Wednesday, March 9, 2016

My Journey Out of Depression

**If you saw this post already, but it seemed weird, that is because it wasn't supposed to publish yet!**
  I had only collected what I wanted to share and thought I had only saved it, yikes!  Well, here is the edited version!

A rose from Matthew's graveside service
placed by me on our daughter,
Johanna Marie's grave
Last December I wrote a blog post that resulted from just taking the first baby steps out of the blackest hole I have ever found myself to be in since I rededicated my life to Christ back in 1984.

Since that post I have been slowly moving in the right direction, with some setbacks.  Openly sharing what God was doing in my life through difficulties brought unexpected blessings!  I have people praying for me, others have shared their times in the dark places, and I have been given two books that have blessed me along with How Can I Live, by Kay Arthur.  I will be putting quotes from these three books that have spoken to me in this journey throughout this post.  I hope you find them helpful!

Jessica's Blog Update
These last four months have been an ongoing challenge to me in many ways. While the loss of Matthew in October has lost some of it's power, talking about or even thinking about the events surrounding his death, birth and burial will nearly always bring me to tears.  I have once talked with a doctor about it's effect on my health without crying, but only once and that was quite recently.  The effects of caring for a medically complex, disabled child, long term pain from my back and the emotional stresses associated with Matthew's death and it's effects on Jessica as well as the rest of my family have taken it's toll on me physically.  

Just before Christmas I had a tooth abscess that required a double root canal, thankfully they were able to take care of it right away as it was only days before Christmas!  We had a most wonderful Christmas!  Not any photos, but everyone agreed that we had a wonderful day together as a family!  The best part????  Jessica and Jon announced by way of a very cute shirt, that God had blessed them with life again!  She is due with this precious life mid August and so far everything is going very well and her little one has taken up being quite active recently!

As a follow up to a previous ultrasound of my thyroid (back in June it became suddenly enlarged), it was found that the large nodules in my thyroid had grown some, even though my thyroid had been reduced in size substantially through the use of herbal tinctures and essential oils (Endo-Flex by Young Living Oils).  This meant I had to have a biopsy done.  

 This was an unpleasant procedure, but thankfully they got a good sampling and it is benign!  I do have to follow up again later this year.

Just after Christmas we purchased some cabinets with doors to store our school and therapy supplies!  This was a wonderful improvement, especially after we got magnetic locks!  Now everything stays put away unless a big person is helping to get it out!  This has made both myself and the children who have the job of keeping the schoolroom tidy very happy!

After December my back actually got worse. Even with physical therapy and weekly chiropractic adjustments, plus anti-inflammatory topical cream and muscle relaxant, I ended up with the most crazy, shooting sciatic nerve pain!  This caused quite a stir with my care providers so I got some imaging done.  The imaging via X-rays and an MRI revealed that I have significant arthritis in my right SI joint as well as misalignment of my L4 that has cause arthritis to build up between L4 and L5.  This was a shocker to me.  But there is hope!  I have researched and found that arthritis can be reversed with proper diet and exercise.  Since the diagnosis 6 weeks ago I have gone sugar, gluten and grain free (sugar for 6 weeks, gluten and grain for 3 1/2 weeks)....which means I am back on the Trim Healthy Mama way of eating! So far I have lost 10 pounds.  Tomorrow I will be going in to have a cortisone injection into the SI joint in hopes of reducing the inflammation in order to allow my body to heal itself.

The next adventure in my health journey was the development of high blood pressure.  I am sure it is the result of the chronic back pain (chronic pain is defined as three or more months of unrelieved pain...I'm going on a year now) on top of the other emotional, spiritual and physical stresses in my life.  My doctor thought it would be best to put me on a low dose of BP meds.  It didn't go so well.  After just three doses of a diuretic type of BP med, I ended up overnight in the hospital due to racing heart rate (100 - 120 resting) and shortness of breath. After a dozen or so cardio tests, they determined that I was right, it was a reaction to the medication.  On the bright side, we now know that I am in excellent cardiovascular health! So then I was put on a beta blocker.  This didn't go well either, and left me with unrelenting fatigue.  After four weeks of trying to tweak the meds, and my fatigue only getting worse, I finally got the doctor to agree just last night to quit all BP meds, checking it twice a day at home, and try a supplement called Nattokinase, which was actually recommended to me for Christy as a substitute for her aspirin that she takes as a stroke preventative (we aren't giving it to her yet, I'm still researching and need to get in contact with her neurology doctor).  I learned that it can be very successful at reducing elevated (not high) blood pressure, and since my BP was only elevated and not into dangerous territory, we are going to give it a try!  The fatigue is already lessened today (I took a half dose yesterday, and had already been weaned off the beta blocker Metropolol last week, but was still taking Lisinopril, an ACE inhibitor whatever that means!).  I have high hopes of being functional again soon!

Starting back in June, I began to have irregular menstrual cycles, even skipping some cycles.  While this was not a bad thing (I have been dealing with perimenopausal symptoms for over ten years now and am hoping to be in menopause soon), it became something of a concern when starting the first of the year I began to have weeks of heavy spotting.  My doctor referred me for an ultrasound (yet another medical test!) and it showed that I had a thickening of the endometrial lining (this is called Endometrial hyperplasia (EH)), and some of the endometrial cells had migrated to the uterine muscle (this is called Adenomyosis).  The EH was what had the doctor concerned because if left alone, it raises my risk of cancer in a big wayOur conservative plan to deal with it was to put me on progesterone for ten days, which would stop the bleeding (but it didn't) and then when I stopped taking it, it would shed the extra lining (but it didn't). I ended up in ER with hemorrhaging. They put me back on the progesterone and doubled the dose which finally stopped the bleeding.
  Another ultrasound revealed that none of that had improved things, in fact the lining was a bit thicker (normal is 10 mm, mine was 24mm). Plan B was put into effect and I underwent a non-sedated D&C (they wanted it done as soon as possible, and scheduling worked much better for a non-sedated one).  While I never want to do that again and would rate the pain as an 8 even with pain meds on board, I am glad it was done and have had no bleeding since.  I will be meeting with the gynecologist tomorrow for a follow up and making a plan for my going off the progesterone.

My journey is not complete yet. I still struggle.  I feel fragile.  It doesn't take much and that darkness threatens to come back and surround me.  But I know that it is not what God has meant for me.  For He says, 

" Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matt 11:29, 30) 
"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm youplans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to youYou will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." (Jeremiah 29:11 - 13)

And now for some family news from the past few months... but be sure to read to the end, as I saved the best for last!

Sometime around the en of January, Christy added to our excitement by somehow getting her G-Tube pulled out and not telling us about it.  

She had been fussy earlier, but we could not find the cause of her discomfort until later when I was going to change her diaper and found her Mic-key Button hanging out in her shirt.  Enough time had passed that we could no longer get it back in by ourselves. So Jessica came with me and helped me take her to Seattle Children's hospital.  Jessica went to the house of a friend (Molly) to sleep until we were done, which wasn't until 1am

They inserted a series of smaller to larger catheters, slowly dilating the opening in the stomach, until the Mic-key Button could be reinserted.  Then we all went to Molly's to sleep until morning.  Christy was a lovely traveling companion and was an exemplary ER patient!  She was as happy as could be except when they were putting in a new catheter!

Christy impersonating Darla from Finding Nemo
and they snuggle together!

somebody loves her daddy!
they play together....

I almost forgot - I guess Daryl thought I was getting more that my share of medical attention, so just a week after my overnight in the hospital, he ended up in the ER with kidney stones!  It has been a very long time since he was admitted to the ER, over 11 years in fact!  

