It’s not the same thing

In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 1 Peter 1:6-7

When someone doubts your story, especially one that is partially revealed to you years after it has occurred, you might be tempted to defend that it is true, that it is real. Know that their denial is about them not you. The truth is the truth and if it was not so, you would not grieve so badly when it comes forth. It would not have affected you so. You don’t continue to have flashbacks or grieve for years a nightmare from a bad night of sleep. At least in your right mind you don’t. (An exception might be the delusional thinking of mental illness. Most of us do not make crazy claims indiscriminately, however.) It’s not the same thing as a random even fearful thought verses the triggering a memory of an actual, horrific event that happened to a long time ago.

Then when your truth and the grieving that follows in dealing with it has found both the light of day and the Lord’s healing grace, the transformation of your character or mind or spirit should be enough to prove that what happened was real. You can’t fake a flashback. You can’t fake character flaws or insecurities that right themselves when you heal from the trauma. The truth revealed, processed, and lain before the throne of grace transforms us. It doesn’t matter that the story is too fantastic to believe. It doesn’t matter whether or not there is corroborating evidence (yet we can rejoice if there is proof or witnesses willing to back your story). It doesn’t matter how old you were at the time of the incident or if you told anyone then or now. Sometimes the mind has to push away the horror to survive aka repression. It’s a survival mechanism, a coping strategy of the mind. Then there are the body memories, stored in the tissues that come forth when you have an injury. Or a seizure. If your mind did not repress the trauma for you, the pain of the event often plunges a person into addictive behaviors (i.e. alcoholism, drug abuse, pornography, sexual promiscuity, compulsive behavior, workaholism), suicide, homicide, or mental illness just to survive. I know. Everyone in my immediate family has battled one of these. Our life stories were just that bad.

I am the only one left in my immediate family. There is no one remaining to corroborate the facts of my story as extended family who might know something are not willing to talk to me about what they know. I have asked more than once. My brother Mike did help fill in some details for me but he is now deceased. He had his own horrors to endure. Extended family members have their own baggage that they have dealt with in various ways. Thankfully they just didn’t have it as bad as me and my two brothers did . . . no wonder we were largely outcast (or looked down upon) from them and neighbors too.

Funny thing about memory as it is not perfect nor is it like watching a movie where you know the plot and see the beginning and the end. When the Lord reveals bits and pieces over decades of time, it is up to you to reconcile the information. Therein lies a particular danger as the mind wants to fill in the blanks for the scenes to make sense but we must resist trying to do so. Similarly, when therapists ask probing questions we must guard against confabulation, false memory syndrome, and other pitfalls in trying to make sense of a seemingly too-hard-to-believe flash-backed piece of our story. Why did a particular image present itself in my “mind’s eye” with the sound of a helicopter flying overhead in bed one night? Why did I cry for so long thereafter? For the believer in Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit will show you what you need to know, hold you as you come to grips with what really happened, lead you to a place of acceptance and healing, and transform it all for His glory.

The flashbacks for me have always come forth with emotion so intense that I believed that I would die if I felt it fully let alone say it out loud. The fear on the front side of the wall of truth was stifling, immobilizing. I believe for me, this is why the pieces of my personal history have come forth in such small bits, spread out over THIRTY YEARS. It’s also why I don’t remember much of my childhood. The first memory of sexual abuse came back in my late twenties as I was preparing to get married. Sometimes a flashback was a moment of intense emotion that I would discover matched a specific location or incident; other times the emotion showed me the origin of a ritualistic behavior of mine, particularly with nighttime routines, that I would come to know as abnormal. The realization equipped me to let it go. It has taken decades of working with skilled Christian counselors, retreats, Bible study, prayer, research, journaling, processing memory triggers that happened spontaneously by the events of life, and more that the Lord has allowed me to remember more of my childhood. With the bad stuff also came memories of the good times that I had forgotten. So it’s not all bad. Reclaiming one’s past is good!

The worst incident has taken the longest to piece together. Here’s what I know.

