Tuesday, March 30, 2010
When the Scriptures become mere words on a page and an obligation, not a desire or need to delve into; when prayer becomes sporadic and consists mostly of guilty admissions of failure, a person can pretty much guarantee that the distance between them and the God of the Universe is too great. It is then time to "draw close" and to be nourished on the gifts of his Spirit that he longs to give us if only we would unclench our hands.
As for me, my life has been more of the same: illness and pain and not being able to do very much. Today, I have to go for some preparatory blood work for the MRI of my brain which I am having tomorrow,to determine whether the doctor is correct in his guess that I have a tumor growing on my pituitary gland. This condition, although not life-threatening, is not fun to live with and is just ONE MORE THING on my plate...and I really have lost my appetite by now!
Well, all these things have made it even more essential that I draw close once more to the Lord Jesus, because I really need his help in pulling all these burdens around and I cannot roll them onto his shoulders unless he is close by and I really cannot do it anymore myself.
My psych meds have been changed once more because I was having a terrible side effect on the one I was taking and it had to be discontinued, much to the dismay of my husband. I guess he LIKED having an emotionally dead person for a wife! I feel better now that I am on this medicine, however, he maintains that I have deteriorated now that I am on it. I do agree that my memory is rapidly disintegrating. This leaves me with immense cognitive problems and problems in functioning on a daily basis... I had this problem earlier on other meds as well, but the problem seems to be increasing in severity and is becoming a real detriment to me on a daily basis.
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
I haven’t had a word to say; not in blogs, in journals, or in person. Why? I’m not sure. Partly because I feel like it’s not worth the effort. Partly because there is nothing of interest in my life to talk about and partly because I think, I am feeling very badly about myself. I am not sure if I am depressed. Maybe I am. I don’t do anything all day. Just wash the dishes and sit in my recliner. Even the internet has lost appeal to me now. More often than not, I am just sitting and staring into space, or sleeping.
It’s pathetic. A pathetic excuse for a life.
I am trying to lose weight because that is one of the reasons I am feeling badly about myself. But even that seems pointless and not worth it. I will only end up gaining it back with the next round of steroids, so why bother? And it’s not like many people see me anyway. I’m sure those who catch a glimpse of me at Walmart on my Saturday grocery trip must think “EEeeewww, what is THAT?” But that’s okay because I don’t know them and never will.
I can feel my mind shriveling into a useless blob of gray matter. It is not occupied with anything of significance. It is occupied BY a significant One, but he doesn’t have much of my attention either now. I am wandering. Not really falling down the rabbit hole…Nothing as interesting as that. I am merely wandering aimlessly in a dense fog, not knowing my way home and not really interested in finding it.
(I hope this blog post doesn't disappoint you. No, I do NOT have it all together and No, I am NOT always peaceful and happy. In fact I wouldn't describe myself as happy at all in maybe the past....???....years. I am sometimes ((maybe usually)) content, but happiness is too intense of an emotion to have occupied my mind lately.)
Saturday, March 20, 2010
It's a nice problem to have actually....
If you were to read my journal entries for the past month, you would find one thing is common with all of them; they are surface level and “chatty.” I think that I am very much out of touch with my feelings right now…and in fact, have no clue even of what they might consist. I know one thing: I am running. Running from something I’d rather not look at. If you were to read the newest of my writings, you would see that my most recent plumbings of my mind, really explore the depths of despair. And I think that’s the last feeling I”ve felt since then.
It is true that, like most schizophrenics, I do not feel much; am not very much in touch with my emotions. I’m basically a “flat-line” when it comes to experiencing and expressing my feelings… However, I am also bipolar, and this means that I’m generally in the basement of despair or else I’m flying high on nervous energy. Right now, I’m not really in either one because I feel nothing. I’ve been getting through my days, doing what I need to do … and having no clue as to what is boiling around under the surface. This is generally a bad sign. It generally leads me to the brink of big trouble. Because, at some point, my tiptoe across the thin ice of my churning feelings will end as a big crack appears and the monsters who live in those depths will reach up and grab my ankles…and down I will go.
Why is it never happiness that is hidden away? If you are feeling nothing, it is pretty much guaranteed that what your brain is avoiding is something worth avoiding. I think the clues to what it consists of can be found in my last few posts. I began to explore there, some of the grimness of my life and situation…and I think that the true desperation of all that frightened my emotions into hiding. This is not without reason because there are truly some things worth avoiding there. Why should the grimness chase me away though? Can’t I confront it with my shield of faith and take it on in hand to hand combat? Why not? Is my faith a pretense? Is my God weak? Is my faith weak? Do I really believe that God is big enough and good enough to take on all of these challenges, rise to defend me and conquer the situation? If I do believe that, then why am I in hiding?