Somewhere around January I think, the care of Esther's hair became a burden to both myself and Esther.  She loves to twist her hair, but this creates dreadlocks very quickly.  To keep the peace I trimmed her hair very short and we are both happy about how easy it is to care for (but sad to see it go just the same!). It has already grown out some.  I am hoping that she will have outgrown her playing with her hair by the time it gets long!

At the end of February I was able to attend two women's retreats, two weekends in a row! While it was taxing physically, I so needed to go.  The first was the Above Rubies Retreat at Black Lake Camp (south of Olympia, WA).  I was encouraged by the teaching and by connecting with women from last year and making new friends too!  The second was our church's women's retreat, and the focus was on disappointments.  So much to take in there and I am still planning to take the time to go through and look up all the scripture again and read my notes.

The popcorn stitches say
"I Love You to the Moon and Back"
On a bright note, I have begun some new projects.  I crocheted a doll for Carese and knit some scarves.  I also made a baby blanket and finished it just last week!

Carese, 4 years ago this week!
We celebrated her birthday yesterday.
I also got glasses especially for playing the piano, and they work!!!!!!! I have not been playing the piano much at all for the past ten years, but today I tried out my new glasses and they are marvelous! I played for over an hour. I can not describe how thankful I am to be able to play without the frustration of not being able to see my hands if I was looking at the music through my bifocals....It was like seeing a best friend you haven't seen in a decade, or going home for the first time in forever, or like being able to the most favorite thing you have ever done after not being able to do it in over a decade...SWEET!!!!!

Weaving it's way through these past months is the ongoing concern over my dear niece, Andrea.  For years she has been living the live of an addict.  Homeless, hopeless and lost. But not forgotten.  God had not forgotten, her mother certainly had not, and I had not. Her prayers were ongoing as she feared for her daughter's life, and mine as well, both for peace for Lisa and salvation for Andrea.  In God's perfect timing, Andrea came home and is in the process of getting into a wonderful Christian rehab program that she will be in for two years.  She has had to do much to find her way out of addiction - detox, dental surgery and more.  You can read more about her journey out of addiction, and her needs at this moment.  Please take a moment and follow this link to her story and how you can help. If you can't monetarily help, please share the link on your social media!  Thanks!

Lastly I want to share with you a concept that Kay Arthur talks about in her book, God How Can I Live.  She heard it said once that there are 5 D's: Disappointment, Discouragement, Defection, Despair, Demoralization. (I like to add a sixth, but I'll get to that in a minute). 

 The first one is Disappointment.  When things in your life bring you disappointment, how you react to it really counts.  If you react with pain, bitterness you open the door to the rest of the D's.  

The second D is Discouragement.  To quote Kay,
"Discouragement and disappointment are like twins. You own the door to Disappointment and you will find discouragement dashing in right behind....The cure for discouragement is encouragement. Encourage your heart by looking at your God and His promises......"

Once Disappointment and Discouragement have taken up residence in your heart, Dejection, Despair come over for a party.  The more they party, the more alone you feel.  The more you dwell on your problems, the more unable you become to face them.

Then you become demoralized.  No ability to go on.  No inspiration to continue the fight.  Demoralization is extremely dangerous.  In my opinion, this allows for thoughts of self harm or suicide to come in and be the life of the party too.

I've added a sixth D - Depression.  The dark place where no light shines.  Crying becomes a daily event.  Laughter is only a memory.  Friends become distant (either imagined or not).  This extreme self focus becomes a vicious cycle.  You are depressed, so you dwell on your problems, your problems make you depressed.

"If you are in the dark, if your spirits are sunk in gloom, do not despair, for the Lord Jesus was there. If you have fallen into misery, do not give up, because the Father's well-beloved pass through the denser darkness. Believing soul, I'd you are in the dark you are near the Kings cellars, where the well-refined wines on the lees are stored (Is 25:6). You are in the Lord's pavilion, and you may speak with Him....
Trust Him, and He will cause His light to shine on you. Lean of Him, and He well bring you out of the gloomy wilderness into the land of rest.
May God help you to lean on Him."

