A Good Day

Yesterday was a good day.

My little girl turned five on Thursday and my mom and step dad came out last night.  They gave her possibly the best gift for her- a gumball machine! 18519821_10158791140855074_8977889329133441059_n Shiloh is a bit obsessed with gum so it’s perfect for her.  Gabe had a good day too.  His little friend came over and he got to play and have fun like a “normal” kid for the first time in a loooong time.  Then he felt up to playing outside with another friend for another hour and a half.  Lots of giggling and running around.  It made me so happy because since we quit topical steroids nearly three months ago he has been going through hellish withdrawals and had many days where he had to carry him because he was too weak and in too much pain to walk.

20170519_182541So he had a great day and got to have cake and ice cream!!  You can see there is still some redness and scabbing on his face.  But he has come so far from these days…  20170225_083718   I got another gift as well.  Gabe had been upset about getting disciplined by his dad.  He was really pouting but I went up and cuddled him anyways.  He said, “Mom, I like being around you because you are always really happy.”  That meant a lot to me because I have really struggled with depression but I don’t want it to affect my kids at all.  I’m so glad Gabe doesn’t see that.

 

Grunge and Depression

Don’t worry, this isn’t going to be a “there’s demons in the rock music” type of post… just some random reflections and what’s been rolling around in my head lately.

Just within this past week or so I have been coming to grips with the fact that I have depression.  I think I’ve always put my depression in the context of “overcoming” just because that’s how I’m wired.  I’m an INFJ and part of that I am always aggressively looking for ways to improve myself, including my mental health.

“Feeling sad?  Feeling down?  Nothing a good workout and chocolate protein shake can’t fix!!”

Recent events have brought it more clearly into focus.  I have depression.  I’ve probably had it since I was 13.  I usually manage it well enough through healthy coping mechanisms (and let’s face it, sometimes unhealthy ones).  I’m a sensitive person, I think and feel very deeply.  I naturally tend towards melancholy.  Out of all 4 of my siblings and I, I think it is safe to say we all struggle with some degree of depression and anxiety every single day.

There is certainly a genetic component as well as a very real spiritual one.  I do struggle with depression however I do still hear from God, I do still feel a great deal of happiness in my life- because of my relationship with Him and all the gifts he has showered down onto my life.

I can honestly say I don’t think I would have survived my depression without God breaking through into my life.  “the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” Matthew 4:16

With the passing of Chris Cornell I can’t help but reflect on my past and the impact depression has had.  I was only a kid when the grunge movement was big but my older siblings were really into it.  When I got into my teenage years the angst and authenticity of the music really spoke to me.  My favorite band was Soundgarden…and then of course, Audioslave.

Chris Cornell was, like many artists, a sensitive soul that battled his own demons and dealt with depression.  We don’t know for sure if his death was a suicide, but it seems likely.  He likely fought the depression and the darkness the best he could, until he couldn’t.

I’ve gone through major crisis’ in my faith.  When I came to God I knew I had major issues, deep pain in my heart.  I knew I needed healing.  I knew I carried a shame around in my soul that tainted every part of my life.   I sought God with everything, I sought healing.  I prayed, I fasted, I wept…. for years.  Yet I still feel such angst in my soul.  I still wake up everyday and feel the need to prove my worth.  I still fight to keep the depression at bay.

I really don’t like offering up “untidy” blog posts.  I really like to post when I’m pumped up on a spiritual high with God and feel like I can offer inspiration.  Those times are true and genuine but they certainly don’t capture the whole story.

I feel like I want to be a little more real in my writing.  Because, well…there are no “successful Christian makeover!” stories, at least not in the sense that we get so healed and delivered that we live in a sort of spiritual reverie, immune to the flesh nature, with a perfect grin and perfect family until Kingdom come.

It just isn’t reality.

In being thrust into a caretaker care for my son, a lot of the self-medicating (or coping, tomato-tomato!) tactics I’ve used have been really messed with.  The things I use to prop myself up (don’t we all have them?) where suddenly taken or just not enough.  I’ve realized my motivation for serving God is actually very little when I am really hurting and my prayers seem to go nowhere.  “If we are unfaithful, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny who he is.” 2 Timothy 2:13

Just today I was feeling down about something when I heard God speak to my heart about how He loves me.  He loves the “hot mess” me.  I remembered a time, when I was in my early 20’s and seriously depressed.  I couldn’t love myself and couldn’t imagine God could either.  I stopped praying.  I remember sitting on the dusty carpet in my bedroom near tears when this song came on the radio… https://youtu.be/Ek4I6BeMQIs

I just knew that song, at that moment, was for Me- from God.  I bawled and bawled.  It was a real moment in my life where his light burst forth into the deep darkness I found myself lost in.

I struggle with wanting to wrap everything up into a neat little Christian bow but I really can’t.  As my 8 year old was asking me why God has allowed him to go through these years of suffering, there really aren’t any easy answers.

