for it and would like you to know how much it means that I am not the only person who feels this way, and that my logic is not as twisted as some would like to make me think. I started following this blog to follow Jani in her journey but have gotten so much more out of your writing.

    Lastly, seeing as how music is such a large part of your mind, there is a band with a particular album that I think you would identify with. The artist name is Brand New and the particular album is named “The Devil and God are Raging Inside Me.” It has religious context in the literal sense, but is not by any means a christian band. It is more metaphorical in the sense that the “devil and god” are figures of the singers mind. I think you would enjoy the context and if you ever get an extra moment, you should check them out.

    Thank you again for this blog post, and the rawness of it all. It made me feel not so alone.

  4. Thank You
    Michael,
    Thank you!!!! Larry and I argue a lot also, but we know we need to make it work because it is what is best for Sara. (her therapist has even stated that) Larry is her step-father, but really the only male figure in her life. Her biological father is an alcoholic with mental illness as well. Larry is a great father, so I accept that, and realize right now for both our girls that this is better than even a fair husband. Thank you for being so honest.

  5. Most recent post.
    Disturbing. So much suffering because of a few misplaced genes in Jani’s brain. Makes me wonder if there’s a God in the universe at all. Or just some giant senseless machine running amok and allowing bad things to happen to good people, and what is worse, defenseless kids.

    Anyway, I think you folks are making the right decision. Keep on truckin’ as we used to say in the 60s.

    Note from Michael: I think everything happens for a reason.

  6. Thank you for such an honest post.

    I too am a child of divorce and I remember knowing it was heading that way ( maybe even sub conciously ) and wishing at times that they would just hurry up and do it. I also remember how sad I was when they finally did though.

    My children are that of divorce now too. I’d like to think that has nothing to do with my childhood, but I’m sure Dr. Phil would say it does..lol

    I know that on the paper work the ” irreconsilable differences ” term is used, first by him and then I guess i just followed his lead…but I know it was not that. There was infidelity and emotional abuse and I really felt at the time that my best decision was to end it. I had tried for years to put up and shutup, to make changes within myself, and too even talk about what was wrong…but ultimately I seemed to be the only one doing the work and started to feel taken for granted. Things escalated in our relationship that ultimately caused me to be resentful, hurt and angry all the time and being the primary caretaker for my two girls, one of which has significant ‘issues’, I felt it would be worse to stay and have them see me this way all the time.

    I am not so blind though that I don’t see the affect the split has had on them and even struggle sometimes and wonder…should I have stuck it out for them?

    I ultimately I have to be comfortable in the decisions I made, know that I did my best and hope for better for my own girls….

    Anyway…I don’t know what my point was….I guess just that I identify…and to thank you for such an honest post. I admire the fact that you and Susan ” keep trucking ” and know that you have to roll with the punches and take it one day at a time.

    I wish you both nothing but good things…

    Michelle

    Note from Michael: I didn’t mean my words to make you second guess your decision. I was referring only to my situation. Like I said above, everything happens for a reason. And Dr. Phil is a moron.

  7. To Michael
    you didnt make me second guess my decision….sorry if it came off that way….I am “Michelle”…its what I do…lol

    Note from Michael: Good 🙂

  8. I applaud you
    That is as honest as it gets. It made me uncomfortable to read such personal thoughts, but I now have a much better insight into how deeply mental illness effects all member of a family.

    Marriage…I’ve heard it said that love is a decision. After 22 years of marriage let me say here and now that that is a true statement. During our most stressful times, when I don’t think we liked each other much, but stuck it out for whatever reasons…we had to work our way back to each other. It takes time. I’ve seen too many couples divorce, thinking they’d be happier not realizing the unhappiness was usually within themselves.

    I applaud you and Susan for seeing the big picture in your lives and choosing to keep your family intact. Jani and Bodhi are well loved children to be sure!!

