The devil is in the details

I have been letting myself slip into a worse state of mental health as my husband and I have been trying to move forward. The ever churning thoughts of worry and anxiety well up inside my mind and I am stuck frozen in an insurmountable moment of time.

“Nothing will move forward. You will be stuck this way for ever.” My internal monologue whispers, as if my conscience had puffed into being. As though the proverbial angel and devil sitting atop my shoulder had spoken to me, thoughts whispered into my ear. “You will amount to nothing. You will suffer. You will not find respite.” These thoughts echo through my mind and begin to swirl down into a spiral of angered noise. The angel at my ear has been tied up with a gag in their mouth to keep them from talking. The devil on my shoulder keeps chirping away.

In many ways this figurative description of my anxiety and current state of mind is a reasonable representation of the spiritual aspect of my struggles. The devil is in the details of our every day life. If you follow him, he will reward you with all the things that will never fulfill you, but if you refuse he attacks like a wild boar. Yes, we are autonomous creatures with free will, but we are not impervious to spiritual guidance or mis-guidance. St. Ignatius Loyola wrote extensively about this, and many other saints battled demons in a more than figurative way. Padre Pio was attacked physically. Yes, these individuals did receive attention in a way that most people will not, but no one is left alone. The enemy is relentless and will take any opportunity to snag a sheep out from pasture.

Lately I have been spiraling, very very badly. I am not in a position to implement the strict balancing act that I had found helped reduce my fibro, and I won’t be until my husband and I are able to live without roommates. This will be some months away, but no more than 4 months. We have had some ups and downs with jobs, but it has ultimately led my wonderful partner to a strong sense of vocation in his life. He will be starting college in the fall for police foundations with the intention of joining the RCMP, it only took 9 years working in the security industry for him to find the path that we are walking now. It is a series of events that caused an incredibly short period of discomfort in the grand scheme of things. Yet, somehow, the fact that my health is not where I would like it to be at all has meant that this beautiful progress shines like dimly lit kindling. I cannot get passed this sense of overwhelming impossibility. Everything is lining up, but there is a constant sense that everything will fall apart and I will be in ruins left to suffer horribly.

I realize that my feelings of depression are not at all rational. I realize that I am not moving backwards like it feels. Even still, I am unable to pass that wall that screams of failure. Though it may feel as though the little angel on my shoulder has been locked away by the devil, I do find a sort of fearful solace in knowing that my God is always waiting with an arm stretched out for me when I am ready to ask for help and guidance.

Healing comes at a cost

I am happy to say that my doctor’s appointment was incredibly productive yesterday. She has now confirmed that my joints are in fact swollen, and has prescribed pain cream to help while we figure out the cause and address my gut inflammation. To address my gut inflammation I will be starting the GAPs diet, though my doctor has instructed me to stick on the bone broth phase for 2 whole weeks given the state of my health. Along side the dietary change she has me lined up for a slew of blood tests to see where I have imbalances still, and to have a baseline for necessary supplements. 

Though the appointment went quite well, I am having a hard time mentally preparing myself for the GAPs introduction phases. Bone broth for two weeks while everyone else in the house enjoys delicious full meals is one thing, adding an egg yolk and probiotic juices to the broth for the following week? That is nauseating to think about. I will certainly be relying on God for this one and offering up my sufferings, I’m not sure how I will manage it otherwise. I know that the healing this diet will begin is going to greatly outweigh the sacrifice, yet there is still a stumbling block that I need to overcome. I don’t much like sauerkraut (even home made), I don’t like goat yoghurt (I’m allergic to cows dairy), and I don’t like the flavor of most fermented food except kimchi. Still, I will have to rely on adding these into my diet everyday. I hate the texture of runny egg yolk if it is not soaked up by gluten free bread, but I will have to put that in the broth. I have to give up cold water and switch to room temperature water to help soothe inflammation. I have to mentally accept that the benefits of these changes are all much more important than the discomfort and mental suffering I will endure in eating them. I have to accept that healing comes at the cost of pleasure food for now, and that I need to go through this to get better. 

