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!!

 

Thanksgiving Indeed!!!

This year will mark a Thanksgiving worth remembering!!

On a recent Starbucks outing...what a handsome fellow!

On a recent Starbucks outing...what a handsome fellow!

It will be the first Thanksgiving that my husband, my daughter, and I will have celebrated TOGETHER since 2010.

That’s 6 years!

Wow!

It was in August 2011 that my husband, who at the time was struggling with complications from his Bipolar I Disorder, left our family.

He did not return to our family until March 2016.

The years in between that time and now were some of the darkest moments of both our lives. Only by God’s Amazing, INCREDIBLE Grace are we back together again, able to rejoice in all that God has done, even in the dark.

He has given us treasures…so many treasures.

Even though we were ripped apart as a family, God kept us all. What Jasmyne and I lacked in terms of having our husband and father with us, God more than made up for through miraculous provision. When Scott’s “wanderings” could have turned into a tragedy, God worked it all together for his good, to where his worst moments have led to his greatest breakthrough.

So for me, this year being “thankful” runs especially deep. Deeper than I can put into words.

I hope one day that God grant me the ability to find the words to adequately express the immense gratitude, awe, and amazement at the work He has done in my family’s life.

It’s not just the fact that Scott is back in our lives. It’s HOW he is back in our lives, and what he had to go through to get here. The transition has been smoother than I ever could have anticipated, and yet at the same time, it has not been without its challenges as we have all had to deal with the consequences of his time away.

Even so…there has been peace, joy, and refreshing. There is such a pleasant spirit that rests upon my household as God knits our hearts back together again, and restores all those broken places.

There are many broken places that have yet to be mended. Still…God’s Spirit is filling in those gaps, and making something beautiful.

There is deep healing that is taking place…not only of my husband’s mind, body, and soul…but of our marriage and family dynamics. Recovery, as wonderful as it is, comes with a price: it requires great responsibility and much grace, in a different way than when we were apart, or had we made different choices.  Healing can be just as painful as the wound itself. But…pain is often a sign of health, and I’m grateful for the pain of healing.

We still only see many things “through a glass darkly”. And while it will yet take time to sort out and unpack and sift through some of the ruins and rebuild, somehow, God has made it to where it’s not a chore so much, as it is a privilege, and an honor, and an extremely rare gift.

So this year I am grateful...deeply, profoundly grateful.

What are YOU thankful for this year??

A Very Special Anniversary

Source:   
  
 
  
    
  
 Normal 
 0 
 
 
 
 
 false 
 false 
 false 
 
 EN-US 
 X-NONE 
 X-NONE 
 
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
 
 
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
    
  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
  
   
 
 /* Style Definitions */
 table.MsoNormalTable
	{mso-style-name:"Table Normal";
	mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0;
	mso-tstyle-colband-size:0;
	mso-style-noshow:yes;
	mso-style-priority:99;
	mso-style-parent:"";
	mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt;
	mso-para-margin-top:0in;
	mso-para-margin-right:0in;
	mso-para-margin-bottom:8.0pt;
	mso-para-margin-left:0in;
	line-height:107%;
	mso-pagination:widow-orphan;
	font-size:11.0pt;
	font-family:"Calibri",sans-serif;
	mso-ascii-font-family:Calibri;
	mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin;
	mso-hansi-font-family:Calibri;
	mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;
	mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman";
	mso-bidi-theme-font:minor-bidi;}
 
   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.

One Year Later...and Big News!

Wow, it’s hard to believe that it’s been a year since my first blog post! I certainly had more plans for this blog than what has actually come to fruition thus far. But, “life happens” as they say. I simply found myself too consumed with my real life to focus on my internet life.

But I thought that this would be a great time for a new blog post, not just to celebrate its anniversary, but to also share some Big News. Keep reading for more!

But first, some backstory...

The premise of Mining for Diamonds was to share glimpses of my journey of navigating through the many facets of my life, and seeing God’s faithfulness as He formed treasures in darkness. I’ve been open about the fact that one of the most challenging areas for me has been my marriage…although not in the ways one might think. I married a man diagnosed with a serious mental illness…and in recent years, his illness has taken him away from me and our daughter. As a result, I’ve been “solo” parenting, and just trying to live life as best I could in the face of a great deal of instability and unknowns. I couldn’t do it without my faith and an amazing “tribe” of family and friends. Still, I have had to face challenges and deal with stresses that are unique. Mental illness is such a loaded topic these days, and even in spite of the recent increase in noble efforts to reduce stigma, educate and inform, it is still a complicated subject.

