I recently had a conversation with someone – that started something like this … how much pornography is TOO much pornography?
So we talked about it – but I said – before we DO talk – you need to know 2 things …
1. It’s something that I am VERY passionate about. 2. I’m right.
That being said – ANY amount of pornography is TOO much pornography.
But what about … NOPE.
Well – when … NOPE.
Yeah – but … NOPE.
But I’m thinking about my wife when I look at it – NOPE.
But it’s just to get the job done – NOPE.
What are you going to do when the boys learn about masturbation in school? When they’re taught that it’s just normal.
Well – about that. The boys go to a school where that’s not taught as “normal”.
BUT – it got me thinking about it. What ARE we going to tell them?!
I was telling a friend about this conversation and she showed me a book she got for her kids.
GOOD PICTURES BAD PICTURES.
Yesterday we started it – a few chapters at a time. It’s got questions to go over at the end of each chapter AND it puts the whole pornography thing into words that tend to escape you as a parent – especially of young children.
We finished it today. It explains the attraction center of the brain – what happens when you get excited and why pornography tricks you into believing the lies it’s telling you.
A few weeks ago – we were scrolling through NETFLIX and we settled on Princess Diaries 2 (it’s been a long winter so far here – even though it’s just starting) ANYWAY – the movie starts and Fitzy (who I forget can read most anything now) says – MOM! Chris Pine is in this movie!! YOU LOVE HIM!!
So today – I had the opportunity to explain it in a way they might get AND teach a little lesson.
You guys know that I think Chris Pine is cute right?! Yes – we know. AND you know that I think daddy is cute too right?! Yes – we know.
And I love daddy and am IN love with daddy and married to daddy and committed to daddy. Yes – we know.
So – should I ever look at bad pictures of Chris Pine – or anyone for that matter? No – you shouldn’t.
What if Chris Pine and I were in a movie together and I needed to kiss him in the movie?! Because I think he’s super cute and kissing him might sound like a good idea. MOM! No – you shouldn’t. Because you’re married to daddy and you shouldn’t do things that can make your feeling brain take over your thinking brain.
Fitzy chimed in – AND it’s in the 10 commandments mom.
And I’m sitting here typing this – watching FRIENDS for the first time since I watched it in high school.
SEX. SEX. SEX. Just like Seinfeld. Just like Big Bang Theory. And I’ve never seen pornography and I know that FRIENDS isn’t pornography – but Joey was in one. And they watch it – cus that’s just normal. IT IS JUST NORMAL. And when Jared told me – on one of our first dates – that he had a pornography problem – I thought … doesn’t every guy? Isn’t that just normal?!
You know what – it might be normal. It might very well be normal across the board.
How much pornography is TOO much pornography? Any amount. There is no other answer. LET’S MAKE THIS THE NORMAL.
Welcome to the Marriage Fight – where we talking about fighting FOR your marriage.
If you’re new to The Marriage Fight, or you haven’t been here since we haven’t posted in forever, here’s a quick run down of how things work.
We typically tackle a subject from both points of view. You’ll get a “He Said” post and a “She Said” post on a variety of different topics.
June this year will mark 15, FIFTEEN, years of marriage for us. We have two boys, Fitzy who is now almost 8 and Enoch who just turned 5.
We’ve seen really high highs and some really low lows. You can read more about that in our archives.
Again, whether you’re a first time visitor or you’re brand new to our site, welcome! We hope you enjoy the process of fighting for instead of in your marriage.
In November of 2013 – I wrote this. In October of 2013 – this.
You might want to reread those if you need to.
In February – I was asked to speak at our local MOPS group – on dealing with what happened a year and a half ago. Bringing mental health to light. Absolutely.
I’ve blogged about it before – about grace. And I didn’t say as much as I wanted to when I spoke – and since a few people were sad to miss – I thought I would write about it.
And you’ve seen this many times on our blogs – but here it is again. A promise. From God. Because it helps explain – everything.
You will get pregnant again. And even though you will default in your minds that you will probably miscarry – oh no. You will have a healthy child – possibly twins! It will be huge and massive BUT you must keep it to yourselves and announce at the END of the first trimester.
This is a promise from God and you will rename the son Enoch. God is NOT done with you. He’s just starting. You need to tuck this word on your hearts and cover it. The Enoch tattoo was intended as a remembrance BUT in God’s time was a prophetic act as to your next son’s name being branded.
It will be a massive testimony and will restore relationships, friendships, and family ties in ways you never thought possible. It’s going to be mammoth. It will be full circle. Both of your families will be remarkably astounded at what God will do through you in this next pregnancy. BUT you MUST NOT announce it until the end of the 1st trimester. Not even to close friends or family. YOU MUST WAIT!
(Again – that word – MASSIVE. MAMMOTH. Both of your families will be astounded at what God will do through you in this next pregnancy. It will restore relationships – friendships – family ties – in ways you never thought possible. Check. Check. And check. Friendships have been repaired – friendships that I thought were beyond any sort of repair. Family relationships have been healed. Because I was in a time of absolute need? Because I was hurting – we were hurting – and really in the end – why were we having issues in the first place? Remarkably astounded. God has given me remarkable strength and grace. Strength and grace to deal with mania and depression and what comes with each of those. Things I never imagined I would encounter. Ever. Strength to be a fantastic momma to an amazing little boy. Strength to carry a miracle – a promised child of God. Strength to stand by my husband when I wanted to run. And hide. For a long time. Grace. Forgiveness. A love that runs much deeper than romantic love. Deeper than – kiss you on the way out the door – love. Deeper than – XOXO – written on the bathroom mirror. Love that fights. Love that is ugly and beautiful at the same time. Love that makes you sob on the bathroom floor. Love that makes you pray harder than ever. Love that writes YOU CAN DO IT on the bathroom mirror. Love that fights. That screams. Love that makes you angry. Love that keeps your family together. Love that means far more than anything you could have imagined when you said your vows. Love that only Jesus can teach. Love that I was – and still am – incapable of on my own. I don’t know what I imagined those words could have meant – what God will do through this next pregnancy – but I didn’t imagine this.)
