On July 16, 2009, my life came crashing down around me. Three days later on July 19, 2009, I wrote the following, my own version of Jonah, Chapter 2, to a pastor at my church. For many months, I have kept this issue very private, fearing the judgment of stigma, however, I now know that just over a year later, I am not the only owner of this nightmare. Each day I see more and more people walking along this bumpy road. We need to walk together and gain strength from one another. That will never happen if we allow the stigma to stifle us in fear.
In my darkest moment I call out to my Lord,
He answers me with his promises.
From the scariest moment in this mother's life, I call to You for help,
And You are there to hold my hand.
You have shown me the reality of my sinful existence
And how it has extended down to the next generation.
You have saved me from myself......but will my son ever allow Your grace in his life?
My child cries out as he prepares to take his life and I cannot breathe.
I am surrounded with fear and grief and helplessness.
I am reminded of what his eternity might be if he is banished from Your sight
And yet I know You have a plan for him and I look to You, O Lord, for hope.
His brother cries out - STOP! PLEASE! DON'T!
I sink down to the deepest valley and wait for the deafening shot.
I know not what to pray but You are there to remind me
That You intercede with groans that words cannot express
As the storm moves out to sea, I spot another one on the horizon.
This road is long, with no end in sight but I can see Your rainbow
I feel Your arms around me as I sing Your songs of praise
You will never leave me or forsake me, nor will You forsake my sons.
I praise You in this storm, O Lord.
I wait anxiously for the lessons You will teach me.
I look for blessings along this rocky road.
I am wrapped in the peace that passes all understanding.
I sing a song of thanksgiving.
Salvation comes from the Lord!
July 19, 2009 - My oldest son is serving the US Marine Corps. In the past five years he has been deployed three times, two tours with infantry units on the front lines, and one tour with his Special Forces unit. He has seen the nightmares of war firsthand and he has lost more than one friend to the recent conflicts. An IED explosion destroyed his humvee back in 2006, and it is truly a miracle that he is here to tell about it. Sadly, the explosion resulted in a concussion which eventually revealed a Traumatic Brain Injury. Additionally, my son suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
TBI and PTSD are the signature wounds of war. My son is one of thousands who suffer wounds that canÊ¼t be seen, but are truly life changing. These unseen battle wounds go untreated and undiagnosed largely because of the stigma associated with them. Even if our wounded are getting the treatment and much needed counseling they require, it is rarely from a Christ-centered approach. Instead, a band-aid approach is used and our wounded are taking pills in all shapes and sizes. These pills are stealing the minds and the lives of our wounded warriors.
In the past year, in addition to dealing with TBI and PTSD, my son has suffered many losses. His roommate took his own life last summer (2008) right before the team deployed. He too, suffered from PTSD. Not only did the team have to deal with the death, they had to deploy to a remote and dangerous area with only 9 of the 10 men needed for the mission. Anger, resentment, confusion, frustration, and the pain of losing a friend set in and the stress and dangers of the deployment took a toll on my son and other team members.
When my son returned from the deployment he wasn’t himself, and his fiancee soon broke up with him. Broken relationships are just one more side effect of PTSD and war. I wish we had all understood what was going on back then. While I can almost see why she did not want to deal with the situation, I know that losing her at a time that was already marked with agony was too much for my son to bear.
His TBI and PTSD symptoms were becoming more evident to others around him. He was losing his battle to keep things in check, and soon he had to step down from his Special Forces team. From his perspective, everything that he had ever worked for or desired was taken from him within a few short months. It was too much and his world came crashing down around him.
A few months later, he was admitted to the Wounded Warrior Battalion East, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. We were hopeful that he would receive good treatment and recover quickly. Instead we were shut out from our child’s support team, and became concerned as it appeared that doctors are just throwing pills at him without much interest in the devastating affect they seem to have on him.
Our son seems to be missing and in his place stands an empty shell.
He has gone from a funny, confident, loving kid to an angry, hurting, and desperate man. WeÊ¼ve watched him cut himself off from his friends, and we are now experiencing the pain as he cuts himself off from his family. We are watching him self-destruct. The more we try to love him and reach out to help him, the more he runs in the opposite direction. This is the hardest thing I have ever had to endure as a mother.
Two days ago, my son called home from his military base. He had been told one time too many that he was a “worthless excuse for a Marine” and didn’t see a reason to go on. You see, the stigma is the dominating obstacle to my son’s recovery. I have to question the real meaning of "Semper Fidelis" at this point in time. While my youngest son had my Marine on the phone, I frantically called the commander of my son’s unit in an attempt to get someone over to his house to stop him. The commander wasn’t taking me seriously, so after 35 minutes, and more than one phone call with the man, I finally called one of my son’s old roommates and he responded to the situation. The Marines didn't feel it was necessary to send anyone over to check on my son.
I have never felt so helpless in my entire life as I did during that hour. I was frightened that my older son might actually end his life and I was frightened that my younger son and I were going to hear it happen over the phone. I was already fearing that we would relive this horrendous moment in our minds forever before it even took place. I knew that this situation was completely out of my control and I needed to pray....but I could NOT find the words. Panic had set in and all I could do was recall Romans 8:26, “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.”
I’ve heard people talk of their complete surrender to God, and I’ve tried to do it myself, a million times, but I never really understood what people meant. This time it was different. I truly had no choice. It was either completely trust God or give up. I put all of my trust in God. I didn’t promise Him I’d read my Bible three times a day or try to strike up any other bargains. I simply trusted and BELIEVED that the gun would not go off.
Somehow we managed to get through that brutal experience. My son did not take his life, but we are all wounded deeply by his actions. We must live with the reality that our son is hurting beyond our understanding. We have to live with the fear of the unknown as we have no idea how long we will travel on this road. We don’t know what the what this bumpy road will bring to our family. Though we are still in the middle of the storm, God was faithful to rescue us from the crisis. As well, I learned a life lesson that I wish I had learned years ago. Putting my trust in God, without any doubt or any reservation, is the only way to make it through a true crisis. I’ll never again try to take care of things on my own.
I know we are just getting started on this road to recovery, but I know that the Lord WILL rescue my son and He WILL rescue our family from this valley. I believe this with a peace that passes all understanding.
Update: August 5, 2010 - My son is still breathing, and finally taking baby steps on his road to recovery. It’s been a long, difficult year, and this next one promises to be just as challenging, but we know our son is worth saving so we patiently stand by his side.