Braver Still

It has been quite a while since I wrote out my story.  I was listening to an amazing song that was written by a Facebook friend of mine and sung/co-written by one of my faves, and I realized that I have been through a lot and God has done so much in my life.

Early in my life I experienced some hard things including sexual abuse as a young kid, really bad bullying including some major physical stuff, and dealing with my brother who was suicidal for most of high school which made life difficult for me in different ways.

I have also had anxiety my whole life and didn’t realize it until I was 18 and diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder.

I lived with it without meds until after I had Karis and realized that I couldn’t function without meds.

Through the next several years I dealt with anxiety consistently and depression (off and on).

My life changed completely on November 30, 2009.

My brother, my only sibling, committed a gruesome suicide in my parents’ house.  My mom was home and found him.  He used a rifle.  The room that he was in had to be stripped completely it was so bad.  Everything that was in that room had to be thrown away.

I was the first person that my mom called.  She shouted, “Your brother blew his brains out!”  I will never forget it.

I was 7 months pregnant with Levi.  We moved to a different house at camp two weeks later.  We had Christmas at our house that year (with a very large family). I had Levi in February with a beautiful home birth.

I ended up experiencing debilitating postpartum depression and anxiety.

We moved from camp to my in-laws house in Dallas in July 2010.  I started working full time as a teacher in an inner city charter school in August.

So, I lived with my in-laws, worked 50-60 hours a week (plus commuting time), and had 3 kids ages infant, 2, and 4.

One night while grading papers, I realized that I was tired of feeling my anxiety and depression so hard and still dealing with the trauma of Joey’s death.  I went down to my in-laws pantry and grabbed some rum and poured it into a Coke Zero.  I remember the moment that I started drinking it and the relief that I felt.  It was almost instantaneous.

Over the years we had moves and changes.  I had some great moments, like when I was being consistent with exercise and eating well.  I was able to handle so much more and I actually did a backpacking trip where I backpacked with Robert like 22 miles in a day (not planned).  And I had an amazing year when I taught at the best preschool that I have ever been part of.  I still regret leaving that place.

But the anxiety, off and on depression, and the memory of the trauma never left.  It was always there.  My drinking also continued to get worse over the years.  It was my way of coping with my anxiety to be honest.  I didn’t have any other coping mechanisms.

In 2013, I got a job at my kids’ school, which was only a couple minutes away.  I thought it was going to be the most amazing thing for our family… unfortunately, that wasn’t the case.  It ended in January when I ended up inpatient because of being passively suicidal, having severe depression, and severe panic attacks/anxiety.  I left my job right after I got out of the hospital.

The hospital put me on so many medications that caused some really rough side effects.  I struggled deeply for months until my psychiatrist found some meds that made me feel better (at least for a little while). I was officially diagnosed with bipolar two which took me a while to accept.  I was seeing my counselor 2-3 times a week, sometimes with Robert.  Through this time I kept drinking even though they said I shouldn’t drink with the meds that I was on.

I decided during the summer of 2014 that I was well enough to teach again, so I applied and got a job at a local private school teaching 4th grade (again).  That job only lasted till November.  I was a complete mess.  Severe panic attacks constantly, bad anxiety, depression, and drinking a lot.

I ended up in outpatient even though they thought I should do inpatient because of my drinking (I was in denial).  Speaking of denial, the whole time I was in outpatient they tried to convince me that I was an alcoholic, but I wasn’t willing to accept that quite yet.  It took me a few more years to get there.

In May of 2015 we moved to the camp where we currently live (and plan to stay forever).

That summer was pretty good.  The kids had other kids to play with, they were always outside, I learned to start letting go a little and allowing them to roam a bit (with older friends of course), and I did a lot of reading and planning for homeschooling.  Unfortunately, I also went into a hypomanic cycle and started working out two hours a day, dieting very strictly, keeping a clean/perfect house, etc.  This lasted a few weeks then was quickly followed by SEVERE depression.  Probably the worst I have ever experienced.  I should have to go inpatient but I didn’t think I could because of our life situation.  We ended up deciding not to homeschool the kids because I couldn’t function well.  In October I started seeing a new doctor who put me on Lamictal for my bipolar 2 and it changed my life.  I had many tweaks to my meds over the years, but that is one that I will always be on.

I ended up homeschooling the kids again, and now I look back and realize that it wasn’t the right time.  I wasn’t well enough yet.  I continued to drink more and more and I got to where I was drinking in the morning and drinking every day.  I was isolating from friends and drinking before I went to events or meals at the dining hall.  I remember being completely drunk when we met our new neighbors.  I just felt like I couldn’t face life anymore without being drunk or at least buzzed.  A low point of my life was when I got drunk with camp board members.  I am so embarrassed about that now.

Finally in October of 2016, after vomiting again because of being drunk and having a panic attack, I decided that I couldn’t do this anymore.  I decided to leave my kids with my parents (where I was when I made this decision) and put myself into rehab.

This was so so hard.  I remember crying so much because I didn’t want to leave my kids and husband for an entire month. I couldn’t believe that I decided to do this.  It was the hardest decision I had ever made, but it was the best decision.  My life changed.

That month was so hard but so good at the same time.  I finally came to the conclusion that I was an alcoholic and that it doesn’t make me a bad person… just a person with a disease/illness.  It meant that I couldn’t drink anymore, and I would need to go to AA for the rest of my life.

The first year of sobriety was so hard.  I had to learn to manage/cope with my anxiety without alcohol.  I went to counseling a lot and spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to live life again.  It had been years since I had managed my anxiety/depression without drinking.

Thanks to the wonderful AA program, friends, family, and especially God, I have come a long way.

The kids were in school (mostly) from the fall of 2016 till recently.  I tried to homeschool Karis and did for a bit but it wasn’t right still.  She’s still in school and chooses to be.  She is doing really well, loves her teachers and her friends, and has grown so much in every way.  She is now 13.  It’s so hard to believe that my little girl is now a teenager.

I ended up pulling the boys out of school in February and it has been the most amazing decision that I could have ever made for them and for me.

They are thriving, and I have purpose.

I am exactly who I want to be.  I am a sorta crunchy (as much as my busy/frugal life allows), homeschooling, outdoorsy, healthy mama.  I am focusing on being the person that I want to be and the person that my husband and kids need.  I focus on self care a lot, I take my meds every day, my mental illness is mostly managed, I am 2 1/2 years sober, I go to AA once a week that I helped start, I am more involved in camp than I’ve ever been, I have started Couch to 5k with a sweet friend of mine (again), I hike/bike/camp often, I’m slowly working on my Childbirth Education certification (slowly is the key word here), I host a Bible study at my house and spend time in prayer with these ladies, spend time praising Jesus regularly, love cooking and prepping food for the week, and I could probably go on and on.

God has brought me from the depths of despair and now I am flourishing.  I am well aware that hard times are coming.  I don’t know that I’m prepare for them, but I know the One who will walk with me through those hard times as he has many times in the past.  Every moment of the past 9 1/2 years, I have felt Him there, whether in the pit or on the mountain top. He is the reason for my life now.

This song is so real to me right now.  Listen and read the lyrics.

I never saw it coming
There was no way to prepare
The world kept spinning ’round me
And left me standing there
And it’s okay to grieve
A life that could not be
I’m trying to believe
In something better
Even if the dreams I had turned into dust
There’s no wreckage that’s too broken to rebuild
The world is just as scary as I thought it was
But Your love makes me braver still
Your love makes me braver
I spent my whole life running
Trying to find a place to rest
Why did it take a wound like this
To let You hold me to Your chest?
Now I can hear You breathe
You’re singing over me
You’re making me believe
In something better
Even if the dreams I had turned into dust
There’s no wreckage that’s too broken to rebuild
The world is just as scary as I thought it was
But Your love makes me braver still
Your love makes me braver
There is a valley
Where shadows are covering everything I hold dear
There in the darkness
I hear You whispering “I am here”
Even if the dreams I had turned into dust
There’s no wreckage that’s too broken to rebuild
The world is just as scary as I thought it was
But Your love makes me braver still
Your love makes me braver still
Your love makes me braver

5 thoughts

  1. You are amazing!!! You have a testament that will help change someones world and it is a blessing that you shared it!! Praise God for this life!!! Praise God for helping us find sobriety and making the greatest choice of our lives and that is TO FIGHT FOR OUR LIVES!!!

  2. It was an amazing journey. You have been an inspiration to me in the group. You have an awesome family both blood and non. May you continue to change lives and be there for the ones who are still suffering. Awwwwwsome story

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