I honestly feel stronger about this than the word I gave you for Fitzy! You can’t even tell me when you first find out – I will already know. You can’t tell ANYONE! BELIEVE IT! RECEIVE IT! ACT! God is good and will be massively glorified through it. Save these messages for confirmation and documentation. Not for me – but so that we can honor Christ Jesus & God’s ridiculous faithfulness. He is good. He is really REALLY good!
That was all from an earlier blog post. But still very relevant. Especially that part about love. And about how God would be MASSIVELY GLORIFIED through it.
When I was thinking about what to say – a picture came to me. God’s grace. It’s like an iceberg – we will only ever see the part that’s out of the water. But there is SO MUCH MORE underneath the surface. Grace that we won’t understand this side of heaven.
Our lives changed. We were comfortable. Things seemed wonderful. Finally. After a miscarriage and trying for what seemed like forever to get pregnant – we had our sweet Fitzgerald. In the midst – were confessions of pornography. But he would tell me he was done. Again. And eventually – I started to believe him or just didn’t understand that it was an issue. A much bigger issue than I could ever imagine. Having Fitzy was wonderful – and brought along new challenges. Navigating friendships and establishing boundaries in ways we’ve never had to. I am a firm believer that married (or dating or engaged) men should not have really close relationships with other women. And vice-versa. It’s not a jealousy issue – but merely a precaution. For example – I have a second shooter that I take to weddings with me sometimes. He is fantastic. He’s a young guy. And if we travel to a wedding – the client has to provide two hotel rooms. Because while I completely trust that nothing would ever happen – I refuse to even put myself in that situation. Call me prude – call me old-fashioned. Call me what you will. But I won’t do it. Jared started having private (meaning hidden or purposefully keeping me out) conversations. And while nothing romantic was ever happening – just the fact that things were secret – was a problem in itself. But neither of them considered this a problem. But here’s the thing. I’ve never heard of anyone intending to have an affair. But man – my husband is really really being a jerk – and there’s this guy at work (or wherever) and he gets me. His wife is a nagging – you know what – (or he’s not married – which still doesn’t matter because he knows that you are) and it’s just nice to have an ear to listen and totally get it. He gets me. And the next thing you know – you’re lying in bed with someone that is not your husband and wondering. HOW DID WE GET HERE. When really the process started months ago. With that listening ear. Hey – text me when you need it. You know – to vent. I’m here. I can love you. Like you deserve. Um – that’s circumstance. Not love. That’s how you get there. And I would NOT be wondering how my marriage got there. So we fought. In our marriage. And for our marriage. We held onto our marriage with both hands. Tight. Made hard decisions that didn’t make people happy. But we knew that for OUR marriage to be happy and successful – they had to be made. Two more miscarriages. Then this word about Enoch – and a pregnancy – that stayed. Finally feeling secure in our relationship. And things were looking great!
And then it got strange. And things were not looking great. Scary and weird. Jared had textbook symptoms of a manic episode (which we didn’t realize until it was almost too late) – and life was about to change. And get really uncomfortable. Jared told me that God had released me from my vow to him and I needed to leave. He was at peace with never seeing Fitzy again or even meeting Enoch. He thought he could walk on water. And then he broke down. And the rebuilding started.
And I didn’t want to. I didn’t want him to hurt me. Again. His pornography addiction had reached a point that I wasn’t even aware of. Those secrets. You think that it will never happen to you. I know my spouse. There is NO WAY he could lie to me like that. Hide things. Wrong. You are wrong. We are all capable of awful things – especially when we are in awful places. He had told me so many times before that he was done. That it wasn’t an issue. And now. This. I truly believe that the severity of his addiction is what caused his breakdown. And I would not willingly go back to that life. Nope. No way.
(a quick side note – for most women that deal with pornography in their marriage – it’s a personal attack. I’m not good enough. I’ll never look like those women. He wants me to be something I’m not. He wishes I was thinner or prettier or just all together different. Not for me. And you can go ahead and roll your eyes and not believe me if it makes you feel better. But I know that I’m good enough. (except those late and early and up all nights with babies that wouldn’t sleep at night or during the day – that’s where I struggle with there must be something wrong with me – I’m not good enough – but that’s a different blog entry altogether) I’m comfortable with how I look. And you know what – even when I had an additional 90 pounds on me – I felt confident. You wouldn’t know I had 90 pounds to lose because I didn’t whine about it. I didn’t put down “skinny” girls because they looked better than me. I owned what I was. ANYWAY – I digress – again. It was never about what his porn addiction did to me. Self-esteem and confidence is a big one ladies. Own you. No one – and I mean NOT ONE person can take away your self-identity unless you allow them. And it’s hard. I’m sure you’ve all seen those awkward Harry Potter look-alike pictures I’ve posted. But own your awkward self. And knowing that I’m good enough isn’t a cocky attitude. I promise. It’s hard for lots of women to relate to me and vice-versa – because I don’t deal with self-esteem issues. I AM enough. And you are too. And I can guarantee that if you get to the heart of that issue – your perspective will change. I know that my husband’s addiction isn’t because he wishes he was with someone else. I know that he loves me and wants me. And it’s a hard thing to wrap your mind around.)
