A Perfect Storm (Part 2)

While on occasion a storm will hit out of nowhere, that is most often not the case. Usually, there are warning signs. Meteorologists study wind and weather patterns, such as the jet stream and El Nino, in order to predict what the weather might be. Most people on the Atlantic coast in the southeastern portion of the United States know that June is the typical beginning of hurricane season. A hurricane does not simply hit the coast of Florida without warning. On the contrary, meteorologists had most likely been tracking the storm as it began to form hundreds of miles off the coast. As the storm moves and intensifies, it is named, and its track is projected so that any in its path will have ample time to prepare and even evacuate if necessary. This past spring, my husband and I spent a weekend at Cocoa Beach. On one of our days there, we drove from the beach inland to Orlando to meet family. I noticed signs along the highway we were on that indicated that road was an evacuation route.

The current storm in my life had warning signs as well. The rustling of the leaves indicating a change in pattern began about three years ago. It was August of 2013, and after twenty-three plus years as a full time mom, I had worked myself out of that job. It was that month that my “baby” turned eighteen. I remember wondering how my life would change now that not only was I finished homeschooling, but I was also no longer legally responsible for anyone but myself. I look back at journal entries from that month and realize now that it was these months that contained the building of the dark clouds that would eventually grow into a storm so fierce that survival would be doubtful.

Those early clouds, though, were far off in the distance. There were days that I enjoyed the freedom that came with no longer having to plan school work, grade school work, fight over school work… I packed away school things and thought of all the time I would have to read and garden and spend with my husband. I was, at this point, four months into my MS diagnosis. I struggled some days with fatigue and dizziness, but most days were manageable. The storm had not yet fully developed. Plus, I still had two adult kids who lived at home, so there was still many loads of laundry to do, meals to cook, groceries to buy for two picky eaters, and bathrooms to clean. My nest was not empty yet. There were many days I wish that it was though. Having adult children living at home was not always easy. I was in uncharted territory as a parent. Could I still impose rules, such as curfew, on them? Did I still have a right to ask them where they were going to be and who they were going to be there with? Did I have any grounds in asking them to do household chores or keep their rooms clean or be home at a certain time for dinner? I just didn’t know the answer to these questions. In addition, the two adult kids who were not living at home full time occasionally came home to stay. Summer brought one home full time each year and other times of the year, another would come with a boyfriend for a holiday visit. What authority did I have in their lives? In the midst of all this confusion, I found myself noticing the building storm clouds off in the distance. And while I paid some attention to them, wondering if maybe I should be preparing for something big that would happen, mostly I woke up and did the life that was before me each day. I did laundry, cooked meals, went to church, cleaned what needed to be cleaned, and enjoyed, for the first time ever, the opportunity to travel with my husband as he went on business trips…one of the perks of having adult children at home to watch the pets.

This would all change, of course.  Hindsight is 20-20. I wish I had been able to see what would eventually turn into a raging, dangerous storm. Perhaps I would have been better prepared for it when it hit with force beyond anything I had experienced in a long while. The clouds I noticed, but didn’t feel pressed to deal with, would eventually build into a major storm. That storm, though, was still way off in the distance.

Posted in Uncategorized, MS, depression, Children, empty nest, death, Change | Leave a comment

The Perfect Storm (Part 1)

It was a hot and humid summer day. A typical summer day in July in Western New York. I was oblivious to the scorching heat of the sun and the oppressive thickness that filled the air. Although both surrounded me, I could not feel them. I was in my happy place. As I hoisted myself out of the pool onto our wooden deck, I shook some water out of my ear. I took a deep breath and jumped into the cool, clear water once again. I felt my body hit the surface as a splash went up around me. My back touched the bottom of the pool–my cue to unfold my legs to propel myself to the surface. Holding my breath, I placed my feet firmly against the bottom of the pool and pushed with all the strength my nine year old body had within it. Like a slow moving jet, I was propelled up through the four feet of water into the open air. I breathed deeply, my lungs thankful to know they could work once again. I started to go through the entire scenario all over again, as I had been doing for probably an hour. This time, as my feet landed on the deck, I heard my name being called through the kitchen window screen.

“Becky. Becky!”

I turned my head toward the window, my mom’s signal to continue what she wanted to yell to me.

“Get out of the pool and dry off. There’s a storm coming and I don’t want you coming in the house all wet.”

I looked over the pool, across our neighbor’s yard, over the fields behind our neighborhood, and into the western sky. Sure enough, there were big, dark thunderheads forming. Their contrasting dark gray color against the bright blueness of the sky told me we were in for a good summer thunderstorm.

Storm clouds. They are an indication that whatever weather one may be enjoying, it would soon be changing. You know how it goes. The stillness of the hot and humid summer air is interrupted by an increase in the breeze. The leaves on the trees begin to whisper, warning that a change is about to take place. The whisper turns into a voice which in turn grows into a yell as the branches of the tree are pushed every which way by the incoming storm. As the wind increases its warning, the sun is swallowed by the fast moving dark clouds as they swirl and overtake the blue sky. In the distance one can hear rumbles of thunder. Raindrops hit here and there. It doesn’t take long for those dark clouds to release the moisture that has weighed them down. Like a bucket being turned upside down, those raindrops that were few and far between suddenly multiply. There is nowhere to escape them save for a structure with a covering. If no such structure is available, those raindrops will soak anyone unfortunate enough to be caught in them. Depending on the fierceness of the storm, one could find themselves in a quite precarious situation. Lightning bolts threaten life. Hail hurts as it pelts the human body. High winds can send debris flying through the air. Tornadoes can be spawned from the dark clouds overhead.

Few storms come without warning. My mom only needed to look to the western sky to see that there was potential for danger. Television and radio (and now the internet and smart phones) serve as warning platforms to keep people safe. Some days, one just knows the potential for storms are there. High heat and humidity and/or the right wind direction certainly set up conditions ripe for a summer thunderstorm in Western New York. Occasionally a storm will bubble up unexpectedly and any not housed in the safety of shelter are caught in its wrath.

As a young child, few things scared me as much as thunderstorms. I didn’t like them during the daylight hours. The storms that came in the darkness of night, though, when I was safely in bed and already asleep, did more than scare me. They terrified me, driving me into the sanctuary of my parents’ room. When I got old enough to “know better”, I would ride out those nighttime storms with all the blankets I could find covering my head to block the flashes of lightning from my vision. My hands were pressed hard against my ears to hopefully silence the crackling and booming of the thunder. My dog, as scared as I was of the storms, would take refuge with me. Only when I was absolutely certain that the storm had passed would I come out from under the stifling blanket tent. My lungs, in a similar fashion to how they felt as I went from underwater to fresh air, would breathe deeply again.

I have weathered many thunderstorms in my years on earth. They no longer terrify me as they once did. I am not as much of a fan of them when my husband is out of town for work, but even then I am not the shaking mess I was as a child during a storm. Now, though, there are other kinds of storms to endure. It is in a fierce storm that I find myself now, and what I hope to write about over the next several days. I have titled it “The Perfect Storm” for I believe that all the conditions came together in just the perfect way to send me into a mode of struggling to breathe and even survive. I write in the midst of the storm, for it is not passed yet. Just the opposite–it is raging as strong as I have seen it rage. The clouds are still black, there is no blue sky in sight, the battering from the hail hurts, the thunder is deafening and the lightning blinding. The rain has overtaken my world and on several occasions I have been certain I would drown–often I wish I would. To escape the relentless pounding of the storm is all I can think about. My days in the pool taught me how to hold my breath until there was air to breathe. I hope that skill carries over to my current storm. How long can I hold my breath before succumbing to the depths of the waves?   Perhaps, I try to reason, by writing about it, the storm will have less power. I fully realize that just the opposite could happen. The storm, fueled by my own thoughts and words, could intensify to the point where I am overtaken by it. At this point, though, I feel I have nothing to lose. If I die in the storm then it must have been meant to be. But, if by writing about it, the storm loses some of its force, then maybe, just maybe, blue sky will show its face once again. It’s a risk–a gamble–but I’m going to roll the dice and see how it all ends.

Posted in Change, death, depression, empty nest, fear, loneliness, MS, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Writing of Me

I was browsing my Facebook newsfeed early one morning when I saw an article titled, “God Wrote Every Chapter of Your Story”. I did not read the article, for the title alone sent the wheels of thoughts in my head spinning out of control. Whenever I see something that relates to the fact that God orchestrated every detail of my life, it causes a conundrum of emotions and reasoning and debating and soul searching that is difficult to put into words.

The first thought train that comes barreling onto the track of my mind when I see words of this nature is that of remembering past trauma. I have written before about the abuse I suffered as a child. If the title of the article is taken at face value, then one would have to concede that God wrote that abuse into my life before I was ever born. That causes a plethora of problems within me. I have done much work to accept what happened to me and continue to work on learning how it has shaped me into the adult I am and hate. The fact that God planned for this to be a part of my life leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Of course the Christian answer I have gotten to those thoughts have been along the lines of, “God didn’t want that to happen to you. We live in a fallen world, though, so that stuff does happen.” The longer I have contemplated that Christian cliche of “living in a fallen world” to explain away the difficult aspects of life on earth, the more I have grown to despise those words. It seems like a cop-out to explain away problems that no one seems to have the answers to. I am a mom. A human mom who had some control over what happened to her children. I did not rule the universe, though, and I was not all powerful. If one of my kids had suffered harm at the hands of one who was supposed to protect them, it certainly wouldn’t have been because I, the loving mom, wanted that to happen so that in the future it could be used somehow. Does reading that sound as absurd as typing it out did?? Yet, the fact that “God wrote every part of my story” implies that exact concept.

Another thought that my mind ruminates on related to this concept of God writing my story is the feeling, at least currently, that my life has no value. As a stay at home mom, I worked myself out of a job. As I drew close to the time where I knew the kids would be independent adults, I began to sort of panic. I had been “mom” for so long. It was my identity. The responsibilities that came along with that title were what got me out of bed in the morning. Babies could not care for themselves. Toddlers needed watchful eyes. Grade school kids need care and high school kids need guidance. But once those years are done, while they say mom is still needed, it is definitely not in the same hands on way as all the previous years. A few years before that officially happened, I began to wonder what I would do every day. What would be a reason for getting out of bed? Two years past the point of all my kids becoming independent, I am still trying to figure out why I should get out of bed every day. That might not be as difficult to figure out were it not for the fact that my body battles the effects of chronic illness. One thing I have always enjoyed has been being in my kitchen. I love to bake and share what I bake. I once thought that when my kids were grown, I would find a job in a bakery or some sort of kitchen work to fill my time. The fact that my feet burn constantly with nerve pain, not to mention the dizziness and fatigue that comes along with that illness as well, pretty much eliminates that possibility for me. Did God write worthlessness, purposelessness, and illness into my story intentionally? Or is this another “we live in a fallen world” situations that no one really has an answer for?

A last thought worth mentioning in regards to this subject is the loneliness faced each day when one is often unable to “do” things outside of the house. This has been an extremely miserable summer for me. We have had long strings of days with temperatures in the 90’s and heat indexes at that level or higher. For someone whose body literally shuts down in the heat, that has made for long days spent in the house. I haven’t even been able to keep up a routine of working out, something I worked hard to do over the winter–and succeeded at. I was at the gym six days a week, working on a combination of cardio and strength workouts. Not anymore, though. Since the mercury in the thermometer started climbing, I have found myself dealing with MS symptoms that had just about disappeared over the winter. A run on a treadmill or elliptical would be excruciating with neuropathy, and strength training is out because it overheats my body sending it into a mess of symptoms. Instead, my days are spent pretty much at home, and for the most part, alone. My husband has his job that keeps him very busy and sometimes even takes him out of town for days at a time. When I was a busy mom, I never thought I’d get alone time; now I have a plethora of hours alone. And while I enjoy being alone to an extent, I have been surprised by just how much the loneliness has left me feeling unloved and unwanted. Did God write loneliness into my life as a cruel joke?

Now before anyone blasts me for these words, let me be clear that, while my faith is struggling in a big way, I still believe there is a God and that he is in control of the universe. I have written before about how I question if he is good all the time (as the old church chorus goes) so I am not treading into those waters again. Instead, I write this to help me process how much of my story God actually wrote compared to how much he allowed. There is a great difference, at least in my mind. If God really wrote abuse, illness, and intense loneliness into my life, then I’m not sure that’s a God I can love and follow. But, if God merely allowed it because people all have free will and illness is part of this world, then that is a different story. The loneliness part I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to reconcile with the idea of God. Maybe after much more thought I’ll be able to come to a conclusion on why life has taken me down this lonely road.

Posted in depression, empty nest, faith, loneliness, MS, Parenting, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Scared

Scared. A word that describes much of what I’ve been feeling lately.

I’m scared to believe in a God I can’t see.
And scared not to believe.

I’m scared of being stuck.
And scared to move forward.

I’m scared of the past that haunts me.
And scared of the future that might be.

I’m scared to love.
And scared to put up walls that may fall.

I’m scared to let anyone in.
And scared of being alone.

I’m scared of getting drunk.
And scared to stay sober.

I’m scared of failing.
And scared of trying just in case I fail.

I’m scared to attempt to change.
And scared of staying the same.

I’m scared of dying.
And scared of living.

I’m scared that this all seems like an endless mind game that leads nowhere.
And scared that it really doesn’t matter anyway.

 

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What Good?

Warning: This post comes from a very hurting heart. If you know me in real life, most likely you will strongly disagree with what is written here. If you choose to read it, don’t say you weren’t warned.

For a long time, I listened only to Christian music. I don’t have music on much at home, so the only time I play music is while driving or while I’m walking on a treadmill at the gym. For the latter, I have a workout playlist I listen to that consists of music I wouldn’t listen to at other times. I have been frustrated with Christian music for a while though. It all sounds the same, most of it is cheesy, and there is seldom anything new that is released. For a while, satellite radio was a better option, but even that station started playing the same music over and over again. Before I broke up with Christian music, there was a popular song being played (I’m sure it still is) that proclaimed repeatedly that God was a good, good, father. I am sure that most of the people who know me in real life know the song I am referring to.

I’ve never shied away from writing honestly about what I have been walking through. This time, though, I have been seriously hesitant to write at my customary level of transparency. The reason for that, I think, is because what I am feeling belongs to me. The thoughts I think belong to me. I don’t wish to project them onto anyone else. And, I know that feelings and thoughts are fickle. Today they can be toying with the darkest depths, but tomorrow they may have a little sunlight penetrating them. The impact of words is not lost on me, for I know the power they can have over a person. Even as I write this, I am contemplating changing the privacy of this post to private, the benefit in doing that being that I could still process my thoughts without causing someone else to think they are solidly true. We’ll see.

What does all this have to do with a song on Christian radio?

The last six months or so have been a living hell for me. I have been struggling physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Physically, my pain levels have had me in tears. Specifically, the neuropathy that is part of having MS has been difficult. It is mostly in my feet, although my hands have been slightly affected at times as well. If you grab a butane lighter and hold the flame to the bottoms of both your feet, you will be close to experiencing what I feel on a daily basis. (I don’t advocate actually doing that unless you are a sadist or something of that nature) Now, imagine that pain as you try to walk. Each time you place weight on your feet, the burning sensation intensifies. Imagine trying to sleep as you feel your feet to be on fire. That’s my reality right now. Every night I am in tears as I desperately need sleep yet am unable to fall asleep because of the pain.

Emotionally I have been in a place so dark that I have felt that darkness wrap itself around me and grip so tightly that I have thought for sure the breath would be sucked out of me never to return. I have, at times, literally believed I was about to die. People say that the darkness of depression lies to one’s mind. The thing is, even when a person knows the words being fed to the mind are lies, they hold so much power that they are not seen as such in the moment. It is in that moment–where the lies seem as truth–that I have been living for far too long. It is in that moment that I have wanted the pain to end so badly that I have been tempted to make that choice and listen to the lies. Obviously, since I am typing this, I haven’t done so. Still, as I have battled a fierce battle, I have wondered where God is in the darkness.

This brings me to the spiritual struggle.  And the three aspects of my suffering combined is where the song about God being good rushes in to taunt me…

“You’re a good, good father, it’s who you are, it’s who you are
And I am loved by you, it’s who I am, it’s who I am…”

A few weeks ago, after spending some time seeing how the upper class lives, my husband and I were talking about money and life. I am not in the camp that believes money can’t buy happiness. I have never believed that statement. There are things money can’t buy, but happiness is not one of those things. Of course, since the definition of happiness varies from person to person, there are some who would agree with that statement. That’s for another post though. As we talked, I admitted to him that my faith, what little of it there has been lately, is starting to crumble. As I look back over the last six months, even beyond that, I don’t see much in the way of a good God. My life has been shrouded in unbelievably thick darkness. The world around me seems to be falling apart. I have stopped watching the news or even spending time on social media. It is too sad and depressing to read of all the pain and unfairness written there. People say, “Oh, you woke up this morning. Isn’t that good?” Honestly, no it isn’t always good. Sleep offers a reprieve from pain that nothing that can be obtained while awake does. There are many mornings I have wished I didn’t wake up. Sometimes I have wondered if a God even exists. I believe there had to be a creator. I stand at the ocean shore and wonder what stops the vast amount of water from taking over the land. There is order in nature. The water cycle is proof of that.  A creator had to responsible for these and many other things in nature that have no explanation. But, the fact that there is an intelligent creator doesn’t necessarily mean that creator cares at all about me. How do I reconcile the pain in my own life and the turmoil, hurt, and unfairness both in my own life and in the world around me with the belief that these painful and unfair things come from a good God? It makes no sense. Some people have every opportunity afforded to them simply because they were born with a certain last name. Many others have nothing at all, and there are many in between. Some have worked hard for the things they have. Others want to work hard but are not able to find a job that allows them to use their talents. Others have and have hardly worked yet enjoy luxuries in spite of that fact.

This post is my attempt at sorting out the thoughts that have been my mind’s food for several months. These are thoughts that have flourished in the dark depths of despair. They have taunted me into the wee hours of the morning as I struggle to sleep through pain that refuses to relent. Thoughts such as:

“If God really is good, why does life suck so much for so many?”
“Of what value is my life?…I am unable to do so much of what I used to do. Why am I still here?”
“Where is God when I cry to him? What loving father ignores the cry of his child?”
“How much darkness can one soul take before the lights are snuffed out forever?”

I am struggling to find air in this dark pit. It is lonely and scary. Terrifying actually. I remember one time we took our kids to a cave. As we went deeper into the earth, our guide turned off all the lights. Our kids gripped us tightly as the darkness, thicker than anything I had ever experienced up to that point, enveloped us. They began to breathe heavier, almost struggling for air even though there was plenty of air to breathe. That is how I am feeling tonight. The darkness seems to have hands that are wrapping themselves around my neck and slowly tightening their grip.

If God really is good, now would be a great time for him to show that to me…

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So much Like my Dad

This past week I decided that Facebook was having a very negative impact on my emotional health. I’ve actually known this for a long while but wasn’t ready to take the steps to disconnect from it. This past week, after seeing some posts that fueled jealousy along with posts that pissed me off, I knew I needed to make some changes. This battle is hard enough. Only a stupid person would allow something to continue that is hurting them. I did that for several years with alcohol. You’d think I would have learned my lesson. It was slow in coming, but one morning, as I was scrolling mindlessly through Facebook and I felt serious negative emotions begin to rise once again, I opened the settings app on my phone, found the blue Facebook icon, and touched “uninstall”. A little box asked me if I was sure I wanted to do this. I touched “Yes” and the deed was done. I no longer have easy access to Facebook. And it has been SO freeing. I still have my account; I just need to be on my laptop to visit it. And that takes deliberateness–as opposed to a mindless touching of a square on my phone because I am bored or lonely. Not having that access has given me time to work on other things that need to be done. One of those projects that has been years in the making is a scrapbook in memory of my dad.

It was twelve years ago, Father’s Day weekend, that my father passed away. To say I miss him would be an understatement. For the last ten years or so of his life, he suffered tremendously from the effects of emphysema caused by years of smoking. He was pretty much housebound most of those years. That was difficult to see. Growing up, I thought my dad could do anything. In many ways, he could. He could fix and build things with his hands. He tended to his gardens every summer, creating beautiful landscapes in our yard. Early in my life he worked hard for a local gas company. Later in my childhood, he worked hard at his own business of owning and running a gas station in our little community. His days were long and often during weekday mealtimes, he was not present. Weekends, though, he was always home. There were very few Saturdays and Sundays that we weren’t altogether for a big meal. He loved strawberry ice cream. I remember many Sunday evenings he would send my mom and one of us kids down to the local dairy to get hand dipped ice cream cones to bring back and enjoy outdoors. After I married and had kids, he would often have my mom call to see if we wanted to meet for ice cream somewhere. My firstborn loved ice cream just as much as his grandpa did!

My dad was a quiet man. He had few friends, but he was fine with that. He said he didn’t need people around him. It wasn’t that he couldn’t socialize. He went to church and attended many of the events there (although I think now he did that because my mom guilted him into it a lot of times). He drove the church bus for years and developed some special relationships with the kids picked up on his route. He also drove the bus to church camp every year. I didn’t realize it until later in life, but many at church didn’t approve of the fact that my dad smoked. To that I can only say that he often tried to quit. As a child, it usually only took a week or so into his latest quit attempt for all of us in the house to be wishing for him to go back to smoking! It wasn’t until a major health crisis and eventual diagnosis of emphysema in 1990 that my dad finally stopped smoking. The damage was done, though. He underwent major surgery around 1994 to staple his lung to the wall of his chest. The doctor said if he survived the surgery it might buy him ten years or so assuming his heart held out. It was almost exactly ten years later that a heart attack took his life. No one was with him when it happened–a fact that to this day my mom beats herself up over.

My mom used to yell at me and tell me I was just like my dad. She told me to not grow up to be like that. She wanted me to be sociable, to have lots of friends like she did/does, and to enjoy being around people. There are some personality traits, though, that just cannot be changed or chosen. Regardless of what mom wanted, or even what I would eventually want, I grew to be very much like my dad. I have few friends. I find it difficult to be in a crowd of people. I don’t feel like I fit in, even with people I know well. I liken it to the child peering through the window of the candy store and wishing so much that she could enter in and enjoy. I often wonder if my dad felt that way or if he just accepted that was who he was. I know, for years, I felt like that child. I couldn’t understand why socializing came so easy to people around me, yet those skills eluded me no matter what I did. I can’t count the number of times I have stepped out of my comfort zone to try to make a friend only to have it be obvious that it wasn’t going to work. I’ve kind of given up trying.

All that said, I think I have reached the point where I have realized that perhaps some people are just destined to be loners in this world, and the sooner one accepts this fact, the better. I think my dad knew this about himself at a young age and he had made peace with the fact that few were going to understand or like him or want to get close to him. I couldn’t even begin to count how often my mom and dad would argue about attending some function and my mom would get frustrated because my dad would say he wasn’t going. My dad just didn’t need to feel that people liked him. I think I need to reach this point. Lately, especially, I have had a growing dislike for the person I am. I wake every morning with the flaws of who I am glaring at me and reminding me that few people really understand me or want to try to do so. I have thought a lot about how to change so many things about myself. Today, though, as I think about my dad, maybe instead of trying to figure out ways to change, I just need to accept that this is who I am and this lonely life is what I am destined to. Maybe when I reach that point, what my heart feels won’t be loneliness but rather, just acceptance that  God creates some people differently and those people most likely won’t be understood by most.

My dad also walked through serious bouts of depression. I saw it most as a young adult, after his illness took much from him. In my youngest years, he worked hard. As his emphysema progressed, though, he lost the ability to work, drive, and even walk from his chair to the bathroom. Few people knew the extent to which he suffered. I guess that was one down side of not having people who cared much, although I suspect that even if those people existed as part of his life, he would have been too embarrassed to allow them into his private hell anyway.

Today, I am wishing I could talk to my dad for a little while. I wish I could ask him how he came to the point in his life where he accepted the fact that he was different than most around him. I wish I could ask him how he got through the deepest sloughs of depression with his sanity intact. I wish I could ask him if he ever felt loved. I wonder if he knew just how much like him I was/am, for, regardless of the wishes of my mom, I am very much like my dad.

Posted in Community, death, depression, famiy, loneliness | Leave a comment

Antidepressants and Other Medications

A few months ago, as I was browsing Facebook, I saw a post from someone that mentioned a book on depression. I’ve read a lot of material written about depression. I’ve researched it and taken more quizzes and questionnaires than I care to try to give a number to. When I was diagnosed three years ago with MS, my time spent researching switched focus to that disease. I believe both have the power to end my life; I just didn’t know much about MS and felt that I needed to be armed with information. I found there was a great amount of information written about the correlation between diet and MS. Some well meaning friends sent me articles about how I needed to stop drinking diet soda and all my MS symptoms would disappear. Some sent me diet plans that they read had cured others from this dreaded disease. Through all of this, I watched a friend suffer as someone in his family continued to lose ground to this dreaded disease, eventually passing away from it. I concluded that if diet really could cure MS, just as some say diet can cure cancer, than no one would have MS (or cancer or thyroid issues or diabetes or any other ailment). As I read the aforementioned Facebook post, my inquiring antennae went up. This post mentioned a book written about depression. The title of the book is, “A Mind of Your Own: The Truth About Depression and How Women Can Heal Their Lives”. Its author is Kelly Brogan.

I won’t go into the bio of the author. Google her if you want to know more, but suffice it to say that she is a psychiatrist who has an active practice in New York City. The premise of the book is two-fold. In the first part, she lays out why antidepressants are not helpful, and in fact are most often dangerous, in the treatment of depression. This alone had my curiosity piqued as, most of you probably know by now, I have been on and off these drugs for twenty years or so. I can’t even remember all the names of the drugs I have taken over the years. The second part of the book is dedicated to a lifestyle diet that rids the body of inflammation–the basis, Dr. Brogan believes–for depression (and many other ailments for which doctors throw prescriptions at us). I clicked the link to be taken to her website where I could read the first chapter of the book. I was hooked. I knew I needed to own this book, sit and read it–devour it–and see if maybe there was some merit to what she proposed. Amazon Prime to the rescue! Two days later, I had the book in my hands.

As I worked my way through the first chapter, I felt an anger rising within me. It held a very similar vibe to the anger I felt after seeing the Vaxxed movie last month. It appears, just as in the case of vaccines, that pharmaceutical companies have been lying to the public about the safety and effectiveness of antidepressants. Dr. Brogan establishes just how little science knows about the human brain. It is a complex system that, I believe, will never be entirely understood by a finite man. Only an intelligent creator could design, and therefore completely know, such a complex system. I actually don’t think Dr. Brogan writes from a creationist viewpoint, so this is not a book that people can say, “Oh, you Christians think God relates back to everything.” What she does, and does well, is make a case for how little medical science does indeed know about our brains, and therefore, why it is dangerous to be playing around with drugs that can have permanent, and most likely unwanted, changes to them. One of the most obvious, yet most overlooked, aspect of medicine is cause. Doesn’t it make sense to desire to know the cause behind why something is happening? When my children were young and came home from outdoor play with tears, cries of pain, and swollen arms/wrists (yes, this happened many times in our home), I, as their loving parent, suspected they had broken a bone. That warranted a trip to a doctor–usually an emergency room since these things seldom happened between 8 and 5 on weekdays. I expected the doctor there to order x-rays to actually see the affected bone. Those x-rays more often than not showed the bone was indeed broken. It was only then that splinting and subsequent casting could take place. The doctor did not look at my children and say, “Well, it could be broken. We’ll throw a cast on it for 6-12 weeks and see if it feels better at the end of that time. If not, we’ll just add another cast.” Dr. Brogan states,

“The best approach to root cause resolution of symptoms comes from an understanding of the reasons why the body is responding in the way that it is.”

The ER doctor, once a break was confirmed, could then treat the break as well as the swelling that accompanied it. Yet, most doctors, upon suspecting a person is depressed, simply hand them a prescription for an antidepressant and tell them to come back in eight weeks for reevaluation. If, after a time, the depression is still present, the doctor will recommend adding a second antidepressant since the first one may need a boost. Seriously? What is causing the depression in the first place? Note: if you believe it is “low serotonin”, you need to read this book to find out why that explanation is bogus. The short version of that reason is that there is NO medical test out there to measure serotonin. Blood sugar can be measured. Cholesterol can be measured. White blood cells can be measured. Serotonin cannot be measured. The low serotonin crap paved the way for pharmaceutical companies to manufacture a variety of drugs to “treat” the low level of serotonin that was never measured to be low…yeah. I’d trust that. In fact, pharmaceutical companies finance more than 70% of FDA drug trials. Did you catch that? 70%! This sounds very similar to vaccine manufacturers funding vaccine studies as shown in the Vaxxed movie. It’s outrageous. It’s deceptive. And it’s angering. These pharmaceutical companies don’t tell you that once you start taking antidepressants, that there is a very strong likelihood that you will never be able to stop taking them. And each time you stop and start, it increases that chance of dependency even more. For someone like me, who has lived more than half her life already and has been on and off antidepressants for half of the years lived, it doesn’t look good to ever be free from the side effects suffered at the hands of antidepressants.

Unless one just gets tired of it all and says, “The hell with these pills. I am done with them.” Which is exactly the point I have reached. Without the advice of a doctor, and let’s be honest, none would recommend this since most receive some benefit from prescribing these drugs if nothing more than they keep patients coming back, I have stopped taking antidepressants after reading the first half of this book.

What is one to do then, you may wonder, if depression is a very real affliction?

That’s where the second part of the book comes in. To say it concisely, Dr. Brogan believes that depression is caused by inflammation in the body, specifically in the gut. More and more research is being done on the gut-brain connection. The typical American diet is full of highly inflammatory foods, including but not limited to grains, dairy, sugar, processed crap, fast food filled with chemicals we can’t even pronounce, food manufactured in a factory that is marketed as healthy and good for us. We fill our bodies with this pseudo-food and then wonder why we don’t feel well and experience disease. Dr. Brogan lays out a diet that she believes works to relieve inflammation which causes many health conditions to disappear. She is a psychiatrist so she mainly speaks to mental health conditions, but she does cite many cases where a patient has followed her diet and has found relief not only from mental health issues but also various physical health issues.

To be honest, I am finding this part of the book to be more difficult. In fact, as I sit here typing this, I have a diet coke on ice next to me. As humans, we like what we like and we want what we want. In addition, studies have shown that processed foods and sugar are highly addictive. I read somewhere that sugar is more addictive than heroin! Couple that addictive potential with our own selfishness and lack of self discipline, and you have a recipe for disaster. In order to “cure” my depression, according to this book, I need to cure the inflammation that is causing it. Inflammation is cured through diet; however, the yummy foods I love so much like pizza and ice cream, are not going to cure the inflammation I know is present. (I had a test done that measured inflammation and my number came back more than triple the normal range so I know inflammation is present in my body) It sounds so easy, yet it is ridiculously difficult. I love salads and proteins and fruits, but I also love bread and diet coke. I struggle so much with this concept that I have not been able to get through the chapters on diet yet.

Now, lest you think that I am no longer able to think straight, I will say that I believe disease will always be a part of life on earth. It’s part of living in a fallen world. There is a possibility that, even if I am able to stick to the diet plan recommended in this book, I will still be crushed under the weight of depression. If that is the case, then I question how much longer I will be on this earth, for the weight of this now is almost too much to bear. But, what if it is as “simple” as making different food choices? What if all I ate came only from the earth–plants, animals pasture raised and not hormone feed raised, seeds, fruits, and nuts? Could this be the answer to years of bouncing from one antidepressant to another with no benefit? It almost seems too easy.

No. It isn’t too easy. Eating clean is difficult. I am human and I want to feed my desire to be happy. Bread makes me happy. Pizza makes me happy. Diet Coke makes me happy. Alcohol makes me happy. Ice cream makes me happy. Carrot sticks? Not so much. I do know one thing, though–something has to change soon or I may not have the opportunity to try it and see if it works.

Posted in Culture, death, depression, MS | Leave a comment

Tired

I saw the above image while browsing Pinterest this week. It resonated with me right now because, if I had to use one word to describe how I am feeling, “tired” would hit the nail on the descriptive head. Living with chronic illness, I am no stranger to fatigue. The tiredness that comes with MS, as I’ve detailed before, is like swimming against an ocean current while wearing jeans. For me, depression adds more fatigue. That often leaves me feeling like I’ve added a parka to my ocean swimming adventure. There is a pretty good chance that my fatigue is exacerbated by the intense heat and humidity our area has been experiencing pretty much the entire summer. I imagine, though, that even without that added “joy”, I would still feel the way depicted in the graphic above.

Let’s dissect this.

  1. “Tired of trying”. I am tired of trying day after day to figure out why I am still here. If you wonder why I write that, go back one entry to the post on calculating worth. In addition, I do get tired of trying every day to get things accomplished with a body that  often refuses to follow even the simplest of commands. All in all, I am tired of trying.
  2. “Tired of hoping”. Ah, hope. A word that has the potential to propel one into action in the leanest of energy times. The problem with hope, though, is eventually hope runs out. Maybe some have unlimited patience and are able to hold out for hope for quite some time. Sadly, I am not in that camp. I’ve hoped for years that depression would release its death grip on me. I am tired of hoping.
  3. “Tired of Coping”. The variety of coping mechanisms out there are plentiful. I actually saw (on Pinterest again) a list of coping mechanisms recommended by therapists. There were over seventy-five items on the list that people could use to get through a difficult time. I’ve used my share of coping mechanisms over the years. Alcohol worked to ease the emotional pain; however, it brought with it so many unwanted results–the biggest one being my waistline. I lost thirty pounds when I quit drinking. Alcohol, though, is an effective, albeit expensive, coping mechanism. But coping gets old when one just wants to be free. I’m tired of coping.
  4. “Tired of Existing”. Most days I simply exist. I once had a purpose for existing. I had four children in five years (and one in heaven in that span as well). There were days I struggled to find time to shower or eat a meal. I remember falling into bed at night exhausted, yet unable to sleep because my head was swimming with details that needed to be remembered to make it through the next day. Those days are gone; with them, my days’ purpose. I get through most mornings okay, but by afternoons, I simply exist with no purpose to be here. I am tired of existing.
  5. “Tired of breathing”. Have you ever stopped to think about breathing? It is something so automatic that it goes unnoticed for the most part. I have just begun to notice breathing as I have started yoga in the mornings. When I find myself doing something that the world deems productive, I seldom think about breathing. But, in those times, and they take up the majority of my hours, that I am feeling like the world would be better off without me, breathing becomes a labored chore. I am tired of breathing.
  6. “Tired of living”. Yes, I am tired of living. At least tired of living like this. If you have ever walked through the slough of depression, maybe you understand how tiring it is to live day in and day out. A chronic illness will only add to that feeling of tiredness of life. I have lived more than half of my life (unless by some miracle I live to be one hundred). That means I have more to look back on than I have to look forward to. That’s a depressing thought in and of itself. Looking back only causes me to see all that I messed up. Right now, looking back means I see all that I didn’t do as a parent. Our kids don’t have happy memories of fun family vacations. They don’t have happy memories of their childhood home–they didn’t have one home for any length of time. These things haunt me. I am tired of living.
  7. “I’m done.”

