I am very pleased to introduce another guest post, this time by my good friend Luan, who writes at Garment’s Edge. Her testimony is both harrowing and heartening, and she has a special heart for dealing squarely with mental illness, something that I would like to see in the church as well:
Parallel universes. That’s how I’d describe my life.
Descended from the noblest of Chinese blood with the paperwork to prove it. Gifted with all sorts of talents as if I were an infant Sleeping Beauty – a voice, artistic abilities, the power of the pen, cognitive and analytical powers above most. Ivy educated to be an architect. Recruited by two clients to become a real estate developer and make millions upon millions some day. Offered partnership. Married to a doctor, and not just any doctor, but one with an MD and a PhD.
To up the annoyance, I was “so” Christian that I did not put stock in any of this. What I really wanted to do was go to seminary after supporting my husband through his training. I’d been talking to God about this since I was 18. I devoured the religious studies classes I took between studio work. I wanted the Greek, the Hebrew, the exegesis, all of it! All I ever got in response was a “Not yet.”
Immigrant experience as a young child, all the while caught under a volatile marriage. Bullied for a stutter I developed after being left-handed wasn’t good enough. Prone to dark depressions and panic attacks. Diagnosed with Grave’s Disease shortly after marrying the one called to husband me, the poor guy. Had a panic attack on a plane ride to meet some business partners. Locked myself in my house for two weeks with no more desire to look upon the world full of pain and ugliness. Turned down the partnership. Retreated. Then came the children…
Child 1 apparently couldn’t get enough thyroid hormone. We didn’t know it at the time, so all I felt was suddenly suicidal. I couldn’t understand my thoughts. I was very afraid of not being able to stop myself from acting on them. I was committed to a psychiatric ward for four days. I was given Bible verses and suspected of demon-possession. You can read about the experience here.
Child 2 blessed me with an easy pregnancy; I worked all the way up to maternity leave. The only thing was that an hour after her totally uneventful birth, I suffered a mysterious and massive hemorrhage. The last stand was an emergency hysterectomy, but toward the end of that, I was in full disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC), and my heart went into a pulseless rhythm for 10-15 minutes. During recovery, I’m given Bible verses and told about Christian joy in adversity. You can read about that little adventure and its fallout here and here.
Six months later, I’m back at work (a modest part-time position at a regional architectural firm), and I’m site planning – just sketching at my table. I smell His presence and then He speaks: “I want to help the church face the difficult feelings. I want it to be a safe place to heal again.”
So…we’re going with Storyline #2 then, God? Cuz…after all of this, Storyline #1 wouldn’t be so bad for your beloved daughter…
I laugh when the passage is quoted about children asking their fathers for fish and getting a snake (Matthew 7:9-11). I asked to go to seminary, and He sent me into the psych ward.
Romans 8:28 is also pretty funny to me. Is it true? Beyond the shadow of a doubt. Is it an easy road? That would be a no. His only begotten Son wasn’t spared; He threw in His lot with all of us. So I’m being asked to simply follow.
But, the open question in my life has been answered. The “What do you want from me?” has been filled with purpose; I’ve got a calling now. I’m going back to school for an advanced degree in Clinical Psychology focusing on issues surrounding mental illness and the church. How and when I’ll finish, I don’t know yet. In the meantime, I’ve activated a blog to open dialogue on these issues: www.garmentsedge.com . It’s been good. Lots of private messages from people in ministry relieved to find a shoulder. Hope some of you will be encouraged as well.