I’m not going to lie

Just when you think you have figured something out, it’s really maddening to realize that there is more to know and you simply are clueless!

laxative, medical humor, gallows humor, Lyme disease, chronic lyme, catamenial seizures, non-epileptic seizures, coping with illness, chronic illness Hope Beyone

Hi, my name is Julie and I am the reluctant writer behind this blog after I got sick on October 11, 2011 and never recovered. I started my journey here online in August of 2012 after reading the blogs of 2 acquaintances. Journaling had been a life-long practice of mine, beginning with a diary that I wrote as a girl. The cover was shiny and flowery in white, pinks and reds. It had a little flap over the edge of the pages that I could lock with a tiny key. That still wasn’t enough to keep out my brother, Mike, to my horror! I don’t recall what I wrote but I do recall that he teased me mercilessly just the same. After that I got better at hiding my private things.

Flash forward many dozen years and the trend these days is to pour your heart out in a blog to the watchful eyes of the world. Just when you think that no one really cares about your stubbed toe or smashed fender, you realize that some stealth follower from another part of the world relates and responds to you in kind. I find it a kinda special occurrence and a reminder of our shared humanity. Still there are some topics better left untouched and facts left unsaid of course!

Be careful in sharing good news. If you are disabled, the government might use your day of reprieve as evidence against you that your life is restored when clearly it is not. That examiner probably won’t read the hundreds of other blog entries that describe some personal hell of one type or another. Like the convulsive episode I had this afternoon that yielded only after a prescription intervention, followed by a 5-hour nap. Or the second seizure attack a couple of hours later that yielded only after another type of remedy that actually worked this time. Thank the Lord that my beloved was home and willing to help me. I am grateful. And it all came just hours after helping our local Park while sitting here alone through the night to update their website: a good thingy!

If you happen to have dysfunctional family members or friends reading your blog then there might be entirely different consequences to complaining about blah, blah, blah over and over again. To this person I say well then don’t read my blog or (limited) Facebook posts honey! How about minding your own business a little more? Isn’t keeping a positive attitude, getting up in the morning, saving enough money in the bank for emergencies, and the like hard enough to manage these days than to meddle in someone else’s daily drama too? Do you really think I would fake this hell for self aggrandizement? I am not that kind of a sick puppy lady! You’ve got it all backwards. I’d rather remain anonymous or conversely, receive recognition for an admirable accomplishment. Like raising a rank as a Master Gardener largely from publishing our county’s newsletter in the middle of the night. Or volunteering in a public garden despite the heat exhaustion that came alongside many of the hours out there. And it all came on the hundreds of days each year when I did not have to crash back into bed, unable to function normally. Got it?

So where does a thyroid biopsy to rule out cancer fit into this muddied scenario? Will having major surgery thereafter legitimize my enduring serious illness and the varying opinions of persons on the sidelines cheering at times or throwing barbs at others? Nope. Others simply give witness to your life for the parts that he or she can see, to the extent that he or she can step outside of his or her own story. And none of us can do that fully. The peeps who truly love you will come closer to a sense of understanding. That is a gift for sure. However, it is only in a personal relationship with the Lord, Jesus Christ, in a life surrendered to Him that you will feel completely validated, loved, understood, accepted, and forgiven. He created you and ordains all that you are, what happens, when your life begins, and when your life will end. All for a purpose greater than anyone else will ever know. Lord willing, He will grant you insight into some of your life’s meaning along the journey and be merciful. He loves you so!

I’m not going to lie. Everything from what other people have thought and will think about me to questioning the Lord’s plan for my life is smeared across a messy collection of hundreds of blogs over these 8 years of chronic illness. Will it be cancer on top of everything else? Cancer: the one diagnosis that suddenly legitimizes one’s fears and suffering and need for compassion? So what. This stuff could really mess with my head. But what is really going on inside my mind? Not that much really. I feel like my Jesus is simply carrying me through it all. I feel numb inside and out. Often my thoughts are blank. When the tears come they are shallow, like a reservoir running dry after years of siphoning off for this trauma or that one. There’s not much left in my fuel tank. With no catharsis left for my angst, one might wonder who or what will nourish me now?

The answer would have to be the Lord Himself. Hold me please. I hereby place my journals, my blog, my illness, my life in your lap. Cover the Gentle Readers out there with your loving care too. Send forth your angels and Holy Spirit to care for, to guide us all. This is a tough world to live in these days. The suffering of your saints is great. We need you NOW!

When the adventure is inherent in the day

No fancy definition needed

When the adventure is inherent in the day.

Not exactly a mountain top experience

Or reaching the limits of form and space.

Nor costly in the typical sense of words

For no one wants to spend thousands on health.

Nothing like it in the normal world

But for me it’s no, not, nor, nothing then let’s go anyways.

The effort to live with serious illness

Even when the trials are less to write about

Are no smaller challenge, adventure shall we say

Because you really don’t know the outcome when you head out the door.

There may be pictures (scans), adrenaline rushes (injections) oh my,

Better hold on sissies, cause there ain’t no manual when you decide to try.

And try I have, a thousand times over

To some avail with microscopic progress, not perfection by any means.

Today was no exception as my head swum with radioactive tracer

Driving down the road hungrier, less self-assured, ready to make it anyways.

So what’s in your adventure portal?

The one with an open-ended plan

Make room for the derailments of this life

‘Cause nothin’ better than that Gentle Ones. ‘K Lord, let’s go!

He Ain’t Got Drowned, Thank the Lord!

Warning:  Read this until the end!

He left before I woke up and long after I was up in the middle of the night baking him cookies for the race.  Another strange night it was.  I had crashed early in the evening, many hours before my bed time . . . not that there is a usual bed time, that is.  I am still up very late about 2 nights per week yet that is a huuuuge improvement from my years as a night owl.  But my tummy hurt and I just couldn’t stay asleep.  All I could think about was those cookies that I wasn’t able to bake as promised and the risk of my beloved River Bear collapsing in the river the next day.  So I got up and started mixing up the ingredients sometime after 2:00 a.m.  The story was unveiling vividly in my mind as the scent of baking chocolate chips and Irish butter filled the air . . .

My beloved would be paddling a new-to-him Wenonah J203 carbon-fiber marathon canoe, probably putting him at the back of the more accomplished river rats on Saturday.  They all would be pushing their limits in the cold and rainy weather, trying to get back into shape for the upcoming race season.  RB would be no different.  The only difference is that he would be competing with a sinus infection on top of some chronic breathing issues.  The  realization of the risks was just enough to drive the mind wild of a kayaking-turned-canoeing “widow.”  Yeah, I don’t see him much during the Spring-Summer-Fall racing season so temporary paddling “widow” I become!

Today was especially of concern.  If he got a coughing spell when on a remote part of the river, spread out for miles over the course with the other dozen-or-so racers, there’s a good chance that only a real bear in the woods would have heard him struggling.  His  brown, furry cousin probably would not have minded my beloved’s residual garlic breath as he munched on his serendipitous, soggy lunch feast.  But that was not the worst of my worries.  More likely another racer in an equally tippy performance kayak would see my beloved slumping forward, splash into the water to save him, and be unable to do much of anything about it.  I foresaw in my mind’s eye that probably would be LB, of course.

She in her 4-foot 10-inch frame would jump out of her boat, neither one wearing a life jacket despite the cooler water conditions, and wrestle with RB’s muscular/lifeless body as it flopped into the current of the Tippicanoe River:  he almost 70 pounds her senior and her struggling to keep both of them afloat.  The river would win and down he would go.  She would be traumatized and exhausted from the fight against the swirling water, the soaked mass of a man, the expensive boats and paddles flowing downstream, the desperate feeling of not being able to save him no matter how hard she tried.  I could see it all in my mind’s eye, of course, in an instant.  I had been in a similar situation myself just 8 years ago during my first encounter with a performance sea kayak on the Allegheny River.  I feared for my life!