As an aside, I want to mention one of the recent “noble efforts” I observed…in an episode of the new show “Chicago Med”, the hospital psychiatrist schooled one of the ER doctors about patient… a respected academic professor with a PhD…who exhibited bizarre behaviors. The dialog went something like this:

Hospital psychiatrist: “Dr. [character’s name] has bipolar disorder.”

ER doc: “Oh, so it’s more than a medical issue.”

Hospital psychiatrist: “With all due respect, Doctor, it is entirely a medical issue.”

BAM!

Anyway, I found it challenging at times to explain to people why my husband left, or where he was. Not that I owe anyone an explanation, but people do assume a lot of things…divorce is the first thing that comes to mind. But no, I am not divorced. I’m not even sure “separated” would’ve been entirely accurate, even though he was gone. I mean, I could just say “well, he is diagnosed as bipolar, got sick, and I have no idea where he is but I am hoping and praying that one day he comes back.” If I was asked, I would answer exactly that in some form, because it’s the truth. But not quite enough. So, I decided to blog about it, to hopefully give people insights on not only how it is to navigate life when serious mental illness is involved, but to also show them that in the midst of it, I was at least living a LIFE. I wanted to share how God has been faithful in the midst of it all. Plus, I would have something to refer people to… “Hey, just read my blog if you want to know more”…rather than get into some long-winded discourse.

Blogging can be such an amazing medium to share ideas, stories, and insights…I love to write and connect with people, so I thought “I’ll start a blog and use it as a platform!” As if people really care what little old me has to say about anything! But then…why not? I could write with a reasonable amount of authority about all kinds of issues…race, faith, mental health, music…so many voices are clamoring for attention, why not throw mine in the mix.

But I found myself too busy living life to sit down in front of the computer and write about it.

My life has been busy for a very good reason.

Over the course of the past several months, a series of extraordinary miracles have taken place in our lives, and God has answered countless prayers!!!

Before I announce the Big News, I just want to say that, in spite of our challenges, I have never, ever given up on my husband. I’m not going to be all noble and say that I never considered it. However, I can say that I always believed deep down that he would triumph over his challenges and go on to do great and mighty things…and I was determined that when that day came, I would be there for him. Yes he left. I didn’t know where he was, and had zero contact with him (not for days, months, or weeks, but for YEARS). I did have some idea of his whereabouts, based on public records…but for various reasons I did not pursue him. However, my daughter and I both, along with a wonderful team of loving friends and family, continued to pray and believe for my husband’s mental health and healing, as well as the reconciliation and restoration of our family. I felt that, with the right help, under the right circumstances, my husband could, and would, overcome. I knew that, in his RIGHT mind, he never would have left his wife and child. I believed he was worth fighting for on my knees.

I am pleased to report that, through a series of amazing circumstances, (not all pleasant but definitely miraculous!) my husband was indeed able to get the care and treatment that it has been nearly impossible for him to get for years and years and YEARS. Anyone who has had to navigate the horrific, bloody minefield that is both mental illness and mental health care in this country knows what I’m talking about. That is why this is nothing short of a miracle.

So, without further ado, it gives me great pleasure to announce that…

MY HUSBAND IS COMING HOME!!!!!!!

Ok, so now I really have a reason to endeavor to blog regularly, because this is huge news! It’s a lot take in and adjust to, but I cannot even begin to tell you just how ecstatic and awestruck that I am!!!! It is not exactly sudden, but has been in the works behind the scenes for a while (I hinted at it in my last post, and my wedding anniversary post in September). Also, it is happening under careful supervision, counsel, with tons of support and at least a rough outline of a plan, so that we never find ourselves in this position ever again. (One of the things I cannot stress enough is the need for a strong support team!!!) So as thrilled as I am, I am also sobered by the reality of the long road ahead.

It’s not the end of a journey, but the beginning of a WHOLE NEW ONE. It’s not like we’re going to be able to pick up where we left off. We literally have to start over. It will involve a great deal of time, effort, and energy to heal, recover, and create a new normal for us. To put things in perspective, when my husband left, our daughter was 7. Now she is 12. That’s a lot of catching up to do! It is exciting, scary, wonderful and terrifying, at the same time. It’s many, many things.

The details of my husband’s journey I will leave for him to share one day when he’s ready. Right now, it’s not the most important thing. The important thing is that for him, that journey is over and it’s time for him to return home to his family. We are on track for this to take place within the next month. I hope you will stay tuned, and follow along our journey of reconciliation, recovery, and what I pray will eventually lead to a rebirth. Prayers would also be most welcome as well!

