Waiting Not So Patiently

File Apr 08, 11 33 03 PM

Funny how quickly a year can pass, even if it’s one of the most difficult years you can recall, you always arrive at some point where you say to yourself how fast the year flew by. At least, that’s what I’m doing right now…as I worry and reflect and try to keep perspective.

One of my very first posts on this blog (and that wasn’t all that long ago) was a post titled “Where it All (Sort of) Started” detailing an event that I now realize was a big red flag alerting me that depression had stuck its claws into me again (bad monster). That event involved the discovery of a spot on my lung and the process of going through finding out what it was and that it wasn’t something to be concerned about. There’s a lot more meat to it than that, but that’s the short condensed story so that I can get you up to speed.

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That’s the read flag that totally should have been more obvious than it was at the time.

Now, here we are and I’ve been sick recently. Quite sick really. Pneumonia. A shot in the rear, breathing treatments, steroids, antibiotics… I’m doing the drill, ya know? Trying to rest as much as I can during the days while the kids are at school and my husband has been awesome and super supportive in the evenings. And then today, I get a phone call from my doctor.

It’s a new doctor and I like her a lot. She wants to know if I know about this spot on my lung that their radiologist saw on the X-ray they took a couple days ago. Naturally, I said “Yes! That was scanned last summer (turns out it was actually last May) and they thought it was benign.” She proceeded to ask if I had the report…and while I have the CD from the scan, I couldn’t locate the actual written report. Dang it. She wanted to know if I remembered the size of the spot (lung nodule) and I couldn’t accurately recall. We formulated a plan that I would obtain the report and since I was going to see her in a few days for a follow-up I could bring the report with me then. And… she mentioned that the radiologist measured it at 9mm currently.

I was instantly alarmed because I knew that wasn’t the size it was almost a year ago, but I still couldn’t recall the exact size. I got off the phone and my adrenaline started PUMPING. I could feel it coursing through me as I got a wind of energy like I haven’t had in many, many days. I looked and looked through the CT scan report I have on CD but it didn’t tell me anything in actual words, it was all pictures, the black and white kind. Not helpful at all.

I am bad at waiting. Like really bad at waiting. This is ironic because I posted about waiting on the Lord on Instagram this morning. I spoke of how if we wait, His way will always be better than ours. You know, we need to try not to act on impulse and not seek out instant gratification constantly. That went out the window as soon as this event arrived. In fact, I didn’t even recall that post until right now as I’m writing. (hangs head)

I called the imaging center and all I needed to do was drive over, show my id and I could get a copy of the report. Guess who couldn’t wait until Monday but had to drive over during rush hour on a late Friday afternoon? Yep, me. I got that report in my hands as soon as I possibly could and now, I know the answer. The answer is that my spot was measured at 7mm 11 months ago. And, depending on the actual size of the spot now (which may or may not be 9mm because X-rays aren’t nearly as accurate as a CT scan) it’s either grown, or it hasn’t. Either way, I’m sure I’m going to need another scan…this will require waiting. Waiting for the insurance company to pre-authorize the scan, waiting for the scan appointment itself and then waiting for the results. See a theme, here? Then there may or may not be more waiting…I could go on.

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This is so NOT me right now, but who doesn’t love a picture of a bride? And she is obviously annoyed about something, much like me.

I’m trying really hard not to jump to conclusions but meanwhile I read a whole lot of articles and reports tonight that I somewhat understand. They discuss growth rates of nodules in the lung and what they may or may not mean and all kinds of other tidbits about lung nodules that you really don’t need to know…most of which I already read last summer!  I’m trying not to worry. I’m trying to give it all to God. I’m trying to understand that waiting patiently for Him and the answers is the only way to go if I want peace of mind. 

All this to say, it really could be nothing. And God wants me to be brave and courageous and just wait for Him…so I’m going to do my very best.

