Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Heavy

Heavy is a good word to describe how I am feeling.  You know, I look at certain things we go through in life and I think, "How in the world do people cope without God, or some sort of higher something when things are hard?"  Because I'm telling you, if I didn't have faith in God and that one day there will be a place with no more pain, I don't think I would want to keep living.  What would be the point?  If there is no God, and if there is nothing else after death, where would the motivation be to continue living in a broken and fallen world, that seems to bring more pain than anything else?  And my pain is so trivial compared to what some people are facing right now.  Cancer.  Death of a child.  Death of a parent.  Financial struggles.  Divorce.  And so many other things.

I had my follow up appointment today with pain management.  I was to tell them how I did with the pain pump trial and give them a percentage of how much better I was feeling after the injection of a hefty dose of Dilaudid into my lower back.

I know what you're thinking:  But your pain is in your neck, isn't it?

Yes.  It is.  The highest level they can inject the medicine into the spinal fluid is L2 or L3.  I don't know how familiar you are with the spine, but there are a total of 29 vertebrae that make up the spine.  There are 5 vertebrae in the neck (cervical), and this is where MOST of my pain is.  Then you have 12 vertebrae in the thoracic spine (top-mid back), 5 in the lumbar (low back) and 5 in the sacral (tailbone area).  I have bulging discs at the top of my neck (C2-3 and C3-4).   There is also a herniated disc that has been there for at least 5 years at T3-4 but the surgery is too risky so I just live with the pain from that one.

So with the pain pump trial they inject medicine directly into the spinal fluid, but for some reason, they CANNOT place it any higher than the lumbar spine.  There are a total of about 18 or so vertebrae between where the medicine was placed, and where the bulk of my pain is.  And yet, they still believed it would be worth it to see if I could get relief.  Well, the bottom line is this.  There was NO change.  No improvement.  No relief.  At all.  In fact, I wound up with a bad headache and pain down my arm, not to mention beginning symptoms of withdrawal because I had to be off of my pain pill before the procedure.

When I talked to the doctor today, and expressed how I felt no change at all, he said that either the pain pump would not work for me because the pain was muscular/joint-related, OR the medicine just wasn't able to get up high enough to reach where my pain is the worst.  So, I COULD possibly proceed and have the pain pump implanted in the hopes that when the catheter is in the right place and releasing medicine directly to the affected areas in my neck, I could maybe get relief.  But even he thought that was a bad idea, because I responded so poorly to the trial.

Where does that leave me?  There's one option left (outside of just continuing to suffer, addicted to pain medicine).  I can try the trial for the neuro-stimulator.  I have written about this before.  I chose to do the pain pump trial first, because my doctor said they have perfected the pain pumps and while the neuro-stimulators have come a long way, they aren't as widely used and studied as the pain pumps.  And now, that is basically what he is recommending.  Do the trial and see if I can get relief from that, before giving up hope.

I asked him what difference it would make, if the pain pump trial was ineffective.  He explained that with the neuro-stimulator, they actually inject these wires into my neck.  These wires are connected to a battery pack thing that transmits electronic pulses that can (apparently?) help with pain.  Because my pain is up in my neck, he thinks that maybe this will offer relief.  Everything really is just trial and error.  There's no easy answer.  So, because I don't know what else to do, I have this trial scheduled for April 30th.  It is a week long trial-they send me home with these wires hanging out of my neck and I am not clear if I administer the pulses or if it is timed.  But I wear that for a week, and then I go back to have the wires removed and tell them if I had any relief.  IF, and that's a big IF, I get relief, they will schedule surgery.

The doctor said he was hopeful.  I told him he would have to be hopeful for the both of us, because I just couldn't feel it in the moment.  By the time I got to my car, I just started feeling this weight begin to press down on me.

I couldn't shake it.  I dropped off my prescription (which apparently has been delayed surprise surprise due to insurance issues) and went to get myself my favorite tea from my favorite place, QuikTrip.  I had to fight to keep it together in the store because that weight just would not let up.  It kept pressing and I knew I was going to lose it.  I've felt the breakdown coming since last night.

And this is what brings me back to how I started this post.  I don't know how people do it without God.  I don't know, mentally, how people can cope.  I just don't get it.  Because here is what happened.  As soon as I got in my car, the radio started playing a song called "Oh My Soul" by Casting Crowns.  The tears that I had been fighting back just started flowing.  I just closed my eyes and listened to the words, all the while, tears were streaming down my cheeks.  The despair didn't go away.  The frustration didn't suddenly disappear.  But that crushing weight I was feeling lightened a little.  I believe in God and I believe that He loves me and that He sees me, and that He suffers as I suffer.  He sees my pain and he wants to comfort me.  He wants me to lean on him and know that I am not strong enough, but He is.  And He communicates this to me through music over and over and over, and usually exactly when I need it, before despair overwhelms me completely.

