Friday, January 16, 2015

What Happens?

What happens when you loose the will to fight?

I find myself in a very dark and foreign place. This constant battle of trying to be healthy is wearing me down. My spirit is crushed and my confidence is gone. Would it be so bad to give up and let illness take it's victory? 

How much more can my family take? I see the strain on them, the chaos it causes. The disruption to our daily schedules. I hate it.

What would happen if I didn't fight next time? If I bowed out gracefully and said I'm done? Would it make things better or worse? Surely, in the end, all would adjust and move forward...

These are the questions running through my head. I'm being point blank honest here. I am tired. I am ready to be done with this invisible illness that wrecks havoc on our lives. 

I don't know if I have the strength to go through all of this again. And there will be a next time. If anything is a sure bet, that is it- there will be a next time.

What happened to that girl who was so strong 3 years ago? The one who almost died and came back with a purpose? The one who 1 year after nearly dying ran a half marathon? I can't seem to find her. I miss her.  I need her to come back. I need her strength and determination. 

Twisty Bowel below stoma that had to be removed surgically.
If you are wondering why I am having this little pity party, let me recap the last 9 weeks. I've been hospitalized 4 times for a minimum of 5 days each. On the 3rd hospital stay I had to have surgery for a twisted bowel which resulted in a new stoma and a 5 inch incision vertically through my poor belly button. I think my bikini days are over (like I wore one before, ha!). This kept me in the hospital for 2 weeks and as an added bonus, I had the pleasure of an NG tube. When I was finally released, I was overjoyed about being home and on New Year's Eve no less. I was excited to start the new year and put all this behind me. I still had quite a bit of surgical pain but that was nothing compared to that stupid twisty bowel!
NG tube and all it's glory.
5 inch incision and new stoma
My cousin was getting married January 10th in El Paso and I had a plane ticket and hotel reservations to go. It was a great excuse for a mini family reunion and I was really looking forward to it. I flew down on Thursday and enjoyed being with everyone but Friday night, things took a turn for the worse. I was up and down from about 3 am emptying my ostomy bag because of extreme diarrhea. Being an ostomate and having diarrhea is a very serious condition. I was losing more fluids than I could take in and began to dehydrate. Needless to say, I spent Saturday in the ER with my mother by my side. My electrolytes were way down and I started having several issues, cramping, rapid heart beat and nausea to name a few. After an IV, pain and nausea meds we thought I was clear to head back to the hotel but we only got a couple of blocks away from the hospital when I started vomiting. So back to the ER we went and I was admitted and submitted to various tests to try to determine the cause of this mess. I spent 6 long days in the hospital with no real answers as to why this was happening. I had about 5 docs working on my case and the consensus seems to be either a virus or the new stoma and bowel are extremely sensitive. Evidently, a bowel reconstruction of this sort can cause severe diarrhea and nausea because it's very sensitive so add to this the fact that I was out of town eating out 3 meals a day and it makes sense. 

The Saturday that I spent in the ER my mom was with me and I've never been so grateful. She was my true advocate since Shannon was still in Amarillo. She sat at my bedside in uncomfortable chairs first in the ER and then in my room after I was admitted. She didn't sleep at all Saturday night which is a big deal. She has MS and rest is vital for her too. My dad had an appointment for cataract surgery on Tuesday which he rescheduled so they could stay with me in El Paso. I missed my flight home on Sunday and mom and dad were prepared to stay with me as long as needed. When it became evident that I was not leaving anytime soon, Shannon headed down Monday morning to relieve my parents. Shannon stayed with me only going to the hotel to sleep at night. I'm not sure what I did to deserve such an awesome hubby and family but I am so very grateful!

The docs had a hard time trying to lessen the output of my new stoma. In a 24 hour period my output was a little over 4 liters (a little over a gallon for the conversion challenged like me). That's about 3.5x what it should be. Not to be gross but that 4 liters was pure liquid. Normal output is more paste like or a watery oatmeal consistency. Yes, I know--gross. So when you add vomiting to this equation you can see how dire the situation gets. I was not only dehydrating but I was also loosing valuable nutrients and minerals like calcium, magnesium and potassium. My blood pressure dropped and stayed extremely low, like 79/48 which was distressing to the medical staff. It wasn't until they were able to control the diarrhea and I no longer needed pain meds that my blood pressure began to rise.  This was one of the major factors that would determine my release. Slowly I began to stabilize, output returning to normal with the help of several meds, nausea fading and blood pressure rising giving me the OK to head back home. Side note: the care I received at University Medical Center of El Paso was top notch! BSA could learn a few things from them. It was by far one of the best hospital experiences I've had next to Scott & White in Temple.

