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?

Vampire Diaries 3

“It’s only a day away,”

The curly haired girl would sing on stage

‘Cause the sun did come out “tomorrow”

And that was all that shined over here, alas.

Bedbound once again

I search my mind in wonder:

What penance doth I need to serve?

What sin doeth I need forgiveness?

Thy husband is off on his adventures

And I am here, alone with you

Exasperating in another lost day

Where even the counselor had little to say.

My Lord is silent on such an occasion

Perhaps waiting for me to simply dwell

And know that He is there

Even when I cannot see, feel, or touch His face.

Is this my fate, I ask to the silence around me?

Perhaps it is.  Perhaps nothing will ever change.

I am to rejoice the Scriptures tell me forthright

That must come from grace for my strength fails,

Lest a key drops into my space with some goodness

This day I will simply breathe one nare at a time

(Until the pounding in my head subsides, alas.)

Psalm, psalm 139, 9-10, dwell, peace, Scripture, Christian, strength, darkness

 

 

The glove on the sidewalk

In Christ there are no “coincidences,” just Divine touchstones:  those events orchestrated by the Lord for our good, for His glory.  Sometimes we get to see His hand and sometimes we don’t.  And other times things look too dark to come from our loving, sovereign, holy Father.  These can all be quite mysterious this side of heaven, eh?  Less so for me these days.  My faith has grown to trust the Lord in all things (even the ones I don’t understand).  Allow me to elaborate from my world of late.

I was walking into a medical appointment today and saw a glove lying on the sidewalk next to an adjacent garage.  I used a tissue to pick it up since it looked soiled then I noted that it looked quite familiar.  Yes, it was the glove I had “temporarily misplaced” last week!  But how could it have remained here in this sort of prominent place unnoticed for seven whole days?  Who knows?  Chances are that I dropped it off my lap onto the blacktop when I exited my vehicle and it simply blew over to the sidewalk inch by inch until it’s black silhouette was easier to see against the lighter-colored cement.  The staff person in the office helped me figure it out.  I was dumbfounded!

Similarly, I have found little God-moments in the arduous process of transitioning from IV infusions at an outpatient clinic to my home.  When you are forced into a private-pay healthcare service there is no one to assist you with navigating the 18 agencies, 6 pharmacy/supply companies, coordination of care, financial arrangements, medical orders, and “GO” button to make it all happen within a week of making the decision to do all of this.  Today was treatment day number 2!  Whew and thank you Lord!  I have been taking more naps since it all came together probably due to the stress of it all more than anything else.  There is still more to do but hey, no worries.  I’m on it!

Huber needle

The research the Lord empowered me to do has become another blessing.  First, the pharmacy I initially chose did not have the Safe Set Huber needle that would work better than what I had been sent to access my power port.  My nurse was able to quickly contact another provider on my list to have the one pictured above and some other supplies sent to my home in time for treatment #3.  No problemmo, the pharmacist essentially personally texted me from her home late Friday afternoon.  Now that’s service!

home, infusions, IV, treatment, Rocephin, ceftriaxone, home care, home health, nursing, port, power port, hospital, treatement, Lyme, disease, chronic

My new treatment space!

In another example, it looked like renting 2 infusion pumps would add a lot of expense and complexity to the home care until a “mistake” happened during one of my last treatments at the outpatient clinic.  The lab mixed the reconstituted antibiotic with the 500 cc of normal saline instead of dispensing them separately.  This would change the dosing that we had landed on to prevent seizure attacks during the hour-long infusions.  As it turns out, I tolerated the combined treatments just fine.  So there would be no need for the rental of 2 pumps, no extra expense, and not even a need for expensive, pre-filled “ball” or elastomeric pumps.  I ordered an IV pole ($20) and the meds pre-mixed into the bag of fluids instead.  Cool beans.  But all this still does not mean that I want to become a nurse ya know!

The Lord is in the details of our lives, Gentle Reader.  He knows them, He sees them, He cares about them, He grieves them, He loves over them and us too.  Just when we think that God is nowhere to be found, we need to look a little more closely at the small stuff.  We need to move the space from “God is nowhere” to “God is now here.”  He never leaves us or forsakes us (Hebrews 13:5, Deuteronomy 31:6) even in the midst of trials.  The trials may be the very place when we may see Him the best.  Take a look this week and be sure to tell me about it, k?  JJ

Psalm 139.17.18

 

 

Known in the Gates: Part 2, The Inside Story

One of the movies that has really resonated deeply with me is, The Breakfast Club.  Please see my previous post for the catchy theme song that underscored the film and one of the most poignant scenes that is also pertinent to Part 2 of this 3-part blog.

In Part 1, I described the isolation that I have felt when enduring a serious illness and how the Lord still gets me through the toughest of days.  His Word is my greatest comfort; the leading of the Holy Spirit and His presence are my greatest companions.  I ended with a question,

But how well does he really know me?

Sure, my Lord crafted me before I was born and set forth all that I would be, all that I would endure and accomplish.  His Words in Psalm 139 declare that He knows my “innermost being.” Does this include the longing of my heart as well?  If it does, why has He allowed me to become so dreadfully isolated?

Maybe someday I will get to see why so many family and friends have chosen to “walk on by” me as it says in the theme song of The Breakfast Club.  Have I not been a good friend?  Maybe I was not.  I remember about two years into this ordeal someone contacted me and asked me about getting together for coffee.  I replied “yes” and then I never heard from her again.  My spirits had soared then crashed and burned.  For believers in Jesus Christ, the answer to the “why” question is usually left for eternity.  We simply may never know “why” this side of heaven.

Those of you not living in isolation may not have any idea how much Satan uses this experience to tear a person down.  He can prey upon all of our negative emotions and be allowed to create havoc in our lives.  (Yes, ultimately God is still in charge!)  Yet I know that it’s really not about resisting Satan or about losing the people in my life.  I resist the devil and his demons with the sword of the spirit:  the Word of God as described in Ephesians 6:10-17.  People come and go in our lives and that is the normal ebb and flow of life.  It really is about my response to the taunting, the loss of these relationships.

My challenge has been particularly great due to the effect that this chronic illness has had on my brain.  Responding to Satan’s lies and the loss of relationships has been affected by the change in brain chemistry that came with chronic illness.  My ability claim victory in the name of Jesus Christ and fully embody the companionship of my Lord have been affected.  Satan’s lies have been magnified.  My social skills have eroded.  My ability to think clearly has been altered.  And I struggled to override these skill deficits but could not, even if I tried.  Allow me to explain.

Only recently did we discover that excessive neurotransmitters called catecholamines (epinephrine, norephinephrine, and dopamine) are likely contributing to my mood changes, thinking and communication skills in addition to possibly causing the convulsive episodes.  This is happening due to the expression or “turning on” of polymorphisms (SNPs) or breaks in several enzymes that help form my DNA code.  The DNA code is the instruction manual or blueprint from which the body functions.  Everyone has a unique combination of broken SNPs that get turned on by illness or significant stressors in the environment (such as exposure to mold).  For me the factors included everything that I have written about in this blog:  biotoxin illness/hepatitis, latent Lyme disease, Candida toxicity, mold illness, infected root-canaled teeth, and mercury toxicity.  That’s a lot of stressors!  These illness and environmental challenges became a trigger for disaster.  I even have the data to prove it, all of it!

methylation cycle, Dr. Amy Yasko, SNPs, Lyme disease, mold illness, mitochondrial, mito disease, methylation, B6 deficiency, CIRS, mold illness,

One version of a methylation cycle from http://ihateticks.me/2014/10/06/methylation-for-dummies/

For some people this process manifests as a Mitochondrial Disease or a disruption in the methylation cycle inside the nucleus of the cells of our bodies.  My thought life was affected.  My mood was affected too.  I had waking and nightly nightmares not based in any reality past or present.  Those were internal things that my beloved husband, Steve, and the healthcare community could not see very often.  Several healthcare practitioners labeled me as having a mental illness of sorts, often without even completing a mental status exam or workup!  Gratefully, Steve believed me.  They all saw the wretched convulsive episodes that have plagued me for hours every day for 3 1/2 years.  And Satan was allowed to enter into the whole dynamic with lies and attacks that I will definitely write about at another time.  Absolute mental and physical wretchedness.

But now the gig is up!  Two days ago I woke up from a lovely nap after starting to treat this condition.  I had my first 16 hours seizure-free!  It’s as if someone turned on the lights in my brain!  Not only do I have a formula for correcting the brain-part of the process but the prayers of deliverance against the spiritual warfare are taking hold.  The cascade of negative mental, physical, social, emotional, and spiritual suffering is beginning to turn around. Lord willing, I am going to get well!

My Jesus knows all about every aspect of what I have described here.  He also knows the desires of my heart.  How do I know this?  My prayers long before this illness began was to become whole.  I had been broken by the consequences of a hard life:  events out of my control.  Many times during trauma the Holy Spirit would bring encouraging scripture to me that kept me moving forward.  Yeah, finding hope and finding myself has come through horrible, ongoing isolation and trauma.  I have worked hard to recover from so much suffering in my heart, my mind, my body.  Each step of the way has been both painful and meaningful.  Yet I tell you, Gentle Reader that nothing has been wasted!  I have learned to trust the process in EVERY CIRCUMSTANCE under the protection of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  And now the desires of my heart are being realized.  Cool beans.

So how does one rebirth the desires of one’s heart?

Jer 29.11b

To be continued in Part 3 . . .

Known in the Gates: Part 1, Not Forgotten

For those of us around when the iconic movie of the 1985, The Breakfast Club, came out, we probably asked ourselves which character we liked the best.  Was it the one called Sporto, the jock?  Carl, the criminal?  Brian, the brain?  Molly Ringwald’s character, the princess?  Or maybe it was the outcast gal in black?  (what was her name?)  Here’s a little refresher with the song that still gets my heart rate going, my feet tapping!  How about you?

This is one of those songs that once you hear it, you won’t be able to get it out of your head for about a day!  Sorry.  I really like this song!  I really liked the movie too.  The character that resonates with me these days is Allison Reynolds played by Ally Sheedy.  If you don’t want to watch all of the clip below, kindly forward to the scene in progress around the 5:00 to 6:15-minute mark.  It’s where she confesses her deepest sorrow:

Yes, I get this type of sorrow.  Try being sick with a serious illness for coming up on 4 years and see who remembers your name?  See who identifies with your struggles?  See who bothers to ask, who bothers to call?  The numbers have dwindled for me for sure.  I have kept in touch with my closest friends from Illinois and made new friends in the recovery-from-this-or-that communities online.  My beloved husband (whom I met then married here in Indiana), Steve, has hung in there through with me the worst of the torment, the lifestyle changes, the failed treatments, and the thousand-plus nights with disrupted sleep.  (Watch these videos if you want to know what I am talking about.)  Some folks I know have graciously followed this blog through it all.  Thank you!  I am always delighted when I hear from one or two of them now and then.  Nice.  Well sort of.  It’s just not the same . . .

There is a place where I am known very well and keep in close contact.  There is a place where I have not been abandoned, ignored, discounted.  The place where I matter most and my closest companion is always there, always here with me.  That place is in the arms of my Heavenly Father through my personal relationship with his Son, Jesus Christ.  He never forgets about me!  I savor His words He speaks of me (and you too, Gentle Reader) from Psalm 139:

For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
    they would outnumber the grains of sand—
    when I awake, I am still with you.

Oh how I wish I knew these words as a young woman when I first saw The Breakfast Club!  What matters now is that I get to lean on these words all of the time now in the quiet, dark places I have visited when alone with my Lord.  He has never forgotten about me.  I have always felt His presence even in my greatest hours of suffering.  He has spoken through the Holy Spirit often.  I have never felt “lonely.”  The Creator of the universe loves me!  I am so grateful.

But how well does he really know me?

To be continued in Part 2 . . .