When Losing is Winning

[This is a continuation to my last post, “It’s Been Awhile”]

serenity-prayer

[Theologian Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971)]

 Dear Blog Readers,

An utterly bizarre and atypical sequence of events happened in the world of baseball on September 28, 2016. On that night, and almost at the same time, the RED SOX LOST to the Yankees, at Yankee Stadium, and they WON the American League Eastern Division Championship! How on earth did the RED SOX lose and win at the same time? This is how it went down: In order to win the East Championship 1. the RED SOX had to beat the Yankees or 2. the Orioles had to beat the Blue Jays and put them out of contention for first place. The Jays would still have a chance to win the Wild Card which they did]. There are other scenarios, but I won’t go there. I’ll just say, the Orioles helped the RED SOX WIN the Division, though the Orioles did not want to help the RED SOX, by beating the Blue Jays. This unusual moment in baseball history is truly one for the record books.

At first, the SOX players didn’t know what to think or do. How could they celebrate when they lost to their “favorite” nemesis in such a heart-wrenching way: It was the bottom of the ninth inning, the SOX were ahead 3 to 0, the bases were loaded with Yankees, Mark Teixeira was at the plate and he hit a walk-off GRAND SLAM and the RED SOX experienced a crushing 3 to 4 defeat at the hands of their longtime rivals. How can anybody celebrate after that?

papi-celibrating

Walking to the Visitors’ Clubhouse, the RED SOX players and coaches did not look at all like champs, with their “What-just-happened” dejected faces. The clubhouse was made ready for the Boston RED SOX to celebrate winning the division, with heavy plastic covering the walls [and everything else that needed protection], large bins of Champagne and beer on ice, championship caps and T-shirts to wear, and even goggles to protect their eyes. [The Champagne and beer sting the eyes when the players spray each other with them. I don’t mind the beer spraying, but Champagne? C’MON MAN!] How on earth could the Sox get into celebration-mode? Their manager, John Farrell, got everyone together and shared some wonderful words of wisdom. He said something like this: “Don’t let one inning ruin what we’ve accomplished and take away the fact that we are Division Champions.” That’s all Farrell’s team needed to hear to get into a partying mood. The Yankees’ Visitors’ Clubhouse will never be the same.

I have a saying: “BASEBALL IS LIFE IS BASEBALL!” I have learned many very important life lessons from the game of baseball. The lesson I am learning from the baseball game played on September 28th is NOT TO DWELL ON MY LOSSES, BUT TO BE THANKFUL FOR MY WINS: 1. my loving family and friends, 2. the abilities I still can do, 3. being able to live at home with my loving family, 4. my caring church family, 5. caring professionals who work with me to help me get better, as well as the medications that are helping, 6. that I’m growing stronger, 7. my ability to write and encourage others through my blog, 8 the encouragement I receive from the responses to my blog posts, 9. THE JOY OF WATCHING RED SOX IN THE POST SEASON!!!

“Not that I have already obtained this or am aready perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Jesus has made me His own” [Philippians 3:12

I also am learning NOT TO DWELL ON THE RECENT PAST AND MY STRUGGLES WITH DEPRESSION BY: 1. taking it one step at a time and one day at a time, 2. not stressing over the things I can’t control or aren’t that important, 3. enjoying the times I have with my family and friends, 4. being open to suggestions from those who care about me, 5. DOING MY EXERCISES AND EATING HEALTHY FOODS, 6. not being in a hurry when there’s no time limits [writing a blog post,] 7. helping those who help me in any way I can [not being in a rush, asking for help at the appropriate time and being sensitive to what the caregiver is doing and waiting until s/he is finished.], 8. Knowing when I can wait and when I can’t wait. 9. Not panicking when things do not go as planned.

Christian heelping another

From the last two paragraphs, I realize that there are many things I can still do to enjoy life and to help others. In a real sense no one person is independent. As human beings, we all have struggles. We all need God’s help and we all need help from each other. We are all interdependent in one way or another. We will keep losing our abilities as we grow older in one way or another, sooner than later. However, we also keep winning and need to focus on the abilities we still have to help ourselves and to help others. The paragraph above are the goals I am working on, by God’s grace and the help of my family and friends. This is a work in progress. There will be good days and bad days. There will be improvements and setbacks, wins and losses. With God’s help the bad days will not overpower the good days and the setbacks will not overshadow the accomplishments. It is very important not to be hard on myself. What I am praying for something like the Serenity Prayer. [See above]

And that’s my story. “’Nuf sed” [Google it.]

