My spiritual decline had begun in Dodge City, where I had become so disillusioned with church leaders and so disappointed in the way things had gone that I was angry at God and the church.  Not that I had ever been that great spiritually, but there had been a time when my faith was real and vibrant and I was really trying to serve God.  My heart had never been completely right, but by the time we left Dodge City for the Missouri Ozarks, I just didn’t have it in me anymore.

The changes to my demeanor and personality that happened after the tornado were more difficult to put a finger on.  I quit being interested in any of my hobbies.  I worked too much and withdrew from friends and family.  I carried an anger that smoldered just below the surface.  It rarely broke through, and when it did, it was almost exclusively aimed at the one person I loved the most and who deserved it the least.  In those moments, I did terrible damage to my wife, who had no way of understanding why I would treat her that way. 

For some people, therapy is a way to relieve their guilt and say they tried.  Many people don’t really want to change, and no amount of therapy can change a heart that doesn’t want to.  In my case, I was willing to do whatever it took to fix what was wrong inside and become, once again, the man that my wife could love.  I had already allowed God to change my heart.  Now I needed to fix my mind and my emotions.  The next logical step was to find a therapist.

When I made the appointment, my plan was to talk about the tornado and see if I was, in fact, suffering from PTSD.  The doctor had his own agenda, and that was to get to know what made me tick and look at the whole picture.  On the first visit, he asked me a series of questions that seemed unrelated to anything and I found myself thinking, “This is a complete waste of my time.”  I figured that I would finish the session, pay my bill, and never come back. 

So, how do you feel today?

What a shock it was when, after about 45 minutes, those seemingly unrelated questions all connected up like a dot-to-dot puzzle and I was looking at a picture of myself that was very telling and undeniably accurate.  Things that I had never realized meshed with things I knew, but didn’t understand about myself.  I didn’t find my answers that day and we didn’t even get to the subject of the tornado, but there was enough that made a whole lot of sense to make me realize that we were onto something.  Now, I found myself thinking, “Either this guy is really lucky or really good, or else God just directed the whole conversation.”  He gave me a homework assignment and I agreed to continue. 

Over the next few weeks and months, I came to understand that there had been a pattern throughout my life that now was at the root of my marriage problems.  When I experienced something traumatic or very stressful, I would shut myself off emotionally, and withdraw inside myself.  I shut others out and pushed everything down instead of dealing with it.  That would manifest itself as depression and mood swings, a bi-polar disorder.  It also showed up as some dissociation, where I would almost become a spectator in my own life.  It was as if these things weren’t a part of me, but rather I was seeing them happen to someone else.

When I shared some of this with my wife, she listened, but said nothing.  She was going to need time.  She told me that she was going to be watching me.  She needed to see changes in me, not hear about them.  I was ok with that.  I knew that she deserved much better than I had been giving her and I knew that nothing was going to stop me from getting to the place I needed to be.

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