Twisted (poem)

Like a wet rag in your hands

my heart is twisted

until every drop

leaks out my eyes.

But God

collects every one.

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Mental Illness and the Difficult Marriage and yes, Robin

I haven’t posted for some time and resisted even writing this.

This week Robin Williams died. He struggled with a mental illness. Some say it was depression and other’s say bi-polar. Either way, he struggled and gave into the darkness and the light he shared with the world has been snuffed.

Robin was married three times. Three. From what I understand, all three women loved him. He had children who adored him. All of these individuals knew his struggles with addictions and depression. They all cared.

Yet I heard someone blame his wife for Robin’s suicide because she was not in the bedroom with him that night.

Wait. Excuse me? Did you have a front row seat to the pain of that marriage? Did you walk with his wife through the heights and depths of what Robin struggled with in his mind and soul?

No. You didn’t.

Especially if Robin was bi-polar, the fact that his wife was still there, married to him, says volumes about her love and devotion. They could have shared a room and he could have shot himself in the garage. When someone makes the decision to kill themselves (and yes, it is a decision even if they feel they have no other choice), it is not the fault of the people left.

When I began to realize that the pain of my marriage wasn’t all my fault, that my husband was really ill with who knows what, I was scared. As I made changes in my behavior and stopped feeding into his insanity, he grew worse in some ways. I spoke to my pastor, almost asking permission to seek to be healthy. He affirmed I needed to be healthy for my own sake, my kids and my ministry.

“So if my husband kills himself, it’s not my fault. Right?”

He nodded. If my husband reacted to my pursuit of psychological health, by killing himself, that was his deal. Not mine. I had no culpability in it whatsoever. He is an adult and responsible before God for his choices in the way he treats his wife, and in how he lives his life.

My husband is still alive. I still struggle. Should he die I wouldn’t be like Robin’s wife, claiming to have lost my best friend.

I have great admiration for spouses who stick with a husband or wife who struggles with bi-polar disorder. It can make a marriage difficult and rational thought can be hard to find during certain aspects of this illness. I’m not saying my husband is bipolar. He’s not been diagnosed. He’s mentally unhealthy though and many would agree with me on that. It’s not just a disgruntled wife’s complaint.

It’s a verbally and emotionally abused wife’s truth. And the fact is, mental illness can manifest itself in abuse of others. Not always and it doesn’t have to be tolerated.

So please pray for his wife and children as they move forward with his gaping hole in their lives. I’m sure that while they wished for Robin’s freedom from the pain he struggled with, this would never have been on their list of choices as to how that would come about.

And if you are struggling with a spouse with mental illness–you are not alone. Get help and support from a therapist or a support group. You don’t have to navigate this journey alone or let yourself become a victim of the illness either.

And if you’re hurting . . . maybe this song by Rich Mullins, one of my favorites, will be a blessing to you.

Blessings to you,

Lilly Grace

 

Where do I go with all this Neediness in a Difficult Marriage?

Let’s face it, we all have needs. Maslow has his hierarchy of needs expressed like this:

maslow

Now, I now Maslow’s self-actualization is not necessarily Christian, but let’s just consider for a few moment the general revelation expressed in this triangle. The theory postulates that for an individual to reach their full potential, they must have their needs met and these needs are stacked according to importance–physically and emotionally–to the human.

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Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

What happens often in a difficult marriage, is that the person closest to us, who promised to help fulfill these deep and very real needs in our lives, has been unable, failed or refused to do so.

Now hopefully we can be safe. But even mental illness, addictions and health problems can interfere with our feelings of emotional safety when the one who promised…cannot or won’t provide that. We can seek tha in the church but sometimes it seems the burden we have is too much for one person – or even a few.

I recently lost a friend. Another has been unavailable. A dear one suffered a loss and has her own issues to cope with. So at this point, “love/belonging” feels foreign to me. The enemy even tells me that I wouldn’t be missed if I didn’t exist. I know in my head that this is not true, but the part of me that wants to have a pity party doesn’t want to listen.

The fact is, I’m crawling and climbing to be all God has created me to be, with a gaping wound in my heart. A band-aid smile doesn’t cut it.

But where does one go with the pain?

I’ll admit I sometimes anesthetized with food – sugar in particular. Nasty thing that. And work. I bury myself in work so I don’t have to think. But in doing so I avoid the processing that can be helpful all in order to escape the pain.

I’ve been so tired lately. Depression will do that.

There are very few people in my life whose esteem I trusted. Who I believed when they spoke into my life about my worth. One of them died a few years back and the loss still, at times, feels fresh. As if his words wouldn’t still have value. Another is unavailable right now and I respect that.

I dont’ want to be appeased so that someone else feels better. I want to know that I’m okay. That I’m going to be okay. Because right now, I’m not.

And I’m not quite sure where to go with all that. This too shall pass in time. It’s the ebb and flow of the painful reality in which I live.

Blessings,

Lilly Grace

 

 

Buried Alive

Sometimes, being in a difficult marriage, I feel like I’ve been buried alive. For my own safety (emotionally), I can’t speak my mind on things. I suffer more when I do. So at home I don’t always recognize the woman I’ve become and burying my emotions kills something else in my . . .

motivation.

dignity.

peace.

happiness.

Where I live, winter has hit with a vengeance. Not so much with the snow, although I’m sure more of that is coming. Take away sunshine and add it to more confined times where I have to interact with my spouse and depression can rear it’s head with more force than usual.

Image courtesy of winnond / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of winnond / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It’s like more dirt being shoveled on the grave of my personhood.

Wow. Isn’t that a cheerful thought?

Many years ago, my toddler son drew a picture of me. I wore a frown. The picture made me sad because that was how my child saw me. I realized then that I needed to work harder to claw my way out of the grave my spouse had dug for me and had pushed me into emotionally. So I worked to be more the mom I wanted to be regardless of how I felt. It wasn’t easy. I shed my tears in private and poured out my pain to my journal, my therapist and a few trusted and safe friends who would remind me again of God’s faithfulness and provision for my needs and that yes, he sees my agony.

By the time my daughter came to join our family, the pictures showed me smiling. My kids are all older now and do not hesitate to call me silly. My teenage son now has to fight to keep from smiling some times (because that would not be cool) as I tease him.  I am honest with them when I’m not feeling well (emotionally or physically) without going into the why. I’m honest about what is wrong because now they can see it. I do not confide in them the depth of my struggle because I don’t want my kids to be buried either.

When my husband leaves town, it’s like the dead come even more to life and there is greater calm in my house. We are learning to laugh a lot when my husband is not around. His behavior is now burying him alive in all that he loses in the light and love of a family. I’m not shoveling the dirt on him though. He is doing it himself.

And I find it sad that his choices have done that to him even though it’s a natural consequence. See, he has a do not resuscitate order on his heart and on our marriage. I can pray, but now the only one who can dig him out, is himself. All he has to do is reach his hand up to God in repentance and I’m sure it would happen.

In the meantime, I will keep shoveling the dirt he tries to toss at me, back  to him. I will reach up and hold on to the God who rescues time and time again.

I waited patiently for the Lord;

And He inclined to me, and heard my cry.

He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay;

And he set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm.

And He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise of our God;

Many will see and fear, and will trust in the LORD.

(Psalm 40:1-3 NASB)

Blessings to you,

Lilly Grace

 

 

Abuse of Emotion

I often felt alone, even as a child, even though I had several siblings quickly added to our family.

I was a girl, three boys followed and it seemed that they were more special than me. I also have two much younger sisters that came later.

My mom didn’t  know how to cope with my frizzy mop, or my hyper-sensitive nature. I developed asthma and I think now that it wasn’t due to allergies (although there is a component of that) but that it was due to anxiety.

I was told just how much my medication cost a month and how they couldn’t afford it. What I heard was “You are an unnecessary burden to our family and we resent you for it.”

Ah, the travesties of childhood.

