Sunday, February 24, 2013

Don't Pity Me!

The other day's post, entitled, Another Breakdown, received various responses.  My point wasn't to make everyone feel sorry for me - I hope you know that!  My Mom even called and said she was so worried about me.  What I want everyone to know is that I face real and often painful challenges, but that I am continually finding courage in the Lord!  And I also find encouragement from my friends in the Lord.  Do you know what "encourage means?"  It simply means to impart courage.  How simple is that?  When I am starting to waver in my faith, a friend can impart courage to me from his or her own store of courage.

God has been working on my heart in the area of self-pity.  Last December, I had the privilege of receiving prayers for deliverance with 2 of my dear and God-fearing friends.  If you aren't familiar with the concept of deliverance, it is NOT exorcism, and it does NOT mean I was demon-possessed (although I may appear that way when I freak out as I described in my last post).  Deliverance is like deep spiritual housecleaning.  When I clean my house, I usually dust, sweep, know, make the place look presentable, at least.  But when I do deep cleaning, I borrow a carpet steamer and suck all the junk out of my carpet from the last year.  I take down curtains to wash them and I vacuum the walls and ceiling (OK, I'm a little OCD, but the dust is also very visible on our dark walls).  I clean up corners and baseboards with heavy duty cleaner.

That's what deliverance is like:  getting really deep into the stuff that is messy and dirty in my life.  I regularly try to repent and receive forgiveness for my wrongs.  I go to Confession once in a while and I find this Sacrament of my Church tradition very freeing.  But I have many dear friends who aren't Catholic, and I trust that they, too, have some means of cleaning their souls on a regular basis.  But deliverance is addressing patterns of sin and temptation, coming against Satan and breaking his power in areas where he may have gained a foothold.  Jesus gave us this authority and we can use that authority with confidence, in Jesus' Name, to command Satan to leave us alone!

So, as I hobble through the challenges I face, I am trying not to convey self-pity.  And if you catch me in the act of true self-pity, feel free to give me a slap on the wrist!  I just want to make that clear.  I would welcome your feeling "sorry" for me if it meant you were inspired to pray for me.  I would prefer, insteading my friends saying, "Oh, poor Jen," they would say, "Hey, Jen needs some prayer so let's get to it!"  <3 br="">

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Another Breakdown

Sure, as soon as I say things are "under control," I have a good old- fashioned breakdown.

In my defense, I do have a lot weighing on me:  My husband is still recovering and trying to figure out which way to go in terms of therapy and career.  Chances are that he will never work full-time again, due to his constant fatigue and his limitations.  However, he is still extremely intelligent and capable.  Most of his doctors have said he is very capable and that any agency would be happy to have him walk through their doors.  And they're not saying he's only qualified to do menial labor - they think he has a very good chance of finding some interesting work that would suit many of his background experiences.  He does have an MSW, he's worked as an IT Administrator for over 10 years, and now he has the wonderful(?) life-changing experience of having had a stroke and is making his way back.  Don't you think he'd be an asset to a variety of organizations??? I do, too, but he takes some convincing, and it's driving me mad!

In addition, we are on the brink of bankruptcy.  I am not embarrassed to share that.  We don't live in an expensive house or drive expensive cars.  Neither have we spent inordinate amounts of money on vacations (Hawaii would have been nice, but no...) or high-tech gagdets that we don't need - we don't even have cable and we still use "trac-fones."  We simply racked up a lot of money in credit card debt, trying to live life while balancing the demands of recovery and therapy.  I work part-time, and even with insurance, medical copays are killing us.  Add to that the fact that we desperately want our daughter to attend a Catholic high school, so financial issues are pressing to say the least.

You know, then there are the everyday stressors, like kids who have persistent stress-related issues like stomach aches and headaches, and a kid who is making the grade at school but is still weeks behind in his homework.  Kids who fight and bicker and parents who fight and bicker back.  Chores undone and general disorder. 

Oh, yeah, and then I have this ridiculous back pain that launched an attack on me, kind of out of nowhere - add a little pain to the stress, and I come unglued.

Let's just say I tend to break down once in a while. One year after my husband's stroke, I was still working full-time in a high-stress job, and I had an honest-to-goodness nervous breakdown, and my doctor took me out of work for 2 weeks.  After that, I requested part-time work and was moved to the school librarian position, which was a great blessing.  (But, yes, the stress of NOT working full-time weighs on me, too - less income, more financial burden, so maybe I should have kept the full-time job...but what good is a wife and mom who's a permanent resident at Sunnyside Insane Asylum?) Last summer, I experienced my first ever panic attack and ended up in Urgent Care.  The worst part of that was that my hubby was in Florida for 6 weeks, which was one of the precipitating factors of my breakdown, I'm sure. 4 weeks alone with the kids was actually kind of fun, but then it got offense, kiddos.

So, last night was another "straw that broke the camel's back" moment, and I asked my hubby to pray and do some spiritual warfare (yes, we believe that Satan is real and cunning, and that he harrasses us in our real life, so we pray against him regularly in the name of Jesus).  My husband, however,  suggested that I might be "borderline" or have, perhaps, advanced delusionary schizophrenia with involuntary narcissistic rage.  In his defense, he IS a guy, and he HAS seen some pretty freaky sides of me in our 16 years of marriage.  But I just was extremely overwhelmed and wanted some SERIOUS prayer from my protector.  While he stumbled back in a daze after my tirade, I texted my neighbor and she said she'd be right over.  In the few moments it took her to arrive, I read through a passage that I've been reading during Lent:  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. (Hebrews 4:15).   I chuckled to myself to think, "How on earth does Jesus know what it's like to be a hysterical woman?"  But I believe the Word of God IS true, and it is living and active, as the earlier verses in Hebrews 4 state.  So, I chose to let God shed a little humorous light into my plight.

After praying with Jen (also my neighbor's name - no I do not have Multiple Personality Disorder), and receiving some helpful suggestions, I felt much better.  My children had seen me sobbing uncontrollably earlier, and were asking "What's wrong, MOM?" I told them I would be OK, and Jen told them I would be OK, too.  I just asked them to pray for me.  They did and then left me to talk with my friend.  When Jen and I were done chatting, I was much more peaceful and ready to face my family again. I put on my bathrobe, my face was dried of tears and my soul was quieted.  As kids came in and out of the kitchen, they just said, nonchalantly, "Oh, Hi mom, you're up."  

I felt like I could totally relate to the guy who was possessed by legions of demons in Mark 5:15.  Moments earlier, I had been flipping out while my family stood by helplessly, and now I was now sitting there, dressed and in my right mind.

My kids weren't afraid.  They were just like, "Hey, Mom's back.  Cool."  After the extreme challenge of the past 2 years, I've noticed one pretty impressive thing:  my kids are very resilient.

That, my friends, is the power of prayer.

Monday, February 18, 2013

A New Direction

You haven't heard from me in a while.  That's because there has not been much to report.  Stroke recovery, as you know, is S-L-O-W!  I could report every few months and tell you basically the same thing - a little more leg movement, not much arm movement, a little more of this, not much of that.

January 5, 2013 marked an unbelievable 2 years since Al's stroke.  I'm relieved to have come this far, but I'm also concerned about the outlook for the future.  Two years is the time frame in which stroke victims typically see the most improvement.  Does that mean that Al won't continue to improve?  I hope not.  But in addition to being a common experience, it can also be a mental block.  Do we stop trying after 2 years because there is no more progress to be made?  Again, I hope not, but it's definitely an obstacle.

This is the situation today, February 18, 2013.  Al still walks with a cane and an AFO (ankle-foot-orthososis).  It is made of 2 pieces of heavy-duty plastic to stabilize his ankle and calf.  His leg is so muscular that he often breaks the AFO and has to have it repaired or re-made.  Strong muscles are good, but lack of control over those muscles is not so good - he has so much tone (rigidity) in his leg that I can't even physically stretch it out for him.  He has to put his weight on it to stretch his calf muscles.  He has use of his upper arm, but still no voluntary movement below the elbow.  It's frustrating for him, to say the least, to have a 20 lb. appendage just hanging around.  

I have been of the mindset for a long time now that he should begin to accept his challenges are and try to move forward with his life.  But I can't fully understand what it's like for him.  I am not a man who can no longer provide for his family the way he wants to.  I can't force him to act.  I often get frustrated and just want to make him do what I want him to do.  But I can't live his life for him.

With that being said, I am going to change the direction of this blog a bit.  I can't keep blogging about the progress (or lack thereof) that my husband is making in post-stroke therapy, even though he is still attending PT and OT. 

I am going to make this a more general therapy blog.  If I'm not going to write about physical or occupational therapy, then what am I going to write about, you may ask?  I guess I will just call it Spiritual Therapy.

I am not currently attending any therapy sessions for my own depression, and our family has put family therapy on hiatus as well.  I am personally doing ok with depression.  It's been a better year than most, which is quite odd, given the circumstances, but I believe that has a LOT to do with God's grace, and also something to do with the extra sunlight and warmth we've experienced in Michigan this winter.

So, here is the launch of my "new" Postcards with Therapy blog, where we will discuss all sorts of good things:  depression,
anxiety, self-pity, fear, marital trials, financial crises, and even addiction.  

I am not afraid to share the most intimate of my suffering because I know that serve a God who is Almighty!  I haven't shared much about my faith, but as I progressed in writing this blog, I realized that if I didn't include this very part of myself, the blog wouldn't be complete.  The process of therapy wouldn't be complete without Jesus Christ at the center.  

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39 NIV.