Face like Flint

I just got kicked out of an eczema support group on Facebook.

I was acting as sort of an awareness raising vigilante for the dangers and prevalence of topical steroid addiction amongst those who suffer with eczema.

Like, “LOOK!  Guys I have the answer.  You can get completely better!!  Your steroids have been causing your worsening condition all along.  Now you just need to go through this hellish withdrawal!!”

Obviously I wasn’t met with much enthusiasm.  The people who administrate the group are familiar with TSW and for whatever reason, have decided against it.  Not only that, but because of the suffering associated with it, they label it as “dangerous” and “misguided” and the people, like myself, who try to sound the alarm, are promptly booted from the group.

My reasons for wanting to warn people is simply that I wish someone had warned us before our level of dependence on steroids got as bad as it did.  We could have avoided so much pain and suffering for our son.

But the road is a hard one, no doubt.  And many try for a time, before going back to steroids and concluding that TSW doesn’t work.

I’ve gotten some unexpected feedback sharing my blog within my TSW support group.  People commending my husband and I for doing a good job.  It is great, in a sense, mostly because it’s vindication.  When we entered into this, it was going against medical advice.  It was going it alone.  It was entering into some pretty bleak and abject suffering.  We felt very defensive about our decision because while we knew we were doing the right thing, we felt a lot of heat over it.

But at this point it is finally paying off.  My son is getting better.  There is a spark of vitality and health that strengthens every single day.

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He was thrilled to get a McChicken before school~

In our case we found the answer to our prayers, to our searching, but it meant pressing through a whole lot of pain and difficulty.  “As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.” Luke 9:51  Another version says, “He set his face like flint.”  Jesus knew full well what he was getting into and he pressed into it.  He was resolute.  Because he knew the joy set before him.  He knew the end game.

 

My husband and I never wavered, not once.  We knew that God had led us to this point.  We knew Gabe had to go through this withdrawal.  We were of one mind, and there is so much power in that.  Gabe, young as he is, he understood and was 100% on board too.

We’ve gone through a pretty extreme trial, but, we all go through stuff.  We all deal with pain.  That’s why we need hope.  We need to know the end game.  We need to know our Shepherd.

Often, the only way out is through.  We have to be resolute.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off every encumbrance and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with endurance the race set out for us.

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2-3

I know there are those who don’t get their healing.  At least, not here on this earth.  But we know the end game.  We know in whom we have believed.  We know this life isn’t the “be all, end all”.  It’s like a cosmic waiting room we bide our time in until we can get to the real deal.  And hardships help to wake us up to the eternal consequences and weightiness of how we live our lives here while we wait for the children of God to be revealed.” Romans 8:19

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Beginners Guide to TSW

I’m writing this guide to help the many who are starting their TSW journeys.  I’m writing this because you won’t get much help from the medical community or even alternative medicine practitioners.  I’m writing this purely to help.  I am not affiliated with any of the products I recommend.

I’ve read blogs and watched videos from people who healed quickly and are giving out advice but they had only a short period of T.S. (topical steroid) usage.  Well, no wonder, right?  I’ll give a short back story so you can know that we have dealt with severe TSW.

My son used hydrocortisone for a couple years and then fluocinonide for about a year.  During this time his health deteriorated.  He developed asthma and had multiple rounds of pneumonia.  He always had dark circles around his eyes.  When we asked his dermatologist about it she prescribed protopic to rub onto his eyelids. (insert forehead slap here!)

After a month on oral prednisone in an attempt to clear up very serious pneumonia, Gabe developed full scale red skin syndrome.  At that point he was getting red rashes on his torso and they would go away if we applied the fluocinonide.  Right before we discovered topical steroid addiction we were applying the super potent steroids AND protopic and sealing it up with plastic wrap in a desperate attempt to get his skin under control.

Gabe was exposed to a lot of steroids and went through an extreme withdrawal. When we discovered TSW (or RSS or TSA) we knew we had found the answer but had no idea what to expect or how bad it’d get.

In these two pics you can see how he looked in the first week.  His skin turned bright red, obviously.  You can see on his neck in the second pic how bad the oozing was.  It was running off like water.  I’d go to pick him up and his clothes would be practically drenched.