My parents were divorced when I was twelve years old. Visitations to see my Dad involved him taking one of us three kids at a time as Mom said he could not handle more than one of us at a time. He often didn’t show up on one of these Saturdays to pick one of us up for the day; this happened more with my brother Mike than with me or Rob. So sad. The visitations were strange. I recall my Dad taking me on my day to a movie theater, buying me lots of popcorn and candy, then trying to sit me down by myself in the dark theater while he went off to sit with a woman in another row. Somehow I had the nerve to say “but I want to sit with you.” The next thing that I remember is the 3 of us sitting together and me feeling sick from eating all that crap . . . or maybe it was from the realization that he was there to see her and not me? I could tell a half-dozen stories like this one.

Rarely did we visit our Dad at his house in Roseville, Michigan. We lived in Warren and I figured it was too far away to visit very often. Years later, Mike told me that my Dad had a wall made out of wine bottles in his house; I don’t recall seeing it. I do recall seeing a German shepherd dog in his backyard one day when my Mom drove us over there, I think to get our car repaired. His home was on a corner lot with a chain-linked fence that came around the side of the house and side of the garage that faced the other street, perpendicular to the house. People entered the home from the side door. I was probably 12 years old so who knows what I would have focused on at that time. I just wanted to see my Dad! He had left town a couple of times (for California and to Florida) and now he was back. Too bad that his return had nothing to do with us kids though.

In my thirties, my Dad’s youngest brother and his wife gave me a photograph of my father as a boy. By this time I had learned of the horrific abuse that my Dad had endured as a child: my grandmother destroying his model airplanes, the daily verbal abuse, beatings, the physical torture of being locked in closets or having to sit up at the kitchen table ALL NIGHT LONG because he didn’t eat his dinner then suffering a head injury when he fell asleep and out of his chair. I was just starting to recover some of what had happened to me has a child from my mother’s father’s sexual abuse, a neighborhood boy’s sexual abuse, my mother’s physical and emotional abuse, and what I would come to understand as ritual abuse from my father. That photo was probably the best gift I could have ever received from my dysfunctional family! I was able to step outside of myself and grieve for my Dad. He was robbed of his own childhood, so badly that he would go on to develop a serious mental illness that would plague him his entire life. I believe that head injury contributed to him developing Parkinson’s disease later in life. I cried and cried for what my Dad had endured as a boy and how he surely must have struggled to try to function as an adult let alone as a husband and father. I started to understand why he ultimately had to separate from our family through divorce then finally disappear for TWENTY-SEVEN YEARS! And why he sent my grandmother hate letters for about a decade. He was so very messed up. In due time I forgave him for everything I have written about here and elsewhere.

How amazing that the Lord will give me this insight before I would come to fully understand what happened to me that fateful day at my Dad’s house in Roseville. The memory fragments gathered over time still don’t fit together well. It’s like a jigsaw puzzle with edges singed by fire, warped by water damage, and with dozens missing but then again you don’t know how many pieces there are in total. You can only hope to understand the little chunks that you can see when you do not have the picture on the cover of the puzzle box. The ones I see now are very, very clear.

My Dad told me not to go in the basement but somehow I wandered down there anyways. There was a dead German shepherd dog in a large tray on a table, dead. The basement was dingy and dark with electrical cords hanging from the ceiling. The table with the dog was over by a utility sink and washer and dryer; some kitcheny-type items were strewn about along with a lot of blood. The nipples (as in a pregnant dog) were cut off of the dog. The wounds were red with dried blood. I don’t remember anything else other than the sense that my Dad had scolded me for being down there. I know it took a long time for me to be able to get back up the stairs under my own power for lack of strength.

The next thing I remember is lying on a couch upholstered in some kind of plaid pattern. There were no pillows or cushions upon which to lie my head. I was sickly. I desperately needed to rest.

I discovered about that time that there were other people in the house, in a bedroom a the back of the house. It was a small ranch home so it couldn’t have been very far away but it seemed very far to me at the time. My next memory is inside that back bedroom. There were naked people writhing around on a double bed. In those days no one had a queen or king-sized bed as they were either too expensive or the bedrooms were just too small. Two women grabbed me, one on either side of me, to restrain me. Years of tiny memories of this scene, recalled with horror and emotion so raw that I thought I would not survive the telling or finally feeling them, knew that they violated me sexually. I physically remember the touch. My shoulders have funny pinch marks where the posterior deltoid muscles should be and I wonder if it was from their firm grip on me at a time when my body was growing from childhood into a teenager? Seems to me that someone on the bed took notice of what was going on. Seems to me that I may have recognized at least one of the people on the bed but I cannot be sure. That person denies any activities akin to an orgy but does admit that my Dad had seances with groups of people around his coffee table in the front room some nights at his house. (The coffee table in front of the couch where I was lying earlier.) Years later I and expert would hypothesize that my Dad was experimenting with the occult and psycho-cybernetics to try and control his mental illness. What a sick, twisted mess.

My Dad came into the room and ripped me from the grips of the two women. There was some kind of paraphernalia on the dresser that was strange to me that I would later hypothesize was for taking drugs. He broke the neck of the first woman he grabbed and put her out on the front porch, out the front door just beyond the couch. The house cleared out although I do not remember the people actually leaving. I was back on the couch as nightfall set in. I don’t remember falling asleep, eating anything, going to the bathroom, or my Dad talking to me. She was still out there on the porch. It’s all a horrifically terrifying blur . . .

It was daylight when my Dad put me in the backseat of my Mom’s car. The vehicle was an older tan sedan with red seats that used to belong to my grandfather; how fitting for it to have red seats! My Dad scolded me firmly to crouch down in the backseat and not come out. I remember the wide floor area and bench seat of the backseat. He must have plopped the woman’s body into the front passenger seat before we took off down the road as I knew that she was there with us. Somehow I gathered that we drove north since you have to drive north to quickly get from the crowded suburbs of Detroit to the country. But I didn’t drive at the time so I don’t really know which way we went. The towns of Flint and Pontiac stick in my mind and I’m not sure why.

He pulled over at one of those pull-off areas along the side of the highway. It wasn’t a freeway like I-94 or I-75 and there wasn’t much traffic driving by. When I heard the front passenger side door open and the sound of my Dad pulling her out of the car, I figured I could pop up and look out without being seen. I saw him struggle then drop her floppy body over the guard rail to what looked like a drop-off down below the level of the road. There aren’t any mountains per se in Michigan so I have no idea how this worked out or where it happened that there would be such a cliff. (About 20 years later I looked at maps of areas north of Detroit to see if I recognized any names of streets or topography that might help me identify the area. I even called the State police and talked to a sergeant who would have been working in the approximate area about 20 years prior to my call. When the internet became available, I searched the archives of several newspapers for stories of bodies recovered in that area and even the name of an Uncle’s old girlfriend who I thought might know something. Nothing panned out.)

My Dad was working on my Mom’s car that week or weekend which is why he was driving her car. The next thing I remember is being home with the car and my Mom asking me how my visit went. I wasn’t able to say anything. My Mom and I weren’t exactly on friendly terms in those years so she asked nothing further. The horror was locked up inside of me and remained there for many, many years.

Even with all of the holes in the recounting of these crimes, abuse, satanism, evil, wretchedness, there is more confirmation for me that it is all very real. My Dad did things to try to get me to forget what had happened. We still had a pool in our backyard for a couple of years after my parents divorced. One afternoon when no one else was around, he took me onto the pool deck to inspect the liner. I vividly recall the blue shade and pattern of the liner above the water line and below the metal cap (that we would jump off of into the water). The deck was cedar and stained a medium brown color. My Dad had built the largest deck around, complete with a flip-up staircase that we could lock in an upright position to keep kids out in between pool parties.

