Friday, February 5, 2016

Heart Broken Part Two

Continued from Heart Broken Part One:

Shock consumed me for a while as my brain couldn't accept that George had attempted to take his own life. George knew of my intense fear of him dying, so you can imagine what I thought.  In the beginning it was practically impossible NOT to take it personally that my husband tried to leave me through suicide. How selfish was that?  Soon after first seeing George on life support for the first time, I learned he had never got COBRA going even though he had been laid off for many weeks and he had only worked at his new job a couple of days- not long enough to get any anything going. When sorting through disorganized piles of paperwork with my dad trying to get COBRA in order, I found that just like he neglected to get COBRA going, he had neglected to sign the paperwork to continue his life insurance-the one he  had carefully planned for me. By guessing the password, I was able to get health insurance going and my dad mobilized attorneys to figure out what our options were if the worst happened. Once George woke from the coma- that all changed. What didn't change in the moment was my fear. My fears of abandonment were even greater. After being discharged from the behavioral health hospital, George signed and overnighted the paperwork and when the letter arrived in the mail saying the life insurance would be continued.  I was relieved. But the fact he hadn't re-started the life insurance before he attempted suicide was something I struggled with for a while. I'm human.

We went out of town on a vacation the year to date of his attempt and returned to a pile of mail with multiple letters reading his life insurance policy that he had paid into for 19 years was no longer in existence because George had neglected to pay the premium through a misunderstanding on George's part; that coupled with the severe depression meant no more life insurance. By that time, I had worked through my abandonment issues and though I was confused and frustrated, I ultimately knew that the best response was compassion and grace.  George had severe depression which can make you feel like you are walking through mud with a wet blanket covering you and anything and everything feels like it is a million times harder than it actually is. It is a horrid illness. It doesn't just affect the person going through it:  it is a family illness. The reason us sharing this is that George and I know others go through this.  Forgiveness is necessary in any relationship, especially a marriage. But when depression is involved I've learned that I need to deal with my emotions- whatever they may be- but what I need to share with George is compassion and grace. I share this because I didn't know that in the beginning and I made a lot of mistakes. I would tell George how deeply hurt I was and boy did that have the opposite effect of what I hoped. Yes, it is important for me to express my emotions-but in my journal or to a therapist or a close friend or family member.

As an aside. When someone attempts or dies by suicide, there is always the question of  "why" did this person do it. George is here and he is surprised by his attempt.  Suicide is not rational. In George's case, he had undiagnosed severe depression; it wasn't rational decision making as hard as that may be to believe/understand. Trust me, I've had years to work through this. It also took me a while to learn the suicide attempt had nothing to do with me or him leaving me: again it was severe undiagnosed depression. Depression is the culprit-not George. I know I'm off topic but this needs discussion. It is important to share that I have worked through any feelings of abandonment or pain or anger I had about his attempt. I have a different viewpoint and understanding. George needs me as his cheerleader and friend. Truly letting go of expectations and sharing grace for anything: small or large is how I attempt to be as his wife. We live in the moment, trying as hard as we can to be a team and  looking toward God while trusting His guidance.

Somehow the two by four to my head of George's suicide attempt didn't change my priorities as far as God/George was concerned. It took about fourteen months until. I felt the full impact of that two by four in November of 2013. And then everything changed in my heart.

It was my heartbreak over George's suicide attempt and the life we were living 14 months later woke me up to the realization that God had been heartbroken over me for along time.   I had broken my promise to God in putting George above him. Convicted, contrite and heartbroken myself over my choice, I chose a different path.

There is a hymn called My Hope is Built On Nothing Less which I linked to a YouTube version I like that has the lyrics written on the screen. The refrain says
On Christ the solid rock I stand; All other ground is sinking sand; All other ground is sinking sand.
The song reflects how God is the only one I can 100% count on though that doesn't mean he doesn't go silent. It means my view point has changed which I am looking forward to sharing. Let's face it- people cannot always be there for us! I am going to be sinking sand for you. You are going to be sinking sand for me. It doesn't mean we can't care for one another and support one another, but we can't 100% rely on any human. Even though I had an active relationship with God, choosing God instead of George as my foundation has changed me. Accepting that George couldn't give me what I needed, that I needed to accept his short-comings and throw my expectations out the window saved our marriage. And when I have found heartbreak in my relationship with George, I had/have God's support to keep me full of hope and joy. I have grieved and had few meltdowns- but I also had someone to run to who unconditionally loves me  I feel secure in God. And when I'm having a severe health issue, George will say "God has you."

