Saturday, May 8, 2010

How to build a wall and tear it down

I am nervous about this post. I will be putting myself out there in a way I never have. I might lose followers. Or I might gain them. But I've decided that I'm going to lay it all out there. The past that I have referred to. My "mistake" as I have called it. To be totally honest and open. This is pretty lengthy but I ask you to stick with me. I'll throw in pictures for some relief. So there you go.

I talked about Lisa Welchel in a previous post. She spoke about her difficulties making adult friends because of the walls that she had put up around her heart. She spoke of hurt and pure naivete as reasons that those walls arose and how she has decided to come out from those walls.


I came home a little shaken up. I have a huge, high, 2 foot thick wall around me. I told my husband that I wasn't sure that I wanted to emerge from my fortress. It protects me.

Then I remembered something I had heard. If you don't emerge from your protected zone, how can you truly shine? How can you fully live in Christ? Have you truly given yourself to Him? I can say with utmost confidence that I have not.

As a child, I experienced mental and other forms of abuse from a family member on a steady basis from the time I was a toddler until I was 16 and stopped seeing this person. You build walls when you are being abused. You push it all down, go to school and try to be as normal as possible, but hold back. You protect yourself from more hurt. Bricks begin to build.


After I was free of this person, I went through some counseling, thought I was doing pretty well, and went on with my life. College, Medical School, and Residency kept me busy. But I didn't trust men. I desperately wanted a romantic relationship, but any time I was around a man that was available to me, more bricks and mortar came out. Because the ones that I did let in broke my heart again and again. I had amazing male friends, but no boyfriends. And I spent every day wondering what was wrong with me when I was holding them off the whole time.

I graduated from my Residency and started working as a Pediatrician. I am a good doctor. I loved my families. But my partner hated me, and to this day I don't know why. Another cycle of mental abuse started. You'd think when I found out that I was his 5th partner I would have gotten wise and left, but I stayed in this twisted relationship for 8 years. Until I was forced to quit and the major wall building began.


When I met my husband, I knew that we would be married after being with him for an hour. The feeling was amazing. He was a Christian man raising his children the best he could after being widowed. But he wasn't always peaches and cream. He has a past that rivals anything you can imagine. He was open with me about all of it, telling me things that no one else knew. He admitted to past drug addictions, trouble with the law, and going into recovery.

He had migraines. Terrible, smash your head against the wall wishing you were dead migraines. The last two years that I was working, I couldn't afford health insurance for my family. My income had decreased by more than half of my starting salary and I had no benefits. Just more of the office badness. Without health insurance and frequent $800 dollar visits to the ER, we were going broke. I did some research and found a non-addictive, non-scheduled medication that helped Tim's headaches.

He would let me know when he needed more and I would write a prescription. Trouble was, I wasn't keeping track of how often he was taking the meds. I was so stressed out at work and I trusted him, so I wrote for the meds.


The meds that he was now addicted to - the supposedly NON-addictive medication. I didn't know. I think I was blind with love. And I just wanted to help him.

I remember that May afternoon like it happened yesterday. I had come home from lunch and we were sitting on the couch, just looking at each other. I was thinking how lucky I was. But I had to go back to the office.

I was informed upon returning that there were 4 policemen waiting for me. I had no idea why. Then they started to question me. I was a goody two shoes. I'd never done anything, ever. I tried to walk a walk that Christ would be proud of. I was so naive about the police that I answered every question that they asked me in cooperation. And I found out Tim and I were in a lot of trouble. You don't know how often the thought "if only I had gotten a lawyer" has entered my head. I trusted the police. They were out to get me.

I had written many, many prescriptions for Tim. Many more than I should have. I had also written for Robitussin with codeine for my son for a severe cough (not unusual at all) and was accused of writing the meds in my son's name for Tim. I also found out that Tim had stolen prescriptions from me and gotten more meds. I found out he was an addict.


I was crushed. Devastated. I was told that I probably would go to jail and definitely would lose my license. My doctor friends said that this was ridiculous. That other doctors had gone thousands of times further with drugs, even taking them themselves and only got a slap on the wrist. I was told not to worry. But the bricks went up. I cried for a week. About a month later I ended up in the hospital, suicidal.

I was also pregnant. It was determined that in addition to severe stress and several years of mild depression, I also had depression of pregnancy. After I left the hospital I started bleeding and was put on bed rest. A week later I started having severe right sided abdominal pain and ended up back in the hospital (this time in the sane unit!) to get my appendix out. I was told to take at least a month off of work.


My contract was up for renewal when I got out of the hospital. One week after I left the hospital, I was informed that it would not be renewed. There was nothing I could do about it. Tim had also lost his job. More bricks.

Fast forward a year. All investigating had been done. I had a new baby. And Tim went to trial and was sent to prison for three months. He was strapped to a table when he was detoxing. He received no meds to help him through it. Standard practice, I have learned. I was alone raising a new baby and two very hurt children. I went through all of the stages of grief but ultimately decided that I had committed to this man that I loved and would stick by him. He apologized from the depths of his heart. He joined AA in prison. He has been sober for 3 years. Nonetheless, steel reinforcements to the wall.


