Monday, October 16, 2017

It's a journey, not a destination


Yesterday I had the opportunity to go to a missionary homecoming talk at another church.  As I drove to the church, I had to pull over to take a picture of this beautiful sight.  I even took a short video of the leaves as they glimmered in sun as they slowly fell to the ground.

                                     video
I had had 3 days of complete clarity.  Freedom from any mental health issues that were so consuming earlier in the week.  I was very grateful for that wonderful time.  I thought, "I've figured out the trick.  I'm done with this stuff."  It's a thought I've had many times before after finding success with a medication, therapy, massage, or being out from under a stressful situation.  "I've arrived!  The fight is over!"  I thought I had finally arrived at that wonderful destination free of depression and anxiety.

Yesterday however, I was taught a little lesson.  As I woke up, I knew that things weren't quite right.  I realized that just as I know if I have the flu upon waking up, there is a distinct feeling when I wake up that lets me know things aren't quite right and that depression and anxiety might be my companion that day.  Depression is actually a tangible feeling just like the flu, a thought I had never recognized.

  I was actually a little shocked.  Things had been going so well.  I thought I'd figured out the trick to long term wellness.  I'll be honest, it was a little discouraging.  I had been so happy to be done with events like I had experienced earlier in the week. My week had been so good.

I thought about it while getting ready for church. It occurred to me that being free from mental health issues is not a destination, but a journey.  Each day I wake up to a new scenario, never knowing what to expect.  If I allow it to be a surprise and a disappointment, I will get down.  I knew then and there that it was important to try to reframe this illness into a category like any other chronic illness.  It was going to ebb and flow and that although I may be doing everything right, I may still have days where I have to deal with it.  That day, I ended up having to find quiet time away from crowds and eventually had to use medication after all else had failed.

I realized that like with any other illness, I need to hunker down and tell myself that this isn't forever and that I have the tools to make it through the day.  I need to have faith and courage that I am strong enough to fight.  

My challenge?  To remember these words in hard times and keep focused on the light that is sure to come.

#iwasmadefor
helping students become their own best advocates
being a good listener
loving the colors of fall




Saturday, October 14, 2017

Grandma's blanket

Yesterday we were blessed by more sunshine and warm.  It will be replaced today by a few snowflakes, but I'm grateful for the little bit of outside time I had with a friend yesterday.  I'm hoping we still have a few warm days left before it turns to winter.  I finally used my mother's day money and bought myself a hedge trimmer.  Doing everything by hand is a little harder these days.  I'm excited to try it out. 

Last night my daughter's birth grandparents (the ones we just met for the first time a few weeks ago) were in town for their sisters funeral.  It was a little tricky trying to figure out how to arrange to attend a wedding reception, pick up her boyfriend from work, and coordinate when and where to meet my husband and my daughter in another town so we could drive up together, but we did it. 

I was a little embarrassed after driving up to the wedding reception only to find out I had the wrong day.  They were all actually setting up when I got there.  I went up anyway and visited with them for a minute, then came back to find out I had left my car running.  Where is my brain these days?  It was fun to talk with them.

We finally connected with her grandparents by phone and made it to the restaurant.  The first restaurant had a 2 hour wait, so we went to another.  It turned out to be a good switch because it was was much quieter there and easier to have conversation that allowed us to get to know each other better.

Her grandmother had found out her favorite color and crocheted her a blanket for her birthday.  It was SO sweet.

We were there a couple of hours visiting while waiting for our food and eating.  It was very evident that her grandparents hearts were bursting with love for my daughter.  She is actually their first grandchild.  They knew about her birth, but because it was a closed adoption, we didn't know each other while she was growing up.  Through the help of Ancestry DNA and Facebook, the miracle of reconnecting came to pass.

We talked about birth families on the way home and the pro's and con's of open adoption.  We came to the conclusion that there is no right or wrong way or right or wrong time to open an adoption that fits every family.  Each situation should be considered carefully and prayerfully to know the right time and way to reconnect the families.  

