This post is most likely one of the most vulnerable ones I have ever shared. I’ll be sharing some difficult circumstances in my life that I haven’t talked much about before, which is partly why I feel so vulnerable. I have been working on this post and then putting it aside again for over a year. When my heart and emotions are raw, I have learned it’s best to wait to share anything (if I share anything at all).
My reason for sharing this is to encourage those who are in seemingly endless dark or difficult seasons they don’t understand. I’m also sharing this to give a little insight into what’s been going on in my life over the past few years that I have only mentioned in bits and pieces before.
We all go through seasons in our lives that are more difficult than others. Sometimes, it seems as if one thing after another hits us and eventually breaks us down enough to pummel us to the ground.
In September 2015 I was diagnosed with Lyme disease. This came after a long time of being misdiagnosed with many other things. My body had been slowly breaking down for several years, and no one could figure out what was going on with me. I had brain fog, memory loss, chronic fatigue, unexplained shoulder pain, sharp pain behind my eyes, night sweats, increasing muscle weakness, tinnitus, and many other things.
My PCP treated me for the first month but couldn’t help me after that. After researching Lyme disease, I found out there were doctors who specifically treat Lyme. I found a Lyme literate doctor (LLD) and for several months took very heavy doses of antibiotics. I gained 60 pounds during that time, and my liver was not handling the antibiotics well at all.
I then switched to a naturopathic doctor after being referred by a friend who had been treated and helped by them. After several more months of intense treatment, I was able to stop the protocol I was on. The Lyme looked like it was gone, and it was time for my body to heal from all of the damage it had caused. I was exhausted, weak, in pain, but I kept telling myself I just needed to be patient and let my body heal.
In the summer of 2017, my husband was working his regular full-time job while also traveling to minister in different churches almost every weekend. His traveling schedule was getting busier and busier. I have always been home with the kids in the summer, but this particular summer I was absolutely exhausted.
With my husband gone so often, I found myself in survival mode. I was dealing with a foggy brain and exhaustion that made the days excruciatingly long. I remember my son asking if I would allow him to do something in particular, and I didn’t know how to answer him. I knew it was a simple question, but I wasn’t sure what the right answer was. My brain felt so foggy, and it was very difficult to make decisions unless I had a reference to making that same kind of decision in the past. I don’t know how else to explain it.
I had two different speaking engagements that summer. One I wasn’t sure how I was going to pull off, because my brain was so foggy. I went through the entire day wondering if what I said even made any sense. I started having many new symptoms that persisted and worsened that entire summer. Now I also had muscle twitches, and recurring eye infections, more memory loss, more joint pain, I constantly had a strange sound in my right ear, and the brain fog was worse than ever. I never realized how much we keep in our brain to remember at a moment’s notice until that part of my brain wasn’t working anymore.
At the end of July 2017, I found myself traveling back up to my doctor to see if I still had Lyme. I didn’t want to go, but my husband talked me into it. He saw my health going downhill and wanted me to get checked out. I didn’t know how it could be Lyme, because (although I never felt any better) I was told the Lyme was gone a year earlier.
I remember driving up to that appointment feeling fearful of what they would tell me. I kept picturing a little girl with a daisy, plucking the petals off of it saying, “He loves me. He loves me not.” That’s how I felt driving up there. If I didn’t have Lyme, God loved me. If I did still have it, He didn’t love me. I knew that wasn’t theologically true, but my heart felt otherwise.
I, indeed, found out I had chronic Lyme. It explained so much, but I was absolutely devastated. I had let almost an entire year go by without treating it, and I was just getting worse and worse. I thought it was because I needed to slow down and heal, but I was wrong.
When September of 2017 rolled around, I started writing my book. I had been planning for months to start writing it once the kids went back to school. The words flowed so easily. My mind felt so clear, the brain fog was gone for the time being, and there was such a grace to keep going. It felt so good to get everything out of my head and heart and have it written down all in one place. “Longing for Intimacy” was in my heart long before it was finally on paper.
One Saturday morning that October I accidentally discovered something that changed everything.
(Before I go any further, I want to say that I have my husband’s blessing to share all of this. If you know him, I’d imagine you already know what I’m going to say next. He has shared this publicly several times. I just haven’t mentioned it, because I haven’t known how to until now.)
One morning I accidentally discovered that my husband had been secretly looking at porn for a very long time. I clicked on something attached to one of his accounts, having no idea what I was about to encounter. I was able to see countless pornographic pictures and videos that he had viewed, going several years back. My heart sank. I froze in fear and panic. I didn’t know what to think.
