What would you do if your spouse went crazy…literally?
She really got me thinking. She had lived it, except her husband had to deal with her going crazy.
I remember meeting Heather about 9 or 10 years ago. It was a little after Phil started working at the church they both used to work for. I had never spoken to her at length but I always noticed how some people seemed to treat her like a delicate flower. Their words were gentle and careful and slightly cagey. I couldn’t understand why, until I overheard a whisper -“she’s unstable.”
What does that even mean? I would learn that the taboo phrase that no one wanted to use to describe Heather’s “instability” was that she suffered from mental illness.
To be honest, I didn’t have a full grasp on what it meant. I wanted to ask her directly what the journey was like for her. How did she deal with this? How do you reconcile the battle of the mind with the expectations of the church. I had so many questions, but it didn’t feel appropriate to ask her at the time. After all I didn’t know her or her husband that well.
I didn’t have to imagine what she was like or what her heart was though. She’s an exuberant character; every fiber of her being is connected to making you feel like you. If we’re ever together, I’ll introduce her to you so you’ll see what I mean. She’ll break out into a huge smile while a long, loud and shrill “heeeeeeey” escapes her lips. Then in a matter of seconds, you’ll be engulfed in a warm hug, while she peppers you with a few questions so she knows who her new family member is. That’s who you’ll become – family!
A battle of the mind
But behind the heart of Heather was a struggle in her mind. It’s a struggle she’s been battling since she was 8 years old. In an interview with Christianity Today, Heather shared a heart wrenching moment in her life when she was so overwhelmed with her schedule and various commitments –
“I didn’t want to battle my mind, I didn’t want to fulfill all my commitments, and I didn’t want to live. I decided I was going to take my life. In a contradicting calculated-but-crazy moment, I drove to the drug store, called my husband to say good-bye, purchased a bottle of booze, drank the entire bottle, and went back to my car to execute my plan. Being numb allowed me to bash my head repeatedly into my car dashboard. Like a rabid animal, I bashed my head as I clawed skin off my legs.”
Heather was subsequently admitted to a psych ward.
“That night in the psych ward, I didn’t sleep. I spent the night wide-awake with God: confessing, meditating on His promises in the bible, listening for Him, reflecting on my life, and supplicating my needs. It was that night that I would realize that when God is all you have left, you have everything you need.
I resolved that if God would put me back together, I would spend the rest of my life living for Him and fighting for this cause. I knew that, because I was still breathing, God wanted me to keep going.”
Following her episode Heather went through 52 weeks of intense Christian therapy and prescription treatments. She continues to submit herself to Christian counselling. She has also created a platform to share hope through raw dialogue on mental illness and health and provide pertinent resources through her blog WondHERful. Whether you know someone who struggles with mental illness or not – do me a favor and check out Heather’s blog. You’ll walk away armed with way more than awareness and empathy!
Personal note from Heather:
I hope that if you or someone you love is struggling with depression, anxiety, or suicidal thoughts that you’ll seek Christian help NOW. And if you don’t know where to get help I hope you’ll email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I will help!
We’re honored to have spent some time and catch up with Heather for these photos. Please take her note to heart. Don’t feel embarrassed, don’t worry about how you’ll look or what people will think. This is not one of our typical posts but we hope it helps you. xoxo
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