I’m sharing today on a deeply personal and sensitive topic (short disclaimer-with Bruce’s full endorsement)
Bruce, my rockstar husband, lives with managed clinical depression. He was diagnosed in 2003. Looking backward, he knows he lived with it for most of his life. Clinical depression is an insidious mental illness. Just when you think it’s tamed, something comes along to wake it up giving it new life in your brain. In his case, it was open heart surgery from last April.
Modern medicine is such a miraculous thing! We are so grateful that we don’t live in 1940 when so many things were undiscovered and untreated, leading to often fatal consequences. We know that medical science has resulted in life saving and life transformative practices, (like immunizations people!!!)
We thank God often for gifting the medical community with creativity, passion, scientific knowledge and direction to assist in the healing of Bruce’s illness. Given a different diagnosis/treatment, Bruce could have easily fallen through the medical cracks and become another heartbreaking statistic.
There is this thing called “quality of life” that often, medical science is want to address. While open heart surgery saved Bruce’s life, it also left him with competing prescriptions that allowed depression to awaken again. It’s not the first time he’s dealt with an episode and each episode brings a new level of awareness and management skills. We are both grateful for the knowledge gained at these times, but would we rather not have to learn it?
Living with and loving a person who battles mental illness is something I never imagined for my life. In fact, in 1981, the year we were married, clinical depression was minimally diagnosed let alone treated. We certainly didn’t know about it, general doctors didn’t screen for it and the medications available to treat it had some serious side effects. So the behaviors that came from Bruce having depression were seen by me in a much different way than they are today.
I blamed him. Shamed him. Criticized him. Ranted, fought, and argued with him. I’m ashamed to admit all of this. It was ugly. And if Bruce hadn’t loved me so deeply I’m not sure we’d still be married. He could have easily walked.
Men have done so for less
Ultimately I was the one who sent him to seek help. He was in a cycle at work of trying to please a boss who couldn’t be pleased and it was stealing his soul. I actually feared that it would be her or him and that she would win. I did a bit of research and after the girls were in bed, he put his head in my lap and I said this,
“I think there is something broken in your brain stemming from past wounds. You didn’t cause it, it’s not your fault but it’s driving you and I’m afraid for you and there is help…”
The relief that he felt allowed him to sleep that night. The next day he reached out to the company hotline for mental health issues (something that didn’t exist in 1981) and after a brief screening they sent him home. In fact, he ranked so highly on their scale that,
If he’d possessed a firearm they would have sent him to a hospital
All of this led to comprehensive treatment for this illness and life hasn’t been the same since. He went through a 3 week intervention with the Meier Clinic, it educated him about depression and gave him coping skills, helping to free him from past wounds. To this day we are beyond grateful for the help he received at that time. So many people are misdiagnosed and spend decades looking for the appropriate help, but God intervened on Bruce’s behalf.
It was nothing short of miraculous
This summer, because of the latest Rx issues, and because it’s just the 2 of us, with minimal church obligations and time on our hands, we’ve done a lot of talking. We’ve gone down memory lane both sweet and sad. We’ve talked about his feelings extensively (it really can happen ladies).
And I’ve learned…
You’d think that after almost 40 years I’d know all there is to know about my husband. At a time in life when so many couples settle into complacency in their marriages, I’m challenged. Challenged once again to learn, love and grow in my understanding of the man I married. Its a no brainer, I gladly do it. It humbles me to meet him at his crossroad. And lest you think I’m an exemplary wife let me assure you I’m not.
You see, selfishness is my besetting sin. I am guilty of all manner of it. I want comfort and ease. I want my husband to be my hero, knight in shining armor and rescuer. I lean on his insight and decisiveness. I crave his charm and humor. And I rely completely on his earning power.
But through this journey of healing for Bruce, God has changed me. I’ve been confronted with my own sin of marital laziness. I’ve learned that my desire for an easy marriage is not only selfish but unBiblical. The idea of marriage as a fairytale romance isn’t God’s. Those simple and cute TV shows that I lived on as a kid are not illustrations of Kingdom Life. A blessed marriage isn’t one of fun, laughter and romance, though all of those things are important and necessary. For me, marriage has been…
A tool that God uses to conform me to the image of his son
It’s a vehicle for creating his kind of holiness in me. I guarantee that I’m not the person I am today without this journey. And it’s only by God’s intervention in both of our lives that I can claim any deliverance from the sin of selfish, marital laziness.
Why share this now you ask?
Firstly, this week’s sermon was about miraculous healing. I want to state unequivocally that I love my church. I’m grateful that it’s a victory minded one, I don’t think I would thrive in any other type. But as so often happens when living with a medically managed illness, sermons about miraculous healing can leave you feeling inadequate. This has always been the case for Bruce. I asked him if he felt that way this time.
“Nope…I felt like I was being challenged to accept that what God has done for me is enough. To be content and accept the miraculous things he’s already done and to continue to press on with the things that haven’t been healed yet”.
Secondly, it’s time to talk about this topic. The times are right for opening dialogs about mental health issues. And if anyone will benefit from this it’s what we want. Men are especially reticent to share their stories. As I showed Bruce this post his comment was,
“Don’t worry about me, if God can use this then let him”
Our God given, rock solid statement about healing for 20 years has been this,
“We’ll take healing any way God wants to bring it”
And we will be thankful for it. There is no diminishing the value of Bruce’s healing knowing that it came through modern medicine coupled with prayer and spiritual breakthrough.
Healing is healing any way that it happens
Kary Miller says
It is extremely hard to put into words what I felt while reading this. But it hit and resonated at the deepest part of truth in my body. Thank you for creating a clear picture of the struggle for couples, as well as individuals regarding mental health. This is going to be required reading for my counseling clients…… you give tremendous validation and permission to those of us that have walked the road. Please thank Bruce for sharing his story so openly along with yours. You are both courageous heros. Blessings.
Cinda Shaver says
Thanks Kary, it’s been brewing this summer. Highly recommend a book titled “I Love Jesus and I want to Die”. It changed Bruce’s perspective almost overnight. Once again, those healing steps that come along just when needed.
This is so beautifully written. Thank you, and thank Bruce, for sharing.
Cinda Shaver says