Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Too Young To Be So Old

I've spent the last year trudging through injection after injection, new xrays and MRIs, appointments with surgeons, primary doctors, chiropractors, and pain management only to wind up exactly where I started.  Last October, I had another MRI done of my spine, as my pain had been increasing again to the point where it was interfering with my daily life.  I recently completed a set of injections called RFA, or radio frequency ablations.  This was a last ditch effort, really to find a solution to pain, short of surgery of some kind.  When I saw my surgeon back in March, he told me that the only real option was to operate and do a discectomy and fusion at C2-3 and C3-4 in my neck, while pain management told me that my last option was to have a pain pump or neuro-stimulator surgically implanted in my spine. 

Sunday, September 30, 2018

I'm Crazy, Right?

I want to state upfront that I'm not actually looking for anyone to tell me that I am not crazy.  I am just curious if anyone else out there, especially people who battle anxiety, understand the situation I'm going to describe below and the array of feelings that arise from it.

There was an "incident" tonight.  Sometimes I wonder at what point will Kris finally say, "Oh my gosh, you really are crazy!" and then decide he's had enough?  When I'm calm and rational (yes, it does happen...occasionally...), I know the answer.  He will never reach a point where he thinks he just can't deal with me anymore. That man will stand by my side, always.  No matter what.  If our story is any indicator, his capacity to love and forgive and continue to want a life with me even after being profoundly hurt is proof enough.

Why then, if I know that, do I completely lose my mind the moment he expresses agitation or frustration with me?  He deals with my crazy extremely well.  Most of the time.  But in those few and far between moments where he isn't in complete control of how he reacts to my irrationality, I just can't deal with it.  It literally feels like the end of my world.

Perhaps part of it has to do with the fact that the only reason I "lose" my mind is due to extreme anxiety.  It's never a direct reaction to feelings about Kris or something specific he has said or done.  It's not him.  It's me and this damn anxiety that will not leave me alone.  For a lot of years, especially early in our marriage, I thought there was something innately wrong with me.  I would have these irrational reactions to what appear to be very minor situations, and I beat myself up because no "normal" human being would be so bent out of shape over minute changes, would they?

For example, tonight's meltdown was brought on by a simple comment Kris made.  The simple fact (though there's a little more to it) is this:

The show I was watching ended, and he was sitting down to eat, so he said something like, "Did you want to watch Atypical?"

And I literally lost my mind.  I went from feeling fine one second to a state of extreme panic in another.  I will readily admit that I am not even close to nice when everything feels out of control.  I say things I don't mean, I'm extremely short and sarcastic, or I say things that don't have anything to do with what I'm really upset about.  And instead of just telling Kris that I didn't want anything about what I was doing in that moment to change, because that would be RATIONAL, it got really tense, really fast.

Why did I immediately go into a tailspin that ended up with Kris leaving the room and me walking out of the house?

For me, it is never as simple as saying, "No, I'd rather keep watching what I was watching before you came into the room."  There were so many other thoughts going through my head in the moment:

#1.  You love Aytpical - why are you offended by him suggesting you watch it with him?
#2.  You're being irrational and there is no reason this should make you upset.
#3.  You are married and need to bend, and you should compromise and do something he wants to do.
#4.  Why are you so inflexible?
#5.  You're selfish and should not be feeling this bent out of shape over a TV show.
#6.  Don't speak. Don't speak. Don't speak.
#7.  Why did you speak?  I told you not to.  You just made everything worse.
#8.  Oh look, you've gone and really made him mad.  Good job, idiot.
#9.  You're literally an insane person who doesn't know how to have normal human interactions.
#10. You've made him so mad he doesn't love you anymore and can't possibly want to keep doing this over and over again with you.

Look, I'm not making this stuff up.  And I know how ridiculous it sounds.  How ridiculous it actually is.  Even within the irrational thinking, I have rational thoughts.  But I do not know how to express anything at all, or how to deal with how disrupted a simple suggestion to watch a different TV show makes me feel.

So Kris, very clearly upset (and rightly so because I'm a child when it comes to communication in these moments) left the room.  And then the turmoil inside of me escalated.  I felt trapped.  Like I wanted to crawl out of my skin, or jump off of a bridge, or drive away and never come back.  I felt stupid also, because I knew that my reaction was irrational.  And yet, I couldn't escape how on edge I was feeling.  As much as I wanted to just be "okay," I didn't know how.  I had to physically move, or do something to counter the intense pressure I felt building inside me.  My world was spinning out of control.