This is normal TSW and happens because the steroids work by shutting down the blood vessels close to the skin.  It calms the bodies own immune response and seemingly fixes the problem.  But when you’ve used for a long time and you suddenly stop, those blood vessels flood with nitric oxide.  You get bright red, angry, hot, oozing skin. Though people of color never get red skin, their skin gets several shades darker.

At this point we brought him back to the dermatologist.  It was a mistake.  Don’t expect much help from your derm at all.  They wanted to hospitalize him and slather him head to toe in steroids with a steroid drip to treat his “infected eczema”.  We stormed out.

We were able to find a much more sympathetic dermatologist who wrote us a school note for why Gabe couldn’t go to school.  Even she wouldn’t come out and admit it was TSW.  She wrote it as “severe eczema”.

You need to find doctors you can work with but don’t expect any miraculous breakthroughs or much help.  The dermatologists do largely know about TSW but either they don’t care or they hide behind a thick wall of denial.  They aren’t about to completely overhaul the way they practice and admit that their care has made so many people not only worse but desperately ill.

If you’re a parent of a child going through TSW it’s important that you establish that you are seeking medical attention for your child.  Make it clear that you aren’t refusing treatment, just steroids.  Ask that steroids be listed as an allergy on their chart.  Call their school and do everything you can to work with them.  You need to cover your butt because there are nutjobs who troll support groups and report parents to CPS.  You may even face a lack of understanding in your own family.  You need to have this proof that you are getting your child the help they need medically because the last thing you need is CPS opening an investigation.

Speaking of nutjobs…avoid the Dr. Aron people.  Not all of them are like this but there are a select rabid few who troll the recovery groups and try to deter people from the true path to healing.  The Dr. Aron method is not magical by any means.  It’s a quick fix and it doesn’t address the underlying problem- the addiction to the steroids themselves!  Many of them are stuck applying a concoction of steroid and antibiotic lotion 5-6 times a day.

When you do see your doctor you can ask for prescriptions to help you through this TSW hell.  Hydroxyzine (atarax) can be helpful to get some actual sleep.  We use it once in awhile because daily use was making our son incredibly irritable and depressed.  Like most drugs, it can be helpful but it has side effects.  We have a bottle of tramadol as well, for days when the pain is just too much.  Many use gapapentin or lyrica for nerve pain.  It is also helpful to have a script on hand for antibiotics in case of a sudden staph infection.

Depending on your usage and history you may need to take an extended leave or even quit your job.  My son required so much care that I quit my part time job to take care of him.  If you’re single, you may need to move back home.  Do whatever you can to enlist help and support to help you get through this.  My son missed months of school.  We did a homebound program where a teacher from his school came out and spent an hour a day with him so he wouldn’t fall too far behind.  It was necessary because he basically spent months in this chair unable to walk. 20170518_221523

You’re going to be utterly exhausted and afflicted with terrible insomnia.  The T.S. didn’t just affect your skin.  They were your supply of cortisol and adrenaline so your body simply stopped making it’s own.  It’ll bounce back but it’ll take many months.  In the mean time you’ll probably watch every episode of every show on Netflix in the wee hours of the morning.

Just about everything you experience is “normal”  Swollen lymph nodes, chills, edema, crust, ooze…all normal.  My son swelled up and was constipated for the first time in his life the first week of withdrawal.

What you need to familiarize yourself with is signs of infection.  Google “impetigo” and “eczema herpeticum” and get very familiar with how it presents so you can catch it early if (or when) it happens.

Virtually all TSW people have a major staph (staphylococcus) overgrowth problem.  The steroids actually enable the staph to grow out of control and further colonize your skin.  The best bet in beating it is building up your immune system, not tearing it down.  Steroids are a quick band aid, and actually make the problem so much worse in the end.  Same with immunosuppressants.  You need to get healthy so you can actually heal and stop covering up the problem.  Many people do bleach baths (a 1/4 to 1/2 cup regular bleach in full tub) to reduce the staph on their skin.  We also used liviaone probiotic spray off of amazon.  The good germs help coral the bad ones.  I wash my hands carefully after treating Gabe or I get staph bumps.  I wipe down commonly touched surfaces with Lysol wipes and I clean his tub with bleach pretty frequently.  Nothing else kills staph.  Believe me I’ve gotten infections to prove it.

