It’s so difficult to watch your spouse struggle. It’s even more difficult to watch in a way that says, I can’t fix this. It was clear at the onset that this was way bigger than me, it was way bigger than Michael and we weren’t going to make it though this without medical intervention.
In the blink of an eye, through the simplicity of one single text message, a wall that took years of building and perfecting came crumbling down. A wall that hid the pain not only from others, but also from himself. I watched as my husband seemingly fell apart a little more each day before my eyes. Conversations were different. He was physically present, but he was not there. He began missing common exits on the road, and leaving work everyday hours before normal. His ability to regulate his mood was unreliable. He was suicidal and remarked regularly how he wished he was no longer alive. He was unpredictable, and unlike the person I remembered marrying. What we didn’t realize up until this point was that Michael endured years and years of physical, sexual, and verbal abuse as a child. I have since learned that there are many ways that we can respond to this kind of pain and trauma. In Michael’s case, for survival purposes, his brain blocked all these traumatic memories in an attempt to protect him. If you’re like me, you probably had no clue our brains were even capable of such things. It’s utterly shocking to me, to be honest.
With each day that passed I felt fear knocking on the door of my heart. As I type that, tears well up in my eyes. You don’t forget that kind of fear. He had night terrors that jolted me from my sleep. He would scream, and sometimes in his attempt to “get away” would slam into things around our room unaware of what he was doing. There were times where he would voice the abuse he was reliving in that moment. Things I’ll never be able to unhear or forget. The deep sadness that was in our home could almost be felt tangibly. In the coming months, Michael would spend countless hours in many different forms of therapy at a residential facility in Tennessee that specializes in trauma. To this day, I believe this saved his life.
November 28, 2018, just days after this all began I got a word from the Lord. It was out of Psalm chapter eighty nine. I recorded it in my journal. It says,
“My hand will sustain him, surely my arm will strengthen him. The enemy will not get the better of him; the wicked will not oppress him. I will crush his foes before him and strike down his adversaries. My faithful love will be with him, and through My name his strength will be exalted. I will set his hand over the sea, his right hand over the rivers. He will call out to Me, ‘You are my Father, My God, the Rock, my Savior.”
God was not silent in my sadness. He was speaking. My mind said, Erika you have a husband and three children that need you right now. The Spirit inside me whispered, “They’re mine.” I think often times when we pray in big faith, it should come with a tagline. Something to the effect of, “This answer probably won’t look the way you think it’s going to look.” The reality is, I do have a husband and three children that need me. What they don’t need from me is to get out of my lane and attempt to control things that aren’t meant for my control. My prayer for years has been that the Lord would use our family to be a light for Him. (Eesh! What am I asking? I’m saying out loud to myself right now.) You know what the Lord is teaching me? He cares more about our character than He does anything we could possible do for Him. He comes for the heart. He sets the captive free. And so often that process is hard and very messy. It will take you to the edge of yourself and beckon you into deeper, unfamiliar waters. Waters where you’re uncomfortable, and your faith is deepened and your love for Him grows abundantly. It’s out of that love where He uses us to be His hands and feet. Not in our own strength and certainly not in our own understanding. It’s rarely ever the road we would’ve chosen for ourselves.
I’ve watched my husband come further in nine months with the work of God’s hand in his life than I’ve seen in the last nine years. I feel as though I’ve witnessed a miracle unfold right in front of me. I’m so unbelievably proud and inspired by the bravery and determination I see in his eyes. He sees in new ways, he lives in new ways, and he loves in new ways. He’s more present and mindful and has a more healthy approach to all aspects of life in general. He and I both know his story is far from over, and there is more growth to come. However, neither of us can dispute the healing that has already taken place in his life. Never for one second be ashamed of asking for help. Never for one second let anyone make you feel like less than for seeing a counselor, a therapist or any of the like. It takes a lot of guts to first be real with yourself, and secondly to be real with others. Get the help you deserve and get free! The waters are waiting.
Read more about how life is unfolding for us on Michael’s blog linked here.