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25 Years - Marriage, Music, Mental Illness & Miracles

I am not sharing because I have some gooey love story to tell, though we certainly have had our share of lovely moments.  No, instead, I am sharing to pass on the movement of God in our lives.  I mention the words Mental Illness and I know I will lose some of you at the mere writing of the words.  Some others I'll lose at the mention of Christian or church.  Some won't read because they think they have heard it all or "Oh, no not again"...well anyway, I hope you will read this.  I was careful to not be melodramatic, though I certainly could paint the story more dramatic because in many cases it was much more than I wrote.  But this isn't an autobiography.  It's a little vignette honoring our 25 year anniversary.  It just might shed light on a very important need...Mental Health Advocacy...oops there I go again. 

1988 - April we meet.  It's love at first conversation!  I knew he was the one.  Dreams are shared. We seem to think alike.  Glen shares his recent diagnosis of bipolar/ocd with me and I am not phased.  How could I be?  I didn't understand.  Summer; we work at a church together doing the music.  They are a wonderful group of people.  We get engaged and they have a shower for Glen and one for me.  The treat us like a prince and princess.  It's spectacular.  We feel loved and appreciated. 

December 10 - Wedding vows are exchanged; two hearts are merged.  We sing to each other ( of course we would sing...we are classically trained musicians)...Savior, Like a Shepherd Lead Us!  And how we would need his leading - we had no idea! We begin life in a tiny little house trailer in South Florida - it had a vintage pink stove!  We made that place a palace and doubled our money when we sold it a year later.  Glen works several jobs this year.  There's a lot of instability but I seem unaware. 

1991 - January; a 1500 mile move.  (I now know moving is a tough thing for a person with mental illness) But back then, neither of us knew.  But hey, you do what you have to do.  A friend offers Glen and us work in his church.  Seems right, because we are musicians and we love God so why not.  May 1991 - this friend, the pastor quits and we are kind of left feeling stranded so we quit too.  Another move - not quite so far.  South Carolina this time.  Where else would we go...we follow our friend.  We flounder quite a bit.  I remember Glen struggles to find good work.  Of course, I have no idea of his real struggles (the ones inside his mind that no one sees).  We make meals of crackers, egg salad sandwiches and whatever else.  We were in love and we would make it work.  We teach some music lessons...seems like we should since we are good musicians.  August - I announce the spring time arrival of baby #1.  September - another job offer for Glen in a church.  We take it and move to Greenville, SC.  He's splendid at his job.  He came make people sing like angels, but for some reason he's not so popular.  This proves to be a tough assignment.  A church board member says she hates him.  Another man corners Glen in a church classroom.  And the icing on the cake, the pastor and his wife make a visit around Christmas time.  She announces she had Christianly (not so much) kept a list of everything Glen has done wrong since his arrival at this church.  I am five months pregnant and back in a bedroom crying my eyes out and shaking like a leaf.  I am traumatized, afraid and have been throwing up for months!  Needless to say, my husband is a man of great strength and he graciously tells these two people they can leave our home...another job ends.  Substitute teaching holds life together. 

1991 - April 25 - a sweet little pink bundle of joy arrives.  Hours after her birth, she is admitted to neo-natal care with beta strep infection.  She is lucky to be alive.  Prayers are prayed and God sustains her.  Her white blood cell count rises on it's own...a miracle...and 24 hours later she is given an infusion of white blood cells.  10 days in the's agonizing.  But our little miracle comes home.  Kyrsten Paige Roseman - 8lbs. 4oz.  She is a beautiful gift and we are grateful.  

Glen starts his own landscaping business.  Working long hours in the hot's not what any person with lithium in their body should do, but we are oblivious.  He's sweating out his medicine and we don't even know!  Counter productive in many ways but no one can say he's lazy...well, they do, but they don't even know and understand what they say.  November - a brother offers Glen a job in Ohio.  Another move.  This is move #5 in 3 years!!!!!  November 17 - Glen's father passes away after his long battle with Multiple Sclerosis.  Its so difficult for Glen.  We make the long drive to Florida for the funeral.  It's painful to watch the people you love suffer so much.  I look back and know I didn't understand how to comfort him. 

