Monday, July 24, 2017

I am SO selfish.

I think we all know that deep down we are selfish, ugly creatures who want everyone to be at our beck & call every minute of the day.  We try to cover that, but I think, at heart, deep down, we all just really want the world to revolve around us. I try my best and really make an effort to be joyful & patient & grateful in all things.  And while I often succeed, there is definitely a deficit in my life, usually connected to my family and especially when I am inconvenienced or made to run late.  How dare they!  How quickly my gratefulness goes right out the window when my husband or kids make me have to go out of my way to serve them, wait on them or they make me more than 10 seconds late to something. (Don't I sound like a delight to be around?)  This morning, God used my husband to remind me of my less-than-patient, self-focused nature.  Here's how our morning went.

Yesterday, Larry preached at a church in a neighboring town. We planned for me to hold off on grocery shopping for the week 'til after we cashed the paycheck from that. Last night, we discussed that the bank might or might not allow me to cash the check since it was written to him. Rather than risking them not letting me get the money, we decided that I'd follow him to the bank this morning and he could cash it and then hand off the cash to me & he'd head on to work.  (You need to know this info to follow the rest of the story.)

So at about 8:15, we left the house.  I was in my PJs in my van and Larry was dressed to the nines in his crisp, starched shirt & ironed pants.  He was just ahead of me on the drive, in his truck.  We didn't reach the end of our neighborhood before my low tire warning light came on.  I grabbed my cell phone from the console & called Larry to ask him to follow me to the gas station so we could put some air in my tires.  But he didn't answer.  Grrrr.  We got to the next stop sign and I honked at him & held up my phone and gestured to it, waving perhaps a little more urgently than was required.  I was frustrated that he didn't immediately answer my call!  I mean, isn't that why we have cell phones?  ANSWER IT when I call you, dude!  After my honk & point moment, I re-dialed his number and he picked it up.  I told him my light had come on and he had me drive around him so he could look at the tires & see which one looked low.  He noted that one seemed a tiny bit lower than the others & told me which gas station to drive to.  He followed behind me making sure I was safe, didn't have a blow out or anything like that.  As I drove, I thought how sweet it was, how gentlemanly to follow slowly behind me and make sure I was okay.

When we got to the gas station, he grabbed the (greasy) air hose & drug it around my van, adding air to the appropriate tire.  When that didn't turn off my warning light, he checked the other 3 tires & added a little air to all of them, just in case.  That still didn't shut off my light so we came to the conclusion that the (slight) drop in temperature overnight must've triggered it.  Sigh.  Technology.  My sweet husband now needed to wash his hands & wipe the sweat from his brow (good grief, the humidity!!) and he wanted to buy a drink before he could leave.  I told him I'd go ahead and leave and head to the bank & wait for him there, to which he nodded his approval.

When I pulled into my parking spot to wait for him, I pulled out my phone & turned on my data.  I tapped my Facebook app icon and opened a status update screen to type out a brag on my sweet husband.  I wanted my friends & family to know how kind and caring he was, willing to get dirty & wait on his wife, handling a menial task I could've done myself later in the day.  I wanted to point out how thankful I am to have him and how blessed I feel to be his wife.  His tender generous care for me had touched me and I wanted to pay him a public compliment.

In the middle of typing that, my phone rang.  Now, some of you may not know it but I'm more of a texter, so when my phone rings at all, I sort of dread it.  I'm an introvert in the worst way.  If I can come up with any reason at all to not answer & just let it go to voice mail I will.  LOL  I know, it's bad.  I realize that's why I have a phone--so people can reach me--but if I'm in the middle of typing a status on facebook, a phone call is just an irritation.  I mean, come on folks....don't cut into my facebook time by calling me.  (Insert heavy eye roll & major sarcasm here.)  But I sighed & answered the phone.

It was my dear, sweet, caring husband.  He stated that his "hey dummy light" had come on. (that's what we call the low-gas light on our cars)  He was going to have to stay at the gas station a few more minutes to gas up his truck.  I rolled my eyes, irritated that he'd let his gas tank get so low.  I tell him all the time to stop & get gas.  I tend to believe that once you hit the half-tank mark, you need to start looking for a station to fill up.  After all, that second half of the tank seems to disappear rapidly and I am fearful of being stranded somewhere without gas, so that's how I handle it.  A quarter-tank makes me borderline frantic.  MUST GET GAS NOW!!!  But he's sort of a daredevil and likes to see how low he can get before he HAS TO get gas.  So right then & there, I was frustrated that I'd have to wait on him longer because he hadn't followed my suggestions and gotten gas sooner. Ugh.  Men!

