Rising Above my Darkest Moment

Reflecting back to where I began to lose myself, it looks like any other awkward teenage existence. But it was different. I was depressed and lived day by day, pretending that everything was fine. I would spend hours alone in my room listening to music, inventing an alter ego if you will. I would imagine a different life, that I was a different person and I would invent this persona down to the very finest detail. And there I would “live” until it was time to go to work, eat dinner, or I just left my room for some other reason.

That’s where I was my happiest, when I was pretending to be someone else. Sad, I know but that was my happy place, where I didn’t have depression. Don’t misunderstand me, I did have friends, but they weren’t interested in me, not really. They were there to hang out or whatever, but I NEVER confided in anyone about my depression or my desire to be someone else. Really I just wanted someone to notice me, to take an interest in my life, however, I hadn’t done that for anyone else. So what did I expect?

As I graduated from High School, my friends list got smaller but they were good friends. There were a couple that I really loved and still do, even though we have lost touch. One of them was a guy (no we were never romantic) and he was my very best friend. As we got older he would give his approval/disapproval on who I dated, but only when I pressed him to be honest. He really took an interest in my life and I his. He was very special to me and part of the reason I am still here today. (Yes, I know that sounded dark.)

There was a very real darkness in my life at one point. I sat on my bed and dumped a bottle of pills on the blanket. I sat and looked at them and believed that I wouldn’t be sad anymore and no one else would really be affected if I swallowed them all. I really believed that. The adversary and his darkness had tricked me into believing I would be better off. However, God had plans for me and His power is much much greater. I thought about my friend and knew he would be hurt, but he would be okay I knew he would (wouldn’t he?) Then….I had a clear picture in my mind. My mom would be the one to find me, and it would be devastating. I just could NOT do that to her. I could not hurt her that way.

I put all the pills back in the bottle and set it on my dresser. That was my only, real suicidal thought, never again did it enter my mind. I had (with God’s help) defeated the adversary in that category. Now 20+ years later, I am working at defeating that bastard every day of my life. Some days better than others, but isn’t that life? 😉

 

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Day 12 With My Foob

I’m 12 days post mastectomy. I’m feeling stronger everyday and getting around a little better. They removed the drains yesterday, and that made a big difference in how I get around. I’m finding sleeping to be difficult now, but I’m not sure why. Yes, I’m physically uncomfortable at times, but sometimes….I’m just uneasy. I can’t really put my finger on it, but I just don’t feel peaceful. My recovery is going well and I talk to God all the time, so there really isn’t anything to be un-peaceful about. I am so thankful for my life and for my family, and most of all for God’s love and grace. I have nothing to complain about…NOTHING! Now, that isn’t to say there aren’t things that I would like to complain about. 😉

After I received my diagnosis (I mean when I got in the car to leave the doctor’s office) I started making calls to the referred physicians, and made appointments. It helped me feel proactive, but of course there was a wait to see any specialists. That part kind of sucked, but it worked out great! My mom was able to fly in before any appointments and went to meet each doctor with me. My husband works insanely long hours and sometimes hours away from our home, so having my mom help was amazing. Would I have liked my husband there? Of course! He is my first choice, but for me there was a sense of guilt. I had this horrible disease that was going to affect our entire family. I wanted to make it as easy on them as humanly possible. Don’t judge me…I felt guilty for having cancer. My appointments, my moods, my energy level affected everything. My husband was incredibly supportive, but bottom line, somehow this was my fault and I felt guilt. When I really think about it, I still do. 😦

I spent the next few weeks going from doctor to doctor, learning about my options, and having a zillion tests run. On my way to my CT scan, I told a friend that with all this radiation, I was going to end up getting cancer. It was the first time a could smile about all the tests and results and numbers and….sigh.

With God’s help, we completed all my tests and appointments in time for my family to fly in for Thanksgiving. (This was planned months prior). Of course everyone tipped-toed around the subject, that is until my MIL (who lives with us) said one of the stupidest things I’ve heard. When I’m with my dad we usually drink a nice wine. Well, MIL wanted some and added water to it. We teased her that we would have gotten her a lighter rose wine.

Here’s the convo:

MIL: I’m 67 years old, so I can do whatever I want and you can’t tease me.

Me: I’m not 67 years old and still “choose” to do whatever I want.

MIL: No, you do whatever you want because of another “C” word.

OMG!!! The entire room went quiet, and my brother pipes up and says that I’ve been doing what I wanted long before this came along. 😉 I was a little embarrassed and of course the guilt crept back in. I know she was kidding, but my heart sank for a moment, at the thought that people would treat me differently. I just wanted to be me. I’m believing through this journey I will find that person again, and maybe be even better than before.

