Thursday, August 25, 2011

We Must See Past What it Seems…..

I am sharing a really great story that was originally blogged at the Brave Girls Club. Anxiety has really made me more compassionate towards others suffering with their own trials. This story is such a great way to look at things, I love it. Enjoy!

"After a dear friend telling me about a hurtful experience she’d had this week…..I began thinking again about a story I have told a few times….a story that my children will tell to their children, and maybe even beyond that… because it was such a learning experience in our family….maybe even a turning point…it’s a story that I think about often because we were the main characters in it 3 or 4 years ago, and even though it was something that lasted less than 15 minutes….it changed all of us….and now I see others differently, especially when it seems that they might be main characters in the same story…or one a lot like it. I used to be too embarrassed to tell this story….but I am not anymore. This is a human story that everyone needs to hear, I truly believe this…I hope you will stay with it, it’s kinda long.

As we move along…I want you to think about some of the big signs with big messages that I bet you wish you could wear around your neck sometimes so that people would be more gentle….or even that you could put around the neck of someone you love….so that you didn’t have to go into a big long story to defend yourself or someone else….so that people would just stop judging and and just be kind.

First, if you don’t know my history because you are brand new to Brave Girls Club…welcome welcome welcome! I need to start this story by giving you a little bit of background….. you see, my husband had an accident in 2004 that injured the frontal lobe of his brain……it has taken 6 years to get him back……but in the middle there, between 2004 and now…lots and lots of stuff happened. He was essentially out of it…but not just that….he changed to someone else, we lost him. His personality changed completely, he could not work, he was angry and depressed and could not cope with human beings. He did not feel love or affection, really he only felt anger…rage…and he was suicidal most of the time. He did not remember a lot of things. He could not take care of our family or even himself, really……..(and I want to mention again that through lots of miracles, he is 100% recovered now…we are so thankful….he is even BETTER than he was before his accident)

But……during that time…..he would have these confusing and amazing glitches of time when he would be totally normal. It was bittersweet. They would last for an hour sometimes, and sometimes for days…or even weeks…then he would sink back down into that horrible place. When he was sick, I protected him fiercely. I didn’t want anyone to see him like that…I had faith that someday he would recover….but man oh man it was lonely…I wished every single day that I could just walk around with a sign like this….

….because on the outside…I looked like I had EVERYTHING GOING FOR ME…I looked like I might just have a perfect life….but I was hiding a very painful secret….

Well…a lot of other things happened too………you can imagine what might happen over the years while we have a 7 acre farm, a pretty big international business that we own with lots of employees…..a life that HE managed before his accident, while he just let me do the fun and creative stuff….now we had lots of medical bills…lots of sorrow and lots of distractions……we also had LOTS of kids…..and no one competent managing the business…

Well…after a few years, I couldn’t hold it all together…our business was suffering for all of the reasons listed above and a few more reasons on top of that……..and we discovered that we were really SINKING. Well……one day when he was partly lucid….he was THERE…he was coherent….I told him the condition of our life.

He kind of panicked and he went straight to work figuring out what he could do. It was insanely heartbreaking when he would “wake up” after weeks or months and I had to tell him how much things were deteriorating financially, etc. It was very hard. But when he could, he did what he could….before his mental illness sucked him back into the prison it kept him in most of the time.

He called a sign place and had a huge sign brought out to our house…the kind that you can put letters on, and it was electric and lit up…….He put it by the road in one of our horse fields……then he drove our Suburban….both of our trucks….my classic Thunderbird that he got me for my birthday a few years earlier…..our tractor…all of our tractor implements…the boat that I worked 10 years to get for him (and that caused his brain injury, incidentally)……….and he lined everything up along the fence and he put a price tag on every single thing. Then, he put the letters on that big huge sign and plugged it in.

You have to understand that we had worked for MANY years for those things. We started a business in our twenties and we sacrificed everything we had for all of those years to make it work. We owned almost all of it outright…….but, when I told him that the business was struggling….this is what he did….

Sooooo…..there it was….all in a row……all of our stuff…..out in our field.

All of the neighbors driving by…our friends…the community…..people who knew us most of our lives and people who knew nothing about us…..we were just the young family who lived in that beautiful little farm house on Beacon Light road with the perfect lawn….or what USED to be.

You see, in addition…for months….our once beautifully manicured yard started to be filled with weeds that were now several feet high. I just couldn’t keep it up. The lawn was a nightmare. Everything was just falling apart all around me and my heart was broken over my husband, too. It was humiliating and exhausting and horrible, really.

Well, the sign was not up in the field for more than a few hours…….when my husband’s phone rang….it was someone who saw all the stuff and my husband’s phone number on the big huge sign. We were sitting out in the yard while he was still coherent and he was feeling devastated about the condition of our lawn…..I was apologizing that I just couldn’t do all of it………..he was so heartbroken at his limitations and that he had left me to try to handle our life alone……we were trying to make a plan…..

He answered his phone…I saw that he was just listening…I could hear that the person’s voice was getting louder and louder and louder……… husband just listened. He turned his back to me a little so I wouldn’t hear. But I could hear it….It seemed to go on and on and on……..

These were the things I could hear on the other end of the phonecall….

“You are bringing down the value of my property with that ugly sign!”

“What are you doing?”

“That is the most obnoxious sign, do you have a permit to have that out there?”

“Are you starting a used car lot?”

“You have got to get all of that moved and out of here or I am calling the authorities”

I sat there, mortified, embarrassed, humiliated, mad, sad, devastated. I was certain that this would snap my husband back into his dark hellish place.

But, when the man was done ranting, my husband waited a second and then very calmly said something that I will never, ever forget…….

“Sir,” he said, “There was a time in this country, in this community…when if you drove past your neighbor’s house and saw every single thing they own was for sale in front of their house…and that their lawn had not been mowed for weeks….that you would stop and say….WHAT IS GOING ON, SOMETHING MUST BE TERRIBLY WRONG, WHAT CAN I DO TO HELP YOU?”

The man was silent…..and then my husband went on to tell him a few details about what was going on with our family….

The man waited a moment and then his tone changed…..he apologized….I mean, really apologized and then said…

“I am going to call all of my friends and see if any of them need any of this stuff….”


I wish with everything in me that we could have put a sign up on that big stupid lit up billboard in our field that said OUR LIFE IS FALLING APART…. but all that we really could put up is a sign with the price of everything that we owned that was worth any money…….

WHAT IF we could all wear a sign that said what WE REALLY MEANT? What if we could go straight past the small talk……..or the masks…….and we could actually go straight to the heart of the matter…….what if our friends and family wore signs like this?

…we would treat each other differently.

I think we should just try to imagine it………that when a friend is quiet…or not showing up to stuff she usually shows up to….or acting a little “off”….or a family member is wearing pajamas to the grocery store for weeks on end……or not answering the phone…..or the lawn is not mowed…..

whatever it is……….

IT IS A SIGN. It is not a sign that can be read in words and letters, but it is a sign that someone needs to be treated gently…that they need help….most of all, that they need love, understanding…and that they DEFINITELY DO NOT need to be judged.

Every time I think of this story….I want to be better…I want to do better, I don’t want any silent signs to go unread before my eyes or my heart…..I don’t want to make up my own answers to what must be going on…I don’t want to assume………..

Let’s be gentle with each other.

Let’s read each other’s signs."



Anonymous said...

Thank you for that story. It made me weep... I need a sign of my own right now that reads, please handle with care. In the throes of a three-week anxiety attack.

cori said...

aimee, i fought and finally accepted terrible anxiety two years ago, and have been doing great. i hated every moment of my anxiety, but i too had my eyes opened to the fact that so many people are going through their own painful but not obvious struggles. this lesson helped me realize that my anxiety WAS good for something. i guess. :) your post is amazing, and that story is heartbreaking. thank you for sharing, i hope things ease up for you soon. -cori

Anonymous said...

What a great reminder to us all!

Todd said...

Great post Aimee that I will share through my networks this week.

Nic said...

This post - this message has hit so close to the heart for me. Thank you for sharing!

I am a new wife and a new mom. I am young (33) & i have the whole world in front & around me & i am ENGULFED in anxiety.

I have found both medication & a therapist that seem to be HELPING (so far). But finding your blog is also a bit of relief, to know that you & others are fighting, this awful chemical or chemical imbalance inside our minds and bodies, and is not something i am fighting alone.

Looking forward to more posts & ways we can come together to help each other!


Alexis F said...

Thank you so much for posting this!
I know there are so many people out there who can relate. I am one of those people.
I have been truly blessed with a husband and best friend who are great at reading my emotional signs and lending a helping hand when I can't even ask.
I can't imagine how impossible life must seem to those who don't have a great support system.
Mental illness is truly a nightmare, no matter how "minimal" it might be.
Thanks for being so honest!

Anonymous said...

Instead of asking God our Father to change us and take our anxiety away, what if we began to confess who we are in Christ as His children? Could it be we've pleaded, begged, cried, even got mad at God while the whole time we need to realize we have all the authority we need in our spirits? It's our mind (soul) that has been trained to believe we are destined to have anxiety forever and to deal with it. What if today, we began meditating on who we are in Christ and confessing that? Sure it wouldn't be easy but that's what faith is, right? It'll take time to reprogram our mind but it will be well worth it. Instead of asking God to remove it, instead say, thank you God that I have the mind of Christ and that you didn't make me with a spirit of fear but of love joy and peace and a sound mind!

Anne said...

I´ve been searching the web on anxiety for a while, since my husband is going through a struggle at the moment. This blog gave me a better insight, thank you.

jay said...

Great article! I spent some weeks in a Buddhist community a few years ago while traveling and there everyone put the other people first.

The funny thing was after some time you forget to think about yourself because you do not have to. You can focus on being nice to others because everyone else will be nice to you.

Studies about happiness also show that actually being nice to others increases your own happiness. A little bit of compassion goes a long way! :)

Ricardo Guerra said...

Many times, anxiety can be related to many other mental disorders. I have obsessive-compulsive disorder, and anxiety is a great part of my life because of it. An excellent source of information is the following website: You should definitely check it out. It is on a great road to become a great and informative site.

London Counselling said...

I am so sorry for all your pain. You're right that we all need to be more sensitive to others and it's a shame that we can't just go around wearing signs to tell other people how we want to viewed or treated.

Cake Decor Cairns said...

So glad I found your blog! I am going through my own journey with my husband who suffers severed GAD and depression... I need one of those signs too! x

Panic Disorder Attacks said...

This is a wonderful entry. Really enjoyed reading it, and the messages were all poignant in their own way too.

hypnosis for anxiety said...

That post can really mean a lot to many people including myself. Your post totally hit me hard and I certainly promise to myself that I'm better than this.

E said...

Great post.

Alisha said...

Thank you so much for posting this. And for posting all you do. I suffer from anxiety and have recently started writing about it on my own blog. People like you help those of us who suffer live so much better!

A Morning Grouch said...

Wow. Just stopped by for the first time. THANKS FOR SHARING! Makes me think of the quote, "Be kinder than necessary, because everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle".

Jen said...

Wow! Amazing story. My husband had a stroke this year, and there are times when I feel like I've lost him, but he really is quite mentally intact. But the stroke changed him, and recovery is a LONG process. Thanks for the glimpses of hope.

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