So – anyway – I didn’t want to go back to lies and promises that were broken. As a matter of fact – I made it perfectly clear that pornography would have NO place in our home. In our lives. We have two little boys to raise. In a sex-crazed world. Like it’s not hard enough. Nope. Won’t do it.
Really – I wanted to run and hide at my parents and just pretend this nightmare was really truly just a nightmare. But I had a little guy to take care of. And a growing baby inside to think about. And I photographed four weddings in the time that Jared started to spiral down and the secrets all come out.
The first one – I was furious. I wanted to run up to the altar and shake them. Scream. DO YOU KNOW WHAT YOU ARE DOING?! Sure – wedding vows sound awesome right now – but what about the sickness. What about the in want. What about the poorer. What about the part when your husband becomes someone you don’t know? THINK ABOUT THIS. I was so mad.
By the fourth – I was sobbing. What about the sickness. What about the in want. What about the poorer. What about it? I said yes. That’s what it’s about. I stood here and said yes. Yes. I will. And even though the world was full of heart shaped clouds on our wedding day – the only thing we could see was the beautiful road before us – that wasn’t reality. Reality is hard and ugly and beautiful and wonderful. All wrapped into one.
So running and hiding wasn’t an option. Even though he had kept secrets that left me crying on the floor for days. Even though I couldn’t tangibly understand how trust would EVER come back in our relationship. God had to work on my heart. I was terrified that our marriage was gone. And equally terrified that it would survive. Because survival meant that I had to forgive. A lot. I had to extend a whole lot of grace. More than what I’ve ever seen sticking out of the water. More than I ever wanted to extend actually. It meant trusting my heart to this man that hurt me. And trusting that it wouldn’t happen again.
But here’s the crazy thing. Well two things.
One – we hurt each other. We let each other down. Because we’re human. Marriage – any relationship – is not perfect. Is not smooth. Is not without offense of some kind. It will happen. Forgiveness is a wonderful gift. For both parties. But it’s also scary. Because 70 x 7. And I don’t believe that means – let people do what they will and keep forgiving with a smile on your face knowing that you will get hit again and again – it does mean forgive. And in any relationship (or marriage) (especially in terms of addiction) working toward restoration and healing. And believing for that. For miracles. So sometimes my mind travels. And I’m afraid that Jared is lying to me. Again. And panic sets in. I ask. But I don’t believe. And it shows in every aspect of my life. And I have to lean on God. Not Jared. Because that trust is STILL rebuilding. I have to trust God that Jared is healed. And you know what – it’s really really hard. But points me to God – not Jared. And you might think – but don’t you want to be pointed to your husband. Yes. You do. But when the past hurts and you’re trying with all your might – it doesn’t work sometimes. And God is our ultimate trust. And hope. You hope that he’s telling the truth. You hope that your lives won’t be turned upside down again. You hope that the love and affection you once had for your husband returns. You hope. And you try. And you believe. Because God has seen your heart and your hurt. And He knows that pornography cannot have a place in our lives. And miracles do happen. Even when you’ve lost faith. Sometimes – especially when you’ve lost faith.
Two – the crazy amount of grace that God gave me to get through each moment – and still gives me – cus whoa – I need lots. And lots. That crazy amount of grace that God gave me for Jared. Jared gives it to me. For the entire time that we’ve been together. Because here’s the thing. I didn’t have a big secret. But listen. I’m kind of hard to deal with. I’m impatient and right. I have ridiculous expectations. I’m a hot mess. And he loves me. He doesn’t just deal with me. He just loves me.
He gives me more grace that I deserve. He meaning God. And Jared.
And it’ll be two years this summer since everything happened – and life isn’t perfect. Because it never will be. But it’s a whole lot of beautiful right now. And we are still working on things. Creating boundaries. Healthy friendships. Always working on things. Being honest. Always trying. A whole lot of forgiveness. Rebuilding trust. Holding onto each other and hope.
I leave you with this – the lyrics to Glorious Ruins from Hillsong – a song Jared insisted (while he was manic) would be the theme of our lives.
When the mountains fall
And the tempest roars You are with me
When creation folds
Still my soul will soar on Your mercy
I’ll walk through the fire
With my head lifted high
And my spirit revived in Your story
And I’ll look to the cross
As my failure is lost
In the light of Your glorious grace
Let the ruins come to life
In the beauty of Your Name
Rising up from the ashes
God forever You reign
And my soul will find refuge
In the shadow of Your wings
I will love You forever
And forever I’ll sing
When the world caves in
Still my hope will cling to Your promise
Where my courage ends
Let my heart find strength in Your presence
I recently listened to a great teaching called “Healthy Families” by Kris Vallotton. Like many of his teachings, I so much enjoyed this one. I highly recommend taking an hour or so to listen to it. During the talk he shared 4 values of healthy families, but for the purpose of this post, I want to focus on one.
Healthy Marriages have NO SECRETS.
For years I held on to a huge secret in our marriage. It was my addiction to pornography. I’ve touched on the subject on my personal site, but I’ll mention just a bit of my struggle here. My exposure began like it does for many men – as a teenager to the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition. Over the years the content of what I watched became increasingly worse.
My addiction got so bad that it played a large part in my manic episode I detailed in a previous post. I was viewing porn (and terrible stuff at that) and I still, to this day, have absolutely no recollection of it. That is an incredibly scary thing for me.
