top of page

Open Heart Surgery (Entry #2)


I guess before I get to my first meeting with B. I need to take a step back. (btw.... B. is my therapist and one of God's greatest gifts to me.... just so ya'll know exactly who I am talking about when I say B.)

The need for "Open Heart Surgery"... started in December 2015. I was on a much needed the beach... working on my book... (yes the one that STILL is not finished.)

I had packed an entire bag of clothes, filled my fridge with food to last the week, and was set for success. 3 days into my lone retreat... I hadn't opened the suitcase, I still hadn't changed, or showered. The fridge was as full as when I arrived. I'm not sure where the time went. All I know is something happened between me and the computer screen that was crippling.

I have a certain playlist I use when I'm writing... for some reason one song continued to play on loop...."Burning House". That was my first problem. Not the greatest backdrop for climbing out of a dark space... but it was honest. That was most important. It went something like this...

"I had a dream about a burning house You were stuck inside I couldn't get you out I lay beside you and pulled you close And the two of us went up in smoke"

As I absorbed the song in the background... I began to crumble - and type. The words that filled the screen... seemed to come from someone else. They were dark, muddled in anguish- and what I would consider damaging to me, and to people around me. I know now I was smack dab in the middle of grief and facing my first breakdown. At the time I didn't know that.... I knew what I felt... and it all felt "wrong".

You may be asking "How can feelings be wrong?" Well- for much of my life... I sat in a seat of judgment. I judged myself and others with intensity. So sad... and so true. (Another topic for another day.)

So what was so wrong?

For example...

I was questioning God. (Erica, Don't you dare do that.)

I was questioning the church that raised me. (Equally as horrid. How dare I.)

I was questioning my road to Sierra Leone. (It's your mission. You can't second guess it. You said YES.)

I was questioning my ability to be a mother and wondered if my family would be better without me. (An admission I feel sick admitting to all of you.. but- it's true.)

Inside the above question, came the thoughts that maybe I should just leave. (the burden of TRS and the road I had chosen there was crippling my family. It was MY fault. They didn't deserve this life we had been living.)

I was questioning whether Jason could handle my emotional instability. (This came from dark spaces we walked through in 2011/2012.... again- another story for another day.)

The list goes on and on.

I remember at one point, holding my cell phone in one hand and my other hand was pressed into my chest. My first anxiety attack. The pain felt like a full on heart attack and I actually thought I was gonna die... there in Rosemary Beach... by myself. I was trying to gather courage to make the call. As concerned as I was about Jason understanding what was happening... as much as I did NOT want to admit to him what was going through my mind - I recognized I was in trouble. He was the only person I wanted to call.

He answered. I knew he would. He was there. He's always there. A constant in my life since I was 15.

I told him that I was in trouble. I told him that I felt like I was bleeding out. I told him I blamed the book. It was forcing me to recall memories I had tried to bury. It was forcing me to face not only grief but intense guilt... and I could not handle it. I shared with him that I was scared and that I needed help. I was honest - I told him I needed more than a conversation.. more than prayer... I needed professional help.... and that if I didn't get it... I was afraid of what could happen.

I don't remember if I told him that day - that I wanted to run. But I did. I wanted to leave everything. I felt like a ticking time bomb. I know eventually I did admit this to him. So many of our conversations blend together in my mind. What a difficult conversation... telling someone you love more than life that you can't handle the life you share anymore. How hard it was for me to admit that my journey had broken me... and how afraid I was of breaking him too.

Yet there we were. I broke down and pleaded for an intervention.... while he was hundreds of miles away. On the other end of the line.... I felt his pain. I knew he was breaking... more for me than himself. He did what he always did. At first he tried to tell me to breathe, to just calm down... but as our conversation progressed... he knew this was different. He told me to do it. Whatever I had to do....I know it was hard for him to say yes to outside help. It wasn't something we were raised understanding. If something is "wrong" you pray about it. I was never aware of my parents seeking counseling for anything growing up....He will tell you he was raised in a family where they had few heart to hearts... as emotional of a guy as he is...sharing feelings just didn't come easy.

So there we were - in a foreign space. This was all new. Instead of trying to tell me how I should feel... he chose to let me just "feel". He learned this art after we walked through Adama's death... that road taught us so much... about ourselves....many mistakes were made during that season... we didn't handle it well - again... a conversation for another day. BUT, we learned lessons that counted.

He didn't make me feel ashamed, he didn't take my pain personal... and if it felt personal to him... he sure didn't let on - he stood with me. Maybe his legs were shaking... maybe he felt like crumbling too... but from my end of the phone... he felt rock solid.

He has no idea how important his reaction was that day. He has no idea how much it meant to me... I suppose because I hate going back to that day... I don't think we have discussed it since. Maybe now when he reads this... he will know... he will know that LOVING me DURING the breakdown... instead of PUSHING me THROUGH the breakdown... saved me.

When I hung up the phone, I called a friend who told me about a counseling center that would eventually change everything for me. This is where I would eventually learn... I can question God...without walking away from my faith... I can also question myself. I can wrestle with the hard - and most importantly, It was the place I would FINALLY be asked....

"How does that make you feel?"

Why is THAT question so important? Well here we are - almost 2- 1/2 years later and I finally realize why the "feeling" matters so much...

THIS is where my open heart surgery begins.


Susan Hampton
Susan Hampton
Jun 05, 2018

This is so raw and beautiful! I love your new site! Your such a beautiful soul. Just love you. Your voice is so pretty on your single! Can’t wait to hear all of your music. Thank you for your honesty. I’m the youngest of 6. They are 6-13 years my elders. Most out of state and mere strangers. I lost my parents when I was young, out of teens, but 22 is still young when your alone, so I worked and pushed through and swept heartache, pain and loneliness under the rug. I’m a work in progress too. Thank you! God bless you! ~ Susan


Having someone that gets it vs. judging or a gift from God. I would not be here today if it were not for John being my rock. So thankful to God that we have our guys! Love you I do!

bottom of page