Until death do us part. Annie Hutchison took her marriage vows to heart when she “was just a baby,” and her husband, “an exciting older guy.” She thought she knew him, but Annie was wrong.
“Bad things happen to everybody, and no one is exempt,” the 35-year-old Californian told me from her home in Nashville a few weeks ago. “If I’d played the victim, I’d never have awakened to the healing power of Christ or be able to help others. A lot of girls have gone through similar things.”
And for that reason, she shared her story in a book, Through Dark Places, and agreed to talk with me. “I’ve experienced too many miracles not to share,” she said.
Annie’s story begins with until death do us part.
Seeing no other way out of a marriage where her husband raped and emotional abused her, she chose death.
She was only 21 years old.
How She Got to that Dark Place
Many factors led Annie to that place.
The night she’d decided to end her life, she and her husband had fought. Not unusual. He left to go to a bar. Sitting alone in her apartment, writing pathetic good-bye letters, she was filled with self-loathing and despair.
She picked up a jumbo-sized bottle of extra-strength Tylenol and started swallowing as many pills as she could ingest.
Her breathing slowed. And the panic began.
“Oh my God what have I done?” she wrote in Through Dark Places. “Have I committed murder if I kill myself? Will God take me still? Oh God I don’t want to go to hell. I’m sorry. I just didn’t know what else to do. Please take me into heaven.”
That’s when God showed up.
The Imperfect Fix
Annie grew up in L.A. County, the third of five children. Among the brood, Annie admitted to being more rebellious, the high-octane kid who bounced around and chased boys. To her strict and protective parents, Annie was the problem child.
She doesn’t know when she started believing she was a loser but remembers feeling inadequate as young as 8 years old. She sought perfection, thinking that only then would God and others love her. She’d stay up all night reliving her mistakes. The joke no one laughed at or the math problems she had blown.
She had no spiritual tools to deal with the near-constant negative self-talk.
“I was raised to be a good Christian girl,” she explained. Although her church condemned sin, it spoke little of grace and forgiveness. Of course, she would marry her then 25-year-old boyfriend with whom she’d had premarital sex. Marriage would correct her imperfect behavior.
“If my parents had known I was marrying an abusive man, they wouldn’t have pushed the marriage,” she said. “But you know, (their actions) aren’t relevant to my healing story.”
The Encounter That Changed Her Life
Fourteen years have passed since the divine encounter that ultimately changed Annie’s life.
Lying on the floor, unable to move her legs, “I experienced God for the first time,” she told me, remembering God’s all-consuming presence in the tiny apartment she’d shared with her husband. “I never realized how deep His love was for me. Instead of making me feel small, God wrapped me in grace.”
Through the drug-induced haze, she heard Him say: “You aren’t dying. You’re not done.” He would not let until death do us part spoil His plan for her life.
Annie would soon learn, however, that she still had lessons to learn.
Divorce and Abandonment
After a few days in the hospital, Annie returned to the “scene of my crime.” Though she desperately wanted her husband to forgive her, to hug her, he told her to leave. In the weeks that followed, her husband started divorce proceedings and her family refused to take her in.
She lost her job. Her car. Even her church told her not to return. Panic attacks gripped her as bitterness crept into her soul. Broken and deeply depressed, she attempted another suicide.
This time God used others to get through to her.
“We need to get you help,” her concerned friends said. She went to therapy, and the wild mood swings, the highs, and the deep, long-lasting lows started making sense. She’d lived life in black-and-white, never seeing the rainbows because she suffered from bipolar disorder.
But God hadn’t set the final scene in her healing story. Through mutual friends in California, she met Nate. “He’s one of the steadiest and most stable people I know. He saw a person who just needed to be loved. Nate showed up and walked with me in my mess.”
A Radical, New Life
Through Bible study, she discovered that her life-long striving for perfection wasn’t attainable or spiritually necessary. She set out to establish a closer relationship with God, knowing that only His grace would demolish the strongholds and eradicate the self-hatred and shame that she’d allowed Satan to seed.
She forgave those who had hurt her. And just as important, she forgave herself.
Now married to Nate and the mother of two young boys, Annie marvels at the “radical gift that is my life.” No longer on prescription drugs to manage bipolar disorder—another miracle—Annie firmly believes, “Had I not gone through what I went through, I wouldn’t be the woman I am today.”
Her misguided thinking about until death do us part was never God’s vision for her life. “God rescued me from death and I’m going to tell others what He did for me because I believe His love is for them too.”