Thursday, August 14, 2014

Thirteen

Thirteen years.

Today marks thirteen years since our son Jeffrey was born still.  On August 14, 2001, our first child - a son - came into this world, already in the arms of our Father.

Married just over a year and three months, this event was (at the time) the single greatest tragedy to befall us, individually and as a couple.  Our lives changed on that day.

I was six months into my first pregnancy when I became quite ill.  I could look back with a wide range of feelings regarding that time of illness.  I had a doctor who was disinterested in me.  I knew something was wrong.  I knew it, but no one was taking my complaints seriously.  "Keep your feet up." was their response on multiple occasions.  It wasn't until I was in quite serious condition that they finally took me seriously.

I could look at that time frame and simply be angry at the medical establishment I was with.  But I don't know that the outcome would have been any different.  Maybe.  I have no way to know.

Thirteen years ago, we were not walking with the Lord.  We just weren't.  We occupied seats at church - sometimes.

While suffering through an illness that almost took me from this world, we lost our precious child.  


The emotions that followed in the time of grief that passed weren't good.  I was bitter, angry, enraged, hateful, and was coming undone.  I blamed God.  Oh, how I blamed Him.  I blamed Him for everything that had gone wrong in my life that ultimately led to this great loss.  The "Why me???" game was in full swing and it went into extra innings; far more than necessary.

Thirteen years have passed and I miss Jeffrey terribly.  I treasure the hours I held him - all 1 pound three quarters of an ounce of him - in my arms before it was time to let go.  I look back on the years of misery that I unfairly put myself (and others) through.

I can't change who I was then.  I didn't know God.  I didn't understand anything about relationship with Christ or walking with the Lord.  I probably would have scoffed at the idea of this being part of a plan.  In fact, I probably did.

I know now that I still don't understand why events transpired the way they did.  I don't understand why anyone has to lose a child at any stage of pregnancy or at any age thereafter.  It's not right.  It's not the natural order of things.  But I do know that God does, indeed, have a plan.
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future." (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV)
If I knew then that God was for me and not against me.  If I knew then that God was with me no matter what circumstances I found myself in.  If I knew then...

I think in the grand scheme of things, the loss of Jeffrey, as difficult as it was, was the very beginning of our road towards Christ.  A long road to be sure.  A dirty, pothole-filled, gravelly, rocky, scary road at times.  I know I couldn't see how there was any "good" in what happened.

I read that marriages that have endured a stillbirth are 40% more likely to wind up in divorce.  We were married in 2000.  Between 2001 and 2013, we endured a stillbirth, a miscarriage, and 24/7 caregiving for a medically fragile/special needs child who passed away at the age of almost seven years old.  Between 2001 and 2013, I have nearly died from sudden life-threatening health conditions five times.

Romans 8:28 says it this way:
"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."
I may still be trying to discern the purpose in all of this, but I know that our journey - beginning with this great loss - has brought us closer to God than we have ever been in our lives.  I know now that God is for me.  I know that He has been with me through every single trial I've endured.  I know that He is my strength and my comfort.

I don't know why things happen in life, but I know that God "comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God." (2 Corinthians 1:4)

We've walked a difficult journey these thirteen years, but we've grown stronger.  Individually.  Together.  With Christ.

Yes, things happen that we cannot predict or control.  God knows our journey.  He knows our sorrows and our trials.  He knows us.  He is strength in our weakness and in our weakness we are made strong.
"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.  Therefore I boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me." (2 Corinthians 12:9)



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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Depression: You Aren't Alone

I find it interesting the number of blog posts and news articles regarding depression have come across my feed this week. If you've never given depression a second thought, the sudden passing of beloved actor and comedian, Robin Williams, surely has caused you to consider it at least for a moment.

I'm not a doctor. I'm no expert. I am just a person. A person who has suffered with depression.

The passing of Robin Williams struck me, as it did many people around the world. How could one of the funniest men on the planet end his own life? 

Depression.  

It struck me because I just shared in my "Thankful Thursday" post how I have been struggling with depression and had just gone through a few weeks of anti-depressant medication withdrawal.  I just shared that post on August 7th. The post wasn't written to garner attention, nor did it. Four days later, on August 11th, we were shocked by the death of Robin Williams. We were shocked to learn that he'd allegedly died at his own hand.

