Marriage

I wish for other people to have what I have, specifically when it comes to marriage.

I have a husband who helps around the house. He’ll throw in a load of laundry if he needs something washed. And he’ll include my dirties, too!

He loves to cook, so all I have to do is buy the ingredients for the meal. He wants me to come up with the menus and buy the stuff, but he’ll do the cooking. I usually do the cleanup, but he’s done the dishes countless times.

He listens. He often perceives when something is bugging me or bringing me down, and he’ll ask if I’m ok. Then he listens, without trying to fix it or even offering advice. He simply listens, which is often all I need to feel better.

He expresses affection. He used to make a big deal of kissing me in front of the kids as they were growing up (their response? “Ew! Gross!”). He’ll go out of his way to give me a hug. Or he’ll wrap his arms around me if I tell him I need one.

He supports my passions, like facilitating Fresh Hope and volunteering. He wants me to have hobbies. And girl friends. He wants me to be fulfilled and happy.

Things weren’t always this way. After 32 years of marriage, we’ve grown into this. I’ve learned to not assume, and to ask for what I need. He’s learned my moods and body language, and how to respond to them. We’ve both learned to listen more and argue less.

We’re still learning to express ourselves to the other with respect and without angry words. We’re learning to speak in terms of “I feel…” instead of “You make me feel…,” keeping it personal and in first-person. We’re learning to navigate the proper timing for discussions – not after a business trip nor right before bed. We’re learning to laugh together again, like we did when we were dating, before all the stresses of family and life. We’re still learning to talk about the hard things – money, the kids, mental illness.

I don’t write this to make anyone jealous. I write because I see other marriages that are one-sided or lacking love or respect of the other spouse, and it makes me sad. I want them to have more.

I’m left wanting for my friends who don’t have this. I wish everyone could have someone who is a kind, thoughtful, responsive, and supportive spouse, like I do.

My husband loves me as Christ loves the church – sacrificially, generously.

Sure, he has his faults. In all of the above examples, there are times when he doesn’t do. When he assumes I’ll do the laundry, or won’t ask about my mood. Ours is not a perfect marriage; none is. But he tries, and “hits it out of the park” most days.

I feel treasured and valued. I long for that for others.

I hope that we can model what a Christ-centered marriage looks like. I hope we can improve our communication, and our relationship – as a couple – with the Lord. I want even more for our marriage, and am willing to work so it will continue to mature and improve as we grow old together.

And I’ll keep praying for my friends and their marriages, that God will transform them into all they can be.

Sleepless

What. is. going. on?

We went to bed 3 hours ago, and I’m still wide awake. I tried chamomile tea. I tried warm milk. I tried Advil. This all in addition to the sleep med that I take. But it’s no use. I’m still wide awake.

Contrast that to other nights this week. Hubby was traveling, and I found myself bored and tired by 9pm, collapsing into bed and asleep by 9:30 at the latest.  And I’d get a full 10, even 12 hours of sleep! This happened all week long, until tonight.

Now here I am at 1:09am, typing a blog because I’m too awake to even close my eyes. They keep popping back open!

My mind isn’t racing with a long to-do list.  I’m not worried about anything. I’m not anxious for anyone. I’m just awake.

There are two variables to which I might be able to pinpoint a cause. One – I had a glass of wine right before bed. But I’ve done that many times, and have rarely had a problem falling asleep. Two – my husband is home and back in bed with me. Hmm. Perhaps I’ve gotten comfortable having the bed all to myself!

This second scenario would imply that I’m sprawling out in the middle of the mattress, hogging all the pillows and blankets, and taking over the bed. But this is not the case. I sleep on my side of the bed, even when he’s gone. I might occasionally pull the blankets my way, but I’m not sleeping down the center.

So what has caused this nighttime wakefulness? I haven’t had insomnia for several months – is it cyclical, and it’s time for me again? Is this going to be a repeat pattern, every few months? I can’t draw that conclusion from just one night of wide-awakeness.

The cat just wandered in, wondering why I’m awake. I’m sure. She usually has the house to herself at night! She sniffs my computer and then saunters off to explore another corner of the home. Maybe out to the garage, where she can hop through the open window and curl up in the seat of the car and nap. Oh, that sounds nice!

In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, O Lord, will keep me safe. Psalm 4:8 NLT

32 Years and Counting

Today is my – make that “our” – 32nd wedding anniversary. He surprised me by sending a bouquet of roses and baby’s breath. He broadcasted “Happy Anniversary!” over our Google Home – he’s in PA and I’m in VA, but he still wished me a beautiful day.

He’s on the road right now, headed home for the weekend. I have white wine chilling so we can clink our glasses to 32 years of marriage.šŸ„‚

It hasn’t always been easy. There were tough times: the job he lost when the entire department was downsized; my several years of depression, including the lowest pit I’ve ever experienced.

Fun times, too: lots of camping and vacations; laughter around the family dinner table with the kids – at all different ages of their lives; driving the convertible with the top down (that’s a recent fun pastime!) and exploring back country roads (we’ve been doing that since before we were married).

There are some details about our wedding day I remember, and lots of memories are prompted by photos. I remember noticing that the candles next to the Unity Candle weren’t lit, and not hearing a word the pastor said as I worried what we would do (the pastor was prepared with a lighter, and he calmly came over to the candles and lit them so we could proceed with the ceremony). I recall my dress falling off my shoulders as we walked down the aisle together as husband and wife. I remember my uncle rushing away from the reception when an emergency came from down the road – someone had fallen off a low bridge, I think. I remember asking the photographer to take a picture of our rings, our hands together.

Other details are a blur. But the memory of the day itself is warm and full of promise and expectation.

And now, 32 years later, I realize I had no idea what was coming. None of the details match what I imagined that day. How could they? Who knows what the future will bring?

That goes for the next 32 years. Who knows what we’ll experience – what joys and tears and celebrations and struggles?

All I do know is … I’m grateful to God for this wonderful man I married all those years ago. And I look forward to the remaining adventures of our lives together, side by side.

Wellness Plan – Wrapping It Up

I’ve now written several blogs about my Wellness Recovery Action Plan, or WRAP. And it’s time to finish off this series.

The next two sections of the WRAP plan are entitled “When Things are Breaking Down or Getting Much Worse,” and “Crisis Plan.” I’m lumping these together because both point to severe symptoms, and the potential imminence for a relapse of my depression.

According to Wellness Recovery Action Plan (Advocates for Human Potential, Inc., copyright 2018), “sometimes, even when you’ve been making your best efforts to stay well, things can get a lot worse. Some people call this a breakdown, a setback, or a relapse….often your behavior changes so much that other people can tell something is wrong…Taking immediate action can make a difference in the outcome.” In fact, I might be able to avoid the Crisis part of my plan if I can successfully turn this situation around.

Some of my key indicators that things are getting much worse include that I am staying in bed, isolating. I feel anxiety and a heaviness in my chest, an urge to drive fast and recklessly, a desire to smoke e-cigarettes (I’m a non-smoker). I may have increased trouble concentrating, which was also a red flag in my Early Warning Signs.Ā  But in this case, it would be worse. I’d be feeling like a burden to everyone around me. I may have the desire to self-injure or have suicidal thoughts (called suicide ideation – thoughts, but not a plan), and I’d find myself unable to pray. I’d dread the future and ruminate on the past. I’d have flat affect – expressing very little emotion.

So what do I do if things get much worse? First thing – tell someone! My husband, sister, or close friend. Call my therapist and psych doc right away. Reduce caffeine – drink herbal tea instead of coffee – and sit in my glider, which I find very calming. I would try to Face Time my old therapist – he can often “talk me down.” I think I’d call in my second round of support – three other close friends who I know love me and would offer me encouragement and prayer. Perhaps, if these steps work, a relapse would not occur.

The Crisis Plan portion of the WRAP is designed to make it as easy as possible for people to help me, because if I am in a depression crisis, I might not be able to make my own decisions. It outlines who I want to help me – by name – and exactly what I want them to do for me. Things like get me to the hospital emergency room, sit with me, hold my hand. And what I don’t want done, like what medicines I can’t take. It even outlines my daytime and household responsibilities and who will do them, like care for the pets and pay my bills and contact and keep my prayer team updated.

After the crisis has passed, the Post-Crisis Plan is implemented. It’s a brief section of the WRAP where I identify things that worked in my WRAP Plan, and things that need to change. Perhaps there are people I need to thank for their help in my crisis; perhaps there are apologies or amends I need to make as a result of things I said or did during my crisis.Ā  This final portion of the WRAP allows me to step back into the responsibilities of my daily life, slowly, as I begin to return to my normal level of wellness. This may take time – crisis recovery is not immediate, and I will need to be patient with myself. But this is a good time to evaluate and make changes to my WRAP, as I can see what worked and what didn’t. Because post-crisis can be very introspective, it’s a good time to modify my WRAP to include stressors or early warning signs that I may have missed before. I can add to the Crisis portion of my plan while it’s still fresh in my memory – what additions do I need to make so that, heaven forbid, things go more smoothly the next time?

Ultimately, the goal of the WRAP is to help me avoid a depression crisis – to identify those markers ahead of time to avert another hospitalization or emotional break down. Because this plan is so thorough, I may be able to stay in remission for the rest of my life.

Wellness Plan Toolbox

The first step in writing my wellness plan is determining the helpful steps I already have in my daily life. When I am healthy, what is it I’m doing to make me that way? What are my day-to-day activities that signify health and wellness for me? “What things do I already do to help myself be well, stay well, and live in the way I want to live?” (reference: WRAP Plan app)

This toolbox of activities is critical to my Wellness Plan, as I’ll draw from this list at different stages along my path from wellness to illness and back again. When I feel stressors, or triggers, that might signify a depressive episode is coming, what can I do to alleviate it? Are there any tools in my toolbox that I can pull out and implement to avert an episode?

If I’m further down the path toward depression, and an episode is imminent, which activities can I use to lessen the severity of the episode?

If I’m on my way out of a depression, which tools will I use first to help me post-crisis?

My initial list was 14 wellness tools:

  • time alone with God in Bible reading and prayer (TAWG)
  • taking my meds
  • journaling
  • eating well
  • good sleep hygiene
  • spending time with friends
  • sufficient down-time
  • seeing my therapist regularly
  • keeping my psych doc appointments
  • blogging or writing
  • taking naps
  • reading
  • watching movies
  • Fresh Hope Support Group

But as I thought about steps I can implement in a pre-crisis, I realized I have several more tools, even though I’m not currently using them. Things like savoring a cup of tea, or coloring, or taking a walk in nature. I certainly need to tell my support team that I’m struggling, so they can help me watch for warning signs.

One thing I’ve learned about depression is that it clouds my thinking. I can have this wellness toolbox, but in the midst of a crisis, I’m paralyzed and don’t know how to get out of it. That’s the reason for writing a wellness plan when I’m mentally healthy: so when I’m not thinking straight, I can look back and see what I recommend to myself.

I intend to share my wellness plan with my support folks (husband, sister, therapist, friend) so that they can help me remember to reach into my toolbox when I need to. As soon as I’m done writing the whole thing, I’ll pass it on to my care team.