I’ll leave you a quote from my very first blog post, something I will definitely refer back to many times throughout the days ahead:

 Even though there is something of a question mark that remains over him and our marriage, the main point I want to get across in this blog is this: in the midst of it all, God is faithful. He has walked me through some deep valleys in my marriage, and I am confident that He will walk my little family all the way through to His glorious Light. My husband’s story is not over, and neither, I believe, is our marriage.

The adventure continues...!

Beautiful Brokenness

Source: Wikipedia

Source: Wikipedia

Well, so much for trying to be consistent with posting! I’m sorry…once again, life and time have gotten away from me. But here I am!

Lately I’ve been pondering a lot on brokenness. We often view brokenness as something bad, undesirable, or less valuable. However, God, in His amazing ability to take a paradox and turn it into a profound truth, receives brokenness as something valuable and takes it, and makes us even more valuable. He makes us whole, with a twist. Isn’t that amazing?

There are a number of verses in the Bible that reference brokenness. Here are a few that speak deeply to me:

 Psalms 34:18

The LORD is near to the brokenhearted And saves those who are crushed in spirit.

 Psalms 51:16-17

For You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it; You are not pleased with burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.

 Psalms 147:3

He heals the brokenhearted And binds up their wounds.

 I’ve been thinking about brokenness as it relates to my current situation. Right now, me and my daughter live in a state of brokenness. My husband is broken, therefore marriage and family is broken...and has been for some time. We’ve gotten used to it, my daughter and me. I think it helps to see the situation through the lens of understanding why our situation is what it is.

Although my husband’s official diagnosis when we got married was Bipolar I, over the years I have come to the conclusion that this is not exactly accurate. I’m not a mental health professional by any means. However, in doing a great deal of reading and research over the years, and because of the fact that my husband spontaneously recovered traumatic memories from his childhood, I am certain that his situation is much more complicated. It is an extremely difficult and complicated process to receive an accurate diagnosis in mental health, and it is not uncommon to be misdiagnosed. Especially since symptoms overlap. Nothing is really cut and dry. In the psychiatric community, there are a hodgepodge of acronyms and names for various disorders and symptoms. There’s PTSD, OCD, DID, BPD, schizoaffective, bipolar, depression, SAD, GAD, and the list goes on. Particularly when it comes to childhood trauma, or any trauma for that matter, there is a fragmentation that can happen to the individual in the mind, and in the soul. It can have a profound effect on a person’s life as they grow from childhood into adulthood, and manifest in various ways that are interpreted by the psychiatric community by categorizing symptoms and naming them. But at the heart of it all lies one thing…deep brokenness.

I believe we are all broken in some way, shape or form. Look at our world. We are surrounded by brokenness. Physical, mental, and every other kind of brokenness. Where is the hope?

 God loves to take those that are broken, and make them whole. He wants us to bring our brokenness to Him so He can make something beautiful out of it. Sometimes, that requires Him to do the breaking…like when a doctor has to break a bone that did not heal properly, in order to reset it again. No matter what way it comes, brokenness in any form hurts. Ouch.

I read about this Japanese art form called kintsugi. It’s where they take broken pottery and put it back together again, filling the gaps with some type of gold dust. It not only repairs the object, but turns it into a new object. It actually ends up more beautiful than when it began. I'm certain that no two pieces are alike, since no piece of pottery breaks the same way. So each new piece is also an original copy.

In the midst of my own personal broken situation, I have seen God fill in the gaps of my life time and time again, with Himself. My daughter and I have walked an unusual and unique-to-us road. It has not been easy, but God has been with us every step of the way, providing beautifully for us in ways I cannot even number, there are so many. Whether it be relationships, provision, opportunities, experiences…we are rich indeed.

 But…what about my husband? What will God do for him? It yet remains to be seen, but I hold on to the belief that God will take his brokenness and make something beautiful out of it.

There are many ways I could have handled this situation, I suppose. But I have chosen to just sit tight, trusting God to somehow, some time, bring wholeness to my husband and eventually to our family. I have my deeply personal reasons for making this choice, but I am confident that for me and my daughter, it is the right one.

 I look forward to see how God is going to make kintsugi out of my husband, and my marriage! I want to see what kind of diamond comes forth from this particular coal mine.

 A new artist friend I met recently made what I think is such a great depiction of the process of brokenness. Starting at 3 o'clock and moving clockwise, you get imagery of how the process of brokenness has us starting out one way and ending up another.

Source; Debra Lynn Studios, Debra Crabtree, artist.

Source; Debra Lynn Studios, Debra Crabtree, artist.

A picture, as they say, is worth 1,000 words.

In what areas of your life do you feel broken? Share in the comments below. May God take the broken places of your life and make kintsugi out of them!