Addiction and depression. Whatever Mr. Williams dealt with on this earth, it is not mine to discuss. That is between him, his loved ones, his friends, and anyone with whom he sought help. It is not for me to judge how he lived his life or how he ended it. It's not my place.

But what I can offer is this. Encouragement.

I've dealt with depression for years. Tomorrow - August 14th - is the 13th anniversary of the passing of my first child. My son, Jeffrey, who was stillborn. I have words to share on that tomorrow, but I struggled with many demons after that date back in 2001. I am not going to say that you need to get right with God because I don't know you and I don't know your relationship. I do know that for me, it is in the lenses of hindsight that I can see a vast difference between how I have handled that loss compared with the illness and death of my almost seven year old daughter in May of 2013. For me, I know that difference is my relationship with Christ.

Depression is real. Depression isn't simply being sad or unhappy. It's a controlling force that threatens every single day to consume all of your being. The extent and depths of my depression may be nothing compared with Mr. Williams' or even someone reading this right now. That doesn't make it any less real or any less a part of what I have been through these past several years.

I'm not a doctor, so I am not going to get into statistics and medical references, but I know that depression affects your brain chemistry. It's not a "choice". As much as I didn't choose to lose my son, I did not choose to wind up in the "depths of despair", a phrase Anne Shirley used in the book Anne of Green Gables to describe her feelings. She was being over-dramatic, but those words capture the feeling.

I was on anti-depressant medication until recently. For me, personally, I decided I wanted to try to resume a "normal" life without medication to treat my depression. I want to try a more natural approach through essential oils. I'm tired of being on chemicals to treat my depression. I felt like I was at a point where I could manage without meds. I quit cold-turkey - accidentally. Don't do that! Do it properly. I went through side effects that had me feeling worse - had me feeling more depressed than I had felt in ages, with horrible thoughts running through my head.  I'm on the other side of that now and, while I can't say I feel "amazing", I feel like - for now - I made the right decision.  That said, in the past few weeks, I've seen two doctors who both expressed concern, who both were ok with my decision, but who both encouraged me to seek their help if I felt like I couldn't function normally without the meds.

I am not suggesting to anyone that they quit cold-turkey. That is just to illustrate what's been going on with me. The sudden passing of Robin Williams came on the heels of this withdrawal phase for me. It was shocking and it made me remember things. His death made me cry. The feelings I had caused me to search high and low from the registry book from the funeral home that so many loved ones and friends had signed when Peyton passed away. In that moment, I needed to feel, in some way, the love of those people in a tangible way.

Depression is an every day journey that ebbs and flows. It can feel really bad for a season and it can also feel manageable for another. I am not out of my season of depression. It's just a little more manageable right now. I am surrounded by people who love me; this I know. I also know that I've got God with me through it all - even on the days when I will fail to recognize His existence in my life. 

And so I encourage you. If you are suffering through depression, please know that you are not going through it alone. I think more people than you realize are walking a similar journey and you don't even know. I think it's time to break the stigma of depression and let people know that it's ok to be depressed. You aren't alone. There is help for you. A family member or friend. Your pastor. Professional counseling. Medical intervention. In-patient resources. Out-patient resources. Even medications if you need it. Just don't go through it alone.



National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

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Thursday, August 7, 2014

Thankful Thursday #143



thank·ful

adjective \ˈthaŋk-fəl\
: glad that something has happened or not happened, that something or someone exists, etc.
: of, relating to, or expressing thanks
Source


Welcome to this week's edition of Thankful Thursday!

I am grateful for finishing this week on a good note.  We had our First Wednesday service at church last night and it was, as usual, amazing.  It's the best service of the month and one I look so forward to attending.  If you aren't a part of our church, First Wednesday is a once a month service on - wait for it - the first Wednesday of each month.  It's an extended time of worship with a message in there as well.  One of our former pastors was visiting and preached last night.  His family had left last summer to plant a church out in Colorado. His wife had been one of Peyton's nurses in the PICU step-down unit where she spent her last 40 days.  He, himself, came and prayed with our family at the visitation at the funeral home when Peyton passed away.  He gave an excellent message and it was really great to see how much he's grown as a pastor in the last year.  If you are someone who was there, don't you think he's grown?  You can definitely tell that God is at work through him!