ON TO THE POST SEASON! GO SOX!

Trophy w Mom and Jane

[Me, My Sister Jane and our Mom Vicky who passed away in 2010 ]

cHRISTIAN BLOGGER WOMAN

Lydia

P.S. It is very important to understand that depression is an illness. When depression becomes clinical depression and is severe and takes over my life, no matter how many fine the goals I set, this is the time to seek medical help. No one [including myself] should feel guilty or ashamed of being severely depressed. What we should do instead is to recognize the symptoms and go to talk to professional who treats people with depression. Some of my warning signs are having no appetite, feeling like I’m in a cloud of despair and having little concentration or interest to do anything. When someone is being treated for depression, is doing okay for awhile, and suddenly has a relapse, s/he may need an adjustment to the medications s/he is taking. In my case, I needed more ECT treatments to get back on track. Go with a close friend or family member and ask your doctor about your options. There is help out there. It takes awhile to find it. Please do not give up.

God Sees Us as

Next post will be sent after the 2016 World Series.

It’s Been Awhile

cookie monster

Dear Blog Post Readers,

It’s been awhile since I have written a blog post for you all. I believe I need to tell you why. This last Summer has been a difficult one for me. I have been dealing with many medical issues which have been a source of anxiety, disappointment and discouragement. Depression once again raised its ugly head. After many doctor and counseling and physical therapy visits, and with the love of my family and friends, I am once again getting back to getting on with life. But, before I could get on with my life, I had to focus on my new physical limitations and how to face them and live with them. Before I could face them, I had to receive ten more ECT treatments, which did help my emotional state of mind. However, the treatments did a number on my short-term memory, finding the right words to express myself, my low stamina and short concentration span. In addition, I needed to find something to help my bowel and bladder control issues. I finished the ECT treatments about two months ago. I am now finally regaining all the things I had lost (listed above). Also, my doctor prescribed two medications that are helping with bowel and bladder control. Being able to write this blog post is a personal victory for me. I am once again a “Word Person” and a “Christian Woman Blogger”! Watching four-and-a-half-hour RED SOX/Yankee games must have played a part in improving my concentration and attention span.

IMG_1951

As for my current physical abilities, I am not able to do the things I have worked my whole life to achieve. Oftentimes, cerebral palsy speeds up the aging process because of years and years of doing things “the wrong way” or what I like to say “compensating or adjusting to the only way the cerebral palsy will allow. For example, after years and years of walking with an abnormal gait, ankles and knees and backs and many other parts wear out sooner than later. Some people may say, “We are all getting older.” But, I don’t see these same people sitting in wheelchairs or having to deal with poor fine motor skills when eating or typing or struggling to communicate with labored and slurred speech. I may sound like I’m feeling sorry for myself, but I really am not. I am only sharing what I am going through as a 61-year-old woman with cerebral palsy. The aging process may be more “complicated” for me and for many others who are challenged with disabilities and the other struggles of life. Saying, “We are all getting older” really does not help open up meaningful healing dialogue. What really helps is when someone is listening with compassion, understanding and empathy, and not with a judgmental, self-pious and superior attitude. It helps when listeners are able to imagine themselves in the other person’s wheelchair, braces, splinters, orthopedic shoes or “moccasins.” I have been blessed with people in my life who know how to listen. After validating my struggles as real, we can talk about how to get the help I need and what things I can do to help my situation. We can then move on to talk about our blessings, the RED SOX, the PATRIOTS, the BRUINS, CELTICS and other interests we have (H).

Lydia photo

Independence has been my life’s goal ever since I can remember. At a very early age I wanted to grow up to be a person who lives independently, who is treated with the same respect as others are treated and one who is able to help others with the respect and dignity they deserve as human beings. The happiest day of my life was the day I woke up one morning, at the age of nine and started to walk on my own. From that time on I grew stronger and my balance got better and better and my body grew less and less spastic. I did grow up to live independently from the time I entered college until I began to lose my physical abilities in my 50’s to the present time. I loved being on my own, going grocery shopping, walking to church, making my own meals, having friends over and going over to my friends. I loved being a deacon at my church and helping those in need. I did so many other things in my independence – I was involved with three Christian organizations (in New York, Pennsylvania, and the Boston area) who ministered with the disabled. I led Bible studies in my home (i.e. “Wine and the Word”, “Bread and the Bible”, “John’s Gospel”, “Life Together” by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, just to name a few). I went on road trips to wineries and Fenway and Camden Yards, and Pennsylvania to visit friends. I went on plane trips to California and Oregon and Hawaii and Cozemel and Equator. I cared for my parents, alongside my sister, during the last years of their lives. I did so many fun and fulfilling things during my independent years. I had a blast! Independence is a beautiful thing, especially when acknowledging one’s total dependence on God at the same time!