For some of my children, we found their birth families while they were babies.  They came to birthday parties, went to the park, and attended family events with us.  For another child, it wasn't until her teens where we found her birth mother when she had a lot of questions surrounding her adoption.  My oldest wasn't ready until last year and she is in her late 20's.  It has been more of a slow process while she got to know a little family at a time.  It has proved to be the perfect time for her.  She has connected with 2 sisters, 2 sets of grandparents, and an aunt and her family.
(Below-left Grandpa, middle grandparents and boyfriend, right great aunt and uncle)
 

Today seems to be another great day of clarity.  Things have been so good since the massage I got on Wednesday.  I am going to try boxing again today, but am going to be a little smarter about it.  I'm going to leave out the part where my teacher holds the heavy bag while we punch as hard as we can for a certain amount of time.  I can't seem to pace myself on that activity and burn all my energy on it leaving nothing for the rest of the day. Later I'm going to try and go to the mall to get a winter coat.  I tried yesterday, but turned into the human pin ball after about 15 minutes of shopping. MS does some crazy things with proprioception (or knowing where my body is in space). So today I'll try it again only with the stabling arm of my sweet spouse.  I need those blinders that horses wear :)  I kind of wondered if sunglasses would help.  Maybe I'll give it a try.  I'm starting to lose all sense of what looks socially appropriate in exchange for being functional, but that's okay.

#iwasmadefor
being excited to trim bushes in the warmth of the sun
connecting with birth families
being a genealogical sleuth


Friday, October 13, 2017

Stay in the ring

I like to write in the morning when my mind is fresh and uncluttered from the day.  This morning however I had a difficult time waking up, being deep in a dream that I couldn't shake.  I never dream about mental health stuff, but in this dream, I felt the weight of depression.  As I opened my eyes, I was hoping that that wasn't my reality.  I had had a day and 1/2 of a clear mind and a light soul.  I got up and walked around and was happy to find those feelings were only a dream.  I am so grateful and happy at the prospect of yet another day of clarity.

Although I feel confident I won't be fighting the fight today with my brain, as I opened my eyes,  the words from a song I had heard earlier this week was playing in my head.  Some may feel that it is a depressing song, but it isn't to me.  I thought, "This is me.  This is exactly how I feel".  I don't really know what the last part of the song is, but the first verse is what rang true to me.  When my mind is quiet, that verse starts quietly playing in my head.

The reason it isn't a depressing song?  He talks about the raw reality of where he is, but he is also reaching out.  He says, "pull me out of the trainwreck.  I'm not ready to die."  Those are words of hope.

When I'm in that dark place, I'm in the biggest battle of my life.  Bigger than any of the other mobility issues MS may throw at me.  I'm literally in the ring fighting for every minute, every breath, using every ounce of my being to stay alive.  It is real, ...it is hard, ....but I'm fighting to win.

Sometimes it's just a nagging feeling of sadness throughout the day, but other times, I am literally fighting every thought, pushing back at the darkness that tries to convince me that I'm too tired to fight anymore and that I will never win.

So how have I made it through some of my days this week?  I've stayed in the ring. I want write what "staying in the ring" is to remind me how to "stay" when I'm not thinking as clearly.

1.  Continue to be open.  I was open to my husband, a close friend or two, and my 3 main doctors & therapist who worked in tandem to keep me here.  They helped me through support (checking in), medication, and collaboration.

2.  Don't worry about what those that "know" will think about you if you tell.  This is the hardest for me.  I worry that they will never see me in the same light again or will think I'm faking it for attention.  Rise above those thoughts and still be open. Remember, it is a brain imbalance.  It isn't you.

3.  Pray, even when you don't feel a thing or think you can feel anything.  Pray for inspiration to know where to get help.  For me, I know that by my asking, He gave me impressions like "a massage might help pull your body together".  I also felt like He helped guide me to know what medications I should take seriously and ones that wouldn't help me"  He will help you.  I also received impressions on who to reach out to.

4.  Have a safety plan.   It may seem stupid, but they can really work.  Many times I couldn't shake the thoughts I was having.  When I was in the middle of that fight, I could just fall back on my safety plan until the thoughts lessened and my family came home from work for the day and I wasn't going to be alone.  What is my safety plan???  Being with others.  I didn't feel comfortable calling people all the time....especially since my brain was in that place for weeks, but I found other ways to be safe without bothering others.  I went to the gym, high school ball games, the store, made a phone call.  I talked about random stuff, but it kept me safe for that moment in time when the thoughts were relentless.  It still helped immensely even though I didn't share what I was going through. It was another way to be with someone and stay safe for that moment in time.

