I went to therapy years ago after separating from my life and husband. I was in bad shape mentally when I left and was trying to save myself from descending deeper into depression. Feeling so alone and in need of support, I headed to my home town to spend time with my best friend and brothers. I wanted to go somewhere where I felt better. Basically, I needed someone to defend my honor instead of treating me like I was unimportant or wrong for feeling so lost and depressed, but I didn’t know it. I didn’t know how to describe what I needed.
After the first meeting with the psychiatrist, she said I was reacting normally to loss, but recommended a family counselor and put me on meds to help me cope with the crushing anxiety and depression. After months of counseling, my counselor concluded that what I felt was normal and expected. She said I was well adjusted, but I needed to surround myself with more supportive people.
It was not what I expected to hear. I was wondering what was wrong with me.
All of us need support and community, someone to defend our honor.
My lingering sadness and depression was a reaction to the lack of support from others in my life after many great losses. Isn’t that strange? Not just the losses from my youth, but the most devastating, that I had to leave my marriage to save myself. It was like those bad dreams where you are in a room with people, but no one sees you or worse, they see you, but just pass by you and ignore you.
I needed help, support, and community. We all do.
I use to say to my military husband that I needed someone to have my back, because I did not have parents or live in one place long enough (at the time we had 20 married moves, 26 years) to develop the type of friendships we need to sustain sanity. No relatives nearby, no siblings or close friends nearby, nothing familiar, I needed our relationship to be safe and strong.
Every time we started over, I dug in and tried to re-establish a life, but 22 years in, I knew I was in trouble. Our only daughter was married and living her own life. I was alone in a marriage and lived in a town where everyone else had moved on to new places. Our church was a mess and we were exhausted. At around year 26, when I could no longer keep us both functioning, I left. I was in a dark and lonely place, but somehow got the courage to save myself.
After all the pain in the past, I somehow rose above it, conquered it, and moved on. With the support of friends and family, I had served my church, taught what I had learned. I was accepted, but when I decided to leave my husband and the town we lived in, I lost almost all of the emotional and family support systems in my life.
That loss of community and emotional support created new grieving.
It is true that I had wondered where were the friends and family asking “What happened? Are you Okay? How can we help?” But I got more of, “What is wrong with you? How can you be a Christian and do this? Thought you were an example of a great marriage, you let us down. You let everyone down.”
I was rejected in varying degrees by those I needed to help me get through it. That fact alone does not mean I was right and they were wrong or vice versa. It was simply the situation.
Admittedly, after a life of Christian service, I was blindsided by the lack of empathy. At first, I understood their confusion. I was supposed to serve, be trustworthy, live as much like Christ as I humanly could, and in everyone’s eyes, I had messed up the second I decided I could not handle any of it anymore.
But, wasn’t anyone curious as to why I felt I had to leave? I had been depressed for a while, and my husband was clearly in a deep unhappy world of his own. Did they not notice?
I started writing and with my best friend and brother’s help, I somehow climbed out of the hole. Then, after more loss (more deaths and grief) and another failed relationship, I started to waver again. I wondered how I would trust anyone or my own future choices. It took me a couple more years to recover after that.
We can really make some big mistakes when we are lonely or grieving. Instead of an escape, I wondered into another relationship without support or a real commitment to a better life.
It is hard to admit this.
I DID NOT SEE that my struggle was allowing myself to let go of /or put space between myself and relationships that are/were deceitful, emotionally destructive, critical, self righteous, cold, one sided, or damaging. I always tried to make it work, to love my way through.
I needed some huge boundaries.
The truth is that my husband and I both needed help. Putting on a brave face and marching forward with a good attitude for years without rest or pause had sent us both into an abyss. We both needed to rest and be alone for awhile.
I am not sure when it happened, but I remember almost having a nervous breakdown when I realized that there were still relationships in my life I could not trust. I decided to make sure that I chose well in the future. In friendship, in relationships, in general community. I also decided to get myself together and rebuild the relationships in my life that I wanted to keep. My ex-husband was the only person I trusted to talk it through with and we started spending time working through the past.
I put everyone at arms length and established some boundaries.
Lack of boundaries and not requiring people to step up and treat me with equal respect and consideration was my IT. Being known for kindness is a good thing, but some personalities treat soft kind people like a doormat.
To conquer the thing that is keeping you captive in your life, you have to know what IT IS. In our weakest moments, our down and out moments, the ability to articulate what is going on inside is crucial, but what if you don’t know what is going on? What if some unknown sadness sits on you like a suffocating cloud and you can’t shake it?
Some people need counseling or therapy to figure out exactly what the root of the destruction is. Basically, I had two things to work on. Boundaries and requiring equal effort in a relationship. Equal commitment to friendship, love, respect. I needed to require better, someone to defend my honor.
We need to know what IT is. We need to know the source of our depression, anxiety, pain, anguish, sadness, or lack of emotion in order to conquer it. Not to focus on it, but to get rid of its power in our lives.
Then, while you get some help and heal, surround yourself with people who support you, appreciate you, and honor your friendship. Be careful who you choose.
Don’t we all need someone who will defend our honor?
Ask yourself, “Am I one of the vultures who circles and says that he/she got what they had coming,” or “look at him/her, a bad person, see how good I am? Look at all the good I do? And how much better I handle money/family/love/my kids blah, blah, blah.”
We should say “But for the grace of God go I,” and stop throwing stones and judging the fallen. You may be next.
Iron sharpening iron does not mean hitting someone in pain upside the head with your supposed knowledge of how they are wrong. No one but those involved ever knows the whole story
There are a thousand approaches; self righteous judgment and criticism is not one that is helpful or in line with Christian kindness. I can be around certain people and just being in the same room brings out my critical side. Do you have someone that brings out your critical side?
The best part of this story is that my husband and I reunited years later after both of us had sought counsel and healing. He defends my honor. He and I are a trustworthy team.
I learned so much from all of it though, so I don’t regret that difficult time. I fall, I get up. And each time I enter a place and find it unsafe, I retreat and search for solid ground.