I already knew that he had struggled with porn in the past, because when I confessed my own struggle to him early in our marriage, this is when he told me that he had looked at it for a time as well. Honestly, I had felt very removed from feeling threatened by it back then. I felt more relieved that he understood my own struggle. I always told him to please tell me if he was struggling, because I wanted to be able to pray for him.
The day I accidentally discovered the porn with my own eyes was the first time I was truly hit with the feelings of anger, fear, shame, sadness, and a great sense of betrayal. This had been going on for the majority of our marriage, (going back to even before I started struggling with this) and I had no idea. Looking back, I had overlooked many signs of what was going on over the years, because I had attributed everything to being residue from my own previous porn addiction.
I started to question every move he made, and I would find myself looking at family pictures wondering if that was even real.
My trust in him quickly plummeted. What complicated everything was that he was out of town on the weekends and had a ministry where women were often contacting him. I started questioning what he was doing when he was out of town on the weekends. (Thankfully, he almost always traveled with someone else.) On top of all of the physical issues I was dealing with, this knocked the wind right out of me.
I would check every morning to see if he looked at porn the night before. I spent the next few days trying to say something to him, but I didn’t know how to. The longer I waited, the angrier I became.
I finally approached him about everything I had discovered. He said he knew by my voice what I was going to say. He had been wanting to tell me for so long but didn’t know how to. He was terrified to tell me. He didn’t want to crush me.
What he didn’t realize, was that discovering everything on my own would crush me even more than just telling me the truth in the first place.
I started to realize that there was no way I could finish my book while also dealing with the emotional upheaval concerning his porn use. I did everything I could to put my emotions aside until I published my book. I felt as if I was thrown even deeper into survival mode without knowing how to deal with everything going on.
As the months passed, my husband sought out and participated in a group for men who were struggling with porn, he started to set some new boundaries with others, and he started doing his part in helping our marriage heal.
Finally, my book was published, and I felt as though I could start dealing with the emotional upheaval of everything that had happened. My husband felt relieved to no longer carry such a huge suffocating secret, but that huge burden he was once carrying around felt like it was thrown onto me.
I was in so much pain without knowing what to do with it all. I didn’t know who to talk to. I felt embarrassed, and in such despair.
So many of my emotions were becoming unearthed, because I was not ignoring it all anymore. I felt betrayed, hurt, angry, sad, and devastated. I was angry that everyone in the world spent time with my husband except our children and myself. He was gone all the time. I was angry that he lied to me for so many years when I thought he would tell me if he was struggling. I was angry that we had both blamed a lack of connection in our marriage solely on me, when it wasn’t just me at all.
I had this mental picture of he and I sitting in a boat with our backs up against each other. For years, I had spent so much time and effort cleaning mud (sexual sin and brokenness) out of our boat (marriage) that I thought I was solely responsible for, when I didn’t realize that all along he was behind me adding more mud to the boat. That’s how it felt.
This took a very heavy hit on my heart. One of the things that would always draw me to women was my assumption that men could not be trusted. All of the lies I had once believed about men started sounding convincing again (in an “I told you so” kind of way).
I had spent years going through a very long process of Jesus healing my heart and marriage. I had worked so hard to do everything I needed to do for our marriage to be whole. I had deconstructed many lies I had believed, and I had started to see both men and women differently as my heart healed.
I questioned why God let this go on in our marriage for so long, but one day I had a huge realization: If this would have happened any earlier in my own healing process, I may have let it take me right back to where I came from. That is a very scary thought.
This situation in my marriage really tested me concerning intimacy with Jesus. Did I really believe He was the answer to the ache in my heart and the fulfillment I was searching for? I had just written a book about it, but this tested me in a way I had never known before.
I knew that porn and other women were not my solution. Was it dangled in front of me by the enemy and my own grief during that time? Most definitely. I knew it was all a façade, though.
I was often angry, silent, and numb, but I remember thinking that the validity of the whole book I just wrote was severely being tested in my own heart. Did I really believe everything I just wrote when my marriage felt like it was being held together by a thread? When I found myself in one of the loneliest seasons of my entire life, I knew I needed to turn to Jesus.
I came to a place where I ran out of steam. I continued speaking at conferences and other events about every other month, but I got to a place where I couldn’t do it anymore. I was worn down by something I couldn’t tell most people about. The grace for it was gone. I kept trying to plow forward, but I exhausted myself in the meantime.
At this point, my husband was still gone all the time, and I felt like our marriage was falling apart. I felt like we needed time to heal, but I also felt like I must be too needy to want him to spend time with me. It’s not like he was going to the bar every night. I felt like I was stepping on God’s territory by hating that my husband was gone ministering to others all the time.
One day I was sitting in a church service, and I felt like the Holy Spirit spoke so clearly to me about my marriage. This is what I felt He spoke to my heart:
“I designed marriage. Marriage is good. Fight for your marriage, and I’ll decide what healing and wholeness looks like. Fight for your marriage and family. You are not fighting against me. This is a desire I put in you! Fight, and I will show you what healing and wholeness looks like.”
I wasn’t quite sure how to do that, but I was relieved to know that I didn’t need to try to convince, manipulate, or strong-arm my husband into taking a break from ministry so our marriage could have a chance to heal. I also felt relieved that God knew where I was, and He knew what was going on. I started to pray for our marriage in a way I never had before. I started fighting for my marriage in a very real way.
Shortly after that, my husband told me that he was going to take a sabbatical from ministry, which helped us tremendously. He told me that God put it on his heart to take a break so our marriage could heal. God totally did that! He did that for not just me, but for our marriage and our family. My husband is someone who gives 100% in everything he does. He loves people and loves helping them in any way he can, but now we both know that God never intended family to be neglected in the process. I am so very thankful that everything is much more balanced these days for both of us.
God has done so incredibly much in our marriage over these past two years, and it has been amazing to see how much He has restored to us. He has been continuing to heal my heart. I am still learning to take everything one day at a time. Kevin and I now spend more time together than we ever have. Our whole family spends more time together than we ever have.
He looks at me like he used to when we first got married. That is amazing to me. Our hearts are soft toward each other again. We are both fighting for our marriage. This process has not been easy by any means, but it is so worth it. We both feel like we have a new marriage, and it is stronger and healthier than ever.
So why did I share all of this with you? It may seem like unrelated content compared to what I normally write about, but it really isn’t.
We all go through trials; some are much more difficult than others. Difficult and stressful times like this can either take us deep into a pit of despair and right back into situations God previously led us out of, or we can take what we have already learned in the past and apply it to what we are going through now. This is what I have done and will continue to do.
Much of what God has already taught me in other areas of my life is what I have used to help me during the past two years. This has been a much different situation, but the answer is still the same. The answer is intimacy with Jesus and learning to trust Him even more.
As I finish this post, I just started a different treatment protocol for the Lyme with a new doctor this week. I am hopeful that this will help me. I have been in a considerable amount of pain, and I knew I needed to start some kind of treatment again. I have been dealing with a foggy brain and feeling very tired lately, so I am glad I wrote the majority of this post before now!
I have walked into a season of rest, and I’m finally settling into it. This is where I need to be right now. There have been times when I feel so frustrated and sad that I haven’t been speaking anywhere (nor do I have the energy to) or doing much of anything I once enjoyed.
In many ways I have been in the wilderness for awhile now. This is a season of healing (physical and emotional), and if you read my recent walking through dark tunnels post or my being still post, this is really a continuation of what I shared there. I know God has me here and will be with me during the remainder of this process, whatever it looks like.
I am in a time of learning how to trust Jesus even more. I don’t know how long I’ll be here, or where this will take me, but I am looking forward to building more intimacy with Jesus and finding continued restoration in many areas of my life along the way.
I know that times of rest and waiting are not a loss if they are spent drawing closer to Jesus. I’m determined to let God work and to lean into Jesus as I wait. I am hopeful and excited for what is to come.
Update (January 2023): Some have asked for an update on my health since I wrote this post in 2019. Thank you for asking! I am doing much better since I wrote this post. Long story short, we discovered black mold behind our basement walls in the Fall of 2020, (due to a water drainage problem) and this ended up being the root cause of many of my health issues. It was causing a tremendous amount of inflammation in my body.
We moved shortly after, and my body has been healing ever since. Also, once we moved and my immune system was no longer being continuously suppressed, the Lyme treatment finally worked. I am about 80% better and continue to improve all the time!
*I have ministered to women in the area of porn and sex addiction recovery since 2010, but it may be interesting to know that I felt like I was starting from scratch when it came to finding resources from a spousal point of view. For anyone who is in a similar situation and looking for help, these are some resources I found very helpful as I was searching for help and healing regarding my heart and marriage: