The Canaanite Woman

May 8, 2016

“Today was Mother’s Day! My gift was some friends of ours coming over and giving our back deck a makeover. They put pads on our chairs and bench, added flowers and planters, and an outdoor rug. It is gorgeous! This morning we went to church and dedicated Judah. It was wonderful. Church was on the Cannanite woman. She begged Jesus to just give her the tinniest amount of attention, though she did not deserve it. I have been her. I have begged God for help and desired just the scraps of his healing love. I felt the pull on my heart, as I approached the altar to weep and pray. I felt God say, “That is why the journey had to be so long and so painful. I needed the pain and severity to be so great that event the greatest doubter wouldn’t be able to explain the restoration of your life. It is complete and now begins the healing.” I believe. I believe that now restoration will come.”

It was such a blessing to have friends draw around me and give me something I couldn’t give myself. Having this gift of a nice outdoor space to go and get away was wonderful. So many people, during this season, just abandon us. They didn’t call and check in. They weren’t in the messy days. They simply went back to their own lives, when our lives became messy. It really broke my heart and made me angry with The Church as a whole. Christians were supposed to emulate Christ and get down in the trenches with the broken and hurting. However, we so often want to stay in the comfortable. We don’t want to be inconvenienced by other people’s struggles. We want to stay in our ivory towers where things look easier and prettier. Those, however, weren’t the people that brought healing to my life. They weren’t the people who showed me the love of Christ. The people who saw my pain and responded with authentic love. Those were the hands and feet of Christ that reached into the dark places of my heart and shined light. They were the ones that gave me hope that I wasn’t broken beyond repair. They were the ones who helped bring me out of the pit. To them, I am grateful.

Mother’s Day was, also, a hard day. I felt like such a failure. I was sick and making life harder for my own mother and my children. I felt unbelievable guilt. But I tried to push it aside, to go to church and truly hear the message that day. I could relate to the Canaanite woman. She believed in Jesus’s power. She didn’t come front and center demanding it. She was humble, begging for even the crumbs. She knew that anything Jesus could give would heal her demon possessed daughter. I have been there. In the hopeless state of illness, believing there would never be healing. However, the crumbs gave me hope. I knew it wouldn’t take a lot to heal me, even Jesus crumbs would be enough. I would sit and wait for the crumbs of his light and love to fall down upon me. He gave them to me that day. Hope. I would forget about this day, overtime. As he didn’t tell me he had healed me that day. That day was later. Much later. There would be more struggle to come before being released from my pain. It would be almost two years to the day before the healing came. But that day, I was given hope that this might now last forever. I held onto my crumbs, grateful for every one.

Goodbye Hospital

Leaving the psychiatric facility was relatively uneventful. After I started Risperdal, I started progressing towards stability more rapidly. In the first forty eight hours, I started to see glimpses of myself again. The side effects from Risperdal were overwhelming initially. The tremors, instability, and muscle weakness were terrifying. I, also, had cogwheeling. This is where your muscles grind and bounce like gears moving, rather than a smooth motion. I knew that these side effects had potential to be permanent. However, I started Benztropine and my symptoms improved within five days. As well, the physical tremors and muscle weakness began to dissipate within a few weeks. Initially, walking down stairs was difficult, but it improved as time passed. As soon as my symptoms were stable, I was able to leave the unit and return home. We stopped locally to make sure we had all of my prescriptions and, then, came home. 

April 27, 2016

“Transition to home has been smooth until now. Today was hard. I was experiencing fatigue, overwhelmed by little kids all talking at once, not feeling hungry. There are so many things to think about and do. The end of school is a very busy time. The yoga has really helped with my ability to relax. I am glad to be doing things with Brian. I became overwhelmed, which normally leads to anxiety but I transitioned to depression. I took a three hour nap and was refreshed. I think that how I was feeling before could have been hypomania. I was wanting to stop thinking about going to Disney world, but I couldn’t. As the depressive symptoms came in, I had no more energy. I didn’t think suicide felt as crazy. I wanted to curl up and sleep.”

Coming home was more difficult than I expected. I had improvement in the hospital, but there were no outside factors to impact my health. Now, I was back in the role of mother and wife. I had daytime babysitters, so that I could focus on my coping skills. It involved me sleeping all night, eating three meals a day, journaling, coloring the mandalas, having a quiet time with the Lord, and exercising. I had to stop exercising so intensely, as this often lead to increasing my mental intensity. I had to try as hard as possible to maintain a clam environment that was low stress. I would often do yoga, do ballet, or go swim laps. 

I found a local yoga studio and my husband and I began to go together. It was such a quiet and peaceful form of yoga. Power yoga and hot yoga were not in the realm of yoga types that helped with my anxiety. So, I devoted myself to a new form of exercise. Swimming was also helpful. Getting in the water and swimming without hearing anything else was so soothing. I would use the time to process my life and pray. It started to become a really sweet time. 

I started noticing myself becoming obsessed with activities or future goals. For me, Disney became a big focus. My family’s trip to Disney World had been one of the happiest weeks of my life. I found myself longing to feel those emotions again. Unfortunately, I became unable to let the idea go. It was neither financially feasible or physically possible at the time.  However, I had laser like focus and would speak of it all of the time. It felt as if the trip was vital to my survival. I couldn’t bear to hear from any detractors and this became a sour of pain and stress for myself and my family.

My marriage would also be affected by my illness. My relationship with my husband would change. It would be hard.

Where Did I Go – Part 2

You may have noticed that I have been missing. It has been an eventful few weeks. A day I had barely imagined three years ago finally arrived. My psychiatrist and I decided I was ready to wean off of my medications. I had first approached the subject with my husband. I thought I sounded a little crazy even suggesting it. I had just had some relapse symptoms two weeks before. I just had a feeling in my gut. I had never felt it before. As I sat in church three weeks ago, I felt the Lord speak to my heart. He told me this was the end. He spoke to me, told me I was ready to heal. It was the end of this suffering. When something like that happens, it is hard to process. I had resigned to my illness, stopped praying for healing. I had decided this was my cross to bear for the rest of my life. I had accepted it. Along with medication, a psychiatrist, and a counselor, I could do this forever. There would be good times and bad, but I was strong. I could survive it.

Then, it happened. That healing miracle moment. I can’t describe how it felt. In fact, I didn’t want to believe it. I felt silly, but empowered all at the same time. So, I decided to ask my psychiatrist if I could begin weaning off one medication in a few weeks, my Latuda. She suggested we start now. It was a surreal moment. I thought she would want to do it down the line. I even gave her that out, suggested that we start in a few months. She suggested I start now, if I was comfortable. I was excited but nervous. So, the plan was to come off 40 mg per month until I am completely Latuda free. Then, wean off the Zoloft. The thought being that my Latuda is an adjunct to my antidepressant. So, stepwise makes sense. Then, two weeks into my weaning I had another moment with the Lord.

I was sitting in church. It was a normal Sunday. Weaning off of the Latuda was going well, without any withdraw symptoms or psychiatric symptoms returning. Then, I felt that same feeling I had felt weeks before. The voice spoke to my heart and told me it was time to wean off of Zoloft cold turkey. I had trusted the Lord the first time and decided it was time to trust again. Unwisely, I did not contact my psychiatrist for fear she would tell me I had lost it. I highly recommend that anyone considering changing their medications consult with their doctors first. However, taking my own medical advice isn’t my strong suit. So, I began the weaning process. It was already Sunday. I had run out of my medication on Friday and my psychiatrist wasn’t responding to my refill request. After doing some reading about Zoloft, it has a rapid half-life. So, by day three, I was already down to a 12.5% blood level. I decided to not refill my prescription and one was never called in.

Weaning off Zoloft was much more difficult than weaning off Latuda. I now believe that some medication form a dependency similar to drugs. I didn’t realize, that after three years, I had become so dependent on this medication. My body literally depended on it to function normally. I began having severe dizziness and light headedness. It was so severe it was hard for me to drive or take care of my children. Then, my heart began to beat very weakly. I couldn’t feel my pulse in my wrist. It was barely palpable in my neck. It was nearly impossible for me to exercise due to an increasing strain on my heart. Then, there was lightening like pulsations that went through my body, accompanied by dizziness and a pounding in my ears. At first, these symptoms would strike every few seconds. With time, all but the lightening and pounding would resolve. By the end of the first week, the pounding was barely noticeable. I will say, on the other side, it was worth it. However, if I had to do it again, I would highly recommend weaning slowly. If I hadn’t felt like the Lord was telling me to wean cold turkey, I would have weaned in a tapered fashion to lessen the symptoms.

What I didn’t expect was the return of my emotions. I thought that I was so feeling while I was on my medication. I didn’t believe myself to be emotionally blunted in any way. I just described myself as calmer. Once the medication weaning began, I began to notice small changes. First, I began to become tearful over simple things. A mom started crying at school after he son received an award. After seeing her beaming with pride, I began to cry. This hadn’t happened in three years. Then, I began to experience joy again. I thought I had been feeling happiness but I realized it was as if I was joyful behind a fog. All my feelings were there, but they were just a shadow of the real thing. Something so simple as hugging my child or taking them to the zoo now brought a flow of emotion. I could actually feel the surge of feel good hormones that came from positive experiences with those I loved. What I was feeling before wasn’t reciprocal. I would interact and perform the act of hugging or loving but there was nothing after. I was living off feelings from my past experiences. There wasn’t any new serotonin or dopamine being released. I believe this to be why I was always striving towards the next experience to bring me joy but could never be satisfied in an experience. The positive feelings would last only moments. It didn’t matter what the size of the experience. A trip to Disney would have given me the same satisfaction that a hug from my child would. I would loose the warm fuzzy feelings within minutes. I would then go seeking those feelings again. I was insatiable. I have felt more satisfaction in one hug from my child now than in almost the entirety of my mental illness on my medications. I see now why some patients refuse to go back on their medications. The loss of emotion and feeling was greater than I had expected. There is definitely a sacrifice of self and personality that comes from taking medications like these.