I felt like if I didn't move, I would explode.  So I put the dog on his leash and went for a walk.  For the first few minutes, I was indignant.  And I was thinking, why can't Kris just be more understanding and compassionate?  This is not the first time we have been in a situation like this.  Kris makes a comment or suggestion, or implies something, and it is disruptive to me.  And then I thought, "You idiot!  That man has been more patient, more understanding, and more selfless in five minutes than you'll be in your entire life."  So then I went from being mad at him for not being 100% compassionate and understanding every single minute of every day, to kicking myself for not feeling capable of just switching direction and taking him up on his offer or suggestion, or what sometimes feels like a passive-aggressive way to get me to do what he wants.

He's not actually being passive-aggressive.  I just feel like he is.  That led to me thinking, "Why can't he just ask?  If he wants to watch Atypical, why can't he just say that he would like to watch Atypical with me?"  And if he would just word it differently and give me a chance to control the next step, would it matter?  Would I be capable of being flexible if he put the control in my hands, instead of making a suggestion that leaves me feeling off balance and like my world is spinning out of control?  I honestly don't know.  I like to think that there is a less disruptive way to tell me that he wants to watch a show with me.  Or that if he would give me some warning or time to adjust, I would be okay and able to change my plans to do something that he wants to do instead of it always having to be about me.

What seems reasonable to me would be for Kris to give me some advance warning.   Send me a chat to prep me for the fact that my expectation for how my night was going to play out might be changing.  Outside of the moment, I can see it from his perspective.  He isn't working on bills or taxes or work anymore (which he had been doing for several hours already).  He wants to eat, and he wants to spend time with me, watching a show we mutually enjoy, because while he can be alone, he does not enjoy it nearly as much as I do and he requires more human interaction than I do because he actually likes people.

But in the moment, that isn't how it played out in my mind.  This was my version of reality:

He had spent several hours working downstairs and in general, I need time alone sometimes to just do my own thing.  I would have been perfectly content to keep doing my own thing for another couple of hours, until the kids went to bed and we could spend our evening just the two of us.  He had also turned on a video game in our room and this made me feel safe and not guilty for wanting to spend some more time alone.  I just assumed that he would stay in our room for a bit.  So when his pizza was done, I actually thought he had taken it into our room to eat and play his game.  It all felt very safe to me.

So, when he suddenly appeared and sprung the news on me that everything I thought above was completely wrong (simply by suggesting we watch something together), I no longer felt safe.  I suddenly felt like my world was spinning out of control.  And in the midst of that, I'm feeling intense pressure to switch directions and immediately change my expectation for how my night was going to play out.  I know that I am inflexible, and if I can't deal with that type of "switch" in the moment, it is going to create a problem and I really don't intend to make Kris' life MORE difficult.  I am not much of a helpmate to him if he is always the one who has to adjust his expectations and compromise.  So let's just throw some good old fashioned guilt in there too for good measure.

I honestly think it has more to do with feeling this huge pressure to adjust right in that moment that does me in.  If I had some time to prepare, I could adjust my expectations and be open to doing something with him, when I originally thought I was going to be alone.  But we don't live in a world where Kris can give me a 30 minute heads up any time he wants to do something with me.  I have learned a few things about myself over the last two decades.  One of those is that I desperately need time to adjust if my plan for how something will go is changing, if it is to occur without any conflict or tension or misunderstanding.  It isn't always realistic.  I know that I can't live my life like that - always having advanced warning any time anything at all in my life is going to change. 

So that's it  That's where I'm at tonight.  No grand conclusion or profound words.  Just a look inside my crazy mind.





Thursday, September 27, 2018

Drowning

Have I ever mentioned I'm tired of my spine?  I'm exhausted from hurting all the time and having to put on a smile and pretend that I feel better than I do.  While I hate "faking it," with regards to my pain, I've learned the no-so-subtle art of grinning and bearing it.  Some days I think it's more obvious that I am miserable, but most days, I am able to portray that I am feeling better than I am.  And if you see me and I look like I'm not feeling great, it is almost a guarantee that I feel about fifty times worse than I look like I feel.

This faking it has not been without it's own drawbacks - namely being increased anxiety and most recently, despondency.  I finally broke down and went to the doctor today and asked for something to help me deal with the panic attacks and constant anxiety I can't seem to shake.  I was on a LOT of Xanax for a long time, many years ago.  While it was extremely effective, I was eating it like candy by the end and wanted to get off of it, as I felt like it was controlling my life.  So I have just been managing my anxiety on my own for the last six and a half years.  And it was going pretty well.  But it has now become unmanageable again and I asked my doctor for something to help.  I can't ride in or drive a car without extreme fear and panic, I'm jumpy all the time, and leaving the house and socializing is its own special horror (among other things).  I've never wanted to be a hermit more than I do right now.