 

When Your Child Has A Disorder Part 3

So when I left you last, my hair was falling out and I was in need of therapy. 😉 Our daughter was still dropping a few pounds here and there and her body was shutting down. She couldn’t do her school work because she had no focus, she was getting migraines, and her skin looked yellowish-gray. It was horrible. I ached for her to be better. It felt like I was in a vacuum. To take a deep breath was not physically possible. My head physically hurt when I had to think. I had no energy and I was fighting not to fall into a depression. I knew I had to be strong for her, and yes that sounds so cliché, but it doesn’t make it any less true. She could not do this on her own, and I was all she had. My husband supported her and did everything he knew to encourage her, but I was the one she NEEDED. It was more than a dependency. When you’re an infant you’re not cognizant of the need you have for mere survival. Our daughter knew she would not survive if she kept this up. However, she still could not bring herself to eat. It was a physical, mental, and spiritual battle, and she knew she needed me.

I began to notice more physical ailments in myself, but mind you we have 2 other children that had needs, as well. I could not stop being their mom while I cared for their sister. Every moment I had, that was not spent monitoring meals and driving to appointments, I was doing my best to make the other kids feel like things were “normal”. Our daughter finally shared her disorder with her brother, who was so heartbroken that, to this day, does not speak a word of it. I too find myself looking back as if it were someone else’s life. It literally feels like years have passed, yet it’s only been a few months that she has been healthy.

I felt the need to defend her at every turn. If someone mentioned that she was thin, like it was a good thing, I would smile and redirect the conversation. I did not want people asking her how she did it. “Oh my gosh, you’re so thin! How’d you lose weight?” Prior to the disorder, she was at her ideal weight for her build and height. She’s a gorgeous girl and had no business losing weight. Yet, people saw this weight loss as a positive. Our society is so screwed up in their perception of what beauty is. To honor our daughter’s wishes, we never talked about her disorder outside of our family. So no one knew of the demons she was fighting. They thought she was exercising and eating healthy. At one point her nutritionist laid it out for her, she either follow her eating plan, which was still under 1200 calories/day, and treat this as an outpatient; or she be admitted and be treated in a hospital. We both cried on the way home that day.

The thought of her being in a hospital was more than I could handle. My insides cramped, and my lungs shrunk. They wouldn’t let much air in at once and I felt like I was living one, big anxiety attack. I started to get restless leg syndrome more and more and my sleep was non-existent. The funny thing though…I knew with ALL my heart, without one ounce of doubt, I KNEW she was going to get better. I knew she would overcome this, yet my body still responded this way. It was like living in a dream. You know you’re awake and you’re functioning through your day, but you really don’t see what’s around you. You don’t notice the world. It’s a surreal feeling that I only can describe, now, that I’m reflecting. At the time, I was dazed and unsure what to feel.

When you are helping someone with a disorder, there is no instruction book. There are no pre-determined words to say to them. There aren’t actions you are told to take so they can be encouraged. You aren’t even told how to feel, or what to expect. You can read all you want and have someone help you understand it, but there are no cookie cutter disorders. They are unique to the person living with them because each person responds differently. Each person has different needs. Each person is unique and wonderful and deals in their own way. I can only tell you what I felt; I can’t even tell you what she felt. All I know is that this disorder was paralyzing to our daughter. I personally did not have this eating disorder myself, but that does NOT mean I didn’t go through it. Disorders can have the same paralyzing effect on loved ones as they do on their victims. These are real illnesses. It’s not like she could just go eat and feel better. The act of eating brought on real physical and mental anguish for her. Trust me, I wanted to flip a switch and get her to eat, but it just doesn’t work that way.

Like I said, she has been going strong for a few months now. She enjoys food and actually uses her YouTube channel to reach others that struggle with the same things she has gone through and continues to struggle with. She’s healthy and has put some weight back on, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t struggle anymore, and it doesn’t mean my job is over. I still check to make sure she has eaten her snacks every day. We started to exercise again and she is mostly back to her happy self. Some days are harder than others, but that’s life. She had an amazing opportunity placed in her lap, and the acceptance and encouragement she received from it, was just what she needed to turn the corner. From that moment forward, she saw herself from a different perceptive. She actually saw herself the way most people see her, not the way a few ignorant peers portrayed her.  She finally saw her beauty, her talent, her kindness, and her love for God; just like everyone else did.

In all this, I learned that I can’t control everything and I need to do things that help me be better for God, myself and my family. I’m not Superwoman, I need to stop thinking I can do it all. News flash: I can’t! And yes, I now go to therapy, after the fact. 🙂 There’s still crap to overcome after the storm has settled. You know, all the clean up. I can’t explain it, but once she got better, I realized I needed to get better. That’s a different journey. 😉

 

Note: If there’s anyone that would like to know more about supporting a loved one through something like this, feel free to contact me. It is not an easy battle and no one should have to do it alone. 

 

When Your Child Has A Disorder Part 2

So, When I left you last my sweet, wonderful daughter was making some changes. She was exercising regularly, watching what she ate, and acting as if all was well with the world. Honestly, I didn’t see anything that would cause me to question her mental state. Remember, at this time, I had no idea she was hurting herself, that information didn’t come out until she was already in therapy being treated.

During the summer our older children visit my parents, out of state for a week. This particular year, they conned me into agreeing to allow them to stay for 3 weeks. The longest weeks of my life. I was lost without them bickering at each other. You might think 3 weeks! I would love some peace and quiet, but after the first few days, it’s too quiet. I missed our loud, obnoxious family. LOL My mom would text and call and say our daughter wasn’t eating much, but made it sound so casual that I didn’t show too much concern. I would get pictures and think to myself that she was getting thin. I talked to her daily and she reassured me she was eating and would send me pictures of her meals. By the time she got home, she was 13 lbs. lighter. Thirteen pounds in 3 weeks!

She started to balk at meals, stating she wan’t hungry. We would argue and I would threaten that she will need to see a nutritionist. This went on for a while and slowly she showed more signs of depression. I too was starting to feel the heaviness of the situation. I asked myself, “How can I get her to eat?” “Do I scare her into eating?” “Do I ground her?” I had no idea what to do. She would spend days in her room, refusing to go anywhere, refusing meals, and just plain refusing to do anything. We have always had a close relationship, so one night she asked if she could talk to me. She opened up about those years in public school and what she went through. I cried for her hurt heart. I cried for her bruised sense of worth. I cried for the anguish my child had felt and kept to herself. As a parent, you want to be able to fix all the “boo-boos”. You want to make your kids feel safe. To hear that your child sees themselves as worthless or not good enough, crushes your heart. It squeezed all of the air out of my lungs and I felt physical pain. I understood every word she said. I felt every pain she felt. I had been there and I knew these feeling all too well, however, the pain I felt growing up and experiencing the same thing did not even compare to the pain I felt knowing my child was going through it. I wanted nothing more than to turn back time and “fix it”.

What do I do now? I was completely lost, and had no idea how I was supposed to help. I prayed and I prayed and I prayed some more. My husband and I talked and I tried to help him understand what she was going through. I continued the next few days, comforting our daughter and encouraging her. I praised her for her strength and told her how very proud we were of her. She still refused to eat. I took a deep breathe and ignored the pain I felt in my chest. I did not have time for an anxiety attack, our daughter needed help. I Googled nutritionists, and by the end of the day, we had an appointment set. My daughter was NOT happy, but she had no choice at this time.

I went into the meeting with her. I wanted to understand what was going on and I was not letting some stranger talk to my daughter without me. I’m controlling and protective. LOL After an hour of talking (between me and the nutritionist, you know who was pissed and said very little) it was determined that she indeed had a eating disorder and would need therapy and a visit to a doctor. I was kind of dazed. I thought (because I didn’t want to admit it) that she would see the importance of taking care of ourselves and go home and eat. I was in denial. (Don’t judge me.) I was scared! What would the doctor find? They wanted an EKG and complete blood work. They wanted her tested for all this crap! I was so concerned about her health I didn’t recognize my anxiety attacks anymore. All I could feel was pain, physical pain in my chest, in my gut, and in my head. I never stopped. I went from one appointment to the next. Waiting for the confirmation that she was going to be alright.

An eating disorder is a scary thing. To put your child on medication for anxiety and depression is a horrifying thing. It rips at your heart; it doesn’t tug, it rips! You literally feel weak and exhausted, yet you haven’t done anything physically strenuous. Exercise was the only outlet I had, until that was taken away from our daughter. When they said she had to stop running and could not exercise at all, I stopped going to the gym as well. I’m not 100% sure why. Maybe because she was my workout partner, maybe I felt guilty that I could go and she couldn’t, maybe I was just too exhausted mentally. I don’t know and I really don’t care, the point is I stopped and I was pretty pissed that I did. That had been my only outlet. My hair seemed to to be thinning right along with my daughter’s. As her cycle stopped mine went all crazy. It seemed in the process of trying to help her, the stress was taking it’s toll on me. I worked, but thank goodness it was from home so I could get her to her appointments and monitor her meals. It was like having another small child. I prepared every meal and sat and ate with her to ensure she ate her meals. She never vomited, which was a good thing. She was a restrictive eater so we just needed to make sure she ate.  In reality, I probably should have started therapy right along with her, but I didn’t. All I knew was this was going to be a long journey, but she would be okay.

Retelling this story is quite enlightening to me as well as exhausting. I really had no idea what emotions I was feeling, as I was feeling them. But today, looking back, I remember, and it is exhausting to remember. I’m believing I can finish this up in my next post, and I hope this is helping someone other than myself. 😉

Be well.