This has been a difficult post to write. I wonder  how many even read the whole thing. I write truthfully–it is a promise I made to myself and one that I intend to keep. I don’t keep many promises to myself. I intend to keep this one. Depression wants nothing more than to snuff out my life. Many days I want to allow it to win. Most days actually. I have believed for a while that my life will end by my own hand. Why don’t I just give into it? Who would care? The answer to those questions form as a picture in my mind. That picture is a little boy who loves his Grammy very much. When depression whispers that I am not worth anything, and I mostly agree with it, I look at the lock screen of my phone and see the smiling face of a little boy with his feet in the water of a beach. I imagine that little boy as he gets older, baking cookies with Grammy in the kitchen or taking walks and collecting rocks. I imagine him giggling as he rides the little cars at an amusement park  or the stickiness of his little hands as ice cream drips off a cone on a warm summer day. I love him more than I love myself. That’s a good thing because if I didn’t, I don’t think I would be here right now. There are days that the battle is so strong that even all I just described is barely enough to keep me here. So far, though, I am still breathing.

Tired, but still breathing.

 

Posted in Change, Children, depression, empty nest, famiy, Grandma, Grandson, loneliness, MS, Parenting | Leave a comment

Calculating Worth

Each year around Mother’s Day, Salary.com releases what a stay at home mom would be paid if she carried out in corporate America all the tasks she is responsible for at home. Those tasks include, but are certainly not limited to, cook, baker, dishwasher, maid, laundress, seamstress, nurse, teacher, chauffeur, administrative professional, bookkeeper, plumber, repair person, gardener, buyer, interior designer…the list could go on. This year, that salary was calculated to be $118,905. This is an average. Some moms would earn more, maybe because they have many children or they homeschool full time, and some would earn less. Still, that’s a lot of money! Of course, while it may be nice to be validated that what you do is actually hard work and a dollar value makes it seem more real, the truth of the matter is, no bank account is ever increased because a mom stays home to raise and care for children and a home.

In the early years of our marriage, I worked outside the home. I worked full time for my dad at his gas station, I worked full time at a maternity store in a shopping mall, and I taught elementary school. (Which I only did because my mom graciously watched my firstborn for very little money) Upon discovering that I was pregnant with our second child, I knew my teaching days would be numbered. I didn’t want to give the majority of my time and energy to someone else’s children only to give my own children what was leftover at the end of the day. I loved teaching but felt that my call as a mom was more important. Financially, this was a very bad decision. My husband had a job that barely paid the bills. Okay. His job didn’t pay the bills, which is why a month before the birth of our daughter, we had to move in with my parents. We struggled financially our entire marriage. The job my husband does now did not exist back when he graduated from college. As a side note to that, he tells me what the new college hires make at his employer and I find myself very jealous. If he could have come out of college and made what those he is responsible for hiring today make, we would be in a MUCH better place than we are. But that didn’t happen.

As a stay at home mom, my days were long. I would find that I would just finish getting the kitchen cleaned up from breakfast and lunchtime was knocking to dirty it again. I would wash clothes nearly every day of the year. I distinctly remember one Christmas Eve evening muttering to myself that I must be the only mom who had to do laundry that night. The years came and went and our bank account never had a deposit put into it because of the work I did. As our children grew, so did the expenses that came along with having children. The expense of diapers and baby food gave way to the expense of sports and music lessons. For many years of our marriage we only had one vehicle. We couldn’t afford two and it was decided that I didn’t really need one anyway without a job to have to go to. But as the kids grew, the need for a vehicle was made apparent. That meant I would have to work. I got a job scoring standardized tests from states throughout the nation. While this enabled us to have a second vehicle, it did nothing for my workload but add to it. I was still responsible for all aspects of the home. Dinner did not make itself while I was at work all day. The dish fairy did not appear after dinner so I could relax some. Looking back, I marvel that I didn’t just drop over in exhaustion on more than one occasion!

Today, my life looks very different. My children are grown and have moved out of the nest. My husband’s field has exploded which, on one hand, has allowed us to have things we never had the opportunity to own before–new vehicles and furniture–and do things we never could before–weekend getaways to the beach for example. I have time on my hands that I dreamed about and longed for twenty years ago. But I can’t help but look at the salary for a stay at home mom and know that I am not worth that much anymore. There was a time that my time was important. If I didn’t cook dinner then there would be hungry kids in our house. If I didn’t drive them to soccer, their team would be a player short. If I didn’t do laundry, they would have nothing clean to wear. Now, none of those things are true. I have no kids to cook for, no one to drive to a soccer game, and while I still have some laundry to do, it doesn’t take me every day of the week anymore to get it done. In fact, even in our small, apartment size washer and dryer, I can all the laundry done in an afternoon. My husband says he still needs me, yet I know my worth isn’t nearly as high as it once was when there were five people who needed me. Throw in some health issues that limit some of what I can do, and I feel like maybe my worth is in the negative range–in other words, I cost more to keep around than I contribute.

Recently, I have really struggled with why I am here. My husband says he needs me, and I suppose in some ways he does, just as I need him. He needs me emotionally just as I need him that way, but I also need him in very tangible ways that he does not need me. He is the income provider and the health insurance subscriber. I am the person who sucks the income up paying healthcare bills for my illnesses. The deposits in the bank account come from a paycheck written to him; there are no deposits attributed to the working of my hands. When I had kids at home, even when I wasn’t working outside the home, I felt like I at least contributed to the household. That is just not the case anymore. Salary.com calculates the worth of a stay at home mom. No one calculates the worth of a stay at home-former-mom-whose-kids-have-all-grown-and-moved-out.

Is there worth to be calculated for me?

I’m not sure.