I think a lot of it (this avoidance) may be a knee-jerk reaction based on a lot of bad experiences with despair. In past years, despair and hopelessness have let me to battle with demons which were more than ferocious and led me to attempts to end my life, possibly in an effort to head off the disasters that I felt sure were pending. Maybe now, despite the fact that my faith is stronger than it was back then, I automatically back off from such confrontations with hopelessness because in the past it has led me to such depths. Maybe as soon as I dip my toes into that ocean of pain…I back away in fear and trembling, forgetting that I now know how to swim.
Maybe that is what is happening. Maybe I just don’t have any faith in my faith.
Maybe I’m afraid to put shoes on my faith and do any serious walking across the waters of this ocean.
What would happen if I climbed out of my boat into the water? I know that the secret to walking on water is focus. To focus on the WHO of my faith…the one in WHOM I have faith, rather than on the opposition to my faith. Yes, the enemy is big and ugly. But my God is bigger. So I need to learn that if I’m going to do any hiding, it should be behind His back instead of behind shallow busyness; to walk on that water, never minding how deep it is or how big and ugly are the sea monsters who dwell there…but simply to gaze on and adore my Lord…and to know with all certainty that He is sufficient to take on any of them and to win. So I should not tremble. I should not have to hide my feelings. I can take them out and examine them. I can not have to be afraid of them…even if it is THEY who are the monsters I fear. God can shut the mouths of even those lions. He can drown them in their own ocean of fear. He can tear those bears apart with bare hands. He can disarm them … He can overpower them, because perfect Love casts out all fear. I think that means it can beat its pants off and then throw it right out of the ring.
So don’t be afraid to examine. Don’t be afraid to challenge despair. Don’t be afraid to feel sadness or pain. You have the winning hand. No matter how big those things are, your secret weapon is bigger, stronger, and will win any war with them.Show all
Thursday, March 18, 2010
A friend of mine wanted me to continue the series I've been doing on Schizophrenia. I asked him what subject I should pursue; what questions would he like answered. He asked, "Where is this all leading you?" meaning the illness. That is a hard question to answer. I would like to say that it has inspired me to get my doctorate in Literature and that I'm going to write a book on the topic...but as I'm already struggling with completing the two manuscripts I have started, I don't honestly see that happening. I tend to become enamored of an idea and pursue it for a while...and then get bogged down and discouraged ...and the idea starts to collect dust on the shelves of my mind.
As far as projecting where the illness will take me, that's another hard thing to pin down. Schizophrenia is a progressive brain disease, but there are people who hit on a good combination of medicines, and who live fairly normal lives (at least compared to other people with the same diagnosis). As far as my specific set of circumstances go, that too is hard to answer. Assuming my husband stays alive, well, married to me, and working...I will at least have a roof over my head and food on my table. But, as many, many people with this disease can attest, all of that can change rather suddenly. If my husband were to leave or die, I would very easily end up homeless. Many of the homeless people in this country have schizophrenia and it is extremely common, when a caretaker dies or becomes unable to care for them, for the person to end up on the streets. To me, here and now, in my own home and in relative security, this likelihood seems far away...but it is really much closer than I would like to believe. Given my medical problems, it would be even more catastrophic for me were this to happen. However, despite being near this point at times in my life, God has always provided for me, and I have no reason to believe that he will stop doing so.
I am currently working with the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation to try to decide on some kind of an occupation or career that I will be able to enter. They will also pay for education such as my return to college, if that is necessary for the career that I choose. While I've always wished that I had completed a college degree, frankly I find myself dragging my feet on this one. I find the thought overwhelming. I'm worried that, with my memory problems, the studying and testing will prove to be more than I can handle. I'm even bogged down by the thought of choosing a career direction. There are things in which I am interested but when I think of actually working every day in a job in one of these careers, I am terrified. I used to be pretty courageous with taking on new responsibilities and was fairly proficient when I did so, but now, my self-confidence has shriveled up like the Wicked Witch of the East when Dorothy tossed water on her.
Any kind of job that requires any contact with the public or with more than a couple of people would have to be disqualified from my consideration. I am extremely uncomfortable, even with going to the grocery store and could not bear to have to do that daily. This is my main hesitation in the field of Naturopathy, which is one that I am very interested in learning. I would consider LEARNING about it, but not working as a consultant to clients who might come to me for help. Most of the people with schizophrenia whom I've met on chats or forums online live completely isolated lives. They usually live with parents and see no one ever. Compared to that, I do fairly well, because I attend church and a small home Bible study. But other than that, and going to occasional doctor appointments, I have no social contact either.
So really, any kind of reknown I might ever receive or accomplishment I might achieve would be through my writing. However, I find that I often have trouble coming up with subject matter because of my isolated and limited life. Also, I've discovered that a large part of an author's life is marketing their work; schmoozing and attending multiple writers' conferences. There is no way I would be interested in that...and even if I was, there's no way I could carry it out successfully.
So, where is my life with schizophrenia taking me? That will largely be determined by external circumstances and the direction that my illness takes. And one cannot rule out the hand and will of God in determining this either. My approach thus far, has been to face the challenge of each day as it comes and not to think beyond that. OVR is pushing me to do this and I will have to somehow deal with that. So, I'm sorry, friend, if I've answered your question insufficiently, but I really don't know how to give a concrete answer to this question.
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
I was plagued by the question recently, "What is my life?...How is this in any way useful from an eternal perspective?"
It occurred to me as I pondered this question, that there are some activities in which I can participate (all from my recliner), which would be more useful than just sleeping or idling away time. Most of them require my laptop, so I will be waiting with even greater eagerness for it to be returned to me. But there is one thing I can do, which I've not been doing enough of lately, and that is: Prayer.
We tend to minimize the importance and the power of this activity...relegating it to a few minutes here and there at prayer meetings, in church, or bits of "help me" conversations with God...but when I was considering it last night, a few things occurred to me. One is that prayer works. This may seem to be obvious, but do I really believe in this? If I did really believe it, wouldn't I spend a whole lot more of time doing it? How do I know prayer works? It is simple...every time I have prayed, especially lately, God has responded. Sometimes this has been in miraculous ways. Sometimes it is in ways that can look like unlikely coincidences taking place. It's like God is pouring out evidences to me that my prayers have power, so why am I not doing it more?
One such "coincidental" answers to a prayer was this: Last week, our basement (half of which is finished with flooring and rugs etc.) was flooded when our water heater tank failed. Fortunately the replacement tank was free because it was still under warranty, but the plumbing bill was $250 more than what we had in our bank account, and we were not getting another paycheck until the following week. The plumber was not willing to wait for his money, so we were in a great bind. As my husband and I discussed it over the phone, he looked online at our bank account just to see how things stood. There was silence for a few significant seconds...and then he started to laugh. I was bewildered until he said to me, "I know what you are going to say, and maybe you are right, but our tax return was just minutes ago direct deposited into our account." We had filed only a few days earlier and neither of us ever anticipated seeing the money so quickly.
I had been praying all morning, "Lord, please work this out somehow" and He responded! Not only that, but my father came over and cleaned up the mess from the flood and rented a drying fan so that by the end of the day, it was mostly dry and looked better than it had to begin with! There is NO way that I could have done that work because of the pain I have, and that was another prayer that was answered that day.
Now people can say, "But that was just a coincidence." and maybe it was. But if it was then I am one of the luckiest people around, because these kind of "coincidences" happen to me with regularity. Even my family, who are not believers, have had to admit to the fact that there is something to the power of my prayers.
Now, if I see prayers being answered in the short term, visible sense, why should they not also be answered in the long term and in the intangible realms? And if they are, why am I not pursuing those lines of communication with the Lord often and with fervor? Answer: laziness and stupidity. Short and simple. Now, I DO pray...but the intensity and frequency of my prayer times have really diminished in the past few months and that doesn't make much sense because my opportunities have greatly increased as well as the needs for which I should be praying. And this pursuit is one of the greatest ways to make use of my time in a way which has a tangible as well as an eternal benefit. So I know what I need to do...Now I will focus more on doing it!
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
I think number one would be: “Don’t trust yourself.” Often what I see, think, hear, feel, smell or taste, is not really factual. So I live constantly questioning my perceptions of reality. The part which is most disturbing to me is my inability to trust my thoughts. Sometimes an idea that I get will seem SO rational, SO logical and completely supported by fact…and several days later, I will look at an email I sent based on that presumption…and think, “How could I have thought that?” Or someone else will inform me that my thinking is completely paranoid based on something I’ve said….when it seems perfectly reasonable to me. That is a horrible way to live. But I suppose that there are some good things to be said for it.