Another piece of the safety plan when things are the hardest?  Planning out every minute of your day.  I could usually only do it for a few hours at a time.  On a bad day I even had to email that plan every few hours "checking in" to my therapist to keep me on track and safe and make me accountable.  It worked.  It gave me peace.  I didn't want to leave this earth, but I knew I wasn't safe from myself and my brain.

5.  Eat as well as possible, keep drinking water, and exercise
.
6.  Writing down things you are grateful for, or things that you were made for- #iwasmadefor.

7.  I take time to go through, in my mind, all the people I deeply love and that love me.  I remember those embraces, those times of love, & sharing of precious moments in our lives.  I remind myself to stay because of them.  Sometimes when I'm in that place it feels like I should leave so I don't burden them, but then I remind myself of my brother.  I know he felt that way.  He chose to die and our hearts will never be the same.  I remind myself that even if I feel like it would be better for them, it's not.  The pain of someone leaving that way is a very difficult thing to heal.

None of these things in isolation is enough for me to stay safe.  I have to work hard at all of them to stay safe.  I AM still in the ring.  I pray that I will beat this someday, but until then, I will still keep fighting.  I AM a fighter. Today is a good day.

#iwasmadefor
staying in the ring
painting
loving my grandbabies


Thursday, October 12, 2017

He truly knows me - Angels on earth sent from Heaven



I'm sitting here getting a little rest after a day of work before my painting lesson reflecting on the last 24 hours.  Yesterday, the day started in a very dark way, fighting thoughts in my mind.  I put in place my safety plan for the day, got dressed and went to the gym.  While I was there I had the impression to change my appointment with the massage therapist to later that day instead of Friday.  She happened to have an opening.

I was very open about how I was doing and how I was hoping my appointment with her would help this disconnected body of mine.  She did an awesome job as usual, but stopped a couple of times during our time together to share some thoughts.  Each thought that she said must have come straight from inspiration from Heaven because they rang so true to my heart.  When we finished, I felt SOOO much better.

I went home and showered and while I was getting ready the thought came to me to make a list of the things that make me happy (nothing can MAKE you happy, but things that bring joy to me), things I used to enjoy but don't spend time doing anymore, and things that give me anxiety.  I sat down and did it.  I think I will bring it to my weekly therapy session to see if there is something I can glean from it.  The massage therapist suggested that maybe I'm not living life congruent with who I really am or doing what I truly love.  I think there is always some truth in that for all of us to some extent.  We may interact differently with our family than we do with our co-workers or friends.  I think what she was talking about is more of not being true to myself.  I don't know where this path will take me, but maybe all of this is to teach me to live more congruently.  With congruency brings peace and happiness.  Definitely not a bad thing to want to hold on to.

What I actually wanted to journal about is the little signs of support sent by inspiration from Heaven to earthly angels, just for me.  It started by my sister snapchatting me out of the blue saying she had a free night and wondered if there was anything she could do for me.  How sweet!  The massage therapist yesterday and shared her wisdom.  Today has been one sweet thing after another, mostly from people who have no idea of the challenges I have been facing.  A couple of very sweet texts from my husband.  A beautiful flower arrangement (seen above)  from a mother of a previous student of mine.  A call from my primary care doctor's office just to see how I was doing, knowing all that was going on.  An email from a parent of a current student of mine thanking me for the things I had been teaching her child.  All these in one day.

None of them know each other.  My only explanation?  The Lord knows me.  He loves me.  He has inspired earthly angels to bring light into my life when I needed it the most.

Today?  It's been a great day from beginning to end.  Since the massage, my mind has been clear and I have been able to beat back most of what my brain has thrown at me.  I've been able to challenge thoughts that bring on anxiety and put them in their right place.

I know I'm on a roller coaster ride and what is true right now for me may be different in a few days or even hours, but for now......I'm going to hold on to this break, the break from mental health challenges.  I will enjoy every minute of this gift I have been given.


#iwasmadefor
loving the changing leaves
curling up in warm fuzzy blankets
exploring new ideas

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Keeping it real

I usually post every day....you know...on this blog called "keepnitsunnysideup"? I try, even in hard times to find the positive in every situation, even the hard ones while keeping it real. What's "real" right now?  I'm in the fight of my life again with MS and what it does to brain chemistry.  To be honest, it's a fight that is relentless. It changes from minute to minute, never being the same.  It's tiring, and it's hard to keep optimistic..  I've struggled posting while in this place, not wanting to share, and wanting to keep true to staying positive.