All of this to say. I wouldn’t recommend that anyone go off of their medications early or without a doctor’s supervision. I will say, however, that I knew when I was ready. It was the first time I had ever even considered the possibility. I was deeply physical and mental attached to my medication regimen. I liked the stability that they offered. I feared that I would crash immediately upon weaning. This just wasn’t the case. The reason I am sharing this, is for the person who is ready to wean off medication but scared. I want to give you hope that there is good to be found in the moving forward. I am still not off all of my medication, I am not certain I will never need it again. What I can say is that it has served me well. All of my medications were needed and helpful. However, it is not good to be dependent on these medications forever. There is definitely a physical dependence that forms. As well, there is opportunity for joy and pleasure without the medications. I didn’t realize what I was missing. I didn’t realize the life and feelings that awaited me on my path to healing. I am so grateful for both.

I will say that my family, as a whole has been accepting and encouraging. However, my spouse does not share my joy and excitement. I didn’t see this coming. I expected to see me improving and rejoice. However, he has been through so much. He has watched me hanging over the side of the cliff and pulled me back. He has walked in both the darkness and light of mental illness with me. This emotional rollercoaster has proved too much. It is hard for him to hope in a future where I am well. He had lost hope that day would come. It has not been hard for him to see my joy and celebration of my new self as a euphoric episode. When we fight, he tells me to go back on my meds. When I am angry about something, he tells me to go back on my meds. Life without meds is scary. It represents another unknown future. We had come to know the future. The future was mental illness and medication. It was a future we were prepared for. This is a new beginning, another unknown. Remember the family members and loved ones of those with mental illness. This journey affects them too. They need help, they need support. They need encouragement. These changes are life altering for them as well. Even though his words hurt, I know that he will begin to see the light again. He will begin to let down his walls and let in our new life. A life with all of our feelings and emotions. It will take time. I need to be patient with him, as he has been patient with me, I need to see his suffering. It has been measurable and it matters. I can’t wait to share more of my story with you. I can’t wait to see what the future holds. The Lord has spoken to me about some other adventures that may lay ahead. The good news is I now believe there is a good future for me again. I am allowing myself to walking in the light of day and celebrate where I have been and where I am going. The Lord is and has been good in both the storm and the laughter. He is here.

Where Did I Go

Where did I go when I started my meds

My feelings, my emotions, myself

I didn’t know

I couldn’t see

I thought I was me

But I wasn’t

I was gone, absent, missing

I was numb, couldn’t feel

I saw but wasn’t present

I heard but couldn’t experience

My life, floating by like a dream

Then they were gone

The meds weaned away

The symptoms severe, the price barely worth paying

They held me in their grip

My body threatening me to go back

I couldn’t, I stayed strong, resisted

I could imagine, taste the other side

Vision blurred, mind scrambled, the meds clawing their way out

Then the storm broke

I felt it, like for the first time

Love, anger, joy, sadness

The emotions came strong and swift
I celebrated, couldn’t get enough

Then I was back

The part of me thought lost

I had been in their all along,

Hiding, now feeling, arriving back again

The Walls Came Tumbling Down

John 11:25 – “Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

I was pregnant with my fourth baby, Johnathan Judah. I was on heparin injections, weekly ultrasound appointments, and progesterone. The baby grew well and, besides precipitous labor, it was a smooth pregnancy. I had decided to take a year off to have my fourth child, as of November 1st. This was something my work had approved. Resting was helping reduce the preterm labor symptoms. I was progressing well. I was laying on the couch resting at 36 weeks, when I got a call from my sister-in law. Hunter was in critical condition at the hospital.

Rewind a couple of days, my brother had gone into the hospital two days prior for an elective tonsillectomy. I had warned him that this was a bad idea. All surgery has risks, there is no such thing as a minor surgery. He had assured me that the tonsil stones he had warranted the surgery. He was willing to accept this risk and write me off as an overprotective sister. I would hold onto the warning for the rest of my life, wishing he had listened. The surgery did not go well. They stopped taking out his adenoids because there was too much bleeding. Why you take out adenoids, when tonsils are the source of the problem, I will never understand. He had been in serious pain after surgery and they were keeping him for twenty four hours to observe him. I had called that day and he had written a note, “I <3 U.” That would be the last communication I would ever have with my brother. His voice was too strained to speak and the next day, he was too out of it to call. We would, later, find out why.

My sister-in law was hysterical. I immediately went into triage mode. This was going to be fine, Hunter was going to be fine. He was fine just the day before, and was supposed to have left the hospital. They would have transferred him to another hospital, if his symptoms were really severe. He had just texted me earlier that day, they were odd texts, but responses none the less. I would later find out he was texting me “I can’t text and drive, it is not worth a life,” because he was almost completely incapacitated. But for now, that was unacceptable, he was okay. He had to be okay.

I got a call from my dad forty five minutes later. “He’s dead,” was all he said. I became hysterical, screaming “No,” over and over again. Then, “This is not real life, this is not my life.” My dad has no recollection of that phone call. I was in shock, he was in shock. After that, I called my doctor to get medication to help me sleep. I was sure I wasn’t going to survive this. Brian wanted me to go to Montgomery that night, but I wasn’t ready. I would regret not seeing Hunter in the hospital that night, not being there amongst his friends. I regret not seeing him for every minute that I could. My mom sent me an image of him lying dead in the bed. This image was traumatizing and would haunt me for awhile. It would be one of the first components of PTSD that would consume me for months.

