Stigma

Hello dear reader

Note:  There were some issues with publishing this post. I apologize for any confusion this may have caused.

I try very hard to keep a positive outlook on my life, and most of the time I’m fairly successful. But I have to admit that I’ve been in a really bad place recently.  It’s hard to explain, but I just gave up. I didn’t follow up on getting my teeth fixed, or doing the mammogram or colonoscopy my doctor ordered a month ago. I stopped wearing any jewelry or make-up. I didn’t care what I wore, just pulled on clothes because it’s what I had to do. I didn’t keep up with housework or laundry, just did what absolutely had to be done. Nothing mattered. I didn’t want to do anything but sleep. I felt done.

The thing is that I didn’t realize what was going on, or didn’t care. I’m not certain which. Maybe both.  But I woke up this morning and felt different. I got up, took a bath, thought about what I was going to wear and got dressed, and started cleaning the house.  Yes, I know. It was classic depression.  But what I don’t know is where it came from and where it went. 

I’ve dealt with depression for the majority of my life and have been on some kind of antidepressant or another for years. I know the signs and symptoms. I know things that help and things that make it worse.  But I cannot see it when I’m in it.
About three weeks ago I woke up at 3:30 in the morning with a high fever and having convulsions.  My husband rushed me to the hospital, where they diagnosed me with pneumonia. They gave me a prescriptions for antibiotics and home oxygen and told me to follow up with my primary care doctor, which I did. I spent the next week and a half in a LOT of pain and completely exhausted. The one good thing that came out of it was that I quit smoking. I’ve tried so many times and ways. All of a sudden I simply had no more urge to smoke!  Almost worth the pneumonia… maybe.  The point to this long story (yes, there is a point) is that there’s a possibility all of that happening had something to do with the depression coming on.  I say possibility because I believe the depression started before the pneumonia and all that went with it.

So I still don’t know where (why?) it came from or where (why?) it went. I only know that I’m very glad it’s gone and that I have a TON of catching up to do.

I think the reason it’s important to me to put all of this out there is that there is still a stigma about mental illness, which depression is a form of.  But I don’t choose to be mentally ill any more than I choose to have Chiari Malformation or chose to have pneumonia.  There should be no more stigma attached to mental illness than there is to physical illness. 

There needs to be conversation about these things. Only by talking about them can people understand what mental illness is and is not.  Communication is what will bring us out of the dark ages and the fear that goes along with ignorance.

Until next time….

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Lessons learned

Hello dear reader,

The last time I wrote I was trying to explain how St. George is one of the positive things in my life.  I got sidetracked (as usual) but that’s part of who I am and the things I deal with.  One last thing I want to explain about the meals we cook five days a week is that everything is donated.  This makes cooking there different from cooking anywhere else.  Normal cooking involves deciding what to make and gathering the ingredients to make it.  Cooking at St. George is the exact opposite of normal.  When you get there you see what has come in and what leftovers there might be from the day before and you figure out what you can make with what you have.  This involves a lot of creativity and experimentation.  But somehow it always works.  I’ve been working with St. George for over 11 years and there has never been a time we didn’t have food.  We feed, on average, 50 people a day.  One last thing…nobody will ever ask you to come to church, preach at you, ask you for money, etc.  The meals are simply a place where people from all walks of life gather over food and create community.  Isn’t that cool?

Okay, enough about that.  My kids have really been on my mind lately.  They always are, but some times are harder than others.  This is a harder time.  I miss them like crazy.  I would give anything to go back to when they were little and all home.  I can look back now and see so many mistakes I made in raising them, but I did the best I could with what I had at the time.  I didn’t have a “childhood” like many people.  I spent those years wishing and waiting for the time I could leave home.  I was determined that my children would have a childhood where they would be able to look back and remember those days as happy and fun.  I wanted them to have good memories of growing up.  My only guidance in how to parent my children was to do the opposite of what my parents did. 