Regarding immunosuppresants or “immunos” this option should be an absolute last resort.  I’ve read many blogs of people who used immunos and it made their symptoms much better until they stop using them and they are virtually back to square one and need to start withdrawing all over again.

20170705_114604The absolute best thing you can do is support your health, not undermine it.  Especially since your immune function is already very compromised.  At one point my son contracted the measles from being around a toddler who had recently had her MMR shot.  That was four days of sheer hell.  So be aware that you are immuno-compromised and that risk is there.  For heavens sake don’t get any vaccinations.

After you go through the bright red skin phase you’ll go through different phases.  It’s helpful to take pictures so you can document your progress.  I took pictures of my son at his worst.  For evidence in case we ever file a lawsuit for the harm inflicted on him by negligent doctors and also to encourage us that he was making progress.

At his worst his legs were actually purple.  He looked like a victim of radiation poisoning.  20170707_204127The areas that were hit the worst were the ones that had received the most T.S. over the years.  But it really affected his entire body.  From the swelling and bacterial infections he lost virtually every single finger and toe nail.  In this picture you can see that chunks of skin were rubbing off while the skin underneath was still too raw.

In TSW it’s like you’re a snake and you shed your skin every single day.  There’s just going to be skin everywhere.  We still (8 months in) vacuum nearly every day.  I wash his blankets every day.

We use $5 fleece blankets from Walmart.  He sleeps on top of one with another one covering him.  Then in the morning I can easily roll them up (to contain the crust) and toss it in the washer.  It’s so much easier than stripping off sheets and all his bedding every day.

Speaking of laundry, switching to a free and clear detergent is helpful.  I wash my sons clothes and blankets in a natural powdered detergent and use white vinegar as a rinsing aid instead of fabric softener.  Vinegar helps deodorize and soften fabric, as well as getting all the soap residue out.

“TSWers” argue big time about the importance of diet and even what diet is best.  My thought is that the body needs the building blocks of a nourishing diet to properly heal.  This is not a time to go on a ridiculous diet.  You need extra protein.  You need a lot of healthy fat.  Avocados, grass-fed butter, bone broth, fish, nuts, etc. you need a balanced diet with the amino acids from complete sources of protein.  You also need antioxidants from fresh produce.

Because your adrenal glands are already completely slaughtered from the steroids you want to avoid further stressing them with sugar, alcohol and caffeine.  I’m willing to bet virtually all TSW people also have candida overgrowth from antibiotics and a weakened immune system.  The candida is a nasty yeast that lives on and in you and it feeds on sugar.  We noticed that our son got instantly itchy after eating sweet treats.  We cut way back and he felt much better.  We noticed his anxiety levels went down as well. Sugar feeds the yeast and it also depresses your immune system.  So it’s extremely wise to limit it, even in the form of juice and fruit if you believe you have candida overgrowth.

Probiotics can also be very helpful in healing your gut and aiding in your healing.  Other supplements we have found very helpful with Gabe have been astaxanthin (a super antioxidant), powdered super greens, vitamin D3, and CBD oil.

I see a lot of questions about CBD.  CBD is cannabinoid oil and it’s the medicinal part of the marijuana plant.  It won’t get you “high” and it’s legal in most states.  It helps with inflammation, anxiety, pain and insomnia.  It was extremely helpful in the first few months for us.  Gabe would be exhausted and in so much pain until I gave him a few drops of his CBD and he would be able to get a few hours of peaceful sleep in.  Or he’d be able to get up and move around a bit.  I ordered mine here https://www.anandaapothecary.com/shop/cbd-formulas/

We’ve just lately found Maxasorb BioActive Vitamin B12 Cream to be very helpful.  I apply a few pumps all over his body after his bath and he perks right up.  His skin is also less red since we started using it.  It has also never stung or irritated his skin.