I recall my Dad pushing my head up and down into the water repeatedly, over the edge of the deck with my body splayed out, face-down on the surface of the deck, as if to try and drown me! I don’t know what he was saying or if he said anything at all. I feared for my life, gasped for air. It was way worse than my brother Mike trying to hold me underwater when we would play “hold your breath the longest” games in the pool. He was a mean kid back in those days. The truth of what my Dad did came out through the course of most of my adult life treating headaches and neck issues. I have a flattening in the curvature of my cervical spine. I often wonder if it was from the physical trauma committed that day? Anyways, seems to me that he was trying to cover one trauma with another. I believe that his action was a twisted interpretation of the psychological experimentation of the 60’s and 70’s. He tried another version of messaging with my brother Mike via brainwashing him with a recorded message he had him listen to before going to sleep. I still remember the “pillow speaker” and cord that went from the speaker to the tape recorder in the basement. The effect on Mike was opposite of what was intended, damaging his self esteem for much of his adult life.

The strongest evidence that supports my Dad’s effort to try to get me to forget something bad that had happened is reflected in the scars on the inner surface of both of my elbows. My Mom had taken me to the Doctor for something and through the course of the exam, the Doctor asked about the circle of blisters on each of my inner elbows. He asked if I had been shooting up drugs with a needle? Injecting myself with something? He asked over and over again. The blisters were fluid-filled bumps about 1/8-inch in diameter and tall. I remember touching them and the fluid moving beneath my fingers. I had no idea how they got there. At first they were on one arm then they were on both arms, same patterning but maybe it was the right arm had more bubbles than the left arm? I was tempted to burst them but something inside me decided that was not a good idea. Eventually the blisters deflated, the skin dried up, and the crusted tissue healed. The scar of pock-marks inside each forearm remained visible on my skin for decades.

In my late forties, I started working with a counselor who specialized in ritual abuse. When we talked through the story that I have recounted here and the blisters, he suggested that my Dad had injected me with a psychodelic drug in an effort to get me to forget the trauma that had happened. In my Dad’s sick thinking, if I forgot then I would not be affected by what happened (and perhaps no crime was committed). In an exceedingly deranged way, my Dad was trying to help but he did so by inflicting more abuse. This is a form of ritual abuse: using a ritualistic behavior for the purpose of controlling another person. There are other examples of rituals to which he exposed me and my brothers to through the course of his mental illness that I may discuss at another time. What is important here is that there remains to this day, although faded from the atrophy of my skin that normally occurs with aging, a physical reminder that something was done to me decades ago that should never have happened. About 2 weeks ago I felt the Lord lead me to apply a frequency-generating treatment device to my inner arms to see what would happen. Spontaneous tears followed that I could not stop if I tried. Holy cow. This is what they call tissue memory, body memory. And now at last, that tissue is free from whatever happened, the effects of shooting up some drug into each of my arms.

In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 1 Peter 1:6-7

It’s not the same thing to make up a story for personal gain versus sharing a part of your history for no personal gain. It’s not the same thing to try to piece together wacky thoughts in your head versus processing emotionally laden images that come to mind when you know they are parts of events that really happened and do not conflict with what you already know, history, physical evidence, and what people have been willing to share with you. It’s not the same thing to pray for a seizure to end versus the electrical/chemical rush associated with a seizure masking-and-triggering memory of an incident long buried in the tissues of your brain, ready to finally come out. It’s not the same thing for a (dangerous) counselor to use hypnosis to “recover lost memories” versus the The Holy Spirit strengthening the faith of the born-again believer to receive truth in more forms than you ever imagined at just the right time in your life, thus changing you for the good, forever. It’s not the same thing to tell a sad, scary story for pity versus championing the work of the Lord in the life of His daughter whose faith has helped her overcome evil in the hopes of shining a light on the mighty power of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Our Lord overcomes the worst, the darkest, the most sinister evil you could ever imagine or have ever endured. This is not only true for me, for my story. This is an important truth for such a time as this. Our sovereign Lord reigns now and will reign forevermore. He is here for me and for you, will sustain you no matter what may come or has gone before us. Believe it Gentle Reader! I do! JJ

What forgiveness looks like: the Lord restored “the years the locusts had eaten”
just before my father passed away in 2011.