I do not believe in physical punishment.  All that does, in my opinion, is teach children that if someone isn’t doing what you want them to, then you simply hurt them until they do.  Let me be very clear here…I believe children need discipline and structure.  It makes them feel safe and secure.  They know what to expect and they don’t live in constant fear never knowing what will happen.  I do not believe in physical discipline.  I can honestly say that my children were very well mannered and well behaved children.  I heard that from many people.  Off on another sidetrack. 

The point is that kids don’t come with instructions and even if they did you’d need separate ones for each child.  Hindsight, as the saying goes, is 20/20.  I would have loved to know then what I know now.  My children are all grown and have lives of their own.  That’s what we try to prepare them for, isn’t it?  While I know I messed up a lot, they’re all living happy and successful lives.  They all know how to give and receive love.  As far as I’m concerned, that’s the definition of successful.  So I must have done something right. 

I find it quite ironic that by the time we (parents) finally figure things out, our children are no longer there to benefit from that knowledge.  I think the biggest lesson I learned was how important it is to listen, really listen to our children.  A five year old telling you in detail about everything that happened at school today (who got in trouble, who they played with at recess, what they drew, what they had for lunch and whether they liked it or it was gross, what movie they watched, whether or not they slept at rest time, you get the point) can seem very trivial, even irritating, especially when you’re trying to get something else done.  However, ten years later when they want to talk to you about the pressure they feel from their boyfriend (or girlfriend) to have sex or use drugs, now that’s important to us!  The thing people don’t seem to get is that in your child’s eyes they are equally important at the time.  Here’s the real kicker….if you didn’t stop to listen to them when they were five and what happened at school today was important tothem then by the time what they have to say is important to you they’ve given up trying to make you listen.  The bottom line is that the dishes and laundry and other housework is always going to be there.  Your children aren’t. The things that matter to them are important, no matter the age or topic.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on these things. So please feel free to hit that little comment box and tell me how you feel about it.

Until next time….

Focus

Hello dear reader,

Before I begin today I should tell you that some of the things I’m writing today may have been written before.  When I decided to begin this blog again, I cleared out all of my old posts.  There are things in them that some people may not like.  But today I restored all of them.  They’re all truth.  They’re my story and my perception.  If anyone doesn’t like what I’ve written, they don’t have to read it.  The final reason for restoring them is that, in my humble opinion, there is some good writing there. 😉  So if any of this is repetitive I apologize for that.   That being said,  let’s go!

I’ve learned over the years that if I focus on my pain, my pain takes over my life.  So I try my best to focus on positive things.  Thankfully, I have many of them.  One of the most positive things in my life is St. George Episcopal Church.  I know I’ll forget something from the long list of things they do, so here’s a link to their website.

St. George Episcopal Church

I went to St. George over 11 years ago by accident.  Honestly, I went to the “wrong” church.  But I immediately wanted to be a part of the things they did.  All my life I had heard it preached…feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick, etc.  Usually what followed that was “we need your money to do these things.”  At St. George I never once heard that preached.  I never heard demands for money.  I saw these things being DONE.  It wasn’t a spaghetti dinner once a month for the homeless.  It was a daily way of life for these people.  I actually heard that my time and energy was more important than my money!  So I jumped in with both feet.  This, just like the mountains, was where I belonged, what I had been looking for.

I began volunteering where I could, helping with the meals, putting together a cookbook to help fund our new (desperately needed) roof, crocheting things to be sold (also for the roof).  The more I got involved, the more I loved it.  I ended up on vestry (sort of the decision makers for the church) and loved that too.  Eventually I had my own day at the meals.  I cooked every Tuesday, I believe it was.

It was during this time that I was diagnosed with Chiari.  I spent three months staying with my wonderful brother (I love you Donnie) in Ohio and had the first of what would be many surgeries.  The Cleveland Clinic was wonderful.  I got a good 9 months of recovery from it.  Unfortunately, all of my symptoms returned and the pain was unbelievable.  I was told that my brain was coming out of the base of my skull.  During that period a good day was one in which I made it out of the bed and on to the couch.  People from the church would come to my house and give me communion.  One of St. George’s priest (Ali Lufkin) makes wonderful pottery and made a beautiful little cup for my communion.

Obviously I was unable to give anything to the church, I had nothing in me to give.  My husband and I (who met at St. George) had been together about three months at that point.  He was doing everything he could to keep the bills paid and help me.  I’ll never forget one day specifically.  Tim had hitch hiked over the pass to do snow and ice removal (we had 3 – 4 cars, just none that ran) and then hitch hiked home soaking wet and freezing.  When he walked in the door I told him that we would have to order pizza or something for dinner because I just couldn’t cook.  I felt terrible about it.  He sat down beside me, put his arm around me and said, “I’m so glad you got some rest today.”

If you’re new to my blog, you’ll soon discover that I sometimes get sidetracked when I’m writing.  The point to today’s post was that I cooked at the church yesterday.  I’m paying for it today, as I knew I would.  But it is one of the most positive things in my life.  I have fun and get to spend the day with around 50 wonderful people.  I absolutely love it when I can do it.  It keeps the useless feeling away.  For me, that feeling is worse than the pain.

So I got sidetracked today, but hopefully you learned a little bit more about me and how I survive Chiari.  Maybe, if I’m lucky, I gave someone a little bit of hope that this disease doesn’t have to be the focus of your life.

Until next time…..

Scared

Hello dear reader.

I promised you complete honesty at the beginning of this journey.  You know I try very hard to be positive, to be thankful for everything in my life.  You also know that my health is not great.  Today is not a good day.  As a matter of fact, the last several weeks have been quite rough.  I haven’t written in a few days because I was hoping I would feel better, both physically and mentally, before I wrote again.  Sometimes it’s hard to see the difference between complete honesty and a pity-party.  This is not the latter.  This is me being honest about myself.   That said, I’m going to tell you what happened today that scared the crap out of me.

Let me begin at the beginning…I’ve had problems with kidney stones for a long time.  My kidneys, as well as the tubes between the kidneys and the bladder, are full of them.  This, along with my lousy immune system makes me more succeptible to kidney infections.  I’ve had the flank pain for almost a month this time, but didn’t go to the doctor until my temperature shot up to 102 a little over a week ago.  When I got to the doctor the fever wasn’t there but she gave me antibiotics anyway.  Of course I got the whole “if you aren’t better in a few days or if it gets worse…” deal.  I took my antibiotics religiously and didn’t miss a dose.  After a week of them, the pain isn’t just in my right flank anymore.  It now goes around and inside my hip bone.  It feels kind of like a vice on my right midside.  My temperature has stayed around 99-100.  So I called the doctor’s office and made an appointment for today.  Okay, there’s the background.

When it got close to time for me to leave I gathered the things that I needed to bring.  I also realized that I had forgotten to take the chicken for tonight out of the freezer, so I did that too.  In order to be sure it would be thawed out in time, I put it into the sink with water.  I left my house with time to spare so I wouldn’t have to stress about being late.  So here I was, driving up the pass with no worries listening to the radio. Just as I got to the summit of the pass I suddenly realized I hadn’t turned off the water in the sink.  I racked my brains.  Surely I didn’t leave it on!  But I couldn’t remember turning it off no matter how hard I tried.  I tried to think who I could call to go turn it off for me.  There are several people I know would do it, but who would Duke let into the house?  I didn’t trust him with anyone, especially without Tim or I there.  So I turned around and headed back to the house to turn off the water.  Traffic was totally stressing me out!  Every minute that passed I could envision the water getting deeper and deeper in the kitchen.  Would it spread onto the hardwood floors?  What kind of damage would that do?  Finally, after what seemed like forever, I got to the house.  I stopped on the side of the road and jumped out of the truck without even turning it off, much less locking it.  I ran as fast as I could to the front door and fought with the lock, got in and ran to the kitchen to see how bad it was….