So here is where my pity party kicks in again. You may not agree with this but like I said I'm being point blank honest here. With all of this illness/hospital mess came stress and inconvenience for so many people. Poor Shannon is on the verge of a breakdown himself as he feels so helpless and overwhelmed with our situation. My parents are juggling caring for their aging parents and now me too. Our boys are in limbo and the uncertainty is hard on them too. Thomas has been passed around to various friends during all this. I just feel guilty for causing so much chaos really. Chaos seems to be the best description. I look like death, my skin is pale, eyes sunken, cheeks hollow. The weight I've lost over these 9 weeks is not flattering. I look sick. I look frail and I feel it too, both mentally and physically. 

I'm a little shell-shocked myself. I feel like in the blink of an eye I will be back in the hospital. I'm a bit obsessive about any little symptom my body may give. I even worry when it's acting like it should. This is not normal! I want to go back to living life but this paranoia won't let go. I'm tired. My well has run dry. 

What do I do now?

Where do I go from here? 

How do I get back to life?

What happens if I don't find the strength again?

This blog is a journal of sorts, it helps me clear my mind. Seeing words in black and white has always been a coping mechanism for me. I know this post sounds bad, that I'm on the edge of a cliff waiting for the right time to jump. Be assured, that is NOT the case. I would never want to do anything to cause my family and friends more pain. I am only emptying my thoughts and struggles as a way of cheap therapy. I just feel swept out to sea at the moment and the current is strong. I want to live and enjoy life again I'm just so tired of the struggle. 

On the bright side I did get to spend 2 wonderful days with a bunch of my family including my favorite (and only) sister and 2 of her kiddos. It was the highlight of the trip!
Kate and Rachel being silly with Auntie M. 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Total Awareness!

Hey! Guess what, this week (December 1-7) is all about IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease) and since I kinda have some experience and knowledge in this area, I'm gonna tell ya all about it. :)

IBD is very different from IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome). IBS is a very real condition and can be quite miserable itself. This is an excerpt from CCFA (Crohn's & Colitis Foundation of America) explaining the two and how they differ.

Many people are confused about two distinct gastrointestinal disorders -- IBD and IBS. Different intestinal disorders can produce similar symptoms. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a condition that produces some symptoms similar to those of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), but they are not the same condition, and they involve very different treatments. Therefore, getting an accurate diagnosis is essential to managing your condition properly. The following Q&A will give you an overview of IBS and how it differs from IBD. 

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is classified as a functional gastrointestinal disorder, which means there is some type of disturbance in bowel function. It is not a disease, but rather a syndrome, defined as a group of symptoms. These typically include chronic abdominal pain or discomfort and diarrhea, constipation, or alternating bouts of the two. People with IBS are also more likely to have other functional disorders such as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, chronic pelvic pain, and temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder. 

IBS has been referred to by many names, including mucous colitis and spastic colitis, but these terms are inaccurate and lead to confusion about what IBS is. While the word "colitis" refers to an inflammation of the colon (large intestine), IBS does not cause inflammation. Unlike ulcerative colitis patients, IBS sufferers show no sign of disease or abnormalities when the colon is examined. 

IBS does not produce the destructive inflammation found in IBD, so in many respects it is a less serious condition. It doesn't result in permanent harm to the intestines, intestinal bleeding, or the harmful complications often occurring with IBD. People with IBS are not at higher risk for colon cancer, nor are they more likely to develop IBD or other gastrointestinal diseases. IBS seldom requires hospitalization, and treatment does not usually involve surgery or powerful medications, such as steroids or immunosuppressives. 

IBS can, however, cause a great deal of discomfort and distress, and can severely affect an individual's quality of life. Its symptoms can range from mildly annoying to disabling -- impinging on a person's self-image, social life, and ability to work or travel. People with IBS are more likely to seek health care for both gastrointestinal and non-gastrointestinal complaints compared to people without IBS. It is estimated that IBS results in direct and indirect medical costs of over $20 billion annually. 

People who have IBD also have other conditions that may or may not be caused by their particular disease. Because IBD is an autoimmune condition, we are much more susceptible to other autoimmune diseases. I have Ulcerative Colitis with a side of rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia. Fun, huh. In addition to that, I also deal with depression, I was diagnosed with clinical depression which means my brain does not produce enough serotonin to keep it functioning right. My GI has said he really feels that this type of depression is directly related to the intestinal tract. He's noticed that many of his patients with IBD also suffer from depression. It's kinda nice knowing  I'm not alone but I at the same time, I hate that others must go through this too.

So I was scanning Facebook this morning and came across a very interesting article on depression. (Yes, I often get my news from my FB feed, don't judge.) The Huffington Post published this little article and while I realize it's only one psychologist's opinion, I think he might be on to something. Here's a little snippet that caught my attention.

Huff Po: Why This Psychologist Thinks Depression is an Infectious Disease
In what cases have we seen infectious agents affect mood and behavior? 
There's some literature on intestinal bacteria and probiotics. We have more than 1,000 strains of bacteria in our intestines, and it turns out that you need those to digest food. They may also play a role in our emotional states, so that people who have experienced negative emotions report improved mood when placed on a probiotic. These people may experience a reduction in depressive symptoms and anxious symptoms. So that's one example of bacteria playing a role in mood. 
There's some work on animals that goes more deeply into the potential mechanisms. There are mice that were bred to have no intestinal bacteria -- so these are germ-free, super clean mice. When you take them into a laboratory setting where you stress them out, they show a very strong stress response. But when you then put them on a diet of common intestinal bacteria, their stress response normalizes. So there's a possibility that these bacteria that we have in our guts may not only help us digest our food, but may also play a role in our emotional well-being. You could flip that upside down and say, well there's good bacteria, but maybe there's also bad bacteria that instead of lifting your mood could depress your mood...
There was one epidemiological study that looked at the prevalence of a particular parasite across 20 different European countries, and they correlated that with suicide rates, and they found a significant positive correlation. Now, we all know from any introductory science course that correlation isn't causation, so we don't know what the deal is with that, but there is a correlation there. It's also correlated with higher levels of self-reported neuroticism as a personality trait... This is all very preliminary, but I think it might be one interesting starting point.
IBD is referred to as an invisible disease meaning many times IBDers do not manifest symptoms outwardly. And it is much, much more than running to the restroom, trust me on that. We often hear "but you don't look sick" and even though we know it's not said to hurt us, it does. It really, really does.

IBDers already fight their own battle of wondering if it's all in our heads and sometimes we even have to fight the healthcare system into believing us when we don't have any outward symptoms.  
When I first started having issues, I was told it was due to some stress in my life at that time. Yes, I was in a very emotionally stressful situation because a very close friend of mine was dying plus I'm a wife, mom and domestic goddess everyday ;). It just happened to coincide with the news that her cancer was back and not going away this time. I hadn't been feeling 100% for several months already and my symptoms were becoming much more than diarrhea and frequent bathroom trips in the fall of 2003. She was given her pink slip in January and by summer I was in a full blown flare and she was nearing the end of her life. It was a very, very emotionally taxing as well as physically demanding period. All of her friends were pitching in to help her family with meals, housework and other general day to day stuff so that her last days would be a little easier on them. (I'm not trying to get a pat on the back here, it's just what was going on in my life at the time.) I was given the UC diagnosis in late July and she passed away 2 weeks later. I do not want to sound selfish or take away from the family's loss but I was really struggling after she died. My life was dramatically different because of this stupid disease and now one of my closest friends, the one who understood chronic illness and pain was gone. I think that this situation worked against me and intensified the UC symptoms however, I was sick long before her prognosis. 

I think it took close to a year before I was officially diagnosed. This isn't uncommon since the symptoms of IBD can be sporadic and not very severe in the beginning. I didn't seek help until I was bleeding rectally and in so much pain I had to go to the ER. I just kept chalking it up to something I ate or a stomach bug. You can add denial to that too, I dreaded going to the doctor to tell him I was pooping 20x a day. It's a little more embarrassing than a sore throat. In the back of my mind, I was scared there was something BAD wrong with me. UC is pretty darn serious but it's not a terminal diagnosis. 

And by the way, taking a year to get my diagnosis is about average. Believe it or not the average delay in diagnosis of Crohn's or UC is 1-3 years. It makes for a long, miserable and painful journey.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

There's an oil for that...

You know in the Bible where it talks about anointing with oil for healing of physical ailments? To be specific: Mark 6:13 and James 5:14 are just a couple of them. Anyway...turns out, it's true. I know, imagine that.