That night, we still had to assemble my daughters bike for her birthday, the next day. My sweet father-in law came over to help. As they assembled, I walked outside. I am not typically a hyper spiritual person. I don’t believe in the paranormal or ghosts. But something wrapped its arms around me that night. I don’t know if it was an angel, the holy spirit, or my brother. I will say it felt like him. It felt like one of his warm bear hugs, and to this day it brings me comfort to reflect on those moments, after he died. I wasn’t alone.

The next morning, we threw a quick birthday celebration for my four year old daughter and flew out the door. That was the last time I would be home for over nine days. It would take us nine days to view him, autopsy him, fly him home and bury his body. It would take almost a year for us to find out what really happened that night.

We drove to Birmingham, Alabama to meet up with my Uncle, Aunt, Cousin, and my parents. Seeing my parents was one of the most difficult parts. That first time you all make eye contact, and the unspoken loss hangs in the air like thick fog. It took my breath away. I almost collapsed into their arms and cried. My dad wanted to see my brother’s body as soon as possible. So, we went to the morgue. My brother was Air Force. So, his body was set up for autopsy, before we even were able to request it. His body was being transferred from the local coroner, who we later found out was on his first day as coroner. Hunter would have been his first autopsy. Instead, he was being transferred to the University of Alabama Birmingham for autopsy by an actual M.D. The Air Force like F.B.I. (I will call them the FBI from here on out, to make it easier to explain) was in charge of Hunter’s case and was opening a criminal investigation.

We arrived at the funeral home to view my brother’s body. Nothing could have prepared me for that. My parents were in there as they removed the body bag, but I was didn’t see him until he was fully exposed. This was the best he would look until his interment. He just looked like my handsome, strong brother but asleep. I found it concerning that his shirt was not ripped open, he didn’t have any bruising from CPR type movement. He looked like he was sleeping, but he was cold to the touch. That wasn’t the most alarming part.

I didn’t know exactly what happens to a body after death. I now know the bodily fluids start to seep out. He was surrounded by a puddle of yellow liquid mixed with blood. This image would prevent me from eating steak for awhile. I developed a PTSD effect from seeing liquid blood on a plate and would fall into anxiety attacks in restaurants. As well, he had blood and vomit draining from his mouth. It was my brother but a broken shell of him. I collapsed under the weight and pain of him being gone. I fell down on the table and sat on the floor. I cried so hard, I couldn’t even breathe. I talked to my brother in my mind and asked him to help me get back up.

I couldn’t explain it, if I tried, but something said, “Look up.” Now, my brother was a joker. He loved to make people laugh and would definitely be cracking a joke, had he been in the room. I opened my eyes, and screamed. There, inches from me, was another dead person. No bag, just laying there. This person was old and, as my sister-in law joked through her pain, ready to go. I jumped back and everyone rushed to make sure I was okay. I told them what I saw, and we all looked down. We laughed so hard. We said Hunter had to have been there too. He would have been tickled to death to make us laugh though our pain. We could feel his presence. We were grateful to the Lord for his grace in helping us laugh in our agony. It gave us the strength to leave the morgue that night, and for me to get up off that floor.

Skittles and Bacon

Psalm 139:13 – “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb”

We had moved to Nashville three months prior, and I had started school when we went to pick up my third month of birth control. The pharmacist refused to give me the medication. Apparently, my prescription had expired two weeks before. Had I pick up all three months of medication in August, we would have been covered. However, we couldn’t afford that on our tight budget and had waited. No big deal, we decided. Our insurance was to kick in the next month, and I would go to the Ob/Gyn then. I was told, at the age of sixteen, that I would have great difficulty conceiving a child. I didn’t go through puberty until almost college and I had horribly irregular cycles. So, what was a few weeks without birth control? A few weeks turned into months. School was busy, and I had put off going to the Ob/Gyn. I was in a maternity nursing course, after Christmas. I called it, “1,000 and 1 things that could go wrong with your baby.”

We were sitting in class discussing symptoms of pregnancy. Missing a period. That couldn’t happen to me, because I never got them. Ovulation pain. Was that what that tinge was the other day? Sore breasts. That sounded oddly familiar. Implantation pain. Does that feel like being stabbed in your lower abdomen? Surely, I was imagining things. I decided I was having a case of medical school hypochondriasis and swept it under the rug. A few days later, Brian was headed to the grocery store. I had a weird craving for bacon and sour skittles. As Brian walked out the door he joked, “I’ll be sure to pick up some pregnancy tests. Sounds like pregnancy cravings.” I laughed, but part of me knew.

He came home, we had an enjoyable evening together, and he reminded me to take one of the pregnancy tests before bed. Now, let me just clarify, from personal experience. Never, I repeat, never get the cheap pregnancy tests. Spring for the pregnant/not pregnant version. Leave no doubt. I went into the bathroom, peed on a stick. As quickly as the dye could spread there was a + sign. I screamed for Brian! He picked up the test and the package insert. “It’s a test error,” he said. “That first line is too dark and you can barely see the second line.” Some of you already realize what this meant. Super Duper PREGNANT! We were naive little kids. So, Brian made me drink about a gallon of water and we sat there twiddling our thumbs until I could urinate again. It was now midnight, and we were in a cold sweat. I went in alone the second time. Same result. When Brian found me the second time, I was rocking back and forth saying, “No, no, no, no.” Brian was remarkably calm. He kept reassuring me that we had this under control and we would be fine. I said, “Fine. I know how this baby comes out and it is most certainly not fine!” I called my parents in tears telling them that there worst nightmare had come true.

