Swallowing My Pride

Warning: This post talks frankly about suicidal ideation.

* * * *

If you had asked me the question, “Are you feeling safe?” 2 years ago, I probably would have laughed at you and said, “Of course I feel safe!” But safety takes on a whole new meaning when you’re dealing with mental illness. Since I started dealing with depression, there have been some days where I couldn’t answer that question in the affirmative. There have been days when I haven’t trusted myself to drive, so Stephen and I would carpool. One time my friend wanted to hang out but I was scared to leave the house, so she came and got me and took me to a movie. It is humbling having to admit that I can’t be trusted with myself, with my own thoughts. But it is also wise. If I were to foolishly insist on not having my privacy invaded in these ways, if I were to insist that I could take care of everything myself–like a “normal” person would–then I honestly might be dead. That is why psychiatric hospitals exist–to keep people safe when they cannot do so on their own. 

The other night my husband sat at the kitchen table and we began our weekly ritual: he watched me while I painstakingly refilled my pill box. Until I became depressed, I didn’t give much thought to the medications I took; swallowing pills was a routine I got accustomed to after I got diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. But once depression struck, the pills became more than medication meant to help me function in a healthy way; they became a way for me to end my life. I spent hours fantasizing about swallowing whole bottles of pills. I thought of ways to sneak out of the house with all of my pills and go somewhere else to silence the storm raging in my mind. I would look at the pills in my hand and calculate how many I could take to make a lethal dose. I couldn’t be sure, so I figured the more, the better. 

img_5787

Fortunately, I have been in therapy for over a year now, and when the subject of all of those pills came up in a session last September, my therapist insisted that safety measures be put into place at home. The first thing I had to do was tell my husband what I was thinking, which was a very hard conversation to have. The second thing I needed to do was find a way to prevent myself from having access to my medication. Such an idea was repulsive and embarrassing. What kind of person can’t even handle her own medications? My pride bristled greatly at the idea that I couldn’t control myself or trust myself enough to be responsible with my pills, but deep down I knew that the last thing I needed to do at this point in time was trust myself. So Stephen and I researched lock boxes and safes and found one that would work for our purposes. I bought a pill box with detachable containers for each day, so only one day can be out at a time. Now, each morning Stephen puts out that day’s meds and locks the rest of them up in the box, using the code only he knows. 

I say all of this not to garner sympathy or be overly dramatic, but to help you see what mental illness does to a person. Rational thoughts quickly are replaced with irrational ones, and thus it becomes easy to think that my loved ones are better off without me. I have always considered myself a responsible, trustworthy person. I never thought I would think about hiding pills from my husband and make secret plans to leave him and my family, but I have been that person. I wish I weren’t, and hopefully one day this will all be a thing of the past. Until then, I swallow my pride along with my pills and do what I can to keep myself safe so I can be present for years to come. I am grateful that God has stayed my hand and saved me from myself dozens of times. I am grateful He has given me a husband who does the hard things because he loves me. Thanks to both of them, I can lie down and sleep in safety.

Because He Loves Me

Nine years ago today, Stephen and I said, “I do.” We had little idea of what we were really getting into, but we were in love and ready to find out what marriage was all about. Nine years later, I’m not sure I know even now exactly what marriage is all about, but I’m so glad that I have Stephen with me while we figure it out.

Nine years ago, we committed to love each other forever, and for the most part, this has been an easy choice. But it has not been always been an easy road, and we have experienced firsthand loving one another “in sickness and in health.” My health issues over the past few years have tested us–tested our faith, tested our relationship, tested our endurance. I have seen Stephen function almost as a single parent at times when I was too sick to get out of bed. He has helped me use the bathroom, helped me get out of the shower, and lifted my legs up into the bed because I couldn’t do it myself–all things I wouldn’t have expected to need help with until much later in our married life. He has pushed me around stores in a wheelchair after my hip surgeries. I have seen him come home from work and immediately start playing with Charlotte, who loves her daddy more than anyone in the world (even me, as much as I hate to admit it). I have seen him make countless lunches for Charlotte, fix endless cups of coffee for me just the way I like it, save the last dessert for me, and put up with my indecisiveness about, well, almost everything. I have watched as he held our girl for the first time, eyes heavy with sleep but filled with love. I have watched as he paced the floor with our girl while she cried and cried and cried as a newborn. I have watched as he has prayed over our girl, read stories to her, and tickled her in all the right places until they are both collapsing with laughter.There were times when we looked at each other after a night of toddler tantrums, not knowing what in the world to do, but I remember being so thankful that in those moments, I could at least be clueless with him instead of clueless alone.

I knew when I married Stephen that I loved him, but that love has only grown deeper as we have walked the valleys of the past few years and as we have shared in the joys and struggles of parenting. He has done more for me in the past year than I ever thought he would have to do for me, and this humbles me and brings me to tears even now as I think about the many ways he sacrificed for me and our family. He would never want me to feel guilty about any of it, and I know he would do it all over again–each and every day if he had to–because he loves me. And not only does he love me, but he loves the Lord, and it’s because he loves the Lord that he is able to give of himself so fully and so selflessly. We only love because Christ loves us, and I have a daily reminder of God’s love for me in the form of Stephen. Because he loves me, I do not have to fear the future because I know I can face anything with him. Because he loves me, I am safe because I know he will take care of me. Because he loves me, each day is a gift. Because he loves me, I can see a glimpse of the immeasurable love that God has for me through his words and his actions towards me. Because he loves me, I love God more.

