Sunday, September 18, 2016

Be Still My Soul

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I have heard that 2016 has been named "the year of fear" and it isn't hard to imagine why! Well, I'm not going to lie, it has been a struggle on a personal level too! I haven't written in a long time because I just couldn't do it. I struggled with quieting my mind and knowing what exactly to share as thoughts overtook me.  While I have always struggled with anxiety, this year has seemed like I have been fighting an all out war! Hubby hurt his back in early June and was out of work all summer. We probably spent more time together in those three months than we had our entire relationship and we still like each other!  But, being the overly concerned girl that I am, I worried terribly about hubby's back and the "what ifs." Hubby thinks that one single phase should calm all my fears, "That's just life" he kept telling me, "And, it's certainly not even the worst thing we have been through!" Now, I don't know about you but, "that's just life" is no comfort to a worrier. But Hubby, thank you for trying!!!
When wars are fought in real life or the very real ones in your head, the past is always there fueling the fight as the war wages on.  For me, it is the past, very unwelcome, pressures put on us to have children, like right away. It is my own silence as I felt my soul drying up in a church I felt forced to attend.  It is the desire to keep my teaching certification but the cost/toll on me of keeping it. It is my own immaturity in not creating healthy boundaries. It is the present trail of a hubby in pain with bulging discs frustrated at having to sit still. It is the daily sensory overload, the unrelenting fatigue. It is loosing a dear friend to ovarian cancer at 37, a month after we learned of the diagnosis.   It is aging grandparents far away and not being able to help, it is feeling much further than a few hours from my family because I no longer have the energy to just get in the car and go visit and the days required after to recover with nothing in my schedule.  So, this summer my plea has been, "be still my soul."
But I can't just leave you with my burdens. This past week, I went to the store where I got some new glasses to help me on the computer. I was ready to return them because they made things worse.  I was upset by the service I received and planned on kindly letting them know this; then washing my hands of them.  As I spoke with the manager, I learned that her brother-in-law is also an aneurysm survivor.  I gave her the chance to work on my glasses and ended up leaving feeling blessed as I was able to share my story with her and her staff.  Oh, and my glasses just needed a simple adjustment! Then a few days later, I saw a truck from our power company at the end of our road so I stopped to ask if they could take care of a tree that was leaning in our cul-de-sac threatening to rob us of power. I met two of the kindest people around, who made it possible for the tree to be taken care of! Today at church I was reminded that " life is worth the living just because He lives " So, Keep running my friends, keep living!

Saturday, April 9, 2016

March madness??

I will now post this since it is April and I have actually survived March, although admittedly, I am still recovering!

March madness, it's not basketball and brackets and the final four. Those were the days, the memories of college stress mostly faded and only fond memories of Sunday afternoons with friends remain! It was the people not the game that really mattered to me. I've never been a real sports fanatic. If I were completely honest, I still don't really understand the game of football. I'm an American in their mid 30s. This isn't normal. As a chronic headache sufferer, it pained me every time I heard helmets hit each other, now as a TBI survivor I wonder about the long term lasting impact of hitting your head so many times. It just doesn't seem worth it! At least in basketball players were not out to tackle each other. But, I digress.

March has been utter madness. I did it to myself by scheduling too much. It didn't seem like it would be but I still underestimate the recovery time I will realistically need. In the beginning of March I went with four co-workers to the state capital to advocate for libraries. I had two relatively quiet weeks to follow before joining other TBI survivors to advocate for Brain Injury awareness. I didn't realize the amount of anxiety this second advocacy day was causing me, subconsciously.  It was the first year, so I didn't know exactly what to expect. Unlike the library system that has a plan made for us, appointments had to be made and scheduled ourselves (SCHEDULE, the very word gives me anxiety.)With schedules made there was then the dread of a parking garage my Jeep may or may not fit in! Yes, I called the garage first and there was some ambiguity about the actual clearance.