They reassured me that this was an unexpected blessing and would be fine. I was a 22 year old newly wed, in graduate school with two years left, and a husband who was the sole bread winner. This was most certainly not going to be okay. I don’t think I thought of God once during this time. I was scared and all I could think of was how I was going to handle it. The next day, I took a trusty pregnant/not pregnant test on the way to class. It took seconds, PREGNANT. So, the test was not in error. I went to Target and got the cutest little onesie, how scary could a human that could fit in this really be? I got a “We’re Expecting” card, the pregnancy test, the onesie, and put them in a cute little rubber ducky bag. I headed home to wait for Brian.

When he arrived, I gave him the bag and started recording. He, in a gruff voice, asked me to turn the camera off. Now was his turn to panic. He opened the bag and I thought he was going to have an anxiety attack. Where was the man who said we would be fine? I decided not to mention that I would have to drop out of school for a year and stay home. The school would only give me ten days off to have the baby.

I wish I could say, after that, our terror turned to joy. I wish I could say that I fully lay it in the Lord’s hands. That just wasn’t the case. I have so much shame admitting this, and I have never told anyone, but I prayed after that. I prayed for a miscarriage. I didn’t just pray for one once, but daily, for weeks. It is one of the greatest shames of my life. Over time, I grew to love the baby. I felt him growing and kicking inside of me. After maternity nursing was over, my fear that he wouldn’t be healthy vanished. We had a happy, healthy nine months.

We moved to a new apartment across the parking lot with an extra bedroom and waited for this bundle to be born. I had finished up my first year of graduate school and waited home alone for the next two months, trying to get this little guy to make his appearance. It was lonely during that time. There wasn’t much to do, I had few friends. Our apartment was dark most of the day, and Brian was gone 13 hours a day.  I was a week overdue when I woke in the night  with cramping. I had lost my mucus plug the week before and thought it might be time. I got up and cleaned the apartment quietly, so Brian would keep sleeping. It was three a.m. By five a.m. Brian had woken up. I had taken a shower and gotten dressed. Our bags had been packed for weeks, we were ready to go.I told Brian to go on to work. By six a.m. I knew it was time. I was curling my hair when I fell down on my hands and knees. I was rocking back and forth to ease the pain. This was when I decided that a natural childbirth was not for me. Needless to say, I would be changing my specialty.

All of my contractions were in my back. We waddled to the car stopping twice on the way for contractions. I couldn’t sit down, so I was on my hands and knees holding the headrest of the car. We sped off through rush hour traffic. I swore that, if we got to the hospital and I was 2 cm dilated, I was going to kill someone. We made it. What relief. I had a contraction and then walked into admitting. I started yelling through my contraction. Once the desk receptionist found out it was my first baby, she told me to stop yelling because I was scaring the moms checking in for c-sections. I started crying, luckily a nurse walking by saw me and decided I needed to go straight to triage. She tried to get me to sit in a wheel chair but it was no use. By the time I go changed into a gown and examined, they were throwing the sides of the bed up and rushing me to labor and delivery. I was 8.5 cm with a bulging bag of waters. There was no time for pain meds, which I protested strongly. Brian and my birth photographer heard me screaming down the hallway and followed the bellows. By the time we got to the delivery room I was nine centimeters and by the grace of God my Ob let me have an epidural. I felt the need to push during my epidural, I now know I was ready to deliver, but first time mom’s. The epidural was amazing, and I was able to let my husband get breakfast. They came and checked me, asking me if I needed to push. I said I hadn’t felt anything. All of the sudden the room was scrambling. He was crowning. We called Brian to come back. After some rapid heart decals, me needing oxygen and an episiotomy, we had a healthy baby boy. The first time I saw him, I was in love. There was no greater gift, and I was so thankful to the Lord for not answering my prayers.

One Flesh

Mark 10:8 – “and the two will become one flesh. ‘So they are no longer two, but one flesh.”

August 9, 2008. We were hoping for 08/08/08. However, my mom assured me that no one appreciates going to a wedding on a Friday, so we gave away the perfect wedding date and settled for 08/09/08. It was a beautiful day. We decided to have a local destination wedding. It was at the Lodge at Blue Ridge Summit. There was a hotel on site. So, the whole bridal party and most out of town guests came throughout the day on Friday. There was a typical rehearsal dinner and a huge celebration. There were massages for the girls and skeet shooting for the boys. A cold front and storm came through that evening. So, the hot summer day we anticipated turned into a 75 degree day with a slight breeze. Our August wedding day could not have been more perfect, if we had hand picked it. We were married overlooking the mountains underneath a canopy of flowers. We were both over joyed and scared, to be honest.