For one, it is a real pride slayer. It is a very humbling experience to discover constantly that I have made a complete fool of myself because of something I’ve thought or said or done as a result of something I’ve perceived that isn’t true. And even worse is to have to admit that to people. It’s like the Fonz struggling to say “I was wrrrrong”— and I have to admit that a lot. And of course there are times when I cling to my beliefs and refuse to admit it, and that usually leads to conflict or people walking away shaking their heads.
It also has taught me to depend more on God, to know that not only am I fallible, I am likely wrrrrong. So I sometimes need to delay my impulse to press “send” and pray about it for a while first.
It has also taught me something else…That senses are not infallible and they cannot always be trusted. In other words: Reality may not be as we perceive it to be. This idea is helpful…in thinking about God, in relationships, in thinking about Heaven …etc. There is more (or other) than what we know (or think we do)….
What else have I learned? To lower my expectations. There are people who would say this is not a good thing to have learned….and maybe it isn’t, but it certainly makes living with this kind of disability more tolerable. When I was in high school, I dreamed big…I had full scholarships to any college I wanted to attend. I was recognized by all who knew me as academically, musically, and artistically gifted. I expected to conquer the world…and others expected that of me too. My yearbook was full of notes from students and teachers expressing their high hopes for me. And less than a year later, it all fell apart when I had my first psychotic/depressive episode.
The problem was, for many years after that, I could not let go of those high hopes…the anticipation of a notable life. And that was the source of much agony for me. I’ve had to learn to measure the successfulness of my days by a wholly different set of criteria. Now, if I take a shower and brush my teeth and wash the dishes, it is a successful day. And I’ve had to learn to take pleasure in those small victories—or at least to find some satisfaction in them. Or at least, not to be disappointed that I didn’t win a Noble prize that day.
While some people would argue that it is not healthy to lower our expectations or to give up our dreams I would respond by saying that it takes a humbler spirit to be content with what we have. I heard once that happiness does not consist of getting what we want, but in being content with what we have. I could name many wealthy, famous people who are miserable….despite their accomplishments. So what really have they gained?
Now I don’t want to give the impression that I am happy that I have this disease….I really hate it….I hate what it’s done to me, my life and to my family. But people can come to accept something that they hate (like having cancer or the death of a loved one) and still go on to find some happiness and satisfaction in their lives.
So (and I’m still working on this by the way) it has been important for me to firstly, admit to others and to myself that I HAVE schizophrenia; and secondly, to alter my life expectations because my old ones were making me miserable as I failed, over and over to attain them. Years ago, I could read a 600 page book easily in one day. Now, if I finish a book at ALL from cover to cover, that makes me very happy…regardless of how long it took me. I have a choice there. I can be miserable because what was once easy is now difficult, or I can take joy in the fact of my accomplishment considering my limitations. There are still times when I think sadly of the might-have-been’s and I do avoid reading my high school year book….but I am learning this lesson slowly and persistently.
And finally, this disease (accompanied by my health problems) has given me an acute thirst and longing for the New Earth (or Heaven)…. I so much anticipate the time when I will be free of this and able to realize some of the potential I was born with…and much more besides. This longing helps me in that it affects my attitude toward this life it gives me Hope. And Hope is a valuable gift to gain.
Monday, March 8, 2010
With my laptop gone, life has become even more limited…I’m losing contact with “my” world of you cyber peeps. I have a PC and I can manage to sit at the chair at that, for about 10 minutes at most…. Fortunately I have a NEO, which is a small, portable word processor which is connectable to the computer to upload stuff that I’ve written on it. That is how I’m writing this now.
Another thing which has happened just today is that my very good friend, David, with whom I’ve spent hours each day chatting for the past two years, was taken to the hospital. I’ve know for a while that he needed to be there….but now that it’s happened, I am very worried….I’m afraid I may lose him….And we’ve come to depend on each other. He is disabled and for the most part, homebound also….so we were a perfect chat-match. So now, that is one more connection being torn from my grasp in these long and lonely days.
I have to ask myself (and God) why all this is happening….the laptop, the pain, and David being admitted…and the answer that God has given me is that He wants more of my attention. It should be HIM that I jump up to greet in the morning…not internet friends. And while I don’t think that God made David sick for my benefit, He used that event to make His point…just like the pain keeps me stuck in this chair…all of this has torn from my grasp “other” things that have crept up the list for my attention and slowly, insidiously, have displaced God in my affections. Love is as love does….so while I would never say that I love the internet more than God, I was acting as if I did…and isn’t that really what matters?
