Not just hoping for survival any more: an update.

I used to live at least part of every day at an 8-10 pain level. That’s where I was stuck for 6 months, from December 2015 to May of 2016.  Once I did finally start to have days without pain, I still never actually felt good.  When I went back to work in August of 2016, I tried to stay positive about the fact that I was doing better and was able to go back to work at all, but better really wasn’t good enough.  I was still really struggling.

When I went to see Dr. Koko Husain, 913-248-9900, http://www.starchiropractic.com, for the 1st time on March 28 of 2017, I was averaging about 15 days of migraine a month, and 15 days of just yuck.  I never felt good.  I was getting by.  Yes, it was a huge improvement from where I had been a year before, but obviously, it wasn’t an ideal way to live.

I didn’t have much hope for what Dr. Koko might be able to do.  I had been to chiropractors before, but I decided to try this one because I knew she had made miraculous progress with a friend who suffered from chronic pain.  I didn’t know at the time that Dr. Koko’s expertise in integrated medicine would be life changing for me.

I didn’t see any results in the first couple of months.  She had a couple of different ideas about what might be going on and had to eliminate a couple of things first before she found the real culprit, but in June I had a full week where I actually felt good!  For the last few months I’ve only had 4-5 days of migraine per month and just a few other days of regular headaches and what I call migraine hangovers.  I can’t tell you what it’s like to have truly good days back, not just good-for-me days.

I just want to make sure you caught the difference… I went from 15 days of migraine a month to 5!  And I my regular headache days went down from an additional 15 days to just an additional 3-4.  I feel a lot different now than I did 6 months ago!

I still can’t dance or exercise.  I still can’t drink alcohol, and I’m not supposed to eat certain foods. All of that can bring me down some days.  But I’m living again!  I’m me again!  I’m helping out with the youth group at my church every Wednesday night.  We had a friend in from out of town last weekend and were able to have friends over.  I’m hosting a baby shower this weekend.  These are all things I would have been too scared to offer to do last year.

Not only have we come this far, but I have hope that we will go farther.  I keep getting my hopes up that I will jog again, which would mean that I can dance again.  I’ve tried a few times, working up to it slowly, and it always seems like I’m going to break through the barrier, but then I don’t.  I think with Dr. Koko’s help, I really will.

Thank you all for you prayers!

Romans 5:3-5 More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hears trough the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Grace and Praying for the Next Life

I write about this because I know how critical it is for other people who have been there to know that they are not alone. When dealing with such extreme pain (emotional or physical), I’ve come to believe that it’s totally normal to pray to God to just make it stop.

There is so much shame that comes with reaching a level of pain so great that I have actually prayed to God to just take me to heaven.  I know people judge me for this.  Is my shame genuine or just a fear of what people will think of me?
screen-shot-2016-12-06-at-6-09-40-amI write about this because I know how critical it is for other people who have been there to know that they are not alone.  The first person who I even knew to admit that they had prayed this prayer was a pastor.  His name is Rob Prince, and I’ve never met him, but he wrote a book about living with chronic pain.  I was so relieved to read that I wasn’t the only one.  Since then, I have met many people who have also said that prayer.  Each time I hear someone else say they have said this prayer, it’s like a wave of relief washes over me.  The more I respect the person, the bigger the wave.  This gives me the strength to write this post and to shout:  You are not alone if you have said this prayer!  I have too!

(Note:  I’m also able to write about this because it’s not how I currently feel.)

In Romans 8:18-25, Paul writes that while we are living in this world it is like we have the expectancy of a pregnant mother.  We can’t wait for the next thing: heaven.  The Holy Spirit nudges us and lets us know that there is something better.  When dealing with such extreme pain (emotional or physical), I’ve come to believe that it’s totally normal to pray to God to just make it stop.  I still feel guilty for the selfishness of being willing to leave those who love me.  I know that when I have prayed that prayer, I did it with confidence that if God were to say yes, he would take care of everyone I left behind (Romans 8:28).

I realize there is sin in the way I can wallow in self pity sometimes, but prayer is a pretty neat thing.  God wants to hear absolutely every one of our thoughts and desires.  He’s more than a best friend.  He doesn’t want us to filter.  We can trust him with anything and everything.  He won’t say yes to a prayer that’s not good for us.  That’s why we can trust Him with even this prayer.  We can tell him how much pain we are in and He will be there with us, and sit with us, and cry with us.  Jesus was tortured and died on a cross.  He knows what pain is.  After I have told God how much it hurts and how I just want it to stop, then I usually just ask him to be with me and hold me while I cry.  And He is.  He’s right there with me.  There are no words, just presence.  Just like the best of friends would be (Romans 8:26-27).

Because Jesus made that sacrifice, to die the most horrible death, there is also grace.  I am forgiven for all of my selfishness, and I will have a chance to do better next time… and sadly, I know there will be a next time, but it will be an opportunity to learn and to grow.

There is no friend better than God.  We can tell him anything, and He will love us no matter what.  He will be with us in our best times and our worst times.  He will hold us and let us cry when we have no more words to say.

 

Content isn’t Enough

A lot of Christmas songs are actually about being happy during tough times.

It is not a coincidence when my pastor gives a sermon pushing me to do something that fits right with a nudge I’ve been feeling from God.

I’ve been struggling to be content with my diet and life restrictions related to my migraines.  In recent weeks, I’ve become aware that it’s really not enough to strive to just “be okay” with my life.  I had to find the joy again.  It was time for me to suck it up and be happy.  Unfortunately, I don’t know anyone who can just decide to be happy.  I can sometimes do a great job of faking happy, but I can’t force genuine happiness.  I decided to start with my best imitation.  “Fake it until you make it.”  Right?  I knew I needed to at least try to be happy.  This seemed like a good way to start.

I tried to think of things and times that made me feel real joy.  I came up with two ideas.  I decided we would put up the Christmas tree a little early this year.  I also thought about how I should probably make more time to listen to praise and worship music… really listen, not just play it in the background of family busyness and activity.  I considered listening to music while I got ready in the mornings instead of listening to an audio book, which is my usual routine.

The first part of my plan went really well.  We put up our Christmas tree on a Saturday and listened to Christmas music and kicked off some silly holiday family traditions for the year.  It felt great.  There was true joy, and of course we had a little of the usual and slightly entertaining frustration that comes with trying to keep two boys focussed on putting up Christmas decorations instead of playing with them.

The second part of my plan needed a little push.  I didn’t listen to my audio book Saturday morning or Sunday morning, but I also didn’t listen to music, and of course I listened to my audio book while I did laundry and household chores on Saturday.  Sunday morning when we went to church what should the message be about, but fasting.  Our pastor did a great job of explaining fasting as giving up something for a time to make room for something else.  I had already felt this nudge that I needed to make some space for more music, and I had just experienced on Saturday night, how much Christmas music lifted my soul.  Then there I was, Sunday morning, and my pastor was challenging me to give something up to make room for something else.  I did it.  It was a little tough in the car at first.  I had to switch to Pandora to escape the radio DJs, but once I did, I was great.  I really felt pulled toward the Christmas songs.

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I’m so grateful we don’t live in a world where we need to consider this…

The challenge was to give something up for just a week, but I’m still mostly listening to Christmas music.  As I listen to my favorite Christmas songs, I keep noticing how many of them were written during World War II when soldiers were away from home and missing their families, or even if they weren’t during that time period, it’s surprising how many Christmas songs are about being happy during tough times.  These songs both flood me with nostalgic memories of Christmases past, and they remind me that there is happiness, even during struggles.  The songs are all about hope, and we have that hope because of a little baby named Jesus.

Lately I have forgotten to pray with thanksgiving.  It’s been easy to focus on the things I don’t have instead of the things I do have.  Listening to all of these Christmas songs has helped me to regain my focus on all of the blessings in my life.  I am truly blessed.  So what if I can’t eat what most people eat.  Some of the other stuff is more of a struggle than that, but I’ll get through it.  There are much more important things in life.  I’m putting my focus back where it should be, on all of my blessings, and life is so much better.  It’s good to feel joy again.  God lead me right here.

