Today I begin a new round of therapy with a woman who seems very kind and compassionate. She asked my husband to come with me this first time, which I did not appreciate at first but now I do.
Two things are going in with us right now: my husband is terribly depressed. He is experiencing a lot of sadness and anger, as well as shame for having feelings and guilt about the ways these feelings are expressed. The anger comes out in sneaky, underhanded cruel ways. Then he feels guilty and apologizes (the doing) but all the anger and pain is still there so he immediately lashes out again (the undoing). According to my reading, a lot of people raised in controlling religious environments wind up living this way.
In the religious household, the wife will take this abuse on the chin, silently. She will internalize the irrational mood swings, the blaming, the anger as all being God's will for her. At least that's what I have heard and seen. She will try harder and harder to please her (depressed, troubled) husband and put stricter demands on herself. And how will the pressure being put on her, that she willingly puts on herself because she thinks it is pleasing to God, how will that leak out enough for her to keep going everyday?
Ask the children of such households. Will depression overwhelm her, so that the house is always a mess (or put onto the children) and the school work never gets done (or is put on the children to accomplish)? Will she throw herself into the pursuit of perfection herself, being stricter and stricter in her religion, diet, dress, etc.? Will she demand that same perfection from her children? Will she blow up on them when things don't perfectly segue together in such a way that mom can feel good about herself? (I know I have: sorry my lambs!) Along with that will she also develop stress-related illnesses?
Happily for me I have long since left that dysfunction behind. I refuse to internalize blame. I know his depression is not my fault. Thank God for that sanity-preserving revelation!
Unfortunately, I also know that I can not then do anything to fix the situation. His depression exists apart from me, and since I did not cause it, I can not be the solution for it. This makes me feel powerless, as indeed I truly am.
In addition to my husband's obvious and crippling depression, I am experiencing PTSD with more overwhelming symptoms each time my husband lashes out in anger.
I am experiencing hyper-vigilance in increasing measure- searching his face for his mood all the time, watching every action and inaction, word and silence, trying to determine if he is okay or if he is about to let the steam off onto me again.
After any angry episode, even though they are of shorter duration and in many ways less severe than last year, I am experiencing more PTSD symptoms and they are more severe. I am shaking inside, fearful, suspicious and tense. Memories of past instances of abuse come back to me. I feel the rain falling on my skin as I relive running out of the house in the middle of the night in fear. I remember last Mother's Day vividly, and I know what he is capable of doing to me when he is caught up in that overwhelming vortex of pain, shame, sorrow, guilt and anger.
I am not doing so well right now, and recovery from incidents of even short duration is taking longer and is harder to come by on my own. Hopefully my therapist will be able to help me deal with my situation in a way that is helpful to my whole family.
Last night I got out my husband's childhood photo album. His mom took the photos and put them in a photo album for him long ago, which was kind and shows that she cares for him in her own way. Of course when she finally gave it to him, the album was brown and moldy, because she stored it neglectfully- in boxes on porches, in attics, who knows where else through the years.
Also typical of his family, any notations in the album were strictly facts. There is not one "Isn't he cute?" or "I'm so proud of my little man." or "Congratulations! You did well." There are almost no photos of the years he was in boarding school. It is as if he didn't even really exist during that time.
When he received the photo album, I wrapped it up in an airtight bag and took it to be photocopied on photo paper. Then I took the copies, cut them out and put them in a new clean album, complete with decorations and all the encouraging, affirming, affection words that should have been in the first album. I store this album safely, in the house, and accessibly, because I am proud of my husband and I want to celebrate his life.
So we got that out and looked at it last night, along with our wedding album. We read over our vows, remembered our honeymoon, and saw how happy and hopeful we were starting out on this journey. It was an opportunity for each of us to affirm our love and commitment.
But my husband is still depressed. He cried a lot yesterday, and I did as well, but he kept crying almost all night. He started lashing out again at bedtime, but I was strengthened by God to be firm at the right time and tender at the right time. He would not share his thoughts with me, as he lay in my arm crying while I stroked his cheek and sang softly of God's great love. And he doesn't have to either, he has the freedom to share when he's ready though. I can give him that.
But mostly I hope he will start working out all this with his own therapist. His first appointment is next week. So all of you who are praying, keep praying! The powerful presence of God is our greatest need. The manifestation of His healing love and divinely revealed truth that sets men free is our only hope.
Religion can't help us. Only God can heal this hurt inflicted by people in the cause of religion. We need the kingdom of God to be manifest here in our pain, confusion, fear and sorrow. Nothing less that the absolute real person of Christ will do. Anything less and we will all just fall apart.
Pray, my friends, and join your prayers with ours. May Jesus be honored as He brings His Life to us, we who are needy and broken and hopeless without Him.
ps This post will disappear in a few days.
When all is settled, I will put all of my highly personal posts back up in the order they were written. I know many other Christian and Christian home school families also experience what we are going through. I want to be transparent, so that other people will know they are not alone and maybe find something to help their family heal as well. I hate the myth of the prefect Christian home school family, and how it isolates and destroys the good that can come with honesty.