So, how does “Queen Independence” cope with her life that is now almost totally dependent on others for her “ACTIVITIES OF DAILY LIVING”? What have I learned this Summer that will help me get “on the road ahead?” I will share this in my next blog post in two weeks.

By His Grace, bridge of flowers back2

Lydia

P.S. I have shared very difficult and personal struggles in my life. I would rather have kept them private and secret. However, keeping them to myself would not help others who are dealing with the same kind of struggles. I want you to know that you are not alone. There is help. Please do not give up.

Give Thanks

give thanks

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstance; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (I Thessaalonians:16-18).

There have been many sermons preached, hymns sung and books written regarding the above Scripture verses. To be truthful and totally honest, I have a difficult time “rejoicing always.” During those times when life is overwhelming, I am not “thankful” for what is overwhelming me and causing turmoil in my life. However, I am “thankful” for my family and friends who stand by me and help me through the difficult times. I also have a hard time “praying without ceasing” when it seems as though God is not listening to my prayers. During those dry seasons, I am extremely grateful for my family, my church body and my “circle of close friends” who pray on my behalf and take time to visit me and listen to me more than talk at me.

ELDERS PRAYING FOR THE SICK

“Give thanks in all circumstances for this is the will of God in Christ for you” is extremely difficult for me to do when my life has been turned up-side-done. Does God want me to be thankful for the awful things happening to me? Does God want me to be thankful for the cancer a friend is battling or other life-threatening diseases family members are dealing with? Does God want me to be thankful for spiritual, emotional and physical problems? Can I be thankful for sickness, tragedies, catastrophes and all that is evil in the world? In my limited understanding, I believe the answer is “NO!” Using my finite brain, I think being joyful about the horrible circumstances in my life or other people’s lives or being thankful for the horrific events happening in the world, sounds rather masochistic. In the Scripture verse “Give thanks in all circumstances” , I believe the key word is “IN”.

Christian heelping another

I believe the verses “rejoice always” and “pray without ceasing” are noble goals for Christians to work on. However, when someone is overwhelmed with what is happening in his/her life and cannot rejoice or pray, that is the time for brothers and sisters to “encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all” (I Thessalonians 5:14b). I believe this means gently encouraging those who are struggling by pointing out the good that is happening around them and in them without disrespecting their struggles. It also means praying for those who just cannot pray for themselves and not rebuking them for their “lack of faith.” “Give thanks in all circumstances for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” does not mean we must to be thankful for the bad circumstances we are struggling with. I believe it means that we should look for the good that we can be thankful for IN the midst of those circumstances.

cHRISTIAN BLOGGER WOMAN

Many of you might have noticed my last blog post was written on August 3rd and I did not write blog posts during the months of September through much of November. The reason for my absence is that I have been struggling with severe depression again. This came as a total shock. I truly believed God healed me from depression. I knew that other people who suffered from depression need ongoing medical care, but I thought I was an EXCEPTION. I thought that dealing with cerebral palsy all my life was enough “on my plate”. I had been doing so well for three years. I took my meds faithfully. I felt encouraged and useful for the Kingdom as I wrote my blog posts for God’s glory and to help my readers. Everything was going well up to the middle of this August. Suddenly, all my meds stopped working. I was having trouble sleeping, having trouble “moving my bowels”, which caused anxiety and a loss of appetite, just like the first time I struggled with depression. After trying to get help for weeks, I finally was hospitalized for the entire month of September. During my month’s hospital stay, I was given bilateral ECT treatments for my depression, which caused short term memory loss, and treated for additional physical complications.