Both of us knew the gravity of what was being asked of us. If we had known what those vows would have meant, maybe one of us would have bowed out. That is beauty of the celebration wedding day. It is full of joy, hope, and anticipation. But it is, also, a covenant with the Lord. I agreed to love, honor, and obey. He agreed to serve, protect, and love me as Christ loved his church. As we ran out under a blanket of sparks to our get away car, full of anticipation of our first night together, if we had only known. If we had only known that the day where my loving husband put me in a full headlock and smeared cake in my face would pave the way for miscarriage, pornography addiction, my fierce independence, loss of an adoption, death of my only sibling, and postpartum followed by lingering depression, would our vows have been different? Would we have said them so boldly? We lived them out, but it has been hard. We have walked through many storms. As we came back from our honeymoon, the journey had just begun.

We had moved into our apartment shortly before the honeymoon. It was a cute little apartment in a fairly safe complex in Nashville. We were four hours from Brian’s parents and eight from mine. We were out in the world on our own and excited by the prospects. I started in the Midwifery portion on the Nurse Practitioner program at Vanderbilt. It was a two year program, where I would take my undergraduate degree and transform from a BSN equivalent into a Master’s degree. Things were starting off smoothly. We didn’t have much money, Brian was our only source of income and he was working diligently as a landscaper. A few weeks in, I got pornography spam on my Mac. I didn’t know a lot about apple products, but I knew they weren’t prone to spam. So, I confronted Brian. He lied and told me he didn’t know how that had ended up in the history. I was heartbroken, but I so wanted it to be true that I ignored it. I called my tech savvy brother and asked how this could accidentally end up in my history. He assured me that Brian was lying, but I trusted Brian.

We had talked about his struggles with pornography before marriage. It had started at a friends house when he was a preteen. He, then, looked it up on the family computer. His parents put blockers in place but it just became a game to get around them. Soon, it was an unstoppable force. It transferred into him sleeping with girls in college. This confession left me hurt but sure I would marry him. I had been the Pharisee my whole life and tried to follow God’s rules to earn my salvation and prove to God that I was worthy. So, I deemed that I was worthy of an abstinent partner. However, when Brian confessed his past and his pain, I felt compassion and love. I knew I wanted to be with him anyway. People had warned me to not marry him. They said they had seen pornography wreck too many marriages. We would end up seeing this too. Not only the toll it took on our early marriage but as we counseled other couples walking similar paths.

So, here I was. Newly married and naive. I truly believed that once we were married and sleeping together, it would be enough for Brian. I think he even bought that lie, as well. The enemy, however, is so crafty. He lurks in the bushes, waiting to attack at a moments weakness. We started spiraling for awhile. I lost my trust of Brian. I was humiliated. I felt like it was my fault, that I wasn’t enough for him. He was kind and compassionate, but it left a painful void. This void would linger. This trust, broken, hurt our intimacy, which only made things worse. It would take time, and the holy spirit to heal my husband and these wounds. But that is our story. The Lord redeemed. The Lord healed. My husband was humble and got help, God pulled him out of the pit and restored him to a place of righteousness. This is not because of Brian earning it, it is because our Savior died for him and reconciled him. This work is ongoing, Brian can’t let his guard down for a minute. But we are united to fight for our marriage and purity. When I stopped standing against Brian and waiting for him to fix his own broken places, deliverance began. It has been a long painful process but I want to assure you that healing can come. Your marriage can be restored. You can survive this. There is beauty in the ashes.

Then I asked Brian to go to the grocery store and get bacon and skittles.

All Because Two People Fell in Love

Song of Solomon 1:2 – “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth!
For your love is better than wine;”

So, we sat in that airport and Brian gave me a card. The card was from my mother and read, “If you are reading this, you are engaged and in Paris!” I closed the card casually. Brian asked what it said, and I didn’t lie. However, I already suspected we were going to get engaged. A weekend trip to Paris didn’t sound like something you do for fun. I decided to suspend reality and pretend I still was oblivious. We hopped on a plane that night and flew across the ocean. We arrived the next afternoon.

We went straight to our hotel and confused the gentlemen checking us in. We had arranged to stay in separate rooms, something that gave me anxiety the whole trip. Brian was such a gentleman. However, this was not very European and the concierge almost refused to give us the separate rooms. We got ready in the room and headed out to Notre Dame.  It was absolutely spectacular, until I had to rush to the restroom and got sick as a dog. Suspecting what was coming, I pushed through and we continued to the Eiffel Tower. When the gentlemen looked in Brian’s bag, he winked at Brian. I assumed that this meant he had seen a ring. Engaged at the top of the Eiffel Tower at sunset.

Perfection! It took forever to get to the top and it was night, when we arrived. The City of Lights earned its name. It was gorgeous. It was packed inside, so we went outside. As soon as the door opened the wind grabbed it and slammed it open. It was so windy we would have nearly blown off. So, we went back inside. All of the sudden Brian says, “Are you ready to go?” I was flipping out inside. A million things flashed through my mind. Most of all returning home with everyone ready to see my ring and I am empty handed. Luckily, someone right behind us was getting engaged at that moment. I said, “Babe, look at that cute couple getting engaged, hoping that it would remind him to propose.” “He replied, “That is so cool,” and began his descent.