It would seem reasonable that this was enough on my plate. But, then the Brain Injury Association was trying to promote an awareness campaign. They were calling it "Blue Jeans for Brain Injury." It seemed easy enough. Plan (sounds a lot like schedule) a day where library employees wear blue jeans to work for a small donation.  But then my "Houghton College, teacher brain" kicked in and it seemed like a "teachable moment" so posters were made, brain injury information was secured and containers were covered in blue jeans to distribute the information, because plain containers just wouldn't do for a Houghton grad!The day that worked best was the day before going to the capital to advocate for brain injury survivors. Can you see the problem?

So here are my confessions for my March of Madness. I had clean laundry sitting in a basket on my living room chair for three weeks before I gathered the energy to fold it. My doctor was concerned about my inability to recognize I was doing too much and sent me to a behavior specialist.  The specialist gave me one goal for the next month, using this phrase and sticking to it.  "Thank you for thinking of me. Let me think about it and get back to you." I am then to run it by hubby who has a more realistic view of schedules and my relative sanity! My love for being involved in worthy causes sometimes clouds my view of my current reality. *insert Elsa singing "Let it go."

But, on a positive note, my Jeep does fit in the parking garage and I got to visit with old friend and make some new, pretty amazing ones.  I got to be once again supported by my library co-workers who happily rallied behind me with support of the blue jeans campaign. Was it worth it?? It will be; once I don't need three naps a day (true story). And thus concludes by diatribe about March.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

The ghost of Christmas past

I have lost track of the number of times I have written and deleted this post in the last few weeks. Why? Simply because I am exhausted and still recovering from "the most wonderful time of the year." When I am so tired I tend to be short,blunt, to the point and unkind. I am trying to be better about recognizing this because that is not who I am or who I want to be! This year seemed particularly brutal. The fatigue and fog brain was so bad it brought back the unrelenting nausea of days gone by. I don't know about you, but when I feel like this, I get annoyed that it is expected that I just go on when I feel so incapable of it.  But, as always, Grace wins (even when I'm not feeling so gracious). If I were honest, I'd probably recognize that I had not fully recovered from the crazy summer/massive shop building process. Then Thanksgiving, deer hunting season (it's a big deal in hubby world), and Christmas were all the greeting me with their own large dose of busy, insanity. And, of course, with weather more like spring it just didn't feel like Christmas, for this snow loving girl! The only redeeming thing is that I get to watch silly, cheesy, happy Christmas movies on TV instead of trying to read and tune out the usual Alaska survival, logging, and cop shows that hubby prefers. For the 25 days of Christmas, the TV remote is mine! *evil laugh* (I'm not really much of a TV gal anyway so I cope with earplugs and a book for the rest of the year!) Usually, it "all feels worth it" after it's over but this year is taking a bit longer to feel that way!The best medicine was visiting a dear friend yesterday and laughing like I haven't in a long time.  I had such a good time that I forgot how to get home and ended up in neighboring, Massachusetts. Thankfully, I was able to call Super Hubs and he calmed me down and got me home! At that point, I was beyond the ability to follow a GPS.  Upon arriving home I even discovered he had assembled the pizza ingredients I had left out so I didn't even have to struggle with dinner. He is pretty used to this sort of thing from me by now. Once (like a year or so after my aneurysm), a college friend and I were traveling to meet other college friends in Long Island. I was "navigating" aka: reading the directions we had printed out to her the best I could, as she drove. That trip I called Hubs and told him we were in NJ. He saved us that day too!

In all of my fog/exhaustion this season, I did have one small revelation that had nothing at all to do with Christmas.  It reminded me how hard I have always been on myself. There was a conversation on Facebook started by a fellow education major talking about how a professor had told her she didn't have what it took for teaching but how she loved it and it was her dream so she pursued it anyway. It has a happy ending too,she is now a teacher and still loves it. But, a few other Education majors shared stories of being given the same advice by a supervising professor or teacher. They had been discouraged and decided to change their major.  But, this thought crossed my mind as a result of their stories; maybe I wasn't such an awful teacher, like I had convinced myself, after all. Of course, I dug out my old teaching portfolio and read all the notes parents and teachers had written me. I even kept a copy of their recommendations of me and made peace with what I sometimes refuse to believe about myself. Maybe I was actually good at something. It reaffirmed for me that God used that major in ways I was not expecting at all. Maybe, not finding a teaching job wasn't about me at all. Maybe it spared a classroom full of children from witnessing my rupture, which doctors say, was likely not a pretty sight as the body responds to that kind of trauma.  Not having the responsibility of a classroom made it eventually "much easier to give up" And made recovery at that time a bit more simple without the inevitable responsibility I would feel for returning or making it "OK" for my students.  The daily struggle of life with a TBI is still very real but I could see how all things are working for good. Truly it is not and never has been, all about me! Although, I often carry it around like it is without even knowing it or meaning to!  IT IS WELL, despite the many times it sure doesn't feel that way.