I have a good friend who has been singing the praises of essential oils for about a year now and all the amazing things she and her family have experienced because of them. **Here's where I'm going to reveal my prideful, know-it-all, ugly self. It's not pretty and I like to pretend that I do not have this in me but I do.** I was truly happy that she and her family were having such great results like not getting sick as often as before, no one has needed antibiotics for infections and they are getting real relief from allergies. All of which is awesome but like I said, the ugly part of me surfaced and was whispering in my ear that no one in her house has a chronic illness or chronic pain so really, how effective would it be for me? 

Um, yeah... so the thing about being a know-it-all is that you often have to eat your words. And they taste terrible.

After hearing some success stories from friends who do have chronic illness and pain similar to mine I began to rethink my stance on the whole oil thing. (I have since apologized to my friend for not exploring it further just on her experience.) I started wondering if there was something to this for those of us with chronic crap.  Not all of them share my belief in God and not that that matters but us holy rollers tend to believe in the super natural healing accompanying the anointing of oil. 

Yes, I believe God created natural things like oils, minerals and nutrients derived from plants and such for our use but I tend to get caught up in the modern world  of medicine. For centuries people have used natural remedies for ailments so why was this so hard for me to open my mind to? I guess I'm used to living in a prescription world. 

So I gave Young Living Essential Oils a try, very skeptically I might add. The first two weeks were nothing short of amazing! After reading up on the oils in my starter kit
Yong Living Starter Kit
(my kit contained valor but I think
it's been removed from the starter kit
now due to high demand and low supply.)
and finding various "oil recipes" on Pinterest I set about using them for various issues. My kit also came with a diffuser for aroma therapy. Now, I use them every single day and even have one of my kiddos and the hubby using them. Watch out people, I'm a true believer!  

Here is the first success story: Our youngest developed pleurisy after a bad upper respiratory infection. 2 rounds of antibiotics and a 5 day prednisone pack later he was still in significant pain. He's a dedicated football playing fool and this being his senior year there was no way he was going to miss out on any games. The first game he played after being diagnosed with pleurisy he was in extreme pain, he could barely get up after being tackled, reaching for a ball was almost impossible and playing on defense was out of the question. My oils came in the following week and so I researched what to use. What was recommended is an oil blend, PanAway, and a single oil, Frankincense, so I decided to give these a try. I diffused Frankincense by the couch where he was sitting and made a roller bottle of the PanAway and grape seed oil (used to dilute the concentrated essential oil and as a carrier oil to spread it on the body) to apply to his left lung area where the pain was the worst and then to the bottom of his feet on the lung area (see the Vita-Flex foot photo). He also used a heating pad across his chest/lung area while we watched TV for about an hour. We applied the roller ball PanAway to his feet again before bed and 2x daily for the next few days. By the time Friday came, he was ready to go and in a considerable less amount of pain! Pleurisy takes forever to heal but I think we sped up the process big time with the oils. The difference he felt over the few days we used the oil and how he felt after the antibiotics and steroid was unreal. I believe both therapies were instrumental in his recovery.
Roller bottle is about the size of a
lipstick and so easy to take anywhere
even on an airplane.

Second success story: Again this involves my son who had pleurisy. He gets severe headaches from fluorescent lighting and often they turn into migraines that end up sending him home from school. He's had this since about 3rd grade and we've been to the doctor and chiropractor hoping to find relief. All his tests come back normal so it's basically a sensitivity to light causing the headaches. Being a kid and concerned about fitting in, he was not about to wear any kind of tented glasses so suffering through the headaches with advil/tylenol and sometimes laying in the dark nurses office for 20 minutes would help get him through the day. He'd come home from school absolutely zapped and often take a nap in order to get relief from the pain. I started looking for a possible treatment with the oils and came across a headache recipe: Peppermint, Lavender, and Frankincense oils were blended together with the grape seed oil and put in a roller bottle. He applies the blend to his temples and across his brow and massages it in as soon as he feels one setting in. I also had him place just a dab under his nose to help like aroma therapy as the headaches can also cause nausea. And guess what, it worked! He told me that it will sometimes ward off the headache completely and if not, at least it takes the edge off so he can function. He LOVES it! We call it his headache voodoo. This, by far, is my favorite experience with the oils so far. It has been 10 years of these stupid headaches with hardly any relief until now!

Third success story: Shannon has been struggling with TMJ pain for the past month due to some dental work he had done so I made him a roller bottle of Valor. He applied to his jaw joint just below the ear and to the vita-flex point inside the ear which seemed to help considerably. I also made him a roller bottle for high blood pressure of Lavender and Peace and Calming (pre made blend from Young Living).