Back at the boat launch or maybe when she could signal for help, LB would desperately reach out.  The fellow racers would leap into action, scouring the shoreline for signs of the man who teased them hours earlier with a craft beer for any seasoned canoeist who could beat him on his maiden voyage that day.  They may or may not find him or his gear.  The rescue boat would eventually arrive, find and take his body to a local hospital for the fateful pronouncement.  The paddlers would stand in a circle at the take-out speechless, none volunteering to call the wife over 100 miles away who had sent along home-baked cookies for the annual meeting afterwards.  No one would be brave enough to call her or maybe the Fire Department would at least leave a message?

Do they ever really tell you all of the news anyways that you need to know when you get a dire phone call at a time like this?  I would then be in my own racing seat as I made the 2-hour drive to the Lafayette area, wondering if I had the right name of the facility where my RB was being held under refrigeration.  Perhaps I would drive from facility to facility searching for my loved one?  And what would they tell me when I found him?  Would anyone be there to tell me the story of what happened?  Would the racers have taken a luscious cookie but gone on home anyways, themselves suffering from the trauma of the friendly competition gone wrong?

And what would I do next?  What about the pup at home, the phone calls that needed to be made?  I would probably have to stay over a few nights to release my hubby’s body to return to our home town on Monday morning and begin preparations for the worst event of my life:  a funeral!  I have done this in the past a few times and it is exceedingly and painfully difficult.  Oh dear, what would become of my elderly family member out of state for whom I have become a measure of a caregiver?  Where would my beloved’s children stay, what would I say when they arrived grieved beyond belief from all over the country and 2 foreign countries?  Holy cow.  Maybe I would just sink and die myself right then and there rather than deal with it all.

Or maybe not.

*************

Twelve hours and 2 naps later, I heard the side door open.  My River Bear was home!!!  I was in shock.  Where did I just go in my mind and my heart for way too many hours?  In what or where have I placed my trust?  And why the heck am I so very needy, so weak, such a worry-wart when the Lord has been faithful to lead me through horrible tragedy dozens of times before.  Is this mental exercise really helpful at any level?  The answer:  NOOOOOOOOOO!!!

I have come to realize that there are a couple of coping mechanisms that come with enduring serious illness for many years that don’t work very well at all in a fit brain.  One of them is living each day with a sense of impending doom.  When virtually every night and every morning for the past 6 years was met with violent convulsive episodes, I lived every day with a sense that bad things were always going to happen.  It was just a matter of time before they did.  Well guess what?  The convulsive episodes don’t happen every night or every morning anymore!  I have got to let go of this “stinking thinking” as we used to say in my 12-step group days.  Husbands virtually  always come home.  And if they don’t right way, they usually have an amazing story to tell that makes you fall in love with them even more!

Another coping mechanism that got exercised in writing this story was that of always needing a contingency plan.  More recently, every time I would plan to do an activity at home or elsewhere I set up alternatives in my mind of what I would do in case I got sick.  I told RB my plans for the day, I had every “rescue remedy” I could think of in a lunch bag with me, and kept running errands until I was exhausted — just in case I was too sick the next few days to leave the house.  As you can see from the bit of paddling fiction above, I listed a few of the questions running through my mind but in my head, many more options and scenarios were playing out in my mental tool box.  What a colossal waste of physical and emotional energy!   While a “scarcity” mindset may work in times of famine or flood, I really don’t need it with me anymore.  Me and the Lord will figure out whatever may come my way.  Geez!

Of course an obvious failed coping mechanism is last on my list today:  a false sense of control.  I cannot predict anything that will happen, good or bad, and neither can you.  If I truly trusted the Lord with my life in times of tragedy and triumph then I would not need these fantasy games to cope with the fact that I have a REAL MAN who LOVES ADVENTURE no matter if he is sick or well.  That makes him who he is!  And his passion for life makes him the man in whom I fell in love over 10 years ago.  No wimpy dude over here!  He pushes the limits to the admiration of his peers and sweat of his competitors because that is just how he is wired.  I guess I am still understanding how different we are, how different the Lord wired each of us.  It is a beautiful thing really.  And, Lord willing, my beloved will always be home at night in pretty darn good shape too, I will add!  :J

Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV)

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
    and he will make your paths straight.

So the next time my man goes out to do that which he is called to do, I will pray for him and for me both!  I will not respond with fear but anticipation of some great stories in which I may one day join in, Lord willing, as I get stronger each day.  The day is coming soon when I will want to venture myself out into newer, uncharted waters, so-to-speak knowing that my Lord and King is already there, cheering for both me and my River Bear.  This could really be a fun summer after all.  I often cheer, “Goooooo Steeeeeve” from the side of various rivers when my beloved’s paddle hits the water at the sound of the starting gun.  Maybe it’s time for a little, “Gooooooo Julie” too?

Stay tuned.  There’s always another story waiting to be told around here for you Gentle Reader.  The water awaits!  JJ

Stellar, SR, paddling, woman, kayak, kayaking, wing paddle, carbon fiber
Me in my Stellar SR surf ski in 2011

Scorpius, outrigger canoe, OC1, Hawaiian, boat, man, paddling, life jacket, racing, buoy, turn, marathon, River Bear
My River Bear leading the pack at the bouy turn on the St Joe River, Fort Wayne, Indiana in July of 2015

Dealing with the trauma of illness

Not that I have a total handle on this topic or anything but hey, I have learned a few things worth sharing . . .

Every day for over 5 years I have suffered waking seizure attack episodes of varying duration and intensity.  For over a year (ending last year) they averaged 2 to 5 hours per day!  At least once per month they would spike up to 12 hours on and off in a single day, sometimes requiring an Emergency Room intervention.  I have been to 3 different emergency rooms a total of FIFTEEN TIMES including once by ambulance.  After nearly a year of IV antibiotics for chronic Lyme disease these episodes are generally less than an hour per day now with some positive changes in triggers and patterning.  Significant testing and other treatments, research, and patient “networking” remain my primary occupation.  I am grateful for the improvements that have come including overall less pain from the repeated physical trauma of “head-banging” and wretched writhing movements (thanks to  periodic intervals of physical therapy and periodic chiropractic adjustments).

The journey is hell at times.  At my worst times I have questioned if I could endure this level of suffering one more moment.  My breathing has stopped numerous times and there has been one significant near-death experience with visions of “white lights.”  I have had to pray many times for the Lord to give me the strength to get to the bathroom when alone during hours of convulsive episodes.  Every type of healthcare provider I have ever seen and most close friends and family has witnessed them.  My husband is a saint, having cared for me often late into the night then getting up and going to work the next day.   A total of probably a hundred times he has had to carry me across our home when I could not walk, feed me, take me to the bathroom, assist me with bathing, take me to the emergency room, run urgent errands, and the like as my primary caregiver.  Probably a thousand times he has volunteered to bring me some type of “rescue remedy” to attempt to get the seizures to stop (generally at night or upon waking in the morning).  He never complains.  He is my hero for sure.

In other blogs you will read about all the avenues we have pursued to try and get me well:  chronic Lyme disease, heavy metal detox, mold remediation, obscure infections, dietary restrictions, neurology workups, dental issues, nutritional deficiencies, epigenetic testing and coaching, electrosmog, gut issues, yada, yada, yada.  I spend hours per week researching, managing my healthcare, dealing with extreme mold avoidance and other preventative strategies, and accessing my support system online or by phone.  Church worship is also online to minimize triggers from environmental stimuli, however this strategy also increases my social isolation.  Trips away from home are generally focused on essentials during my best times of day and occasionally with transportation help from a couple of sweet gals from church.  I wear a mask in their cars and sit on a towel covering the passenger seat but we find a way to connect anyways during those trips when help is needed about once per month.