Anatomy of a Rain Garden Project: One Year Later

We are now one year later after the completion of the rain garden at the Huntertown Family Park. What began as a flooded, kinda trashy dirt hole next to a newly constructed concession building has become a beautiful feature of a community park for all who visit. Currently there are only a few volunteers who weed and water the 625 square foot specialty garden but that’s the best we can do. The restrictions of the pandemic and personal health constraints have changed my ability, as Coordinator, to secure garden helpers; a really hot summer seemed to complicate the matter further. Overall, the rain garden (RG) is doing its job managing water runoff from the structures nearby in the most loveliest way possible! Here’s how we got here (as published in the September issue of Across the Fence, the monthly publication of the Master Gardeners of Allen County, IN where I am Editor).

Take a class online; it will be fun!

I created and coordinated this project to fulfill the requirements of an online class in the spring of 2018 to become a Certified Master Rain Gardener. The class was excellent and matches the caliber of our local Catching Rain Fort Wayne program that I also attended later. The President of the Park, Dan Holmes, approved the project and proved to be instrumental on work days, identifying several local resources, and just being there the one day when complications of this project brought me to tears! Early coverage in our local newspaper was a fun boost along the way. Then it was a scramble to get the base of the rain garden built before the summer of 2019 as I was simultaneously learning how things functioned at this private park, addressing Americans with Disabilities Act considerations, securing grant funding from the Urban Wildlife Habitat Cost Share Program (UWHCSP) at the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, and eventually obtaining quotes from local contractors. Things got really complicated very quickly!

Start and they will follow. We will help you.

Volunteers came forth from the classes that I mentioned above, notices in Across the Fence, a little sign I posted at the RG site, the local newspaper, and random encounters with neighbors who lived across the street from the Park. There weren’t a lot of us so everyone who came worked very hard and got the respective project done for any given work day. Weeding up to 3-foot “native” weeds in two dirt piles to keep seeds from blowing into the base of the RG? Check! Rescheduling work days a couple of times due to severe flooding restricting access to our project site? Check! Breaking down and spraying weed killer around the periphery of the RG so we could increase the 50+ foot berm area with soil and mulch on a 90+ degree day with 3 volunteers? Check! Obtaining donations of plants from local and out-of-state nurseries, a Park neighbor, and fellow Master Gardeners? Check! Learning how to build our drainage tile system from YouTube videos, the good folks at our local landscape supply dealer, and another neighbor adjacent to the Park with a skid loader? Check! Discovering large landscape rocks during my first tour of the Park with Dan then witnessing their installation in the complete RG base by that same gracious neighbor 3 months later? Check again. And so it went. By the Fall of 2018, donated native plants were sleeping sweetly in my own garden ready for installation in the Spring. There was so much left to do including still figuring out how to do some of it at this level!

You need to be done by June.

Tis good to have deadlines when embarking upon a large and complex project that stretches you to the max! The UWHCSP grant provided just that. We needed to have everything planted (i.e. 75 perennials, grasses, and bushes!) and professional signage at least on-order by June of 2019 or lose our funding! There were delays from our vendor that tested our timeline but in the end we met all of our obligations. Just two volunteers planted everything in May of 2019. Dan had facilitated not only the donation of a gorgeous flagstone path by a local landscaping company but the ordering and later installation of our professional signage at a deeply discounted rate. (He and the neighbor whose mother-in-law across the street donated the milkweed seeds, installed our sign themselves!) The total cost of the rain garden was $1604.90 with an estimate of over $2,000 in donated plants, materials, and landscaping services. Our $2500 UWHSCP grant covered all of our out-of-pocket expenses and future needs. A couple of plants needed to be replaced in the Spring of 2020 and some additional mulching will be replenished when we can safely call a work day with social distancing and the requirements of Purdue Extension.