I have chronic joint and nerve pain and hate having to take narcotics so I'm always looking for another alternative. I haven't quite found the exact pain recipe that works but I'm still trying. What I have found that has made a difference is applying Lavender in a roller bottle to the bottom of my feet. This helps me fall asleep even when I'm in pain. I also tried the PanAway bottle on my knees today because they were killing me due to a nasty cold front that moved in. That gave me more relief than I thought it would too. Something else I'm trying and having success with is an ointment of Lavender and coconut oil. This was recommended for help with dry eyes. Basically, I mixed Lavender into the coconut oil which is a solid and then spread a small amount around the eye area after washing my face before bed. I have to admit, I didn't have great expectations for this one but it proved it's value and my contacts have been a lot more comfortable for the last 5 days that I've done this. Another oil I've experimented with is Purification which is a blend of several oils pre made by Young Living. I've applied it directly to canker sores inside my mouth and it seems to have a pain reducing element as well as a healing one. It tastes terrible but it beats the horrible pain and uncomfortableness of the stupid sores. I've been diffusing Theives or Peace and Calming too which has a nice relaxing effect on us all. 
This is the grapeseed oil I use.
Olive oil is another good carrier oil too.
I had no idea but there are several forms of coconut oil available.
The one recommended for balms is cold-pressed and unrefined.
If you are interested in learning more about the Young Living oils, you can find all kinds of info on Pinterest as well as Young Living Essential Oils information.

Monday, September 15, 2014

"Keep Your Eyes Open"

Be strong, but not rude.
Be kind, but not weak.
Be bold, but don't bully.
Be humble, but not shy.
Be confident, but not arrogant.

I don't know who came up with the above quote but I'm pretty sure they were on to something. I often cross these lines. Sometimes on a daily basis, if I'm honest. That's not an easy thing to admit either. We will call that pride...

I try to live my life by the golden rule-- you know, the one found in Luke 6.

I often fail miserably at that too. I find that I don't really want to put myself out there in the world in any capacity where things I say or do might come back to bite me. Because believe me, I WILL do or say something stupid that I will have to own up to. It's just a matter of time.

I was thinking about this today when I went for a run. Running can either be my friend or foe mentally. It gives me time to process and do some introspection. Often times it brings crap to the surface that I've managed to push aside and not deal with. These make for long and painful runs, my least favorite but most productive. 

I won't go into the boring details of what my thoughts were today other than this: I tend to keep to myself and not put forth a whole lot of effort in taking myself out of my comfortable little bubble.

As I was finishing my run and transferring into the cool down period my play list started Needtobreathe's Keep Your Eyes Open. Have you heard this song? It's got a great beat. Today, for the first time I really listened to the lyrics. Really listened. 

If you could soldier on
Headstrong into the storm
I'll be here waiting on the other side
Don't look back
The road is long
The first days of the war are gone
Take back your former throne and turn the tide

Cause if you never leave home, never let go
You'll never make it to the great unknown till you
Keep your eyes open, my love
So tell me you're strong, tell me you see
I need to hear it, can you promise me to
Keep your eyes open, my love

Just past the circumstance
The first light, a second chance
No child could ever dance the way you do, oh
Tear down the prison walls
Don't start the curtain call
Your chains will never fall until you do

Cause if you never leave home, never let go
You'll never make it to the great unknown till you
Keep your eyes open, my love
So show me your fire, show me your heart
You know I'll never let you fall apart if you
Keep your eyes open, my love

Open up
Open up
Open up your eyes
The weight is unbroken
Open up
Open up
Open up your eyes
Keep your eyes open

Don't let the night become the day
Don't take the darkness to the grave
I know pain is just a place
The will has been broken
Don't let the fear become the hate
Don't take the sadness to the grave
I know the fight is on the way
When the sides have been chosen

Cause if you never leave home, never let go
You'll never make it to the great unknown
Open up your eyes
Keep your eyes open
So tell me you're strong, tell me you see
I need to hear it, can you promise me to
Keep your eyes open, my love
So show me your fire, show me your heart
You know I'll never let you fall apart if you
Keep your eyes open, my love

Keep your eyes (Keep your eyes open)

Ummmm, is this a hint that I need to break out of the bubble? Because, I really, reeeeaaaaallllyyyy  like my bubble. 

What is my true reason for staying within my comfort zone? Oh, that's right-- it's comfortable! As long as I'm comfortable in my little zone my chances of screwing up are pretty slim. Or at least the audience is a little nicer and more forgiving when I do. 

