20. Darkest before the Dawn
The next morning, I went over to my parents’ house before breakfast as I headed out to work. I told them that Mario and I had gotten engaged and hoped that they would be happy for us. We talked about some things and I shook the whole time. I didn’t want to do anything that they didn’t want me to do but I really believed that I was walking in God’s will to be with Mario. Solving nothing in that conversation, we went to our separate jobs.
The next few months were my most difficult and yet most happy times. Mario and I planned our wedding for May 2002 and I became a chief-delegator sort of bride. It took no time at all for us to choose our hall, photographer, church, cake baker and sign up for pre-marital counseling. In order to make doubly sure that we knew what we were doing, we took counseling classes at two different churches. For the rest of the wedding tasks, I made a list and gave it to April and my best friend. I figured if it happened, it happened. If not, oh well, I was still getting married in May.
At the same time, April and her husband were building a new house and in November, I decided to buy the house in which they were living. Mario didn’t have enough credit to help me purchase the house so a family friend put a down payment on the house and I agreed to be responsible for the other two-thirds of the mortgage. Wasting no time at all, I moved in immediately. I was now a homeowner!
As the year ended, we were excited about our upcoming wedding. In 1999, after April’s wedding, Mario had started a side business with a jazz ensemble playing music at wedding receptions. He also worked as a janitor at a huge church nearby. Soon his little side business quickly expanded to include DJ services and he was in high demand around the area. I became his manager and an event coordinator, organizing wedding receptions and making all the announcements. In addition, I was very busy at my corporate job and although things were getting a little weird there, I was easily distracted by wedding plans. I also decided that I would work during the evenings at the same tax agency again that tax season in order to make extra money for the wedding. Knowing that I needed to save both time and money, in January 2002 I made up all the boutonnieres, corsages, flower arrangements, bows, baskets and bouquets, including my own with silk flowers painstakingly hand picked by me. Although it might seem like it would have been a lot of work to do alone, it actually was very therapeutic to be able to design the arrangements, putting them together with love and pride. I'm happy to report that they turned out beautifully!
Perhaps you might be thinking that I placed a lot of pressure and expectations on myself at this particular time of my life. You would be correct. But it had become a habit for me by then, to overschedule and overwork myself. I didn’t know how to operate any other way. If I wasn’t busy all the time, if I had any moments of stillness, I believed that I was failing somehow to be all that God had called me to be. As you can imagine, this began to take a toll on me both physically and mentally.
I survived the next few months and on May 3, 2002 my father walked me down the aisle and I married my best friend and love, Mario. My father and mother were there and he walked me down the aisle, not because they agreed with our choice but because he wanted Mario and I to know that regardless of his opinion and no matter what was to happen in the future, he and Mom would always be there praying for us. Since then, we have developed a friendship and relationship with them that is solid in Christ’s love and mercy. We are honored to have them in our lives.
The stress of my personal life those past few months paled in comparison to the next ones at work. After returning from our honeymoon in Cancun, Mario and I settled into married life in our new home quite easily. We had our disagreements and (honestly) rip-roaring fights but we were happy and very much in love. But things at work were no longer so honeymoon-ish and the undercurrent of unrest was beginning to take its toll. I can not be specific about the situation there but I can say that my boss and I were no longer getting along. Emotionally, I felt like I was going to school and a bully was waiting at the corner to beat me up. Don’t get me wrong, my supervisor was not at heart a bad person nor was I but our communication had deteriorated.
I know now that I was treating him as though I knew more than he did about his job and our division. I did control a great many aspects of our section but I think that perhaps I didn’t need to communicate that to him. He, on the other hand, felt like I was pushing him out of the loop. Other managers would speak directly to me, the sales guys were communicating exclusively with me, if you needed it done, you came to me. We had heated arguments about reports and meetings. I had panic attacks nearly every day either on the way to work, while at work or just after leaving work.
He accused me of deliberately sabotaging his authority, told me I was "moronic" and "catatonic" while I worked, rolled his eyes when I asked for time off because of my health. The straw that broke the proverbial camel's back was when he literally yelled at me after I refused to change some important details on a report I had generated. I contacted the human resources department several times over a period of 6 months and received no help or advice.
It got so bad that the year after I got married, while we were on vacation for Memorial Day in Canada, I became so physically ill with the intestinal problems I had a mammoth panic attack and ended up in a hospital in Sarnia, Ontario. After treating my symptoms there for seven hours, I was finally released and we crossed the border back into Michigan. On our way home, I called my supervisor and explained to him that I wouldn’t be in to work the next day. Though it is true that I had taken a lot of sick days and time off in the past year, his response was cruel and rude. After hanging up with him, I cried all the way home. We made an appointment with my doctor in the morning and at that consultation, my doctor advised “you either have to quit that job or plan on being sick for quite a long time. The stress is destroying your health.”
Shocked, Mario and I prayed about it that evening. We realized that I had been to a hospital or the doctor at least four times in the past eight months treating the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome as a result of panic attacks. The doctor gave me an anti-anxiety medication and I felt at a loss. I was a child of God, raised in faith believing I was healed in Jesus’ Name! I was a walking miracle already and I was struggling with a panic disorder?!
“A failure,” I thought, “I am a spiritual failure. Why am I so weak?” But I did not share these inner thoughts with my husband. Instead we decided that I would speak to the vice president of the company and I wouldn’t discuss anything with my immediate supervisor at all. So, I made an appointment with her. After two separate meetings, she and I decided that I would no longer work at the company. I committed to working from home for another month to set up training sessions, finish a few projects and say goodbye to my coworkers but then I would be done. I never spoke to my boss again.
After the decision was made, I found that I slept a great deal. I had received a severance but couldn’t bring myself to look for another job. I was defeated mentally and physically. Depressed without knowing it, it took me three months to get out of bed without having a panic attack. I didn’t want to become addicted to the anti-anxiety medicine and only took it when the nerves caused the I.B.S. to flare up. I constantly thought about how I had failed, that God must surely be disappointed in me and what a horrible example of a Christian I was. Mario struggled with this “new Angel”. I was not the strong, capable girl he’d known for six years and he wondered how long it would last. I wondered too.