bridge of flowers back2

I remember very little about what happened betwee, mid-August through in September. I do know it was a frightening time. I cannot be thankful for having to deal with severe depression again, as well as more physical limitations. In fact, I was very angry with God and I’m still dealing and coming to terms with God allowing this to happen to me again. The depression came fast and furious and I didn’t know what hit me. Is it a sin to be angry at God? I say “NO.” Instead, I believe it’s being honest. Being honest with God helps me to be honest with myself, so that I may begin to deal with my grief over losing what I worked for all my life – my independance. In dealing with my grief, I can start the journey from thinking I am an EXCEPTION to getting closer to the  ACCEPTANCE of my depression coming back and experiencing more physical limitations that most people who are aging have to deal with sooner or later. This journey helps me to be more possitive and do what I need to do to get better and work on the abilities I still have. I believe that being angry with God is much better than believing there is no God.

turkey stuffing

This Thanksgiving I am so thankful for my sister Jane, her husband Mark and my nephew Luke. They made it possible for me to come home in the beginning of October. Being at home with a loving family makes a BIG difference. I do not feel alone. I am thankful that my family makes it possible for me to go to my various appointments and come home, instead of having to stay at a rehabilitation facility. I have been going to physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and I’m seeing a counselor and “perscriber” of psychiatric drugs. I am thankful for all these people who are helping me to get better. I am thankful that I am getting better and physically stronger. I am also thankful for my sister Sophie who lives in Oregon. Even though she lives so far away, she finds ways to help me.

fruit basket

This Thanksgiving I am thankful for my church family who are praying for me. Even though I do not remember much of what happened during my hospital stay, I have learned that many of my “circle of friends” and my new Pastor came to visit me in the hospital. I am thankful for P&J who came to be with me while my sister Jane was away. Many others sent cards and emails with personal words of encouragement. I have not been able to attend church because the morning time is too complicated right now. I am thankful for friends from church who are coming to visit me. I’ve known these friends for decades who come to listen and to encourage. I am very thankful for them all..

This Thanksgiving I am thankful for all the nurses, doctors, and other hospital staff and volunteers who took care of me during my month-long stay in the hospital. Again, I don’t remember very much, but I remember some of the people who were very kind and caring. My sister Jane and P&J told me how much the hospital staff and volunteers liked me and wanted to help me to get better

bed puppies.

(Pupper [right] and Woof [left] belong to Jane and Mark, but they love me too!)

There many other people and puppies I am thankful for, but I need to stop here, except for one other thing. I am very thankful that I was able to write this blog post to my many readers. I am thankful for you all. I wanted to let you know what was happening and why I have not written for several months. Also, I wanted to wish you a VERY HAPPY THANKSGIVING! May we all realize how much we have to be thankful for.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Lydia

 

A Testimony of God’s Grace (Part II): Check a Few More Off the “Bucket List”

bucket list

This is a secret just between you and me. You may share it with only a few hundred of your closest friends whom you trust. One of the goals on my “Bucket List” is to be the main “speaker” during a Sunday morning worship service at my church. I use the word “speaker” and not “preacher” for the obvious reason: I’m not ordained. Some may be thinking, “You’ve got to be kidding! How can a woman with cerebral palsy and slurred speech ever be the main “speaker” anywhere, let alone in a Sunday morning worship service? Dream on! Who would ever allow it?” Well, to answer the skeptics among us, God has a history of using people who have speech difficulties to speak on His behalf. Just look at Moses who said, “I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue” [Exodus 4:10 – JKB], and Isaiah who said, “I am a man of unclean lips” [Isaiah 6:5 – ESV]. God was able to use their weakness to demonstrate His power and glory.

CC Congregation

Also, it takes a church that is open to what God wants to do through them. It takes a church that is inspired by God’s creativity and trusts in the Holy Spirit to step out in faith and try new ways of doing things for the glory of God. It was such and honor, as well as a humbling experience, for me when my family in Christ allowed me to tell “my story,” a testimony of God’s grace in my life twice at my church. The first time I “spoke” it was a thirteen-and-a-half minute testimony given before the sermon. The second time I spoke it was a twenty-five-and-a-half minute “talk” during the time allotted for the sermon. It was so amazing for my church family to be willing to have me “speak” in a very creative way. My sister in the Lord, Betsy Wassmann, who is also on the Worship Development Team at College Church, helped me to condense eleven pages of my story into six pages. [You have been reading the long version from my blog posts during the last several weeks.] Betsy was also going to be my “Voice.” She was going to read my story while I did a bit of a pantomime, using a few visual aids. I needed to be doing something besides just sitting in front of the congregation.

A. Betsy and Lydia

[Notice, I do have a head covering.]

On Sunday May 3, 2015 I told my story of how God brought me out of a deep nine-month depression and back into His Light where I am experiencing the Joy of His Salvation again. This is how the morning went:

baby and mom Connie

I arrived at church early to see where I was going to be sitting up front and where to put my “props” and to pray with the worship team. As I walked into the sanctuary, I saw Christina, with her baby Alisabeth, and Connie going over the special music I wanted to be played at the end of my story. Dr. Don, our Minister of Missions joined them with his violin [You will see him later].

Betsy and Paul

My friend Paul, one of our Elders, who also is Director of Religious Life at Amherst College, introduced Betsy and me. He may not look like the portrait of the Apostle Paul, but his heart is very much like the Apostle.

 

APOSTLE Paul

Betsy did an excellent job at reading my story. It sounded exactly how I would sound if I were reading it. She read my story while I used my visual aids. Doing something helped me to keep my composure during the length of time I was given. I thought I would never be asked to make my writing longer but, since I had the whole “speaking” time, Paul told me to make my presentation five minutes longer and that the Scripture reading for the morning was Lamentations chapter three. I had no trouble making my “talk” longer and Lamentations 3 fit perfectly with what I was sharing, with Betsy’s help.

Betsy and Lydia

When we were finished Christina and the musicians offered a song that has special meaning to me. It’s called, “The Touch of the Master’s Hand,” originally written in 1921 by Myra Brooks Welch. The reason why it holds a special place in my heart is that Myra had severe arthritis and typed out her poem using a typewriter and the eraser ends of pencils, one in each hand. It took her thirty minutes to type out her poem. I type on my computer with my left index finger. Myra’s message is clear: Every life is precious to God and He is the One who makes life worth living.

Dr. Don and Company

The Touch of the Master’s Hand
By Myra Brooks Welch (1921)

T’was battered and scarred, and the auctioneer
Thought it scarcely worth his while to waste much time on the old violin,
but held it up with a smile; “What am I bidden, good folks,” he cried,
“Who’ll start the bidding for me? A dollar, a dollar; then two! Only
Two? Two dollars, and who’ll make it three? Three dollars, once; three
dollars twice; going for three…”

Dr. Don

But no, from the room, far back, a
gray-haired man came forward and picked up the bow. Then, wiping the dust
from the old violin, and tightening the loose strings, he played a melody
pure and sweet as a caroling angel sings

The music ceased, and the auctioneer, with a voice that was quiet and low,
Said, “What am I bid for the old violin?” and he held it up with the bow.
“A thousand dollars, and who’ll make it two? Two thousand! And who’ll make
it three? Three thousand, once; three thousand twice; and going and
gone,” said he. The people cheered, but some of them cried, “We do not
quite understand what changed its worth.” Swift came the reply: “The touch
of the Master’s Hand.”

Christ and leper

And many a man with life out of tune, and battered and scarred with sin,
is auctioned cheap to the thoughtless crowd, much like the of violin…
He is “going” once, and “going” twice. He’s going and almost “gone.”
But the Master comes, and ghoulish crowd never can quite understand
the worth of a soul and the change that’s wrought by
the touch of the Master’s Hand.

The Church is the body of Christ on earth. We are His hands, His feet, His voice and His song. Let us love one another with the compassion and mercy of Jesus. Let us love the hurting and bring healing to the world.

A Transforming Vision

“It’s in the body of Christ that I have found my eternal home. I may not fit a particular mold of Christian perfectly, but that is the beauty of the Kingdom of God – none of us quite fits in. It is only by the grace of God that we are able to come to God as one body, across all dividing lines, to live as servants and witnesses of Christ.” – From “A TRANSFORMING VISION: Multiethnic Fellowship in College and in the Church” – Edited by Paul V. Sorrentino [This book is also useful in teaching how we ought to value people who come from all kinds of diversity, able-bodied and disabled included. I highly recommend the book.]

Another goal on my “Bucket List” is to get on YouTube. With a lot of help from my friends Melonie and Pam, both Testimonies I and II are on YouTube. If you would like to see them, go to YouTube and type in SEARCH: Lydia’s Testimony 2015 and Lydia’s Testimony – Part II. 