It was late, and because I was sick, I didn’t think about eating all day. Brian, probably nervous, hadn’t either. We headed to get a crepe and some hot chocolate from a small cart. Then, we walked over to the palace across the street from the tower. Every hour the Tower lights up, on the hour. We waited patiently and got to see the spectacular display. Afterward, Brian walked me down the stairs and explained that he didn’t want to propose at the tower, with all of those people present. He wanted something more private. He read me a passage from his Bible, told me how much he loved me, and lots of other things I can not remember at this point. He pulled out his grandmother’s diamond in the setting we had chosen together. It was an absolute treasure, and I was and am so honored to have it.

That night we went back to the hotel and slept. We woke up the next morning and decided to spend the day at Versailles. We ate a quick breakfast at a cafe and then took the train to the palace. It was so gigantic and elegant. An architectural feat.  We toured the buildings, ate lunch at a cafe, toured the gardens, and I got so sick again. We were asking where the bathroom was to an orange juice vendor. We were lost in translation. Other people were around and could understand what I was saying, despite also speaking different languages. We were all yelling, “Bathroom!” at the gentleman. He finally got the message, and we were on our way. I finally felt better, and that ended up being the end of my illness.

We traveled back to the center of the city. We quickly toured an open area of the Louvre until it was closing time. Then, we saw the Arc de Triomphe. It didn’t look to far away and who wouldn’t love to see the entire Champs Elysees? Oh what a mistake we made. I think we walked for hours. We stopped at a restaurant and at some shops. We finally arrived at the Arc and it was as spectacular as I had imagined. We hoped on the train and went back to the hotel. The next day, we traveled back home and slept the whole way. It was just the beginning of our adventures.

Today’s the Day

Psalm 23:4 – “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me.”

Today is the day I pause from the story line. Today is the day this gets real. Today is the day I try to let you in. Today is the day I reveal and expose myself. Today is the day I am real. Today is the day I struggle with my depression.

It has been building for weeks. There were triggers, there always are. For me it is usual conversations revolving around finances. Finances are my security. Finances were tight in my house, as a child. As I grew, my dad became more successful, and I wanted for nothing. I grew up and went on to college. I, then, went to graduate school to become a Nurse Practitioner. I was set. My husband and I would both work, and we would be financially stable. Therefore, myself and my kids would want for nothing. That was until I lost my job. There it was, me reliant on my husband and those around me for financial security. This is something that I am terrible at, relying on others for help. I am a fiercely independent on contrasting individual. I am self-reliant and don’t even fully depend on the Lord in a sold out kind of way. Enter, financial insecurity.

Loosing my job put a financial strain on our family, add in needing round the clock babysitters, psychiatry appointments, and psychologist appointments, and things were a challenge. My parents were and are super helpful about relieving most of this strain, but I still need to rely on the Lord and my husband. As this is such a trigger, I prayed for the Lord to take it away. That way, I never had to experience the difficulty of surrender and self-sacrifice but could continue as I was, holding on to self-sufficiency. As I got better, I didn’t need as much help. I saw hope on the horizon, hope that we would be back to a place where we could save and prepare for the future. Then, my world began to come unraveled again.

Two or three weeks ago my family came to town, I had already been struggling with some depressive type symptoms. I  can feel episodes starting to come on. I become fatigued, I don’t want to exercise, I want to lay down all day, little things that wouldn’t normally stress me do, I stop wanting to eat foods that are good for me if I want to eat at all. The last one is always a sure sign. Fast forward to Easter, throwing in a larger Easter party than I expected and some financial conversations and I was blowing my top off. I yelled at my parents like a teenager, I went back to bed. However, I had to come back out, because I was having suicidal thoughts. This is such an easy statement to hear and to read, but the reality is much more severe. Imagine if the smallest trigger made you want to pick up a razor blade and start slicing your body to pieces, and not just think it but fantasize about it. That’s still considered non-suicidal. Then, throw in visions of seeing yourself laying in a bathtub with your wrists cut open and slowly closing your eyes as you bleed out, or picking up a hand gun and blowing your brains out. It is terrifying to think you could do something like this to yourself, but you know in there is a part of you that wants to. Please don’t think this is anyway selfish. People have told me this more times than I can count.

Imagine that you are trapped in your own mind. Your own mind is trying to kill you. It isn’t just a perceived threat, you have flirted with it enough to know you could actually do it. I call it suicide practice, testing the waters. Knowing that, if you really needed it, there is a way out. Then, the practice isn’t enough. You start to think of it as a way to not just give you an out, but give everyone else you love a way out. That is when I really tip over the edge. That is the thought that can lead you to carry out your suicide. You see the pain in the faces of your parents, your kids, your husband, you aunt, your uncle, and friends every time you relapse. Sometimes they start saying things and behaving in ways that show you they are tired. Their resolve is wearing off. They are ready for you to be healed, and you know you are not. They want a break, you know you can not give it to them. You are the source of pain everyone’s pain. Not just yours, everyone’s pain. If you died, you would be with the Lord. That is the thought that leads to suicide completion. The world would be better off without you. Those you love would be free of you, you would be free, and it happens in an instant. It wouldn’t happen tomorrow, or next week, but this thought for a few seconds is all it takes.