That's just pathetic. I'm a little embarrassed to have admitted to this. OK, a LOT embarrassed.

So where do I go from here? How does one break free of the comfort zone bubble? How does one not panic, hyperventilate, run back screaming and slam the door in the face of the unknown? When did I become this person?

I have a feeling chronic illness has quite a bit to do with it. That's a great excuse abut that's all it is. It doesn't keep me from doing everything I love. Sure, there are days and sometimes weeks even, where I can't do what I enjoy. It doesn't keep me from picking back up as soon as I feel good though. 

Here's what I think: when I was super duper sick pre-ileostomy, I had no choice but to give in to the disease and it's daily debilitating yuckiness. I had to pick and choose carefully what my time and energy would be spent on. Post-ileostomy I still have to prioritize and take care of myself because I do still have bad days and nights for that matter. I may have what feels like copious amounts of energy compared to before but in reality, it still has a cap on it. So, all that is to say this: I got comfortable in my protected little sickness bubble. I've come out of it in many ways but as far as pursuing new friendships heck, even maintaining some of the old I'm doing a pretty pitiful job there.

I am quite content alone. Maybe too much so. This is something my hubby gets frustrated with me on. I don't need a lot of close friends. I'm fortunate in that the hubs is my best friend and I have a great family which provides me with several close relationships. Branching outside of this is hard. I enjoy meeting new people and hanging out with great friends but I tend to keep just a little bit of distance there. This is an area I hope to be bolder in.

I guess it's time to leave home and venture into the great unknown...

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

I'm OK with that.

Maybe it's being on this side of 40 but, I have come to realize that there are things in life that are just fine by me. While down and out this weekend with a lovely virus I did a little introspection.

1. I want to be healthy and fit. By this statement, I do not mean cover of a fitness magazine healthy and fit.
      I'm going to take care of myself. I will try to eat right, drink lots of water and exercise regularly. I'll exercise when I can and not lose sleep over when I can't.
      I won't guilt myself out of the occasional dessert or berate myself for the venti hazelnut latte with whole milk either. I will enjoy the moments life gives us to celebrate.
      I won't weigh myself everyday or compare the size of my thighs with Miranda Kerr's. (Besides, she'd lose if we went on the larger number and I'd hate to give her a complex.) On that note, my thighs and rear end may not be firm enough to bounce a coin off of and neither will my abs.
      I won't be rocking a bikini on the beach and not because I'm trying to hide my un-flawless body either. I have a battlefield of scars on my tummy from numerous surgeries. I have an ostomy bag on the right side of my abdomen. I have some excess weight from years of steroids and lack of muscle from being sliced and diced. I have wiggly-jiggly thighs and a rear that's significant in size. The stretch marks that reside around my middle are there because I gave life to 2 amazing young men. They are the tattoos of motherhood. I will be wearing a tankini with a mom-skirt because I feel comfortable that way. I want to have fun at the beach and not worry about what I'm wearing.

And you know what, I'm OK with that.

2. The home is where the heart is. Absolutely true. Mine won't be a feature in any magazine there either but it will be filled with people I love and stuff that makes us happy.
      My floors could possibly be sticky and you might discover a few Cheetos in the couch. There's dog hair and shoes and probably laundry on the furniture. The throw pillows are often used as TV trays when they aren't thrown on the floor and the stains will prove it.
      We live out of the dryer and the dishwasher. There's always some half-done project covering the dining room table. There's a good bet that something in the fridge is out of date too.
      Our beds aren't made daily or even weekly sometimes. If you venture into our room I can guarantee there's gonna be a pair of undies on the floor somewhere.
      Company is always welcome, just don't open the closets because that's where I'm hiding stuff. We are always down to do something fun instead of chores. Let's face it--great memories aren't made while doing chores.
      My house may be messy (I do try to keep the dirt at bay) but it's where we live. It's comfortable and welcoming and full of love.

I'm OK with that too.

3. Life is short and it should be enjoyed.
      I have a limited amount of energy due to the autoimmune crap so I will limit the demands on my time and energy. I'm not the mom who will volunteer for everything or be at the school every time the doors are open. Same goes with church stuff.  I wish I could, but I just don't have that kind of stamina. I have to conserve it or my family will suffer.
      Spontaneity makes for some great times and memories. I will not hesitate to jump in the car or leave the dishes in the sink for a good time with family and friends.
      I'm drawing the line with petty drama. It'll piss a few people off but I'm not going to give it a second thought. You can't please all of the people all of the time.
      I won't dwell on mistakes. I'll just focus on what can be learned and move forward. The past will not dictate my future.
      I may not make much of a mark on society but that's fine. As long as my family is healthy and happy, it's enough for me.