Maybe you're struggling right now.  Whatever it is, take a few moments to close your eyes and listen to this song, or read the lyrics while you listen.  Do I feel suddenly happy?  No. I don't.  I feel much the same.  Except that my load was lightened just a little and I know that I can put my hope and trust in One who loves me more than I could imagine.



Oh, my soul
Oh, how you worry
Oh, how you're weary, from fearing you lost control
This was the one thing, you didn't see coming
And no one would blame you, though
If you cried in private
If you tried to hide it away, so no one knows
No one will see, if you stop believing

Oh, my soul
You are not alone
There's a place where fear has to face the God you know
One more day, He will make a way
Let Him show you how, you can lay this down
'Cause you're not alone

Here and now
You can be honest
I won't try to promise that someday it all works out
'Cause this is the valley
And even now, He is breathing on your dry bones
And there will be dancing
There will be beauty where beauty was ash and stone
This much I know

Oh, my soul
You are not alone
There's a place where fear has to face the God you know
One more day, He will make a way
Let Him show you how, you can lay this down

I'm not strong enough, I can't take anymore
(You can lay it down, you can lay it down)
And my shipwrecked faith will never get me to shore
(You can lay it down, you can lay it down)
Can He find me here
Can He keep me from going under

Oh, my soul
You're not alone
There's a place where fear has to face the God you know
One more day, He will make a way
Let Him show you how, you can lay this down
'Cause you're not alone

Oh, my soul, you're not alone

Monday, April 8, 2019

Distracted and Disconnected

I've spent the better part of a year distracted.  For the first time in the last seven years, I haven't felt as close to God.  I haven't felt far from him.  Just not close.  Not like I was.

I've allowed the circumstances of my life to get in the way.  My priorities shifted.  It happened so subtlety that it has taken me almost a year to recognize it.  I've allowed my pain to take the wheel, controlling my emotions, my body, my heart.  I have been worn and discouraged.  I have become utterly exhausted, fighting against a failing body I cannot control.  And the mental toll that has taken over the last year has been frustrating, to say the least. 

Pain is all I think about.  My life revolves around it.  This is the evening before I go in for what they call a "pain pump trial."  It will determine whether or not having pain pump implanted will be beneficial and allow me to live life again.

But focused on pain as I have been, it doesn't leave much room for God.  Kris and I were talking recently about how easy it is to just veg out and watch TV or play games.  It takes literally no effort or thought.  But the good stuff, the truly beneficial things take time and effort.  And when you are exhausted, the last thing you want to do is...DO.  You just want to BE.

We get this idea in our heads that it is WORK to draw close to God.  And it is work, in the sense that it requires that you be intentional.  You know the end result will be peace and fulfillment, and yet it always just seems so hard to spend time with God.  Maybe it's because we have these preconceived notions that spending time with God looks a certain way.  You know, reading your Bible for hours on end, praying nonstop, things that are really just not attainable.  We have these expectations for what it should look like and we always make it harder than just sitting there and being in God's presence.  Because even in resting in God, we feel like we have to DO something.

Kris is really good at this need to DO something.  To FIX things.  When I'm upset, he wants to do something.  When what I really need is for him to take me in his arms and tell me he's there and that it'll be okay.  I know this.  I know that is what I need.  So, why do I think that in order to rest in God I have to run myself ragged with different exercises proving that I am capable of making God a priority?

When I first came back to God (7 years ago!), there was something so special and intimate about just sitting and listening to songs that spoke words of hope and life, songs that reminded me that I was very broken, and very loved by God.  And somehow, as the years have come and gone, I've gone back to this legalistic view of what spending time with God is.  It isn't about reading the Bible all the time, or praying nonstop.  Those things are great, of course.  I'm not saying we don't need to do those things.  But for me, those things aren't even on my radar when I'm not already resting, just allowing God to lavish his love and kindness on my heart.  For me, it's done through music.  If I can sit and veg on the latest episode of Sister Wives (don't judge me - or do - I don't care), why can't I just cue up an hour of songs that I KNOW speak to my heart and just rest?  Just listen to the words and BE.

Isn't that the crazy thing?  I KNOW what my heart needs.  And it's not even hard to do.  And yet, I feel this resistance.  A voice inside (likely from my enemy) says "but that's so much work.  It would be so much easier to just turn the TV on."  And I'm like, "yeah you're right, that is easier," and then three hours later it's time to go to bed, and I'm left still feeling disconnected.