So, that is where I go. I sink into that place, full of shame. Knowing that others don’t see me as a burden, that they are enduring this with me. That is what will save me. The love and acceptance of my family, friends, etc. For me, this will only ever come from God. He is the only one who signed up with me for this journey. He is the one who sees and understands my pain. He is the one who walks with me through it every day and never gets tired. He is the only one who wants me to stay on Earth and struggle with him. He alone is my solace. He alone is my Savior. He alone never fails. Anything and anyone else is weak and fleeting. This is what he wants to teach me. To rely on him and him alone. To go through this pain to reach a place of peace and healing that can only come from him. In all my suffering Jesus is better, make my heart believe.

So, that is where I am. I am falling apart, my husband and family are struggling to go through another relapse with me, we are preparing for another long stretch to healing. The only one that can sustain us and heal us is Jesus. If we look to ourselves or other humans to fill in the pit of despair, it will never happen. Eventually, we will give up. I encourage you, if you are the one struggling today, or the loved one of someone struggling, reach out to the Lord. Be honest with those around you, about what this struggle looks like. No one wants to talk about it. No one wants to share about this. So, this community and their loved ones remain in the dark and on the sidelines. If you know these people, grab their hand and pull them towards the light today. You may just save their lives.

A love Song

 

 

Song of Solomon 8:2 – “Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm; for love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame.”

I followed my grandmother’s casket out of the chapel and to the hurst. It was a terrible moment and my heart ached. At the same time, I couldn’t shake Brian. He had caught my attention. I assumed he had left the building. Saddened, I walked forward to the chapel doors. I glanced around the corner and BAM! There he was, making eye contact with me. I jumped back like a two year old hiding from it’s mother. I retreated back to family, knowing he was still around. I stopped to talk to his mother. She was delightful and midway through paused to invite Brian into the conversation, just as I mentioned Campus Crusade for Christ. He was kind-eyed and attentive. My strategy was to ignore him completely. I, later, found out this really worked because most girls gave him their undivided attention.

Lisa directed the conversation back to Brian, mentioning that he was involved with Cru and was planning to travel overseas with them. Now, my heart melted. Missions was my passion and he was involved with the same organization! I had decided it was fate. We went downstairs to eat and agreed to sit with one another. As I got my plate, he had wandered off and was talking to someone else. I was now sure that connection was imagined, until he turned and smiled at me. I knew in that moment, he was something special. He smile made me feel safe and connected.

We met up in the parking lot to say goodbye. My dad tried to back over him with the car. We exchanged phone numbers. I decided to stay for the week and get to know him better. My dad assured me that our lives being so far apart, the relationship was doomed from the get go. I didn’t listen. In fact, it probably made me more interested in him. We went on some dates that week and spent some time together. As I headed back to college, I assured my mother it was okay, if he decided to date other girls, but I knew in my heart it was not.

We communicated via Skype for the next few months and he planned to come visit. He took me on a date to a spring formal, and I was smitten. I went overseas to North Africa on missions. We continued to communicate via phone. He wrote me letters. They were organized so I would open one every few days until I got home. Then, the last one said he was at my debriefing to pick me up! I was so excited. I went to Tennessee to visit him again. Then, it was time for him to head to Argentina. He spent fourteen long months over there. It wasn’t too hard for him, he was doing something new everyday. It was, however, extremely difficult for me. I was a senior in college and simply waiting. We had hour long phone calls on Skype that would drift in and out. He would get on at times for just a moment, or even miss “date nights” altogether. I could tell he wasn’t certain I was the one. As well, I found out he had sworn off women weeks before he met me to focus on his relationship with the Lord. I, however, knew he was the one and was getting tired of fighting for our relationship. I made a final plea, when he told me he wanted to stay another year. I told him that Io would support him, but not be there when he got back.

He panicked and came home. He, later, found out I didn’t mean I would never date him again but I would have moved forward for a season. This led to resentment in our early years. Brian looked at me and was reminded of what could have been, if he had stayed in Argentina. He felt I had robbed him of that. With the passage of time, he has changed this opinion, but it was a real sticking point for awhile.

Brian returned home, and I couldn’t wait to see him. I was leaving an AA meeting I was attending for a college course, when he met me outside. I was over joyed, but I also felt a disconnect I didn’t expect. He seemed a lot like a stranger. We were used to talking on Skype but talking in person was strange, and his adjustment back to the US was difficult. I had missed him for so long, I expected everything to pick up where it left off, but it didn’t. With time we got used to each other again, and he got used to having more than one shampoo to choose from at Walmart.

We spent all of our time together, and Brian moved to State College to be near me. In February I was sure he was going to never marry me and my heart broke. That same day he surprised me and picked me up from work. I was sick as a dog and not wanting to do anything. He, however, had different plans. He had my roommates pack my bags, had my passport (I was still unaware of this), and was taking me on an adventure. We drove the night to Philly, while I passed out in the car. Sick, sick, sick. We pulled into the airport and I was befuddled. What was this man doing? I assumed we were taking an airplane ride or going to pick up a friend from Argentina, who was coming to visit. He got out the video camera and videotaped me as he revealed that we were going to Paris! I had taken a semester long course in Parisian culture and architecture that was so hard. He wanted to let me see these things for real in the City of Lights. We were just going for the weekend, and I couldn’t wait!