He came home and I went to trial. I was told I was going to prison for 1 month by my attorney. The judge charged me with "Illegal processing of drug documents", a class one felony, assigned me to a parole officer and 200 hours of community service. If you look up my charge, it has nothing to do with a doctor writing prescriptions for their spouse. It refers to people who are not legally allowed to write prescriptions writing them anyway. At one point in the investigation the sheriff let it be known that he would take me down no matter what it took. So they came up with a charge that my attorney didn't fight. And it was a felony.

I was so bitter. I knew and accepted that what I had done was an ethics violation. I figured my license would be suspended and I'd have to go through some counseling with the Medical Board. I had accepted that what I had done was wrong and in poor form. But now I was a felon and felons can't have medical licenses. I signed my license away forever. A lot more tears and a lot more bricks.


Neither Tim or I can get jobs because we are both felons. I have the added "advantage" of being overqualified for everything that I apply to. I have literally applied to 200+ positions. I never hear anything. I am summarily dismissed. Intellectually, I know that in a bad economy, if you had me and my clone, and I'm a felon and my clone isn't, my clone is getting hired. That's just how it is. But mortar mixed with dejection, bitterness, and hopelessness became part of my wall.

Were it not for my in-laws, we would have lost our house long ago. We use the food pantry and are on Government health care (like so many other people these days). We get a small sum each month for my step-son as his mother was a veteran.

I have learned to live with much less and appreciate what I have all the more. I am grateful for everything that I receive. And my relationship with Tim has become stronger as his sobriety and church involvement have increased. He is a new man.


Until recently I haven't been able to forgive myself for the fact that I missed Tim's addiction and that I can't support my family. For a while I literally hated myself. I have seen the lowest of lows. And I couldn't understand why my God that I had loved so much and worked so hard for would forsake me and my family in such a way. My faith was destroyed.

All of the legal troubles happened three years ago. In that time, I've come out of the depths, become closer to Tim and my children, and started a blog that has opened my life up in ways I could never imagine. My faith journey is still strained, but I believe that God loves me and that I am his forgiven child, his beautiful daughter. And that he forgave me the moment I gave myself to him so long ago. It's more difficult to forgive myself. That is a work in progress.


So how real was all of that? My felony can be expunged in 2012. Until then I will continue living, loving my children and husband, writing, and creating. I will pray for God to supply our needs, as he has done for so many years. I will continue working on that forgiveness thing. And I will start to chip away at the mortar and bricks that have surrounded me for too long, to live and love in fullness with those I love and with the God who loves me.


Stacy said...

Oh my goodness, Erin. I'm sitting here with tears in my eyes. You are brave to share your story with us, and I'm glad you did. I have not been through anything as difficult as you, but could relate to some of the things that happened as I have had some difficult years, too. I think that we grow stronger by telling our truths and learning that we are not alone.

Roxanne said...

Wow Erin. That's some very heavy stuff and I'm sure it was tough for you to just put it all out there like that.

I know we don't know each other in person, but you are my friend. I know that you were trying to do the right thing for your family and I admire your bravery in being honest with us, yourself, and God.

There is no such thing as the 'perfect' person, each of us has our own sins and it's for God to judge us. We can't do that to each other; it's not our job.

I think you're very right that He does love you and forgives you. I'm so happy that Tim has changed and that you guys are continuing this amazing journey, life, together.

Please know how much I admire and respect you. I did before, and I do much more now. It takes an extraordinary person to share their deepest secrets and that you are; extraordinary.


Jenny said...

Oh wow. I can't express how deeply that post touched me. I'm so amazed that you're willing to share all of that with us! And how fantastic that you've been able to keep your faith through all of that! Congratulations on all the bravery and courage, I'm super impressed!

Hugs / Jenny

stringsofpurls said...

Bless you for being open. I have many friends that have suffered abuse and know the difficulties that alone causes. God does see your pain and loves you. You are blessed to have family and the love of your husband and children. You are always in my prayers.

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
—Romans 8:35-39

With love,

Lois Evensen said...

Dear Sweet Erin,

You have had such a difficult journey. Yet, I see and hear a great light at the end of the tunnel. The old "that which doesn't kill us makes us stronger" surely applies. You already have your personal life in order. Fortunately, you should be able to begin building your professional life again in 2012.

Thank you for sharing. We have all had difficult times, yet yours seems to be more difficult than most. Your story is a story of strength for the rest of us.

Love and hugs on this Mothers Day,


Katherine said...

Wow, talk about real! Thank you for sharing. It is good to know how people overcome their past. And yes, being IN the process of overcoming is just as awesome!

beth said...

your faith and honesty and love will get you further in life than anything else did in the past.

and you have been incredibly brave to share your story with us....

my thoughts and prayers will be with you along your journey.

Unknown said...

Erin: Thank you for having the courage to share your story -- you have been on quite a journey, and have come out the other side -- and telling the story is part of moving forward. I'm not a Christian or churchgoer, but am very spiritual and believe that the universe helps us through these painful periods when we commit heart and soul to experiencing every moment. Breaking down your wall is a huge part of that. So scary, but so important. Hope your life is filled with love and beauty. xo lucy

Jenn said...