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Copper the dog looks sad for Gabe too~

I think in this life the pain is real.  The hurts are real.  Especially the hurt we all carry around in our hearts.  So much of life seems random, chaotic even- but for the moments that the light of God breaks in.  Somehow we survive and come out a little softer, a little stronger.

It’s ok to be hurting.  It’s ok to have questions.  As long as those pangs and hurts ultimately lead us to our Healer, into a deeper relationship with Him, as he slowly unravels the hurts and shines his light into our deep darkness.   And if we take a detour, He will come and rescue us when we are ready.

When Trauma Happens

This last Saturday my dog was viciously attacked by another dog.

We had been gone for a few hours and came home to find two labradors (one yellow, one black) running around in our backyard and pond behind our house.  They seemed friendly enough.  Our neighbor called police to come pick them up and I put up a post on our community facebook page with a picture of the dogs and our general location.

We put the black dog on our dogs leash so they wouldn’t run off.  The yellow one eventually did run off and was traipsing around the neighborhood.  At that point I let my dog out in our front yard so he could “go potty” after having been inside all day.  The black dog was leashed in our backyard.

The yellow dog came back and at first was just sniffing my dog.  I can’t remember the exact sequence but very quickly the yellow lab started attacking my dog and chasing him around the yard.  I ran after them yelling to no effect.  I ran around the house and found my dog cowering by my front door with the other dog attempting to block it from going back inside.  I screamed at the dog in my most authoritative voice to scare it off enough to get my dog safely inside.

I didn’t realize my dog was badly hurt until some 40 minutes later.  He had a pretty serious bite wound on his tummy.  I didn’t see it because he is a golden with very thick, long fur.  The wound was about 1 1/2 inches wide and definitely required immediate vet care.  Since it was Saturday I had to drive him 45 minutes away to the nearest emergency vet clinic.  He needed to be put under general anesthesia so they could flush out the wound and stitch him up.  20170514_084321

This was traumatic for me on two accounts.  My Copper is my “baby”.  He is the sweetest, most loving dog you can imagine.  He is my joyful companion on many adventures.  When I need a hug he is always happy to oblige.  He is just a great dog and wouldn’t hurt a fly.  The thing that really wrecked me is that I was the one who (unwittingly) put him in danger.  If I hadn’t let him out this wouldn’t have happened.

I felt very awful and very responsible for the whole thing.

But I slowly gained some perspective.  I had no way of knowing the dog would react that way.  It was a lab!  It showed no signs of aggressiveness up until the attack.

It was awful, it happened.  But I can’t keep beating myself up over it.  My culpability amounted to my being a bit naïve and impulsive.

I’ve thought quite a bit about what I learned from watching the Dog Whisperer; dogs live in the moment.  People often live in the past and get stuck after traumatic events but dogs don’t.  They heal and move on with the right care.

That’s one thing I love about dogs.  They live in the moment.  If the owner moves on, they will too.

I love my dog and he brings a lot of joy to my life.  We are going to move on from this together and leave it in the past.  (well, after we get the vet bill taken care of by the other dog owner!)  It was a painful learning experience.  I’m not going to go overboard but I will definitely be far more cautious in the future.  I did a lot of reading on the subject and dog attacks on other dogs are common enough that you need to have some sort of game plan just in case. 

Carrying a can of mace may seem extreme but if you ever need it, you’ll be thankful to have it!!  A heavy duty walking stick can also work to break up an attack, or defend yourself if you ever get attacked.  I also read that you can pick an attacking dog up by the back legs (like a wheelbarrow) and pull it back, or grab it by the tail, but those moves would obviously involve some risk and require some physical strength.

I assumed the dogs were friendly because of the reputation of the breed.  But any dog of any breed can become suddenly aggressive.  It’s illegal to let your dog wander but dogs do escape and/or have irresponsible owners.  In that scenario, it is better safe than sorry.  Don’t approach a dog running loose, especially if there is more than one dog.  Dogs are more aggressive when they have that “pack” mentality.

Copper is going to heal up and be ok.  He’s been a bit fearful out in the yard but I’m confident that will subside and he’ll go back to his happy-go-lucky self soon enough.  One bad incident isn’t going to sideline us or make us bitter or fearful.

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Copper and my son, Michael

Spring, Sadness, Hope

I watched this video yesterday and broke down crying.  It pulled on my heart strings because I know exactly how each of the moms feel.  You struggle privately and have to put on a brave face for your kiddo.

Going through TSW is incredibly isolating because it isn’t a well known condition.  People have never heard of it.  Whenever I post updates or pictures I always get people saying things like, “OMG!  That’s an allergic reaction!”  or “coconut oil took care of my small patch of eczema!”  Insert head-slap here.