  9. One very important lesson I learned-and have been told by many experienced counselors is that married people should never use the word divorce in a conversation with each other unless they are really going to do that, period, end of sentence. That would will bring down the marriage faster and harder than any other word in the English language. The vows are “for better or worse”. You look at it, you touch it, you play with it, you break it, you bought it! Take my word for it the most important thing in a marriage is the 2 people who started it. Everything else comes after that-even your children. I’m bipolar-my children both have their own diagnosed mental challenges. I allowed my behavior to dictate the terms of my divorce. My ex-wife and I allowed our daughter’s behavior to erode our mutual front.
    My whole point is, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” Don’t let this happen to you!

  10. Well first off Michael I have to say that you have a definite gift to write. YOu really opened up some raw emotions and to share that to the rest of us takes alot of courage. I love the fact of how blatantly honest you are. I have been following Jani’s Journey for about 3 months now and always look forward to what you have to write.
    Sounds like the Serenity Prayer was your saving grace. I admire your courage and strength to go on … I am beginning to believe that god doesnt give you more than you can handle. YOu are living proof.
    My love and prayers go out to your beautiful Jani and Bohdi and YOu and Susan.
    Janelle 🙂

  11. I think u figgered it out
    [quote]I have to accept it. I have to give in[/quote]

    All that talk of war & winning & losing at the beginning had me very worried there. Thank-goodness you showed us that you know exactly how to solve that problem.
    Everything is so much easier in a marriage when the man understands that the woman is always right.
    Of course the woman is not always right!- and they know that. But if you look at other good marriages, you’ll see what I mean. Maybe its just in arguments? Whatever it is, it is essential. And it shouldn’t be given grudgingly either! Now if a woman abuses her always being right privilege, like a Kate Gosselin, that’s not good either.
    In your argument about the interns, why not accept what Susan wants, and be devil’s advocate about it? Let her know that if she decides to change her mind, she’ll have your full support! You’ve already let her know that you’re not enthusiastic about the idea, but see if there’s a way that she can launch the idea & work with it on her own.
    You don’t have to like the idea to give her your support. If you took the devil’s advocate position on it, you could work on the dirty nitty-grtty stuff, like dealing with the lawyers & insurance & safety policy to manage the risks, while Susan could focus on the positives.
    I’m glad that you learned your lesson with that other person. It probably wouldn’t hurt if you let your wife see some of the “fun guy” in you that that other woman thought she was getting to know?
    Maybe keeping the interns in pairs at all times would help with safety issues? I don’t know, but your wife is right, and you’re not going to grow your foundation without letting people in.

  12. Gripping
    Hi Michael

    Your writing has touched me in ways I never expected. I’ve been reading your blog for a yr and have learned SO much about mental illness. Thank you for your honesty, your compassion, your passion, your rage, your insight, your love for your children and for Susan. Thank you for all of it.

    You give me hope and the courage to believe there are others out there like you who are inclined to help mentally ill children.

    Charley from Australia

  13. FINDING VIDS ON JANI AND HER FRIENDS
    Hi Michael, Jani is a very lucky little girl to have you. I have paranoid schizophrenia – hearing voices etc. – and I can really relate to what she is going through.

    I think it’s great you are writing a book about her. Maybe it will make enough money to help you support and help her and her friends. I will buy it for this reason alone.

    I had to do a lot of searching to find the vids on her. Maybe you could put up a channel on youtube and gather them all in one place or links to them. On youtube there is a very good chance they will go viral and get million of views, which would be great for getting the word out about her book.

    Just a suggestion, as I really want you to succeed.

    Take care!!

    Note from Michael: Thanks, Ken. I know there are some Youtube videos but I don’t know how many and what they are. I feel weird creating our own Youtube channel because it feels like self-promotion but I have no objection to others doing it. I’ll think about it.

  14. stronger than i’ll ever be
    Michael. i stop by this sight everyday. i realize you have an overwhelming amount of comments and will only reply to those who actually have a child in need. i understand, but i wanted to let you know how beyond strong you are. i wish i had half of your strength to go on. i know you are probably thinking this is my child and i am doing what every parent would do. but i bet you dont hear it enough that you are doing a remarkable job pulling jani out of her world and into yours. i admire your strength and will to keep going. i just thought you should hear that. thats all.

    Note from Michael: Thank you.