And yes, I'm OK with that.



Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Struggle Within

As you know, Robin Williams passed away yesterday by taking his own life. This is a terrible tragedy and one that is so hard to understand when he seemed to want for nothing. 

Depression is like that though, a deceitful and sneaky disease. Often it's sufferers exhibit no outwardly obvious signs of it's severity. It is most often a battle fought in the dark corners of a person's mind. It is so powerful and persuasive in it's mission to destroy and it is often successful.

Depression is a cancer of the mind.

I have struggled with depression off and on for many years. Until you've experienced it, it is very hard to comprehend how invasive and manipulative this disease is. I can only describe it as heavy. I looked up the definition of heavy and was surprised to see how many meanings it has both as an adjective and a noun. I'd venture to say that almost each one can relate to depression. 

Depression is like having a 50 pound weight strapped to your back at all times. It's always there, reminding you of it's heaviness every move you make. At times, it's oppression makes it impossible to stand and carry on as normal. This is when the disease is at it's most powerful for it can mottle the thoughts and rational of it's host.

When a person crosses the line and considers ending his/her life, depression has taken the mind hostage. It's infiltration feels like the end of the world and all this person can think about is finding relief. To make matters worse, this disease will deceive it's prisoner by suggesting suicide would be the best course of action to keep loved ones from suffering too. 

I'm guilty of saying that suicide is a selfish act but I was wrong. It may seem that way to those on the outside looking in but what we have to remember is this person is not thinking rationally. He/she is sick, a very real illness of the mind. At this point, he/she is so blinded by the pain and fatigued from the battle that this act is seen more as a self-sacrifice. A way to end the suffering that is affecting everyone around them. The thought that the life of others will be improved if he/she were no longer there to mess things up. To cause more pain and suffering. To steal their happiness. Yes, these are complete and total lies told by depression as suicide leaves a wake of hurt, confusion and destruction for those left behind. If the sufferer truly understood the consequences of this act, would the idea of suicide be so appealing?

We've all known or heard of someone who was terminally ill with some form of physical illness like cancer and chose to end their life, to end the pain and suffering. To keep from being a burden on their loved ones. We can often see why this person would choose such an option when their body is physically evident of their struggle yet, we don't judge them and call them selfish. Why is that? Please do not misunderstand me, I -IN NO WAY, SHAPE OR FORM- believe that suicide is right or OK depending the circumstances. I am only saying that we tend to draw a line out there and when that line is crossed, we react based on our own feelings and understanding. The fact remains, we do not know why a person fighting depression comes to the decision of suicide or what they are truly thinking in that final moment. Our quick judgements can often bring more pain to those who have been left reeling in the aftermath of a loved one's death.

I take medication for treatment of depression. I suffer from a chemical imbalance where my body does not produce enough serotonin that I need. Interestingly enough, 90% of serotonin is located in the GI tract. So what happens when your GI tract rebels and acts out against you? What happens when a disease attacks the GI tract and keeps it from functioning properly? What happens when you loose your colon and large intestine to disease? Is it really any wonder why I struggle with depression? 

This is something I will deal with for the rest of my life. Now, I do know that God can heal this and I am totally open to that but until then, I will continue to treat my depression through the help of doctors. I don't want to get into a debate on how we should believe and trust God for complete healing versus treatment with medicine. I believe that God gave us the understanding and desire to seek knowledge in order to help each other in times of need. I'm in need of treatment for a medical condition and I sought it out via the medical community. I love the Lord 100% and I believe that He is capable of healing me and I trust that He's using modern medicine to help me. There is no shame in dealing with illness. We live in a fallen world and must deal with the consequences of this. Depression is a real sickness and it must be treated as one. 

My heart is truly broken for Robin Williams, his family and friends and I hope and pray they will be comforted during this time of great sadness. Yesterday altered their lives forever. Maybe through this, more awareness will be brought to the seriousness of depression. I think it's our responsibility to honor the struggles people face so that good can come from tragedy.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Back to Basics

Every year about this time we start preparing for "Back to School". I consider this the beginning of the real New Year. When you have kids in school, August is more like January. It entails extensive goal and list making. It spurs an organization frenzy. New clothes, shoes and supplies are bought in order to ensure success in all areas of life from personal image to academic standing. Yes, August brings excitement and a renewed sense of purpose for us, a chance to start again on a blank canvas.