This past week has been quite challenging.  Each and every day for the past week, I have faced some sort of "trigger" moment where my grief over Peyton resurfaced in a big way.  Her first anniversary since her passing was in May, so that wasn't it.  Her birthday fell in May, so that wasn't it either.  In fact, there really wasn't any significance to the time frame at all.  However, every single day something happened that really reminded me of our loss.  A funeral at church (I work in the church cafe and to be honest, I have never been in the church when a funeral was going on - except for Peyton's).  Same venue.  Same funeral home handling the service.  Some of the same undertakers even!  That was probably one of the biggest triggers, but you get the idea.  The church building has music playing over the speakers during the day.  I love listening to the music, but honestly when work is busy, I don't notice it as much.  A couple days ago, I was in a zone where I wasn't particularly noticing the music until I heard Kari Jobe singing "Healer".  When Peyton was in the hospital, towards the end I had a continuous loop of music going.  "Healer" was the second to last song that played before she passed away.  If you listen to the words, it was perfect since in her passing, Peyton was healed.  The song played as she slipped away from us and into the Father's arms.

Every day.  That is the type of week it was.  When I heard that song, I thought to myself, ok God, what are you trying to tell me??  I felt it was a message of some sort.  These reminders are all at once good yet painful at the same time.  I don't want to not remember these things but for whatever reason, I was bombarded by reminders.

A few weeks ago, I found myself "accidentally" coming off anti-depressant medication.  After many months of being on it, I had wanted to try to wean off of it.  I hate being on medication that maybe I don't need to be on.  I don't want all that stuff in my system if I don't truly need it.  I say "accidentally" though.  Did you know you're supposed to wean off this type of medication?  Did you know that "wean" doesn't mean "cold turkey"?  And did you know that if you accidentally quit cold turkey - meaning, you forget to call in your prescription and then you realize you've already been off a few days and decide it's probably not worth taking it at all (because you're really not a doctor and don't know that that's not smart) - there is a withdrawal period??

Who knew?!?!

So I found myself in the couple weeks prior to this past week with vertigo, restlessness, a low grade fever, and symptoms of depression that cause me to wonder if I should just go back on the meds and get the refill!  I even went to the doctor.  Neurological testing showed I didn't have a stroke or anything like that - I didn't know that was even something I should have considered!  The doctor wasn't sure so advised me to pay close attention to the symptoms and come back if it didn't improve.  I wound up back there anyway for an abscess that needed drained (I told you...it was not the best week this past week!!), but prior to that visit, I surfed the information highway only to find out that, hey, maybe all these symptoms (there were 7 or 8 independent symptoms) fit together under one "diagnosis".

Withdrawal.

Again.  Who knew?!?!

Depression is very real, people, and I'm not a doctor and I won't say anything other than that you should seek help if you are suffering from depression in some way.  It's also really dumb, in hindsight, not to refill a prescription and discuss weaning off these types of meds under a doctor's care.  After about two weeks or so now, I think I am finally through that "withdrawal" phase.  Now, I will not compare this type of withdrawal to something an addict would go through - it's not that type of withdrawal (I have not experienced that firsthand and have no idea what that must be like).  I just felt "off".  Really "off".  I discussed it with the doctor I saw for the abscess and it clicked that, yes, this was what was happening and that I should be over the worst of it soon.  I think I'm mostly over it now.

So...long story short (too late!) - I am beyond thankful that this is behind me.  As I come out the other side of this withdrawal period, I think that it's going to be ok.  For me, right now, I think being on meds isn't a long-term thing I need to consider, although there'd be nothing wrong with it if that was the case.  I'm thankful to have this out of my system and out of my daily regimen.

And I am thankful for a husband and for friends who get that what I'm going through isn't easy and stand by me through all my ups and downs.  There are plenty of good - even great - days ahead.  I look forward to each and every one!

What are you thankful for this week?





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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Thankful Thursday #142



thank·ful

adjective \ˈthaŋk-fəl\
: glad that something has happened or not happened, that something or someone exists, etc.
: of, relating to, or expressing thanks
Source


Welcome to this week's edition of Thankful Thursday!

With summer vacation wrapping up in just a few weeks, I'm excited that the past several weeks have included much reading for all of us.  Moira is 10 and I am sure would much rather not spend her days with her head stuck in a book.  However, we've really tried to encourage her to keep on reading over the summer.

