Category Archives: Health

Mental Health month

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It has been almost a year, and I feel like I am in a place that I can write about it. I mostly want to write about it for me, I strangely feel that if I put it on paper maybe I can prevent it from happening again. I also hope it might help someone traveling a similar road.

When I think back on memories of the past, I see colors as well as the memory. August is usually golden, May – green, November – shades of brown, January is usually sky blue. I don’t know why, I don’t really know how to adequately explain it, but it is, and it has been for as long as I can remember.

When I think back on last July, it is black. Pitch black, no flicker of light. I had never been in this place before, I was unsure how to navigate through. I couldn’t find a map, who am I kidding, I could not even look for a map.

Since Jason passed, July and August are typically tough months for me. In the beginning I thought that was it, just another little bit of a sad time. Before I really knew what was happening my mind had spiraled out of control. Scarier than the sadness was the anxiety, I did not know where it came from, or recognize it until it was big and scary. I could not grocery shop without my heart racing, several times I couldn’t finish. I raced to the check out, I raced home and shut the door like I was being chased. I did not want to go anywhere; I didn’t want to do anything. I struggled to articulate it to my husband. He struggled to know how to help.

I cried often, I was angry, I was scared, I was all the dark emotions. The only thing that got me to work most days was the fact that Tim and I work in the same place. I spent most of the month with my office door closed because I could not do people. I wanted my home, my room, my bed, my quilt, my pillow, my sleep, my silence. It was a black month, I couldn’t even pray.

I saw my oncologist late in the month, toward the end of the appointment I casually mentioned I was feeling anxious. She spun her chair towards me, pulled up close and asked me to tell her about it. I did, I told her all of it. I told her about the black hole I was in and that I did not know how to get out. I told her how tired I was of feeling sad, and how I hated feeling anxious. I told her I was scared. I told her the depth of it that I had been afraid to utter, as if speaking it might make it more true or more real. She listened. Then she talked about some options, about how trauma can build up. She told me how common PTSD is in cancer patients. She did not tell me to snap out of it or get over it. She told me to give myself a break, not to be hard on myself, she told me I was going to be okay.

So, something happened, instead of making it more real, it was already as real as it was going to get, speaking it lifted a dark veil. Speaking it made it less scary, speaking it began the healing.

I am almost a year away from the blackest of it. I take medicine and supplements to support my health, all of my health. I talk as openly about my anxiety as I do my cancer. I want to help move mental health out of the shadows until we just say health, and don’t feel like we must qualify it as mental or physical.

Do I still have moments? Yep. Are they black? Nope. I have tools now to recognize it before it overtakes me. I am not foolish enough to think that it can’t happen again, but I am on my guard. I’m not ashamed to ask for help, I have a support group who now knows this struggle is part of me.

If any part of this is you, talk to someone, please.  It get’s less scary every time you say it out loud. For me every time I say it out loud I feel like I am feeding the “light” and starving the “dark”. What I feed grows.

May is mental health month, let’s take this stuff out of the shadows and the dark. Let’s make a mental check up as common as a physical or a teeth cleaning. Let’s take the stigma out of asking for help. Let’s give the gift of this freedom to the next generation. What if we could say, “I’m feeling anxious, I need to stop and take a few deep breaths” as easily as we say “I’m getting a headache, I need to rest my eyes for a few minutes”? What if . . .

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My year of cancer . . . uncommon peace

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One year ago on Friday, Jan 13th, I heard the words, “I am 99.9% sure the lump is breast cancer” I sat stone faced, I nodded and after what seemed hours I uttered, “okay, now what?”. I had just had a mammogram and then an ultrasound of a mass in my right breast. Minutes later, I was having a biopsy. They do not mess around in this small-town teaching hospital. Side note, who goes in for a mammogram on Friday 13th?

I drove home unblinking, walked in the door stunned and in shock. I looked at Tim and told him that I had cancer. He never blinked, he never wavered, “we will do this together”.

I remember we were supposed to head into work, we found ourselves at the ocean. It is the place I can make sense of the senseless, it is the place that soothes my soul, it is a place of healing for me.

Tim was true to his word, all the chemo, the week in the hospital, all the surgeries, all seven and a half weeks of radiation, all of it. He sat with me, sitting in the hard chair of the watcher. I have never loved him more. You know who else was there through all of it? My heavenly father, holding me tight, always.

This last year has been a blur of doctors, operating rooms, needles, chemo and radiation. I feel like I have aged 5 years since last January. It has also been a blur of helping hands, urgent prayers, physical and virtual hugs, and the abundant peace that Jesus provided.