With one child in college, my August preparations have lessened quite a bit. College Boy is now responsible for his own personal image and academic standing. Of course, there is the check writing by us that makes this possible plus the friendly and encouraging accountability texts and phone calls to help guide him along the way. I must say, I do not miss the trips to Office Max to fight over supplies.

Son #2 is a senior in high school this year. The Senior Year. The amount of stuff required to be done this year boggles my mind. I know, I've already done this with one kid but really, you cannot compare my boys as they are very different so each Senior Year will be too.

This kid plays sports like I drink water. We are constantly on the go, sitting in bleachers and cheering for the team somewhere in the Texas panhandle. I have no idea what this year will be comprised of so we will just have to be ready for anything.

It's a sweet sorrow really, watching these boys grow into a responsible young men. Sometimes I miss the little voices, the sound of army men battling it out on the coffee table, and the sweet cuddles they so quickly grow out of. I cherish those memories. (I don't miss the work load of those young years though.)

So it's back to basics for me. I'll tell you this: summer is wonderful but it's a terrible influence due to the bad habits I fall in to. Staying up/sleeping late, being lazy and unstructured, having no clue what day of the week it is, putting off chores to sit on the patio reading... Honestly I'm a bit concerned about this, when son #2 leaves home I may become a complete and worthless bum.

The first thing on my TO DO list is try to blog more. It just helps me think better. I don't know why but it does so it's a must. Seeing my thoughts in black and white helps me keep perspective. It gives me a place to vent, praise or just ramble. I am a much better writer than I am verbal communicator. Some of you may not think that's true but only because you know well. I'm much better one on one with a close friend than in a group. I also suck at small talk. I think I need a tele-prompter or an earpiece with a speech writer on the other end. At the very least, note cards. Maybe there's a class I could take "Social Skills for the Socially Inept"?

Well, moving on now. Next on the list is to find a regular Bible Study. I haven't had one in a very long time. Years ago I went to one that was phenomenal, my friend and the leader of it passed away in 2004 and since then I've not had a steady group. I've been a part of several over the years but none have had the impact that one did. It's probably me, in fact I know it is. I miss her, I miss that group and our dynamic.

Part of me has held back from getting that involved again, I can't really explain why though. Some of it is that I still compare that group with any others which is very unfair and all I'm doing is cheating myself out of something that might turn into a good thing. Another road block in this area was disease. Not only did I loose my friend in 2004 but I was also diagnosed with UC that year. This diagnosis stole a lot of my freedom and ability to commit to things. It seemed like the days I couldn't get out of bed were always the days the study group met. I had to guard my health and my time allowing only priorities to lay claim to my energy. I never had enough to fully commit to anything outside of family.

Thankfully, now with my ileostomy I am a much healthier person! Also, my kids are so much more independent now. My schedule is wide open and ready to be planned. One thing chronic illness taught me though is saying yes and no and meaning it. I truly consider what I am willing to commit to and freely say no when I need to. Gone are the days when I worried that saying no would offend someone. If I say yes, I mean it and I will do everything possible to keep that yes. If I say no, it's because I do not feel good about committing to something if there is a possibility I won't be able to follow through. One thing I've implemented is that I no longer apologize for saying no. If I preface my no with a "sorry" then it's because I mean it. "I'm sorry I can't" translates to "Man, I really wish I could but I cannot keep that commitment and I want to be honest with you about it." Saying no is meant to be respectful to the person asking not a personal judgement or insult to them. It's also a way I stay healthy and keep my priorities in check. It's so easy to over commit and that takes a tole on my health faster than anything.

Structure. Man oh man do I ever need structure! I am not one to willingly put structure in my life even though I need it. I tend to be very spontaneous and prone to follow a wild hare but structure keeps that side of me in check. I am a classic starter of projects but not always a finisher. The structure of the school year outlines my days and gives me time brackets in which to function. I can better manage my whims when I know I have a time frame. Structure does not come easy for me and there are times I will fight it like a baby fighting sleep.

Today started day 1 of the Back to Basics campaign. I've done well too. For example, it's 3pm and I'm NOT in my pajamas. I've knocked out my errands and chores for the day as well. I think I'm gonna reward myself with a 4pm Fight Club class. Nick's Fight Club is my latest obsession! It's so stinkin' fun and I absolutely love it! It's the hardest workout I think I've ever done and it burns the calories like none other. I try to go 3-4 times a week. It just makes me happy. So happy.