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.
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.
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.
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.
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…