I’m praying that I can hold onto this lesson and claw my way out more quickly the next time I am knocked down.  I know God will show up again when that next time happens.

Psalm 23 and my migraines

I am in the valley of the shadow of death. I would welcome heaven when the pain is high and the doctor tells me I can’t take anything else without risking further health problems. I don’t understand the purpose for all of this suffering. I do fear evil. I do fear pain.

In the Bible, many psalmist cry out to God in their pain and sorrow.  Psalm 23 is not one of those psalms, but it’s the psalm I thought of today as I have been struggling with a migraine.  These were some of my thoughts.

  1. “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.” False.  I want many things.  Even if I didn’t live with migraines, I am at heart a very selfish person.  I struggle with content and have been thinking that I should make “contment” my next word study.  Maybe that would help me work toward this.  I am very much NOT content.  I’m sick of my migraine diet, and I’m sick of my headaches, and I’m sick of being worried about what might cause the next headache when I don’t have a headache.
  2. “He makes me lie down in green pastures.  He leads me beside still waters.”  Well, there aren’t any green pastures or still waters, but I’ve certainly been lying down a lot in my bed and on the sofa lately.
  3. “He restores my soul.  He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.”  A truth, but not easy.  I have fought for peace and hope over the last few years.  I HAVE grown closer to God through this battle, and I continue to struggle to remember to be grateful for this growth and to remember that there have been positive things when I deal with days like today, but today I’m angry.
  4. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”  I don’t know how to let this be fully true in my life.  I am in the valley of the shadow of death.  I would welcome heaven when the pain is high and the doctor tells me I can’t take anything else without risking further health problems.  I don’t understand the purpose for all of this suffering.  I do fear evil.  I do fear pain.  My pain gets so high, and it sounds like I’m going to have to let it get really bad this time around before it gets better.  I can’t take something that will risk more harm.  “Thy rod and thy staff” do NOT screen-shot-2016-11-01-at-1-30-46-pmcomfort me, but thank you for my dog that does comfort me.  He wiggles a little closer to me with each shaking sob.
  5. “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my
    enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.”

    • I have mixed feelings about the food table prepared for me.  I know the verse refers to more than that, but my food table consists of only meet and salad vegetables.  If I eat even a few bites of a bagel I’ll have a migraine the next day.  If I eat fruit two days in a row, I’ll have a headache.  I’m so sick of plain hamburger patties, eggs and protein shakes.  On the other hand, I have been wanting to eat healthier and couldn’t seem to avoid the fast food lifestyle of married with children.  Now, I have no choice and have lost almost 30 pounds.  That part is good.  I just wish I could have a freaking little bite of something different every now and then.
    • The oil part in the second half of this verse seems funny to me.  I practically live with peppermint oil smeared all over my forehead.  I hadn’t thought about the biblical concept of the Lord anointing me with oil until I started thinking about this verse today.  It would probably be good for me to consider that.  In the future I will try to confess my sins and say a prayer for healing before I anoint myself with my oil.  It will be a good reminder that God is with me.
  6. “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.”  This is an ongoing journey.  God brought me into it and he will bring me out.  I do believe that, and I have to remember that I believe that in the moments when I don’t.

 

Guilt, Anger, and Grace

Does outward anger and grumpiness always start with inward anger at yourself? Or is that just for me?

Does outward anger and grumpiness always start with inward anger at yourself?  Or is that just for me?

Recently I acknowledged that I need to really focus on priorities.  I needed and need to make sure I keep God above all, and that I focus on my health and migraines above the side benefit of losing weight because I’m living healthier.

Now that I’ve been trained to do short meditation/relaxation breaks throughout my day, when I need to focus on something, I tend to read multiple passages related to that new focus topic and pick a new verse to memorize.  I usually just meditate on the first few words of a verse, but I memorize the whole thing.  To help me focus on keeping my priorities in order, I’ve been meditating on Matthew 6:33, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you.”  That summed up my current focus.  God has to come first and everything else will fall into place.

Still, I found myself struggling.  I began to ask myself how I could more specifically seek His kingdom and His righteousness.  It’s been a while since I studied the gospels, so I opened up to Matthew chapter one and have been reading a few verses every day… well every day that I manage to open my Bible.  You see, I have this little problem.  I get angry when I get a migraine or sometimes even a headache.  I can shut down.  There are legitimate days where reading something for even 10 minutes is too much for me, but that usually doesn’t last for more than a day.  The other 2-3 days of my migraine, I could read my Bible, I just tend to pout instead.

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Any fun day in the heat can trigger a migraine.

My anger effects other things.  I blame.  I’m really hard on myself.  Since I’ve been learning how to prevent my migraines, I start picking apart every moment of my schedule: every bite of food I ate, every moment of activity that might have been over exertion, every moment that might have been too much time in the heat, etc.  Then I beat myself up for not having prevented this round of pain.  I have no grace for myself when I get like this and when I don’t have grace for myself, I don’t have grace for anyone.  I become angry at the world, and even if I don’t lash out at people verbally, I do it in my head.  I get annoyed with everyone and everything.  The pain is so present, that I can let the anger take over my life.  I surrender and become subject to it’s will.

This is so not what God wants for me, or for anyone.

Recently after several days of not being in my Bible because I was grumpy, I realized how badly I needed to be in my Bible, so I picked Matthew back up.  I read the beatitudes and then I read Matthew 5:22, (NIV) “But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment.”  I was certainly struggling with anger.  I knew my anger with myself was spilling over into the world, onto those I love.  I got to thinking about the word subject in this verse.  I thought of subjects, like subjects of a king and queen, people who serve a power greater then themselves.  I was judging myself so harshly for not being able to avoid every little trigger, which is truly impossible to do, that I had made myself a servant of that self-judgement.  I know this isn’t the point of this verse, but this is the truth about my life and what I’ve been doing to myself.  I have to forgive myself and learn to say, “Oh, well.”  I’m still new to all of this prevention stuff.  I’ve got to quit beating myself up and stop being so grumpy about the difficulties of learning this new method of living.  I have to learn to forgive myself.

I’ve switched to a new meditation verse.  I need to remember that like sin, each time I fall, I can chose to learn from my mistakes.  I can get up and try again and do better next time.  I get a fresh start over and over.  So do you.

2 Corinthians 5: 17-18 (ESV)  “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.  All this is from God who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.”

Amen.  And thank you Jesus.

After 6 years, I’m jogging again!

 

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Please take me for a walk mommy!

Now when I say jogging, I don’t mean I’m out running a marathon or anything.  You have to remember that I haven’t worked out for six years.  In the last week I’ve progressed from a daily 3/4-mile walk, to a 1 and 1/2-mile walk/jog, and I’m jogging right about half of that.  I’m severely out of shape.  I will also need to take the jogging very slowly because I don’t know what my workout threshold is now, but I’m jogging, and I haven’t been able to do that for SIX YEARS.  Since I’ve started taking the keto diet seriously and have been avoiding migraine trigger foods, I’ve only had a few mild headaches and those have been on days when I know I’ve eaten some trigger foods.

I can’t express what a hallelujah moment it was, the day I first jogged a couple of blocks.  When I got home from my walk, I was sure I wasn’t going to get a headache, and I thought I was going to explode with excitement.

There is some temptation delivered with this new possibility.  Some of my long time friends might remember that I used to be very committed to jogging and staying in shape.  I can confess now that this stemmed largely from the insecurities that were a result of my failed marriage and my vanity.  As the possibility of being able to work out opens back up, and as I see a few pounds drop off because of the drastic diet that I’m living on, I find myself fantasizing about being skinny again.  I think it’s okay to want to be skinny and healthy, and especially to be excited about doing things again that I love, like going dancing or playing volleyball, but I need to remember that this is a danger zone for me.

I was reading the other day about being single minded.  I need to remember that my focus needs to always be on God first, and that my diet and my exercise is about my health.  Being healthy will make me better able to serve God and my family.  Being healthy needs to be about what I can do for others, not about puffing myself up.

But still… let’s be realistic… It’s going to be so awesome to drop a size or two and buy all new clothes!!!!!

On the other hand, let’s not be too realistic.  No need to think about how long it will take to get from where I am, to jogging several miles a day.

The happy reality is, I will jog again for real!  I will dance again!  I will play volleyball again!  I will go on vacation and not live in fear of spending the whole time in pain!  I will teach and have energy and not wince when one of my students raises their voice!  (Oh wait… that might still happen, but it won’t be from pain.)  But I’m alive again!  Woot!  Woot!

Screaming and cheering in my head!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The biggest thing I need to remember is that this is a gift from God.  I’ve been praying for this for years, and many times thought that God had told me no, but I just needed to wait.  God does answer prayers.

Adult Tantrum

For as long as I can remember, this is my favorite kind of tantrum. I’m going to eat what I want, and be self destructive, because I can! So there! Waaaaaaa!

It’s embarrassing.  I’m an adult and I like to throw tantrums.  You might be familiar with these kind of tantrums.  A bad day at work means a couple of adult beverages, a stop for fast food or a big dessert before dinner if I can hide it from the kids.

These kind of tantrums have to stop for me, immediately.  Absolutely.  And completely.  I threw one last week and this is the exact kind of tantrum that throws me into the depths of migraine world.

I’m supposed to be following this extreme diet called a ketogenic diet, to help increase my threshold to migraine triggers.  Basically all I can eat is meat and vegetables.

1-Junk foodWell, I got sick of it and being the responsible adult that I am, what do you think I did?  I got mad, and one night while I was home alone ate half a box of Pop-Tarts, drank a grape soda in about 30 seconds, and I finished off all of the Twizzlers from our camping trip.  Pop-Tarts don’t even taste good.  They were just sugary and gluttonous and available.  Oh, and then I ate a whole roll of crackers.  There was probably something else in there too.  I lost track.

For as long as I can remember, this is my favorite kind of tantrum.  I’m going to eat what I want, and be self destructive, because I can!  So there!  Waaaaaaa!

I know Paul writes in the Bible about how he suffered so much and still learned to be content.  Why can’t I be content?  Here I am grumbling about having to eat meat all of the time and Paul probably didn’t even have food.  I’ve been praying for years for something that would help reduce my migraines and God may have given me the answer and what have I done?  I’ve said, “No. I’m not going to listen to you, because I want to eat junk food and stay fat!”  (Visualize I have the teenage, side to side head tilt thing going on while I say this with raised eyebrows and moving shoulders.)

There are so many personal weaknesses wrapped up in this tantrum.

It’s pride.  I want control over my life.  I want to be my own god.  I want to do what I want when I want.  I’m sick of this list of rules I’m supposed to follow to stay healthy.  Of course, I’m also sick of being sick.  I sometimes seem to think that if I just ignore the problem it will go away.  It doesn’t work that way.  Stomping my foot and pretending the problem doesn’t exist just isn’t going to help anything.

It’s jealousy.  Why should “they” all get to eat candy and chips and drink pop or alcohol?   Well, I need to build a bridge and get over it.  Everyone has something going on in their life.  This is just my thing.  I should be grateful that I finally have an pathway that might lead to living with a significant reduction in pain, and it’s a super healthy pathway!

It’s selfishness.  When I disregard the consequences for myself, I also disregard the consequences for my family.  I need to remember that when I’m  hurting, it’s hurts other people.

I could go on.

This is all so hard.  It’s no fun following my to-do list and my not-to-do list, and it’s emotionally painful to own up to the reasons why I’m not following the lists.

I guess the key is, I’m facing my issues.  Hopefully this diet won’t have to last forever.  I’m doing Botox again in a few weeks, and I’m back on a preventative medication, but there is a possibility that it could last a really long time, or maybe even forever.  This is a bigger issue than just the diet.  These are things about myself that I need to acknowledge and and work through.

I just read this morning, in a book by John Ortberg, that “sin is often the attempt to meet a legitimate need in an illegitimate way.”  I need to be thinking about what need it is that I’m trying to meet when I throw a food tantrum and what is a healthy way that I can meet that need.

I’m praying for contentment as I sit down to my next meal of meat and more meat, and as I face other things that I need to do or not do.

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