By making God my priority and foundation, fear has melted away. Saying "Drive Safely" was so ingrained in my routine hat I trained myself to say something different that wouldn't have a meaning that could imply control. So, now we say "See you real soon!" which is a Disney saying.

As my life has been focused on God these last couple years since making the foundational change, I found peace in places I didn't expect: namely suffering. Unfortunately I had been on a mediation that I did not realize was clouding my brain and making cognitive tasks quite difficult; as of the Summer 2015, I'm no longer on the medication and boy do I feel completely different! I began writing in my head again. Symptoms of Meniere's disease kept me physically disabled and unable to write last fall.   I uploaded a lot of videos to my YouTube channel about what was happening in my life  and a little thing I started called "#ThankfulThirty" both which I can't wait to tell you about!

I have so many plans for writing including discussing my health, treatments I've tried and my personal life including my faith. Aside from George's suicide attempt, 2015 was the hardest year for me yet & 2016 has started as a huge challenge. But through hardship, I grow closer to God and also into he person I want to be which includes being anxiety-free! In late 2015, one of my physicians told my husband "You have a new wife." Another who knows me very well expressed joy at my new outlook.

My present joy is that you are reading this post and God has given George and me the strength, guidance, direction and ability to write it.

[Note: George read and approved all that was shared in this blog. It is our intention to help others in situations similar to ours by sharing our experiences. I will never share anyone else's experience without their expressed approval at every detail.]

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Heart Broken Part One

While catching up on the current season of the tv show, NCIS, (10/27/15, "Viral"), the girlfriend of one of the main characters said: "Everyone's greatest fear is losing the one they love the most. "

I can't tell you when I started fearing losing George, but I can tell you that the sicker I became, the more hospitalizations and diagnoses...the more I was terrified of George passing away in an accident  or from a health issue. It became so wild that I could not let him leave the house without me saying two words to him: Drive Safely. If I didn't say it, I freaked out; I chased after him: sometimes down the driveway or frantically calling on the phone. I knew my words couldn't prevent anything but there was something inside me that felt those words had control.

George had become my foundation. He supported me financially and provided food, shelter & healthcare. He was my best friend. He knew me better than almost anyone else. He took me to every single healthcare appointment. I leaned into him heavily for emotional support and even would ask him what he thought: "Should I take the med now or wait til my symptoms get worse?" He physically helped me when my health was poor. He was great at listening and just sitting with me in silence during long hospital stays. He was there for me when others bailed. I trusted him more than I have ever trusted anyone in my life except my parents. I knew I had it good: a man who cared deeply about me, a man who I could trust with anything and everything, a man who was there for me. And everyone who saw him with me, saw him take excellent physical care of me. And if I had an anxiety or panic attack, he knew how to calm me. He was my rock.  He'd say: "I've got you. You are going to be okay." George struggled with demonstrating compassion, but I told myself what he gave me was enough. I needed him...or I thought I did. For Christmas, after our first full year and a half of marriage, I gave him a "Superman" outfit ornament. He was my Superman.

To understand my story, you'll want to know something of my faith, which is why I'm sharing a very basic version that is leaving a lot out, but hopefully will be sufficient for the purposes of discussing Heart Broken. Sin is an action that goes against God's law.  As humans, we sin pretty much every day of our lives and unforgiven sin keeps us from having a relationship with God. And God wants a relationship with us: to love us. My faith is Christianity and ultimately that means that Jesus came to reconcile us back to God as there is no way for us to do it on our own.  God sent his son, Jesus, to earth with a purpose. Jesus was fully human and fully God. He learned what the human experience is like firsthand. He needed time alone. He prayed. He was overwhelmed. He was tempted. He was angry. He loved. He hung out with anyone and everyone.  At age thirty, he started teaching. The plan was that Jesus was going to be the ultimate sacrifice by taking the punishment for every sin there ever was and ever would be and pay for that sin with his life so that we humans, if we so desire, can have a relationship with God. The punishment for sin is death and Jesus took my place so that I could have eternal life-more simply a relationship with God. And what do I get out of a relationship with God? Well-everything really: unconditional love, forgiveness, peace, confidence, hope, rest, promise for my future and among many other things no condemnation. Many think being a Christian is about "going to heaven" and yes, my relationship with God will continue after my physical body dies. But, ultimately, my faith is about a relationship with a triune God who loves me unconditionally.

By the time I met George, my faith had been the most important thing in my life for fifteen of my twenty-four years and once George and I were committed, I promised God that I would NEVER put George ahead of my relationship with him. And before we became engaged, my promise had been tested and I had proven I would put my relationship with God before my relationship with George. No one had nor ever would get between God and me.

