Well folks, now you know the worst of it (See post, “In The Well With Tolstoy”).
Being a creative type, I sometimes imagine something worse happening to me in the future, but thankfully, so far, nothing has come close to losing my brother and father to suicide. Sometimes I still catch myself waiting for the other shoe to drop, but I console myself with the knowledge that it already has, and most of us only have one left one and one right one for each pair we own.
Oh, don’t get me wrong. After my father died, I still experienced divorce and another marriage to yet another abusive, controlling man, a divorce from said man, a broken neck, and a terminal brain tumor that came back 8 years after a miracle neurosurgeon did brain surgery, and that’s just for starters. But as horrible as all that sounds, it still did not compare to the total destruction of my family.
So, I still had a long row to hoe if I ever wanted to feel remotely “normal” again. I was beginning to understand my emotional illness a little bit. And I believed that the Lord was guiding me through the muddied waters rushing through the storm drains of life. But I had a problem a lot of people suffering from serious mental illness have. We really have no idea how much the trauma, abuse, and neglect has hindered our decision-making capability.
We have “broken pickers” (as one of my clients called it).We tend to make some of the same mistakes over and over again, and it can take awhile to figure it out. We try, but we tend to follow certain patterns, especially in relationships. It goes something like this. After the dust has settled from the latest failed relationship, all you need to do is pick someone at least one step up from the last one you ended up with and finally, everything will work out fine. For me, that meant that the next one must not beat me up.That was the big deal breaker for me. But I digress.
One thing I did after my father died, after much consideration and forethought, is to get pregnant with my third child. If there is one thing I do not regret in my life, it is my decisions to give birth to various and sundry individuals. They are my life…my best friends in the world. Each one has made this mama proud. God knew each one of them before they were even “knit together in their mother’s womb” (Psalm 139) and all three of them love him dearly right back. So, under ordinary circumstances, my decision to get pregnant at that time of life may have made some sense. My fantasy of having a nice, calm Christian family life was not to be, however, and it’s possible that maybe I should have seen this coming.
To my ex-husband’s credit, he never once beat me up. Not only that, but he was extremely helpful to me during the years I experienced the worst of suffering serious mental illness. He took me to appointments with my therapists because I could not drive. In the beginning, he came home early when I called, sick with fear, and he watched the children when I could not cope with the unrelenting anxiety, depression, and grief. He attended church with me, at first as a way to support me, and eventually, he developed his own relationship with God. We were as happy as happy could be, outside of the hell I experienced in my own mind. And having a new baby in the house helped. Our son was a joy to both of us.
Then something began to change. My husband had a problem with drugs before we married, but he had trusted God to take away his appetite for smoking a doobie before breakfast. And God had come through…that is until my husband took a new job working with a bunch of Deadheads in the next town over. He just could not resist the stuff and returned to it again and again like a dog returning to its vomit. I argued and cajoled, pleaded and begged, to no avail. The following years were filled with alcohol, drugs, lies, and infidelity. I prayed. I waited. I prayed some more. I waited some more. I finally told God that if nothing was going to change, have him leave on his own. He did leave on his own about six months after that prayer. A second failed marriage, and I was still not a well woman. I had progressed, but the fear, anxiety, and depression were ever present, partly because my life was still a series of crises.
Driving down the street one foggy morning, my eyes filled with tears. I had just dropped my daughter off at her middle school and watched as her friend’s father hugged his pre-teen and waved goodbye as he drove away. As one thought led to another, an imaginary phone call with my deceased father engaged my mind.
“Dad? It’s Linda. Um, I’m kinda in dire straights (again). My husband left and I don’t have any way to support us. Can I come home and stay for awhile?”
“Of course,” my Dad would say, wearing a blue cardigan and smoking a pipe. “Your room is just how you left it.”
My heart ached with the thought of it. To feel that kind of love from a father! To be taken care of, if only for a little while! I saw myself tucked safely away in my twin bed with the lavender ruffled spread. I was so weary of constantly worrying about what I would do with three children, no husband, and anxiety and depression still such a huge part of my days. I had not been able to work for over ten years.
Suddenly a thought inserted itself into the middle of my reverie. As I continued to drive on auto-pilot towards home, a scripture I had read seemed to force its way to the forefront.
“The LORD is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him” (Psalm 103:13 TLB). For the first time I “saw” God as the compassionate father, one who, unlike any earthly father, can actually change circumstances and make permanent changes in my life. Instead of band-aid fixes, he could move hearts and open closed doors.
I continued towards home, a little warm glow beginning to melt the icy grip of fear. There were more battles to face, but it was a start. I couldn’t quite trust enough to hand over the reigns completely. But amazing doors were about to open. And unbeknownst to me, I was finally headed on a path to healing.