Does anyone else find yourself in this endless cycle of knowing you need to spend time with God because it is literally the only thing that can soothe your soul, but then you get distracted by something else, something far less fulfilling, and you just focus on that?  And then you feel guilty because just like anything we use to cope with pain or just life, it is empty?  There is no hope in drugs or alcohol, sex or food.  There is, at best, momentary pleasure.  It never lasts.  There is no peace in those things.  Not really.  We like to think there is - but five minutes or an hour of distraction or numbing the pain is not the same as peace, is it?  No.  It's not.

So as Good Friday and Easter approaches, thankfully I find myself longing for that closeness with God again.  I can tell it has been missing from my life.  It was on Good Friday seven years ago that the Cross became real to me.  That I finally understood its purpose and the part Jesus wanted to play in my heart and life.  And I miss that feeling of being so completely broken and overwhelmed with gratitude for what God has given me, done for me, and forgiven me of.  I'm not going to make a vow or goal and say from now on this and that...it would be empty.

I'm just simply going to try today to stay focused on what really matters.  And hopefully, I can wake up tomorrow and do it again.  While the song I am sharing today isn't really on topic, it is one that I have been hearing a lot lately that speaks to what I really want from my life.  I don't want people to look at me and think she was this or did that, or she loved her kids or her marriage was restored.  When people look at me, I just want them to see Jesus.  Because that's all that matters.



Thursday, January 31, 2019

A Mother's Heart

I have spent the last 18 years raising kids, and more often than not, being absolutely terrified that I will be the reason why my kids need years and years of therapy just to lead happy and healthy lives.  I have spent so much time fretting and second guessing myself, and worrying.  Wondering if saying this or doing that will ruin their childhoods.  I want my kids to have good memories when they look back at their childhood.  I want them to see that yeah, I made mistakes.  I failed.  Many times.  I yelled too much.  I was too edgy too often, regardless of the legitimate pain and anxiety and depression behind it all.  But I don't want them to only remember that.

I want them to remember that when I failed, when I yelled or made them cry, and it was done out of anger of something else unjustified, that I said I'm sorry.  That I acknowledged where I had made mistakes and I apologized.  That I made amends.  That I squared my shoulders and tried harder to do it right next time.  That I failed again, and that I owned it, once again. 

I don't live with the delusion that they won't remember any bad times.  That's not what I'm talking about.  I want them to see good, even in the bad times.  I want them to see redemption.  I want them to know that I tried.  I tried so hard to do it right.  And I want them to know that I know that I didn't always live up to their expectations.  I certainly don't live up to my own, which I admit are likely unattainable.

I want my kids to always feel like they can talk to me about anything, even if it is something they have done that they know is wrong, or that they think will disappoint me.  I want them to know they have a safe place to fall, and a safe place to fall apart.  I want them to look at me, their mother, and think, "God she really does love me."

I live in fear though.  And a lot of times, I believe the lies that say I'm never going to have my kids look at me and think I was a good mom.  I can't seem to silence the lies.  They play over and over again in my head, and I can't make them stop.  It doesn't seem to matter that my girls tell me I'm a good mom and that they love talking to me and that they feel like I am a friend.

The real issue is my son.  And I have spent 17 years wondering how I did everything so wrong with him.  And I worry that the first 7 months I didn't bond with him as a baby have profoundly affected him.  That because he wasn't nurtured at such an early age, he has never felt safe.  He has never felt loved by me.  And the most frustrating thing is that I can't go back and change the postpartum depression that prevented me from bonding with him the way any good mother would. 

It doesn't matter what I know.  It doesn't matter that I understand that postpartum depression is a real thing.  All I can fall back on when times get tough (which are far more often than not) is that maybe, just maybe if I had been able to bond with him sooner, I wouldn't have caused him to struggle with the things he struggles with.  Fear.  Anxiety,  Insecurity.  Feeling like he will never be good enough.

If I have to boil my fear down to one single thing, it would be the fear that ANY of my children would wrestle with believing they are not good enough.  That my love is conditional.  I have spent my entire life as a mother hoping and praying and trying to protect them from ever feeling like that.  I know that feeling and it profoundly affected my life and the choices I made from adolescence on. 

And so when I see my son already wrestling with that very thing, I try to think back and determine where I went wrong.  What did I do that I shouldn't have?  What didn't I do that I should have?  And I can try to tell myself that I couldn't have changed anything.  That sometimes people just have something born in them that leaves the vulnerable to feeling like they can never measure up.  But in my heart, if I'm being honest, I have never let go of that fear that tells me if I had just been able to feel something for him as a tiny baby, I could have prevented this.

Maybe what is so frustrating.is the fact that even if that's true, even if his struggle is a direct result of my struggle early on in his life, there is literally nothing I can do to change it.  I can't go back and undo it.  No matter how fiercely I love him now and have from infancy (once my depression was treated) and on, no matter how much I want it, I have no control.  So if this is a direct result of that, I can't make it better.  I can't fix it.  Do you know how frustrating that is?  I'm sure some of you do.  I am certain I am not the only mother out there feeling like a complete failure and heartbroken that I cannot fix it.

Even if it isn't my fault (which I question-not out of self-pity or anything like that but out of legitimate beliefs that bonding with a baby has an affect on them), I can't fix it.  As a parent, you will do absolutely everything within your power to protect your child.  You will go to hell and back if you can to prevent them from feeling any pain in this world.  It isn't realistic of course.  You can't protect your child from everything.  The world is harsh and evil and punishing.  No one is immune to that.  But that doesn't stop you from longing to do whatever it takes to protect them.

I hold a lot back from my kids.  While I am an open book and I am always quick to apologize if I make a mistake or hurt them, I tend to shield them from the depression and the internal struggles and fears that I face.  It's another way to try to protect them.  I don't want them to feel the heaviness I feel.  I don't want them to see how badly I feel, because I don't for a minute want them to think any of that is their fault.  I am vulnerable with them.  I don't hide every emotion from them.  But when I get to thinking about this and feeling like I am screwing them up, I try to mask it.  Unfortunately, that keeps these feelings just below the surface and I don't really deal with them.

Ninety-five percent of the time, I am okay.  I don't question myself.  I don't question my worth.  I don't doubt myself as a mother.  My oldest is quick to give me a hug, and tell me that she loves me and that I am a good mom.  She knows that I worry that they will look back and think I was a bad mom.  And while I don't want her to see me openly weeping because I am tormented by that fear, she does know that it is a worry of mine.  But I don't let them see how deeply it affects me.  It's not their job to carry that or try to make me feel better, so I try to prevent them from seeing just how affected I am by it.

And while my oldest reassures me that I'm doing a good job, and while my middle daughter tells me she feels so blessed to have a good family and good parents, and my youngest daughter tells me she loves me and I share a really, REALLY good relationship with them, the other leaves me feeling like an utter failure. 

And I don't blame my son.  It is not his fault that I feel this way.  He is a GOOD kid.  He is loyal to those he loves and he's kind and sweet.  And yet, he's dissatisfied with his life, with his family, and ultimately with me as his mother.  When he tells me he hates me, I try not to read into it.  I try to convince myself that it's just teenage angst.  I try to make myself believe that in a few years, when we aren't living under the same roof, the relationship will get better. 

I want so badly for him to love me but more than that, I want him to know just how much I love him, even if he does truly hate me.  I don't care if he hates me.  That isn't what upsets me.  I hate that he can't feel that I love him, or that he cannot accept that I love him. I want him to have no logical reason that he can point to that says, "There.  Right there.  That is what makes her a horrible mom.  It's this one thing she has always said or always done that has led me to feel this way."  But I fear the opposite.  I fear that he will have something real that I have done, however unknowingly, to prove that I am indeed a horrible mother.  And perhaps what leaves me off-kilter the most is that I have no idea what that one thing is.  Or maybe it's multiple things.  But I don't know what they are.  I cannot fix it.  I cannot make it better.  I can't undo it.  And worst of all, I can't do what I have always done-which is own it, apologize for it, and try to make amends.

People tell you parenting is hard.  But nothing prepares you for this.  Nothing readies your heart to feel like you have failed even one of your kids.  I am SO SO grateful that the girls have a different picture of their childhoods and their mother.  But it is devastating that my son seemingly feels like his life would be better if I were not his mom.  That he abhors even the thought of me, let alone being in my presence or being subject to my harsh rules that invade his privacy.  It breaks my heart. 

He is the only boy.  And there is a disconnect between us.  The girls have always been easier.  And I don't see that as a deficiency in him.  I see it as a deficiency in me.  Was I just incapable of raising a son?  Should I not have been his mother?  Would he have been better off with a different mom, who was able to better relate to boys?  Where did it all go so wrong? 

I recognize that this is just temporary - this feeling of being an utter failure.  I know that I will weather this and be able to get back to feeling like an OK mom overall.  But not tonight. Not in this moment.

**And just like that, at the end of writing this, I got a text from my son.  Not apologizing for saying he hates me.  But apologizing for something.  Which is far more than I usually get.  It is so hard for him to be vulnerable and express his feelings and the fact that he was able to even say that, while also acknowledging that he is still really mad, speaks of growth on his part, and gives my mother's heart just a little bit of hope to keep on going.  God is good.  And is always there in the most desperate moments.