I wish to thank all of the volunteers, individuals, and businesses that contributed to the success of this project (also those named on our sign). Master Gardeners and Interns who participated include Rhonda, Linette, Greta, Simone, Linda, and Jo. Note that most rain gardens in the landscape of a homeowner are much simpler to construct than the project shared here! Rain gardens help soak rain water into the ground quickly, protect or river and creeks from pollution, replenish ground water, create beautiful gardenscapes throughout the growing season, and provide food and shelter for birds, butterflies, and beneficial insects (for pollination of plants). Once established, your own rain garden project will be a source of beauty and pride that serves important functions in our landscapes and communities for years to come. I’d love to chat more about your interest in rain gardens!

The TTT

The Tilt Table Test (TTT) is designed to assess the integrity of a person’s autonomic nervous system. The heart plays a significant role in its function as does the vagus nerve. With so many organ systems tied into the sympathetic (fight of flight) and parasympathetic (calming) fibers of the vagus nerve, one can see how it can affect numerous aspects of a person’s health . . . and ability to function. This is complicated. A TTT may introduce more questions than answers yet sometimes provide the reason a person has not responded to other treatments for seizures. Today, I’m just glad that I survived!

The nurse or examiner administering the test begins by starting an IV in your arm. The patient needs to have been fasting for about 6 hours and cannot have anything to eat or drink until the test is completed as many folks will become nauseous. While there are variations of the TT Test involving medications that increase your heart rate, no medications were used for my test. The purpose of the IV is for the administration of fluids should your blood pressure drop. This usually happens if you faint during the test. If you do faint then your test is considered “positive” and the cardiologist makes his or her diagnosis from there.

The test procedure itself begins with the patient lying on his or her back for 15 minutes on a mechanical bed that tilts up and down from head to toe. Heavy straps are placed over your shins, thighs, and lower chest to prevent you from falling off of the exam table should you faint! (The examiner is supposed to lower the table in the event of a fainting spell, thus ending the test.) After the initial resting period and baseline testing of your vitals (EKG, pulse oximetery, blood pressure, and pulse), the table is inclined to 70 or 80 degrees instead of the 90 degrees our bodies are accustomed to when sitting or standing upright. You stay in this slightly reclined position for 45 minutes or until you faint. Then the table is lowered and you recover over the next 30-60 minutes. My test was scheduled for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. My husband and I left the hospital OVER FOUR HOURS LATER!!!

The nurse tried to start an IV in my right hand but was unsuccessful. The needlestick triggered a 30-minute convulsive episode. My husband applied an ice pack to my hand and eventually I stopped spontaneously seizing, uttering primal screams, and crying. My body was already starting to lose control, my brain felt like it was on fire, and I was unable to straighten my legs for the proper test positioning until the episode had stopped completely. The Charge Nurse came in, talked a lot, then was able to start an IV in my left hand. It hurt badly and this triggered another, less violent convulsive episode. By this time our personal ice pack was melted so the Charge Nurse applied a bag of ice bag over my left hand. Eventually I stopped seizing and crying. The nurse examiner tried to start the test while I was still shaking. I politely declined. He waited. Finally it was time to begin.

Jason RN, elevated the table to 80 degrees. Within about 5 minutes I started to feel lightheaded. My head was swirling inside in a clockwise direction that seemed to be from about the 2:00 position on a clock face to the midnight position. My body didn’t move. I can’t recall exactly which symptom happened next but I do remember that the straps across my shins started to hurt badly. I was placing more of my body weight against them as my legs began to get weak. This feeling of weakness was like water being drained out of a bathtub: little by little in a steady stream my strength was going away, beginning with my lower extremities and working its way upwards.