Posted in Children, depression, empty nest, famiy, loneliness, marriage, MS, Parenting | Leave a comment

Belong”ing”

I have been absent from writing for a little while. I never fret over such absences for a few reasons. First, I write for my own benefit. And, if I am to be brutally honest, the writing material that’s been flitting around in my brain over the last month or so has been pretty raw, pretty personal, and would put me at risk for further alienation from those around me. However, if I honestly write for my own benefit, I’m not sure why I care if others disagree or take offense to what I write. I’m still working through that one. A second reason that I don’t feel badly about my writing hiatuses is I know that few actually read what I write. Again, since I write for my own processing benefit, that doesn’t really bother me. Last night, as I was struggling through a somewhat intense panic attack, I started to think that I needed to write out some of my thoughts. My head is just too bogged down with the weight of pressing matters–both in my own life and in the world around me. So today, I decided that I need to get some of these thoughts out of my head so I can work through them as they flow off the tips of my fingers. I have never been hesitant to write how I feel, but this time, I find myself in that place of hesitancy. I’m sure there will be some who, if they read my words, will shake their heads in disapproval and even disagreement. As always, I am okay with that. I would welcome any opportunity to clarify myself and present evidence on my behalf if that is the case. Strange thing, though, is that most people just do the shaking of the head and never really seek to go deeper as to why I write what I write. That statement fits this post perfectly. As you can read, it is titled “Belong-‘ing'”…and that is something that, once again, has been plaguing my thoughts over the last few months.

A couple weeks ago, a Facebook friend posted a link about a conference for women that was scheduled for our area this coming fall. I had never heard of this particular conference so, like most modern-day-somewhat-technologically-savvy adults, I Googled it to get the scoop. The gist of the conference is that women were created for relationship. (This is a women’s conference so the website specified women–I don’t doubt that men are created for relationships as well) The website says, “Authentic relationships are key to a fulfilled life. We were made to engage each other.” The conference is named the “Belong Tour” and has a lineup of speakers that are well known in the Christian community.

Now, before I say anymore, I have to disclose the fact that I am not much of a conference person. I find them to be a lot of hype–something that gets you fired up for a while but eventually that fire starts to fade as real life is faced again. I have been to several conferences–both women’s and unisex–and also have a husband who has been to several men’s conferences. Each time, my above statement has played out as true. The hype lasts a little while, but it is soon forgotten as the pressures of life invade from all sides. I say this because I didn’t Google the conference with any interest in attending. I will admit, though, that I was curious given the name of the conference.

Belonging–it is something that every human being desires. No one (I think anyway) enjoys being in a group of people, whether that group be a few or many, and feeling like he or she does not belong there. It is uncomfortable and it wreaks havoc on one’s self worth to be the obvious “unwanted” person in the group. Yes, I say unwanted because I truly believe that to often be the case. Maybe not always, but often enough that the use of that word can be justified. I liken it to the new kid in a private school. (Yes, that was me at one point in my life) Friendships are already formed and the new person is viewed as an outsider, maybe even a threat in some ways. Will this new kid be better at ___________ than the reigning king or queen of that activity? Will the new kid wow teachers and other students to take over popularity? Most of my life I have not belonged when forced to be with groups of people. From being the new kid at a private high school to church situations, belonging has never been something I sensed as a quality of mine. When a lengthy bout with depression and illness is added to the equation, it only intensifies that sense of not belonging. Many say they want to walk the difficult road with you, but like Christian’s “friends” in Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, when the road turns out to be longer than expected or more difficult than at first anticipated, the friends who pledged to walk the difficult road soon disappear. With these experiences shaping so much of how I think, perhaps you can understand why I laughed at the concept of a whole conference pushing the idea that we are created for authentic relationships and that said relationships are actually possible.

Now, before you jump to the conclusion that it must be my own fault for not having such relationships, I will tell you that on many occasions I have tried. In fact, my husband and I were discussing this topic because of an e-mail we received from church. I know that often my thoughts are unique to me, and when that happens, I am the first to admit that I am probably wrong or overthinking something. But in this case, my husband agreed with me, saying that he is not sure we can find authentic relationships with other Christians. I have struggled even more with this since moving sixteen months ago. A recent Facebook post of mine garnered interest only from the friends I left behind in the town where we lived for twelve years. When I posted it, I told my husband that would probably be the case. We both smiled when that actually happened, but at the same time we were both somewhat frustrated and hurt. We agree that we have tried to build new relationships but our efforts were not reciprocated. Of course, people are busy. I know my husband has a busy schedule as well, but still, the truth is people make the time for what is important to them. I often feel like crap, but if one of my kids needs me, I give 125% effort to be there for them. Sometimes I have to force myself to get out of bed and my energy level is depleted after the “work” of showering and getting dressed. It’s worth it to me, though, because I care about my kids and their spouses and my grandson enough to borrow energy from tomorrow to be used to help them with whatever they need.

I don’t know if I will ever really know what it is to belong anywhere. Every Sunday morning, I fight with myself to go to church, knowing that most likely I will not feel well and will see many I know with few conversations. I tell myself that I don’t go to church to socialize but rather to grow deeper in my walk with Christ. And even though I wholeheartedly believe that, there is still a slight sting each week as I leave with the feeling that I just don’t belong there.

A friend once told me that in reality, no follower of Christ “belongs” here since this world is not our home. I often remind myself of that fact and look forward to the day that the feeling of not belonging is gone–when I am done being locked up in the prison inside my own head and instead live in a place where I truly don’t matter–only God does. Until then, I think I’ll continue to pass on conferences that, although they mean well, simply reinforce the fact that I don’t belong. Buddy the Elf said it best as he contemplated jumping off the bridge into the Hudson River below: “I don’t belong here. I don’t belong anywhere.”

Note: I know there are a few people who will read this and think, “But I do want you around.” I know that–and I know who the few of you are. And I thank you from the bottom of my heart for being my true friend.

Posted in CHURCH, Community, depression, famiy, Grandson, loneliness, moving, MS | Leave a comment