I would walk a mile home from school and I can remember dallying on the way. Spinning with my arms wide open and looking up at the sky hoping that maybe, just maybe, God could see me and that in spite of messages I heard, HE loved me.

I was told later by my family that NO ONE would love me. I picked scabs (probably an obsessive-compulsive behavior as a way to cope with stress). I was told no one would love me with those scars.

In puberty I gained weight. Potato chips were a comfort food given early on when my mom didn’t want to deal with my emotions. No human comfort was available but food soothed. Then I got messages like: “She would be really pretty if she weren’t so fat.” I would be called “bubble-butt” and “thunder-thighs” and led to believe that my weight made me unlovable. Ah, but this wasn’t bullying in school. This was my daily home life.

As I struggled with depression as a teen I was told, when I fessed up to my feelings, that I was being manipulative, trying to get attention.

With all that rejection, there wasn’t much motivation to try hard. No one cared about my grades, or my successes. Getting a top score in solo-ensemble I was still told by my mother that I didn’t support my voice enough. Nothing I ever did around the house was good enough.

I’m a flawed human. That much was clear from early on.

Sometimes I think back to that little girl with frizzy hair and two pigtails that curled in frizzy ringlets who looked up to heaven for approval and I cry. God? Can you see me? Can you hear me? Is my picture on your refrigerator? Does anyone think I’m special?

All these years later I still struggle. It wasn’t “safe” for me to share my emotions, much less my hopes and dreams then. It’s not safe to do so now. Sharing emotions and dreams only leads to abuse from people who were “supposed” to love me.

And I struggle to be a healthy person in the midst of an unhealthy, emotionally abusive marriage. I haven’t found the balance. How do I experience my emotions in away that is safe for me? Holding them in and feeding them potato chips or sugar doesn’t make the problem better. Sharing them puts me at risk of more abuse. S0metimes I feel so needy and I”m afraid to overwhelm friends with that lest I find that they too are put off by me.

I’m not sure what the answer is. Sometimes I avoid journaling because I’m afraid of my feelings. I get discouraged at the chronic nature of my difficult circumstances. Will I ever NOT grieve the loss of a dream of a man would love and cherish me? I’ve come to the conclusion that no matter how thin I get neither him or my family will love me for who I am. It’s a losing battle to even try to curry their affection.

And God? He loves me just as I am. Right here. Right now. Muddied emotions, scars and flab. HE looks beyond it all and he values my hopes and dreams because HE placed them in my heart. He values my efforts to serve because HE called me and equipped me to do it.

Now if I could only get my head and my heart to live fully in THAT reality.

How about you? Have you struggled to deal with emotions in the midst of difficulties and lack of validation?

Lilly Grace

Do I Even Know How to Be Happy?

My therapist had pointed out that  the list of things I had been bringing in and reporting lately have all been generally good. My autoimmune disease is in remission. I’ve been offered a contract for my book. My kids are doing well.

I sat there later, at home, and thought: If things are going so good, how come I don’t feel happier? Do I even know how to be happy?

It’s a stupid question really. I do know and have experienced happiness and joy and the bliss and freedom of contentment in Christ when I have been in those “sweet spot” moments in ministry. But here? Now? When my marriage is still filled with control and abuse? When I have a title of a married woman but no relationship with a husband due to said abuses and his choices?

See, it seems WRONG to feel happy when that one major aspect of my life sucks.  It’s like a woolen cloak I have to carry around with me to remind myself how miserable I really am and should be. Like I deserve this. Like I’ve earned the right to be angry and miserable.

But why would I choose that? Isn’t that a bit twisted? God is doing great things. My dog makes me smile every time I come home and he so eagerly greets me. My children want hugs and to be with me. I have wonderful friends and a writing career on the brink of something fabulous. After years of hard work my body is healing itself in a rare and cool way.   I should be happy!

Being happy doesn’t alter the reality that still sucks. It doesn’t make my husband my best friend and lover. It means that in spite of that, I can still choose joy. I can make a choice to focus on the negative of which I can do nothing about and try to garner sympathy, which is twisted because out of respect for my husband (that he does not deserve) I cannot shout his abuses towards me from the mountaintops (or at least on Facebook!).

