From Bi-Polar Single Mom to Thriving and Free
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Ammie Bouwman always accepted that her parents loved her. But when she was eleven, they divorced and Ammie started believing she was unwanted. She recalls, “They had me so young, I mean I was the reason they got married. I was a mistake because I had been born. I believed that they were getting a divorce because of me. Those lies started – little seeds were planted in my young self.”
Once faithful church members, her parents stopped going after the divorce but Ammie still prayed and loved God. She says, “I was definitely just trying to do what Jesus wanted me to do. I just wanted to follow him.” Which is how Ammie lived throughout her teens. Then in college, Ammie fell in love and asked God if the boy she liked was “the one”. She recalls, “I heard this ‘No.’ And I was mad. I remember telling the Lord, ‘I don't accept that answer’."
They married and Ammie began pulling away from God. She believes, “when I made that first decision to say no to God, that other decisions came easier after that. I didn't look so much for God's approval as much as I did when I was younger. I left God at church.” Those first years they were happy. Then, they had two children just 14 months apart. As a 26-year-old mother with small children, Ammie felt her life start to unravel. “I started to, I think, lose control.”
In early 1996, 4 years into their marriage, Ammie went to see a psychologist who diagnosed her as bi-polar. She recalls, “I could swing between periods of highs and lows rather quickly. The highs are great. You have all this energy. And the lows are equally extreme. You don't have energy. You don't have any desire to do anything.” Medication eventually stabilized her moods but the stigma of being mentally ill added to the self-doubt and rejection Ammie felt as a child. She recalls thinking, “Now, I'm mentally ill. I was never going to get better. I'm unfit. I'm unqualified. I'm not a good wife. My husband had to live with all of that. And that put a really big stress on our marriage.”
Out-of-control spending and debt forced them into bankruptcy. Her husband coped by drinking and staying out late most nights. Ammie felt helpless and cried out to God. She says, “I remember standing in the kitchen, answering calls from creditors, balancing a checkbook that had no money into it, and I finally knew that I need to do something different. I said, ‘Lord, I can't do this anymore. I have made such a mess of my life. You need to change something. You need to break in because I can't do this anymore.’ I didn't know what to do except take one step at a time with Him holding my hand. And it really felt good.”
But her marriage was too fractured and in 2007 Ammie and her husband divorced. Being a single mom with mental issues was challenging and those feelings of being unloved increased. She recalls, “I didn't have such extreme highs and lows, but I still questioned myself on everything.” Ammie found a good church and grew closer to God. Two years later she married a widower thinking this new marriage would fill her need to feel loved. But, Ammie soon felt she was competing with her husband’s memories of his late wife. She says, “I came in with the rejection and issues from my first marriage from the divorce, feeling like I was damaged goods. I was a mistake, that I shouldn't have never been born. My parents got married because of me. They got divorced because of me. That I was unqualified and unfit and mentally ill and now I was never going to be her. He was never going to love me enough.”
Seeing her desperation, a friend invited Ammie to a prayer meeting. As the women started praying, Ammie began repenting for things in her life. She remembers, “Every lie that I had believed about myself, we claimed the truth over that. And then got to my marriage. And I even forgave his first wife and I broke down, not even knowing that there was this bitterness that I was carrying against a woman that I had never even met before. It was just Him renewing me, renewing my spirit, renewing who I was, letting me know how much He loved me. When I walked out of there, I felt like this new person.” Driving home she felt God also healed from her bi-polar disorder. Ammie weaned herself off her medication and notified her doctor. She says, “He could see, you know, from visit after visit that I was doing exceptionally well, and he says, ‘Well, as long as you keep this path that you're doing well, we won't have you take any medication’. And I just came on my 6th year anniversary of being healed.”
Ammie’s transformation improved her marriage and she and her husband are closer to each other and to God. Today Ammie loves to share the abundant life that’s available when you learn to see yourself the way God sees you. She believes, “The Word says that God has come to give us life and give it to us to the fullest. I want people to grab onto that. I want them to know that there's hope, that they don't have to be stuck in that mental illness, stuck in that place of brokenness, stuck in that regret, stuck in that depression; that God gives us life, God gives us propose and that's what He wants for us. I know who I belong to. I am the daughter of the Most High King."
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