Friday, July 1, 2016

The Wrong Medicine Can Be Deadly

When I was a child, I almost died of a drug mistake.  A pharmacist gave my parents the wrong drug when I was just a toddler, and the results put me in a coma.  Had it not been for my dad being aware and arguing with the doctor when his instincts said something was wrong, I would have died.  The next session in our lives were much like this.  When wrong medicine can do massive harm.

After a few years of us functioning in a fog and PTSD taking a toll on our relationships and life, our church finally grew deeply concerned about us, and communicated to our mission that we were not doing well.  They finally decided to do something about it.

There was only one drawback - the mission leaders, who were not with us, who did not know us, and who did not talk with us made the decision about what was wrong and what we needed....

They discussed it a little with our pastor... who had absolutely no experience with missions, trauma, or member care... and who also made the decision without talking to us.

What happened was that we got called in to a meeting with our pastor and mission leader who informed us that we had marriage issues due to personal moral failure and that we would be seeing a marriage counselor.  We asked if we could see someone with experience in post-traumatic stress care, and were coldly informed that we should not try to blame our moral failure on other things.  We had no options, but we had hopes that the counselor would help us process life and recover, so we went.  He was a decent guy, but he focused on skills we already knew - listening and paraphrasing the other's message back to them.  Nice skills, but not helping us with the nightmares, lack of ability to handle emotions, severe panic at times, and numbness at other times.  We went until the summer travels interrupted the visits.  It had helped a small amount just to be talking on our long drives to this counselor's office.

That fall, when we returned and still were having the same issues, the mission decided to send a retired pastor to assess us.  He sat in our living room one afternoon, and tried to figure out where we were in our thinking.  He deeply offended my husband by telling him that if he gets angry, he doesn't have the Spirit of God and he needs to question if he is a believer.  We sat in shock, staring at him.  Two years ago, my husband was willing to lay his life down not to deny his faith.  He faced the loss of many of his close friends including ones who helped him get home safely.  He received no care for the trauma, and now his salvation was being questioned!!  It was like a slow moving nightmare unfolding.

After this visit, Harry and Dick conferred and decided that I might actually be the problem, and decided to send us to a psychiatrist for an evaluation.  This may have been a good step, if it had been done ethically, but we found out something later that shocked me as a medical person.  They chose a doctor who was the son of someone in the office who they had known most of his life, and they told this doctor what they thought of our diagnosis and what they expected to find.  Then, not knowing this, we went to see him.  He interviewed both of us separately, after assuring us of confidentiality.  He questioned our background, our family up-bringing, sexual history, abuse history, marriage issues, and other very personal details.  At the end, he said that he would write a summary of his findings and send it to Harry and the team that Harry had put together to "help" us, including our pastor, the missions pastor of our home church, Dick, Tom, and Daisy, a woman asked to join because I requested that a woman be on the "team".

Although we had provided the doctor with separate e-mails, he claimed that he had "forgotten", and sent the summary (which was actually about three pages of all the confidential details he had asked about and assured us of confidentiality) to both of us at our joint e-mail.  If that was not bad enough, he told us he was just waiting for our permission before sending it to Harry AND THE WHOLE OF THE "HEALING TEAM"!!!

Whoa!  We immediately objected that this was no summary of what he thought was wrong, but a collection of details he had promised confidentiality on, and that we were uncomfortable with details of our sexual lives, details of my past history of abuse, and other details being sent out to such a wide group.  We were very bluntly told by Harry that if we did not agree to these summaries being sent to the "team", that we would be asked to leave the mission.  It was degrading.  But we didn't see an option but to say yes, under duress.

 (I did phone the medical board and report the doctor for unethical conduct, but that was all I could do.  The board assured me that they could file a complaint and bring it up for arbitration and protect me from any repercussions from it, but I declined to go for arbitration.  They hadn't yet met Christians, and I knew they could not protect me from them.  The laws meant nothing to these people.)