As you can see, there is much abby-normal stuff during my days.  Social isolation and the ongoing seizure attacks are my biggest heartaches.  The latter causes both physical and emotional trauma when they are severe which still happens two of the seven days per week still marked by ongoing episodes.  The two this week included:  1) a violent reaction to an ingredient in an new injected medication that I need to treat osteoporosis and 2) a new strategy to treat severe Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth.  Both of these conditions very likely are complications of ongoing illness as they were not present before I got sick on October 11, 2011.  Each new diagnosis will bring its own special kind of discouragement if I don’t keep my worries in check with my hopes placed in the redemption promised with belief in Jesus Christ.  Already I mentioned a few of the strategies I use for managing the social isolation.  What about the trauma?

I manage the trauma of severe, ongoing illness by trusting in my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  This used to mean that I trusted in the promise of Jeremiah 29:11:

11 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 hope and a future.  (NIV)

Surely if there is a purpose for all of this suffering then it won’t be wasted.  It becomes part of a greater plan, encouraging me enough to endure even the worst of the pain and anguish I am enduring.  This viewpoint has helped me cope during the first 5 1/2 years of this illness.  It carried me through the decisions to spend the rest of some savings with the hope of a cure and to endure the side effects of such treatments.  I can look back and point to the skills and information that I have learned, write about them here, take to heart the remarks of others encouraged by my stories, and note the Divine sequencing of many things that have happened along the way.  The Lord has provided so much for my care that gratitude has replaced temporary doubts, frustration, discouragement, intractable pain, and so on.  Seeing some meaning in what I am going through or shortly thereafter, gave both me and Steve enough hope to keep moving forward no matter what the “cost” may be.  But what about when the process stopped?  The money ran out.  I am not recovered.  There was no where else to go this past Winter when I got to the bitter end of my proverbial rope with worse symptoms than I could ever imagine!  Yeah, that was the onset of facial shingles in December.  More hell and a hospitalization too.

That’s when I needed to learn to trust whether there would be a purpose I could see or if there would be no purpose or direction at all.  I discovered that complete trust in our Heavenly Father builds faith and the strength to carry each of us through ANYTHING and EVERYTHING.  It’s a supernatural gift bestowed upon believers in God Almighty who trust Him.  For those of us chosen to travel a path of excruciating suffering, we must find our way to this level of trust in the Lord our God.  Our faith will grow as a result and both will carry us through the dark times no matter how dark they become.  Did I tell you that frightful demonic attacks have come during the worst of the waking seizures?  Yes.  It’s more terrifying than I can describe but may try to do so another time.   At those times only the spiritual armor of God (see Ephesians 6:10-18) and this reassurance spoken by the apostle Paul will quiet my spirit.  God is greater than any threat in this world, in my world, period.

2 Timothy 1:7  (NKJV)

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

Because what is my worst fear anyways?  Dying?  For me it is probably not dying but suffering even more with dying as the end result.  So finding peace when dealing with the trauma of physical and mental suffering must be accompanied by the reminders of Who overcame death, in Whom have I placed my trust, and in Whom will I find victory over my fears.  To extinguish the fearful thoughts I must again turn to the “sword of the Spirit” as described in Ephesians 6:17 as the word of God.  In the Book of John we find Jesus comforting a grieving friend when:

John 11:25-26 (NIV)

25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

Not only did Jesus overcome the grave when He rose from the dead on Resurrection Sunday (Easter), He gave those who believe in Him the promise of a glorious eternal life in His presence where there will be no more weeping, no more sorrows.  There will be rewards for the faithful too.  There will be perfect peace, love, and joy forever.

the cross

I may never see healing this side of heaven.  I may see healing this side of heaven.  I really have no idea which one it will be or when it will happen.  In the meantime I will simply trust in Jesus Christ who knows my name and sees my suffering (Psalm139) and ordains it somehow for good.  He will be here with me always.  I ain’t dead yet so I trust that He will add His grace and power to see me through to my last breath.  Until then Gentle Reader I ask you,

Do you believe this too?