Honest reflections about marriage and mission work when dealing with the anxiety and depression

  • Charlie Clayton


A couple of months ago we celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary!!

If you have ever read any of the other blogs, then you will know that this is a milestone that we may never have reached.

As we sat in the boot of our car having a picnic (classy I know but it was raining) it was lovely to be still, looking out at the ocean (slightly more romantic!) and then back at my wife knowing how far we had come, and how it was worth all the pain, effort and deep soul searching to be still with my wife.

While we continued to sit there, we discussed how far we had come, and what the alternatives would have been had I not engaged with my mental health and personal issues. It was a beautiful moment knowing I was still sitting next to my wife with a hope and future ahead of us, rather than potentially being elsewhere grieving a future that could have been.

I must admit, part of me was really pleased with myself, thinking that my issues were now part of the past, and how I had ‘made it’!

I don’t think it was a bad thing to celebrate the hard work that we had put in after many years of adversity, but it certainly was naïve to think that for one moment I had arrived at a final destination!

In the last couple of months or so it has been interesting how at times, maybe even for periods of a few days or even a week, I have reverted back to some old behaviours.

Triggered by the usual factors of tiredness, busyness of family life and unexpected stress factors, we found ourselves in circumstances which were too close to the past for our liking.

The positives that came up during these times were that I was more aware of how I was being.

I could feel, understand and connect with my emotions and behaviours. This meant I was more able to see clearly how I was responding to various factors, knowing that I needed to have some space, take a walk or try and invest in my inner world in some way. When Abby brought my attention to certain reactions, I wasn’t as defensive as of old but was able to reflect more quickly and explain my emotions. I was then able to explore why I was reacting in such a way and I was quicker to apologise and see what I need to change in order to bring my responses back to an appropriate way of being.

The initial reactions were behaviours that no longer consistently belong with me, and the resolving of these issues revealed healthy new patterns that had emerged. But it begged the question – am I going to stay where I am? Is this the level I am going to plateau at or am I going to now build upon this foundation and create even healthier responses and reactions in my life?

You see, most of our relationship I have been looking back in order to work through, recognise and find healing from the past. This has been massively helpful, releasing and has enabled us to now have a foundation on which our marriage can stand. But whilst those have been badly needed repair works, unless I now use my new-found freedom of mind and emotion to invest in the continuing of my growth, we are just left with a fairly decent foundation but nothing built on top of it.

My investment before was to mend what was broken – which in some ways is easier because you can fix what is obviously broken, but to build something new which you have limited knowledge about requires learning new skills from scratch and using the blueprints of others who have built things before you.

And that is now my challenge. To take the same amount of time and investment spent healing the past, to now invest in the future; to spend time reading, listening, praying and looking to other master builders in order to learn to build a future; one in which my wife can fully find her safety and security, in which my children fully find unconditional love, care and trust, in which our marriage and family can be a healing place for us and for others.

I think this will be my greatest challenge, but my most rewarding work.

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