1992 - Well, the job doesn't last long and it's bitter because it's between family, but we are the discarded souls.  Glen finds work selling ads in a radio station and doing music at another church for pittance wages.  His job at the station is demanding.  Between doctors appointments, he does his best, but it's clear his work suffers.  The job ends 10  months later or so and he collects unemployment - we hear he is the first one to get it from this company.  Thank God for miracles.  Meanwhile, I don't understand.  I grapple to come to terms with mental illness.  I have no support from family or friends.  They don't understand.  They think it's a mind over matter...pull yourself up by your bootstraps...just  get your act together kind of life.  Oh how it is so not that.  But I didn't get it all either and I wonder how life will hold together hopping from one thing to the next.  I teach some piano lessons, we take more jobs in church and they never is the last place that understood mental illness - at least these conservative evangelical churches did not.  He looses another job.  It's a tough road.  Looking back I wonder how we did it.  And all without food stamps or public assistance.  I was too proud for that. 

1993 - We decide we want to sing church of course!  Oh how truly stupid and ignorant we are, but we are eager.  We love music and singing together...well, those of us who knew us, that was a no brainer.  Glen - he's got an awesome Josh Groban kind of voice!  Angelic, pure, clear and he loved singing more than anything.  Together we were good...but we were determined that just singing wouldn't cut it.  We would tell our story of surviving mental illness.  But we were ahead of the curve.  People in church weren't talking about illnesses like bipolar disorder.  It was hush hush, keep it quiet.  Church people in this time had all kinds of ideas about mental illness...mostly evil ideas.  You know - demons and "if you prayed harder, you'd be healed" ideas.  OH...these people have almost worn me out.  Imagine 20 years ago trying to help educate stiff necked evangelicals!!!!!  But we try and we sing and we survive!

1994 - Another little girl arrives in the midst of -10 below January temps in Ohio.  Kaitlyn Janaye Roseman.  7lbs. 6oz.  Sweet, delicate snuggly baby girl.  We count blessings and thank God for another miracle in the midst of all our struggles. 

1995 - We are still singing concerts and traveling around doing something we love.  February 1 baby girl number three arrives.  She was a surprise.  Tiny little Kourtney Abigail Roseman - 6lbs 7oz.  She looked like a little doll.  Beautiful and perfect and we thank God for surprise baby!  We count our gifts and tell God these precious babies belong to him.  We are great parents.  We love our girls and we know if we can't do anything else right, we can be wonderful parents.  They are loved and nurtured!

1996 - We sing concerts through this year and I continue teaching piano lessons. 

1997 - A job offer - this one is good (so we think).  We move again.  Off to Florida to work in yes - another church.  Are we dumb or what?  We arrive and his office has not been vacated by the previous minister of music.  Trouble in on the can feel it.  I watch my husband put together an Easter cantata in just 30 days.  He cold sweats and soaks his suit during this performance and I am petrified.  He is waking at night with vivid wild nightmares.  His mind is not clear.  I am scared but to whom can I go?  My family doesn't get it - I can't call them...they'll just say something stupid and mean, so I don't call.  We suffer.  Glen goes to an out patient clinic.  In addition to lithium they offer Prozac and it makes him silly and giddy.  But it helps alleviate the fog and night mares.  Sleep is better and we hang on to hope once again.  No one brings us any casseroles!  No one offers to sit with us to comfort or console.  No - people don't see that persons with mental illness need the same if not more care than persons suffering from cancer.  And so for naught... this job comes crashing to an end.  The pastor just doesn't seem to care and tells Glen he can pack his bags and leave.  What was supposed to be a conversation of how to make the job better turns to a bitter dismissal.  To date this is about the 10th job loss in 9 years. 