Also not particularly helpful is reaching out to the mother of a sick child….trying to sell them something as a MLM distributer.  We’ve tried every lotion on the planet at this point, I’m sure yours isn’t going to be the magic bullet that will end his suffering.  But….um thanks for offering??

Or posting progress pictures.  I always point out that’s he still has a long way to go.  But still people “be like” Hallelujah!  He’s finally healed!!  Um…slow down.  He’s still very much suffering and going through this.  I just like to post pictures when there is any progress to encourage myself and let everyone else know how he is doing.

Speaking of that, he has come a long way.  When you deal with something like this it is easy to fall into hopelessness because it just goes on….and on.  He’ll make major progress and then flare again.  Our hopes will rise, then get squelched.  But I know every single day we weather brings us one day closer to him being healed.

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This was about 1 1/2 months ago.  Yep, RSS is that horrific.
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That’s him now.  Not healed but making progress!

At the moment he is flaring on his face pretty badly.  He doesn’t want to leave the house, because he is so embarrassed.  He’s lost weight off of his already very skinny little body.  In spite of seemingly eating 24/7 he is very thin and his clothes hang off of him.

I also believe he is healing on the inside too.  His organs became steroid dependent as well.  Every morning he has a hard time getting going.  We need to carry him out of bed, get him breakfast, and then bathe him.  I still need to wash all his bedding every single day.  Because every night it gets bloody and crusty and covered in his dead skin.

We are hitting this thing from every possible angle.  Probiotics, vitamins, homeopathy, bone broth, garlic, sea salt….just every thing we can do to help him.

That’s been our focus and it’s really brought us all together.  I feel closer to my husband than ever.  I thank God for our solid marriage.  He has been my partner in this 100% and is so quick to sacrifice for his family.

Most days we are doing pretty good considering.  When you’re going through a long term crisis everything else get’s backburnered.  We barely celebrated Easter.  We haven’t really been able to go to church in ages because it takes so long to get Gabe going in the morning.  I was ok with that until I drove past a cross with ribbons billowing in the wind the Monday after Easter.  I felt an unexpected tidal wave of sadness at not being able to celebrate my favorite holiday the way I would have liked.  It threw me into a bit of a depression for the rest of the week.

But I know that next year will be totally different.  Next year we will go all out for Easter.  Next year we will properly celebrate our Anniversary.

We know that our faith has carried us through this and also all the many prayers offered up for Gabe.  Thank you everyone for your continued support and prayers!!

A Quiet Sort of Romance

I quit my job at Starbucks so I could be home full time.  Gabe is still struggling daily with TSW.  Half the time we have to carry him around.  There is loads of laundry to be washed daily.  Lots of skin to be vacuumed.  And of course he just needs a lot of care and attention.

We are 2 months in to this journey and it has been a huge drain on us- in every way.  My husband said at one point, “we are just going to have to give each other extra grace right now.”  As sleep deprivation piled up and emotions ran high we have gotten in to petty arguments and snapped at each other…. but more than that we have loved and supported each other through this.

Our 10 year anniversary is this Friday and it will likely pass without much fanfare.  We wanted to go on a trip together and I was hoping for some anniversary “bling”…. but that was back before TSW took over our lives.

That’s mostly ok with us.  We’ve never really done things conventionally anyways.

The real gift is ten years of happy marriage to the man I love.  You get married hoping that that person will love you and stand with you through the good and tough times.  You get married so that you have a partner in life, that you never have to face the difficult things alone.  You get married hoping to create a family and a lifetime of memories.

I’ve found that in my marriage and that is enough.  A quiet sort of romance.  An enduring love.  Ten years in and I still enjoy his company.  He’s still amused at my antics.  I still don’t want to let go when we hug.

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Our first Easter as a Family, 9 years ago

When I met Tim I was 20 and a single mom to a toddler.  I had been dating without much luck.  When I met Tim, I knew from the first date, that he was “the one”.

The INFJ in me loved his humility and lack of pretense.  That first date I saw the true him.  He was authentic, honest and kind.  He is truly honest to a fault.  He is just a good person.  He didn’t hesitate to take on a step son.  When we went through a difficult custody battle two years into our marriage he sold his beloved truck (that he had just finished paying off!) so we could hire a good lawyer.

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights…” James 1:17

I know Tim is just that to me; a good and perfect gift.  17951693_10158638684060074_7487367056105280349_n

Honey, I love you and I am so blessed to be your wife.  Through good times and bad, there isn’t anyone else I would have by my side.

I know things will get better but until then, I am just happy to have you by my side.

I love you so.

Rebirth

It’s a bit gloomy here (spring is always dicey in Minnesota!) but there are undeniable signs of spring.  I can hear birds chirping right now and the sun is trying to peek out.  I have been so happy because I love spring so much.  The winter here is long, cold and dark.  It isn’t even just the weather though, it’s that spring is such a symbol of new life and rebirth.

Spring always brings fresh life spiritually as well.  I love Easter and all that it represents.  Ten years ago it was spring when I finally let God in and had the most joyful season of jubilee that I will forever be marked by.

My life is a bit crazier than usual at the moment.  I am in a full-time caregiver role to my son who is navigating red skin syndrome.  He is mostly bedridden.  His hands, wrists and legs are the hardest hit.  So much so that walking or even writing with a pencil is difficult, and at times impossible.   He is also struggling with insomnia so he is often very tired and cranky.

I know it is so imperative that I stay positive and joyful as his caregiver.  Positivity is HUGE in healing.  https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/owning-pink/201112/can-positive-thinking-help-you-heal  I need to create an atmosphere of positivity to help Gabe cope with his pain and frustration.  Also, I need to stay positive to cope with being thrust into a very intensive caregiver role.

I had been really struggling.  Big time.  I was just succumbing to the negativity in my circumstances.  It wasn’t just everything Gabe was going through.  We all got sick for a ridiculous amount of time, two rounds of back to back flu.  Plus my youngest acting out to get more attention (can’t blame her).  Plus family drama.  It was just a lot to deal with.  And when I feel like that I inevitably start getting angry with God.

God is good and loving and generous and all that.  But there are seasons where he really wants to mature us.  He wants us to seek his face, seek HIM, and not all the wonderful blessings he bestows.  We all get our “Job” moments.

I feel like I’ve gotten more than my fair share….but then I realize God had also bestowed such underserved favor and blessing on me as well.  I have SO much to be thankful for.  SO much.

I decided to really embrace joy and walk in trust and joy has been bubbling over.  I have been ecstatic.  I’ve been really happy.  Really.  It’s proof that we can be joyful and thrive in our faith even when circumstances are beyond difficult.

“Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice.” Phil 4:4

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Gabe is doing pretty good at the moment.  I discovered a new very promising therapy for him, cannabinoid oil.  I had been applying it to his skin without much improvement but then I decided to give him a drop internally.  Wowza!  He showed a huge improvement.  He was happy and walking around and playing, which is kind of a miracle at this point.

Unfortunately I had already used most of the bottle on his skin so I ordered some more this morning.  If this process has taught me anything it is that we should look to natural cures and therapies that work with the body instead of against it.  Many people take steroids (which shut down the bodies inflammatory response) then when that stops working they get immunosuppressant drugs which shut down their immune system.  We were perscribed such immune-destroying drugs but I’m so glad we didn’t use them.

In closing, please know that there is a God in Heaven who loves you.  He created you.  He uses both the good and the hard things to get your attention, to make you look upward.

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” Romans 8:37

 

 

Getting through this Season

I wanted to write another update on Gabe, because I haven’t for awhile and people ask how he is doing frequently.

It’s 6 weeks in and he is still in the hardest stage.  People keep asking, “is he better yet?!”  No, he isn’t.  It’s a long, painful process and it just takes time.  No, it isn’t an allergy.  No, it isn’t eczema.  There is no magic bullet.  His body has to withdraw from the powerful steroid creams.  That is a painful and difficult and long process. 20170322_133757

The withdrawal started on his torso and neck but has worked it’s way down to his legs and arms.  His neck and torso do look a lot better at this point.  His legs look awful.  They are by far the worst hit, because they received most of the steroids over the years.  They are so dark they are almost purple.  Every night we have to wrap his legs in bandages so he doesn’t shred them.  Every night those bandages are soaked in blood and ooze. 20170322_134059

Because of the rough shape his legs are in, and the toil the withdrawal is taking on his overall health, he can’t walk at this point.  Well, not more than a few steps here or there.  We carry him around the house.  We are almost housebound.

We’ve been dealing with not only this but two rounds of the flu.  Plus, a certain neglected 4 year old decided to stop going #2 on the toilet for a week.  It was a week of negotiating and cleaning poo out of her clothes and off of carpet, walls, the ceiling (JK)… and on top of that I’ve been dealing with hurt over a lack of support through this, from the people I’ve supported in the past.

Plus most days we are exhausted because Gabe isn’t sleeping super great and needs treatment or just support through the night.

They say when it rains it pours.  It can get hard to stay positive and I’ve done my fair share of crying alone in my closet.

Hurt and disappointment seep in and have a way of hardening the heart towards God.  I woke up a couple days ago with the thought resounding in my mind, “you have an enemy and it isn’t God.”

God doesn’t cause the pain or hardship however he allows it.  Pain can be a powerful impetus for change.  I know I have quite a few “weeds” in my life that God wants to prune away.

 “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.  We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair;  persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” 2 Cor. 4:7-9  joy-comes-in-the-morning

Yes it hurts, and it’s hard.  But we know that we will get through this.  We know that God is for us.  We know that there will be a rainbow after this storm.