I was exhausted, so exhausted. I was, at times, void of emotion and in an instant full of emotion. I was never afraid, I always felt peace covering me.

There are snapshots that flash though my mind:
Shaving my head
Laughing with the nurse before my port placement
Laughing with the same nurse months later before my emergency port removal
Loving arms of my husband
Faithful friend’s offers of help
Caring nurses
Caring doctors
Days that I felt well enough to be in the sun
Farm-fresh eggs from my boss
Family gatherings
Friends visiting
Months of not having to shave my legs
Sweet times with my heavenly father
I chose to shuffle through only the funny or encouraging snapshots. The others are there, but I choose to dwell in the grace and faithfulness I experienced through this year.

I still have a journey ahead, but the tough stuff is over. I have my one year mammogram this coming Friday, I am expecting an “all clear”. I continue to feel the peace that has covered me this last year.

As I look back over this year it is with a grateful heart.

How does God put up with me?

 

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We live in a world where complaining is just part of our conversation. We whine “this line is too long”, “it took so long for that waitress to bring my food”, “why is this taking so long?”, “I don’t have . . . ” It goes on and on. It has become just how we communicate, we whine, we complain.

I have had a week of listening to just that, there is a lot of change happening where I work, good exciting things, but the path to get there is a little painful. And then there is me complaining about their complaining. Whew, no wonder I am so tired when I get home.

All the while we lose site of the fact that we have a job, a good job. We lose fact that we should count it a privilege to sit in a nice clean waiting room to see a doctor. It should be counted a privilege to wait to have food served to us. We should count it all a privilege.

There is so much we should be grateful for, I have a saying that is a little joking but so full of truth, when I am met with a lot of complaining. “At least you aren’t sleeping under a bridge tonight” This statement is as much for me as anyone. What an abundance we live with.

There are people in hospice that are grateful for just that next breath, there are people living under bridges that are grateful for the sandwich a stranger gave them, there are people who are grateful to have any job even if it is working a field.

How can I be so brazen before God to complain about anything. Anything at all. All that I have is a gift, straight from the hand of God. How is that not enough? How would I feel if I handed precious gems to my children and they complained because it was not gold, or it was not enough. How does God put up with us?

Eve did it, “why can’t I eat that?”. Adam did it “why did you give me this woman to tempt me?”  The Israelites did it “why do we have to eat that?” From the beginning of time God, who has showered us with blessings has had to listen to our ungratefulness.

While thinking about this I wondered why God created us this way? If it were me I sure would have taken that module out, I would have snipped that wire that went to the complaining component. Then I realize complaining isn’t the problem it is a symptom. The problem is that we were created with a longing for something more. We were created with an empty space, We look around for something to fill it. Things, action, anything but what was meant to fill it. How ridiculous we must sound to God.

There is a very real reason we feel unsatisfied. It is a God sized hole. Only God can fill it.  God created that in all of us, I need to remember to fill my complaining corner with God.

I have been sitting here thinking of all the things I tend to complain about, I am ashamed.

Instead of complaining about being stuck in traffic I want to thank God for the ability to travel so easily. Instead of complaining about waiting on the doctor again, I want to thank God I have medical care. Instead of complaining about waiting for my food, I want to be grateful that we can sit in a nice warm space and have food served to me. Instead of complaining about cleaning the bathroom, I want to be thankful that I have a nice warm home to clean.

Do you find yourself in the habit of complaining? How will you show your gratitude today?

I did it! (but not on my own)

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I did it, I set a goal 9 weeks ago to go from no exercise at all to running a 5k. Yesterday was the day – I did not have any goals except to finish. I finished, shocked to find I was 10th in my division, females 45 to 55. (I am hoping there were more than 10 of us 🙂 )

I did not do this alone, family and friends rooted me on from the start. My first time out running I could barely run for 30 seconds. I was not sure I could do it, but I pushed ahead with the encouragement from others. Strangers offered encouragement God was gracious to send me “winks” as my friends Joe and Traci Castaneda call them. (You can read about those here) .

I am so grateful to my husband who has not minded the neglected house, and a few more “on your own” dinners as I prepared for this run. I am grateful to friends who offers tips and hints when I was really struggling. I am grateful to friends, family and co-workers for cheering me on. All of these things were essential in my journey.

It makes me think about the great cloud of witnesses that surround us in our spiritual race here on earth. How very much like preparing for an earthly race is like our spiritual race.

I am so much more mindful of what I put into my mouth since beginning to run, there is a definite cost/return mindfulness.

I am dedicated to practice, getting out and running on a regular basis. I am mindful of what inactivity will cost me in working towards the goal.

I am mindful of being public/transparent in my process, I knew if I told people I was doing this that I would be more accountable.

Isn’t this so much like our spiritual race? Shouldn’t we be mindful of what we take in?, Shouldn’t we be dedicated to practicing/studying on a regular basis? Shouldn’t we be transparent and let others help keep us on track?

IMG_1034Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. Heb 12:1

I kept going

runYesterday, I ran the longest I have run to date. I owe this to a bluejay, a swallow and two women I have never met.

As I hit mile one, fatigued, hot and sweaty, I was thinking I would just go a little further and turn around and walk back. I could try again tomorrow right? No harm, no foul. I am not really competing with any one but myself and who would blame me? I had already done a couple hours of yard work. Just then a car pulled out of a driveway, a woman in the passenger seat waved and gave me the biggest smile. It felt like she was cheering me on. I kept going.

A little later I noticed a bluejay hoping from fence post to fence post just ahead of me. He would stop and watch me until I got a little close then fly to the next post. It detracted me enough to get a little past the 1 and 3/4 mile mark without really noticing it. I kept going.

I let myself talk me into stopping at 2 miles, same reasons as above. Just before I got to my stopping point another car pulled out of a driveway, this time the woman in the passenger seat waved, smiled and gave me a thumbs up. That simple gesture lifted my spirits, put a smile on my face and gave me just a little more energy. I kept going.

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About a half mile later a swallow decided to fly with me, weaving in and out of the grass in the field next to my route. He would get ahead, then come back and do that little ballet flight that swallows do. This went on for about 1/4 of a mile. I kept going.

By this time, turning around and going back was further than just going on. I kept going.

I thought, in our lives, in our spiritual journey, how many times does God send jut the right person at just the right time to encourage us? More than we know.

I want to be that, an encourager, someone who smiles at the stranger on the corner, the haggard mom in the store, the gentleman shuffling along with a walker. Just a smile is all it takes sometimes to keep someone going, to make their day just a little more manageable.

I want to be that person that not only keeps going, but I want to be the person that encourages others to keep going.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Hebrews 12:1

 

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Recently I decided to start running again. When I say again, don’t think I have run recently, it has been many years, 40 to be exact since I “use to run”. I have not run since high school. There were several things that got me started, I want to lose some weight, I want to be healthier, a friends blog, and the realization that at my next birthday I am going to be closer to 60 than 50, (Whew, that really snuck up!) I want to be one of those “seniors” that stays active, and does things, so I am committing to run.

I started last week when my new running shoes came. My commitment is to run 3 times per week. My short term goal is to run a 5k in June. Sounds easy enough, right? Sure, but life has already threatened to get in the way. Next week is a full week. Several appointments after work are going to make it hard to stick to my commitment. My first thought was, “Well, maybe I will really start the next week”. But I know me, if I don’t keep with my commitment now, I won’t. Life will always get in the way, always and I will always be putting it off until the next week and then the next and pretty soon I won’t even be thinking about it anymore.

So I have to make a plan, and then another if that plan is not going to work, and then another. I need to make back up plans for the “just in case”.

I have done a few things that I hope will help me keep my commitment, one is huge for me, I am telling people, that makes me accountable. I am not comfortable with this, I want to be able to hide if I fail. But here it is for all the world to see, I am now accountable, you all now know.

I bought really good, and also important, cute running shoes. The really good part is so I don’t injure myself and have to quit running, the cute part is well just because.

I bought good wireless headphones, music in my ears helps me stay focused, and the wireless part because wires bug me. 🙂

I looked for an app that fit my style and would help me achieve my goal. This app “talks” to me and tells me when to warm up, when to run, when to walk, and when to cool down, it will methodically, over the next 9 weeks, guide me to run 3 miles.

A couple lessons already learned, I can’t look too far ahead. It discourages me. Just a few feet, just far enough so I don’t trip.

Another important lesson, I have to run my mile, not anyone else’s mile. My second run I thought I needed to improve my time by a certain amount. I pushed myself too hard, I almost quit part way through the run. I nearly sent myself into a full blown asthma attack. I felt like I was sucking on my inhaler like a pacifier. It is not important at this point how fast I am going, just that I am going. Today’s run I slowed down, ran just hard enough to challenge me but not hard enough to kill me. 🙂 I finished, and felt really good.

My goal this week was 3 runs, I met it. It feels good, now to make plans to meet my 3 run goal next week.