Glen's mom offers us to live with her.  It's not the ideal situation but it's better than being homeless with three little girls to care for.  And for 8 months this is our life.  We spend a lot of time crying during this season and I consider leaving.  It's the first time divorce seems like an option.  It's a tragic time.  The loss upon loss upon loss has almost crippled us emotionally... not to mention financially.  There are no casseroles.   No phone calls.  There are no special prayers or offerings to help a family that is broken and bleeding.  We survive.  We white knuckle our way day in and day out.  It's one of the most emotionally painful times I have ever experienced.  But we survive...because this is what we know how to do. 

Getting people to understand...getting Christians to understand Mental Illness has been ruled as IMPOSSIBLE!!!  At least in our experience...and we are wounded and left abandoned in the rubble of life.  We are burned and scared. The job he has just lost paid well and we were sure it was going to be the one that worked.  I can go back and look at all the loss and I can clearly see a pattern of mental/emotional abuse, stigma and stereotyping.  I can see Glen was severely misjudged and the object of discrimination.  Over and over...a repeated cycle of abuse and yet we seemed unable to stand up for ourselves and fight! 

It's late in the year...a friend has suffered a brain tumor.  She teaches piano lessons.  I am offered the job of taking over.  And immediately I have 17 piano students.  It's a big boost and I'm excited for the first time in months.  Her loss and tragedy has become my blessing and it is bitter sweet. 

1998 - February, we move into a house.  Another move, but this is a good one.  We build our teaching base to offer piano, voice and guitar lessons.  Glen and I decide the string of loss has been too significant and we must put an end to the least as much as we possibly can.  Self employment makes sense and we put together a plan of action that allows him to control his life and work.  No more working for other people...AND NO MORE WORKING IN CHURCH! 

1999 - 2003  These are good years.  We are putting the pieces of our lives back together.  We are beginning to understand how to manage mental illness.  Self employment makes life smooth and much more consistent.  All our dreams for life are so much different than so many peoples.  We are content with simplicity for we can't achieve much more than that.  We are happy Glen is healthy.  We are happy to be together.  We are happy we have beautiful daughters and being great parents is one thing we know we can do and do well.  We focus on that.  Life smooths out and we learn and grow together.  A bond is forged that shall never be broken.  New commitments are made and Glen and I know the roads we have traversed shall forever change who we are and what we do.  We dream...big dreams. 

We set our teaching schedules so we can have income all year long but not teach through the summer.  Hey, school teachers get paid that way so why not us.  And it's a great plan.  We take the summer and spend time at the beach with our priceless treasures...those 3 girls that we love so dearly.  We talk; we dream; we play; we survive; we heal.  And the healing is so essential. 

2003 - A year of big dreams!  Telling our story of surviving the war against mental illness becomes our calling.  We are mental health advocates.  We can't be anything else.  It's who we are.  It's what we have endured.  It's the passion in our bellies.  Every breath is about surviving...not just surviving but thriving.  Finding a way to keep life together when all the threads seem to unravel...well, that is a miracle.  We had seem many miracles.  We were a miracle.  People said we couldn't do it.  Perhaps they didn't want us to make it...all the more reason to make, in my mind!!!!! 

We believe the church and all of society needs to hear our story and so we move to Nashville, TN.  This is a good move which has been blessed by our friends at a wonderful little church in South Florida- see, we don't think they aren't all bad!!!  September we move!

2004 - Our dreams don't really find us to doing what we want, but we strategize and plan for how they can become reality. 

2005 - It's a sticky part of the story, but it has to be told.  Sometimes people do things for you for the wrong reason.  We will just say a certain family member (his family) thinks we need to own our own house.  Mind you, we have quite content understanding this probably won't happen for a long time.  You can't survive all the losses that we had survived and have money...hello!!!  And we are lucky survivors.  There are plenty whose marriages fail, and they can't keep jobs either and they live in half way houses, etc.  So be careful what you think at this part of the story.  Don't judge what you don't understand!!!  I get it and I have great compassion for those less fortunate than myself.  But anyway, they think we should have a house.  They buy the house for us to pay for...nice, isn't it?  Depends on who you are, I guess.  For a time, I have mixed emotions.  I love being able to call it mine...well, not really mine, but at least I can  make it look like mine...which I whatever extent I can. 