Beside Still Waters by C. H. Spurgeon

But there is hope!  I was there.  I went through the 6 D's step by step without even realizing it.  It started with strained relationships, then Matthew's diagnosis, followed by physical challenges, ending with Matthew's death and birth and the physical/emotional strain of that week.  Instead of turning to God and taking my thoughts captive, I gave into avoidance techniques, recoiling in pain.  But God didn't leave me there.  He gently led me to come back into the light of His Word and the truth of Who He IS and His great love for me.  Step by step, I left those D's behind.  I fall at times and snuggle up with a few of the D's, but I become aware of it quicker these days.  That and I have gathered a few friends in the battle.  I reached out.  When I couldn't get myself to turn back to God, I reached out to friends whom I knew would help me.  They have prayed for me and encouraged me in these dark days.  They continue to be there for me, when other friends failed and left me to my own devices.  Friends who are just friends when things are going great in your life, are not true friends.  Do not dwell on that.  And most of all, remember your true, heavenly, indwelling brother, Jesus, who sticks closer than a friend (Proverbs 18:24)

So dear one, if you are reading this and you are allowing the 6 D's, or any of them, to take up residence in your heart, please reach out!  They love it when you shrink in to yourself and tell yourself that no one understands.  I understand.  There are millions who understand (just read through the Psalms...David understood!).  Don't keep these aweful D's a secret.  Reach out and tell someone where you are.  Find help.  Find that helping hand to guide you on your journey back into the light.

"If you're God's child, you will never again have just you to depend on. No, you've been blessed, right here, right now, with grace....The answer is Christ! He is with you. He is for you. In Him, you really have everything you need. You simply have not been left to yourself"
Paul David Tripp

I just love it when my three very different daily devotionals dove tail.  So many times all three, or at least two of them, will deal with something that I am currently wrestling with.  Only God can put things like that together.  It's like He planned this, to show me that He cares so much and even something so small as two different readings in two different books on the same day with work together to minister to me!

For those of you with ongoing physical struggles...the real, day to day struggle to just physically meet your own needs, to make it to appointments, to just get out of bed, let alone get dressed.  This quote from Spurgon is just for you:

This is counsel for you who are temporarily laid on the shelf. Some of God's best workers have been laid aside for long periods. Moses was forty years in the desert, doing nothing but tending sheep. One greater that Moses, our blessed Saviour, was thirty years doing- I will not say nothing, but certainly doing no public work.
When you are retired or inactive, prepare for the time when God will use you. If you are out on a shelf, do not rust; pray that the Master will polish you, so that when He uses you again you will be fully ready for the work.
While you are laid aside, pray for others that are working. He'll them and encourage them.....Spend time in prayer, that you may be fit for the Master's use.

 Beside Still Waters by C. H. Spurgeon
From the devotional titled Laid Aside for a Time, based on Exodus 3:1

And From one of my favorite novels, also talking about this topic:

“It will not hurt either of you as long as you have health. And if that fails, God will provide for you in some way," said her father. "He is rich, and could give you more now if He saw that it would be good for you. Never forget that.”  

― Elizabeth Payson PrentissAunt Jane's Hero

Thanks for taking the time to read through yet another long blog post.  I pray that your were blessed by what you have read.  If you have made the journey out of depression and into the light, please share in comments so others may be encouraged that they can also make it out!

****Please, This is Not The Whole Story!  This was the beginning, but God had BIG lessons to teach me, and I spiraled back down in the black hole of depression again after posting this blog post!  PLEASE READ MY NEXT BLOG POST, INTO DARKNESS AND BACK BY GRACE

While everything I wrote here is true, I had avoided a true heart change and had not gone to God, Himself, for healing and restoration, that happened at the beginning of May, and this is what I wrote about in my next post (see link above).

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