Thankfully fats are an important part of the GAPs diets, and later on I can look forward to decadent things zucchini pancakes fried in duck fat. When my options start increasing, I will be able to be creative and fun with my food again. Until then, there is not much that can be done to keep bone broth fun… Especially when it has sauerkraut juice and egg yolks in it…

Steps forward

Steps forward are sometimes small, something large and sometimes seem like steps in the wrong direction. I think the reason that it can feel as though the steps are going backwards is because there is only a dead end ahead. Instead of staying at the dead end, the path opens up a little ways behind, leading forward once again. 

Right now we are moving backwards down the path that will hopefully lead us to a better way forward. Though the position my husband took yesterday does not offer a larger salary, but it does offer a significantly larger opportunity for advancement. We are staying with family to save up money, so although we are sacrificing our independence, we are working toward a foundation for a better future without debt. I feel like we are working to go forward, but I am not certain where that will lead us. Right now I don’t believe I need to know what the future holds, I simply have to trust that it will turn out as it is meant to. 

Relying on God

There is very little that is quite as stressful as not having an income in time for bills. If I did not have God to rely on, I would likely be an unimaginable mess. Truthfully, like everyone I do have a hard time trusting that there is something good being lined up if we just listen and follow. Today I had quite a bit of reassurance from God.

We have been trying very hard to get my husband working since the move, what was supposed to be a simple transfer from one regional location to another has turned into a very long process. Since we cannot be certain when he will be able to work his old post again, he decided to start applying elsewhere. His field of expertise is security, and in time the plan is to become a police officer with either the military police or the Ottawa police. We had been hoping that his transfer would go through sooner, and not be so pressed for money. As can be expected, I have been rather stressed not being able to see what God had in the works and not allowing myself to fall into simple trust. My worry is being replaced with a humble sense of peace because my husband has an interview tomorrow for a position that he had only applied for yesterday. What’s more? It is a position that pays considerably more than the post he was going to return to, has significantly more training opportunities and works directly with the police.With eight years of security experience and two years of military experience, he is a shoe in for the job; and in my books it is looking like God set us up for a better experience.

One thing that I am starting to realize is that every change in life is always accompanied with growing pains of one kind or another. It is hard to see past these growing pains, but in reality they end up being a simple short term sacrifice in order to set up a long term improvement. It is hard to push past that barrier of wanting control of everything in life, but even when things seem to be falling apart, if we listen to the Big Guy everything starts to line up again.

 

Weaving a New Direction

Over the last few months I have had a serious loss of direction. Although I still don’t feel as though I have a sense of direction, I am beginning to look again. After finishing up with running summer camp, I found myself battling the impact that such an increase in activity had on my health. From my perspective, it felt very much like a losing battle. As the two weeks came to a close, my pain levels skyrocketed- but I was shocked to find myself coping better due to the sleep pattern I had begun. For the first time in many years, I was asleep at 9pm and awake at 6am. This had actually been my sleep routine for the vast majority of my life (though in my teen years it was closer to 10pm to 6am), altered only by the advent of medications that compromised my sleep cycle. It doesn’t help that my husband does rotating shift work; it is quite hard to go to sleep before him or without him. I think that if I had been able to continue this sleep routine after summer camp, the last few months would not have been so hard. Contrary to my nature, I wallowed. Truthfully, I am not sure wallow is even a strong enough sentiment to express the head space I was in. I had pushed my body, and it pushed back with ferocity.

After the unfortunate celiac reaction and the deterioration of my already poor joints shortly after the camp had finished, I felt defeated. Completely and utterly defeated. It is much harder to cope with pain when you can no longer physically do your coping mechanisms. I would usually turn to arts and crafts to boost my spirits and distract myself, yet I was bested by my illness and unable to do anything. It felt impossible to fight against the sense of helplessness that had welled up within me. Already combating the constant sense of uselessness most with chronic illnesses go through, I felt true despair. This has been very difficult to struggle through.