Just this week we tried alkaline water for the first time.  I heard about it on the ITSAN support group and decided to try it.  It’s already made a world of difference for him.  He has much more energy and much less itching.  I highly recommend it.  I found our first bottle at Target and ordered a case of Essentia brand water off of amazon.

We have also done warm baths with either dead sea or Epsom salt nearly every day.  We do salt because it cleans the wounds and is very healing for stressed adrenal glands.  One trick we’ve found to get around the water stinging is applying cocoa butter right before he gets in.  When the skin is very dry even water stings.  The cocoa butter acts as a buffer until the skin can get used to the water.  The bath was great because for Gabe it was, for a long time, the only escape from feeling pain and itchiness.

I like cocoa butter as a moisturizer because it is very gentle.  It is a saturated fat so it is unlikely to go rancid.  It also has a warm, chocolately scent that can be useful in covering up that oozey smell.  I order my cocoa butter off of amazon.  It comes in a big brick.  I put in in a glass container and melt it as needed with a hair dryer in my bathroom.  It only takes a minute to melt what I need.

We’ve spent lots of money on eczema creams and potions and it’s pretty much a waste.  We used a lot of Vaseline and aquaphor early on but realized it was making him itchier and drier.

Your skin will go through a lot of changes and you need to find what works in each stage of TSW.  Generally, using products with less ingredients is better.  You can even rub something as simple as olive oil on your skin.  Whatever you use it can be helpful to add essential oils, which can act as a natural antiseptic with healing properties.  Thyme, lavender, tea tree, frankincense, and clove are all very good.  I buy my essential oils from plant therapy or ananda apothecary.  You just need to make sure that they are properly diluted. When my son is very upset I put a few drops of lavender in his bath, mixed with his bath salt.  I also put a drop of aura cacias “pillow potion” on his pillow at night.  They don’t work miracles but they do help.

Early on we also used a lot of zinc cream.  Zinc is very protective and can offer some relief to very raw skin.  We liked sudocrem (bought from Walmart online) but you can grab a good diaper rash cream and it’ll do the same thing.

Some people advocate for moisture withdrawal.  We haven’t tried it with our son, because it would be too painful and difficult.  It seems to be helpful in the later stages in teaching your skin to make it’s own oils again.

Getting through those first months is so tough but you can take comfort in knowing that so many warriors have gone before you.  At our low points I probably read the success stories on https://itsan.org/rss-images/ ten times.  My son and I also enjoyed Briana Banos funny and educational videos on youtube.

The best advice is to take it one day at a time.  No one knows how long your healing process will take but you can do so much to make it better and shorter!

At this point my son is getting more and more clear.  He is back at school for half days.  He is starting to get back to normal life.  He’s gone from this terrible “before” to this “after” in just six months. 18010182_10158675908895074_4895123062797969444_ngabebabeHe still has a way to go but we know he is well on his way to being truly healed…and tough as it is, you’re on a journey to being completely healed as well.  Thank you for reading and God bless you.

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Where I’m At

I haven’t written in awhile.  Amidst the end-of-summer craziness and back to school hubbub, I just haven’t really had anything worth writing about or the time to write it.

But, miracle of miracles; my kids are all in school.  At this moment it’s just me, my dog, and a coconut mocha.

It’s a true miracle that Gabe is in school.  Yesterday he felt good enough that we decided it was the day.  His backpack had been packed weeks earlier.  He was scared but I coached him on what to say if anyone asked what was wrong with his skin.  I said if he started crashing at school to tell his teacher and I would come pick him up immediately.  gg

I dropped him off and got tears in my eyes.  He hasn’t been able to go to school since last February.  He’s come so far and there were days we felt like we would never get here.

He had a good day and was optimistic going back again today.

I had posted about it on facebook when a facebook friend commented, “GIVE GOD THE PRAISE!!!”.

I know she meant well but I felt an unexpected pang of irritation and anger.

A couple weeks ago I had been worshipping in my car and God had revealed to me the nature of the thing I’ve been battling for months, or even longer…

My trust in his goodness towards me has been seriously wounded and it was shaky to begin with.

There’s been so many hard things, so many painful things…and then this?  Even coming out (hopefully) on the other side of the worst of it…my soul has been so traumatized by witnessing suffering that no parent should have to see.

Sobs in the night.  Wounds that won’t heal  A true sense of hopelessness.

I know God is there, has been there.  But, it’s complicated.  I’m hesitant to speak to anyone about my feelings because I just can’t handle getting chastised or beaten over the head with platitudes.

I know what’s blocking my growth is my lack of submission to God.  But how can you submit when you can’t trust?

I’m still working things out.  I still believe.  I still listen.

This is just where I’m at and I have to give myself permission to be ok with that.

A Midsummers Night Blog

This is just going to be kind of a random blog about Gabe’s progress and life in general.

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Lindt chocolate ball,  mmm

Gabe is now 5 months into topical steroid withdrawal.  I know I left off with sharing what rough shape he was in a couple weeks ago (with what may or may not have been measles…) without any real update.  He did get better.  Now he is back to his usual TSW self.

His skin looks much better than in the early days (or even two weeks ago with mystery illness!) but his energy levels are still very low.  I imagine long term topical steroid use caused major adrenal gland suppression and it is just taking a long time for them to “re-boot”.

At this point he is still sitting in his favorite spot, the recliner, for most of the day.  He doesn’t want to go anywhere.  I can’t blame him.  Minnesota summers are hot and very humid and it aggravates his condition horribly.  Just 5-10 minutes outside will lead to a 20 minutes “itchfest” where he’ll scratch till he is bleeding and in pain.

One of the hardest things is feeling guilty because so much of my time goes to taking care of Gabe.  My other two children just aren’t getting as much attention.  We could have picked a better time to start!  I feel like we are all missing out on summer fun, seeing as how we spend most of our time indoors.

I know next summer will be different, will be better.

In the mean time I can’t wait for school to start.  I know moms aren’t supposed to say that, but it’s true.  I am truly an introvert, and I need a good deal of peace and quiet every day for a sense of emotional well-being.  Being mostly stuck inside all day with three loud children is very draining!  That plus the fact that many nights Gabe is literally up till midnight and then up again at 7 am, needing care.

As someone who is naturally prone to depression, I feel like I have been handling this all really well.  My husband is my support system for sure.  Plus my sweet dog (the subject of my last blog post) he is always there with his comforting presence.  And of course, God (!!!).

There has been quite a lot of pain along the way.  In that this condition is very alienating and I haven’t gotten as much support from other people in my life as I would hope for.  I have felt judgement (real or imagined) at our decision to take Gabe off of his potent steroid creams.

I know that ultimately it really doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks.  My husband and I are 100% on the same page.  We feel like God led us to this point.  I know that Gabe will heal and that will be vindication in itself, along with being our greatest hope realized.

In closing I think that so often we feel like if God is with us, the journey would be easier.  We feel like if we are hurting and exhausted, God can’t possibly be involved.  But that just isn’t the case.  Just like how he met with the Patriarchs in the desert, he meets with us in our “desert”.

“I will make rivers flow on barren heights, and springs within the valleys. I will turn the desert into pools of water, and the parched ground into springs.” Isaiah 41:81

“Lord, help us to find your streams of life-giving waters in whatever barren wilderness we find ourselves in.  Help us to rise above our circumstances as we keep our eyes on you.  Do a work in our hearts as we submit the brokenness of our situations to you.  Help us to know that you are the prize we seek and that we have eternal value as your workmanship in Christ Jesus.  Amen”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Update and TSW Treatment

Gabe started topical steroid withdrawal in mid-February of this year so he is 4 months in. 19113521_10158905728715074_8900016741876609406_n

The bright red skin of the first two months has faded and now it just looks like he has horrible eczema/was in a car crash.  The areas that still look really awful are where we applied steroids the most and longest- wrists, feet, ankles and legs.  His face is flaring though we never really applied steroids and he never had eczema there.

His energy levels are still maybe 35% of what they used to be.  He still spends a lot of time sitting in his favorite spot, the recliner.  He is able to be active and enjoy some quality of life thanks to some supplements we do everyday.

