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): 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