In the midst of this, somehow the smallest of gestures has changed the direction of my focus. Last night, my aunt showed me a very nifty little project that she had started at her homeschool meet-up earlier in the evening. She had learned a simple yet elegant form of weaving using straws. Almost instantly my curiosity was piqued, and I examined her progress carefully to sort out how she was making the project. This examination gave me a tiny spark of something I hadn’t felt in months: inspiration. I tried a few rows and was astonished to find that it did not hurt my joints at all to do. With excitement, I ran to my art supplies and grabbed out everything that I needed. I started making a brown cotton belt, something simple to begin.Before bed  I was able to make a solid two inches. Today, I finished a quarter of it and have felt productive for the first time in a few months. Though I am not entirely over my negative emotions, this small and simple craft has turned my gaze away from the seemingly perilous battle towards brighter possibilities. If there is a craft I can spend hours doing without pain, there has to be more that I can do as well. There may even be ways to make the other activities I enjoy possible as well, though likely with reduced frequency.

I am not giving up, as much as I have been wanting to. I hope to renew the fervour I used to possess for life over the next coming months, and I am planning to use this blog as a means to do so as well. Writing a blog post is an accomplishment, and it is one I can do even with limited use of my hands if pain is flaring. Even in the worst of times, there is always something that can be done. There is always hope.

Even though it is as simple as weaving a belt, I am proud of my accomplishment today.

weaving

Change, once again…

Change is something that is universal and unavoidable. This last year has been one of exceptional change, and therefore growth. Yet, now, this chapter in Toronto is coming to a close. On Monday my husband and I will be saying our goodbyes to the friends we have made here and returning to the city we came from. In many ways I am sad to see the end of the chapter drawing near but I have hope for the direction that we are headed. I have unfortunately not seen much improvement in joint pain, and will need to begin investigations with my doctor as soon as we have moved. This change has been a very hard one to bear emotionally, but I am beginning to search for the brighter side of things. It will be a wonderful thing to be close to our family once again, I really do look forward to that. Though I do worry about leaving behind the community I have built up at Church, I am certain that God will guide me to a new one as we move. With any luck, this move will be what I need to dedicate myself to writing once again.

All things in their own time.

Stepping back on track

It has been quite some time since my last blog post, and in many ways I have found myself avoiding it. Not that I do not enjoy my blog anymore; I have been isolating myself in a number of ways, not only my blog. I find this is a common thing when health flares up in ways that leave you scrambling to stitch yourself back together as your seams let out around you. Not to say that my troubles are any worse than anyone else, I was simply letting them get the better of me. I am certain we have all been there in one way or another…

Sometimes it is hard to continue commitments to bettering health when it seems like all that you do is fruitless. Earlier this summer, I ran a summer camp with my local Parish and it was an amazing experience. I don’t know whether to say fortunately or unfortunately, it would depend on the vantage point I am taking I suppose. Either way, I worked two 50h weeks for the first time in, well, ever. If I am truly and brutally honest, I have never been able to work that many hours in that short a period of time. I have managed at most upwards of 35 in previous years, but altogether it was never for a long period of time. In those times where I was given full time hours to work, I have had to call in sick frequently. It is a hard reality, but one that I am getting much closer to accepting and therefore overcoming.

The experience was exceptional. It was amazing to be able to do so much for the children in my community in those weeks, but it came at a cost. In the evenings I was mostly incoherent, and I relied on my family entirely to help make sure I was fed. After finishing up the camp half way through July, I am still recovering. Now, it doesn’t help that I accidentally ingested wheat earlier this month; that was a horrible experience. Cross contamination is one thing, actually consuming wheat in a sauce is far worse, with much longer lasting symptoms… I don’t dare to imagine what might occur should I ingest a single whole cheerio. 😛

It took until this weekend to really get out of the emotional side of the significant decrease in my overall well being. I know that bouts of depression are known to make the rest of my symptoms flare, but it is incredibly difficult to overcome that sensation. I am thankful that I can rely on God in those times, as He is able to heal my soul and help me over come myself. I can’t say that I have fully shaken it, but I am at least coping better with this turn of my health. It has been tricky to get myself to focus on it but my current focus is: ups and downs happen, yet even in the downs I am still on the mend and not doing anything to add more damage to my system.

If I keep my eyes to the goal of good health, with hope in my heart, I will one day get there. I am going to see about addressing the fact that my GI track has not really seen much improvement since going strictly gluten free 4 years ago-and by strictly, I mean paranoia. Theoretically, if I can address that system and actually get it healed properly the rest will fall into place, or at least will have an easier time doing so.

All things in their own time…

Balancing point 

It has been an age old concept to find the balancing point in life. The balance between work, school, kids, family, friends and health effects everyone on a different level. I personally am more effected by health than any of the other factors in my life. I am happy to say that with my fibro I have managed to work part time successfully… But I am no where near finding my balance point. I am currently trying to find the upper limit to what I can and cannot handle before my body gets too fatigued and no longer heals properly. It is no easy task. It would likely be a much easier task if I was not going through some pretty stressful stuff. The thing is, I am not sure I am ever NOT going through stressful external factors. Life has a way of going in strange directions, and unfortunately they are not a factor I can control. 

I can however control what I can build up to in my day. After a very bad experience with medications really interacting negatively with my system almost two years ago, I was at square -10. Not square one. I was feeling everything my nervous system was sending without being used to it anymore. I was also getting very bad migraines, luckily, now that I am in a different city with a different climate they are much less common. It took 11 months to normalize to the fibro pain enough to be able to do all of my chores at home. Unfortunately, my migraines had prevented me from working. When we moved cities, I was able to start working part time and get a chunk of my chores done. As I have been trying to work more though, I am beginning to notice that I am sacrificing chores instead of being able to build up both together. It bothers me that it is seeming that my balance point is proving to be that I either work more or get chores done. 

I will have a trial run of working full time for the first two weeks of July, and I am praying that God gives me the grace to pull through the whole time with a smile. I have been having a bad flare for the last week, and I am hoping that the biggest factor causing it is reintegrating sugars into my diet. I had been feeling much better when I cut out carbs, fruit and sugar to deal with the insulin resistance. I will be going back to a strict diet tomorrow, as the last week is proof enough that my body is not ready for sugars.

I am disappointed that I cannot do more, but it does feel good that I am getting a more realistic picture of how to live with fibro. When I was younger, before the diagnosis, I would work inspite of my pain and fatigue because everyone said I was normal and healthy. It led to me passing out at night, taking much to long to heal from wounds, and living feeling as though I was a zombie. I look back at the last ten years that I have felt these symptoms and feel that although I never found a balance point, I will. I feel a mix of sorrow and hope. On the one hand I am hopeful to find a balancing point where I can reduce my flare ups but still be productive, on the other hand I am sorrowful that in a variety of ways I will have the need to learn to depend on others in a healthy way. Learning how to accept help is an important lesson, but it is a hard one. Autonomy feels very good, and since I have to come to terms with the fact that it is unreasonable to become autonomous at this point and for the current foreseeable future, it makes me mourn the life I wanted to live. 

Somehow the life I am meant to live with triumph and I will become more realistic with myself. For right now, I will start by accepting that I need to find the balancing point and begin to accept that I am not able to be autonomous. 

Peace through the pain

Every day is a struggle.

That statement is something that anyone can apply to their lives. Whether it is challenges of work, home life, money, friends and family, or health, there is often something difficult in our lives. In a sense, it is those universal hardships that really define who we are becoming in our lives. Do we act out in anger? Do you wallow in self pity? Do you put on a smile and fake it until you make it? Do you stay cool and calm?

Everyone is different, but I personally tend to get irate and short tempered.  I won’t necessarily get angry,  but I will most definitely lose all of my patience. In my case,  as I deal with the painful signals that erupt throughout my nervous system in response to, well… anything…  I normally lose what little patience I have. Pain flairs would leave me feeling broken and upset. Chemically, my nervous system shuts down my emotions and leaves me overwhelmed.  Yet, here over the last few days I have been in excruciating pain with nothing but a profound sense of peace.

It isn’t easy living with fibromyalgia, and though I have been finding things to improve my condition, my pain never goes away. For a very long time I felt resent for this pain, but now I have come to find peace in uniting my pain with Christ. I know I am not the only one who has health problems or is in chronic pain, I especially know to never compare one person’s struggles to another. I can tell you though that living with constant pain for years (10 years that I can actively remember) you hit rough times emotionally. You want to give up and not face another day.

Yet, my God experienced agonizing torture before being put to death on the cross (a punishment reserved for the worst criminals) for me. He died for an intimate and infinite love with each and every human beyond the constraints of space and time. He stared off into the crowd and saw my smile, He stared and saw yours too. His heart is so large that He would have died for each of us individually. It is a profound thing to really realize that the creator of everything, the creator of heaven and earth, the creator of space and time, life and evolution, would have died a horrible and agonizing death for the likes of me. A broken and unworthy human in the pangs of illness. He died to save me, and to give me the chance at something great and glorious: an eternity in heaven with Him.

I have struggled so much with finding my own worth, with becoming comfortable in my own skin, with growing in myself. I focused on me, and found myself getting more and more lost. What I should have been focusing on was letting God love me in spite of and for all of my faults. Letting God mold me into the ideal me that He created and envisioned.

I have decided to take my illness for what it is: a cross. It does not define me, it is not who I am. Yet, like our Lord taking his cross and accepting his death for the sake of the glory of His resurrection, it is something that has shaped me and continues to work good works in my heart. Because of my pain I am more empathetic, I am more careful with others and try my hardest to relate to everyone around me. I have learned to be strong and resilient,  and have learned that life is not something to be rushed. I have learned that it is ok to make mistakes and that what matters most is your integrity. I have learned that pain can actually bring out your most authentic self if you allow your suffering to be joined in Christ.

I wouldn’t say that my life is any easier with this new sense of interior peace, but I will say that it is much more fulfilling. I would also say that emotionally, giving my pain a purpose (a purpose for pre-existing pain, not a purpose to cause pain) has lifted the burden of questioning my own dignity as a human being. I may not be able to do everything that would be considered normal, I may not be able to get my chores done without pain spiking, but I can offer up my pain that I will endure anyway to help save souls.

For me, it has been my saving grace to know that I can really help others in and through my suffering. My pain is needless and unfortunate, but through God I am able to transform it into a beautiful Grace. I hope that any who reads this may be blessed with experiencing the profound peace that is only found in the heart of Christ, and that we all can allow Christ to take the hardships in our lives so that He may transform them into something amazing.

From fear to faith

Today I will be talking about something very personal in my journey of faith. The transition from fear to faith.

I had for a very long time been terribly afraid of the judgement of my peers. It was as though a hand would tear into and constrict my heart at the very thought of being held unworthy, being told I am worthless, being told I am not loved. This fear came from my own lack of self love. I would constantly affirm in my own heart that I was even worse than unloved, that I could never even deserve to be loved. That no one would or ever could love me. These were the feelings that I allowed to govern my life.

Last night I attended an incredibly powerful talk, where the audience was asked a rhetorical question upon which to reflect: “What is your biggest sin, the sin you hold onto to most?”

Now, I had been puzzling over this for several weeks, in fact, and could not put my finger on it previously. Last night, I realized what it was and was struck with a great sense of clarity and guilt at this truth. My greatest sin that I allow to hold over my life is my fear of the judgement of my fellow humans. I let my fear of judgement in this secular world cloud over my love for God. I have always lived a very private spiritual life, but not for the sake or respect of God. I lived a private life for fear of judgement, isolation and heartbreak. Yet, how incredible is my disrespect to the God I love so dearly! To hold the judgements of men more dearly in my heart than Him.

I have my reasons for this fear, just as each of us has reasons behind every wound and scar we bear. Last night I was able to truly see that this wound needs to heal, and the only route to healing is through love and devotion to God. I want to live as authentically as possible, striving for transparency to my indwelling God. I want to let the peace of Christ consume me so that I can share his glory with all of the world.

I have made a choice to stop hurting my God. To stop inflicting wounds into His blessed heart with each “No” I have said to him. I have made the choice to say “Yes” to God’s love. To say yes to the gifts of Grace that he has bestowed upon me and to give myself wholly to the goal of glorifying Him in everything I do in life.

God calls each of us to Him in our own time, its up to us to say YES!