Hallelujah! Amen! THE END [I’m taking some time off from blogging – a mental health vacation you might say.]

May the Touch of the Master’s Hand be real to you all!

The Lyd

Lydia

Please pray for Dr. Don. He broke his hip and is currently at Spalding Rehab, in Boston.

A Testimony of God’s Grace (Part II): Check One Off the “Bucket List”

a lesson on waiting

It has been approximately 900 *DAYS since my last Electroconvulsive Therapy [ECT] treatment. Looking back, God was the One who decided when I should stop. It was a day in early December [2012] and my nephew Luke took me to the hospital for a 10 a.m. appointment. Normally, the nurses would get me ready and all hooked up and I would be in the surgery room by 11 a.m. Getting my ECT treatment done as soon as possible was a good thing because I had to fast from food and had only a few sips of water to take medications on my ECT mornings. However, this morning I had to wait much longer and was getting more and more anxious by the minute. When they finally wheeled me into the surgery room for the ECT treatment, my blood pressure was dangerously high and the treatment could not be performed. I waited in the recovery area, ate some chocolate pudding and waited for my blood pressure to go down and went home without getting treated. This was a good lesson for me because I learned that waiting really stresses me out. Since I do have to do a lot of waiting for people to do things for me, being stressed out about waiting is not a good thing. Now, when I’m waiting, I ask the Lord to help me to wait and practice my breathing, taking deep breaths, while I pray for His peace and for the person I’m waiting for.

Wing Memorial

I also realized then and there that I didn’t need ECT anymore. Soon after, I learned that Doctor Mujica was no longer going to perform ECT and another doctor was going to take his place. This affirmed my decision to stop ECT treatments. Luke called the hospital to tell them of my decision and they agreed that I did have enough treatments and was doing well enough to stop. However, both the new doctor and the psychiatric nurse told me that they were available for me and to call them at any time. Those were reassuring words to hear. As God answered Jeremiah’s prayer, God also answered mine:

bible duck taped

[My well-used Bible I had with me in the hospital]

“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 You;
You said, ’Do not fear!’
You have taken up my cause, O LORD;
You have redeemed my life.”
**- Lamentations 3:55-58

bible Jane's note

[The note I saved from my sister Jane who called when I was sleeping at

Wing Memorial Hospital: “Jane called. She loves you!”]

In the past 900 days, it has been “Lydia being Lydia” again; having friends over for baseball parties [especially World Series with RED SOX] at “Fenway West” [my house] and Super Bowl Parties [hopefully with the Patriots, but no matter which teams plays], food and wine pairing parties and hosting and/or leading Bible studies. I also have been enjoying day trips to my favorite places, eating my sister Jane’s gourmet cooking, as well as dining out. Being active and making a difference in the body of Christ at my church [such as, being on a nominating committee to gather names for elder and deacon positions] has again brought me great joy. All these activities are blessings and privileges I praise God for. I thank God for all the things He has enabled me to do. I don’t take anything for granted anymore. All in all, I am enjoying the life God has given me to live.

blogging2cHRISTIAN BLOGGER WOMAN

But Wait! That’s not all. Writing has always been my voice. God has given me the gift of expressing myself through the written word. You may say that I am a wordsmith, but I could not write one meaningful sentence without the Holy Spirit giving me the words to write. I write to help others get to know who I am inside this disabled [cerebral palsy] body and to encourage them in their walks with God. I have always, as far as I can remember [and that gets shorter every year] wanted to write a book. You might say that writing a book is on my “bucket list. “ That may still happen but, in the meantime, I decided to save a few trees by becoming a “Christian Woman Blogger.” On February 6, 2013, I launched my blog. I began writing about my look on life through the eyes of God’s Word and His Holy Spirit. – thus the name of my blog: lydslookonlife [Lyd’s Look on Life]. One hundred thirty-eight blog posts later, my blog is going strong because God always gives me a lot to say about His goodness, His grace and His faithfulness to me, especially in times of pain and struggle, and how I see His loving care in every little thing, as well as the BIG stuff.

But wait! That’s not all. I’m going to let you in on a little secret.

To be continued…

By His Grace and For His Glory,

The Lyd

Lydia

To my blog “followers” via email: I want to correct the following errors made in my last blog post:

* I omitted the word “days”, as in “900 days.”

** The Scripture I used is from Lamentations 3:55-58 [not Ecclesiastes].

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 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