I will never forget how cold the tile floor was that hot September afternoon as I slid down the wall of ICU room number six. “No, I did not mix up my medicine. I wanted to die. I do not want to be here anymore,” was what caused me to sink to the floor.
My clearest thought was how I was not enough. But if not me, how was our beautiful baby boy not enough to make him want to stay? I wondered how I could possibly face family and friends at our son’s first birthday party the next day, alone. I wondered if I would spend the rest of my life the very same way.
Never would I have dreamed this would be a part of the “for better or for worse” wedding vows I uttered with every intention of living up to. I had every right to leave. To say, “This is too much. This isn’t fair.”
My heart was torn into pieces, but no one could hear it. I knew leaving would mean I would only remember the worst of him, and I would be choosing that fate for my son, too. Even though the day was nearly unbearable, I didn’t want the worst day of my life to define the rest of my life.
I made it home the next morning, held my son and cried my eyes out. Once I was able to catch my breath, I saw so much of the good my husband had already invested in him. As I peered into my son’s eyes, I hoped staying was the right choice.
I have known people who stay married only for the children. That was neither my goal nor my desire. My hope was to see healing come to my entire family. I refused to stick around only for appearances. We needed a healed marriage in order to have a healed family.
We started counseling sessions shortly after Steve was released from the psych ward. That first session was so awkward. Where do you begin? How do you tell a complete stranger your life history? Your darkest pains, your deepest regrets? And how the hell will they make it any better?
But things did get better.
Through multiple sessions, he made ice cubes from our iceberg. He made our pain digestible and gave us clear goals and practical steps to get there. The first goal: getting honest with ourselves.
The twelve sessions were not enough to heal us completely, but they were a powerful start. Counseling taught us how to slow down and listen past the voice, to the intent. We learned how to process before reacting. And in my case, I learned how to react, instead of burying my emotions.
It’s been nearly seven years now, since the cold tile floor and chatter of nurses in that ICU room. To say every day has been easy would be a lie. Forgiveness is a multi-step process. Each time I have intentionally made a new, happy memory with my husband, I have fought against bitterness and blame.
Our marriage isn’t perfect, but we are beginning to reap the benefits of digging through the nastiest parts of our souls. And we have done it together, for better or for worse.
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