In spite of my husband I should choose happiness and to live there. In spite of him I should choose joy. Because GOD is my lover and provider and is always faithful, I should find my contentment in HIM in all things. Because God is working out GOOD things for me to bring glory to Him and in spite of the darkness of the backdrop of my marriage in which those things are placed – they illuminate His glory all the more!

So, right now. Today. I choose to smile. I choose to rejoice. Because I have a happy God. Because I have a GOD who delights in and loves me JUST AS I AM. Because He has done great things. How about you? Can YOU be happy? Maybe this song below will help. We have so much to be happy about in Jesus!

Blessings,

Lilly Grace

Happy Day – by FEE

 

Procovery

As life deals us those brutal blows and we struggle with the reality of here and now, it’s tempting to long for what we used to have, whether it be health, a happy home, that lost loved one. But sometimes our “plan A” is just not ever going to be reality. That’s a hard pill to swallow.

Many years ago I attended a conference on mental health and heard Kathleen Crowley tell her story. As a result of a medical mishap, she was forced to live with permanent intense pain. Pain medication made her mentally unstable. But medication for depression intensified her pain. She ended up in a mental ward at the hospital and she writes about her experience in a book called The Day Room.

Out of her tragic story (she still experiences intense pain) she developed a concept called procovery. It’s not even a “plan B” for life. Instead of seeking to get back to prior health (physical or mental), she purports that we need to come to a new concept of recovery. That where we are now IS where we are supposed to be and to live successfully within that.

This is difficult. Does that mean we give in and simply state that “this is who I am and it’s not going to change?” How does one do that in the face of health challenges. Is it every totally hopeless that you can recover what you lost? When do we give up and give in?

I’ve been struggling with this as I fight my own health battles. My chiropractor was telling me “This may just be the way you ARE, and you may need to live with that.” When it comes to weight loss, or chronic back issues or depression – is there every really a point where you just give in and accept instead of frustratingly fight?

How does one live in the reality of “this may be all the better it may get” and yet the hope that God in His infinite mercy could possibly change things – if HE chose?

Michael J Fox tries all kinds of treatments to halt the progression of Parkinson’s. I’m not saying that’s bad, but to what point will he accept that this disease will eventually win the battle? Christopher Reeve did all kinds of therapy to help him regain the use of his body, paralyzed due to a fall from horseback. In the end pneumonia claimed his life.

Sometimes I wonder if our modern day treatments and our western mentality that wants what we want and we want it NOW raises the standard too high for our expectations that lives can be saved and improved with the miracle of modern medicine.  We rail against God when we don’t get the answer WE want. This wasn’t as big of an issue 100 yrs ago when the reality of death, while hard, was more easily accepted as a natural part of life. Life is terminal.

What do we lose when we put all our energies into our recovery instead of seeking what God wants to teach us in the midst of our pain?

Mentally I’m not a peace with living forever with my various health challenges. I struggle to find contentment in the present while at the same time doing what is good and healthy that could hopefully turn things around. Because of this cognitive dissonance, I often sabotage my efforts in the latter category. I want to lose weight – but then I eat too much. I work out but don’t know to what degree that triggers the inflammation issues of my Hashimoto’s disease and will backfire causing me to gain weight rather than lose it.

On the flip side, I have a broken marriage. I’m still with my husband.  But I’ve emotionally given up hope of restoration of the marriage relationship. Have I then given up on the fact that God COULD do that? I beat myself up for my lack of faith and giving in to reality.

Procovery is a good goal – but it’s a hard one. Hard because if we believe in Jesus Christ and that God is sovereign over it all , we don’t know when He may choose to act to change things. IF we want it to be His will, then we have to stop praying for healing, and simply start seeking His face and trusting Him for today and focus more on glorifying Him in THIS moment – rather than focusing on our own future dream.

I sure wish I was better at this.  Do you struggle as well? May you find God to be faithful to you in the process.

Blessings,

LGB

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