Erin, how incredibly brave of you to put it all out there. I hope that if nothing else simply letting it all out helps to bring healing and peace. While maybe not as stressful as your past 4 years, my family and I have faced some challenging moments over the past 3 years and through it all I have been amazed at how much love there is in the world around us if we allow it to enter our hearts...and how the universe does provide. Even when you feel like there is no hope left...there is hope.

I wish for you a day of love and peace for Mother's Day today. Keep loving and appreciating all the little blessing of every day and the rest of the details will work them selves out. Many hugs to you!

Kitty said...

Holy crap, Erin! I can't believe what you have been through. I truly believe that talking about things and putting your feelings out there are two of the best things to do when you're trying to heal and break down the walls.

Thank you for your bravery and sharing your story.

barbaridade said...

Erin, you have an enourmous courage .
I am so sorry that I amo not able of expressing myself in english, I would like to tell you so many things, and they don't come out.
Just know that I admire you and that I am here for you, very far away, but I am here.

I wish someday I can have the courage of opening my heart like you did.

Thank you so much,

Anonymous said...

Hi, Erin.

I salute your courage in telling the story of your journey. Breaking down the walls around us is such a vital step in healing, thank you for taking that step and sharing it. It takes a lot to reach out, not knowing if someone will be there to respond, I just want you to know that you're not alone, you are heard. And I'm sure that sharing your story can help others, as well as helping you heal.

Blessings to your and your family, and may you continue to write and create! We are all works in progress, not everyone can see themselves as clearly as you have. Go easier on yourself!


Lupie said...

I think a book is on your healing path. Think about it because it would be a best seller as well as a way to heal.

lori said...

Forgiving ourselves might be the hardest thing to do, the most difficult to learn. I think about this a lot myself and struggle with my own version - as we all do. One thing I appreciate in your story is that you don't make it simple: X happened because Y was done to me.

I've only been reading your blog for a short while, but I am not that surprised to read this particular post. It's not exactly that I think people with charmed lives don't have much to say, but I don't think they say it with the same rich colors and depth as those who have been tempered.

I wish you courage in bringing down the bricks.

JoLyn said...

Hi Erin--I followed you here from the Blog Cafe.

I feel like I'm in the presence of someone with great strength and courage. Thank you for sharing your story. I think writing about this was a huge step in knocking down your walls. May God bless you always!

Linda said...

Gosh! That is a hard story to tell and I can't imagine what it has been like to live through. I think you are brave and with the insight you have and the experiences you have gone through you will get through and grow as a person.
Stay strong and focused. x

Iron Needles said...

Tremendous story and tremendous courage in sharing it.

Everyone has a story, and most are not perfect. My best lessons have been the hard ones.

I, too, work a program of recovery, and appreciate a saying that goes...

'how would I act today if I knew everything was working out exactly as it needed to be?' (probably paraphrased) Because I have found that everything is, you know... working out just like it needs to be.

Michelle, Queen Behind the Lens! said...

There isn't a person alive who lives without demons. It took a lot of courage to push yours out into the light. All the best to you & your family as you continue your journey toward whatever the future holds.

christina said...

Thank you for sharing your story. God will hold you, and bless you, along the way.

Manda said...

I was away for the weekend, so I'm catching up...

Can I just applaud you for your bravery, Erin?
Too many of us, keep our "dark" secrets hidden... when really we are all crying for authentic, real, open relationships.
There is not one. NOT ONE who hasn't sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God.
BUT, Nothing can separate us from His love.
Continue walking your road to full forgiveness of yourself, He has already forgiven you.
Much Love,

Unknown said...

wow. thanks for sharing and coming through the other side!

ashley @ little miss momma said...

So so so touching! As you are aware, I know what it's like to begin to tear down your wall! Proud of you and thank you for reaching out to me so that I could find your story! We are not alone!

btw: thank you for your very kind shout out on your post ;)

DSS said...


Hi! I'm your newest follower. Atleast I think I am :) I've been reading this post and can't get over the fact that this woman, who I didn't know a thing about until just today, has my complete and total respect. That woman is you, of course.

Thank you for finding my blog. Thank you for commenting. And thank you for leading my to your blog. I am so inpspired by you! And your strength.

Amanda said...

Oh my! What a post, your honest and then some! I wish I could be so, might be therapeutic in a way.

I can understand missing the addiction, I did the same. I was young and 'in love', think blind is perhaps more apt. In the end he got abusive and was sectioned, I think about him often, wondering if I could have saved him.

Although you have been through such crap times, you seem as though you have picked yourself up in such an admirable way, you so easily could have slipped the other way, but you didn't and that makes you amazing!

After my breakdown a few years ago, the thought of returning to work scares me rigid, literately I have paralysing panic attacks, but a small part is also excited at reclaiming back a part of me. When you can expunge the charge (can't believe they took it so far) I really hope you get back into medicine, I truly believe people who have the stamina to study and practice medicine are a different class, and have talents to be proud off.

What a fantastic role model you must be to your children, and those that know you!

I really hope your future is full of amazing opportunities!

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