When we walk through dark or difficult places, there are always lessons to be learned. By the time we get to the other side of a trial, we have keen insights. Occasionally, we’ll be pulling from those insights, asking the question: What would you have done differently if given the chance? Today, we’re looking at how to do deal with your “family secret.” Steve and Amy’s teenage daughter was diagnosed with ADHD, OCD, Tourette’s, clinical depression, and suicidal tendencies. She attended an “alternative school” before dropping out and spent many nights and most weekends trying to find pain pills or something else to numb her reality. Life was a struggle for her and many days she felt like it wasn’t worth it. Her constant struggles impacted every aspect of the family. And while their situation may be unique, the challenges and lessons to be learned are not. I asked how they responded to the downward spiral their daughter was caught in. Here are some of the struggles that stood out:
Consumed with fear-
Would she kill herself?
Would she get pregnant?
What did they do wrong?
How could they help her and limit her damage on the rest of the family?
What was going on that they didn’t know?
Why couldn’t they help her?
What were legitimate fears and which one’s were completely irrational? Such questions and a constant barrage of “what if” scenarios plagued them.
They felt like people would judge them and their misguided attempts at help would only produce more pain. And the only real way to keep people from knowing what was going on was to withdraw from real relationships.
Grasping for Control-
When you feel like you’re losing control, your immediate reaction is to grasp for control, over whatever you can. They tried to control her, each other, and every aspect of their lives that would offer some much needed stability.
Failure and Despair-
They struggled with a deep sense of despair and personal failure. How could this not be their fault? They felt extremely helpless and couldn’t find a way out of the tailspin. Their struggles spiraled into every area of their lives.
Normally, when one spouse is struggling, the other is able to compensate. But they were both languishing and were taking out their frustration on each other. Every small crack in their marriage was stressed almost to the breaking point.
Looking back, here’s what they say they’d do differently:
Humble themselves and reach out quicker for help-
Their main regret was their isolation from others. Amy said repeatedly, “It would have been worth the risk.”
Allow God to truly be Savior, Lord, and Healer-
They needed God’s healing but they were too caught up in their own pain and problem solving efforts to open their hearts to His love.
Simplify their life-
“Between everything going on with our daughter, and our individual jobs and evening activities that kept us apart 3 or 4 nights a week, our lives were on separate tracks and we weren’t deliberate about being a family.”
Release outcomes to God-
Guilt doesn’t change the past and worry doesn’t change the future.
Steve said, “I wish I had learned how to release outcomes after doing all I could do. We needed to trust her to God and remember that ultimately, God was sovereign.”
Go on a marriage retreat when they hit the wall of despair-
“We both expected our marriage to end in divorce and kept sliding further and further in a downward spiral. Neither of us knew how to get out of it yet we didn’t stop life to address it. It’s crazy to say this, but I’m not sure it felt worth it at the time. Fortunately, we pressed through, but we would have saved ourselves a lot of heartache by setting everything aside and focusing on healing our marriage.”
The plans of the enemy are not new. Isolation is the ultimate tactic. Just like the “roaring lion seeking whom he may devour” spoken of in Scripture, we become so much more vulnerable when we are broken off from the herd, so to speak. Reaching out to God and to others is vital during crisis.
Have you been through a similar situation? Have you found healing in your marriage or family? What did you learn? What would do differently?