  15. I’d like to help by setting up a youtube channel for Jani
    Michael this is Ken again. I wrote earlier about Youtube. Since you have no objection, and I realize how busy you are, and I really want to help Jani, I’d like to set up a Youtube Channel for her. All videos and links to videos and press will be found at this Channel. Her story and what you are doing for her and others like her will be the central theme. But of course Becca, Brenna and Ailish vids (+ their mom’s blog, etc) that are out there will be linked here to.

    Since I’m a fellow schizophrenic with a lot of the same symptoms as Jani I can really relate to her and help explain what it’s like on the Channel, etc. I was in a psychiatric ward for a year and a half and I was in a psychiatric hospital for 11 days once, so I have a good idea of the situation.

    Actually that reminds me- something I learned at the outset was to realize that the Voices didn’t actually want me to hurt anyone. They are jokesters, and it is merely a test or trick to see what I would do. I still had to go through a mental negotiation/debate with the Voices but I never came close to crossing any lines. I was now conscious of the trick, and that power was gone. Maybe this could help Jani.

    I have named it channel4jani and you will be able to find it here:
    http://www.youtube.com/user/channel4jani.

    sincerely,
    ken

    Note from Michael: Thanks, Ken. I will put the link up on my media page.

  16. Very good…
    Michael,
    I am in awe…your blog is so touching! I loved the fact that you wrote what you felt! I too think that things happen for a reason, and I believe communication is the key word in any marriage. Keep staying close to your wife,and Susan to you, keep holding your kids up, and you will walk right through the rain!
    Nettie

  17. keep holding on
    My heart sank when I read the first line of this post. I’ve been following Jani’s story for quite a while now and was worried about the state of your marriage because of the stress. I’m sorry if that sounds weird or intrusive.

    Similar to what you wrote, when a marriage faces stress/adversity the couple can either hold on to each other for dear life or use each other as punching bags. My parents did the latter and thankfully they divorced when I was 15. It was not the actual divorce that did the damage, it was the years of fighting and living in a “battle zone”. Although, I honestly never saw them happy together so that made it easier. Perhaps you can relate. But I certainly don’t think that being “adult children of divorce” (gah, I hate that term) makes us damaged people. It’s made me a bit cynical but also capable of incredible joy when I see or am in a positive, loving relationship.

    I really hope you and Susan make it. Your post makes it sound like you both are in a place of honesty and commitment. Not only do the children need you, but you need each other. There’s a certain tone of sad resignation in your post too, I hope that passes. I hope that you can look at Susan and remember the wonderful, beautiful woman that you married. I hope that you can choose happiness even though it’s a bitch sometimes and a lot of work. Anger and resentment are easier in the short term but never get you anywhere. As always, my prayers are with you and your family.

    Note from Michael: Susan and I are fine. It is funny how everyone reads this as a sign. Yes, I was feeling a sad resignation when I wrote this but it was more a reaction to some many of my friends with mentally ill children whose marriages are crumbling than a lament of my own. Susan and I certainly have had our struggles, but my goal was to share our struggles with the hope that it would help others to keep their marriages together.

  18. The work you do every day is amazing. I am so in awe of the choices you and your wife have made, to stay together as a family – in the way it is possible for you. I cannot imagine what your life is like.
    I must agree with you, that everything happens for a reason, even if we cannot figure out what that reason is.
    The fact that you have focused all your energy on your family, on giving Jani as many good times as possible, that is an inspiration to us all. You are sacrificing so much for your children, soomething we all can learn from – challenged children or not!
    Stay strong, she could not have asked for better or more loving parents than you.

  19. Hello Michael…
    I´m sorry for the bad english..
    I saw your story in the german tv a few minutes ago and I´m so sorry for you. Your children could be so happy for having such great parents like you two!

    Sincerely,
    Ines

  20. I haven’t checked in on your blog in awhile. I hoped everything was well, but, in reality, I knew that everything was complicated. Life is complicated and, I hope it’s ok if I say this, your life is more complicated than most.

    Like many others, I liked this post, it felt it was more raw than usual. More than anything else, it felt like a window into your soul. I have a good friend in a similar (yet different) situation than yours. They have made this choice because their lives are forever changed by their daughter’s needs…which will never lessen.