God used these facts and one fiery sermon delivered by my pastor yesterday to make His point. At one point the pastor got pretty irate as he saw some people drifting off to sleep—because the sermon was of critical importance, with the potential to be life-changing for everyone that was there. I confess, I was listening with jaded ears…hearing but not listening. My eyes may have even been a pair of those which started to close…I don’t know for sure. But let me tell you, the Pastor really got my attention as he raised his voice to wake the slumbering and then chastised us for tuning God out. And that is what I had been doing….whether or not my eyes had drifted shut. God had a message for me and He was going to make sure that I heard it. I did hear.
Now we’ll see if I was LISTENING.
Saturday, March 6, 2010
I was not happy with the drawing I'd previously posted here in the article on Schizophrenia Pt 1...So last night when I was awake for the entire night due to pain, I revised it and made some corrections. I wouldn't go so far as to say that I am happy with it now, but I think I have improved it somewhat. What do you think?
Friday, March 5, 2010
I would highly urge you to spend a few minutes on his site....It is well worth the effort.
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
On Sunday, I didn't make it to church because I was so tired and in too much pain...instead I slept a lot that day and finally, by evening felt a little better. Monday, I had an appointment at the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR) in another town "near" here. Actually, where I live NOTHING is nearby except a bunch of deer and bears ,....and LOTS of trees. Anyway, I got lost going to this appointment because I ignored the little voice inside me that said "go straight" and instead turned right (directed by a sign which indicated a right turn to get to the town I was heading for). So I drove ten miles in the wrong direction. Finally, a kind storekeeper let me use her phone and I discovered my mistake...so I headed BACK over those ten miles of winding road, mountains and beautiful scenery...and ended up at OVR fifteen minutes late for my appointment -- just as the person ahead of me, came out followed by my counselor who was just then looking for me. I guess this was God's timing!
So the OVR counselor explained to me how they could and would help me to work my way back into the workforce by first letting me choose a vocation and then paying for me to be educated in that field and finally providing any equipment I will need in order to work as well as a job coach and help me to find the right job. You can't ask for more than that! I am excited about the possibility of returning to school and possibly getting my degree (only 20 years late!), but I am also nervous about it.
I have serious problems with my short term memory as well as will comprehending what I read or what is spoken to me. For a person who got a perfect score on the English SATs, that is an embarrassment to admit...but true. This disease has wreaked havoc on my brain. Now, what was I saying? Oh yes! (see that's what's cool about writing, you can always look back and READ where you were!) These memory problems will make studying and retaining information a challenge.
The two fields that I indicated to the counselor my interest in are: Naturopathy, and editing. And I also said I would prefer doing the schooling online and probably also working at home eventually as well. Both of these jobs make that possible. When I looked into them online, however, I found that while Naturopathy is a growing field with lots of job possibilities; editing, due to changes in technological changes in publishing, is a diminishing field with a much smaller demand for workers. Which, if you ask me is okay, because I am more interested in Naturopathy anyway.
Also this week, I have gotten back on track with my new manner of eating which I have been trying to initiate. I had had about a week of straying into "gluttony" and had gained a few pounds back of the weight I'd already lost. This weight gain motivated me to return to my decision to use the Spark People website assist me in this goal...so back I went. It's been three days now, and so far, I'm doing pretty well with that. I have also purchased a stability ball and am exercising with it ...so far have done that twice and feel pretty good about it. At the schizophrenia site forum, a few people there have remarked on how much better they feel when they force themselves to exercise and move around. This is true for me also...it is also true that it requires a huge effort of will to push myself to do that...to do ANYTHING actually.
Also this week (actually, it was last Friday) my laptop just died and wouldn't turn back on. Yesterday I called technical support over at Toshiba and was told, after answering some questions, that the problem is not serious and to take it to Best Buy for repair. (it is one month out of warranty). So tomorrow, when I go to see my pulmonologist in NY, I will drop that off. I am SO eager to get it fixed and back. Sitting at the PC is painful for me and I miss the comfort of my recliner. However that has also been a good thing, because this week I was forced to do some things other than just sit on my laptop all day. I've actually read the book "Amazing Grace" this week and it is almost finished. (That is the story of Wilberforce's life in England in the 18th century).
So all in all, it's been a relatively interesting week...and I actually will have gotten out of my house twice this week! That has to be a record...and while I was very nervous about going to OVR and am also nervous about the public exposure of going to NY tomorrow with my friend; it feels pretty good at the same time.