Moira's school library has a "South Carolina Book Awards" reading challenge each year.  The school district publishes a list of books, with different lists for different age groups (about 20 books per list).  The way it worked last year was that if they read 3 books by a certain date (a couple months or so into the school year), they got to attend an incentive party in the library.  They also had to submit an online review, so it wasn't just simply reading the books.  Every couple months, they'd up the challenge by 3 books and host a reward party, with little prizes distributed throughout the year at these parties.  If you missed one goal, you could still attend the next party if you caught up.  Moira missed the first, but was able to attend the rest of the incentive parties for the year.

The list of books for the 2014-2015 school year was published on the school website at the start of summer.  I printed out the list and I had Moira begin reading some of the books.  She's managed 5 in all, and is on her 6th now.  I'm not sure if the process will be the same this coming school year (i.e. submitting a review as proof of completion), but I've had her write her reviews on paper so she remembers - just in case!

The local library also had a summer reading incentive called "Fizz Boom Read".  For her age group, there were 3 prizes over the summer - at 5, 10 and 15 hours of logged reading time.  She finished that challenge and received her prizes.  The "big" prize was a t-shirt and medal.  The library staff made a big deal of presenting her with the prize, so that was pretty cool.

Moira's t-shirt and medal received for completing the #FizzBoomRead summer reading program

Some new books we bought Moira as a reward for doing so well with her summer reading.


In other news...

I saw my Hematologist yesterday.  This was a follow up appointment for the massive pulmonary embolism I had back in October 2013.  I have a nasty history of having this happen - three times now.  All life-threatening.  One while on blood thinners!  While I do have to remain on blood thinners, the doctor said he is pleased with how I'm doing right now and doesn't need to see me for a year!  I'll take that!

What are you thankful for this week?





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Friday, July 25, 2014

Remembering My Mom

Today I remember my mother, Anne, who passed away four years ago.  I can't believe it has been four years.  It seems like she was just here with us.  Time has a way of passing far too quickly.

Before I left home, my mother and I became pretty close.  I was still living at home after I returned from university.  We had great talks.  We spent Saturdays together doing things like going to the museum, to the mall, and most definitely for lunch.  We had a great relationship.

I left home in 1998.  It wasn't just moving down the street.  I left my home in Canada to be with Ron in Texas.  No longer were my mother and I physically close, but we still maintained a great relationship.  We talked on the phone regularly.

I got married back home in 2000.  My mother was planning a trip to visit me in August 2001.  I wound up in the hospital with severe pre-eclampsia while she was en route to Texas by plane.  Instead of being picked up by Ron or myself, I believe it was my mother in law who did.  I was not in good shape at all.  I was transferred to a larger hospital.  My care was handed over to a high risk OB/Gyn.  My mother sat with me as my blood pressure spiked to levels she never ever shared with me.  I still don't know.  I do know that the top number was in the 200s.  My mother was with Ron and when we lost our first baby.

Mom stayed with me after the funeral and my parents were there when I developed a severe life-threatening pulmonary embolism just two weeks after losing our child.  She stayed with me for a while I came home.  She was there with me as I lay on the couch recuperating while the events of 9/11 unfolded live on television right before our eyes.

My mom was with me the day I miscarried our second baby in 2003.  I remember joking with her some time after the fact that she needed to stop visiting me when I was pregnant!  

Mom was there when Moira came into this world in 2004.  I was so nervous about daycare.  I hate the fact that there is really no such thing as "maternity leave" in the U.S.  I had 7 weeks of "disability" after Moira was born.  Instead of resorting to daycare, my mom stayed with us for three months after Moira was born.  She was a preemie and I had to go to work.  My mom filled a need for us that was more appreciated than you could imagine.

Mom was with me when Peyton was born in 2006.  She was in the delivery room with Ron and I.  I had a special bond with her and I wanted to have her present for that experience.  I am so glad I did that.

My mom passed away on July 25, 2010.  Peyton passed away on May 4, 2013, and I am sure my mom was right there welcoming her home on that day.

I miss my mom more than words can say.  The pain has lessened, but this loss has been huge for me.  I'd give anything to pick up the phone and call her just to hear her voice again.  I know there are many painful events listed above, but it just shows how she was there for me at every critical point of my life while she was here.

I hope that I will be as good a mom as she was to me.

Missing and remembering my mom today.






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