Three Years Later...

Photo credit: Jasmyne S.

Photo credit: Jasmyne S.

It was during Holy Week three years ago that my husband returned home to our family after having been gone for nearly five years. I wrote this:

My husband, my marriage, and my family has been raised from death to New Life!! He is on a solid road of recovery, and we are moving towards reconciliation, renewal, restoration, and rebirth. Along with birthing my daughter, this is probably one of the most beautiful, exciting things I’ve ever been privileged to be part of in this life!!

He is Risen Indeed!!!

Since then, our family has indeed been on an epic journey of healing, recovery, restoration, and rebirth!!

Why was he gone, you ask? If you’re new to my blog or to our story, my husband was diagnosed at the age of 16 with bipolar disorder. This is a chronic illness that affects mood and behavior. It’s a spectrum disorder, and there are actually several manifestations of the illness, and varying degrees of severity. The kind my husband has is called Bipolar I.. In 2011, complications from his illness resulted in him being separated from our family for several years, during which time he was not in any kind of treatment or taking any medication. He ended up on one “adventure”, while me and our daughter ended up on another, for 4.5 years. Then, through a miraculous series of events, he was able to return to our family in 2016, and ever since then, we have been healing as a family, he has been healing from his ordeals, and God has given us an amazing testimony.

Three years ago, I was basking in the glow of the miracle of having him back with us!!! It was amazing, and beautiful, and hard and challenging, and glorious and scary and exciting…kind of like a roller coaster ride! We soared to the highest heights, and a few times it looked like we might die. But, it all has made for an incredible ride!!

Through it all, one thing has remained constant, and that is our faith and hope in the Lord Jesus Christ. I am raising a young daughter, who is now 15 years old, and becoming a young woman. She has often been called “an old soul”, and it’s probably because of many of the experiences we’ve had. Having a parent with a mental illness has a way of growing you up pretty fast! Especially when their illness takes them away or causes them to be absent even when they are present. She has learned some hard lessons, but also some beautiful lessons. She has learned that as women, we are not to be dependent on any man, but on God, who is with us whether our daddy/husband is there or not. She has seen God be “a father to the fatherless and a husband to the widows.” She has seen the beauty and challenge of restoration. She has seen her dad persevere and never give up, and fight his way out of a very dark place. She has seen a marriage beat horrible odds and thrive in spite of all kinds of chaos. She has seen the hand of God up close and personal.

Because we’ve been on this wild ride for so many months, I’ve not had the time to sit down and write like I so desire to do. That day will come, I’m sure. But until then, our journey continues. Scott was gone for 4.5 years, and that is the amount of time I’ve given him to be back before I feel like I can declare us “healed”. So far, it’s been a little over three years…and we are doing fantastic, given the circumstances!

In a nutshell, all is well. Scott has been doing amazing. It was a bumpy ride at first, because it took almost 2 years to get his medication right, as well as just adjust to being a family again. Three years, three medications…and the 3rd time has been the charm!! After trial and error, we have found a medication regimen that works well for him. After so many years of being unwell, it takes time to learn how to be well. And that is where he is in his journey, learning how to be well.

Our daughter Jasmyne is growing daily. She has thrived since her dad has returned home…which I knew would happen. They have a good relationship, all things considering. They navigate their challenges pretty well (they are a lot alike in some ways, haha!), and they have their own unique bond. A few weeks ago he presented her with a beautiful Bible that he picked out for her, and I love to hear their conversations about the Word of God. She is involved in many activities…she sings, dances, acts, and writes, and has several outlets for those passions. We recently decided that home schooling was the best option for her to be able to pursue all the things she loves while still learning, and this is an exciting new journey for all of us.

And me? Well, as a caregiver, it has been quite a journey for me. My husband does not “look” disabled, and he’s physically very well, so his illness is hard to see sometimes. Caregiving for someone with a mental illness is very difficult to explain, and has its own challenges. As the meds were getting adjusted, it required more of me, but now, I am able to breathe a little bit more. I am a firm believer in self-care, my friends. And support. Tons of support. I am surrounded by good people, I have support of family and friends who love both me and my husband, and pull me from the brink of meltdowns when necessary…but thankfully, that hasn’t happened a whole lot. I’ve had to come to terms with some things, and make peace with life as it is and not how I thought it would be. But it has been an incredible opportunity to deepen my relationship with Jesus in ways I never could have imagined otherwise, and see first hand His faithfulness to me. I have seen His goodness, and I am confident that I will continue to do so.

Psalm 27:13 King James Version (KJV)

13 I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.

Photo credit: Jasmyne S.

Photo credit: Jasmyne S.

God is faithful. Sometimes it takes time to see it, and we don’t always understand what He is doing, and we may shed many tears along the way. But, as I always quote of my favorite verse, Galatians 6:9,

Do not be weary in well doing, for in due season, you shall reap if you faint not.


The adventure continues…!!!


2018 Recap and Unfinished Business

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I tried my hardest to get this post out before 2018 was over, but I failed miserably. However, I am just in time for the New Year so I will make this my first official post of 2019!

I cannot believe how fast 2018 flew by. It had to have been the fastest year I’ve ever lived through! It was a pretty good year for our family, I must say.  On our long, winding road of recovery, I believe in 2018 we finally turned a corner. In 2017 my husband Scott had some major medication challenges, but towards the end of that year, his medical team finally found something that has turned things around for him and brought him into balance, for which we are grateful.

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Most of 2018 was spent just enjoying being as normal as we can be. Sometimes medications can take the better part of a year to fully settle into the system, and this year, Scott was able to have the time and space for it to do its work. The good news is that his main medication is now a shot that he receives 4 times a year. It has been liberating for him to have to take one less pill, and the medication works very well for him. We are SO grateful!

Our year was full of wonderful moments as a family. Some of the highlights include:

Jasmyne had her public singing debut as a finalist in a local talent competition. She did great! She had some other opportunities throughout the year to hone her singing gifts, including an audition for America’s Got Talent held right in our home town! She started high school and, as a freshman, landed a role as an understudy in the school’s production of Godspell. She had a chance to shine as the understudies got their own show! There was also her African Dancing in two festivals, and she became a published author of a play she helped to write and acted in. And if all that wasn’t enough, she joined a Christian youth choir and is looking forward to her first musical missions tour in the Spring. As always, we have a great time supporting Jasmyne in all her activities. She is busy honing her skills as a “triple threat”, acting, singing and dancing. It yet remains to be seen how God will grow all these gifts in her life and guide her in using them!!

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Scott’s main job this year was continuing to get well, and learn how to be well. I knew when he returned to us that it would take some time for him to heal and recover from all of his ordeals. He was gone from us for about 4.5 years. We figured it would take at least that long for him to get his stride back. He’s now been home for a little over 2.5 years, and I’d say he’s right on track. He has had a wonderful opportunity this year to get back to one of his loves, playing the drums! Each month, we participate in a Gathering of the Nations, where believers in Jesus from literally all over the world gather in our town to worship together. We even had a beautiful opportunity as a family to take part. This is huge, y’all!! Just a few years ago, I didn’t even know where my husband was!!! Look at God. My heart is overwhelmed. He got to play some on an electric set this year, and then for the first time in years, had a chance to jam out on an acoustic set, and loved every minute.

As for me, I finally got my health back on track. After discovering a quadruple whammy of low iron, low thyroid, low Vitamin D, AND low Vitamin B12, I got on a regimen to bring my numbers up, and I’m happy to say that I am feeling much, much better. I have energy now, and my moods have leveled out. Menopause will not get the best of me!! I even got a cute, short hair cut which I’m loving. It’s amazing what a new look can do for the psyche!

Source: Amazon

Source: Amazon

This was a good year for me of deep healing in my heart. I read a great book by Lysa Terkeurst called It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way: Finding Unexpected Strength When Disappointments Leave You Shattered. I was intrigued by the author’s testimony of her marriage and her life recently being restored after going through several major crises, and the lessons she learned along the way. I can relate to the theme of “this isn’t the way I thought my life would be at this time!” The disappointments can be crushing at times. However, the lessons God wants to teach us through them can be invaluable, if we allow Him to teach us. Perhaps I will do a more thorough review and analysis at a later date, but suffice it to say that she spoke my language and God used it to confirm and affirm many of my own feelings and the lessons my own marriage has taught me.

And now comes to truly difficult part…

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Most people think that the main story of our marriage has to do with the mental illness aspect of it. And while yes, it is a huge part of our lives and has been a tremendous challenge, what a lot of people don’t realize is that there is far more to our story than “just” bipolar disorder. Now that we are in a position of stability and have found a rhythm, the real work can begin. We’re coming out of a 12 year valley of challenges that began in late 2005, when my husband began to have flashbacks to severe childhood trauma. That one trigger, which started when our daughter was two years old, (presumably the age of his first conscious traumatic memories) set off a series of unfortunate events that started us down the path that led to about a dozen years of instability, separation, and chaos. There are many studies that suggest a possible link between childhood trauma and adult issues such as mental illness and addiction, and I’m certain that for my husband Scott, his mental health has been profoundly affected by some things he experienced as a child. I alluded to this briefly in one of my favorite blog posts a few years ago. Unfortunately, it is a very difficult subject to address as it involves other family members, from whom we are currently somewhat estranged from. So while these issues still have not been fully addressed, I do believe the time has finally come where we can focus on deeper healing that medication can’t even touch. My prayer is that, now that we’ve settled down somewhat, the hard work of addressing those issues can commence, and the real recovery can finally happen for all parties involved, including my husband.

But, it’s not up to my timetable, it has to be the Lord’s timing. He has proven Himself to be so incredibly faithful to me and to my family these past several years, my faith is bolstered that He will continue to work ALL things together for good for our family, Romans 8:28.

Until then, we are just enjoying normal life, rejoicing in the mundane, waiting on the Lord. I truly hope and pray that I can get more involved in writing at some point, and sharing more of our incredible story…or I should say God’s incredible story in our lives…but for now, I’m too busy living the story to tell about it! All in good time.

Happy New Year!!!

The adventure continues…

A Year in the Life...

Resurrection Sunday 2018 at our new church! 

Resurrection Sunday 2018 at our new church! 

Since it has been nearly a year since my last blog post, I will take the time catch you all up on what has been going on in our world. When I look back over the past year, we have had our fair share of challenges and triumphs, as a family and in our individual configurations. But through it all, God has shown Himself to continue to be faithful. We are still well within the critical window of recovery, so we are by no means fully healed from all we’ve been through. Scott was gone for 4.5 years, and he’s only been back with us for 2.5. I know we’re going to need at least another year to feel truly whole again. But, I know we’ve come a long way, and have much to rejoice over as we continue our journey towards wholeness!

First of all, I will talk about Scott. Since he returned home, the number one priority has been getting his mental health back on track. When he came home, he was on what I’ll call Medication #1. It seemed to be working well, but since he was coming out of a long season of not having had treatment, it needed time to work. But in early 2017, he started having side effects with this medication that his practitioner was concerned about. So, he switched to what I will call Medication #2. He started out at a very low dose, and over the course of the next 6 months, it was slowly increased. I had had some concerns about it early on, but Scott wanted to give it a chance. For a while, it was a point of contention between us, because I felt that it was not working (as evidenced by his moods and behaviors), but he didn’t want to give up on it too soon. Finally, last fall, after one last increase triggered a manic episode resulting in a quick trip to the ER to get something to calm him down, it was clear that this medication was not going to work. So to my great relief, he switched to Medication #3…the third medication he tried since having returned home in 2016. The new medication showed promise right away, in terms of bringing his brain and moods into balance. But, the physical side effects were causing Scott some issues, mainly excruciating headaches. His provider suggested trying the same medication, but in a different form. Rather than taking pills, it came in what is called a Long-acting Injectable, or LAI. Instead of taking pills every day, he would get a shot once a month, and the medication would be slowly released into his body rather than peak at different times of the day. It would also possibly reduce the physical side effects. The thought of this appealed to Scott, so he tried it.

After the first shot, it was like a miracle! This medication worked like a charm! And from Scott’s testimony, for the first time probably since he was diagnosed as a teen, he felt…normal. Not only that, but he didn’t have to remember to take a pill every day at a certain time, and he felt free. What a blessing!!! And making the deal even sweeter is the fact that our insurance covers it. Injectables for this medication do not come in generic, and they are very expensive. Since starting the new medication, Scott is a new man. It is evident to anyone who knows him and sees him on a regular basis. He has truly turned a corner in his recovery, and has done so well on this new medication, that he qualifies to move up to the 3 month injectable! So now, he will get a shot 4 times a year as opposed to 12 times a year.

He is still unable to work at this time, but he is able to fill his days with productive activities. Before this shot, he had a difficult time concentrating long enough to read, and felt his creativity was stifled. Since the shot, he has been reading more, working on creative projects, and spending more time outside of the home, and feels so much better. And this medication seems to have almost no side effects! I am so grateful!

This just goes to illustrate that when it comes to mental illness, it is not a quick journey to healing. It takes a massive amount of time, energy, and patience. My heart has broken recently to read of a California pastor who took his life after a battle with depression. From my understanding, he was in treatment, had support, and yet in spite of his best efforts and the love of those around him, he was unable to find his way out of the darkness. It’s a hidden illness, because on the outside, the person may seem healthy and “able bodied”. But there is often a battle going on inside that no one fully understands. We seem to be in an epidemic of suicide being on the rise in our country. I don’t know what the answers are. All I know is that each day is a gift, and must be given fully over into the hands of Jesus, who gives us strength to face everything this broken world and our broken bodies throws our way.

Baptized by Pastor Sam with Daddy watching

Baptized by Pastor Sam with Daddy watching

Preparing to play "Genie" in "Aladdin, Jr."

Preparing to play "Genie" in "Aladdin, Jr."

Meanwhile, while Scott is getting himself together, our teen daughter is thriving in her world. Through the ups and downs we have been through, she has been a trooper. Her life is full, busy, and blessed. She has really grown in her own faith in this past year, something that I count as a tremendous blessing. Scott and I both are the kind of parents that, when it comes to issues of God and Jesus and faith, we mainly just point the way, let Jasmyne make her own decisions, and offer support and guidance to her on her journey. She has made a conscious decision to follow Jesus, that is 100% her own, and we fully support her in her choice. She and her dad have had some good talks about God, the Bible, and what it means to follow Jesus. She has had a chance to witness first hand God’s intervention in our lives, and His provision. She and I have had a good relationship…we’ve been through a lot together, so we have a special bond that goes beyond a mother/daughter relationship, but is more like friendship and kinship. She is now a high schooler, and busies herself with all the trappings of the teen life…classes, clothes, football games, friends, social media, etc. But then she fills her life with constructive extra-curricular activities, like church, singing, musical theater, dancing, and drama. I could not be more blessed to have been chosen to raise this young woman. She is indeed my Sunshine!

As for myself, this year has not been easy for me, but it has been what I would call, satisfying. Last year’s medication issues with Scott were very difficult for me personally. Being a caregiver and support person for someone with a mental illness carries with it a set of challenges that is difficult to articulate or fully explain to someone who does not have that challenge. Especially when the person is a spouse. It can be a strain on the relationship, it can be a strain on the caregiver him/herself, and it can throw the entire family out of whack. For a while in the past year, I found myself in a place of despair that even in all our years of marriage and all the challenges we’ve been through, I had not reached. Perhaps I finally hit my own personal breaking point. Or, there could be another culprit behind my plunge into the depths of discouragement…I have found myself in the thick of what they call “perimenopause”. Yikes! My body is going through crazy changes, y’all! It’s a real thing! A visit to the doctor revealed a significant Vitamin B12 deficiency, and when I mentioned to my doctor that I felt like I had never-ending PMS and was unable to cope with life, she recommended a low dose anti-depressant to help me, along with a couple rounds of a B12 shot.

Good friends...great for self care!! 

Good friends...great for self care!! 

And now, not only is Scott a new man, but I am a new woman as well!! My ability to cope with life has improved significantly! My moods have evened out, my outlook is much more optimistic, and I am certainly more pleasant to live with. It goes to show that self-care is every bit as important as caring for others. So this is where the “satisfying” bit comes into play…I am very satisfied with the way things have turned for our family in this past year. We made it through yet another season of challenges intact, and ready for a new stage of recovery.

One thing I must mention is that, as a family, in the past year we took a huge step. We joined a church!! Time and space do not permit me to elaborate on why this is such a Big Deal for us, but suffice it to say that, for a variety of reasons, we have been without a church home for the better part of a decade. About 3 years ago, while Scott was still gone, I met a local pastor through a persistent friend, with whom I reluctantly shared our story. I say reluctantly, because I did not expect a lot from him…unfortunately, through the years, I have been conditioned to not expect much from church leadership when it comes to any kind of real help or support. And I’ll just leave it at that.

But this man was different. This man came alongside me and my child, with prayers, counsel, and support. His church came alongside me with some real practical help…gift cards, groceries, that sort of thing. When it was time to transition Scott home, this pastor and the church came alongside us during the entire transition, including financing the trips out of state in order to get Scott’s affairs in order to bring him home. And when Scott came home, this pastor took the time to get to know Scott…to take him out for coffee, to listen to him, to share with him. All of this, without us even having joined the church!! We started attending services, I went to a Bible study led by his wife…all the while, this church asked nothing from us in return. They simply loved us. Imagine that…a church that actually loved on us! They made sure we had everything we needed, and made themselves available to us.

Church membership photo...we're official!!

Church membership photo...we're official!!

Even Scott was impressed, which is saying a lot. He was so impressed, that he agreed that we should join this church! Y’all, aside from the Miracle of the Medication, and even the miracle of his return home, this is right up there with miracle of miracles! So, last fall, we joined the church.

I will tell you how I know we made the right decision. Our new Pastor happened to witness Scott in one of his not-so-finer moments, on the day we went to the ER to stave off the icky manic episode triggered by Medication #2. I was not sure what our pastor’s reaction to Scott would be after that, but he didn’t blink. Didn’t bat an eye. Especially since it took some time for Scott to get regulated. He treated Scott with dignity, with the love and patience of Jesus, and wasn’t the least bit concerned even though I felt defeated and discouraged by what felt like yet another setback. He encouraged me to just hang on, that Scott would be fine, that God didn’t bring us this far to abandon us…and do you know what he said to me? He said “When I see Scott, I see God.”

That right there sealed the deal for me! Out of all the churches that we’ve joined, and tried to connect with, we’ve not received that kind of acceptance. The irony is, this is a church I probably never would have joined before. I have always tried to avoid labels, so I’ve never been part of a denominational church. But like my Mama always said, “You never know where your help will come from”. Our help came in the form of a Baptist church…albeit, independent Baptist, but still Baptist, haha! And you know what? It’s just fine. We know this is where God wants us, and we are content. I know for a fact that this simple step of aligning ourselves with a church body has played a significant role in our ability to navigate the challenges of this past year.

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Now here we are, headed towards our 19th wedding anniversary in a few weeks, and all is well. If I had a life verse, it would surely be Galatians 6:9…be not weary in well doing, for in due season, you shall reap if you faint not. Remember, it takes pressure, time and patience to form a diamond…we may still be a little rough around the edges, but I am starting see the sparkle, for which I am deeply grateful!!

The adventure continues…

Love, Longsuffering, and Loss

Happy Anniversary wishes from our daughter!

Happy Anniversary wishes from our daughter!

I've been taking a bit of a break from social media and internet for awhile, and so I missed my annual anniversary post this year. But I am happy to announce that we recently marked 18 years of marriage on September 11!! I could not be more thrilled!! I feel like every year for us is a miracle!! We have faced so many challenges as a couple, and yet God has been faithful to bring us through them all, and He continues to walk us through all of the challenges and joys of life...together.

I recently wrote a post listing 5 reasons I did not divorce my husband in the midst of his mental health challenges. I felt like it was an important post to write, because of the alarming statistic that marriages with a spouse with Bipolar Disorder have a 90% failure rate. I only listed 5, but of course I could come up with more. But the most obvious reason, and one I left off the list, is because...bottom line...I love my husband.

Now, I will be honest in saying that my love for my husband has been tested in more ways than I ever could have dreamed of. I think that one of the reasons that I left "love" off the list is because there comes a time, or many times, when love simply is not enough to sustain a long term commitment such as marriage. At least, not love in the way our culture describes it or thinks it is.

When we got married, we had 1 Corinthians 13 read at our wedding. Since much of my job involves playing violin for weddings, I can tell you that this is one of the most often quoted passages read from the Bible during the ceremony. But I can guarantee that young couple has NO clue what those verses actually MEAN!!! I know I sure didn't!

The very FIRST descriptor of love in this beautiful, poetic chapter, is this:

Love is PATIENT.

Or, I like what the Old King James version says: Love suffereth long.

Do people really know what that means?

It goes on to say, "love bears all things".

Do you know what else the Bible says love is? God is love. Jesus Christ is love. I am convinced that we are unable to love in our own strength, and in our own power. It takes a power far greater than ourselves to suffer long and bear all things. When my husband was gone, it was love in the form of Jesus that kept me and my daughter...it was His love through me that kept me waiting for my husband to come home.

And even after the triumph of his return to us, that theme of patient love has continued. I've mentioned that in March, my husband had to switch medications. The one he was on, that had worked SO well, was causing unpleasant and potentially dangerous side effects, so it was in his best interest, according to his provider, to switch. It can be a very long, tedious process to have to start completely over on new medication, and this time has been no different. I was told by his medical team that the rule in an outpatient setting is to "start low and go slow", when it comes to introducing new medications. It takes time to build up the medication in the body and watch for side effects, and it is easier to do in small increments when the person is not in an inpatient setting where they can be monitored 24/7. So it goes like this: start a dose. Wait a month. Monitor symptoms and reactions. Return to the caregiver and give a report. Make adjustments. Wait another month. Wash, rinse, repeat, until the medication gets to a therapeutic range for optimum maintenance and function. It's important to do it this way, because these medications are hard core...they can provide amazing relief of symptoms, but they can be hard, and even dangerous, on the body. In some cases, they might exacerbate symptoms. Unfortunately, it can be a crap shoot...it may or may not work, and it is only trial and error until you find out what works. This is one reason why people can get overwhelmed with treatment and give up. It's just HARD, and it takes so LONG.

So in March of this year, Scott started a new medication. And it has gone like this: 150mg-200mg-250mg-300mg-350mg-400mg. That is SIX adjustments, and it has taken SIX months. So far. And in these past 6 months, we've had to monitor symptoms and side effects. For myself and our daughter, we've had to live with my husband as his body and brain adjusts to these changes. Which has meant some breakthrough symptoms...and, well, let's just say it has been challenging at times. Especially when you throw anosognosia into the mix...in other words, my husband did not always have the insight to understand that he was symptomatic. So for him, nothing was ever wrong. Fortunately, there were no major crises or need for drastic interventions. But it has been something we've just had to wait out, while the meds and his caregivers do their thing. To my husband's credit, he has been faithful to take the meds as prescribed, he goes to all scheduled appointments, and he also allows me in on his appointments and lets me interact with his team. This would allow me, if need be, to call on his behalf to report any emergencies, or give insights to his team that he himself does not have. He does not have to do any of that, and yet he truly is being proactive in taking care of himself. For that, he is to be commended.

Still, I'm not going to lie...it has been a struggle. This new medication has been, at times, a point of contention between us, since he has liked it, and I have not been so sure it is a good fit.

So in the name of self-care, which I believe is important, I reached out for some support. I did something that, in 18 years of marriage believe it or not, I've never done...I joined a support group.

Not just any support group. I found an online Christian support group for people who have a mental health diagnosis, and their loved ones. It is part of an amazing ministry, founded by a pastor with a Bipolar Diagnosis, who himself went through some major challenges in his life and now God has redeemed his story and is using him to bring help and hope to others. Nothing like this existed when Scott and I first got married...but Praise the Lord, it's there now. I'll share more about this group in a future post. But I found the online group in June, and it was like a breath of fresh air for me as a loved one. They meet weekly in video conferencing format, and the members are from all over the world.

Most of the folks in the group have a diagnosis of some kind, but there are other loved ones like me. It is a safe place to share concerns, joys, advice, and prayer. I could share my struggles and they GET IT. Not only that, but they could give me insights into what my husband is going through, and encourage me in ways that I just could not get anywhere else. They've even been able to "meet" Scott, and he has sat in and listened in on a few meetings. Interacting with others like him has helped me to release some of my own anxieties, and has given me some healthy perspectives on this whole process of this recent medication change.

There was one gentleman in particular who attended this online group on a fairly regular basis. In fact, after my first time, he emailed me and welcomed me to the group. I shared with them all a little of our story, and he was inspired, and affirmed me in my position of standing by my husband. He even gave me some information about some resources I could look into. Unfortunately, this gentleman also battled with deep bipolar depression. He had attempted suicide twice within the past year, and had been hospitalized for it. The fact that he attended this group and reached out to others, shows that he was making an effort at getting help and hope. He had this illness for over 20 years, and yet it had brought a lot of pain into his life, but a string of recent unfortunate events apparently put him over the edge. Sadly, he was unable to overcome and find his way out of the darkness...I was informed last week that he ended his life.

Although I only "knew" him since June, I've had a hard time with this. My heart has hurt for him, his family and friends who are now left to cope, and for all those who struggle to find their way out of the dark. I wish I had emailed him more often. I wish I had prayed for him more...I wish I could have gotten to know him better. I wish...

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Sadly, this is the reality of mental illness. September is, ironically, suicide prevention and awareness month. Well, my friends, I am definitely more aware. I always had the awareness, just by nature of the proximity I have to living with someone with this illness that comes with a high suicide risk. But...I guess somehow it's hitting me in a different way this time, because of my involvement with a group that was actually designed to assist in preventing, or at least drastically reducing, outcomes such as these. Unfortunately, just like any other disease, sometimes lives are lost. I'm just so, so sorry...but I believe in my heart that neither his life, nor his death, will be in vain.

Of all the issues my husband has had to deal with in having this illness, he has not been suicidal. Not everyone with bipolar disorder is or will be suicidal. However, almost everyone with bipolar disorder (and other mental health issues) will most likely experience some kind of symptoms, from mild to severe, so it is SO very important to stay on top of treatments and manage this illness. It is SO important to be informed, aware, educated, and I also believe openness is an important component to health and healing. It doesn't necessarily mean going around telling everyone your business, but support in the form of safe groups, peer support, or even allowing a trusted loved one into your recovery...it can go a long way. And for those of us who love someone with this illness...patience. Lots and LOTS of patience.

I am happy to report that, as the dosages have increased and the medication settles in, Scott is doing much better. He reports feeling better (sometimes it's only easy to see how sick you were in hindsight), and continues to do everything he needs to do, to the best of his ability, to stay well and move forward in his life. I have to say, I am proud of him. He is definitely on the right track. As for me, I continue to learn how to love. The adventure continues...!

4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;[b] 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

A Glimpse of Redemption

I love the way God turns unpleasant situations around to use for His glory and redemption. He has recently shown me a tangible example of that through my daughter’s life. He truly works ALL things together for His good, and the good of those who love Him!

When my husband was gone, I found myself in the position of being a “solo” parent. It was awkward, because we had absolutely no communication with him, and his departure was rather abrupt. There was radio silence for long periods of time. It’s difficult to know how that can impact a child. Jasmyne was 8 when her Dad left, and I did the best I could to create as normal a life as possible and to drive home the fact that her Dad’s departure had nothing to do with her. I think that on some level, she understood that, but still, I can only imagine that subconsciously, it was having an effect on her.

During the time Scott was gone, we went through some major changes. About a year after he left, we moved from North Carolina to Tennessee. That was huge for Jasmyne, as it meant saying goodbye to friends she’d known since kindergarten, saying goodbye to Grandma (my mother) who she had grown close to since she was 2.5, and changing schools. In fact, she had to change schools twice…after we moved here, they rezoned the district forcing her to change schools yet again! She took it like a trooper and enjoyed the adventure, but it was still a huge change. Then, a few months after we got to Tennessee, I went to graduate school for 2 years. My schedule was crazy, but thankfully we had amazing support through that, and the experience turned out to be another wonderful adventure for both of us. We met some new friends, and lots of neat doors opened up to us when I went back to school. The move to Tennessee proved to be the best thing for us, as it positioned us to receive some beautiful treasures in the darkness of my husband’s absence. Scott’s absence definitely left a hole in our lives. God’s grace filled that hole, and yet, we still didn’t have clear answers on what was to become of him or his position in our lives, or of us. Even in the midst of all the good we experienced in spite of his absence, it was like something was hanging over our heads.

In 2015, Jasmyne and I both reached a turning point. By early 2015, I was done with graduate school, Jasmyne was in 5th grade…and God began to shift some things in our lives. Relationships changed, (one in particular with a family member that was a painful but necessary change for both of us) my schedule changed, and little did I know that God was beginning to prepare my heart for Scott’s return. By the end of 2015, I was back in contact with him, making plans for his return home!! Whew!

Between the craziness of our lives and our schedules, and the unfinished business with Scott, both mine and Jasmyne’s health were suffering in ways we couldn’t really see. For me, it came in the form of severe anemia…my iron stores had become so low that the doctor told me I not only had low hemoglobin, but I had NO iron stored in my bone marrow! I thought I was just tired because I was so busy! Concerts, classes, papers, lessons, childcare, gigs…who wouldn’t be tired! He couldn’t believe I was walking around! I took tons of iron for months before my levels got back to close to being normal! Hormonal changes, perimenopause, and who knows what else contributed to the decrease in iron, but it boils down to one word: STRESS. It was literally sucking the life out of me!

I had noticed for some time that Jasmyne’s weight was steadily creeping up. I needed help, because I was trying my best to make sure we ate reasonably healthy, even with my crazy schedule…but clearly something was not right. So, I took to Google and discovered that our local children’s hospital had a program for children struggling with weight issues. It sounded perfect for us! So I signed Jasmyne up, and…well, you can read about it here:

 I could not be more proud as a mom, and I’m so happy for her! She was so excited about her progress that she wanted to return to the clinic and show her team what she had accomplished, and thank them for their help. They were so impressed, they invited her to share her story and be featured in their magazine!! Little did Jasmyne know that her triumph over her challenges would lead to being a “cover girl”, and being able to inspire other children all over our region! I especially love that this experience has helped her grow in her own relationship with the Lord, for herself! She recognizes His hand in turning this area of her life around for His glory!

 I am proud of her, not only for this amazing accomplishment of taking responsibility for her own health, but for the way she has handled herself in the midst of some serious challenges. I don’t think it is an accident that Jasmyne found her motivation to apply all she learned at the clinic AFTER her Dad returned home. In all honesty, I believe that his absence was every bit as much a part of her struggles as our lifestyle. It’s as if, when he came home, things became clearer for all of us in so many ways. Between that, going through puberty and a leap in her maturity and development, something inside of Jasmyne just clicked, and she took off. I marvel at the way God takes those areas in which we are weak, are major challenges, or seem hopeless and dark, and turns it around for a testimony, if we are brave enough to let Him do so, just like Jasmyne was brave to share her story.

I believe there is a lesson in this for our family, and a glimpse of some things to come. Just like Jasmyne adjusted her lifestyle to set her up for success, as a family we plug away at making adjustments, in the midst of continuously evolving circumstances, in order to achieve success in the long run.

In March, Scott’s care provider made the decision to change medications, and it has been several months of “touch and go” as we try to get the dosage right. Thankfully, he is not in any kind of crisis or danger and he is cooperative and agreeable with his care. Still, it has not been a fun journey, and there have been some discouraging moments with some breakthrough symptoms. It took so long to get the medication he had to discontinue right, and we had finally found a groove, and then BAM! Suddenly we found ourselves whipped in a whole new direction.

I will say this: since March, the Lord has taken me on a deeper journey of trust in Him, with new directions of fresh hope for our future that I may not otherwise have found if we had not had this setback. Scott is getting some of the best care he’s ever received, and new doors of support have opened that I’ve never had in nearly 18 years of marriage. As I have slowly opened up with more of our journey from a spouse’s perspective, people have marveled over the hand of God in our lives, and have gained hope in their situations. In other words, God is bringing redemption to our story.

 I don’t know what the future holds for our family, but I continue to hold on to the Father, who I know holds on to me, my daughter, and my husband. My daughter’s story inspires me. I hope it inspires you!!!