Wait patiently for the Lord. Be Bold and Courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.
Psalm 27:14 NLT

 

 

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Feeling Heavy: That Depression Kind

I started this blog with the intention of utilizing it as a therapeutic outlet. Then I got caught up in the idea of getting a lot of followers and visits and views and I forgot to keep doing that, in a way. So today, I’m gonna write about what’s really going on with me in my head, because I need to share it, and it might as well be with you, right?

I can feel this depression thing hanging on or hanging on to me again today. But wait, I told you I had turned a corner previously…I still think I have (I haven’t had a suicidal thought in quite a while it seems), but today, I feel heavy and up and down and irritated and sad and the sad feels big. I woke up feeling positive. I did a little shopping and enjoyed that. I put together a new flower arrangement for our front door and that was fun! But slowly, as the day crept on, the heaviness grew heavier and my ability to cope with the loudness of my home and youngest child (she lives with autism and can be quite loud) lessened more and more.

In order to get through it I isolated. I went to my room and locked myself in, literally, and did some bible journaling. I find this to be a great refuge for my mind and it does my soul good. I liked my finished product even though I am noticing that I am comparing my entries more and more to others recently. (red flag) It really did turn out quite nicely. (How I wish those self-loathing thoughts would seriously and completely disappear forever!) Then I tried to be present with my husband and youngest in our living room, but I felt like I had to tune out…I focused on social media and reading blog posts of others and colored some of a drawing I recently created. I was completely isolated in my mind. I truly just couldn’t cope. I wanted to run away. I wanted to go back into my bedroom and lock the door and never come out.

Something has shifted in me recently. I had experienced a couple weeks of what I now know was hypomania and naturally my doctor adjusted my medications. I want that hypomania back. I want to feel happy or excited or something. I don’t want to feel this heavy heart that’s beating in my chest tonight. I’m scared of these feelings. I don’t want to feel them. I don’t want to go back to that dark place. Please don’t take me back there.

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I’m going to try really hard to remember that although this has been happening more frequently lately, it doesn’t mean I’m there, stuck in the darkness. I’m going to remind myself that tomorrow is a new day and help is on the way. This heaviness may lighten up. I’m going to try again. It’s Easter tomorrow and we celebrate the resurrection of our savior, perhaps tomorrow will be a resurrection for me as well.

There, I got it out. That felt good. I’m glad I wrote it down.

Life Lessons: What I’ve Learned from a Broken Car Door Handle

The door handle broke on my car, on the inside…on the driver’s side. This funny little thing happened a few weeks ago and I just realized that its happening has taught me a few things – about getting out of my car without a door handle and about life.

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If you know anything about bipolar disorder or depression or anxiety then you probably already know that I’m prone to discombobulation over little things. You may also know that having to open my door from the outside while I am still inside the car causes me anxiety because, you know, people might SEE me doing this. And you may also know that this isn’t a big deal but it can be a big deal in my messy but pretty little head. And today, it struck me, I’ve gotta share this. Some seriously good reminders have come from this. So, here it goes.

  1. Stay calm. When your door handle breaks off and you’re out and about and you don’t know what to do, stay calm for Pete’s sake. Take a couple deep breaths and then laugh. When anything remotely like this happens…your kid poops in his/her diaper right before you leave the house, you brake your key off in the door, you put the milk in the pantry and forget about it…just breathe and laugh. It will make everything better, I promise, at least for a while.
  2. Be prepared. After a few days or weeks of having a broken door handle I have learned that I need to stop and think before I try and get out of car. It’s like somehow, just opening the door now takes several more steps. So I have to be prepared to roll my window down, unlock the door from the inside (because mine automatically locks), put my arm through the open window, open the door from the outside and then…I have to roll the window back up. There may or may not have been several times I have done this improperly, which then leads to bad words and some more bad words, as I curse the door, the door handle and the car in general. So when you’re faced with a situation such as this…something that makes life a bit more difficult than usual, be prepared. Think through the steps and don’t get caught off guard. Otherwise your children may hear words that you are not intending them to hear for several more years.
  3. Take it slow. Similar to the “be prepared scenario”…this situation reminds me that I must slow down before I jump right out of the car. I’m literally put back in my place as soon as I reach for the door handle…that isn’t there. So there I am, thinking through the steps, again. I have to take my time to get it all right because this method is like retraining my muscles or something, those muscles that are for car door opening. But can’t we all be rewarded by slowing things down a bit? Maybe it’s not SO bad that I have to think through this process. Maybe it’s good for my brain. Maybe, if we take our time, less things like broken car door handles will happen? Either way, we’re always hearing that we move to fast and hurry too much through life. Let’s slow down.
  4. Get over yourself. I have an intensified concern over what other people think sometimes, and by sometimes, I mean most of the time. (It’s really not pleasant.) It may be vanity or it may be social anxiety. It may be both. But I know when I roll down that window and reach my arm out, I know that I’m doing something unconventional when it comes to door opening. I mean, have you ever actually seen someone opening their car door in this fashion? I didn’t think so. Part of that may be because this rarely happens or perhaps that you just don’t notice. That last part is the important part. Nobody really notices. I can say that I have conducted some research on this…because no one has yet to stare right at me or say anything to me about it, yet. Even so…I might think that they are watching, so I look around, kind of scope out the situation. I admit, I try to avoid opening the door when anyone is nearby or looking my direction. But, why bother? What does it really mean in the scheme of things? And am I so important that complete strangers are watching me to see how I exit my vehicle? Nope. I know you can probably think of a lot of ways this applies to life. Get over yourself already. (Talking to self.)
  5. Get it done. Finally, I must say, it’s time to get the freaking door handle fixed. No need to procrastinate any longer. (Actually I have a couple of real reasons, but for the point of the post we will say they don’t exit.) Just get it done already. Stop putting off those things that you really need to take care of. Let go of the hassle of having those issues or items hanging around in your head. Clear up space in your mind and in your life by taking care of business, okay?

See, all of these great life lessons came from one broken door handle. I can hardly believe it actually, now that I’ve figured it out. Something that drives me a wee bit crazy daily has actually done me some good. (And by a wee bit, I may mean that it sometimes completely, utterly and undeniably makes me mad, as in crazy mad. Also, I don’t feel bad using the term “crazy” here because, I may actually be crazy, so it’s okay. Just this time.)

Have you ever had something like this happen that reminded you of some important life lessons? Tell me about it? I’d love to hear!

Guest Post: Grace for Your Constant Struggle

I am honored to share a post with you by a new and dear friend of mine, Liz Lalama. This post spoke right to my heart and I knew that it would to others as well! Liz graciously gave me permission to share it with you here. Enjoy!

It’s a new year, yet I find myself back where I was before. It’s time to turn over a fresh leaf, yet I know that the underside of my leaf is just as brown and rotting as the top. I’m frustrated, as I find myself not quite fully experiencing victory over a depressive episode from this past year.

I’m in a similar place that I was four years ago. Honestly, I find that hard to admit. It was only a few months after writing a blog series on recovery that my depression flared up again. I feel uncomfortable saying that. I’m humbled by that fact that I don’t (and never did) have it all together.

Maybe you can relate. Maybe you’re feeling the same struggles and pressures that you were a few years ago, or that you do every year. Maybe you have that one issue you’re embarrassed to say is still a struggle.

In all the talk of moving on, becoming better people, and making resolutions, it’s hard to face the fact that sometimes we just don’t. The reality is that most of the time New Year’s resolutions don’t succeed. It’s been a week … maybe yours has failed already. But I’m not even talking just about the new year. I’m talking about those deep struggles. The ones that we like to hide under the bed and pretend don’t exist. The ones that come back to haunt us after we thought we had won.

As a teenager growing up in the church, we would often have emotional moments on youth retreats where we would write down a sin, struggle, or addiction that we wanted to give up. We would then take those papers and either throw them in a fire or nail them to a cross to show that God had forgiven these sins and they were gone. It was incredibly meaningful and probably overly emotional. But it was very uplifting … until I became discouraged from writing down the same thing year after year.

It’s been years since I’ve thrown a struggle in the fire, but I find myself dealing with doubts about the fact that my struggles still exist. The truth is they didn’t actually burn in the fire. (I think that’s why they call it a “metaphor”.) But even though I’m no longer a teenager, I still find myself wishing I could throw the same old parts of me into a fire. I wish it was that easy.

Maybe like me, at the end of yet another year you find yourself realizing that if you were totally honest, not much has changed. Sure, maybe you changed your hair or moved or made a big life decision or made healthier choices. But you realize that your deepest, darkest fears are the same. Your body still isn’t as healthy as you’d like. That chronic ailment still exists. Your mental illness is still a daily battle. You still lose your temper. Or conversely you fail to speak up for yourself. You still haven’t reconciled your relationships. Even if you have conquered that addiction, you realize that you still have the potential to go back to it.

What are we to make of that? Am I a failure? Are you a failure? Am we a bad Christians? No. We are human. We are broken. We struggle. And that is exactly what a Christian is.

I’m afraid this isn’t a how-to blog. I don’t claim to have all the answers or even just one. But two things I know: We’re not alone and there is grace.

It’s too easy to think that everyone else it all together and we are the only ones who so often end up dealing with the same struggles we dealt with years ago. But if our fellow Christians were honest, we would soon find out that they struggle just the same. And through everyone’s struggle, there is grace every day and every year. There is grace every time I realize I’m still throwing that same struggle into the same fire.

Even the apostle Paul had his constant struggle. He refers to it as a thorn in the flesh (2 Cor 12). We don’t know what his struggle was, although scholars have made a few guesses. I think the fact that we aren’t told makes his thorn in the flesh more relatable. It doesn’t allow us to specify what is ok for Christians to constantly battle and what is not. By leaving the idea of the thorn vague, we are able to understand that Paul’s struggle is everyone’s struggle. I know very clearly what my thorn in the flesh is, and I’m guessing you know yours too. We might pretend otherwise, but truthfully we know the darkness of our own hearts.

Vicious thorns on bush. Sharp and threatening thorns on a plant in black and white

I do not struggle in the same ways as the apostle Paul, but like him I have cried out to God to take it away. Sometimes He has said yes, and sometimes He has said no. But I still have the questions. Why am I left with depression? Why do I deal with this illness that will likely go in and out of remission for the rest of my life? I have been left wondering if God hears my cry … if He even exists.

I often feel broken because I do not handle my thorn in the flesh as well as other people. But I don’t think it was easy for Paul either. He said, “Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.” Three times he pleaded. He pleaded with God, over and over again. We easily skip over this verse and miss the pain Paul was in, the discouragement he felt in his struggle, just as we do. Even Jesus was so stressed in Gethsemane that he sweated blood as he pleaded with God to take the cross away from him. It wasn’t easy for him either. The pain and discouragement felt when we plead and yet hear “No” is not a lack of faith, it’s part of the human experience.

Paul then goes on, “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ I can hear some of you that are feeling very discouraged saying, “Yeah, yeah. Paul’s thorn in the flesh. His grace is sufficient. I’ve heard that.” I said that too. Sometimes I still do. But I failed to really understand the significance of God’s grace being sufficient.

God is not saying, “My grace is enough for you so just deal with this issue.” He is not saying, “My grace negates the need for doctors and seeking support and change.” It’s a gentle phrase, not a harsh one. It’s said in love, and is a reminder that we don’t have to be perfect.

God’s grace is sufficient for who I am. Jesus’ grace says, “It’s ok that you’ve failed. It’s ok that you find yourself in the same place you were before.” This world is broken.  We are broken. Yet we are God’s children and we are loved unconditionally, regardless of how often a thorn in the flesh haunts us. Even if I deal with the same struggle for the rest of my life and only see small and intermittent victory, Christ’s grace is still sufficient. I am still beloved. And so are you.

When we are weak, He is strong. When we fail, His grace is sufficient … unendingly and continuously. Not just once, not even again and again, but constantly, in every breath we breathe and in every second of our broken lives. There is grace.

 

This post originally appeared on Salad At Midnight 

Liz LalamLiz Lalamaa is a blogger and freelance writer based in Pittsburgh, PA. She has a vision for fostering community and always loves a good chat at the coffee shop, on a walk, or at the playground. She writes honestly about life, mental health, faith, and society at her blog saladatmidnight.com. Find her on facebook.com/saladatmidnight or on twitter, @lizlalama.

 

Trouble in Paradise: Vacationing with Depression and Anxiety 

 

 FYI, I’m in Florida visiting my parents along with one of my children at the time of writing this post.

 Apparently I brought some friends with me on this vacation of mine. We’ll call these friends depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder. PTSD is always with me too, I guess, but it likes to lurk or hang far back so I don’t know it’s there until the most unlikely of moments and you know, all of these guys can be pretty sneaky.
I don’t expect to see them when I’m traveling or even during preparation for a trip, but they decided to show up, darn it. I’ve actually been experiencing a little bit of a vacation from these friends, so I thought. (We all have friends from whom we need a vacation, right?). They started to make themselves known the day I left for my trip. I think they were actually hiding behind the curtains the day before. Either way, it turns out they never really left.

It’s kind of a problem when you’re a grown up traveling with your ten year-old child and it takes all of your fortitude to hide the tears you want to shed because suddenly you’re gripped with fear, sadness and intense anxiety about leaving your husband and home. I mean, you don’t want to freak your kids out about flying or traveling in general, so you suck it up as long as you are able. Plus, I really don’t think my child, who has some anxiety of his own, would have benefited from that whole “mommy can’t adult today” business in this instance.

The tears fell for me after I spoke to my husband once we arrived safely in Florida, but I had to wipe those away quickly again because I didn’t want to cause my mom to feel bad. And then I thought “This is not the way you’re supposed to feel when you embark on a new adventure, especially one in Florida!”

That’s the thing about these kind of friends…they really like to ruin everything. Last night at dinner my mom told we we were going to go have dinner the next night with some friends of hers and family of ours that also live here. Instantly my eyes shot her a look of complete surprise and my heart sank. It was as if all the darkness I had been fighting fell upon me again. That fast. I was terrified and all I could think was “Please don’t make me do this!” Honestly I was a little annoyed with my mom…doesn’t she know me at all? But…it’s a lot to expect someone to understand social anxiety when they don’t have it. It’s also a lot to expect her to know the intensity with which I’m having to deal with it right now.

I spoke up. I probably could of done a better job of communicating my needs but she heard me and ended up canceling the plans. I’m relieved. I’m grateful that my mom tried to understand as best as she could. But it’s also sad that participating in normal and small gatherings is too much for me at this time.

I can feel depression lurking in the small sadness that is constant. I can feel it in my body and I feel it as a weight in my eyes, as weird as that may sound. I feel depression in a lack of enthusiasm. I don’t feel excitement. I feel kind of numb. And I know what I normally feel like when I go on vacation…it certainly isn’t numbness. This, dear ones, is not feeling like paradise, even though there are signs all around that say it is. My parents even have a mural painted on one of their walls (a big one) with beautiful images of palm trees and the declaration that it is indeed another day in paradise!

I’m trying really hard to not let these pesky “friends of mine” take the fun out of everything while I’m here. My mom and I were able to do our Bible study together last night and that was pretty cool. We also had some art time and she showed me how to do zentangle. These kinds of activities really bring a sense of peace to my soul. I’m surrounded by so much beauty and opportunities for fun. I’m doing my best to take in the little things and focus on God’s creations….from a flower, to a palm tree, to the love of my parents.

I’m determined, these guys aren’t going to ruin my vacation, but it may just not feel like paradise this time. And, I guess that is okay. It’s just the way it is right now.