We suffered through the humiliation of our very intimate details being sent to people we barely knew.  The doctor questioned my sanity and said that I seemed to be operating out of fear but he didn't see any reason for it, so he questioned an underlying mental issue.  Don't worry - I was questioning my sanity at this point too!!  All this stress was making our lives and our relationship even harder, and we were not functioning well at all.  Thankfully, my work was a safe place full of caring people who understood grace and believed in me.  I hung on and rested in their firm love of me through this difficult time.

Dick phoned again about six months later and had a solution.  They had a couple who were counselors and they would send us there for a week.  They were experts and had worked in a similar culture and would be great to help us.  I specifically asked that the wife would also be involved in the counseling because I was losing faith in men's ability to listen.  I was assured that both husband and wife would be working with us, and this would be a good place.

What followed was one of the oddest experiences we have ever have.  It did serve to draw us together, but really only out of a deep instinctual desire to protect each other.  We arrived at the house of this couple and were shown to our room.  We were informed that the wife was in school, and we would not see her barely at all.  So much for the promise that she would be in sessions.  We were then told we would have one session a day.  The rest of the time, our host, the counselor, and his wife when she was home, went in their bedroom and shut the door and left us for the rest of the day.  They popped out when food came, ate, did dishes, and went back to their rooms.  We stared at the walls of this fairly empty house - no games, no tv, no books, nothing.  Well, books on psychology, but not relaxing reading!  We took some walks, but didn't want to be gone long.  We had no clue when the next session was.  We stared at the closed bedroom door and were puzzled.

As the week dragged on, we noticed that our host had fairly severe OCD, so we amused ourselves by finding something small to "adjust" and laying bets to how many minutes it would take him when he appeared out of the bedroom to fix what we had adjusted.  We moved the rug slightly off square.  We bumped a picture on the wall just slightly.  We moved the salt shaker from the middle of the back of the stove to the side.  (It really was the only entertainment we had that whole long boring week!)  It never took more than ten minutes before it was exactingly readjusted, but it kept us laughing, and laughter is needed.

Half-way through the week, the psychologist hit on what he thought was the problem.  He found out that a man had been mentoring me for a few years.  Seth had been, from across the ocean, been mentoring both my husband and me.  Still is.  We love him and his wife.  Ah ha!  That was it!  He told me firmly that "all relationships across gender lines that are not blood related are wrong".  (This was a man who was supposed to have extensive experience on the mission field - did he not know that we all grew up with substitute uncles and aunties because we left our blood related family behind???!!)  The problem in our marriage, he told us, was because I had a relationship with another man.  Yup, that was it.  My husband stared at him like he had grown three heads, and told him that he had absolutely no doubt about his wife's integrity and no doubt about this relationship with this man who is like a father to both of us.  Nope.  He knew the truth, and he told us it was the truth.

I was emotionally worn out, and I began to cry.  This he took as evidence that I was wrong, and he offered to help me "break away from this emotional affair."  I declined his help.  He told me he was ordering me not to speak to Seth again and would put that in his report to Harry and Dick.  I could not speak.  I was humiliated!  I also knew that it would be embarrassing for Seth to have that said. It was far better to have my sanity doubted than my purity!  My husband was outraged.  But he would not listen to him.  At the end of that session, we ran from the house, took bikes, and got as far away as we possibly could.  We reached a small mountain lake, just barely clear of winter ice.  Crystal clear and clean.  I stripped down and dove in, letting the ice-cold water wash this awful man's words away.  I dressed again, shivering, and we returned.  He thought I was crazy to have gone swimming in lakes in that area, but he never knew it was only to get the filth of his words off.

We suffered through four more days with this man.  We agreed to say as little as possible to him and nod and agree.  He rarely stopped talking anyway, so it was easy to do.  Then we flew home.  We were done, but "they" weren't.  But for now, we were more traumatized and stunned.  He had also forbid us to talk to Seth again.  Life was just utterly confusing and we began to have more horrible nightmares after our time with this man.  We also began to wonder if all counselors needed to be in the looney bins themselves. We had totally lost trust in getting help and promised we'd never try again.  Thankfully, God did have some good people out there, but it took us awhile before we got there.  Life was going to get far worse before it got better.

No comments: