A Testimony of God’s Grace (Part II): Checking the Calendar and Counting the Days

calendar days

On Thursday I met with Doctor Mujica. We talked about ECT (Electroconvulsive Therapy) and whether or not I wanted to proceed with having it done. I said I did want to go ahead with it. He said he would schedule my first treatment on Tuesday where there was the first opening. I was not happy with having to wait that long, but at least I had a date when the waiting would stop. Dr. Mujica reassured me that I made the right decision and that he would take care of me. During our conversation I learned that he was originally from Columbia.

depression vs. sadness

Carol A. Kivler [MS, CPS], whom I have quoted in a previous post, is a gifted writer and public speaker who has gone through severe depression and ECT Treatment herself. She writes about her experience and speaks to many kinds of groups [business, social, religious] about mental health and how to stay in recovery. In her book, “Will I Ever Be the Same? Transforming the Face of ECT (Shock Therapy),” she describes ECT treatment this way:

“Electroconvulsive Therapy is a customary psychiatric procedure used to treat severe major depression that has not responded to other treatments. ECT uses a therapeutic dose of electricity to induce a seizure to the brain of an anesthetized patient” [p. 55].

Wing Memorial

(Wing Memorial Hospital Pre-Op and Post-Op area where the nurses got  me ready for the ECT procedure and where I awoke from the ECT Treatments)

Having ECT done is like having surgery. I could not eat anything and I could only have a small sip of water with two medications I had to take. Before I was taken down to the recovery and surgery rooms, Dr. Mujica came to my room and asked me if I was ready. I said, “Yes, I’m ready.” He then pointed to my Bible at my bedside and said,

bible book

“Remember, we are not going to be alone.” It was then that I knew I was going to “find Lydia” and was on the right “road to recovery.” I was brought down to surgery on a gurney. Before going into surgery, I was hooked up to an IV that contained anesthesia and a muscle relaxant. This part of the procedure was difficult for me because my cerebral palsy made it hard for me to remain still for the nurse to get the IV into my arm. The nurses were very kind and helped hold my arm down. They never showed signs of impatience, which I was very grateful for. [When I came as an out-patient later on, Luke helped with holding my arm still for the IV needle to get into a vein. The nurses loved Luke and wanted to hire him as a nurse‘s assistant.] I also had trouble with the oxygen mask on my face. I think I’m a bit claustrophobic and get a bit panicky when anything is on my face. I don’t know if this is related to my cerebral palsy or not. I asked the anesthesiologist to hold the oxygen mask above my face until I was asleep. Three different anesthesiologists were involved in my treatments at different times and all three were glad to do what I asked.

book on ECT

Carol Kivler continues to describe the procedure in her book [which was exactly my experience]:

“… [the] IV contains anesthesia to promote sleep and a muscle relaxant to prevent body movement or convulsing when the electric current is administered. Blood pressure cuffs and pulse monitoring devices are put in place, as well as EKG leads to monitor the heart and EEG leads to monitor the brain. The patient begins drifting off to sleep. A bite-block is inserted in their mouth to prevent them from biting their tongue. An anesthesiologist places an oxygen mask over the patient’s nose and mouth to ensure proper respiration. Electrodes are then placed on the patient’s right temple and the parietal area on the head. The doctor adjusts the electrical current by pressing a button on the end of one ECT ‘handle.’ There is a brief pulse stimulus delivered that lasts one to two seconds. That pulse induces the seizure that will make the neurotransmitters of the brain once again connect. The patient’s body remains relatively relaxed and still because of the muscle relaxant, but you will observe a slight twitching of the foot or toe during the induced seizure. This twitching is timed by a nurse in the room to reveal the length of the seizure – approximately 30 seconds. The procedure is complete. From start to finish the entire procedure lasts about seven minutes. The patient is unhooked from all equipment [except the blood pressure cuff and monitor] and begins to awake. The treatments are delivered in ‘courses’ of 6 to 12 treatments administered two or three times a week. Some patients continue the ECT in what is called ‘maintenance treatments,’ and many will continue drug therapy as well as talk therapy” [pp. 57-58].

facts

As you can see by Carol Kilver’s description of the ECT procedure, it is nothing like in the movie, “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” She often tells mental health consumers that “ECT does to the brain what a defibrillator does to the heart” [p. 56]. From my own personal experience, I can tell you ECT doesn’t hurt, except for getting the IV in, and the only side effect I had was that I was pretty “worn out” for a few days after the ECT. Some experience short-term memory loss [what happened just before the ECT treatment], but if I did experience memory loss, I can’t remember. During the ECT treatments I did have to continue taking anti-depressant medication and medication to help me sleep. The ECT made the medications work better. One of the biggest mistakes people make is they stop taking there medications because they are feeling better but, they are feeling better because the ECT is helping the medications work better. I also went to talk therapy twice. I saw a psychiatric clinical nurse specialist, Donna Wood Shalberg, who was a very kind woman who listened to my concerns and validated my feelings. After my second visit as an outpatient, we both agreed that I didn’t need to see her anymore, but she made it clear that I could call her any time. She is also following my blog and emailed me to say that she has the same “Best Friend” as I do.

banana split with whip cream

“How great is the LOVE the Father has LAVISHED on us, that we should be called children of God!” (I John 3:1a – N.I.V.)

days numbered

While in Wing Memorial Hospital, I had about six ECT treatments. I remember feeling so much better, just after the second treatment. I felt like the “real Lydia” again because I was hungry for chocolate pudding. A banana split would have worked too. [I did not have an appetite for anything when I was clinically depression]. I had about six more treatments as an outpatient and by mid-December, 2012, I found the “real Lydia” and I am back to stay! It took nine months to get well. It has been about 900 days [but who’s counting] since my last ECT treatment. I praise the Lord for bringing the right people to help me get well and for His healing hand. How beautiful it is for Jane and Sophie and John to have their sister back! How beautiful it is for Luke to have his “road-trip partner” back and for Luke and Noel to have their “eccentric-sports-fanatic” aunt back! How beautiful it is for my church to have their smiling sister in Christ back! How beautiful it is to be happy and enjoy life again. How beautiful it is to experience God again and feel His presence, His love, His tender mercies and His faithfulness in my life! How beautiful it is to have the joy of my salvation again! I praise God for taking me out of a dark pit of despair and into His marvelous light. Praise God for His Resurrection Life. I feel born again again!

“I called on Your Name, O LORD,
from the depths of the pit;
You heard my plea, ‘Do not close
Your ear to my cry for help!’
You came near when I called on You;
You said, ‘Do not fear!’
You have taken up my cause, O LORD;
You have redeemed my life.”
– Lamentations 3:55-58

If anyone is struggling with severe depression, please know that you are not alone. God cares about you, He loves you and He wants to help you. Ask someone you trust to go to the doctor with you and help you find the help you need. ECT may be an option for you.

I have read three books written by Carol A. Kivler. They are very easy to read and extremely informative and encouraging. I highly recommend them to you, whether you are the one in need of help or the “helper” [family member or friend] or in a helping profession. She also has helpful websites.

Carol Kivler

Carol A. Kivler, MS, CSP [Certified Speaking Professional]
Encourages, Educates, and Entertains

book on ECT

Recovery Boosters

ABCs of Recovery

Websites: http://www.KilverCommunications.com
http://www.CourageousRecovery.org
http://www.facebook.com/CarolKivler
http://twitter.com/CarolKivler or Follow Me on Twitter@CarolKivler

 

 

 

 

To be continued…

gatitude3

The Lyd

Lydia

A Testimony of God’s Grace (Part II): Checking the Clock and Waiting on God

20140411_114039photo 1 (1)

[Luke (right) and Lydia [left] at Richardson’s and the Bridge of Flowers]

Waiting for an opening in one of the hospitals was another “waiting game”, just as it was waiting for medications to work. While waiting for one of the hospitals offering Electroconvulsive Therapy to have an opening for me, my nephew Luke brought information from the internet for me to read. The information was encouraged and lessened my fear. Most importantly, most of the ECT sites reported about a 70% success rate. My nephew Luke was always doing things to lift my spirits. When I finally did transfer to another hospital for ECT treatments, Luke came with me and was by my side for hours, until I was admitted and brought to the hospital room. After my sister Jane read my testimony (Part II), she pointed out that the Apostle Paul talked to the Lord THREE TIMES about his “thorn in the flesh” (II Corinthians 12:8-10) and traveled with “LUKE the beloved physician (Colossians 4:14). I was hospitalized THREE TIMES and my BELOVED nephew LUKE was by my side [Just sayin’…].

cooley dick garden

During my two stays at C.D.H., I never wanted to go outside to the “Healing Garden” with the group, but the head nurse convinced me to go with her. She wheeled me around the garden and showed me the fountains. This was an incredibly nice thing she did for me. It was on her break time. When we got back inside, a nurse told us that Wing Memorial Hospital – UMass Memorial Health Care, in Palmer, MA. called and said they had an opening for me. The head nurse helped me to pack my things and get ready to go to the hospital in Palmer. I noticed she had tears in her eyes and asked her why she was crying. She said, “I’m happy that you will get the help you need.” As I waited on a stretcher in the hallway for Luke and the ambulance from Palmer, both staff and patients came to say “Goodbye” and wish me well. One patient thanked me for sharing what I did in a group counseling session. During the session someone was blaming her family for her depression. I shared that I didn’t think anyone was to blame for my depression. I said I did a lot of things that betrayed my sister’s trust, but I had hope that things will get better because I knew my sister loved me. Another patient, who struggled with psychosis and was mostly in her own world also came to wish me well. I was finally seeing that even when I felt a disconnect from God, God was never disconnected from me. When I felt totally out of control, God was in complete control of my life.

holy spirit over water

“Where shall I go from Your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from Your Presence?
If I ascend into Heaven, You are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, You are there!
If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there Your hand shall lead me,
and Your right hand shall hold me.
If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light about me be night,’
even in the darkness is not dark to You;
the night is as bright as day,
for darkness is as light for You.
For you formed my inward parts;
You knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are Your works;
my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from You,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in Your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me,when as yet there were none of them!”

– Psalm 139:7-16

a lesson on waiting

I was admitted at Wing Memorial Hospital after a long wait in the emergency room. It was the Labor Day weekend and the Psychiatrist who performed the ECT treatments did not come to the hospital was off, so there was more waiting to do. On Tuesday, I finally met the psychiatrist Dr. Mujica. He talked about the ECT procedure and gave me a DVD I was able to watch in the TV room. He told me to watch the DVD and he would come talk to me in a few days. He did not come to the hospital on Wednesdays. There was more waiting.

wing memorial hospital

The hospital stay at Wing was much more difficult than at CDH because I stayed on the floor with elderly people with dementia. I had a private room at the end of the hall where there was a locked exit door just outside my door. All day long I would hear an elderly person try to open the door, so she “could go home.” Another elderly woman would often come out of her room and ask, “Where is my room?” Each time, when I was out in the hall, I would say, “Here is your room. It’s right here.” And each time she would say “Thank you” and go back into her room, only to get “lost” again a few minutes later. I also experienced the “sundowner effect” when all the patients are wide awake at night and chaos reigns. The nurses and the aides had their hands full, but they always had time to help me. A male nurse found out that I liked sports, so he would give me copies of sports news he printed off the internet at home on his own time. When I asked him if he liked sports he said, “I’m not that kind of guy.”

Behold God

The recreational therapist also took a liking to me. She always urged me to join everyone for a recreational activity, such as bowling with plastic pins and balls. She and her helper also led trivia games, but they weren’t much of a challenge for me. Both the recreational therapist and assistant somehow saw the “real” Lydia and told me I had a lot to give. The recreational therapist even came to my room to talk with me and encourage me by saying how smart I was and how gifted I was. There was also a Christian college student from UMass who worked on the floor as an “extra pair of eyes.” He was assigned to sit outside the room of a patient who needed watching. He brought his text books and his Bible. We often talked about spiritual things and I asked how his studies were going. Again, I saw God working and providing special people to take care of me.

To be continued…

In His Grip and For His Glory,

The Lyd

Lydia

A Testimony of God’s Grace (Part II): Checking In and Checking Out

oregon 324

(“Devil’s Punchbowl” – Central Oregon Coast)

Sometimes, horrible experiences cause haunting memories which can become fuel for the uncontrollable fire of clinical depression. My depression escalated when the anti-depressant medications I was trying was making me constipated. This topic is a “butt” of many jokes, but it was a extremely concerning and very frightening matter to me. I will admit that because of my depression I did blow things up out of proportion. But, all I could see was my mom and how agonizingly painful it was for her to have a bowel movement. I remembered my mom hanging from a Hoyer lift, with a commode bucket underneath her and my sister by her side, trying to help her. I thought I was going to become like my mother in that way and that scared me to death. One morning, my sister came down to see me and I pleaded for her to help me. I said I couldn’t go on like this. She took me to the Crisis Intervention Center, in Florence. It was a Saturday, so they couldn’t really help me other than make an appointment for me to see a psychiatric nurse on Wednesday.. I wanted help NOW. I needed help NOW. Waiting four days seemed like an eternity to me.

bike path

I saw the psychiatric nurse several times and she had me try new anti-depressant medications, but nothing was working. My sister tried to help me by taking me on walks, in my wheelchair, with her dog, on the bike path. I would see happy people riding their bikes and enjoying the sunny warm weather, smiling and saying “hello” as they passed by. I looked at them and I wondered if I would ever be that happy again. I was thinking the same thing Jeremiah asked in Lamentations 3:17b: “I have forgotten what happiness is.” I felt as though I was in a tunnel, with the sound muffled, looking out from the deep darkness within. It’s hard to explain what severe depression is like to someone who has never been to that very dark place. In Carol Kivler’s book, “Will I Ever Be the Same?” [pp. 92-93] she speaks from experience and describes her clinical depression this way:

book on ECTCarol Kivler

“I don’t want to feel like this, I am powerless.”
“I feel like I’m living in some parallel universe where I can see everything, but feel nothing.”
“I want to get excited to be with everyone, but there is a ‘disconnect’ I can’t explain.”
“I don’t even know who I am anymore.”
“I want you to hold me, and I want you to go away.”
“I know I’m not easy to be around but, you have no idea how much I need you.”

depression

These statements are exactly how I felt when I was clinically depressed. It came to the point where I didn’t know what to do anymore. I went to the church elders and they anointed me with oil and prayed for me. My friends the Dowlings and the Andersons and the Winnicks prayed for me, as well as other friends from church. But, I felt no relief. I wanted the pain to go away and I felt my family and friends would be better off without me. I became suicidal and my sister was afraid of what I might do and had no other choice but to have me check into the hospital.

Ephesians

I was hospitalized three times. During those times, I met some amazing people. All the nurses sincerely cared about me and were encouraging to me. They went out of their way to help me with my personal needs. The nurses and other staff saw glimpses of the “real Lydia” and told me that I was a wonderful person and admired my independent spirit and how I did things for myself. How did these people see me in such a positive way when it seemed like all I was doing was having anxiety attacks? I think it was a “God-thing.” God enabled them to see the person hidden deep inside me; the person God made me to be. During the first hospital stay, a staff member led trivia games in the evening, which brought out my competitive juices and helped me use my intellect. The staff member called me “the professor” and would say to my team, “You better go with the PhD’s answer if you want to win.” Even though it was difficult to stay focused and read, I did have my Bible with me. I was reading the Book of Ephesians for days and could not get passed chapter two. One day, I had a very interesting conversation with a male nurse, who was a Jehovah Witness. He asked me what I was reading. I told him I was reading about God’s grace and pointed to Ephesians 2:8-9: “For by GRACE you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” He said this concept of “GRACE” was very fascinating and he never heard about it before. God showed me that there was a reason why I was reading Ephesians chapter two for about the fifth time. During my second hospitalization, the medication nurse came into my room to check on me and saw my Bible. She asked me what I thought the meaning of life was: “Why are we here on earth?” I said, “We are here to love God and help each other” and I thanked her for helping me. She said, “I think you’re right” and “You’re very welcome.”

CDH

During my two stays at Cooley Dickinson Hospital, two doctors were instrumental in my recovery from clinical depression. Dr. Beth Warner [daughter of Mark and Janine Domina, people I knew from church] is a gerontologist who helped me regulate my bowels with medication and diet. Dr. Warner took my concerns and fears seriously and would come to see me almost everyday. She validated my concerns about being in a wheelchair and my fear that I might not make it to the restroom in time when I was at church or anywhere outside of my home. The second doctor was Dr. Zamir Nestilbaum who prescribed the sleeping and anti-depressant medications and told me about Electroconvulsive Therapy [ECT], commonly known as “shock therapy,” which is nothing like what is seen in horror movies.

COMPUTER CRASH

When I had to return to Cooley Dickinson Hospital a second time, I felt like a failure more than ever before and utterly hopeless. I kept saying over and over again, “I can’t believe I’m back here again! I can’t believe I’m back here again!” During a meeting with Dr, Nestilbaum, the social worker, my oldest nephew Luke and me, Dr. Nestilbaum explained that ECT was done for people who did not respond to anti-depressant medications. He told me to think of myself as a computer that “crashed” and I needed to be “re-booted.” He also told me that he used to perform ECT at Cooley Dickinson Hospital, but doesn’t anymore. He said he had a high success rate. He told me this procedure is done in hospitals in Holyoke, Worchester and Boston, and that he could call them to see if any of them had an opening for me. After being encouraged by my nephew Luke, I agreed to check out ECT.

breakfast with luke

(“Selfie” of Luke and me at Sylvester’s for 32nd Birthday! Notice the uncanny resemblance!)

The reason why my sister Jane asked her eldest son Luke [29-years-old at the time] to be my advocate was she was overwhelmed with what I was happening to me, her oldest sister who was always there for her. She had just finished an emotionally and physically draining ten years, only two years prior, taking care of our parents. I understood that she was afraid of losing me and didn’t know what to do or how to help me. It was very important for her being a caretakers to take needed time away and take care of herself and rest and regroup. Every caregiver needs to take care of themselves, in order to be able to care for others. My nephew Luke and I have a special bond. Luke has fought “demons” of his own. He was struck by a drunk driver, at the age of fourteen, and almost lost his life. Luke deals with pain everyday. He knows what it’s like to struggle with physical and emotional pain. That is why Luke was an excellent advocate for me. We grew even closer during this time. Some say we are “two peas in a pod.”

After the meeting, Dr Nestilbaum made phone calls to the hospitals in the three cities which offered ECT. I now had to wait for an opening.

To be continued…

In His Grip and For His Glory,

becket pics4

 

Lydia

A Testimony of God’s Grace (Part II): Checking Under Every Rock

a pile of rocks

Beginning in February 2012, I began to have trouble sleeping. I began waking up at 2 a.m. and was not able to fall back to sleep. I didn’t think anything was bothering me. I couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t sleep. This went on for a few months. Before, when I had trouble sleeping, I would take one Benedryl to help me get to sleep, but that wasn’t working anymore. I finally saw a nurse practitioner [my doctor was away] in April. First, she had me try natural sleep aids, such as melatonin and serotonin, but neither worked in my case. The lack of sleep was taking a toll on me, I was becoming depressed. I went to the nurse practitioner several times and she gave me different anti-depressant medications to try. Each time she promised I would feel better in a few weeks; that the medication worked like magic. Each medication was not the “magic pill” I was promised. Every medication did not make me feel better, but only made me feel worse. I was becoming more and more depressed. Due to the lack of sleep and mounting depression I could not handle the things that were happening around me – four or five good friends were battling cancer, friends I considered family were leaving the church and not even saying “Good-bye” and I really didn’t understand why, an elderly neighbor Joe passed away and I felt bad that I never told him about Jesus, someone I deeply cared about was having trouble in school. All that was happening around me I considered to be heart-wrenching struggles and I was overwhelmed by them. I saw no way to help any of my dear friends. I was not able to pray as I did before.

confused

Because of my insomnia and depression, I did not have an appetite. Whenever I tried to eat I would feel my throat tighten. I could not make a grocery list because I had no interest in food of any kind. This was not like me. I tried to figure out what was wrong with me. I searched the internet for answers. Could my depression be linked to my cerebral palsy? Is there such a thing as a neuropsychiatrist? [There is, but not in this area]. Are there other anti-depressant medications I could try? I did not get many answers from the internet. After searching the web to no avail, I thought maybe I had diabetes. Maybe that’s what causing everything to go off-kilter. I asked my friend Holly, who is a nurse, to come in the morning to check my blood sugar count. Without hesitation, she did what I asked. I did not have diabetes. Then, I thought maybe I was poisoning myself by using plastic travel mugs for hot drinks. I was checking under every rock and grasping at straws to find answers. I wanted to know what was wrong with me.

Bible Thumper

(Bible Thumper)

I chose not to try Christian counseling because I thought I knew what the counselor would say. I knew all the Scripture s/he would quote, such as I Peter 5:7: “…casting all your anxiety on [Jesus] because He cares for you” and Matthew 6:25ff: “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life…But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” and Philippians 4:6-7: “…do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” and I Thessalonians 5:16-19: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God for you” and many other Scripture promises I already knew.

crawling under a rock

What I wanted people to understand was what I knew and believed did not help with how I was feeling. There was a disconnect between what I knew to be true and the empty hopelessness I was feeling. I thought going to a Christian counselor would only make me more depressed and guilt-ridden. but also feel like a failure. I thought I would not be encouraged, but feel like crawling under a rock. These thoughts might have been untrue, but it was what I thought at the time. Feelings of sorrow and even depression are not sinful, but they are part of the human condition. We read that Paul and the church in Philippi experienced deep sorrow and anxiety for one of their brothers in the faith. Paul writes:

“I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, and your messenger and minister to my need, for he has been longing for you all and has been DISTRESSED because you heard that he was ill. Indeed he was ill, near to death. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have SORROW UPON SORROW. I am more eager to send him, therefore, that you may rejoice at seeing him again, and that I [Paul] may be less ANXIOUS. So receive him in the Lord with all joy, and honor such men, for he nearly died for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me” [Philippians 2:25-30].

Betsy and Paul

 (Paul, a Church Elder, introduced Betsy [right] and me before we presented “my story”)

APOSTLE Paul

(The Apostle Paul [Notice the uncanny resemblance in the two Pauls!])

Throughout Paul’s Epistles, he speaks about his concern for the newly established churches [For example, read I and II Corinthians and Galatians]. It is interesting to me that Paul didn’t just heal Epaphroditus. Perhaps God used his illness for His greater good and His eternal purposes for His Church. There are some believers in the Christian faith who look at the show of concern and sorrow and grief as having a lack of faith. However, when we read Paul’s Epistles, we see Paul being honest about his worry and even his anxiety for the churches he is caring for. We need to learn from Paul’s honesty that the only time we can come to terms with our feelings is when we are willing to be honest and become vulnerable with the people we trust with our feelings. In our honesty and vulnerability, God reveals His mercy and grace in our time of need. He wants His Church to show His mercy and grace to each other and those outside the Church [our neighbors].

Betsy and Lydia

(My friend Betsy graciously read “my story” [I was the “sidekick].)

For instance, crying is allowed at Christian memorial services and funerals, among believers who love one another as brothers and sisters. Yes, we know that our loved ones are with the Lord, but we also know we will still miss them. We will still be reminded of their absence when we do the things we used to do together. It is okay to feel sad and miss someone we dearly love. Why do some people tell us to stop crying? Why do they judge our crying to be a “weakness” when it is really a gift from God? Do our neighbors know us by God’s mercy and grace exhibited in our lives or by our judgmental attitudes?

Life Together in Christ

In her book, “LIFE TOGETHER IN CHRIST”, Ruth Haley Barton expresses exactly why I did not seek Christian counseling when I was clinically depressed:

“I don’t know about you, but when I am in the throes of loss and disillusionment, profound emotions and dangerous questions, I usually want to keep to myself. Some things feel entirely too personal to share with others, and at such moments I am convinced that no one could possibly understand what I’m going through. The idea of trying to put the unspeakable into words feels completely exhausting, and the thought of subjecting my soul to inane questions and trite answers during such tender times is almost too much to bear” [pp. 25-26].

carry each other's bures

Instead of going to Christian counseling, I did what Parker Palmer, the author of the book “A Hidden Wholeness” writes [Ruth Haley Barton quotes him in her book mentioned above]:

dining with friends

(Sharing a meal before Bible Study with my friends [bottom left and around table]:Priscilla, Rich, Wendy, Fran, Lydia, Pam, Jack, Lynda)

“When I went into a deadly darkness that I had walked alone, the darkness called clinical depression, I took comfort and drew strength from those few people who neither fled from me nor tried to save me but were simply present to me” [pp. 60-61].

I told several of my close friends about my insomnia and depression and that I felt lost. I told them it’s like “I can’t find Lydia.” These friends listened to me, prayed with me, asked me how they could help me and told me to call them any time. Just knowing that these precious brothers and sisters in Christ were there for me was somewhat of a comfort.

To be continued…

In His Grip and For His Glory,

photo 1 (2)

Lydia

A Testimony of God’s Grace (Part II): “Background Check”

depression

In order to better understand what happened to me in 2012, some background information is needed. First, knowing the difference between “sadness” and “clinical depression” is important. Also, it is important to learn a little bit about my childhood and my life prior to 2012.

Googling is a beautiful thing. One may learn just about everything by googling on one‘s computer.

I googled: “What is the Difference Between Clinical Depression And Sadness? This is what I found:

confused

“Although depression is often thought of as being in an extreme state of sadness, there is a vast difference between clinical depression and sadness. Sadness is a part of being human, a natural reaction to painful circumstances. All of us will experience sadness at some point in our lives. Depression, however, is a physical illness with many more symptoms than an unhappy mood. The person with clinical depression finds that there is not a logical reason for his dark feelings. Exhortations from well-meaning friends and family for him to ‘snap out of it’ provide only frustration for he can no more ‘snap out of it’ than the diabetic can will his pancreas to produce more insulin. Sadness is a transient feeling that passes as a person comes to terms with his troubles. Depression can linger for weeks, months or even years. The sad person feels bad, but continues to cope with living. A person with clinical depression may feel overwhelmed and hopeless.”

depression vs. sadness

There have been times in my life when I have been sad. Just before entering graduate school I thought I met “The One,” but he turned out not to be “The One.” I was sad for awhile, but then realized how the Lord helped me “dodge a bullet.” After graduate school I found a job, but had to resign after three months. The job wasn’t a good fit for me. I was very sad and thought I failed at completing my lifetime goal of getting a job and living independently. I moved in with my friend Pam and another woman named Mildred and started to get my life back together again. Mildred was the one who told me about Hopetown in Carmel, N.Y. I applied and was accepted as a home missionary and worked as a teacher at a residential school for disabled children and adults. I later became a house dean supervisor and schedule coordinator. I was very happy at Hopetown. After six years, things were changing at the school and I felt God was calling me back home. I was sad to leave Hopetown, but I was also happy to be home. I lived with my friends the Dowlings for a year, then with my friend Tibby, until I got my own apartment in Northampton. I tried to start a ministry with people with disabilities at my church, but that never really got off the ground. Again, I felt that I failed to accomplish what God wanted me to do, BUT GOD helped me to excel as a deacon at my church for six years. After living in Northampton and being so free to come and go as I pleased [I could walk back then], my apartment building became unsafe for me [residents who had substance abuse problems would set fires in the building], so my sister Jane invited me to live in the downstairs apartment at her family’s house. I was sad to have to leave Northampton and all I was able to do there [I could walk or take the bus to wherever I wanted to go], but I was happy to be near Jane and her family and my new apartment was so much bigger and more beautiful than the one in Northampton and I could have kitties! These are examples of sad times in my life which did not last long, because I was never overwhelmed with sadness to the point of not being able to function in the “normal” activities of everyday life.

I googled the definition of “clinical depression”. Here is one definition I found:

clinical depression

“Although it’s not a formally recognized term, clinical depression describes a condition in which persistent low mood and related symptoms are severe enough to interfere with everyday life. Losing interest in activities, having trouble finding pleasure in things that you used to enjoy, deep sadness, and unexplained crying are just some of the possible symptoms of clinical depression. The word “clinical” implies that the symptoms are serious enough to require psychiatric [medical] treatment.”

Clinical depression can develop from traumatic experiences in one’s life; such as a death in the family, losing everything in a fire, losing one’s job, the “death” of a life-long dream or it can just happen out of the blue without anything out of the ordinary happening to trigger it. In some cases, clinical depression can creep into one’s life overnight or it can be insidious and slowly take over one’s life over time. Clinical depression can be genetic and “run in the family.”

twin towers

Everything changed for everyone on September 11, 2001. Just about a month prior to 9/11, everything changed for my family. On August 18, 2001, my dad suffered a severe stroke. My dad had been caring for his disabled wife, my mom, for many years. Because of my dad’s stroke, he and my mom came to live with me, so that Jane and I could take care of them. They both needed 24/7 care. Jane took care of their many physical needs and I supervised the personal care attendants who came when Jane was at work and oversaw the visiting nurses to make sure everyone was “on the same page.” When my parents needed something during the night, I had to call Jane for help. My dad passed away in March 2003 and my mom passed away in January 2010. Although the first nine years of the 21st century were physically, emotionally and spiritually grueling and painful for both of us, Jane and I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. Our parents took care of us. It was our turn to take care of them.

My Good Side

During the time of caring for my parents, especially my mom, I was slowly losing my ability to walk. I can still remember the happiest day of my life was when I started walking on my own at nine years old. Because of my cerebral palsy, it took that long for me to be able to get walking. I remember waking up one morning and saying to my mom, “I think I can walk.” I stood up and walked over to her. What a feeling of elation and pure joy! I had been getting stronger every year; having weekly physical therapy and having my dad hold me with a towel around my waist to help me walk. I also had a walker with a padded circle to slip up in with four steel “legs” with wheels to help me practice

eagle

walking. I pretended to be a giant spider when I used this strange “mobile device” to walk. I also had a “standing box,” with a door that shut me inside it, with a “desk“ to put my coloring book and crayons on. The thing looked like a pulpit [Now you see where my “preaching” comes from]. I would stand in my “pulpit” for an hour a day. I got to the point of being able to walk by holding onto counters, chairs and walls. At nine years old, I was finally able to walk BY MYSELF! It almost felt like I could fly; I was so excited and overjoyed! And now, in my fifties, I was losing the precious ability to walk. First, my right ankle “wore out,” then my left knee. Body parts do wear out with age, especially when they are used in the “wrong way” for half a century minus nine years. I walked with an awkward gait. Because my right side was weaker than my left, I had to compensate somehow.

World Series 04

[Mom in the middle, with me and my sister Jane after the RED SOX ’07 W.S. win.)

During the two years after my mom’s death, I thought I was handling things well with losing my mom and also my ability to walk. I invented my own walker and named it “Tessie.” It was a hemi-walker with wheels front legs and little “skis” on the back, so I could pushed it with my dominant left hand. I even had a basket on the front to keep things in. My friend Pam and I did “A Hot Dog Stand Survey” by eating our way across the Pioneer Valley and beyond, visiting hotdog stands and rating them with a list of criteria we made up. We even sent out our findings via email to members of our church and others. 2011 was a good year because my nephew’s high school football team [Eagles] won the championship, the Bruins won the Stanley Cup and other fun things were happening. During this time, my walking with “Tessie’s” help was becoming harder and harder to do and was not very efficient or safe anymore. Most of my coming and going was now done with a transport chair. Having to go places with my transport chair limited the people I could ask for rides to church and other places because not everyone was able to lift the chair into their trunks or back seat. From someone who used to speed-walk all over Northampton; to someone who had to stay home with her parents; to someone who now was free to come and go as she pleased, but now wasn’t physically able to do so, I guess that took a toll on me. I had time to think about what I had lost: my biggest fan and my treasured freedom to come and go as I pleased.

To be continued…

In His Grip,

IMG_1951

Lydia

A Testimony of God’s Grace (Part II): Reality Check

a spirit of truth

Before delving into my story, I want to give you a quiz. Having a degree and experience in teaching, I will always be a teacher at heart. Here goes:

1. You are camping at Indian Hollow and someone allergic to bees is stung by one. What do you do?

A. Tell the person who was stung, “Just have faith and renounce the bee and all its devilish powers and it will not have a hold on you.”

B. Run for the person’s epipen as fast as you can and administer the needed medicine to counteract the allergic reaction.

2. You are having lunch with a friend and she starts having an asthma attack. What do you do?

A. You rebuke your friend for having such little faith and command her “to just get over it and stop it.”

B. Help your friend to find her inhaler in her “bottomless” handbag.

3. You are visiting your uncle who has diabetes and is showing signs of having low blood sugar [sweating, becoming sleepy and disoriented]. What do you do?

A. Tell him to take charge of his life and his pancreas and order the “diabetic demon” to leave and never return.

B.. Quickly find some orange juice, ice cream, candy or anything with sugar and give it to him. If he does not get better, call 911.

facts

Hopefully, you have realized that the “A” answers are totally absurd and the “B” answers are the correct answers. In the 21st century, our society, as the Christian Church included, still stigmatizes mental illness in all of its forms, including clinical [severe] depression. Many fail to understand that clinical depression is caused by a physical problem, namely a chemical imbalance in the brain, which needs medical intervention. People, including brothers and sisters in Christ, not only battle with clinical depression, but they also battle with the misconceptions people still believe about severe depression. Sadly, this wrong way of thinking includes people who profess Christ as their Savior and Lord. Because of these wrong thinking Christians who deal with clinical depression feel something is wrong with their character, they lack faith and they are embarrassed to talk about their sickness because they are told they “just need to try harder to feel better.” Christians are told by other Christians that they need to have faith and “look at the bright side of things and not be so negative all the time.” They feel ashamed for not being able to “give their problems over to God and believe in His promises and live by faith.” All these exhortations causing false guilt and shame are not only wrong, but they are also extremely harmful and irresponsible and just plain wrong. It is very important to understand, whether you are a Christian friend or a Christian counselor, clinical depression is an illness and, as in the case of any illness, it needs to be treated medically. This includes may include taking medication and undergoing other forms of medical treatment and therapies.

APOSTLE Paul

II Timothy 1:7 is often quoted in church, at Bible studies and by people who think they are “helping“ someone to “get a grip” and move on with his/her life : “…God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”

When was the last time you heard I Timothy 5:23 quoted: “No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.”

pepto bismol

(There was no Pepto Bismol back in the day)

II Timothy 1:7 is a goal we pray to become our way of life. Being controlled by the Holy Spirit is what we pray to obtain. The Holy Spirit is doing a sanctifying work in our lives and that takes time. In I Timothy I:7, Paul wrote an aside and gave some fatherly advice to Timothy. He told Timothy to drink wine which, among other things, was used for medicinal purposes. Paul knew of Timothy’s many stomach ailments, possibly due to stress. It is interesting that Paul did not rebuke Timothy for being sick all the time and remove him from his position of leadership in the Church.

Paul himself wrote about his spiritual journey and admitted that he did not fully understand “the power of the resurrection” in his life:

empty tomb

“- that I may know [Christ] and the power of His resurrection, and may share in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, that by as many means possible I may attain the resurrection of the dead. NOT THAT I ALREADY OBTAINED THIS OR AM ALREADY PERFECT, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me His own” [Philippians 3:10-12].

I believe Paul had his own need for medical treatment. He was familiar with illness and pain from physical persecution. I believe we don’t know his exact illness [“thorn in the flesh”] because God wants us to apply II Corinthians 12:8-10 to our own situation:

God's Way

“Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this [thorn in the flesh], that it would leave me. But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. FOR WHEN I AM WEAK, THEN I AM STRONG.”

Some people, Christians included, believe that having to take any kind of medication is a weakness. They are prideful of the fact that they do not need any doctors or have to take any medication [yet], as if they are totally responsible for their own good health. But, when we acknowledge our weaknesses and our dependency on God, that is the time we experience God’s sufficiency and His power is made perfect in our weaknesses, because we place ourselves in a position in which we can be helped. That is why Paul is able to exclaim, “FOR WHEN I AM WEAK, THEN I AM STRONG.” Having his own ailments from beatings and imprisonments, Paul needed medical attention. That is why, I believe, he traveled with Luke, who was “the beloved physician” [See Colossians 4:14].

Not having to take any medication, as though it is in our control, is not something to boast about. It is something to thank God for because He is the One who is in control of our lives. There is something much more important to boast about:

“Thus says the LORD: ‘Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty [healthy] man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight,’ declares the LORD” [Jeremiah 9:23-24].

To be continued…

“For, Lo, the winter is past.

the rain is over and gone;

the flowers appear on the earth;

the time of the singing of birds

is come.”

(from Song of Solomon 2:11-12)

Cherry Tree and Forsythia Bush 3robin and nest

Lydia

A Testimony of God’s Grace (Part II): Introduction

CC Congregation

[“A Testimony of God’s Grace (Part I)” was written on March 3, 2015. If you wish to read it, you may go to https://lydslookonlife.wordpress.com and scroll down to find it. If you are already in my blog, you just have to scroll down to the post written on March 3, 2015. I waited until now to write “Part II” because I wanted to wait until I gave my “Testimony of God’s grace (Part II)” during a Sunday morning worship service, at my church, on May 3, 2015.]

bible book

What if I asked you, “What is your favorite book of the Bible?” This is just a hunch, but I’m guessing that not many of you, if any at all, would answer, “The Book of Lamentations.” I don‘t blame you. I myself am a Book of Numbers person —JUST KIDDING!!!

“Lamentation” means “funeral song” or “dirge.” The Book of Lamentations consists of five funeral songs probably written by the prophet Jeremiah shortly after the destruction of Jerusalem. Jeremiah “laments” over the loss of Jerusalem and the Temple of God, and mourns over the loss of a nation – God’s nation of Judah. Each chapter is a funeral dirge. But wait! There’s more.

Great is Thy Faithfulness

Even though The Book of Lamentations may not make my “Top Five” most read books of the Bible, Chapter 3 contains the words of one of my favorite hymns: “Great is Thy Faithfulness.” In Lamentations, “Song 3” in the middle of Jeremiah’s graphic word pictures describing his sorrow over the suffering he sees and experiences, he also speaks of how God will use these times of grief to produce hope in a righteous God who is full of compassion and mercy. Jeremiah writes in Lamentations 3: 19 -23:

“Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall! My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me. BUT, this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases: His mercies never come to an end: They are new every morning; GREAT IS YOUR FAITHFULNESS.”

STEADFAST LOVE

In the midst of his anguish and even because of all he is going through, God reveals Himself to Jeremiah as the God of hope, steadfast love, endless mercy and great faithfulness. The Book Lamentations teaches us to be honest with one another in good times and in bad. It also teaches us to pray for one another, believing that God will answer our prayers in his perfect time.

masks we wear

Brennan Manning, author of The Ragamuffin Gospel, once said, “To live by grace means to acknowledge my whole life story, the light side and the dark. In admitting my shadow side I learn who I am and what God’s grace means.” Manning also is quoted to say, “There is a beautiful transparency to honest disciples who never wear a false face and do not pretend to be anything but who they are.” This is why I am writing “A Testimony of God’s Grace (Part II).” There is something more I need to share with you. I pray that what I am about to share in the coming weeks will be glorifying to God and life-giving to all who read these blog posts.

mickey mouse wink
In “Part I” what I shared was mostly the “good stuff.” In “Part II” I’m going to share “the rest of the story.” If I were to say to you, “When I became a Christian [when the Lord Jesus grabbed hold of my heart] at the age of eighteen, there has been nothing but “smooth sailing” ever since, what would you think? Hopefully, you would know that I was telling you a fairy tale. If not, I have some prime swamp land in Florida to sell you, near the Magic Kingdom, owned by Mickey Mouse. Jesus did not tell us that once we start following Him, all our struggles will disappear and we will “live happily ever after.” In John 16:33b, Jesus tells His disciples [that includes us], “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” Jesus promises to be with us in our trials, help us through them and never leave us or forsake us. Jesus tells us, “I am the Good Shepherd. I know My own and My own know Me, just as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep…My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of My hand” [John 10:14-15, 27-28].

Christ the Shepherd

I know now, more than ever before, that Jesus is my Good Shepherd and that no one, not even the devil himself, is able to snatch me away from Jesus’ strong grip on my life. I know this to be true because of what happened to me in 2012. According to the Mayan culture and its Mesoamerican calendar, 2012 [December 21, 2012 to be exact] was to be the end of the world. 2012 was almost the end of me. In sharing “the rest of my story,” I pray God will use it to help others who are going through the same type of struggles; to give you hope and encourage you to find the help you need.

To be continued…

Father, Son and Holy Spirit

The Lyd

Lydia