Although it's not easy on my body, my work is my solace.  When I'm there, all the misfiring in my brain seems to disappear. It is a time where I am "me" again.  I would work full time, but my body won't allow it.  I have good doctors, a great husband and family, and supportive friends. I try to be honest with those closest to me to help me keep safe and do the things I should to get better.  I have plans in place to put myself in safe places and not be alone when my brain can't fight through the fog.  I'm doing all the right things to get myself into a place of wellness, but I'm still in the thick of it, sometimes feeling like it will never end.

Trying to find answers, I got on youtube last night and listened to a couple of medical docs talk about this issue and they verified that with MS, brain chemistry can get all whacked out (yes, that is a medical term:) and can cause mental health issues.  You know if craziness is happening up there to cause brain lesions, other stuff is messed up too.  The information was somewhat comforting, but doesn't take away the battle that I'm in.

Well.....that's keepnitreal.  It stinks.  It's dark, and it's ugly, but I'm still fighting.  There's no need to share details of what that's like.  If you've been there, you know.

Advice to anyone reading this who may be in the same place:  Keep talking, keep researching, have a safety plan, keep yourself in safe places, even if that means the hospital. When the moments of light do flicker, recognize how good it feels.  When you are in the dark places, don't beat yourself up saying that you must like to be in that dark place or else you would be out of it.  It's brain chemistry!  It's not that easy to switch it around.  Bring those memories back of how much you truly do like the light and remind yourself to keep working to be in that place that allows you to be you again.  Don't give in to the darkness.

#iwasmadefor
fighting
being real
holding on to hope



Sunday, October 8, 2017

Things learned from the best thinking place ever

My husband teases me that I get my best thinking done while in the shower.  I would totally agree.  If my body and my pocketbook could take it, I could be in there for hours.  While getting ready for church, an analogy came  to my mind.  I know it was meant for me. I think I will share it because I am probably not the only one in this situation.

This is hard to admit to, but I continually think to myself, if I was a better person, I would have beat my mental illness.  I tell myself, if I would just eat better, exercise more, think more positively, etc. that I could beat it.  I also sometimes question whether or not my mental illness is real or if I just want to be stuck there in this awful place in my brain.  I tell myself that if I really wanted to get well, I would have beat it a long time ago. I think that I must not be doing enough......yes....in my right mind I know  it is faulty thinking, but many times those thoughts feel very real and are very convincing.

So, as I was in the shower, I started challenging that thought process when this analogy came to my mind.  I guess it helped me remember that mental health issues should be treated the very same as other medical issues.  Our brains are an integral part of our body that sometimes needs medical help as do many other parts of our body.

Let's say that I broke my femur....a very serious condition.  If I were to apply my ideology to medical conditions, I would think that I could get better if I would think more positive thoughts, eat better, and exercise more...Right??  WRONG!  I would immediately go to a doctor.  If s/he couldn't help, I would keep going to doctors until I found the right one.  I would get the appropriate medical treatment needed, and I would follow up with a physical therapist to get back on my feet.  If there were complications or relapses, I wouldn't sit back and say, "Well, I've already been to a doctor and I've already tried a medication, and it didn't work so, what's the point of going back." I would get help until I was healed or go back as needed if there were further complications.

Sometimes when we hear people talk about mental health they say, "I tried medication once and it didn't work.  or...I went to a therapist once and I didn't like them.  They didn't help me at all"  If mental health was a well recognized medical issue, we would try another med and possibly several others until we found one that would work.  If we didn't like our physical therapist, we wouldn't quit going to rehab.  We would find a new one that we could work with that could help us get better.  This  should apply to mental health therapists. We should try another one until you find one that we feel comfortable with and feel like they are competent in handling our situation. I won't give up on things like eating well, and positive thinking techniques, but these are only parts of the puzzle.

Sorry I got derailed for a minute and got on a little soapbox.

For me, I am going to try and reframe my self talk and realize that my brain is experiencing some type of imbalance.  I need to remind myself of the things I am doing to be proactive to heal.  I know I need to quit attaching my self-worth to my mental health status.  Those thoughts just bring negative energy that make it even harder to fight this fight and to get well.  I need to concentrate on the things I can do. I need to continually learn to roll with the mental health interferences on my life while I wait on my brain to heal or to get back on track.

I need to remember:
"I am not my mental illness....I am not a bad person because I have mental illness.  It is a condition. I am working hard to get better, but just because I'm not better doesn't mean I'm not working."

I know I've been talking too much about mental health things, but it is the battle forefront on my mind right now.  I hope those that read this journal of mine know that there are many beautiful things happening in my life while sorting out this human condition.

As for yesterday?  It turned out beautifully.  I had to take a few naps to make it happen, but I rolled with "what was" and thoroughly enjoyed the moments I was given to make memories.  I was able to drive my daughter to go to her birth sister's "gender reveal".  We were able to meet a whole different side of her birth family that she had never met.  The welcomed her with open arms and were so grateful to have her as a part of the family.  It was very tender to see their love for her in their eyes. This was a moment I was so grateful to have been a part of.

Later that evening, my husband and I went to a large production at a local university where one of our favorite Broadway show artists was performing.  It was amazing.  We learned about a local group we never knew about called Gentri.  We also heard an awesome performance from another group we love called Vocal Point.  Here is one of the songs they performed.


I am still in the fight every hour of every day, but I know I'm growing.  I don't know if I will ever beat this, but I know the Lord will allow me little glimmers of goodness and happiness each day if I open my eyes and look for them.  "Men are that they might have joy". He wants us to be happy while learning.  He is our father and wants us to have joy.  He loves us.

#iwasmadefor
loving all of our amazing birthfamilies
learning
being good at computers

Saturday, October 7, 2017

"More holiness give me"

I awakened this morning, looking forward to a wonderful day.  The weather was to be a perfect 75 degrees and sunny.  I have the opportunity to take my daughter to be at a special event with her newly found birth sister, and have tickets to attend a wonderful production with one of my favorite singers at a local university.

As my eyes opened, I became keenly aware of the pain in every fiber of my being.  I had dreamed all night that I had been eating foods that my body reacted negatively to, only to find that that was my reality.  I've been trying to stay away from "night shade" vegetables because I was told they can cause inflammation.  Well, last night I had my favorite dish at one of my favorite restaurants....Pad Eggplant.  It was amazing, but today I woke up not being able to stand on my burning feet without terrible pain.  Even typing is difficult.  Well, I guess my experiment has taught me something....nightshade vegetables are not for me.  I love tomatoes (salsa, sauces etc. ), potatoes (my favorite food group-french fries are my caviar), and now eggplant.

Sometimes I just feel mad and sad all wrapped into one at the list of things my body is rejecting.  It takes so much effort to keep my mind in that happy place.  I hadn't written for a couple of days and knew I wanted to today, but didn't want to be Debbie downer (no offense to any Debbie's out there :)  I needed to somehow turn it around before I started the day.

I decided to get on youtube.com and watch part of the one session of the LDS conference that I missed, not realizing that I was actually watching the conference from last spring.  The first song was "More holiness give me".  As I listened, I was impressed that this fight I was in, the fight for happiness amidst extreme pain, was in partial, a way to help strengthen me and make me a better person.  The music touched my soul in a way that no speech could do.  I thought of my pain, my sadness this week of seeing my brain images for the first time  and the damage that was present, I thought of my lack of ability to always stay emotionally in that place I so yearn to be in, yet I knew that this challenge was one that was especially designed for me.  It is for me to become better, stronger, and more like Him.  Those impressions didn't make any of my pain go away, but  somehow gave me peace to know that I can do this.

I was then impressed to skip the first talk and listen to the second.  When I heard the title, I thought, "This isn't for me, I'm already a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  How does this pertain to me?"  I decided to listen to it and then couldn't help but wonder if it might be for someone who may be reading this blog today.  I don't know who you are.  I wonder sometimes why anyone would want to read about these experiences of my very average life, but today I felt like this is something I should share.  It is is English, but can be read or translated by clicking here.  You can also access the book that he talks about, the Book of Mormon, online here. If you have any questions you can find out more and chat with other members at: https://www.mormon.org/



I'm not sure how, maybe by just putting one foot in front of the other, but I'm going to make this a good day.  Probably start with bacon.  Bacon can cure anything :)

Things that make me happy?  The thought of the wonderful dinner I had with my children and sister last night.  My daughter was visiting and I got to play with my darling grandbaby.  His soul just reaches into my soul and makes me so happy and blessed to be his grandma.

#iwasmadefor
loving good food
being strong enough to "learn to love the fight"
enjoying good music