When You Are Torn Apart

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Abigail Alleman -New Life3By Abigail Alleman | Twitter: @abbyalleman

As the sunlight filters its glistening beams across the too-full room in the ICU, I awake. To my right, head bowed, hands bent and clasped, is the psychiatrist who loves Jesus. She lifts her head, smiles and says in a gentle voice, “Good morning, Abigail. I have been praying for you.”

I am in a state hospital in Budapest, Hungary. I have lived in this city the last three years. There are many tubes in me whose purposes I do not know. It is still a mystery why I am in this part of the hospital. Most likely I reacted badly to the load of sedatives shot into my leg my first day here.

No matter. But yes, it matters. The glass has shattered. The shards have pierced. The blood has flowed.

My life will never be the same.

This sunlit morning, after days of not being able to breathe, is one of hope. This very personal apocalypse has led me to a new life. I have no idea what it will be, but it will be.

And yet how do I face the haunting weeks prior to this morning? How do I face the terrifying unknown to come?

Woven and knotted through these past weeks was fervent prayer—prayers I prayed and prayers others had prayed for me. There  were also sleepless nights, delusion, incoherent action and the ripping apart of body, mind, soul and spirit.

In the coming weeks this will be called the manifestations of bipolar disorder. I will receive a costly diagnosis. It will come after two weeks in a foreign hospital and the tearing out of a life we had planned, prayed, and worked towards for ten years.

And yet, somehow …

Just one month before my hospital stay, I spoke to 500 women from all over Eastern Europe and Russia. The theme was “story.” I shared how God takes the threads of our stories in all their broken, dull and knotted places and transforms each piece until it is one gleaming strand in God’s story of redemption.

I meant every word. But I had no idea what would come a tiny bit of time later. In that moment, in front of those women, everything I was becoming, my own story, seemed ready for its denouement as past pain was becoming transformed by grace.

But then this. Oh please, God, no, not this.

This sunlit morning is touched with transcendent grace. God is reaching through the gaping cavern of my heart with a promise. “This will not be your end. You will find a way through.”

I need this hope.

The first medicine they give me after the ICU is not kind. It fills me with side effects, neuropathy as if I were in some form of chemotherapy, a “jumping out of my skin” steroid-like effect and the gait of an elderly person.

In which warped universe am I? When will I get out? Please, can I?

As I laid in my bed the days before and while at the ICU, I only remember I couldn’t breathe. And somewhere I wondered, “Will I live?” In my delusion, I had been seeing visions of heaven and hell, mostly hell. So I wasn’t afraid to die. I had stared head-on into the worst.

But living? I didn’t know if I wanted to. I wanted God’s arms.

Yet I was given life. And with it, a thread of story so knotted, ripped apart and tangled, who could make sense of it?

The sunlit morning came and went. One tiny seed of hope buried deep inside. And then he came. This man I love. I saw how his worry lines had grown. These last weeks had torn him apart too.

He came in the evenings and read from the Psalms. I still couldn’t sleep. But as he spoke aloud those honest cries, I would fall asleep for only minutes, but it was enough. My tiny seed of hope sparked.  

 

And this is how it went and this is how it goes. There is no making sense, no untangling of the mangled thread. No mending the torn. The wounds are still raw and the patches of healing bear wide scars and a profound ache.

But somehow, some way, for my husband and three kids, and yet first for me, I am finding a way to keep walking this story. Not a pretend one. Not another’s. But mine. In all of its moments and days and terrifying ways, I am finding a way. In all of its glaring uncertainty and determined ends, I am finding a way. Somehow, I am finding a way, one breath, one thought at a time, to let the hope press itself defiantly through to new life.

It’s almost two years now since that Sunday morning. We have moved three times. We have not gone back to the places and faces on the other side of the ocean which we still hold close. In May of last year, as a surprise to everyone, I was again hospitalized with insomnia, delusions and terrorizing thoughts.

Some days it is so very hard. So hard to remember I am more than a diagnosis. So hard to not play out what would lead to more hospital stays. So hard to take bitter medicine. So hard to find that hope.

Yet this is my story. And this is God’s story. Here is my strength and I will lift up the sunlight. His promise is full restoration one day and this is his gift to give us: great hope. Yet too, there are knots, tangles and ripped places in the thread of redemption. The hard, hot breaths are his. The shredded places are his. The I-am-not-sure-what-it-will-be-but-it-will-be next moment is his.

My shaking hands cupping the tiniest seed of hope are his. And this is enough. It must be enough to walk a story like mine, like yours. It must be enough because ICU’s are real. Hell is real. And by God, heaven is real. And the struggle for life, to know it, live it, love it is very real.

And so, it must be enough. Beloved, it must be enough.

_____________________

About Abby:

Alleman

I am a lover of story; yours, mine and God’s. I am a student of life which is ever surprising me as it unfolds. I know my greatest hope is God, and my greatest joy is in Him and in loving the husband and three precious children He has given me.

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  • Nichole Bilcowski Forbes

    Wow! So raw and beautiful and hopeful and terrible. Thank you for sharing, for telling this piece of your story with such depth and honesty. I pray that you wil feel your strength increase, that God’s love for you – just as you are- will outshine all of your doubts and fears. You are precious. You are loved!

    And yes … You will find a way through. With God there is always more life ❤

    • Thank you Nichole. This piece did not come easily. The honesty was a fight. To say out loud how haunting it can be. But yes Hallelujah I will, and so will we, find a way through.

  • Shaley Hoogendoorn

    Wow Abby! This is all kinds of beautiful!!! I could have been reading a part of my own story. I remember finally getting my diagnosis 6 years ago. I am a Sister In Mental Illness. I am still not used to the B word. Every time I speak it out it has less power over me. Thank you for bravely sharing. There are so many of us out there. I needed to read this and I know so many other hiding women need it too. I just know that by sharing we can and will stop the stigma.
    So many thank yous!!!!
    ❤️Your S.I.M.I.

    • Thank you sister and Amen. The stigma must be gone because God is real and calls us to a new day that is his and he is all about new things. Sending love ❤

    • Helene Burns

      I sure love you beautiful Shaley xo

  • Christina S

    Thank you so much for sharing this broken part of your story! It is so encouraging because it helps me to lift my story up to a God, who is an incredible artist when it comes to working with broken pieces. Even though it hurts sometimes so bad to walk in this redeeming stories. Love and peace to you from Jesus – the waves and wind still know his name…

  • Love this -> ” . . . there are knots, tangles, and ripped places in the thread of redemption.”

    And yet, by grace, God weaves wholeness.
    Thanks for sharing your story, Abby.

    • Thank you Michele. Isn’t it so true how redemption bears the fallen?

  • Thank you for your story. I blog from the POV of the being spouse of a man with bipolar disorder. He is one of the most resilient, determined people I know and I wouldn’t trade him for anything. Your stories are important. Keep sharing. http://www.miningfordiamondsblog.com

    • YOUR story is important! My husband is beautiful beyond compare to me for all he gives in the journey. Thank you for doing what you do!

  • Helene Burns

    Thank you for so bravely bringing us into your story and shining a light to help us all grow through it. I was captivated by the words you shared with such hope to those 500 women in Russia…’ I shared how God takes the threads of our stories in all their broken, dull and knotted places and transforms each piece until it is one gleaming strand in God’s story of redemption.’ I believe that though you didn’t fully realize it then, that is exactly what God is doing through your life today. Yours is a story of true hope and faith in our amazing God – you are inspiring. xo

    • Thank you Helene. ‘No eye has seen nor ear has heard what God has prepared for those who love him’…

  • Sue Hay

    Just wow. Such a Poweful story of redemptive faith through pain. It’s not a reality many have the courage to share. Grace & peace.

    • Thank you Sue. It took a lot of misses and some deep soul-digging to get this one out! So thankful I could 🙂

  • Kathryn Burnett-Christensen

    I too have a husband with a bi-polar diagnosis. We learnt to look for the triggers that made him unwell. Things like not eating in a timely manner, particular foods and drinks. We also renamed moods and we have Tigger days and Eyore days which helped our children understand and took the pressure off my husband about feeling like he wasn’t coping properly.
    Keep walking with the Lord and let him guide your way. He is faithful.

    • I like that!! Tigger and Eyeore days. Very accurate. I am thankful you are here today.

  • Amy Hunt

    it takes bravery and trust to remember that our story is not over yet.

  • Mary Gemmill

    Brilliant and mightily encouraging, giving hope to all who find themselves in such a hard place.
    Thank you for having the courage to share.
    God redeems our hard places and uses them magnificently for His purposes.
    Hope to read more from you soon.
    Blessings from New Zealand.
    Mary.

    • Thank you Mary…very much. God is so good to give just the courage we need to stand strong in our stories. And hope is the most resilient of virtues:-)

  • I can’t imagine how difficult this must have been to write and to share. This is an incredibly testimony. In large part, because there is not yet, what most would consider, a happy ending. Thank you for sharing your pain, and the courage to say that He is enough, even as you experience hell, He is enough. Bless you.