Tuesday, June 19, 2018

G R O W T H | R E L A T I O N S H I P S

“And when her lips met mine, I knew that I could live to be a hundred and visit every country in the world, but nothing would ever compare to that single moment when I first kissed the girl of my dreams and knew that my love would last forever.” 

Nicholas Sparks - Dear John

“I do.”

Two words that will change a persons life for better and for worse.  Abby and I know a lot about both…

The first time I saw Abby walking through the hallways of our high school, I knew she would be the one I’d marry.  She wore a black shirt with boot cut blue jeans that flared slightly at the ankle.  She carried herself with such confidence, which is one thing that drew me towards her (probably because I had very little).  It was not only impossible not to notice her, but to me, she appeared to rival the angels I read about (no joke, she’s always been the most interesting, beautiful woman I’ve ever met), which is why I later nicknamed her “Angel-Abz.”  

She wasn’t allowed to date until she turned 16.  I remember “asking her out” via telephone on December 23rd at 12:03 pm. That’s the date she was born and I didn’t want to disturb anyone in her household during the morning hours - especially her dad because he owned an assortment of guns that he used for hunting and I didn’t want to find out what else he’d use them for.  So, I waited until the afternoon to call… nerd, right here.  

Anyway, she said yes, and we started dating.  I remember the first time we kissed.  It was the night of her birthday party in the middle of the street with all of her friends watching from the windows of her parents house.  It would have only been more romantically cliche if rain had been pouring down on us and we were standing in the middle of a field of flowers with a lake nearby.  I slowly handed her a N’Sync CD (yes, that was when CD’s still existed) and asked her to listen to song number five.  She later found that the track was God Must’ve Spent a Little More Time on You. <—— Corny as hell, but man, I thought I was SMOOTH!  I purchased roses by the dozen for her every other week; I’d even bring them to school with me and give them to her before class.  I gave her jewelry, stuffed animals, and poems on the regular.  We were THAT couple.  The couple that everyone looked at and either said, “I wish I had a relationship like that” or “they make me sick.”  However, our relationship wasn’t always Justin Timberlake lyrics or surprise gifts left in lockers.

I’m afraid to put the next part of this post “out there” because I feel that I’ll be judged and it’s embarrassing to me, but here goes…

My anxiety occasionally wreaked havoc in the form of jealousy and possessiveness in our relationship.  Mental illness, I’ve learned, is not only hereditary, but also formed through the experiences in ones life.  The details aren’t important, but things that occurred earlier in my life constantly made me believe that Abby would leave me without hesitation.  I also believed that most guys/men that looked or spoke to her had ulterior motives.  My jealousy was a product of low self-esteem and anxiety that had grown with me since I was a child.  It has taken YEARS to get to a point in our relationship where I trust Abby and have enough confidence in myself that I no longer feel threatened by other men.

I am certainly an eternity away from being perfect, and I’ve come to understand that all people make mistakes and deserve to be given grace in many different circumstances, especially those closest to you.  

I hope for this to be the first of many posts about mental illness and relationships…

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

G R O W T H | S P I R I T U A L I T Y

I was baptized into the Christian faith when I was 17 years old. I had been told that God was THE BEING, the Father, in charge of creating all good things (1 Timothy 4:4 NIV), I knew that Jesus was the Son that connected us to His Father through His death (1 Timothy 2 5-6 NIV), but I had never been informed of who the Spirit was.

I was 35 and had just been dragged through the deepest depths of depression. Paranoia had ripped my mind to shreds. I believed that EVERYONE around was gossiping behind my back and I thought devices were listening to my conversations. It was bad. Anxiety frequently crept through my body causing it to shake and jerk uncontrollably. I couldn’t sleep and I’d spend nights contemplating running a razor blade across my arm. I eventually had enough.

I attempted suicide by swallowing handfuls of my medication, alone in my home in the late summer. I was admitted three separate times over the period of two weeks to mental health hospitals, each stay longer than the one before. My life was filled with chaos and uncertainty. My relationship with God, as far as I was concerned, was over. He had turned His back and walked.

Eventually, after I was prescribed and began taking medication that helped lead me out of the chasm of depression I had fallen into, I started to realize that most of the people surrounding me during my darkest time (my psychiatrist, most of my doctors and nurses I worked with, my wife, the rest of my family) all had something in common. The Spirit, I’ve learned, is “the Helper Comforter, Advocate, Intercessor—Counselor, Strengthener, Standby,” (John 14:26 AMP)... that’s exactly what all of those people were to me. They helped me, comforted me, brought me peace, helped strengthen me. Through the Spirit that flowed through them, I benefited.

“There was a period of time where I believed God had abandoned me. I was lost. When my brain began functioning properly, I started to ask why everything happened, why I was given this curse. Then, one day, it clicked... Just kidding. It never clicked. I still haven’t figured out why I was destined to struggle the rest of my life. But I did realize something - just because you can’t see, hear, or feel God doesn’t mean He isn’t working in your life. My wife stood by me through the ugliest time of our marriage. My psychiatrist, who is a believer (he’ll never tell you that unless you get to know him), worked his ass off trying to find a combination of medications that worked for me... and he did it! Our families helped watch the kids for Abby and they visited me in the hospital. Friends visited me while I was hospitalized and followed up with me when I got out. The countless doctors, nurses, and therapists that helped me get well had the Spirit flowing through them. Everyone in my life during that time, I finally see, was part of God’s plan to treat me and place me on the road to recovery. As for me, I now understand that God not only surrounds every part of me, He lives inside of me. I can’t fail because He won’t fail me.” 

Brandon Mullins 

Sunday, June 10, 2018

G R O W T H | C O N F I D E N C E

You get to a point in your life, and this is after you’ve been in and out of severe depression for the past nineteen years, and after the latest group of medication you’re taking has finally made you more stable than you’ve ever been, you eventually begin questioning things. Like, “Why have I always tried to make people happy?” That’s a question I’ve been asking myself A LOT lately. And I have a very simple answer: I have, unbeknownst to myself, been groomed to be a people-pleaser. And this is different than being a people person, which I still am. Thing is, my anxiety and depression, as well as my upbringing, told me that in order to be liked, I must be a follower... of EVERYONE. I must agree with everyone or I will be judged. I can’t have a opinion of my own because someone might disagree with me. I can’t ask anyone to do anything for me because I am not important or worthy enough to ask someone a simple question. It’s all ridiculous! And it hurts and angers me to think I have lost so much time trying to get people to like me while I should have been finding out who I am. Being thirty-six years old with a wife, three kids, and a full-time job doesn’t exactly afford me the time to figure that out. 

Thankfully, I have an incredibly supportive wife who accepts me for not only who I am, but who I want to be. If there is one thing I could go back in time and tell the younger version of me, it is this: Don’t waste your time trying to be perfect, and don’t worry about fitting in.

Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind. - Dr. Seuss