In “What I Told My Family” I posted the letter I emailed to everyone.  Almost everyone, actually, I completely forgot to send it to my husbands brother and sister-in-law.  Oops!  It was an honest mistake, I didn’t intentionally leave them out although I’ll probably never be able to convince them of that <sigh>.  I did email it to them a week after everyone else got it so at least I tried to correct my mistake…

Both my brothers, my dad and step-mom, my father-in-law and my brother -in-law emailed me back and except for my brother-in-law all were surprisingly supportive of my goals to get healthy.  Dear brother-in-law responded within a couple of days but only with a basic, sorry to hear that, we’re praying for you and a very generic, Christianese blessing.  And this guy is a missionary.  <rolling my eyes>

I’m the oldest of my siblings and my next oldest brother was the first to respond.  His letter was very pastoral and reminded me how very little I actually know him because my sister says that is how he speaks all the time, I felt like I was a stranger who had asked him for counseling.  He was excited to finally catch a glimpse of the “real” me and so proud of me for actually having goals because so many people in my situations can only handle surviving day-to-day life and aren’t able to set goals.  He says I have strength that I didn’t know I had – to which I laughed because I’ve known that I’ve always been far stronger than I wanted to be in order to survive my life.  What I actually have is strength my brother didn’t know I needed to have.  But I digress.  He added to please let him know if he’s offended me and what he can do to help, etc.

My father-in-law responded next, confused as to how they might have possibly wounded me, proud of me for having the courage to speak up, a brief description of how depression skews a person’s reality, good job on having a plan to get help, a reminder that I was their first daughter-in-law and they love me.  They followed it up with a phone call about a week later but I wasn’t ready to speak with them so I took the coward’s way out and sent the call to voicemail.  It was another encouraging message, they love me and hope I’m doing OK.

My step-mom was the next to respond and of everybody her letter felt the most “real” to me.  Her email was like she was talking to me and we were just having a conversation.  She has also struggled with severe depression and knows what that is like, she was surprised that things had gotten this bad because I always said everything was OK.  She actually said that moving in with my sister was a good plan!  She was the only one to approve of both my leaving my husband AND my getting healthy, recognizing that I’m not going to get one without the other.  She was proud of me for having the courage to open up about how I was feeling, she is praying for me and she loves me.  She is hesitant about calling me because she is “only a step-mom”.  When I responded I told her I consider her as real a mom to me as anybody and to please stop thinking of herself as “just” a step-mom.

My younger brother was next to respond and I felt so bad after reading his email because he shared some of the wounds he received growing up from our step-father and our mother that I had never realized happened.  I had been so wrapped up in my own hurts that I never noticed his.  He, too, had struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts but he had a healthy marriage and was much farther on the road to recovery and healing than I was.  He thanked me for my courage in sharing and apologized for seeming absent or unfriendly.  He would like to get to know me again and said to please feel safe to tell him anything.

My father was the last to respond (besides my brother-in-law who I still hadn’t sent it to at this point) and my dad seemed to focus primarily on the paragraph where I said I had been mad at everybody at one point or another for appearing not to care about me.  He apologized for not being around while I was growing up and for “being immature”, a term I would have never applied to him.  He said nice things about my mom – and I have to say that I have never heard him say a mean word about her, ever, and that makes me respect him so very much because there were plenty of mean things that could truthfully be said about her.  He believes that I love God with my whole heart and reminded me that Jesus is bigger than my circumstances.  He asked if I had started my depression meds yet and committed to being more sensitive to me and my needs.

So from everybody but my brother-in-law I got a lot of “we’re proud of you for your courage in sharing your feelings” and oodles of support for getting healthy, one recognition that I needed to leave to do it, offers to listen to anything I want to say, requests to help and lots of apologies for not being there for me.  All in all I felt heard, cared for and loved, there was healing for me in their responses, it was really nice.

I responded to each person individually with the same, basic information but I personalized it and answered specific questions each one had asked.  Here is the bones of my response:

Dear Family Member,

Thank you for your email.  <personal stuff here>
My younger daughter’s life is going from bad to worse and it seems to be entirely of her own making, my current prayers for her are that God will stop lies from coming out of her mouth, that when she tries to lie no sound will come out of her lips and that she will begin saying the truth, even on accident.  If you could pray those things with me I would appreciate it.
I am currently receiving food stamps and have qualified for the health insurance program for only $20/month starting in March so I will be able to go back to the doctor starting in just a couple of weeks. I am also pursuing a program with one of the local women’s shelters that combines housing, counseling and something they call “case management”.  I’m mostly interested in the counseling as it specifically deals with women in situations like mine – and worse – and the housing would be in a group situation, living with other women who are in the program.  I have been approved for their program but there aren’t any openings right now so I am on a waiting list.  I don’t care so much about the housing because I enjoy living with my sister but it’s part of the program and I think it will be beneficial for me to participate in it fully.
My talks with my husband are going fairly well, we have had several phone conversations and three face-to-face talks.   I am not mad at him, I don’t hate him and I don’t have any intentions of trying to make other people dislike him, my entire goal is to become healthy myself and to develop a healthy way to communicate with him – and I’m honestly not thinking or planning any further beyond accomplishing that at the moment.  I know that he is trying really hard to understand and accommodate my wishes but he is very hurt and frustrated and definitely needs your continued prayers and support.
Sincerely,
Me
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