A few tic zips re-emerged probably 15 minutes into the test. The hospital pillow provided no head and neck support whatsoever. By the grace of God I had anticipated this and brought a neck pillow with me which remained after their hard pillow had fallen off of the table. It remained in place as the tic attack ramped up to an intensity similar to that of the needlesticks although more intermittently than continuous at this point. I started to become afraid of where this thing was headed. I worked as hard as I could to stay calm and not to panic. My body was going into a crisis as the number of symptoms increased along with their severity: headache, burning in the tips of my toes, burning in the tips of my fingers, stomach ache, left-sided neck pain, increased ringing in my ears, feeling chilled and having difficulty breathing. Jason kept asking me how I was feeling but it was getting more and more difficult to speak. Then things got worse.

Eventually my legs became lifeless. It took a heroic effort to straighten or reposition them to alleviate the searing pain against my shins: could I turn my feet out so the pressure was more on the inside of my lower legs? I tried that. Then that hurt too. I had to wait before I could try again. I tried switching back and forth but my ability to do so was failing. Finally I conceded that my legs were going to be bruised no matter what I did so I had to pick a position and stick with it. I found that if I locked my knees together and turned my toes inward, some of the strap pulled against my calves and less on the bony surface of the tibia. With that problem solved I tried to focus on my breathing. It seemed too shallow. Hmmm. What is going on? My body was slowly starting to slump forward like someone was pulling my head forward a quarter inch at a time on a cord. I could not stop it. Was I going to pass out?

Every 2 minutes or so, Jason asked me a question to see if I was still awake. Or maybe alive? My body continued to bend forward like a large sack of flour as my world felt like it was going dim, dimmer still. Around this time I asked how much time was left, we were past the halfway point, yet time had started to stand still. My hunkering down for the duration of the test changed to wondering if I would pass out like I had in bed so many times after bad episodes. When those happen I don’t remember falling asleep. The lights just go out and I wake up hours later with no memory of dreaming, just pain everywhere from head to toe. So if I wasn’t going to pass out this time maybe I could fall asleep?

I tried to let myself go. I was terrified. I was crying. The tears burned on my face. Hair brushing against the side of my cheeks felt itchy-burny. It was all I could do to raise my right arm to wipe my face with my sleeve or move the hair scratching my face to stop the annoyance, the irritating sensations of anything touching my face. And then it was nearly impossible to breathe with the strap cutting underneath my ribs, restricting my diaphragm. I kept saying that I couldn’t breathe. “It’s hard to breathe.” The test continued. “How much time left?” I mumbled. I don’t remember the answer. My husband Steve later confirmed the feeling I had that the left side of my faced was drooping. My tongue felt thick and I couldn’t move it to speak very well. It’s as if the lights were going out on my life. I was not going to faint as can happen with this test. I was going to die.

That’s when my thoughts turned to my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, dying on a cross for my salvation. In that moment I got a tiny view into His suffering at Calvary. Crucifixion was designed for maximum suffering until the convicted person died of asphyxiation. The convict would push up on his feet against the wood footplate to catch a gasp of air; in doing so this sent lightening bolts of fiery pain through the body from the nails piercing the nerves and tendons of the feet and hands that bore the weight of his entire body. The body would sag down then perhaps the head would hang as the person longed for death to end the most gruesome misery imaginable. But hanging one’s head obstructed the airway. There was no relief to be found. And our Lord did this for me. The guards pierced His side to make sure Jesus was dead. Through it all, Jesus declined the gall herb offered to ease his pain. He endured it all with a clear mind in a body already beaten and shredded beyond recognition before He was crucified! And then He finished the work of the Cross when He rose again on Easter Sunday. He overcame death and provided a path for all believers to receive eternal life, to be free one day of all suffering and consequences of sin in this fallen world.

cross, calvary, testimony, hospital test, Christian woman, chronic illness, endurance

My recognizing my need for a Savior and accepting His sacrifice years ago thus hath provided a way for me to endure my suffering on that Monday at the hospital. Whether I was going to die, or pass out, or make it to the end of the test fully awake and aware of my surroundings, I was going to be walking with my Jesus through it all. He was there with me in that moment when I simply could not breathe anymore and when the table finally lowered me to safety. In a matter of seconds, the test was over. I endured the TTT and got what I was supposed to understand about my suffering that is coming up on 9 years. Also finally, a medical test actually captured with objective data the hell that I have endured. My heart rate did increase and blood pressure drop although not extremely so. I had marked symptoms. I believe that it was a positive test even though I did not faint. For some reason the Lord kept me awake hanging there as far over as the straps would allow without fainting or dying. In my mind I was just about gone for good. In the Lord’s will, I made it through the most difficult of hundreds of tests in my lifetime.