Right now what is really helping him is astaxanthin.  It’s a super potent antioxidant that is reportedly 6,000 times more powerful than vitamin C!!  I carry him out of bed in the morning and after breakfast he chomps up a 12 mg capsule of astaxanthin and within 10 minutes he is feeling 80% better and is able to get up and run around and be a normal kid.  His mouth is perpetually stained orange but it works!!  Astaxanthin is a naturally occurring antioxidant found in red algae (and sea food).  It’s what makes flamingoes pink!

We still give him CBD oil (yes, from marijuana) when his pain and anxiety levels are very high.  We give him 3-4 drops and he holds it in his mouth for 30 seconds before swallowing.  It really helps him and the benefits go behind pain relief.

We also give him detox baths every other day.  Epsom salts, dead sea salts, lavender oil and sometimes a bit of bentonite clay.  He likes the water very hot and even though it usually stings at first, he never wants to get out.  It’s the only place he doesn’t feel pain or itchiness.

Gabe also take probiotics and drinks a lot of kombucha.  He is constantly asking for fruit so we try to stay stocked up.

His sleep is still a nightly struggle.  So 1-2 times a week we give him 10 mg of hydroxinine to help him get some uninterrupted sleep.  We get a break and he gets to sleep through the night without shredding up his skin.

I just ordered liviaone topical probiotic spray and I am pretty excited to try it out.  I really think it will help Gabe heal because of so much of what he’s been through (similar to most people with eczema/TSW) destroy good bacteria on the skin- the steroids, the antibiotics, and bleach baths…. that I really feel he will be able to heal much more quickly with the introduction of healthy bacteria to his skin.

What I’ve tried that hasn’t been successful-

A high grade sodium bicarbonate (baking soda).  There is a lot of buzz about safe soda helping people heal very quickly on the TSW pages.  Problem is, this stuff is super expensive and hard to get.  I tried what seemed to be a similar alternative but without success.  I haven’t ruled out safe soda but it’d be painful to spend $60+ on a small contained of baking soda.

Essential oils.  I’m a huge user of them.  I’ve used them near daily for the past four years.  I just can’t put them on Gabe because his skin is so sensitive that they make him worse.  A couple drops in the tub is ok, applied topically just seems to be too much.

Homeopathy.  Granted we went right in the beginning and we were exhausted and overwhelmed.  We left with like 20 supplements all with complex directions.  Half of them were pills that he couldn’t even swallow.  It was basically a waste of $500.  It probably would have worked better later on in his treatment and if it was more simplistic and doable.

 

Suffering and Heaven

18920650_10158894564500074_8516742202078951748_nYesterday I took just Gabe out shopping.  I don’t often get to spend alone time with him and I was reminded what an amazing kid he is.  He has such a tender soul.  He wants to run an orphanage when he grows up… but he also wants to drive a Ferrari, so… 😉

We had a fun time, just the two of us.  On the way home he kept asking me about Heaven and what it’ll be like when Jesus comes back.

I explained to him that Jesus will appear in the sky with great glory, riding the clouds.  That every eye will see him, even those that pierced him.  That we will rise to meet him and be changed, to be like him.  That there will be no more sickness, death, pain…

I got choked up and so did he.  He said, “Mom, I can see him coming.”  I said, “honey that’s the Holy Spirit showing you that it’s true.”

You see, just the day before he had been in a lot of pain.  In between tears and sobs he had asked, “if God loves me, why am I suffering so much?”

The conversation, and the sweet presence of God, was something we both desperately needed.  Something that I need more of.

In my own suffering I tend to turn away.  I feel like I can’t take anymore disappointment at times, without losing hold of my faith.  But yesterday, it was like He peeled back the curtain obscuring eternity and gave us both a glimpse of our future and the end of suffering.  I felt a glimpse of the eternity and wonder awaiting us, and looking over at Gabe’s tear-filled eyes, I know he did too.

I know that Gabriel is being molded in ways I can’t even begin to comprehend.  I know he has a huge call on his life.  Even at the age of 8, there is a level of tenderness, empathy and hunger for knowledge of God that is amazing…. probably as the result of all the suffering he’s had to endure.

We can got lost in the hardships we face but we need to remember that life here is short and eternity is long.  We can’t choose the trials but we can choose how we face them.  Our God loves us.

 

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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.