I became severely ill ten days after George and I became engaged. I experienced physical pain and suffering during our engagement and especially during the first two hospital stays before our wedding that blew my mind.  Even though I was sicker as a child/young adult than the average individual, I hadn't been as sick/suffered like other children such as my husband had. I had eight sinus infections the second year I worked professionally as a speech language pathologist, But at twenty-five, I had never experienced the extreme level of physical suffering I was navigating. Naively, I thought that God allowed you to die once you hit a certain level of pain. I also naively thought what many think until they are in the situation themselves: that doctors have answers, that being hospitalized would heal me and that some day we would find a treatment that worked. We really thought I was going to get better-back to the healthy 25 year old I had been. I always thought at 36 I would be parenting. Early on I would be asked when I thought I'd be well enough to return to work or to volunteering and then I remember noticing those questions weren't being asked anymore.. When my journey in life took a path I hadn't expected, none of us (family, friends, co-workers) ever would've believed what was to come over the next ten plus years.

The pain and suffering and illnesses and hospitalizations and medications side effects and the loss of friends and the judgement of most every person I knew: from family to friends to people who didn't even know me made a huge dent in my relationship with God. I had been a determined, busy young superwoman who was very involved and active. If you know anything about the paternal side of my family, you know that we push ourselves to our limits and beyond: super achievers who say yes even when we should say no. And when my body said "STOP," the silence in my life was deafening. I had never heard it before. I am glad to know it now because there is so much life in the silence, but I hated it then. As often happens when someone experiences pain and suffering, God had gone silent. That had never happened to me before either. My pleas for mercy, my screams for healing as I lay alone on the cold kitchen floor, my efforts, my prayers, my dedication to getting better, going to church to be anointed with oil by a church elder, being prayed over by so many people... and the God I had always had access to just wasn't answering. Or perhaps I just didn't recognize him through the pain? Regardless, I was hurt at what I perceived as God's silence.. The song, The Silence of God, by Andrew Peterson put it better than I ever could;
So when the questions dissolve into the silence of God, the aching may remain but the breaking does not. The aching remains; the breaking does not in the holy lonesome echo of the silence of God.
I was deeply heartbroken by God's silence because not only was he not healing me, but he wasn't responding to my unfathomable pain by at least making it tolerable. Each moment was a challenge where I felt I was physically pulling myself into the next moment. Where was the comfort God promised? The guidance? I felt lost. And I asked the inevitable question : WHY?!

God had seemingly taken a personal day. But George was there. I still had an active relationship with God, but he was number two. Promise broken and at first I didn't care. I needed someone & George was present. God was where? I leaned on and trusted George instead of God and ignored the danger signs and red flags. But God was silent. How much help is that? George was solid; my knight in shining armor and I was so thankful for how he cared for me and for how he had stayed.

Taking care of my health needs made me feel very loved as I had struggled through new diagnoses and surgery. I had leaned into George more than ever. Around five years in, in 2011, though George was a fabulous caregiver of my physical needs, in my experience, he has always struggled with giving compassion/empathy. Additionally, I could no longer ignore how neglectful of me he had been in our marriage. He had become distant and detached from me and life and later on I found others had felt that too. I felt ignored and only received his attention when my health was worse. I told him I didn't want to be the "sick one" I wanted to be a wife!  I value honesty above all and I speak my mind and ask straight forward questions, though in the last few years I've learned how to turn down the intensity and bluntness. I asked George about what was going on but he didn't really have any answers. Through the years George and God had flip-flopped as who was #1 and who was #2 on my priority scale. I spent an incredible amount of time with God-because I had time to do so-but when I was suffering, I called out to George- not God.

2012 hit us hard: Two weeks at Mayo Clinic; my beloved dog Knightley passed away suddenly in the worst way; George was laid off his job of 18 years & shortly after I had a very early miscarriage-both sets of parents knew we were pregnant so it was a loss as that would be the only grandchild for either to date. We went to our favorite vacation spots to try to find some happiness and joy: WDW and OBX. But shortly after we returned, George shocked us all by trying to kill himself. In a coma, seizing, and on life support because he couldn't breathe for himself. I had found him in time though we did not know it was an attempt until he came out of the coma and told me. Even after he came out of the coma he was medically fragile. The doctors say it was a miracle that he is alive and functioning as they don't understand how he survived. And I'm pretty sure it had nothing to do with me obsessively saying "Drive safely" every day for years.  I'm not trying to be funny or ironic. I had been an idiot.

**To Read the Conclusion: Heart Broken Part Two click here.**