My life didn’t go as planned. Does anyone’s? Not the kind of people I connect with. I’m drawn to the people who have experienced heartbreak, loss, rejection, failure and confusion, yet still have become brave warriors in an uncertain world. The kinds of individuals who say, “I’ve been through hell and I’m still here.” The ones who keep going, battle after battle; tired, but never giving up. Those are my people. Each one has a story of survival, mine is not better or worse – but it is “my” story. I am a blind, single mother.
A Marriage Crumbles:
After 17 years of marriage, my relationship fell apart. I was 42 years old, the wife of a pastor, both raising and homeschooling our four young children in Montgomery, Alabama. The failure of my marriage devastated me. We had always been a close family. The last thing I had ever expected was that my husband and I would have issues so big that we couldn’t recover. Our family and public ministry crumbled and when it was all over I was left alone, with our four children, until my divorce was final in 2014.
Anxiety, Depression & Alcohol:
During my initial separation from my husband, my depression and anxiety steadily grew. To fight these feelings, I taught fitness classes, ate healthy and attended weekly counseling sessions. Still, my anxiety raged and I began drinking to ease my nerves. Eventually, I saw a doctor who prescribed anti-depression, anti-anxiety, and sleeping pills.
I had enough prescribed medications to keep me like a zombie. I continued using alcohol, failing to realize just how much my tolerance had grown, as well as my dependence on the pills I was taking. For eighteen months, I fought suicidal thoughts every single day.
My Darkest Days:
In November 2013, I was teaching a fitness class and suddenly became very sick. Being the instructor, I pushed through. The next morning I woke up with extremely foggy vision (similar to water in the eye) in the bottom corner of my right eye. I called and made an appointment for the following week at my ophthalmologist’s office. That was on a Friday. By Monday, the entire bottom half of my vision was foggy. Whatever was happening to me was rapidly impacting the vision in my right eye and I was scared.
I went to my appointment and the doctor discovered a hemorrhage in my right optic nerve. He immediately sent me for an MRI to rule out a brain tumor. That was the day my life unexpectedly changed and would never be the same.
Over the next several months I saw all kinds of doctors including an optic neurologist, retina specialist, endocrinologist, hematologist and general practitioners. Ultimately, I was diagnosed with Non-Arteritic Anterior Ischaemic Optic Neuropathy, Factor V Leiden, high blood pressure, Hashimotos, low iron, and plaque in one of my carotid arteries.
Each of these diagnoses pointed to a reasonable explanation for my vision loss, but my young age and diseased arteries continued to baffle doctors. I had never smoked. I didn’t have diabetes. I ate right and exercised daily. I had always prided myself on maintaining good physical health, but stress can do awful things to our bodies, and my body had undoubtedly suffered as a result of my failed marriage and impending divorce.
Eleven months later, in October 2014, I suffered a Non-Arteritic Anterior Ischemic Optic Neuropathy (NAION), a loss of blood flow to the optic nerve, in my left eye. The NAION took my peripheral vision, but left my center field of vision somewhat in tact.
As devastating as it was, I thank God for sparing me that much. As a single mom, I don’t know how I would have been able to make it alone with no vision in either eye.
Love & Loss:
In my most vulnerable and darkest hours…literally… I met a man and fell in love. I later realized the relationship was toxic, but by then I was in too deep, and absolutely terrified of being alone.
Under extreme duress, I signed the settlement agreement for my divorce one week after I lost my vision in my second eye. Custody had been an issue. I was terrified of losing my children and feared actual death due to my health issues.
I signed away all rights to any money (against the advice of everyone) and accepted joint physical custody of my children. I was devastated. Within a few weeks, I had lost my marriage, partial custody of my children, my vision and any financial security. I was denied disability and SSI the next year and am still dealing with my appeal.
My life was filled with fear and hopelessness. I felt like a part of me was missing, like I wasn’t a whole person anymore. The mental and physical adjustment to my vision loss took months. I thought about it constantly and was continulously tripping, breaking and running into things.
Once again, I turned to heavy drinking and became angry at God. I couldn’t believe He had allowed this to happen to me. I cursed God. The same God I had served as a dutiful pastor’s wife and church leader for over 20 years. In my heart, I know God let me rant and He loved me through it, as my good and patient Father.
A Mother’s Strength:
Over time, I’ve learned and have gotten stronger. I went through a 12 step program for my drinking problem, got off all the medication for depression and anxiety (there were concerns that the meds negatively affected my vision), and I started working part-time.
The unhealthy relationship ended and for the first time in my life, I have been completely on my own for over a year. I no longer depend on a husband or a boyfriend to provide financially or emotionally for me. It’s just me, God and my kids. My parents have provided me a small house to live in and I am very grateful for their help so that I can remain independent. I still drive some, but have limited myself to familiar places like the grocery store, my children’s school, and my job.
My children remain the greatest gift of my life and I’ll do whatever it takes to be the mom they both need and deserve. I love them more than anything in this world and my time with them is absolutely precious. I tell them every day that they are “four upcoming world changers!”
Being blind, being single, facing financial mountains and dealing with my own stress gets sidelined when my kids need me. I’m am “mom” first and I consider that to be my highest calling.
“Even though I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death; I will not fear, for You are with me.” Psalm 23:4