After my manic episode I had one more relapse in my pornography addiction that was incredibly hurtful to our marriage. I confessed this relapse to Danielle, and she was devastated.
It took months to heal our marriage, and in all honesty, the healing occurs bit by bit to this day.
Pornography is an incredibly destructive force. It leads to secretive behavior. It keeps the husband from being completely honest and open with his wife. And it ends up leaving the wife feeling hurt, at best, and completely devastated and devalued at worst. It also leads to a huge lack of trust in a relationship once it has been exposed.
Fortunately for me Danielle has shown me untold amounts of grace. Firstly, she decided to stay with me during my mania even though I had told her at the time she was free to go and that God was telling me that (He obviously wasn’t).
Secondly, she stayed with me after my pornography admission bombshell. Which may have been even more difficult (you’d have to ask her). I can only begin to imagine the pain she dealt with and the anger that admission caused.
People have asked me how I got over my addiction to pornography, and I’ve told them I really believe it was a miracle. Nothing short of a miracle. Right before it ended there was a word given to me that everything would have to be torn down before it could be built back up. Our lives were “torn down” due to my manic episode (which this person had no idea about) and by my addiction to pornography. Ever since, our marriage has been built back up, although it hasn’t been easy.
So I don’t really have a good answer when it comes to getting out of the bondage of pornography. I struggled with it for YEARS. But I do know you should tell someone you trust, get help, get counseling if you need it and be open and honest with your wife.
Maybe the last part was the key that broke things once and for all. I had not been completely honest with Danielle. Once I was, and we went through the hurt and ugliness of the process, I believe that’s when I was completely healed from my addiction. But it took hard work, on both our parts, to begin the restoration process for our marriage. Nobody ever said marriage would be easy. Marriage takes a lot of work. Especially when working through such an ugly addiction. It would have been easy for Danielle to give up on me, especially since I had failed her time and time again. But she didn’t. She chose to fight for our marriage.
Pornography and sexual material seem to be absolutely everywhere it seems. You can find something attractive at your local Walmart aisle, the movies (50 Shades anyone?), or just a mouse click away. That is by no means an excuse for men. It is a reminder to us guys that we need to be ever vigilant regarding what we put before our eyes and what we allow our minds to dwell on.
Pornography can have NO PLACE in a marriage. It just can’t. You might be able to convince yourself that it will be okay for a while, but it will blow up in the end, and it won’t be pretty. Hopefully you’ll have someone like a Danielle to help pick up the pieces of the mess you made.
Healthy Marriages have NO SECRETS.
We were married ten years ago today. At 6:30 in the evening – we stood before God and our families and friends and said yes. We will. Forever.
While we were on vacation last month – my sister pointed something out to me. She said – why is it that growing up – YOU were the romantic. And now you’re not? We’ve kind of switched roles. And it hit me. She’s right. Growing up – I daydreamed about love and boyfriends and marriage and romance and dates and romantic getaways. There was ALWAYS a boy that I liked – one that didn’t like me back – but oh did I like him. Every time. And in my journals – I gushed about love. It’s all I thought about. I just wanted to be married and have babies. That’s it. No college – no job. Just love and marriage and baby carriages. But those boys didn’t return my affections. So off to college I went – more boys to oogle over and more boys that didn’t return my affections. And I still journaled about love. I still daydreamed about romance.
And then I met Jared. And he pursued me. And I didn’t know what to think. He had a reputation in college – a good one – don’t get me wrong. But he was THE Jared Barden. It was intimidating. Why would HE want ME? All the other boys I pined about didn’t. And it scared me. I called my mom and she said – Danielle – if you don’t give this Jared guy a chance – you could be missing out on your whole life. So I did. Our first date was my brother’s soccer game. He met my family. He knew within a few weeks that he would marry me – but it took me a little longer. And then all my notions of romance seemed silly. Over the top. Who needs roses and candlelit dinners and teddy bears holding little hearts when this guy loves me when I’m in my sweats and eating a carton of icing. Jared fit into my family perfectly. I fell in love with his kind heart and sweet spirit. And we said yes. We will. Forever.
And almost right away – reality set in. Losing jobs – leaving apartments – praying for paychecks. Moving into a home that I didn’t want to be in (and still being there today) – battling chronic pain and wondering if I would ever feel well again – deciding that it was time to start a family (and losing and struggling and finally holding a baby in our arms – now two). Rehoming our sweet puppy – starting a business (pouring myself into it) – struggling with anxiety. Time has flown by. Seriously. And I look back and wonder – what ON EARTH did we do with our time. How have we been married 10 years already? I’m breathing heavy just thinking about the next 10 years FLYING by.
And just when things seemed to finally be “normal” – life threw us yet another curve. The biggest yet. And I was lost and broken and hurting. My best friend became someone I didn’t know. My husband – the man I vowed forever with – was trapped. Recovery was intense – secrets exposed. Our world was crashing. But we said yes. Forever. And I loved him. I needed him. And my love took on an even less romantic feel and more of a survival mode. Fighting for our relationship and our life we had built. In the midst of that fight – romantic love was hard to find – is still hard to find sometimes. Forgiving (really truly forgiving) and moving on (not holding on to yesterday). Taking care of a toddler and welcoming a new baby into the mix – all while recovering and literally just trying to survive day by day – overwhelmed me. Still overwhelms me at times.
And then this man walks in the door at 5:20 and looks at me. And smiles. At me. The girl he pursued over ten years ago. The girl that he chose. The girl that he asked to spend his life with him. This man that has struggled and worked so hard over the past year to show me his sorrow and his love. This man that loves me. The man that God put in my path. The man that has given me two beautiful boys. The man that just loves me.
And I am truly amazed.
I love you Jared Barden. And I am anxious to experience a whole new level of love with you.
I should have known something was wrong on Friday. The night before, my friend Nate and his wife Jess and I, drove 2 plus hours on a whim to go worship with Bryan and Katie Torwalt in Harrisburg, PA. I called Danielle, who was in Athens for the night with Fitzy, and told her to drop her plans, and come with me. She responded with something like, what is wrong with you? You work tomorrow. We can’t just drive to Harrisburg tonight. I told her it was fine if she didn’t want to go, but I was. After worship, we ate at the Outback (my favorite) and made the trip back home. Some hanging out once we got home made for a LATE night, but the next day I was peppy and ready to go, while my friend Nate was dragging around.
I should have known something wasn’t right.
Let’s rewind a bit.
That Monday I was mowing the lawn. As I drove past a certain tree I felt God prompting me to “Go, take Fitzy and pray for your friend Ralph.” Now, I hadn’t seen Ralph in forever, but I knew he had some form of cancer. I dismissed the notion as just something I came up with. However, when I rounded the yard again I got the same impression, so I figured, “OK, I’ll go.” I called to make sure it was OK for us to come and Ralph’s wife said if we felt called to come pray, then we should.
I called my buddy Dan, and he was in, in a heartbeat. I went to my parents’ house to borrow the anointing oil, got Fitzy, and picked Dan up. Off we went to Ralph’s.
When we got there I explained what happened and how I thought we were supposed to pray for Ralph, and how I thought Fitzy was definitely supposed to pray as well. We got started praying and then I had Fitzy do a “repeat after me” prayer. I don’t think I’ll ever forget it. When we got to the part about “healing” Ralph, Fitzy screamed it out. Dan and I both had goosebumps.
Now, I’m not saying we’re anything special. I just felt called to go and pray. That’s all.
This led to a chain of events that got me to Harrisburg on a Thursday night after work, which we already covered. Just remember it was a super late night, and the next day it didn’t seem to faze me at all, while my friend, Nate, was definitely dragging.
Friday we went to Danielle’s parents’ house for the night before we made the rest of the trip for vacation on Sunday. As we drove over I talked almost incessantly about all sorts of stuff (moving, buying a house, canceling our beach trip, and all sorts of crazy stuff). I even told Danielle at one point we had to make a decision RIGHT NOW about what we were going to do. Again, I should have known something was wrong. She did. She kept asking me to slow down, calm down. What on earth are you talking about?
That evening, unbeknownst to myself (and still would be to this day if Danielle hadn’t told me what happened) I perused some material on my in-laws computer I had no business visiting. Later on that evening, or early morning Saturday, I found that material in the open tabs and freaked out because I thought it was from Danielle’s dad. I told Danielle we had to leave RIGHT AWAY, at 2 AM. I wasn’t comfortable at all. I couldn’t sleep. I remember staying up and asking friends online what I should do in the middle of the night. What I should have done was gone to sleep, assuming that I could have slept at all. What I should have done was not opened that computer in the first place.
Danielle had a wedding on Saturday and I didn’t feel comfortable staying at her parents after the events of the night. Danielle had confronted her dad and asked him if he had been looking at the stuff on the computer. I was terrified that he wouldn’t react well to my accusations. Danielle dropped me off in Troy on the way to her wedding and my uncle picked me up and took me home. Danielle came back to Mansfield on Sunday morning to pick me up and head for the beach, even though I firmly believed that we should not go.
Again. I should have known something was wrong.
On the way to the beach, we stopped to visit our friends Beth and Ben for the night. We met Beth and Ben on Facebook and have never met in real life before, so it was awesome to connect with them. We hit it off right away, which I knew we would. We felt like long lost friends. Little did I know that they hadn’t invited us down, but I had told them we would be coming.
I wanted to take Danielle to the church I had visited on Thursday night, since I had such a great time there. It didn’t work for Beth and Ben to go so we made the “trip” ourselves. During the course of worship I took Fitzy out to the lobby, since he was getting a bit antsy. While we walked around, I noticed a woman who was frantically searching for something. Turns out she had lost her phone.
The more I watched I learned she was the director of a worship school taking place at the church. She needed that phone to stay in touch with people.
When I went back in to switch off with Danielle a girl came up to me and asked whether or not I had seen the lost phone. Right then I felt God telling me we should give her one of our phones. I told her to find my wife and we would help them out.
Long story short, that didn’t fly with Danielle, and we ended up retuning to Beth and Ben’s with both phones in hand.
The next day we left for Ocean City, MD, a favorite vacation spot for our family. I was feeling good. Too good.
And then I got a phone call from my supervisor telling me I needed to take a prank video we recorded at work off YouTube. I kept asking him why and he said my boss wanted it deleted. I proceeded to call my boss and press him for an answer, which he gave.
I think that’s when things really started going downhill. I wasn’t thinking right and was making decisions at the drop of a hat. I drove over 8 hours to the beach, talking the entire time. About new jobs, new houses, new decisions.
We arrived at the beach and I was full of energy, talking almost incessantly. I was aggressive and hostile, to an extent, without any idea how it was affecting my family. I felt invincible. Apparently I also thought I was rich and extremely good looking. I was barely sleeping. Maybe getting two hours or so a night.
I even told Danielle she was released of her wedding vows. Now I don’t remember this at all, but Danielle assures me I did, several times. I told her it was OK for her to leave and that I would be fine. I would be fine never seeing her or the boys again. God told me. I mean, where does that come from? It’s amazing Danielle didn’t up and leave or at least smack me senseless right then and there.
I thought several times I was going to die. I mean seriously die. Like at any minute. It was scary and not, at the same time. My dad just held me the last time. I thought I was going “home” for sure at that point and it was wonderful just having dad there. Even though I hadn’t been treating him well either.
It all came to a head when I sat my family down in the middle of the courtyard at our condo and lectured them about how they needed to be on my side and support me. I feel awful for anyone who had to witness that train wreck. I gave my family an ultimatum. Either you’re on my side or you’re not. For some decisions that I explained were lifelong dreams for me. Things I felt God calling me to do. NOW. Things that they had never heard me talk about.
Thank God they all said “yes” or I wouldn’t be here right now.
I told Danielle I needed my phone for an hour so I could talk to my friend Dave. She had been begging me to get off my phone and spend some time with everyone. We talked for I don’t know how long about all sorts of things and then I went back to our room, handing over my phone.
That’s when it hit me. My body just couldn’t keep up with how fast my mind was moving anymore. I had a light lunch and then laid down for a nap.
That’s when things got really bizarre. When I woke up from my nap I had absolutely no idea what day or time of day it was. I barely knew where I was or who I was with. Little did I know Danielle had prayed this into being.
I’m told I also spoke with my doctor who informed my family I needed to be taken to the hospital immediately.
Danielle, my dad and I left for the hospital while mom stayed with Fitzy. On the way to the hospital in the midst of my jabbering I predicted some of the people who we would meet, even as far as saying one of the women we would work with would be named Mary. I made all sorts of stock predictions and rambled on about google, apple, and facebook. I made Danielle and dad promise to invest our money in them, because by this time tomorrow, we would all be millionaires.
I don’t remember much about the first hospital except that they showed me it was in fact the day everyone kept telling me it was.
The hospital didn’t have the facilities to handle my condition so I had to be transported to another hospital. Instead of an ambulance I was taken in a police vehicle instead. Since I was riding in the front seat I had to be handcuffed. On the way there the female officer and I had the nicest conversation.
At the next facility it was clear we were in a psychiatric center. There were people there who clearly had issues. As if I didn’t at the moment. After spending what felt like an eternity in my room I was sent back home. The doctors told dad and Danielle they have me enough medicine to “knock me out” for the night. Wrong. I kept jibber jabbering all the way back to the condo. I fell asleep and popped up two hours later, ready to go for the day, at 2 AM. Mom stayed up with me that night and then Danielle took the morning shift.
The next day, I told them I needed my phone. Danielle kept telling me that I had told her to take it away from me. That I didn’t need it, but I did need it to check the stocks and see how much money we had made. I told them that my phone needed to be in my hand by 9 AM, or else. Danielle and Fitzy left with mom, telling Dad to take control of the situation. Thankfully my dad talked me down and at one point I told him that I wanted to go home and see our doctor and maybe spend some time at the hospital. We had arrived at the beach on Monday afternoon and left on Thursday morning. We packed the car and headed home. Well, not home, but to Soldiers and Sailors hospital where I was soon admitted and voluntarily checked into the behavioral health unit.
Now, I had a lot of preconceived notions about what a BHU was. Boy was I mostly wrong. I was treated incredibly well, had a nice clean room, got to watch TV on a flat screen and even play the Wii during activity time. I got to experience group therapy, which is not quite the way it’s portrayed in most movies and TV shows.
I saw people worse off than me. I lived with drug addicts. I saw what it was like “on the inside”. And like I said, for the most part it wasn’t bad.
Not to say I wasn’t having issues. I was. I was attracted to just about ever female that came my way and figured they felt the same way. Thank God I didn’t do anything, if I could have, with any of them.
While I was in the BHU I was diagnosed as Bipolar 1. Looking back I’m not sure how I felt about the diagnosis. I guess I was confused, scared and didn’t believe it at first. Let me tell you, there’s still a part of me that doesn’t want to believe.
But I was in a hurry to get out, Bipolar or not, and I did after 5 days.
But that was too soon. When I was home I was irritable. And jumpy. Controlling. When I walked into mom and dad’s, mom turned on the blender, and I nearly jumped out of my skin.
Then there was the golfing incident. Dad and I went golfing at Corey Creek Thursday afternoon and I made the decision to purchase a new set of Calloway clubs. Dad didn’t know that when I went into the clubhouse I was going to come out $2,000 lighter in the wallet.
Large purchases are a warning sign to look out for in Bipolar it turns out.
My family decided I needed to go back to the hospital, and I, reluctantly, agreed. I demanded that only Danielle take me, and unbeknownst to me, my dad followed. While in the ER, Danielle confronted me about the golf clubs, she had found out through my friend Jason, and I told her to leave. I didn’t want to see her. So she did.
My second stay on the BHU lasted 10 days. Again, I was treated so well and even put on a decent amount of weight due to the great food. Yes, you read that right. My hospital food was great. Or at least it was in my still somewhat manic state of mind.
After leaving the hospital I started counseling and I now see a psychiatrist regularly. Again, it’s not like the stereotype I thought it was. I’m on a combination of medications to help me not get too high or too low, and at this point, they seem to be working well.
I tell you this story for several reasons. This can happen to anyone. Any one of us. And to say how thankful I am for my mom and dad and my in-laws. And how thankful I am for Danielle. She was a rock for me when my whole world was literally flipped upside down. She was my stability when all she wanted to do was run. She didn’t and wouldn’t give up on me.