Today has been a rough day.  I almost didn't have it in me to go into the office, but I've missed too much work lately due to pain/injections/anxiety that I just didn't think I could deal with disappointing anyone else today.  And some of that is just me projecting how I think I look or am perceived by others, but it isn't "me."  It's not the kind of person I have always prided myself on being, but more often than not lately, I feel like I am letting everyone down, because I expect better of myself.

But I don't know how much longer I can keep this up.  There's no quick fix.  There's no easy out.  I don't know what the future holds and I am struggling to surrender it all.  It all feels too big, and too complex.

I *know* that God is bigger than this.

I *know* that He can carry me through this.

But I can't see how and I can't feel it right now, in this moment.

So today, I'm giving myself permission to just *be* and hope that the truth behind the song below will start to sink in and permeate my soul.  Because everything I am hearing from my own thoughts and fears right now contradicts what my heart knows and has experienced before.  Lord I believe; help my unbelief.



Thursday, September 20, 2018

Asking For Help - The Impossible Tasks

A friend and I were talking recently about impossible tasks.  She had read an article which detailed a conversation that took place on Twitter and went viral.  It had to do with depression and every day tasks that are impossible for some of us.  I didn't actually read the article until today.  When I did, I thought, "Wait...this is...normal?"

I had no idea that other people struggled with this.  For some, depression manifests itself as sleeping all day, withdrawing from others, anxiety, and any other number of things.  I don't sleep well at all, so my depression has never come out in the form of sleeping all the time. 

When my friend and I were talking (and she was telling me about her list of impossible tasks and how she tries to do one of them each day), I thought the article was about making a list and trying to do those things.  I did not realize that the whole point of the article was that there are a ton of other people who struggle with completing seemingly simple tasks.

I have beat myself up for so many years over my own impossible tasks.  I have concluded that I am lazy or somehow less than all the other "normal" people out there who don't struggle to take kids to the doctor or worse, make a phone call just to schedule an appointment.  I have held on to tremendous guilt over being incapable most days to complete even the simplest things.

And now here is someone telling me that it's okay that I have impossible tasks and what's more, there are so many other people out there battling with this same thing.  Not only that, the author of the tweets was basically saying that's it's okay to have these impossible tasks, and it's okay if I don't do anything on my list. 

I put SO much on my husband already.  He takes care of nearly everything that requires us to function as adults.  And the thought of asking him to help with one more thing is in its own way, an impossible task. 

This latest bout of depression I've been battling for the last several months has manifested itself in extreme anxiety and the inability to complete impossible tasks.  Here are a few of my impossible tasks:

Call to schedule appointments of any kind (for myself or my family)
Drive kids where they need or want to be
Call my mom (or really anyone for that matter)
Put my clothes away
Socialize, even in a work setting
Take a shower/wash my hair
Be kind
Talk (most days when I do force myself to get up and get into the office, it takes all of my energy just to speak to people)
Go to the grocery store
Ask for help

Sometimes I think I get so wrapped up in all the things I can't or don't do that I forget who God says that I am.  Sometimes, especially when I'm drowning in that darkness that goes hand in hand with depression, it's hard to even keep my head above water, let alone find confidence or reaffirm who I really am.  These lies take over and I can't hear the truth and it's exhausting to even take another step, let alone trust God and remind myself of who I am in him.

I think that's why the song below comes to mind.  In some of my lowest moments, this song brings me comfort.  Because sometimes just knowing you're not alone is an impossible task.

Let me know that You hear me
Let me know Your touch
Let me know that You love me
Let that be enough



Monday, September 10, 2018

Speak Up

I've gone back and forth about whether or not I would share this here.  Or if I should share it anywhere, really.  There is a delicate balance between being vulnerable and transparent and knowing when to stay silent.  But as Kris reminds me, writing is cathartic for me, this blog is a ministry and so here goes--maybe this is just for me, but maybe someone needs to know someone else understands.

Yesterday marked the start of National Suicide Prevention Week.  While I myself have never attempted suicide, I would be lying if I said that I haven't had those dark thoughts that take people down that path.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

When Life Happens

In early July, I began a post to talk about the death of Kris' dad.  He died suddenly in June.  Not so suddenly that we didn't get to spend his last three days by his side - but his illness was unexpected, and he went downhill quickly.  It was a turbulent time, to say the least.  Kris and I were already dealing with some heavy family stuff, two different situations back to back that rocked us and left us feeling confused and sad and honestly, like failures and beaten down.

Both situations were ones we had absolutely no control over, and yet we managed to feel the weight of guilt anyway and wondered if we could have done something different.  In August, I finally came to terms with it and believe that there is nothing we could have done to prevent any of it.  But it doesn't change the disappointment and heartache we felt at the time.  And in the grand scheme of things, those issues were just a blip on the radar.  They didn't impact us day to day - they were just things that went against the expectations we always just had.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

I Thought I Was Finished

This time is of year is always an emotional one for me.  We're approaching Good Friday, which marks a new start to life I was given.  It leaves me feeling vulnerable and open - which sounds bad, but in reality, it's a good place for me to be.  It's real.  It's the place where my heart is most tender and responsive, the way God always intended it to be.  I wish that I could say I have come to a place where I am always in that mindset.  Where I am always living like today is my Good Friday from six years ago.  But in this broken world, with pain and distractions, it just isn't the reality I'm living in.  It's what I strive for, but it isn't what I have achieved.  I may not while in this temporary life.

2018 has been a weird year so far.  When I look back over these first three months, and where I've been, it's just been weird to me.  I started out the year with this burden to surrender.  To really truly surrender the pain, the fear, the hurt, the control.  And as my last post can attest, I have struggled with this.  I have given into despair at times.  I have felt alone.  I have felt fear.  I have felt anxiety.  I have become distracted with everything else.  And yet, God has sent me these little reminders of what he asked me for - surrender.

I thought I knew what that would entail.  I thought it just meant that I needed to try to keep my focus on God and allow him to guide me through the good and the bad times.  But lately, I've been feeling something more is being asked.  I couldn't quite put my finger on it in January or February.  When I look back on what I thought it meant, really, I think I thought it would be easier.  I thought it would require more than I was giving, but less than I am coming to realize may be required.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Where Pain Has Left Me

Today I was talking to my sister-in-law, Carrie, about my physical pain. I have spent the last 7 days in bed, with the exception of a trip to the ER and a trip to the doctor a few days after that.

I have been dealing with physical pain now for 14 years. Yes. Fourteen. It's not just some mild ache. Most of the time, it's brutal. It's no longer a case where I have good days and bad days. This past year, it is more realistic to say that I have some bad days, some really, really bad days, and then every now and again, I have a day where the pain isn't the first thing on my mind-it's an "ok" day. There are rare moments where the pain is less horrible than all the other days. Days where every thought, every decision, every step is not overshadowed completely by pain.

I am in pain when I wake up. I am in pain all day. I am in pain when I go to bed. I am in pain all night. What a lot of people see on the outside is a mask. It's a way to cope. I don't always look like a person who is constantly reminded that her physical body is worn down and deteriorating at a rapid rate. I can pretend and put on that facade like the rest of the world. The one that most days says everything is great! Or, at the very least, the one that doesn't show I feel a lot worse inside than I look on the outside.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Striving to Surrender

On Friday, I began a very time-intensive project at work. Between yesterday and today I have put in 21 hours, most of them on this project. It is finally drawing to a close and as I got in my car to leave work, I was so relieved thinking about going home and NOT working tonight. I even thought, "Hey, maybe I'll write something." I have the radio pre-set in my car to JoyFM. I thought about turning a book on to listen to on the drive home. But then the song Control by Tenth Avenue North came and and I just love that song. So, I decided I would just leave it and listen to music on the way home. The song immediately reminded me of that word I wrote about-the one for 2018 that was on my heart. 

Surrender. 

What better reminder than a song named Control that talks solely about giving up control! I felt such a strong sense of comfort listening to that tonight. I was convinced that when I got home I would write about that song and share it. 

I was wrong.

Three songs into my drive home, a slow and rhythmic song began playing. I instantly sat up a little straighter and listened a little harder, as I tend to do when a song comes on that I know I've never heard before. I glanced at the stereo and saw it was Hillsong. And my first thought was "That's pretty, but where is the build?" 

Do you know what I'm talking about?

That build that tends to always exist in a song by a worship band?

The one where the melody tends to repeat over and over, and eventually leads into bigger music swells and profound lyrics?

That's the build I am talking about.

The one that I hoped would exist in this song.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

gracefully broken

For about a week, I have been hearing just the tail end of a song on JoyFM.  In an attempt to be intentional about surrender, I determined that I would:

#1. Actually take a lunch break.

#2. Listen to the song on my lunch break. 

As I was getting on my phone to turn Gracefully Broken by Matt Redman on, it just came on the radio!  So as I sit here in my car, taking an actual lunch break, I'm grinning because I'm not surprised at all by God's gentle (and not so subtle) reminder to slow down and surrender.