Oh, this year. It has been one. A crazy year that is incredibly hard to sum up in one word.
God has been a constant source of strength, comfort, and provision this year, just like He always is. I struggle to follow Him as well as I should, like I always do, but His grace, mercy, love, and forgiveness are never-ending. He is so good. So immeasurably good to me.
Here’s a month-by-month look back at this tumultuous year. Towards the latter half is when I started blogging more, so if you want to get more in-depth about what was going on/how I was feeling, you can read through my entire blog :).
We started the year together, Trent and I. Kissing on New Year’s Eve, oblivious to the forces being assembled to fight against us. Well, almost oblivious. We had some inklings. Not every member of my family was as happy for me as I’d hoped they’d be when we got engaged on December 28th, 2017. There was the soreness I woke with on December 29th. Trent had a very mild case of the flu when we got engaged. I later joked that when he asked me to marry him he gave me a diamond and a virus. My case was not mild. It was severe. Severe enough to warrant many visits to the doctor throughout the entire month of January and into February. It seemed like it was the illness that had no end. Even though I was feeling horrible, we still had a wedding to plan! My bridesmaids, my two sisters and my only sister-in-law at the time, accepted with joy when I asked them to stand up for me, as did Trent’s best friend and brother. Trent wanted to ask one of my brothers to stand up for him too, since they had been best friends when Trent lived in South Dakota. So he asked. I knew that he asked, but I didn’t know the contents of that conversation until this fall. All I knew at the time were the repercussions from that question. Basically my brother said he was reluctant to condone our marriage by standing up for us, voiced some concerns he had about Trent being released from his first marriage, a valid concern that Trent addressed very thoroughly, and then my brother expressed his opinion that since Trent has an ex-wife and a daughter, I would be thrust into a messy and challenging blended family situation my brother did not want for me. After reading that conversation this fall I felt like my brother judged Trent and found him wanting for a situation Trent did his best to prevent and fix, but was ultimately one that he had no control over. It hurt Trent, reminded him of how his ex-wife’s family treated him, began to erode his confidence in me, and planted doubts that we would receive support from my family for our marriage.
The immediate repercussion was that Trent freaked out with me and I reacted poorly. I didn’t know what to do or how to respond – I didn’t know anything that was said in that conversation at the time other than my brother was worried about Trent being released to marry me, and that Trent came with baggage. So, for the first time ever, I turned to the woman who would eventually become my mentor:
We made it, a bit shaky, but our love and commitment were stronger than our fear and doubts. There were a few financial issues with my family. I know paying for a wedding is expensive. I was adamant about having a big wedding while trying to do it for as cheaply as I could, but it was probably more than my parents could afford. We were willing to help with it too, we weren’t asking them to pay for everything. When they balked at what I was asking for and told me I would have to cut the guest list, I was hurt and angry and assumed they were unwilling to pay for any of it because they didn’t really want it to happen. So I stopped asking them for anything, and relations were strained. Thus ended January.
I was still sick. My flu symptoms had finally ceased, but I was incredibly weak, easily tired, and people kept telling me to sit down before I collapsed. Trent’s parents threw us an engagement party in Indiana in February. I was pleasantly surprised and delighted when my parents agreed to go with me, stopping in Iowa to pick up my brother and his family (not the same brother who Trent asked to be in the wedding). We had a wonderful time and I think the meeting of the parents went fairly well.
We were still slightly stressed about paying for the wedding. We prayed about it though, and our feeling was, “if God wants it to happen, He will provide.” During the trip to Indiana God moved in my brother and sister-in-law’s hearts and they generously gave us their entire tax refund (about $3600) for the wedding, unasked by us. They were aware of our need, but I knew that my brother had just started a new job and they had just moved to a new city – money was tight for them too, so I in no way asked them for anything. I know that amount is not a lot for a wedding, but I had faith that since God had provided it, He would make it enough.
After another month of mysterious symptoms I went back to the doctor, where I was diagnosed with anemia. From my medical history they figured I’d had it off and on for my entire life, just too mild until the current bout to be diagnosable. They guessed my current recurrence had started roughly six months prior, when I started working out with Trent, and stayed mild until my severe flu aggravated it. Cue an iron-rich diet, months of recovery, and more pills.
Finally feeling somewhat healthy, wedding plans were in full swing! I made my wedding dress, with assistance from my mom and sister. There was an issue with the wedding date with Trent’s family: his brother and sister-in-law had a conflict with the original date we picked, June 30, so we finally settled on July 14, 2018. It was my brother-in-law’s birthday, which I completely forgot about when we booked that date, but he just laughed about it and assured me it was alright.
I have always struggled with seasonal affective disorder (or SAD) during the dark winter months, with March being the worst. This year was no different. I could tell that my usually mild-to-nonexistent depression was worsening. The stress of my physical recovery, wedding planning, and opposition (both assumed and real) from my family was wearing on me. When Trent said “How about we postpone the wedding?” it was a relief. But when weeks went by and we didn’t set another date, I became more depressed and started to believe the whispered lies in my head that maybe he really didn’t want to marry me. My depression was the worst to date in our relationship the last week of March, right before I was to go to Indiana for FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember. I was being consumed by fear and the lie that I could not leave my family.
I headed to Indiana the first week in April to break up with Trent, because I thought so highly of him that he deserved to be broken up with in person. I had made up my mind that I could not leave my family; my heart would be broken either way – I had to leave my family or I had to leave Trent. I figured it would hurt less if I broke up with Trent because I hadn’t loved him as long as I loved my family, foolishly overlooking the fact that my family will always be my family, no matter where I go or what I do – nothing can destroy my relationship and connection with them. But, I REALLY wanted to go a Weekend to Remember, which had been a Christmas gift to us from my parents. All the other married couples in my family had gotten to go and I wanted to too. So, I was honest with Trent on the two hour drive to the conference. I confessed that I was pretty sure I was going to break up with him. He stopped the car and asked “So what do we do? Do we go to this conference or not?” I said yes, because I really wanted to go. I got my period that weekend, the first time I’d ever had it while Trent and I were together. I was pmsing horribly and my hormones and emotions were all over the place. Despite all that – the depression and hormones – what I heard at that conference completely convicted me and changed my mind. God was calling me to leave my family, He ordained marriage, and He had put us together through circumstances that could have happened no other way than by His doing. Leaving my family would be alright, because God would bless my obedience to Him. Not leaving them for the man who was going to be my husband was a sin. We had a wonderful time at the conference, relationship-wise. My out-of-control emotions ruined date night, but overall, I felt more confident about us than ever after that weekend, and I think Trent did too.
But my depression didn’t get any better. By the end of April it was bad. Fear was consuming both of us, the lessons and confidence of the conference were a fading memory, and I didn’t even know I didn’t have the right neuro-chemicals to fight the lies Satan was pouring into my brain and I was sharing with Trent. So when Trent said “I think we have to break up” I said “ok.” I didn’t want to break up. He didn’t either. I sent him my engagement ring.
We spent a miserable six days with no communication. My mentor texted:
That was when she became my mentor, which was probably one of the best things that has happened for me this year. Trent and I got back together, joyfully, prayfully, but not firmly, not all of the doubts had been banished, and the lies were still wreaking havoc with my brain and his. I went to see him the end of May. We took his daughter to Cedar Point. It was a wonderful trip. That was the last time I would see him in 2018.
Also known as: The month straight from hell.
Trent received a heads up from his boss that he would most likely be fired by the end of the month. While he had a great job, working with wonderful people, there were aspects of it that Trent struggled with. It did not match Trent’s skills and abilities very well. In anticipation of losing his job, Trent gave notice on his apartment and planned to move back in with his parents while he job searched and until he could get on his feet again. He wanted to find a bigger place anyway – at least a two bedroom apartment for us and for the weekends when we had his daughter. We spent a lot of time job searching and not a lot of time relationship-building and strengthening. I felt more like a good friend who was helping another friend through a tough time than a girlfriend.
I had LASIK eye surgery the first week in June. I had thought and prayed about it and it seemed like God was lining everything up for it. One eye was perfect immediately after the procedure. The other eye took the rest of the month to clear up, which concerned me. They make you wear this mask for a few weeks after surgery when you sleep so you won’t bump or rub your eyes. I couldn’t sleep in it at all. Cue massive sleep deprivation for half of the month.
My family was gearing up for my brother’s wedding in Wyoming mid-June – the same brother who had that conversation with Trent in January. I’ve never had a good relationship with that brother, and things were especially tense now. While my family struggled with my relationship with Trent and it showed, they all seemed to accept my brother and his fiance incredibly easily, with absolutely no hesitations. I know my sister didn’t mean to hurt me when she said, “boy, I’m so glad you’re not getting married next month, we have so much to do for this wedding!” but it did hurt, because I really wanted to get married. Yet Trent seemed in no hurry to re-propose and I was still despairing that we would ever get married. I was mad at Trent for being unable to come to my brother’s wedding, which was incredibly stressful for me and doubled my depression. I shouldn’t have been mad. It wasn’t his fault and there was no way he could have made it. Trent had his daughter for three straight weekends in June. Communication was always slim on those weekends because he prioritized his daughter over me (although she was a factor why he could not come to the wedding, she was not the only reason and I do not blame her in the slightest for anything. She’s a child).
The week before my brother’s wedding I was praying and thinking about Trent’s job search. I was looking for a job too, but I wanted one that gave me the flexibility to travel back and forth between Indiana and South Dakota – maybe one I could do from both places. Neither of us was having much luck. Finally I thought “Why are we looking for a secular job for Trent? His passion, gifting, and calling all lie in ministry.” So I looked up ministry jobs in his area. The third one on the list sounded perfect, and I excitedly texted him “Trent! Trent! Trent! How about this one?” and I sent him the link. While I waited for him to respond I read the listing to my mother. Honestly, it made me cry, because it was so perfect for both of us: serving in a multi-cultural church and ministry center in an ethnically diverse and financially challenged area of the city. My degree is in intercultural studies – I love learning about and working with people from other cultures and I felt called to be a missionary when I was eight. Even my mother agreed with me: “Wow,” she said, “That does sound just right for you guys!” Trent texted me back: “Are you serious!? I know that church – my home church planted it when I was in high school/college and I helped with it! The pastor is a friend of mine!” Trent texted the pastor and the pastor replied “I actually had you in mind for this position!” Plus, we learned it came with a recently remodeled two bedroom house! We both got very excited about it. I was already imagining living there and being in ministry with Trent – it was like my wildest dreams were coming true! Then Trent tried to inject some realism into the situation, trying to find all the negatives he could about the job, possibly to try to keep my expectations low, I don’t know. Either way, my dreams and excitement were curtailed and when he did secure the job, I couldn’t get excited about it again, which made him disappointed, and I didn’t know why I couldn’t be excited about it again. Now I know I just didn’t have the serotonin capabilities to bounce back like that.
But, things did improve with us with the stress of finding a job off of him. Thursday, June 21st we had a very good conversation about our expectations, goals, and dreams in life together. We agreed on everything, even things that previously had been contentious. The day after that he said “I don’t think it will be too long now [before a re-proposal].” I don’t know if he had a plan to propose. We went into that weekend on a high.
That weekend was rough. We always tried to reconnect on Mondays, but again, I was pmsing the last Monday of the month and he could not say anything right for me. We fought. Eventually he just gave up. We didn’t talk that night. The next day we tried to make up, but it just wasn’t working. Then he decided to really give up. He called me from the bathroom in his office, crying. “I think we have to break up.” he said. I was furious. The last thing I heard him say, his voice cracking with tears, was, “I love you so much…” and I interrupted him to say, “No! Don’t you say that and do this! Have a nice life!” and I hung up on him.
I made him tell my family. One sister offered to give me a hug, but I was too mad. The anger stayed until the hormones subsided, and then the grief and depression really set in. I was suicidal by the end of the week.
Diagnosis: persistent depressive disorder (also known as dysthymia) with a major depressive episode and grief. Counseling helped, but it wasn’t enough. My mentor helped, but it wasn’t enough. My family tried, but it wasn’t enough. Exercise helped, but it wasn’t enough. I started taking anti-depressants at the end of August. After a few weeks I finally felt the clouds of lies start to dissipate. They were thick and strong – they had been building since January after all. I began to realize how my physical condition affected my mental condition. I began to realize how my hormones affected my mental condition. I began to realize how my environmental conditions affected my mental condition. I began to realize how Satan took advantage of my physical, environmental, and mental conditions + hormones in order to do his best to destroy me. There was no one thing that caused my severe depression, but rather a whole host of issues. I began to realize how there was no one thing that caused the break up, but rather a whole host of issues.
I hadn’t talked or texted with Trent for the whole month of July. The day after my birthday in August I started texting him again, with permission from my mentor, who had become the pivotal figure in my life at that point. Talking with him was good. I had missed my best friend of seven years. But I was still hoping for more.
If you’ve noticed there’s one person mostly missing from my account of my year so far, you’re right. The first half of my year God was pretty much not in the picture. I mean, He was, I still believed in Him, went to church, consulted Him a few times. But I didn’t rely on Him very much. I didn’t want to let Him be really in control. I was finally getting what I always wanted and dreamed of, and I was not about to let Him mess it up. He didn’t. I did. Shortly after the break-up I changed my lockscreen on my phone to this:
That verse is true: “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted.” Apart from my mentor, I talked to God the most in those dark days. He talked with me. We were tight. I realized how wrong I had been, trying to do it all myself and control it all myself. I repented. God began to work in my life in mighty ways – well, not really “began” – He has always been with me and has always done amazing things that I could not have done on my own. He gave me meaning and purpose in those days when I felt I had none. He initiated a quest. Three days after the break-up I had made a list of people I thought would be good prayer partners. God arranged meetings between me and them. He prompted me to talk to people. He prompted me to write a book. Now that my eyes were opened, I began to see all the ways He had been orchestrating my life all along and how He continues to work and move and guide me.
I continued to improve with God and my support team’s help. I applied for and got a new job, one that would double my income. I believed God told me to cut off all communication with Trent to better facilitate healing for both him and I, so I did. I continued to have quest meetings and ask people to pray for us though. I asked my brother for the contents of that January conversation and he obliged. He apologized to me and I forgave him for how he inadvertently hurt me. I know he was only looking out for my welfare the way he thought was best, but I had blamed him for the break up. I think my family blames Trent for my depression, which is completely erroneous. If anything, he should be thanked for finally bringing it to light – otherwise I might have gone another 20 years ignorant of why I was perpetually unhappy and pessimistic. Now, with treatment and management, the majority of my days are happy and hopeful. September was pretty golden, just like a September should be. We were very concerned about my grandmother, who was in the final stages of her life.
My beloved grandmother died on September 30th. My doctor took me off my anti-depressants October 1st. I started my new job October 2nd. My therapist released me from care October 9th. It felt like all of a sudden my recently bolstered serotonin levels had their training wheels taken off. I wobbled. It was hard, not going to lie. But I made it. Until the end of the month when I got strep throat and my whole system got stressed out. Then I went suicidal again in early November and back on anti-depressants, which is fine with me. I like being happy and able to not believe the lies.
I love my new job. It’s challenging and technical. It’s full time, which is a change from my previous position at the library, but I adjusted. Now I get overtime all the time, because there is so much to do and we are under constant deadlines. I feel like God made the way for this job, because it’s near-perfect for me and how I got it is nothing short of miraculous. Plus, I’m pretty sure working remotely would be an option. I haven’t explored it yet, since there’s really no need to right now, but sometimes I help train people who are doing exactly what I do from all around the country, so I think it would be a possibility for me too.
November started rough, as I was recovering from strep and trying to build my system up again. I was still fighting my way out of the lie pit of depression. It’s gotten steadily better though. Hormone fluctuations still throw me for a loop, but even those are getting slowly better. Still walking with God, turning my life over to Him daily.
I finished my quest list in early December. At that time I felt like God gave permission to start talking with Trent again, so I resumed texting. Most of the time he doesn’t read them, much less respond. I only send one a day, so it’s not like I’m flooding his phone with messages, and I keep it friendly – that’s all we say we are and I’m alright with that. I feel like things are resolved between us and I am peace about where we are right now. I really wanted to buy his family Christmas presents, because I miss them and I love them – I didn’t just lose Trent when he broke up with me, I had people I considered family ripped away too. Thinking about buying Christmas presents for anybody made me sad because it felt like I could only buy them for half of my family. I wasn’t sure about it though – did God approve of that idea? After weeks of prayer, consultation with three wise women, and three impossible fleeces being confirmed, I bought them and mailed them. God told me to expect nothing from them and that I couldn’t put my hope in those gifts.
A friend asked me before Thanksgiving, “Are the holidays rough?” Yes, yes they are. I’m writing most of this on Christmas day, so if there are depressive undertones to it all, that’s why. I struggled to find a reason to get out of bed this morning. I’ve been sitting in my room crying for a good portion of the afternoon. I finished my quest list, my fleeces, and now I don’t know what to do with my life next. I still love, pray, and hope for Trent, but I don’t believe anything will happen (Update: I wrote that five days ago now, and while it seems as unlikely as ever, God is still God, and for some reason He is still renewing my hope). I am growing increasingly discontent and unneeded at home. I used to find my purpose and fulfillment in life from serving my family, doing the cooking, cleaning, and childcare. But I didn’t realize I was usurping my mother’s and my sister’s places. I’ve given them back. They are doing marvelously at their God-given roles and I believe they are feeling more fulfilled and valued in their lives. I feel like there is still some forgiveness I need to do towards my family for things that were said and done during my relationship with Trent and after, so God and I are working on that.
I’m struggling a bit finding purpose. If not Trent, then what? Work? I do like work, but I have never wanted to live to work. God hasn’t been very forthcoming or talkative lately. Update: JK. God is talking again – the dreams He’s giving me each night are off the charts hopeful. I think the times when I’m more down, like I was at Christmas, I just can’t hear Him through the lies. I ask if there’s anything between Him and I, some sin I need to confess, but He doesn’t bring anything to mind Update: well, the matter of forgiving my family. Is He finally leading me away from Trent? Maybe. Will I be able to let go? And what are we heading towards? I’m willing to do whatever God tells me to do, go wherever He tells me to go, be with whoever He tells me to be with, but the leading has to be clearly from Him. I tried to run my own life for too long, which landed me in this position in the first place. People tell me I have to make my own happiness, I can’t depend on anyone else to make me happy and I agree with them. But what about purpose? I can’t create that myself. So I have to ask: am I still not finding my worth and purpose in Him and Him alone? Probably. But I’m trying now. I want to. Honestly, I still ask God quite often to take me home to heaven. I’m not suicidal anymore, but I long for heaven with every fiber of my being. Update: God seems to be telling me to get ready to move – and no, not to heaven. Also not immediately – I’m not packing or anything like that – He’s just prompting me to start doing things I would want to get done before I go. I don’t know how it will all work out – it still seems fairly impossible to me, but He reminds me that I serve a God who specializes in impossibilities. That thought makes me both nervous and excited. But I believe Him. If He says it can happen, I will trust Him and do what He tells me to do.
I don’t know what 2019 is going to hold. 2018 was a doozy. It was hard, but it was also good. I am so so thankful everything happened the way it did. I have lived for 32 years thinking that everything was alright with me, not even aware of how my mental and physical conditions were bogging me down. Now that I know myself better, I can’t help but think that that knowledge will only help me get better from here on out. Life will not always be easy, but it will be easier to cope with the challenges knowing what I do now. And this year God became real to me in a way He never had before. As long as I keep clinging to Him I know that whatever the future holds will be good.