Even after I dropped a giant bombshell of a secret on Danielle and flipped her world upside down right after I was released from the hospital, she stood by my side through the pain of it all.
Danielle was “in deep”, and she saved my life. I can never thank her enough.
At several points in my story I didn’t know how or didn’t even want to fight for my marriage. I didn’t even know what was going, on let alone know how to save my marriage from the wreckage I was putting it through.
But. Even though things were terrible I kept telling Danielle “it will be OK”. Now, hearing this from someone who is having a breakdown isn’t necessarily reassuring, but somewhere inside I knew things would be OK. Our marriage would be OK, even while I was telling Danielle she was free to up and leave. Even when I was saying things to her that I can’t even bear to think about, let alone repeat here, or even remember.
I don’t know why I went on summer vacation and ended up diagnosed as bipolar. I wish I did. It still doesn’t seem fair to me. I can only speculate at this point, but someday I’m sure I’ll have a better understanding.
Even though I didn’t know it this summer, I was “in deep.”
And I’ll never be anything less.
In the height of his mania – Jared told me that I was released from the vow I made to him on our wedding day. I could leave if I couldn’t handle what was happening (which none of us knew what really was happening at that point) and God would understand. He would forgive me. He said – go to your parents. Stay with them for a few months. Think about it. But my life is going to change – immensely – and I don’t think you are ready for it. I cried. So much. I begged him to stop acting so – crazy. Think about what he was saying. What it really meant. To leave? He couldn’t even explain to me what was happening. I couldn’t explain what was happening. We were at the beach – supposed to be having the time of our lives (which turns out – we did – just not in the way you usually think of it). We have a beautiful son together and another on the way. A specific promise from God. To us. Not just me. Us. Please – think about what you are saying. What you are doing. What it would really mean for me to leave and never see you again.
He felt at peace. He felt calm. He felt more in tune with God than at any other time in his life. From his perspective – he was slow and rational. Calm and making more sense than he ever had. To us – he was operating in fast forward. Making irrational decisions. He was anything but calm and very rarely made sense. It was – by far – the strangest and scariest experience of my life. This man that I had spent 10 years of my life with – was suddenly a different person. Completely different. With no evidence of the man I knew.
We were in deep. But then again – our whole relationship has been that way.
If you know me at all – you know that I don’t do things quietly. It’s all or nothing. While I hate drama – I am very dramatic. And my whole life – it’s always something. Maybe it’s why I have the view I do. While others call is pessimism – I call it reality. The man in black says it best. Life is pain highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something. It’s such a perfect line. So true. While life is beautiful – it’s also painful. In my experience – more often than not. Constantly finding the beauty from pain. Seeing what the pain in life brings. Because God sees the whole plan – we can’t imagine what good the pain will do. But He knows. He’s known all along. Where we see hurt and heartache – He sees happiness and rejoicing.
In deep. When I said – I do. I meant just that. Yes. I do. For always. Now – don’t get me wrong. There are things that happen in marriages – relationships – that aren’t acceptable. Things that would most definitely make me leave. After – what I hope would be – several efforts at making it work. Counseling. Rehabilitation. Whatever was needed.
I knew this was different. I knew something wasn’t right. I knew this wasn’t Jared. But I had no clue what. In finding out that it was a manic episode and we would have to deal with this for a while – it made it easier. Only in the way that we had an answer. The process was hard. Painful. Ugly. It’s still hard. Not as much – thank You Jesus.
In deep. Yes – I was pregnant. Yes – we had a two year old to think about. Yes – I was terrified. Yes – I was scared. Yes – I was tired – mostly from crying. But I dug deeper. I prayed harder. Asked for strength beyond anything I could imagine. Told Fitzy stories about his daddy. How much he loved him. How we needed to pray for him. Dear Jesus – heal my daddy – amen. Again mommy? Dear Jesus – heal my daddy – amen. I tried – and failed at times – to not talk about it all in front of him. While I was hurt and confused and angry – I never wanted to put Jared in a bad light. I never wanted to tear him down. I never wanted Fitzy to be hurt and angry – just because I was. And you know what – that’s Jesus. The fact that I love my husband more today than 4 months ago – that’s Jesus.
I couldn’t leave. While I needed to think about myself and my babies – I also had to think about Jared. Because – that’s what marriage is. And I’ve done a pretty crappy job in that area – for most of our marriage. When I got married – I thought the hardest thing would be dealing with only child Jared. Turns out – the hardest thing was dealing with a bossy oldest child. One with ridiculous expectations of how things needed to look and be arranged. Jared and I both struggle with perfectionism. His is more about what people think of him and how he needs to be perceived by people. Mine is more about organization and having hangers an equal distance apart – ridiculous things that don’t matter. Things that take up way too much time and energy. Things that will never ever matter. Thankfully – I’ve learned that. For the most part. But when we were first married – it was tough. Jared certainly did not put the milk where it should go. He didn’t leave his towels on the right rack. His shoes didn’t go THERE – they go HERE. Seriously. I wish I was kidding. When life starts to spin out of my control – I take control. In those areas. And it gets intense. So really – truly – looking back – I was more in love with controlling Jared and making him into what I wanted than I was in sharing a life with him. Ugh. It’s rough to type that. And sometimes – that feeling creeps up on me. Life is getting out of control again – WHY AREN’T THE DISHES DONE. And Jared says – because there are only two bowls in the sink. And I huff out to the kitchen and do them – with an attitude. Because I need to have control. And order. In order to not spin out of control.