There was no water running.  Everything was fine.   Of course by then there was no way for me to make it to the doctor in time.  I called and told them I would be a few minutes late, but they said if I was late I wouldn’t be seen.  So I rescheduled for tomorrow.  No big deal, right?  Happy ending, right?  No.  Not even close.

My short-term memory hasn’t worked very well since they removed the back part of my brain (see my post on Chiari Malformation).  I’ve learned to work around it some.  I write things down and set reminders on my phone for appointments and phone calls that need to be made, things like that.  But this split from reality, whatever you want to call it, how do I work around that?  It’s one more thing that scares me to death.  I’m terrified that my conscious brain’s functioning is getting worse.  I’m too young to be senile, aren’t I?

I was 100% certain I left that water running.  How could I be that certain and be wrong?  I don’t know.  Maybe I’m over-reacting, maybe I have reason to be afraid.  Either way, that’s where I am.  That’s how I feel.  Tomorrow will be better.  I’m 100% certain.

Until next time…

6 reasons not to worry

Hello dear reader.

Lately, I’ve been finding a lot of inspiration in what certain quotes bring to mind.  Glancing at them doesn’t get it.  You have to stop and let your mind wrap itself around what they say and, more importantly, what they mean.  How do they relate to your own life?  Here’s the one I picked for today…..

“Little minds have little worries, big minds have no time for worries.”

By Ralph Waldo Emerson

Worry…who doesn’t do that?  I think we all do it, some more than others.  I’ve figured out over the years that worry is something that should be avoided if possible.  Here are reasons why…

1.  Worry fixes nothing.   No matter how much you worry about any given thing, it will not change the outcome.  For example, say you’re a student with an important exam coming up in a subject you struggle with and you’re worried about it.  Will that improve your grade?  Of course not!  The way to make a better grade is to study.

2.  Worry actually makes things worse.  Worry is often a self-fulfilling prophecy.   Let’s go back to that exam you’re worried about.  Worrying about it causes stress, right?  Stress interferes with your ability to think clearly.  It also impedes your ability to relax, which can cause you to lose sleep.  Loss of sleep also interferes with you ability to think clearly.  You see where this is going?

3.  Worry can blow things out of proportion.  Monsters hide in the dark.  When you worry about things they grow in your mind.  Continuing with our example about the exam, worry can blow it up from a single exam to your entire future.  Who hasn’t done this before?  “If I blow this exam, I’ll fail that class.  If I fail that class, my GPA will drop.  If my GPA drops, I could lose my scholarship.  If I lose my scholarship, I won’t be able to graduate.  If I don’t graduate, I’ll end up flipping burgers for the rest of my life.  If I end up flipping burgers for a living, nobody will ever want to marry me.  If nobody wants to marry me, I’ll be old and alone.”   Etc., Etc.   Your head has convinced you that you will lose any chance at a happy life if you don’t do well on this one exam.  How many times has the unknown been much worse than the reality?

4.  Worry is habit forming.  Have you ever met someone who worries constantly about everything?   They can’t stop.  Once your head starts feeding into worry, it becomes a vicious circle.  One worry leads to another, which leads to another, which eventually leads to worrying about how much you worry.  Okay, that may be a little extreme, but you get my point.

5.  Worrying wastes your time and energy.  Worrying is exhausting!  Back to our exam, your brain is too busy running scenarios of what might happen if you do poorly (see #3) to have time or energy to absorb the information you need to do well on the exam.  There are only so many things you can focus on at once.   So you decide to go to a study group, where you spend the entire time talking about how worried about the exam you are.  So you’ve wasted three hours and exhausted yourself for absolutely no gain.  And the point is…???