We build up a clientele of piano, voice and guitar students.  Business does fairly well, but after a while it gets old.  It's not the kids who are the problem but the parents who think their kids can do a million things including piano lessons...and then there are the ones who think we can make them stellar musicians in JUST 3 SHORT MONTHS!  Um...while I am good, I'm not that good! 

2006 - Lessons are going good.  Building the studio but the other dreams sit on the back burner. 

2007 - We hit a bump in the road and Glen has a rough season.  Cylexa is added to ward off the anxiety.  It's a tough time.  But we are strong and committed.  We get through it.  We know how to survive...this is what we do; this is who we are. 

2008 - Studio is going good.  Teaching lots of students. Giving multiple recitals a year.  It's a good time for us, but still it's not our calling. 

2009 - Spring time and Glen has a brilliant idea.  He's had lots of those...and we have laughed saying we could start of company called "Pipe Dreams" - you know all the ideas that are crazy and good!  But this idea is different.  He says we can make jewelry from guitar strings... and I laugh.  I have never made jewelry.  While I am super creative, making jewelry was not one of my things.  But I finally listen and by summer we have made our first crude Strung Up Jewelry designs.  A COMPANY IS BORN!!!!

Fall arrives and we are talking about our dream.  We find a lawyer and launch a non-profit.  Seems like the right thing to do.  Concerts of Hope is our mental health advocacy foundation. 

I'm sitting in the doctors office with Glen. He is having his mental health check up.  I see a magazine and scan for an article to read.  A story catches my attention.  This family has sold everything.  They buy an RV and hit the road doing random acts of kindness.  It's compelling and riveting.  I am captured.  I request permission to keep the magazine.  I take it home and read the article to the family.  We cry and dream together.  We are captured and the dream hits us again.  Plans are made for spring and summer. 

Kyrsten is already out of school.  Kaitlyn and Kourtney have been home schooled before, so doing it again would not be a problem.  We strategize. 

2010 - Summer arrives and we begin a series of 16 yard sales.  We sell every thing we own.  We dream, we cry, we pray...and we have faith the size of the Grand Canyon.  God comes through.  We raise money for a down payment to purchase a 32' 5th Wheel RV.  August arrives.  Our home on wheels is delivered.  We fill it with the few possessions we have left.  Some things stay in the attic and the house that isn't ours is rented out.  Someone else can now call it home. 

2010 - 2013;  For 3 years we travel and tell our story.  Anywhere and everywhere we can.  There are more miracles.  Amazing miracles.  Things happen that only God could do.  The greatest of which is Strung Up Jewelry.  A valid company is born.  As we travel, people find out about our jewelry.  We find they love it...they want to buy it.  A store calls and they want a lot of jewelry.  And dreams become reality.  We are living.  We are breathing in fresh new life.  We are creative and the energy from being creative is healing our very bones.  It's like being born all over again. 

As we begin to sell the jewelry, we begin to find places to travel and vend.  Craft fairs, markets, etc...anywhere we could go.  And all the while, we were in front of thousands of people.  People who wanted to hear the story of innovation.  Glen's story.  My story.  Our story.  A story of hope and survival.  A story of triumph over tragedy and loss. 

And our souls heal more with each telling.  The two souls which met and merged 25 years ago could have never imagined this journey.  Yet, we were miraculously joined together.  God saw my tenacious grit would be needed to walk along side a man whose heart was firm and steadfast for God...but a man with a disease that would challenge and confront every idea or belief we ever held to.  Mental illness is woven into the fabric of our lives.  Though it does not define us as people it defines who we care about and what we do with where we have walked and what we have learned.  We care so much that we would dare to tell others there is hope.  We care so much that we would dare to confront the stigma and stereotypes still prevalent in contemporary culture and Christian culture.  We dare to open our mouths and speak the truth.  We have nothing to lose and everything to gain if just one person learns and understands. 

December 10, 2013 - A happy celebration of 25 years married to Glen D. Roseman II - who changed my life forever. 

- Joyce Roseman



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