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!!!

 

Motherhood, Cultural Celebrations, and Treasures in Darkness

One of the many facets of my life includes motherhood. Yes, I am the mom to a beautiful 13 year old daughter that has a parent who deals with serious mental illness. I also happen to be an African American mom raising a biracial child in 2017. As you can imagine, with all of these qualities there is never a dull moment when it comes to parenting! But I wouldn’t trade any of it. There is a richness to my life because of my daughter, and while we certainly have our moments, I am ever so grateful that the Lord blessed us with her. She has been a joy to raise!

When my daughter was little, I used to sing to her the song “You Are My Sunshine”. I meant every word of that song! Through the many challenges that we’ve faced as a family, and especially during the difficult times of my husband’s illness and absence, our daughter has been a bright spot in my life that has kept me going, and given me purpose and drive when at times I might rather have just given up. Because of her, I was able to keep going…to work, to school, etc. Making her life rich, in the midst of our difficulties, gave me focus.

One of the many things my daughter absolutely loves to do is dance. When she was really little, she took dance for several years. But with my husband’s illness and all the challenges and uncertainties that brought, it was very difficult for us to be able to continue giving her those opportunities. But during the season when my husband was gone, an opportunity presented itself to us that I just could not pass up…and I know it was God’s way of meeting us where we were at. I always marvel at the way God leads our steps, even in the midst of great trials, and meets us in the dark with treasures from His heart.

In early 2014, I took a teaching job at a performing arts academy that “just happened” to offer African dance and drumming as classes. From an early age, Jasmyne had a knack for rhythm, and I just KNEW that she would love learning how to play African drums, and then to dance on top of that? I had to sign her up. It worked out, because she could take the classes while I was teaching lessons, and even on my meager budget, I could make it work.

Kuumba Festival 2017

Kuumba Festival 2017

It “just so happened” that her dance and drum teachers were affiliated with an organization called African American Appalachian Arts (AAAA). Its purpose is to promote “positive social and community development by utilizing creative methods of education through cultural artistic programming and development.” One of the ways they fulfill this is through an annual festival that is unique to our area of Tennessee, called the Kuumba Festival. It is a 4 day festival that celebrates African and African-American culture through art, music, dance, food, and community engagement. It has been around for almost 30 years. The centerpiece of the festival is the Kuumba Watoto Drum and Dance Ensemble, made up of children from age 5 up to 18. They attend a camp for 3 weeks, learning authentic West African dance, drumming, culture, heritage, and history, self-discipline, and pride. During the festival, they present what they learned to the community.

Well…I could not pass up this amazing opportunity, so I signed my daughter right up, and she did not protest! It has been one of the highlights of our summers for the past 4 years. Not only that, but there have been other opportunities through the dance ensemble for Jasmyne to participate…even dancing for Ben Vereen, who played “Chicken George” in the 1970’s miniseries “Roots”!

Ben Vereen aka "Chicken George", Alex Haley Heritage Square May 2015.

Ben Vereen aka "Chicken George", Alex Haley Heritage Square May 2015.

Speaking of Chicken George…Part of the festival takes place in the vicinity of Alex Haley Heritage Square, under the watchful eye of a large bronze statue of Alex Haley, who, through his book and TV series “Roots”, brought an awareness of what our ancestors endured when they were forcibly brought here as slaves. That book means so much to me…I read it when I wasn’t too much older than my daughter is now, and I was captivated by the story, the history, and the grief of not knowing…Alex Haley filled in the gaps for so many African Americans whose history was stolen. His family’s story was ALL of our stories. I love attending Kuumba Festival every year because it gives me a sense of connection to something that was lost…and I’m so grateful to the visionary behind Kuumba who knew there was a need for this. Sadly, the founder of the Festival and AAAA passed away earlier this month, so this year’s festival was particularly special for the community.

But it is also special for us, for so many reasons. Having this outlet for my daughter was a gift the Lord gave us during a time of walking through some deep valleys. Her involvement with the Kuumba Festival has fulfilled not only her love of dancing, but it engages us in such a beautiful part of our rich cultural heritage and history. That is important to me as an African American woman, and I want it to be important to my child.  

It was hard on all of us when my husband was gone. He missed many years of my daughter’s life that he will never get back. My daughter didn’t have her Daddy to see her dance. But our Heavenly Father took care of us. He led our steps, and guided us to the right people who have brought so much enrichment to our lives.

Daddy's first Kuumba Festival 2016

Daddy's first Kuumba Festival 2016

And guess what!! God saw fit to bring her Daddy home, and now…he watches her dance.  Wow!! God is good!

The "D" Word...and 5 Reasons I Didn't

Did you know that marriages with a spouse that has bipolar disorder have a 90% failure rate?  NINETY PERCENT!!! I did not know this when I married my husband, and it’s probably a good thing. Our vows have certainly been tested since that fateful day in September 1999 when we got married. And yet, even with all we’ve been through, I never could bring myself to seriously pursue the idea of ending our marriage.

 Now, I won’t lie and say the thought didn’t cross my mind a time or two…or ten. Who wouldn’t in my situation? My husband was absent from us twice over the years. The first time was for a year, the second time was for almost five. Both times were because of his illness. The odds were not in our favor. Being in an interracial marriage probably pushes that statistic even higher, but that has been the least of our issues! After experiencing a few episodes, his leaving, and the endless road of recovery, I can see why relationships can be maxed out. Sure, he was legitimately sick, and not just irresponsible or a jerk. But gone is gone, and it still hurt.

Yet, I just could never bring myself to follow through with filing anything legal to end our marriage, and there are five reasons why.

1.     First and foremost, my faith in God.

As I prayed about it, (and I had many discussions with Jesus about it, trust me!) I did not feel the Lord’s peace. In my heart of hearts, I knew that, for me, divorcing my husband would do more damage to my relationship with God than it would my relationship with my husband, and that was not something I was willing to sacrifice.  Even though our marriage was broken, and there were some dark moments when I considered it, deep down I believed that divorce would make it worse, and I did not see it as an option.

That is not to say that I don’t believe divorce is an option, EVER. I know that especially in Christian circles, to be divorced or get divorced is like having the plague. (That’s another post for another day!) What I AM saying is that, as I pursued God’s will for MY life, and the life of MY child and MY family, I felt a clear leading from Him that divorcing my husband was not His will FOR ME. So it has nothing to do with my personal feelings about divorce in general. It just means that God had something else in mind for us. For me, it was a matter of obedience.

2.     I’m super loyal by nature, maybe to a fault.

My personality type is hardcore INFP. Otherwise known as the “idealist”, the “healer”, or the “peacemaker/mediator”, it is a personality that hates conflict and always looks for the good in others. Coming to an understanding about my personality has helped to explain so much about myself. I highly recommend taking an online personality test.   I don’t know who came up with them, or who decides the criteria, but it’s definitely a fascinating tool. Mine comes out INFP each and every time, so I’m pretty sure it’s on point.

One of the main characteristics that always jumps out at me is that my personality type is “fiercely loyal” when it comes to relationships:

Slow to trust others and cautious in the beginning of a relationship, an INFP will be fiercely loyal once they are committed.

Perhaps this characteristic of my personality is also a factor in my not ever seriously pursuing divorce. Not just in my loyalty to my husband, but also my commitment to follow the Lord’s will for my life.

3.     It was not just about who I am, but also about who my husband is.

People have said to me things like, what a good wife I am, what a selfless, amazing woman I am, etc. I don’t know about all that, but I can say this: The factors in me choosing NOT to divorce my husband, and to remain open to accepting him back, have as much to do with the kind of person HE is, as it does the kind of person I am.

The details of his absence is his story to tell. While he did fall prey to many of the pitfalls of serious mental illness, (including falling through the cracks of a flawed mental health system), I can tell you that at no time in our marriage, or during his time away from us, has adultery, addiction, abuse, violence, self-harm, harm to others, financial mismanagement or any kind of betrayal been an issue. What he was was very, very sick, and I knew that, even in the hurt. I also knew that underneath all that sickness and confusion, my husband's true spirit was committed to our family. Had he been in his right mind, he never would have left.

There were many times on his journey when people could see that he needed help, and bent over backwards to help him.  Even at his worst, he found favor. In fact, it was the impression he made on some folks in a position to help him, that ultimately led him back home. Somehow, even in the muck and mire of the ugliest parts of his illness, a certain character and integrity remained in him, that has miraculously kept him from serious harm. Not to mention, nothing short of the hand of God Himself. As difficult as things got for my husband, things could easily have been far, far worse for him.

Plus, one thing to remember is that my husband and I actually have a good relationship. We’ve always gotten along well, and we’ve always had a great friendship. I know who he “really” is, and he is NOT his illness.

So in all fairness, I really can’t say whether or not my decision to pursue divorce would have changed, if he was simply an abusive, narcissistic, adulterous, addicted jerk.  I have my limits, and if he was any other kind of person, I am certain that even my INFP loyalty would have been put to the test.

4.     What kind of message would divorcing my husband send to my daughter?

I did not want my daughter to see me giving up on her dad. She needed to see that he was worth fighting for because of who he is. So I always kept him as “part of the family.” We talked about him and why he was gone, and I assured her it had nothing to do with her. We talked about mental illness and how it can change a person. We kept his pictures up and kept him “alive”, so to speak, in conversation and memories. We prayed together, and believed God's Word. I made sure her father was still an active part of our lives, so that when he came home (which I firmly believed he would), it would be a fairly smooth transition. It got through to her, too, because while my faith wavered at times, hers never did. She ALWAYS knew her Daddy was coming home. That stand paid off, because when Jasmyne’s dad returned last year, in her mind it was if he was never gone.

5.     I wasn’t sure of the legal ramifications, so I just didn’t bother.

To be honest, I wasn’t even sure if I could legally divorce my husband without his consent, or in absentia. I never got that far into the process of investigating it. It just didn’t seem right to file for divorce without his knowledge. Plus, since he was only God knows where, and I had NO idea if he was dead, alive, hurt, or worse, remaining legally married to him made me automatically next of kin. If anything DID happen to him, if he was in a position where he was incapacitated in any way, I would be the one to make any decisions. So staying married to him, in a sense, protected him.

Here is the bottom line. If I had chosen to divorce my husband, I simply would not have been able to live with myself, and I definitely would not have had peace with God. I heard His voice clearly, and the Word was “restoration.” I held on to that, against all the odds. It’s called faith!! I was also blessed to be surrounded by amazing supportive people in my life who encouraged me not to give up on him. That can make a huge difference, and again, I believe it is a testimony of who my husband is, for people to see the good in him and hold on to that, and encourage ME to hold on to the same.

For people who find themselves in a tough situation where there’s no clear cut answer, or you feel like you’re in a strange, awkward limbo, the best thing to do is simply WAIT, and listen. I could not act in haste or in anxiety. I had to really quiet my spirit (again and again and again) and listen to the Father’s heart. I firmly believe that He could just as easily have released me from my marriage, and I would still be in His will. But how would I know that, without intimate relationship with Him? That was the key, and that is THE main reason why I did not divorce my husband.

And I’m so glad I didn’t!!!

Galatians 6:9

  "And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not."

 

Tribute to Loving

Mildred and Richard Loving (Photo: Getty Images)

Mildred and Richard Loving (Photo: Getty Images)

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court Decision that banned laws restricting interracial marriage. I am ashamed to say that this day probably would have passed by me if not for social media reminding me in my newsfeed. It just goes to show how much we take for granted the freedoms we enjoy in this country, and what others have had to go through in order to enjoy those freedoms.

I found this article which shared some of the experiences of other interracial couples in light of the Loving decision. Then I thought, “Oh, yeah…I’m a black woman married to a white man, perhaps I ought to throw in my two cents!”

After all, it seems everyone has something to say about race these days, and I am more than qualified to speak to these issues. I was born in Virginia, raised in North Carolina, and live in East Tennessee. My husband was born and raised in the part of Tennessee where we live. I work in a field that is predominantly white, traveled around the world with an organization that is predominantly white, and live in an area that is not known for its racial diversity. (In contrast to the military town I grew up in which is the exact opposite!) I’m raising a biracial child...which is actually more challenging in some ways than being a black woman married to a white man. But that’s another post for another day. The bottom line is this: I can testify to the fact that racism is real, white privilege is a thing, and yes, our country needs to be reminded that Black Lives do indeed matter. It shouldn’t have to be said, but yet, it does.

What could I say that hasn’t already been said?

Not much.

And why should I have to? If you take one look at us and our family, it pretty much says all you need to know.

Richard and Mildred Loving were not the ones that made race an issue. It was the state of Virginia, and the sordid history of our country. They were just a couple who loved each other and wanted to live and raise their family in peace, and not as criminals. They were willing to do what they had to do in order to have that right, even if it meant taking on the law of the land.

For my family, the bigger issue is not only to live and love in peace, but also with soundness of mind, wholeness of spirit, and above all, dignity.  So God has led me to share our story of navigating serious mental health issues in a time when mental illness is still misunderstood, feared, and sometimes even criminalized. There are few voices crying out for more understanding of mental illness, and advocating for compassion towards those who struggle with these issues. I’m grateful for Richard and Mildred Loving, who paved the way for my husband I to be able to meet, fall in love, and marry in peace. Perhaps in loving each other, we can be a beacon of hope for those who are dealing with serious mental health issues, and point people to the ultimate source of Love, God Himself, along the way.

  1 John 4:7
 Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.

Happy Loving Day!

The Long and Winding Road to Recovery

In the interest of doing my part to promote Mental Health Awareness Month, I thought I’d take some time to give a candid snapshot into what “recovery” looks like in my household. My last post touched on it a little bit, but here is a little more detail.

First of all, let’s look at the word “recovery”. It means “a return to a normal state of health, mind, or strength.” It also means “the action or process of regaining possession or control of something stolen or lost.”

When it comes to “mental illness” and “recovery”, I think both of those definitions are spot on. But the one word that really jumps out at me is the word “process”. In looking at that word, it means “a series of actions or steps taken in order to achieve a particular end.”

So in essence, when it comes to recovery from mental illness, it can be defined as a series of (many) actions and/or steps in order to return to a normal state of mind.

The road is long, and can be full of all kinds of obstacles and hills and valleys and bumps and roadblocks and ups and downs.  And it seems that the longer we’ve been on this road, it doesn’t get any easier necessarily, although I think that as time passes and we gain more experience, we’re better equipped to handle it. At times the journey isn’t too bad, and there are times of idyll and pleasantness. But other times, it can be pretty darn treacherous and the road can feel like an endless trek through a barren wilderness.

For my husband, this year will mark 30 years since he was first hospitalized with bipolar symptoms at the age of 16. We will also reach our 18th wedding anniversary. We’ve both been on this road for a while, so we’ve definitely gained experience for the journey.

I think the hardest years for both of us reached a crescendo in 2011. That is when Scott left. There were a number of things over the course of several years that led up to his leaving, but the bottom line is that it came down to a combination of not being properly medicated (as opposed to being UNmedicated, there is a difference), and the cumulative effects of some unresolved past traumas. So from August 2011 until November 2015, Scott was essentially gone from our lives. During those years, there were times when I did not know where he was. I was able to occasionally follow his trail from a distance, but most of the time his trail was cold. We had very little to no contact, and he spent a large amount of that time off his medication and in a prolonged state of ill mental health.

During that time, I was essentially a single parent, raising a young child. But, I was not “single”. My marriage was in a weird limbo. I was not single, I was not divorced, not really legally separated either. My husband was not dead, he wasn’t deployed, he wasn’t away on some job, he didn’t leave me for some other woman, and honestly there was not any animosity or ill will between us, although there was some distortion of perceptions due to his condition...he simply was not in his right mind. Since he left of his own free will, legally he wasn’t missing. So it was a really strange situation to be in. He just wasn’t there, and I didn’t know how to explain why. One day, he was just gone.

During that time, I ended up relocating from one state to another. I went back to school and managed to get a Master’s Degree. I raised my daughter and lived my life. I had support, so I wasn’t completely in a vacuum, nor was I completely alone. But there were times when I felt very isolated and in a state of incompleteness. There were times when life felt very dark and confusing, and my future uncertain. I remained hopeful and prayerful for restoration, but I had no idea what that would look like, or what it would entail, or when it would happen. My faith led me to believe that we would indeed be reunited as a family one day, but my reality suggested otherwise. So in essence, I lived in a constant tension of sorts, and yet I still had to function in this. Needless to say, living in that state was stressful in many ways.

For Scott, his journey was much more treacherous. He ended up in another state…and as if he didn’t already have enough trauma to deal with from the past, during his absence he went through even more trauma. His journey is his story to tell, (and it's quite a story!) but it involved living in a constant state of uncertainty, mental instability, and pretty much an inability to function.

After all that, one day in November 2015, we finally reconnected. When we reconnected, he had already spent more than 2 months in a hospital where he finally got stable, so by the time we made contact again, he was in a rehab facility getting continued care. At first, our reunion was long distance since he was out of state. But through a series of events, in March 2016, he finally returned home.

Home at last!!!

His journey led him, at long last, to the RIGHT medication, one that was working really well for him.

But also, while his return marked the end of one journey, it was the beginning of another.

Since the day he came home on March 20, 2016, it has been a whole new season for us and for our family. Not a bad one, mind you. In fact, it has been very, very good. Beautiful in fact. But a lot of hard work, and a trade-off from one kind of stress to another.

Once we got him plugged in to health care here, between March and October 2016, the medication that Scott was placed on in the other state in order to get him stable, ended up being adjusted no less than five times. As it turns out, gaining stability is not the same thing as long term management, so once the crisis is past and the symptoms are under control, there is still a lot of work to do. In the midst of that, he started to go to therapy sessions in order to process some of the traumas he endured in his absence, and to get acclimated with being healthy again, and being back among the land of the living, so to speak. We also still had residual symptoms to deal with. In the midst of all THAT, we had to learn to be a family again. Jasmyne and I had gotten used to being on our own, and even as wonderful as it was to have Daddy and husband home again, it was a new dynamic that we had to get used to.

Finally, in October 2016, we got the dosage just right! In fact, I think it took from March to October to finally find a groove all the way around, just being settled into the whole family thing again, and finding a new normal. Scott had a lot to process, but it wasn’t just HIM. I had a lot of issues to deal with too. Individually, as a couple, and as a family in our various configurations, there were a lot of adjustments. But we finally found a groove and began to thrive.

Fast forward to this year. Scott started to complain about certain side effects from the medication…a restlessness in the form of involuntary movements that would not go away. Finally, his psychiatric nurse practitioner made the decision that this medication…that had been working SO well to alleviate bipolar symptoms…needed to be changed, because the physical side effects were reaching a point of potentially being harmful long term.

So here we were, finally on a SMOOTH stretch of the recovery highway, and then BAM. The road has suddenly turned bumpy again.

It’s one thing to have to switch medications that aren’t working. That’s a welcome change. But to have to change medications that are actually working well? That can be painful and downright discouraging.

So in March 2017, Scott switched medications. And now, in some ways, we have had to start all over again. We have had to start a whole new journey of monitoring medication and making adjustments, watching for changes and navigating symptoms. While in some ways it feels like a setback, it could potentially be even better for Scott in the long term as this new drug may ultimately end up being a better fit. If not, then there are many more options to try.

BUT…the thing is, we won’t know for a while, as it can take a LONG time to sort out medications to find the right dosage and combination, and for it to work…which we had JUST done for the past year.

Ugh. I’m actually worn out just writing all that! And that’s not even scratching the surface of all we’ve endured. Whew!

But such is the long and winding road of recovery. All of this, just so my husband can be able to “return to a normal state of mind, health, or strength.”

It is definitely not for the faint of heart!!!

But this is what fighting for mental health looks like. This is what mental health treatment looks like. There is no quick fix, no magic pill, no prayer with just the right amount of Scripture and theology…it is just walking one day at a time, one foot in front of the other, trusting the Lord to lead the way, moment by moment. It takes a massive amount of time, energy, determination, perseverance and patience. This is one of the main reasons there is no way my husband can work right now or have any other major responsibilities except to focus on getting well.

For me as a caregiver, it requires every bit as much of me as it does of Scott, the person with the illness. In the midst of all this, I have my own mental health to consider, as I have my own set of issues to deal with, and my own recovery from my own kind of trauma from all of this. We also have a daughter who is at a critical age (13) with whom I make it a huge effort to keep the lines of communication open. She asks questions, we answer. We inform, we try to be as honest as is age appropriate. In the midst of all this, it is important for her world to be as secure as possible. I work only part time hours and freelance, because I need the lighter, flexible schedule in order to juggle his needs (he doesn't drive) as well as my daughter's. Financially, it can be challenging, but thankfully the Lord provides and this past year, we have been able to meet all our needs with very little.

Mental illness is a real issue, and I think it has reached almost epidemic status in this country, if it’s not there already. It comes in many different forms, it affects all ages, all races, all economic levels, all cultures. People deal with it in many different ways…most of which are not healthy, unfortunately. But even amongst those who are doing all the “right” things, there are still no guarantees to an easy journey.

As I said earlier, I’ve been on this road with my husband for a long time. And I am always learning new things, and gaining new knowledge and information. We’re extremely blessed in that, as tough as things have been for us, it could have always been worse. We’ve had tons of Divine Intervention, where the hand of the Lord has been so clearly upon us, leading and guiding our steps. We’re blessed in that, in the midst of all of this, we actually have a good marriage, (believe it or not!) and we laid a good foundation in the Lord early on. We love each other, and love is a powerful motivator. Even in the worst of it all, at Scott’s lowest points, he has been protected from so much. There is absolutely NO way we could walk this path without Jesus Himself at our side. No way at all. As hard as it has been WITH the Lord, I can’t imagine how hard it would be without Him.

There’s more, so much more…and I can’t share it all in one blog post, so I guess I’ll have to come back for more. The main takeaway from all of this is that there IS hope. There is an anchor in the midst of the storms of this illness. And as I look ahead, and see that we still have a good stretch of road ahead of us, my determination propels me forward. I’m determined…and REALLY curious…to find out where this road will lead! I feel like, if we just keep moving forward, plugging away, we won’t be disappointed in our ultimate destination. That hope keeps me going!!! I truly believe our best days are ahead of us!!