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!

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...!