    I am not in this situation but there are some ways in which I think we can all relate. I particularly liked your admission that you did not really do anything to save your marriage….but that instead Jani got really sick again and it somehow brought it around. Life is complicated like that….it doesn’t make your marriage any less real, any less worthy of saving, or anymore precarious…life is just complicated and sometimes things happen….we don’t know why. We look back and thank the universe that they did….but there’s still not much of an explanation as to why some things turn on a dime. They just do.

    “The way to save a marriage is to stop thinking you have a choice, even though you do.”

    WOW

    My life is admittedly less complicated, less precarious and less difficult to manage, on a day to day basis….but that choice to give in to having no choice (even when you do), to stay together no matter what, to keep the balls in the air and to keep re-trying, after failure, is something that I can relate to. I think we all can. Even if we don’t have a ‘Jani’ to stay together for….we all have our own private reasons.

    Thank you for putting this out there.

  21. Keep on going.
    You are doing great with Jani, I first saw her story on the 20/20 when I was at my job, or part of it anyway because I was working. I later saw the whole story on Discovery Health channel. And you and your wife are really strong people. And I hope that some day you do find away to help Jani. Continue on doing the best you can and I hope for the best for you and your family.

  22. hi
    i just want to say that the song you posted really seems to represent the life you talk about, and the life you live… you MUST live your life. it’s what you have, and whether you’re depressed, or have mentally ill children, or both… you must just LIVE you life for the good moments it gives you, and get through the moments that are hard… all in all… just LIVE your life. it’s hard a lot. it sucks. but do what you have to do.
    you seem to do very well for jani, and for you family circumstances, even though it seems like it sucks ands its hard. i don’t know, i’m not you. but i look up to your bravery and only hope i can have as much for my life and the things i am handed in it.

    Note from Michael: Thank you very much. That means a lot to me.

  23. Do you realize that….
    In your blog entry where you talk about the song “We Didn’t Start The Fire” you criticize Ronald Reagan for his mental health budget cuts in the 1980’s but most of those cuts were to institutions resulting in many being closed down and their institutionalized patients being thrown out into the streets, the same type of institutions that you put down constantly and are loath to see your daughter admitted to for fear that she will become institutionalized. These people who had thrived in the structure and and routine of these controlled settings ended up living on the streets in great numbers unablle to transition to the outside world because of their illness.
    I have to ask you this:
    If something happens to you and Susan where would you rather Jani be?
    You and Susan have lost your support system of family and most friends, already. Who can you trust to step up to the plate?
    If you are the constant in Jani’s life and then you are gone, it could put any progress that Jani has made back considerably If the institution is Jani’s constant and you are in the peripheral the damage will be minimal. She can be insitutionalized and not live in a hospital. Being in a residential facility now can give her the skills that she will need to eventually live in a medically supported group home. She may even be well enough to have her own apartment in a controlled building where medical help is availablle if it is needed. She may be well enough to have a regular apartment.
    One thing that she will definately do is fall in and out of love. Having a mental illness does not make you void of emotion. It may make it difficult to know what to do with those emotions, sometimes, but it doesn’t negate them.
    She’s going to be an adult and she may not to want to live with you forever. She may not be able to.
    In a perfect world, mental health advocacy would get the resources needed devoted to mental health. Why not prepare Jani for this better world where being a part of the system means being a part of a system that is able to meet every individual need?
    Institutionalization, today, isn’t just doping patients to submission and then lobotomizing them if they don’t comply causing a big Aboriginal American fellow to throw a marble hydrotherapy stand through a window because he’d rather be sick in the big, bad world that RP McMurphy talked about than to be locked up…sorry I got a little lost there (Love that movie but the book is better.).
    Residential therapy will give Jani the life skills to get the most out of the system that she will be bound to for the rest of her life, anyway, by the very virtue of her having a mental concern.
    You can’t protect her forever, Michael. Life dictates that she will grow up and you and Suan will die. She might have a relationship with Bodie that allows him to provide for her but she might not. Help her to navigate the system that is going to give her the tools and support that she is going to need for after you’re gone.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *