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...

suicide-prevention-awareness-banner.jpg

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 Very Special Anniversary

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   MGN Online: 9/11 Memorial Photo

Source: MGN Online: 9/11 Memorial Photo

Today feels like a grand Harmonic Convergence of sorts.

It marks the 15 year anniversary of our nation’s darkest day.

It is my 17th wedding anniversary, as well as nearly 6 months since my husband returned to our home after almost 5 years of being away.

September also happens to be Suicide Prevention Awareness Month.

So here I am, celebrating 17 years of marriage to a man diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, during a month designated to raising awareness of one of the highest risks for his diagnosed illness, on a day when our nation is grieving our worst national tragedy and still dealing with the resulting continued mental health challenges of the trauma.

Whew! Harmonic Convergence indeed.

Where do I even begin??!

A year ago, I shared some of my remembrances of 9-11-01 that fell on my second wedding anniversary, as well as an update of where things stood with my husband.

What a difference a year makes!! I spoke of something that I felt at the time that I had not felt in a long time: HOPE. Something was different last year…the atmosphere in my heart was beginning to turn from sorrow to joy, as I had begun getting some hints at the possibilities of my husband’s recovery.

Source: J. Simpkins

Source: J. Simpkins

Well, I am pleased to say that hope does not disappoint!! From last year to today, we have experienced rebirth; new life

New Beginnings.

So for those who may not know, 17 years ago today I married a wonderful, sweet, gentle man who happens to have a horrible beast of an illness called Bipolar Disorder I, that he was diagnosed with at the age of 16.

Source: Microsoft Images

Source: Microsoft Images

Bipolar Disorder is a chronic mental illness that affects a fair amount of folks in this country…about 2.9% of the population. It is classified as a mood disorder, marked by episodes of mania and/or depression as well as impaired thinking. Its severity lies on a spectrum. On the mania side, the extreme may manifest as psychosis or delusions that can result in bizarre and sometimes even catastrophic behavior. On the depression side, it can lead to suicide. Many people fall somewhere in between this spectrum. Often times, the illness can be managed with medications and therapy, but occasionally episodes can become so severe that it can result in hospitalization. In recent years, Bipolar Disorder has become more visible, especially as mental illness is beginning to experience greater understanding and a reduction in stigma. The mental health community owes much of that visibility to the actress Patty Duke, who recently passed away. She was also diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, and became a vocal mental health advocate. Some other famous folks with Bipolar Disorder you may know: Carrie Fisher, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and possibly even Robin Williams. It can affect anyone, regardless of race, class, gender, or education. Because it is a complex disease with an endless combination of symptoms, the way it affects one person is not necessarily the way it affects another. It’s not all episodes and mood swings, either. There can be long periods of wellness and “normalcy” in between episodes…which in a way can make the illness even more unsettling, because of its unpredictable nature.

At its worst, bipolar disorder can be scary, misunderstood, and difficult to manage. At its best, just like any other illness, it CAN be well treated, although it is not always easy. Unfortunately, mental health care in this country is still a severely neglected and confusing field of medical care. I would venture to say that most people who deal with some form of mental illness do not receive the adequate treatment they need, for various reasons. As a result, many people who have bipolar disorder, and their loved ones, can go through terrible hardships…much of which could be avoided with education, advocacy, and better resources. Sometimes, even in the best of circumstances, Bipolar disorder can still lead to tragic outcomes.

While I am certainly not a spokesperson for all mental illness, I can only share our story, and hopefully offer some enlightenment, hope, and encouragement for those who find themselves in a similar situation such as ours. We are not alone or unique in our situation, although some circumstances may be different.

For us, and especially for me as a spouse and caregiver, I cannot stress enough the importance of having a good support system. This is paramount for anyone who finds themselves in the midst of any life challenge, no matter what it is. But especially on this road to mental health.

I think that on this Day of Remembrance, the need for support is probably what is on my mind the most.

I have a dear friend who was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. I went to visit her a few weeks ago, and was blown away by the amazing outpouring of support she has received! Her fridge was filled with meals; her home was filled with friends doing home repairs; she is on the prayer list of her church; her 3 girls who range in age from tween to college were all taken care of as far as getting where they needed to go; her husband of 21 years has been her rock and his job has been wonderfully supportive; her Facebook feed has blown up with tons of well wishes and positivity; she has been showered with gifts of books, pretty scarves for her head; and many, many other cancer survivors (even complete strangers!) are standing beside her to offer support, gifts, prayers, and words of encouragement, cheering her on. At the time I visited her, she had only begun one round of chemotherapy, and all of this was in place! Much of that has to do with the wonderful person that she was before her diagnosis, and that she has built community. Her heart is filled with so much faith and confidence in God, and a strong sense of His presence, she simply shines and people are drawn to the Light. My own heart burst with SO much hope and gratitude for her, and pride in knowing her!! While she has a road ahead of her still, with that kind of love around her, the road ahead is an absolutely beautiful one, simply because she is not alone.

When it comes to mental illness, particularly severe mental illness, the brutal and ugly truth is this: good support is hard to find. When someone is in the middle of a manic episode, or stuck in the trenches of depression, people don’t really want to rally around…they’d rather keep a safe distance. The stigma, isolation, and fear for both them and their families can be just as awful as the disease itself…and contributes to many of the resulting challenges.

In the past, I do not believe my husband or myself had adequate support in place, for a variety of reasons; not understanding what we were dealing with, people not understanding us, ignorance of what was available to us, etc. During our time apart, I believe we’ve both learned some valuable lessons. Time and maturity has a way of altering perspectives. Thankfully, in the 6 months that my husband has been back home, I believe we have more support than at any other time in our entire 17 year marriage. Yep, it has taken that long to figure out the best approach to health and wellness for both of us.  It’s not just HIS disease, it affects our whole family. I think we’ve both learned that we need to take what I call a holistic approach to wellness, and make it a priority. This has been one of my biggest prayers and desires, to build a team of folks to support us on our journey. We have a ways to go in getting all the right pieces in place, but for the first time I feel that we are well on our way, headed in the right direction.

I’ve learned something on this journey: some folks just aren’t going to get it. As a result, you will get rejected, misunderstood, and even abandoned. Sometimes that can feel like a good excuse to just give up and stop trying, and have a pity party. I’ve been guilty of that.

But, I’ve also learned that if we keep asking, keep talking, keep pressing in, eventually someone will come along and…regardless of whether they get it or not, they’ll just stand by you and be there for you. Sometimes that’s enough.

My aforementioned friend, the one with a recent cancer diagnosis, also has a mental health diagnosis. Not Bipolar Disorder, although that is in her family as well so she is definitely familiar with it. She is someone I consider to be one of our biggest advocates. She was even in our wedding!!! Since I have known her, she has always been open to sharing her story…her challenges, her triumphs, her concerns…as she navigated her own mental health challenges. In the process, I have learned so much from her, and much of what she has shared with me has helped me. I am certain that her openness has contributed to the outpouring of support she is now receiving in her newest challenge. She has certainly made a difference for us!

The same way we keep talking about things like how 9/11 has impacted our lives…and even the way so many other “conversations” have been started in recent years over many other important issues… I think that’s what we need to do with mental illness. Just talk about it. Ask questions…get educated, share stories, experiences, and above all, HOPE. Chances are, it hits closer to home than you may even realize. I cannot even begin to tell you how many people I’ve met who has been touched in some way by mental illness, whether themselves or a family member, friend, or colleague. There’s something therapeutic about shared experiences, and I think half the battle is not holding in the struggles.

I am still trying to sort out the best way to share our own story. It’s not easy to be vulnerable…especially about something as uncomfortable as mental illness.

But I believe it is important, now more than ever.

And...He's Home!!!!!

Photo credit: Jasmyne Simpkins

Photo credit: Jasmyne Simpkins

At long last, after nearly 5 years of praying, waiting, seeking, hoping…my husband is finally home!! To think, when I started this blog, I had no idea where he was. He had gotten lost in the pit of a bipolar fog so deep, it truly is a miracle that he got out of it. I can only attribute it to Jesus. I know that may sound like a cliché, a “pat answer”, but it is the absolute truth. If you only knew all of what has happened behind the scenes, you would know what I’m saying here!

It has been quite an adjustment!!! Thankfully, it has been a peaceful transition for all of us…him, me, and our 12 year old daughter. It has been a time of great joy, gratitude, and a profound presence of peace and providence. He is where he belongs, and all is right with the world.  We have enjoyed many gloriously mundane moments that we definitely do not take for granted!

A few highlights:

·        He has been able to attend my symphony concerts

·        We have enjoyed precious moments as a family, like meals together at home, a few outings for simple things like Starbucks and walks along the waterfront, and family movie night.

·        He got to see his daughter’s final 6th grade band concert of the year. She played percussion, just like her dad before her! For perspective: when he left, she had just started 2nd grade.

·        Through amazing, miraculous provision, he has been able to receive healthcare and medication, as well as time and space to recover from his ordeals.

·        Doors are opening and provisions has been made for him to use his gifts for music and recording

·        On the marriage front, we’ve had some deep talks, processing these past years and putting things in perspective. We have been working on understanding our separate journeys, which has been just the beginning of healing.

In a nod to the fact that May is Mental Health Awareness Month, I wanted to make mention of something my husband said about his current state of mental health, that shows the sobering reality of how difficult it can be to receive proper treatment for mental illness:

My husband’s journey ultimately led him into a situation to where he was able to, at long last, receive the right kind of treatment. It was a painful process, but it was also the hand of God. He was able to spend a significant amount of time in treatment. As a result, he ended up with a combination of medications that he had never received, that have worked incredibly well for him. Ironically, the worst years of his life led to the best care he has ever received. In his words, he feels better mentally than he has ever felt in his life. He reports that he has more mental clarity than ever, and the side effects of the meds are minimal. These meds have been on the market for years, so they aren’t even the newer medications. Go figure!

Now remember, my husband was diagnosed Bipolar I when he was 16 years old. He is now one month shy of his 45th birthday. In the course of nearly 30 years, he has been through several doctors, psychiatrists, hospitalizations, and medications. And this is, by his own admission, the FIRST time in his life that he has felt normal. During those talks that I mentioned before, we’ve looked back over years of what could very well have been MISmanagement of his illness, and wrong meds. It has not always been due to noncompliance,  although that has also been a factor in some instances. But even times of noncompliance could be attributed to simply not being able to take the TIME needed to find the right combination of medication, medical supervision, and services, which could have helped circumvent times of illness or noncompliance. Time is money, and medications are expensive. Sometimes it’s so hard to know how well they are working. It’s like a game of Russian Roulette to find what works.

I say that because I want people to understand just how difficult it can be to get proper mental health care. It’s not just the complications of the illness itself…which can be difficult to diagnose…or the symptoms of the illness, that can make treatment difficult. It is also the System that makes it hard to get adequate care, even for those who are proactive in their care. It’s not just the mental health system…it’s the criminal justice system that can confuse criminality with illness. It’s families who lack resources to understand what they’re dealing with. It’s churches and other community resources who lack understanding of how to support families and patients who are dealing with severe mental health issues. It's stigma and shame. And we’re only talking about Bipolar I, which is but one of many, many other mental health conditions that can be just as debilitating.

In short, we have a crisis on our hands in this nation when it comes to mental health.

I have no answers as to how we solve this crisis. I can only testify of what God has done in our situation, and my own perspectives of my experiences.

Here’s what I can say for sure:

I don’t believe all of the answers can be found in this world. The System is broken, because our world is broken, because people are broken. You don’t even have to be a believer to see that. Anyone can look at the state of humanity and see that we as a species have some serious issues! I’m grateful for when the system works. After all, my husband was able to get meds and treatment through the same system that failed him at times.

But what about when the system doesn’t work? Where do you turn for help?

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Ultimately, my hope, and help, could not be in the right meds, the right doctor, the right treatment, the right diagnosis. My hope is in God. My help, and my husband’s help, came from Him. I clung to the words of Psalm 121 for dear life:

I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.

My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.

He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber.

Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord is thy keeper: the Lord is thy shade upon thy right hand.

The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night.

The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul.

The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.

HE is the One who ultimately led my husband to the right meds, the right doctor, the right treatment. It was not a direct shot…sometimes the journey was dark, difficult, confusing, and just plain hard. It twisted and turned, went up and down hill, and was filled with a few moments of joy and a whole lot of sorrow. It required a great deal of perseverance,  patience, and prayer. It cost me. But sometimes it’s not always about getting to the destination…the journey can be every bit as much a part of the process. But oh, how it can be so, so hard to trust God in the midst of it all.

When it seems your world is falling apart, it’s hard to hear someone say “just trust God.” It’s not that simple.

Or is it?

I think that out of all of the various experiences I’ve had in my lifetime, going through the things I have been through with my husband has been the greatest test of faith for me. When your faith is sorely tested, you can come out one of two ways: with a stronger faith, or no faith at all. A third option might be a redirected faith, when you find that the things you used to put your faith in, no longer work, or maybe were never solid to begin with.

For me, I think I went through all 3 of those phases at one time or another. Some days, I had no faith, and I wanted to give up. Other days, I felt stronger than ever. Still other days, I discovered that things…or people…that I had put my faith in had let me down, and I had to regroup.

In the end, I chose to “just trust God.” It was not easy, but I believe that it has been worth it. I love Galatians 6:9, that says “be not weary in well doing, but in DUE SEASON, you SHALL reap if you faint not.”

At long last, my family is in a season of reaping. I pray for many more days of “beauty for ashes” and the joy that comes after many nights of weeping.

I hope you continue to follow our journey! I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to see where it leads!

Owning My Story

Wow, I must apologize for it being almost an entire month since my last post! I did not intend to be away so long, especially with the blog being so new and needing to "build my audience". I'm sure I've already broken all the cardinal rules of blogging, but nevertheless, here I am!

Life has been good. Busy, but good. I'm actually in a very good place in my life, and have been enjoying a season of much peace and rest for my soul. I cherish this time, because it has not always been like this for me.

The premise of this blog is to write about various facets of my life, and how I rely on my faith to navigate me through those various facets. One of the biggest areas of my life happens to be my marriage...a marriage that is in a very awkward stage that I call "unfinished", due to my husband's struggles with mental illness.

Among the many other facets of my life...motherhood, music, faith, etc....my marriage stands out as one of the most challenging. I've discovered that, not only is it challenging to live out, but it is also challenging to write about. Me, who loves to write and has written almost everyday of my life in private journals for over 30 years. I should clarify...it's challenging to write about my marriage publicly.

There is still stigma attached to mental illness. Even though it is a very real sickness, it's not in the same category as, say, Alzheimer's or cancer, or diabetes, or ALS. I don't want to minimize anyone's experiences with those illnesses, and it is not my intent to do so. However, the fact is, none of those illnesses carry stigma in quite the same way. They have their challenges, yes, definitely. But there is also a certain amount of respect and dignity for those dealing with those illnesses, that those with mental illness do not receive.

Often times, instead, there is judgment, ridicule, isolation, fear, and lack of understanding, empathy and patience. It's just hard. So hard. I am grateful that over the past several years, more awareness is being brought to the plight of those who suffer with mental illness. Unfortunately, it often takes a high profile tragedy to get our attention (Robin Williams for example). But it's still an uphill battle.

One of the questions I get asked quite often is "did you know he was bipolar when you married him?" Should that make a difference? Maybe if I had known, I might not have married him. Because surely I would never knowingly marry someone who is mentally ill. Right?

Why do people ask me that?

Yes. Yes, I knew. He was diagnosed at age 16, and we married when we were 28. He had a history of having been hospitalized more than once after his diagnosis. So yes, I married a man with a history of mental illness.  But I also happened to marry a man who is kind, sweet, creative, loving, sensitive, talented, interesting, intelligent, spiritual...and a different race than me.

Mental illness is a touchy subject.

However, it is part of my story. Even though I myself have never been diagnosed with a mental illness and do not walk that journey personally, to be intimately involved with someone who does is a special challenge in and of itself.

And I know that I am, by far, not the only one who can attest to that.

I recently read an article written by a gentleman named Brad Hoefs who happens to be a pastor with the same diagnosis as my husband, Bipolar I. (In case you didn't know it, Bipolar Disorder is like a spectrum. There is Bipolar I and Bipolar II, each with varying levels of severity) I just discovered him, and look forward to reading more of his journey and his writings. Anyway, in this particular article, he talked about the power of owning one's story. He shared his personal journey of "coming out", so to speak, with his own story and struggle with bipolar disorder. I was touched by his courage, his honesty, and his compassion.

I was also inspired.

I've never hidden my husband's diagnosis, and have been fairly open in talking about it. He was always open about it, so that gave me the freedom to be open too. But our story, just like him, is in actuality WAY more than a bipolar diagnosis...it has taken so many twists and turns over the years that I sort of just stopped talking about it because it was just too much to get into. With the exception of a few close friends who are intimately acquainted with me and who know full details, I have not really opened up much publicly about things. But I'm in a season of life where I feel like it's time to change that. How that will look, I'm not exactly sure. But it's more than just wanting to talk about my marriage, or my husband, or mental illness, or even trying to "raise awareness"...I feel it is almost like, a calling. I've felt that gentle whisper of the Holy Spirit urging me to "tell your story." Somehow I have the feeling that it's not just about me, or my husband.

I admit, I've wrestled with that. Like I said, my marriage is "unfinished." I'm kind of in the middle of the story still, and I am not so sure how it will end. There are certain aspects that I am not yet at liberty to share...much of where I'm currently at in this particular facet of my life is touch and go. In many ways, I'm in sort of a limbo...and I've been here for awhile. But, as Brad Hoefs found out, "...I truly believe that telling your story, messy parts and all, empowers you to move forward in your life." I am ready to move forward in my life, and in my marriage, whatever that may look like. I'm ready to own my story.

So...I hope you'll join me as I continue to walk this journey. I will endeavor to be more faithful in posting.

Food for thought:

What is your experience with mental illness? Is it something you or someone you love struggle with?

How do you cope?