I love you, Stephen, and am happy to say “I do” to you every day for the rest of our lives.

How We Met

In honor of Valentine’s day, I thought I would share how Stephen and I met. Some of you may already know this story if you’ve been reading this blog for a while, but I know there are many who don’t know, so here you go!

Stephen and I knew each other while attending Union University, but we didn’t really hang out much; we just had some mutual friends, so our social circles crossed occasionally. (One time I drove him and another friend to a movie, and Stephen was singing some song. I asked innocently, “Who sings that song?” When he replied with the artist, I said, “Let’s keep it that way, okay?” I was a real gem.) Stephen graduated from Union two years before I did but got a job working in the library, so I still saw him every now and then. Once I graduated, however, the only time I saw him was when were both in a wedding of some friends of ours.  I then moved to Knoxville to attend graduate school in August of 2005, and Stephen was still working at Union.

While in grad school (or maybe before, I’m not quite sure), I created a MySpace profile. (Remember MySpace? Haha.)  MySpace and Facebook both helped me procrastinate writing lots of papers in grad school, and one day in April 2006 when I was on MySpace, I received a message from Stephen. He had come across my profile and said hello and just wanted to see what I was doing and where I was now.  So I wrote him back and filled him in on the basics, he wrote me back, and then we began corresponding on a daily basis, often with multiple emails. We found several shared interests, and it wasn’t long before I began looking forward to hearing from him and wanting to know more about him. What’s crazy is that not long after we first started writing each other, one of our mutual friends from Union wrote me and told me she had a wild thought: I should marry Stephen!  Hmmm…

After almost two weeks of writing, I gave him my phone number (somewhat nervously and hesitantly), and he called me not long after that. Though I was worried that we wouldn’t have much to talk about and that it would be awkward, we talked for three hours, and it was the easiest thing in the world! Our phone conversations continued, as did our writing (we each have upwards of 130 pages of emails saved in Word files), and it was pretty obvious that we were both very interested in pursuing something beyond friendship. After discussing it and praying about it, we began dating with the purpose of seeing if we could envision a future together. Even though a long distance relationship was not ideal, we made it work. I made several trips to Jackson to see him, and he came to Memphis several times to meet my parents and other family members when I was home from school for the summer. I also went to Illinois and met a bunch of his family when his grandfather passed away.  I was sorry to meet them under such sad circumstances, but it was great to meet his family.

I knew very early in our relationship that I wanted to marry Stephen, and he apparently felt the same way because we got engaged a mere three months after we started dating! I certainly don’t recommend that time frame for everyone, but for us, it worked. There’s the old saying,
“When you know, you know,” and we definitely knew it was meant to be.

I am beyond blessed to have Stephen in my life, and my love for him has only grown, especially now that I am able to see the role he plays as Charlotte’s father. I love you, Stephen!

And I sure am glad Tom invented MySpace. 🙂

Valentine Festivities

Would you believe that as I am writing this, it is snowing AGAIN? For those of you not aware, I live in west TN, and snow just does not come around that often. If it does, it is just a light dusting and often doesn’t stick, but this time makes the third time in a month’s time when there has actually been snow on the ground. While this snow is nothing compared to what the states up north are getting, I’m sick of it all and ready for spring!

I hope everyone had a great weekend. Stephen and I started celebrating Valentine’s Day on Thursday night by going out to dinner. We figured the restaurants would be less crowded on a weekday than when it got closer to the actual holiday. Romantic, right? 🙂 We had planned to go to a local BBQ place, but when we got there the credit card machine wasn’t working, so we left. We ended up going to Chili’s, and we splurged and got ribs and shared a dessert (Chocolate Chip Paradise Pie, and yes, I am aware of how many calories are in it).

Then on Friday at work I got a lovely surprise–two dozen red roses! Sadly, I took pictures with my phone and have no idea how to transfer them to the computer, but believe me when I say they are the most perfect roses I have ever seen. All my coworkers were oohing and awing over them, and it was so fun! He also got me some perfume (Lucky You). I have the best husband! Friday night we saw The Blind Side, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

On Saturday morning we packed up the car and headed for Memphis. My mom’s birthday is on Valentine’s Day, so my dad was hosting a big family dinner at their house that night to celebrate. That afternoon we met up with my brother, sister-in-law, and nephew to get a family portrait made. The last one we’d gotten made was almost 3 years ago, so we were definitely due for another one! Our photographer was a little kooky, but we got some shots that turned out well. All of the grandparents then came over that night for dinner, and we all had a great time. I love being with my family!

Sunday morning was church, and after eating lunch with my parents, Stephen and I headed back to Jackson. I took care of the laundry and went grocery shopping, and then the weekend was pretty much over. It went by fast, as always, but I am so thankful for my sweet husband and my family!

How did you spend your weekend?