Here is a link to one of my new favorite songs GRACE WINS by Matthew West

Grace Wins
By Matthew West

"In my weakest moment I see you
Shaking your head in disgrace
I can read the disappointment
Written all over your face

Here comes those whispers in my ear
Saying who do you think you are
Looks like you're on your own from here
Cause grace could never reach that far

But, in the shadow of that shame
Beat down by all the blame
I hear you call my name sayin' it's not over
And my heart starts to beat
So loud now, drowning out the doubt
I'm down but I'm not out

There's a war between guilt and grace
And they're fighting for a sacred space
But I'm living proof
Grace wins every time

No more lying down in death's defeat
Now I'm rising up in victory
Singing hallelujah
Grace wins every time

Words can't describe the way it feels
When mercy floods a thirsty soul
A broken side begins to heal
And grace returns what guilt has stole

And, in the shadow of that shame
Beat down by all the blame
I hear you call my name sayin it's not over
And my heart starts to beat
So loud now, drowning out the doubt
I'm down but I'm not out

There's a war between guilt and grace
And they're fighting for a sacred space
But I'm living proof
Grace wins every time

No more lying down in death's defeat
Now I'm rising up in victory
Singing hallelujah
Grace wins every time

For the prodigal son, grace wins
For the woman at the well, grace wins
For the blind man and the beggar, grace wins
For always and forever, grace wins
For the lost out on the street, grace wins
For the worst part of you and me, grace wins
For the thief on the cross, grace wins
For a world that is lost

There's a war between guilt and grace
And they're fighting for a sacred space
But I'm living proof
Grace wins every time

Yeah!
No more lying down in death's defeat
Now I'm rising up in victory
Singing hallelujah
Grace wins every time

Every time
Yeah, I'm living proof grace wins every time."

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Keep calm and Grinch on............

 

Okay, stick with me here.  Hubs and I find the characters on "The Big Bang Theory" whimsical and amusing.  Probably more me, than the Hubs, but he humors me and we watch it together. I got the biggest kick out of a character, who is likely autistic, comment about the Grinch. It goes like this Sheldon Cooper says, "No, on the contrary. I found the Grinch to be a relateable, engaging character."  As a child I loved the old Dr Seuss cartoon that played before Christmas, it was nostalgic and exciting to watch TV, which we normally didn't do a lot of! I, of course, wanted to "love the stuffing" out of that Grinch! I wanted to convince him he could be loved.
 As an adult with a brain injury my world is often a numb place.  Whether it is the injury to my brain or the result of just trying to survive on any "normal day", Christmastime now overwhelms me with everything being so busy, busy, busy. And I still struggle a great deal with making and coordinating plans!  All my usual parking spots at stores are taken, merchandise rearranged, lights flashing, bells ringing, its a sensory overload night mare. I tend to park in the same place and shop at the same stores to make up for some short term memory gaps! My family teases (out of love) me about being a "Grinch". If you came to my house right now you may agree! The tree is up (minus ornaments, its a fake prelit one, don't judge, it's survival, and my mom sent me little 'scent sticks' to put on it so it smells like a real tree) because poor hubby couldn't take it any longer.  The rest of the decorations? Still safely in their tub! It all takes energy I don't have and decisions I don't have the energy to make and it is frustrating at times trying to make my "hand and a half" (stroke curl) work together! And, this year I don't even want to talk about the 60 degree weather squashing my idea of a warm, fuzzy snow covered Christmas! Let's hope the heat savings equals the Amazon ordering (aka, the only way I will Christmas 'shop'.) Dear Mr Grinch, I can kinda get the living on a hill in a cave far from all the crazy overload in a quiet dark place with your dog for company (hehe.) I could never live like this all the time but just from November to January, it sounds mighty tempting!!!
   But, here is what I have come to love the most about the Grinch.  He has a change of heart.  He swallows this pride and bitterness and slides down that hill with all of the baggage and all of the wrong and returns. He drops his baggage and does not begrudgingly eat with the Whos in Whoville, he truly shares in their feast joyfully. The whos' don't shun him or "make him pay for what he has done. They forgive and invite him to dine.   "His heart grew three sizes that day!" It reminds me to let go of all that frustrates, and at times consumes, me this season and focus on the real reason for the season, The Messiah was born. He came to save me from my sin. The bitterness, the anger, the unkindness. He was born and died for me! And here's the even better news, he was born and died for you too! All you have to do is repent and believe and His shed blood will cover your sin too! 
  So, keep calm and Grinch on.           

"Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before!
"Maybe Christmas," he thought, "doesn't come from a store."
"Maybe Christmas...perhaps...means a little bit more!" 

Let Christ the Savior change your heart and Merry Christmas!!!! 



Friday, November 20, 2015

I remember you....................

I'll probably never get used to "being remembered." Here's the story, I was at a specialist today (unrelated to the brain, specifically.)  I haven't been to this particular doctor since 2011 when I just decided I had too many doctor appointments and that they were running me ragged.  I made a change and didn't go to followups that weren't vital to my existence.  In that time, this office changed from paper records to digital ones.  Those patients not seen during the course of that year are now considered "new patients."  I called this office concerning a medication they had originally prescribed but they had no records for me. Over six months ago, I made a new patient appointment and today I went.  The doctor hasn't seen me for years but walks in and shakes my hand. He says, "I thought I had a new patient appointment, then I saw your name and realized it wasn't really.  It isn't often I remember a patient from years ago but, I remember you." Of course, I reply, "It's the aneurysm thing, right?" He confirms that indeed it is a very unusual story to a doctor. To a rather shy, and generally unnoticed gal, it is always astonishing that somebody "remembered you" for any reason.  I have always had quite a memory for people related things especially before my aneurysm. It is still pretty good but there are just too many other things to sort out and it isn't quite as good as it used to be! What can I say, I just find people interesting and I genuinely care about their lives more than most people do.  It is both my greatest asset and biggest downfall!
 Thank you Lord for always remembering me even when I feel invisible and insignificant in this busy, foreign world!

 "I survived, my hair grew back and I got strong again. I look relatively normal on the outside, but on the inside, I am still the same stitched back together little creature................." -Clare Bowen
Only in my wildest dreams, did I really believe I'd find a guy who, in all seasons of life, always remembers me, stays with me and loves me despite my many faults, I'm a blessed girl!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

'stitched back together little creature'

And, the quote I am currently obsessed with is..................................

"I survived, my hair grew back and I got strong again. I look relatively normal on the outside, but on the inside, I am still the same stitched back together little creature................." -Clare Bowen






Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Brain Overload, The Real Deal: a short memoir

 
Several weeks ago my beloved Lab mix (who is 13, we think) had three grand-mal seizures (no previous history) in 12 hours and ended up at the emergency vet clinic. I have never been so happy to live "in civilization" and not the "boonies" that I grew up in.  Usually, my frugality wins but when it comes to this dog I can only see with my heart.  She was there to greet me out of the hospital and long before that nursed me through some pretty awful migraines. When I would shake and shiver in pain she "selflessly" would crawl into bed next to me until the shaking passed. She is an odd little dog full of anxious quirks. We just get each other even if nobody else does! So to say I had a stressful week adjusting to new medications and need to go out more during the day is a gross understatement! I was quite stressed.