6.  Worry robs you of happiness.  This is probably the most important reason of all to avoid worrying.  You cannot be worried and happy at the same time.  It’s just plain not possible.  It’s a proven fact that happy people are more productive people.  Back to our exam one last time…it’s simply a choice.  You can choose to study hard and do the best you can.  That mindset allows happiness.  You can also choose to have thoughts that say it’s not not good enough.  You need to find something more.  That mindset will lead to worry and frustration…the opposite of happiness

I can hear you now, “But Lynnette, sometimes you can’t help but worry.  Haven’t you ever been in a situation like that?  Are you trying to tell me that you just don’t worry at all?”  Of course I worry!  My kids will vouch for that fact.  However, I don’t allow myself to stay worried, and that changes everything.  When I begin to worry about something, I ask myself three questions…
      1.  Why am I worried about this?
      2.  Is there anything that I can do to make the situation better?
      3.  If I’ve done everything I can, why am I still holding on to this?
Those questions bring me back into focus, into reality.  I’ve done all I can, so let it go.

I’ve learned over the years that while things may not work out the way I want them to, they do work out the way they’re supposed to.  Some people call that faith.  I honestly don’t know if it’s faith or simply experience.  Whatever you want to call it, it leaves no room for worry.

So what do you think?  Do you have little worries?  Big worries?  Or a big mind?

Until next time…

Love or fear?

Good morning dear reader.

Sorry I’ve been AWAL for a while.  Time seems to fly by much too quickly these days. Anyway, I’m here now and that’s what matters, right?

I found a quote not long ago that I want to share with you. I’ll tell you my feelings about it and I’d love to hear what your thoughts are…deal?

Love is what we are born with. Fear is what we have learned here. The spiritual journey is the unlearning of fear and the acceptance of love back into our hearts.
by Marianne Williamson

Think about that for a minute. We are born with love as our primary emotion. We give it away completely and freely asking only to have it given back to us. We are innocent and, more importantly, unscarred.

Soon we learn that there are people outside our circle of love. The world is a much bigger place than we ever imagined. At first, we try to give our love to all the people in this huge world. Some respond with love in return, as expected. But there are others who respond with anger or hurtfulness. That hurts. It teaches us not to give our love so freely and completely. Why? Because we become afraid of that pain.

Anyone who has been reading my blog knows I learned fear very early on. My heart wasn’t the only thing that got hurt…my body got hurt too. That made the fear much bigger. Here’s the strange part…I kept giving my love, hoping to find someone who would give it back to me, someone I wouldn’t have to be afraid of. For a long time I found that in my children. They were innocent and unscarred and gave their love completely and freely. I wanted it to stay that way forever. Unfortunately that isn’t what happens, is it? Children grow up. They get hurt and become afraid.

The spiritual journey Marianne Williamson speaks of is a very difficult one. We are asked to overcome all the hurts and the fear and give our love completely and freely again. Only by giving it can we learn to accept it back. That can be a dangerous thing….giving our love as we did before we learned to be afraid. We’re no longer in that little bubble. We know that giving our love can be a dangerous and hurtful thing. However, if we can overcome that fear wonderful things can happen. If we don’t, nothing will ever change. We’ll live out our lives alone in our scarred hearts.

I’m so very thankful that I took that spiritual journey. Don’t misunderstand me. It wasn’t easy. As a matter of fact, it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. But the end result was worth every tear. I now get to spend the rest of my life giving that love and having it given back to me. That’s a beautiful thing.

What do you think? Is that journey one worth taking? Is it worth the risk of being hurt again? Should you try to “unlearn the fear” so that you’re able to “accept love” back into your heart? Think about it, then tell me your story.

By the way, I have a couple of wedding pictures to show you. The entire wedding album is on Facebook as well as Google+ if you want to see more.

Until next time…

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Wedding vows

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You may kiss the bride

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Toasts with sparkling grape juice
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Rings and flowers

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The whole wedding party and Tim's mom

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We're really married!!