But it wasn’t over yet. As soon as I was level, my body exploded into the most violent of convulsing that would happen that afternoon matched with gutteral screams, hysterical crying, and gasps for air. I held on for dear life. The episode continued for the next 90 minutes or so while I pleaded with the nurse to call the cardiologist to order IV fluids then check my blood sugar: 76. Thirty minutes into the non-stop convulsing, the infusion started and began to calm me down; it took a snack bar plus another 30 minutes before they would stop completely. I was a beaten puppy, so very broken and battered by the time it was over. The 90-minute infusion restored me enough to speak coherently and walk to the bathroom then later into our truck under my own power, albeit weakly. Over the next 2 days I stabilized. I still feel “buzzed” 3 days after the TTT. I’m also irritated that I don’t have my test results yet as promised. Sigh. That’s healthcare these days. I found out that Jason, RN had only done 10 of these tests since he was transferred to the Heart Institute from ICU a month prior. He was very nice. Regardless, I doubt he should have left me hanging there gasping for air, completely slumped over and hanging from the straps of the tilt table for several minutes. The goal is not to traumatize and torture the patient! I am still horrified by what I endured. I’ve had numerous bouts of crying as my mind flashed back to the ordeal, slowly emerging from a state of shock.

So if you found this blog after Googling “Tilt Table Test” well what can I say? This is probably one of the worst stories out there so don’t worry about it. Yours will very likely be fine. I didn’t vomit and that is good. The TTT results will very likely answer some important questions about my condition, maybe even point the Doctors to a treatment plan that will stop the daily convulsive episodes once and for all. The role of the autonomic nervous system in non-epileptic seizures has never been more clear for me as I start to benefit from targeted vagus nerve stimulation techniques and tools. Even the TMJ/trigeminal nerve interventions are related. Virtually everything I have done to date to try and get well has yielded valuable information if not improvements and personal growth. I have never felt closer to the loves in my life which is valuable indeed. My Stevers continues to be my hero through it all. In the end, the Lord will not waste any of our suffering, joys, or sorrows in His wondrous plans for our lives. Hang on, Gentle Reader. Hang on to that Cross! JJ

Knees to the Grass

Humble yourself before the Lord and He will meet you there every time.

Having just whacked my shoulder with the handle of a rake, the pain seared deeply from my flesh to my soul. It is now bruised.

So cried, I did: weeping that lasted a long time. So much sorrow in my broken heart of late.

How can I go on with so many hours spent lying in bed? Seizing the last grips of life until my breathing starts again? Plans reduced then cancelled to much, much less?

The window to the neighbors’ bedroom was not far away out there in the darkness of night and my own beloved worked 2 rooms away beyond the double-paned windows

Oh how long must this sad song go on: the one that mixes grief from the death of loved ones with the pain of suffering so?

My Lord, you bestow so much goodness yet this night my heart aches for the dearth in my broken frame.

Just let it all out Gentle Julie. Your heart needs a good cleansing at the foot of my cross. For I hung there for all your sorrows with my blood dripping for your tears.

There will come a day when I will restore all that has gone before you.

There’s a period at the end of that sentence beloved one and this one too.

My love shall forever surround you, my spirit dwell within you, my angels minister for your care.

Keep seeking my face and you will find me there with you every time. I love you more than you can ever know. Just try to keep seeking and I will lead you home.

And so I shall. Oh how I long to go home! Yet weakly I shall go on . . . JJ