It all caught up with me last week. I knew better than to run to BJs before my hair appointment (my summer pixie cut was growing a tail, Seriously, if you don't believe me ask my hairstylist friend.) So, I was determined to make it to my appointment! With list in hand, I foolishly entered the huge, overstimulating box store. About half way through, I knew it was a mistake.  I ducked down a 'quiet' aisle and took a few deep breaths trying to pull myself together enough to get out of the store at least! I was able to get out the door with my purchases. As I got in my Jeep I was done. I knew I was in no condition to drive and thankfully I had about an hour before my appointment since I all but bolted out of the store (yes, I paid, it's amazing actually.) So, I jumped in my Jeep and threw the seat back, dug out my "emergency chill pill"and took it . Of course, I grabbed the pillow I keep in my Jeep (not the first panic attack I've had folks) and began my deep breathing exercise, as the blanket I also keep under my seat served to block the rest of the assaulting sunshine from my closed eyes. Once my medicine kicked in I sat up and grabbed for my phone to check the time and to set an alarm so I didn't have to think about it! When I looked out my passenger side window and  saw parked in the spaces right in front of me was a blue pickup truck. Someone was sitting inside it apparently waiting for someone in the store.  If you remember my story you know that a blue pick up was reported leaving the scene of my accident.  Immediately, I knew it was a monument, a reminder from God He is in control and with His help I can keep going.  I'm not sure if you've ever been this exhausted and your brain so flooded you were convinced you could not go on.  That is where I was at that moment. It hasn't been quite this bad for me in awhile. It made me very thankful for a number of friends I knew would drop anything to come rescue me. But, this time I just needed a dark quiet car and the reminder of that blue pickup truck.  I literally didn't think I had the strength to get home! That blue truck sitting there "watching over me" somehow calmed me and reassured me, "this too shall pass!" Just as the Lord cared for me that fateful day, He continues to care for me daily!
After a short nap and a "God wink," as my friend calls it, I actually made my hair appointment (with a friend who 'gets it') and my tail was taken care of!
     The ordeal reminded me of a conversation at a wedding this summer.  We were seated with people from our church we didn't know well. After hearing my story, the curious friend asked me, "Do you think you will ever go back [to finish your Master's and to teaching]." I replied that I no longer wondered if it was my calling I can't even handle the organized chaos of a store by myself. Why would I ever enter a classroom again and be responsible for all the precious lives in my care. I have an amazing peace that it is not the place the Lord desires for me. I don't regret my choice of careers.  It prepared me, not for teaching in a classroom, but to help in my own recovery.  I had a lot of different strategies already in my memory and I loved learning, which came in really handy since there were and still are many things to relearn or learn for the first time!  At one point, just before my aneurysm be began to  I regret choosing Elementary Education as a major. I think the Lord was stirring my heart for what he had prepared my journey to be. I certainly haven't figured it all out yet but I am much more content with exactly where I am than striving to fit in a place that wasn't meant for me.
On that same note, you'd think a girl who wakes up every morning truly thankful for life and breath. Thankful that all her arms and legs move when her brain asks them to would be much better at "living in the moment." Perhaps, my conservative upbringing made me cringe at first when I heard this, but I am not good at this concept.  When I talk about "living in the moment" I mean enjoying and being thankful for what the moment, you are in, provides. You see, while I am truly thankful I notice that the moment is often spoiled with fears and anxiety about what might be around the next corner. So, in a way I'm not enjoying moments but anxiously fretting the next obstacle, test, trial.  My beloved and ancient dog has been teaching me this. She is still here and walking around, eating, drinking and living. Now I have moments of weakness when the reality of the situation hits me and I am teary, sad and anxious but, we take short walks every day. It has always been her favorite thing and I often use my own fatigue as an excuse to tell her, "not today!" But, this fall we take walks every day and she seems happy to smell all the creatures who walked around before we got there.  She even prances down our driveway and wears as much of a smile as a dog can wear. So, I have had almost an "extra month" of walks and pictures and spoiling her rotten, which she is pretty sure should have been her treatment all along (don't let her fool you, she was always spoiled by this tenderhearted, dog loving girl who always felt some responsibility cater to her anxious ways. I mean,  if we left I always brought her to my parents house (usually a two hour trip in the opposite direction,) where it was familiar to her and I was sure she would be taken care of exactly as I wished!)   Here is to many more days of spoiling and many more moments truly enjoyed!!
Click here for a really great explanation of "Brain flooding"