4. Boot Camp

“In the hard times,
we learn to hold on to Jesus.”
— Wayne Watson

 

I’d been married to Prince Charming for five long years when I began to notice that there was an increasing absence of “color” in my world. In the mid-1970s, nursery monitors had yet to be invented, and word was out that children were dying from a mysterious medical condition known as SIDS — Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

I felt convicted to wake up periodically during every night to make sure my babies were still breathing.

My overall energy level was  reduced considerably simply by working to still my mind and fall asleep. Then it dipped lower each time I slung my feet over the edge of the bed, left the comforting warmth of my covers — both of my children were infants during winter — and shuffle to the basinet in the adjoining nursery. In retrospect, it occurs to me that I could have simply moved the basinet into the master bedroom to alleviate my anxiety. But in 1974 and 1977 that simply was not done.

At that time, most husbands didn’t get up during the night to help care for babies.  That was the mother’s responsibility. Husbands were the “providers” for the homemakers and however many kids that were spawned. We were just coming out of the era where men came home from work to the newspaper, pipe and slippers that awaited him after a hard day. Though Chuck didn’t smoke a pipe and preferred bare feet to slippers, he was still of the 1950’s mindset and felt he needed his sleep.

So I had abundant opportunities, while rocking my babies through the night into the early  hours of morning, to ponder the shadows and cold shades of gray that surrounded and taunted me. And I did a lot of contemplating — my past, my present, and my doubts about what my future would hold.

Now I understand that brooding was not a good thing for my emotional well-being.

One day, as I dejectedly trudged past the doorway to Lisa’s bedroom with a stack of folded laundry in my arms, I heard her three-year-old voice pretending to talk into her toy telephone (with a coiled cord and circular dial). “I don’t know what’s wrong.” She spoke with a serious tone. “I just cry and cry all the day.”

I suddenly felt icy cold, and I remember thinking, “I cannot pass this dreadful legacy on to my daughter!” At that moment, my journey changed course. I set out on a mission to convince my husband that we had a problem, and he could no longer remain oblivious.

Things went on as usual until one day when my emotions collapsed, taking us both by surprise. Since it was actually my problem, our first attempt at a solution was for me to see a random psychologist.  She turned out to be a non-practicing Jew who recommended that I buy dishes at a yard sale, go into the garage, and smash them against the concrete. That would relieve the frustrations that I’d been feeling. When I declined to do that, she recommended I see her colleague, a psychologist who charged $60 for 1/2 hour, who could prescribe an antidepressant (to lift my emotions) and Valium (to level them out). That did not go well either.  So Chuck agreed to go with me to a Christian counselor.

Dr. Goode was a man of God who attempted to help us view our conflicts from a Christ-like perspective. But he also recognized the psychological issues at play that were rooted in the post-World War II idealism and the turbulent leftovers of the 1960s culture war that had taken a toll on both Chuck and me. There were also undercurrents of a very basic instinct — fear.

I learned during the counseling process that I was afraid of so many things, I’d become shrouded in negativity. And in a rare candid moment, Chuck admitted the he feared losing me. That’s why he had smothered me with protective behavior from the beginning of our union. His admission didn’t magically fix our damaged relationship, but it helped me better understand a complex part of the problem and provided momentum toward healing.

A technique called “guided imagery” was effective in addressing my severe depression. Dr. Goode led me through a number of positive visualizing exercises to “reprogram” my horribly negative thought patterns. Slowly, it became easier for me to sidestep fear and decline the company of depressing mindsets. And, once again, I began noticing vibrant colors displayed in the world around me.

I’ve heard from those with experience in the military, that Boot Camp is agonizing. However, the process is necessary in order to prepare for even tougher things to come.

“The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed,
a stronghold in times of trouble.

    Those who know your name will trust in you;
for you, Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.”

    (Psalm 9:9-10)

 

A RUST REMOVER: For one week, keep a journal of the emotions you experience during each 24-hour time period. Keep your entries brief, perhaps just an arrow pointing up or down and a squiggly line for moments of anxiety. Include the time of day, and in parentheses try to identify what may have caused you to feel that way. At the end of seven to ten days, study what you wrote and see if a pattern appears. Then ask the Holy Spirit to help you use the information that you’ve gathered as a tool to handle pitfalls with greater success.