So I’m working on that. Learning to let go. To not be so selfish. And I’m not trying to say – Jared’s never selfish – don’t blame him. He totally is. And so am I. And the only person I CAN control – is me. The only reactions I CAN control are mine. God really knew what He was doing when he sent me Fitzy. When Fitzy spills something – he immediately looks at me and says – it’s okay momma (and moves his hands in a so-so motion) it’s okay momma. I sigh. I count to 3. And I say – right babe. It’s okay. It’s just water. Next time – let’s be more careful – but it’s just water. I could be wrong – but I’m pretty sure I haven’t freaked out on him about spilling something or putting something out of my precious order. God just knows that in order to reign in my crazy – I need that little boy to remind me – it’s okay.
Fitzy dealt with everything amazingly. He wanted his home. He wanted his daddy. I couldn’t keep him from him. For both of their sakes. Like I said – if certain things had happened – then I obviously wouldn’t have stayed in an unsafe environment. Being home kept life stable for Fitzy – as stable as it could be.
In deep. I cried to my mom – why now? Why couldn’t this have happened when we didn’t have kids? She said – because that would be one more reason to leave. You love Jared – I know that. But without kids in the picture – while it’s still hard – it’s easier to walk away. Easier to say – forget it. I didn’t sign up for this. You figure it out. And that’s not what I’m about – that’s not what marriage is about.
I prayed. And prayed and prayed. God – do You want me to leave him? Do I leave him to figure this out on his own?
When we were at the beach – when it got really intense – I said to Jared. Listen to me. I am not afraid to be a single mom. I’ve got awesome parents and an awesome family. You’ve got awesome parents and an awesome family. I can and will do it. Awesomely. But I am afraid of two things. Doing this life without you. And our boys experiencing this life without you. You are my love. And if you are telling me that God is speaking to you about this dream you have – then we will do it. I support you. I love you. I said yes. To you. But don’t you dare tell me that I can leave. Don’t tell me that you can do this without me – and not be sad about that.
After that conversation – we went inside. Jared laid down on the couch and fell asleep. I went in the bedroom and cried. And prayed. Prayed that God would make him sick. Make him blind. Make him deaf. Make him not know what day it was. Make him understand the severity of what was happening and let us take him to the hospital. I had called our family doctor and told him what was happening and he urged that Jared see a doctor. Now. I prayed like I’ve never prayed before. Things that are just out of my comfort zone to pray – and I don’t really know why. I said – Jesus lives in me. Therefore – I have power in Jesus’ name. Make him sick. Make him confused. Now.
I went out and woke him up – told him that our doctor was on the phone. Jared looked at me like he didn’t know me. He was panicked. He kept asking what day it was. He didn’t believe us. My heart raced. THANK YOU JESUS. He talked with our doctor and agreed to let us take him to the ER because physically he didn’t feel right. And so began a long and painful night. A night where I watched my husband break down and his mind betray him.
I prayed a lot – about a lot of things. And about leaving. For a short time – for a long time. And I never felt God say – yes. I put my feelings aside – of course I wanted to stay with my husband. But there were also times that running to my mom and dad’s and falling into their arms – for a long time – was very tempting. Very. I just can’t explain it. I never felt like I could.
Next year we will celebrate 10 years of marriage – and let me tell you – it will be a celebration! We’ve been through so much together. More than I ever thought would happen. Like I’ve said before – I don’t know what I expected to be ahead of us when I stood there and said I do – but it wasn’t this. At least – not this way. Not with so much pain and heartache.
I expected us to fall deeply in love with each passing day. And we have. I expected us to have beautiful children. And we do. I expected to touch people’s lives. And we are. We are in this. Deep. I didn’t expect that the hardest times of our lives would cause us to become closer. I didn’t expect to look back on the past 10 years and see how we’ve grown – so much. Grown up and just grown. As a husband and a wife. As a mother and a father. As a son and a daughter. I didn’t think that we would experience a miscarriage – let alone three. I didn’t think this would be our ministry. Praying for and encouraging people who are wanting a baby. People who are where we were. I didn’t think that I would ever feel insecure in our relationship. I didn’t think that experience could help anyone. And it has. It’s moved us closer together. It’s forced us to look at our marriage and what was missing. I didn’t think that my husband having a manic episode would be the amazing testimony that God was talking about when He told us about Enoch’s existence. I never thought that I would see anything good come from it. Anything. Ever. I never thought that I would be sitting here. With Fitzy leaning his little head against my shoulder. Christmas lights shining on the face of a second miracle. A miracle that is sleeping on his daddy’s chest. A daddy that four months ago – I wasn’t sure would be here – emotionally. Or physically for that matter.
I didn’t think our life would ever be the same. I didn’t think it would ever be normal. I’m discovering that it won’t. It won’t ever be the same. Or normal.
And that’s not a bad thing.
In fact – it might be the best thing that ever happens to us.
In deep. It’s what we ask of God. Take us deeper.
“Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior”
I can’t finish this post. Not now. It’s too soon.
But grace is unmerited favor. I thought I knew about grace, but I didn’t. Until now. I’ve been shown favor I’m not deserving of, time and time again. By a woman who said “I do” over 9 years ago. And she shows that grace because of a God who loves her and pours His grace into her, time and time again.
Without those graces, I wouldn’t be able to type this post, that much I know.
I have Type 1 Bipolar Disorder, which we just recently discovered. It explains (or starts to) a lot of things. I need grace now more than ever, and I have found that grace.
For grace I am eternally grateful.