Then he told me that he realized when he'd switched his holster from one belt to another this morning, he'd left his badge on our dresser.  And he was going to need that today!  He asked if I could run back to the house and get it.  He would finish gassing up the truck, go cash the check & then meet me somewhere with the cash.  I lovingly (outwardly) agreed but inside I was mad.  I mean, this guy is the worst about forgetting things and I have driven hundreds and hundreds of miles over the years bringing him things he left at home. This was like the 5-millionth time I've done this for him.  I can't tell you how many phone calls & texts I've gotten to bring him stuff that he needed at work.  Or the million frantic shouts to come help him find this or that item because he's forgotten where he put it.  I mean, geez. Put it up in the same place every time and you won't have to hunt for your keys, phone, glasses, etc.  Sigh. And this was his BADGE he'd left at home. What on earth?  Why can't he remember such a big thing that is crucial for his job!!??  I mean, come on.  It's not like he left a pen at home.  He's a plain clothes detective.  Cops need their badges!!  Grrrrrr.

When I hung up with him, the status update screen for Facebook was still on the phone screen.  You know, the one where I was typing out a brag about how wonderful & sweet my husband is?  The same screen I'd pulled up 3 minutes before to compliment my husband was now the screen that was taunting me & reminding me of my deeply, profoundly selfish ways.  It reminded me how rapidly I can cycle from feeling blissful & happy & joyful to being ticked off, irritated and wanting to punch someone.

Ouch.  Conviction is like that.

I shut off the facebook app and made the 2-3 minute drive to my house, walked inside and grabbed the badge and started back to the van before Larry called to tell me he was already done and almost back to our house.  I don't even know how he finished that quickly, but he did.  And about 2 minutes later, we met on the parking lot of a nearby school for me to get the cash and give him his badge. I wished him well as he left for work.  (by the way, he was now late for work but never seemed to be upset that he was in that predicament because of me!)  Before he left, I made sure to tell him how much I love him, how God had used him as an instrument this morning to remind me to settle the heck down & stop being so darn selfish, how grateful I was for him--even if he is a forgetful goofball sometimes.

Thank you, Lord, for using my husband to remind me today how richly I am blessed, how much I need to work on my selfishness.  Show me a way to be a blessing to him in return today!

So I need to ask you this: 
Do you struggle with this too?  Do you have the utmost patience for everyone else in your life but you find yourself becoming very quickly aggravated by those closest to you?  Do you find yourself so self-focused that you miss blessings and kindnesses extended to you?  Can I suggest that we all stop today and really pay attention to our responses to our families and those we hold dear?  Can we reset our sights and consider others and be thankful?  This is a hard lesson for me to learn. Maybe it is for you, too?

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Here we go again!

You may remember that last spring (2016) I had a bit of a cancer scare after a mammogram.  (You can read that story HERE.)  When that was all over, the doctor told me in person, then again on the phone, and again in a letter that I was fine for a year.  No sooner follow up was needed.  Of course, this spring came and went and I lost track of time & dates and didn't get my annual mammogram scheduled until June.  Oops!

Once you have had a "suspicious finding" you have to get a diagnostic mammogram & ultrasound for a few years until the doctor declares you able to go back to just a regular mammogram.  (The difference is the number of images they take & awkward positions you must get into to take them.  ha ha!)  So last Monday (June 19) I went in for my tests.

Fortunately, my tumor that they found last year had not changed or grown.  It was still right where we left it with its little metal clip/marker attached.  So that was good.  But then they found a new issue.  The doctor said that it could be one of two things....and after a biopsy last Thursday (June 22) it was declared to be an intraductal papilloma.  While IPs are not typically cancerous, they do tend to turn into cancer if you leave them in the standard treatment is to have surgery & remove them.  {You know...unless you're a daredevil & like to live life on the edge & take a wait and see approach.....but I'm not comfortable with waiting to see if this thing will be cancerous in another 6 months.  NO thanks!}

So today, we went to the surgeon's office & scheduled surgery.  It's a fairly simple outpatient day surgery procedure and from those I have spoken to in the last week, the recovery is not too bad.  I've been told that recovery is only about a week and most of that is just because you have stitches and are sore---not really because you're in horrible pain or anything.

Surgery has been scheduled for Tuesday July 11.  I'm recording this info here so that in years to come I can look back & remember the timeline for all this.

I'm just hoping that this can be my last year to have to do any poking & jabbing & cutting in this area.  I'm kind of all done with that stuff. 

Saturday, April 8, 2017

My statement about mental health:

I've thought through this post numerous times but haven't been able to figure out quite the right words or timing to post it. Tonight I'm just going to dive in & say what I'm thinking and I pray it comes out right. I pray that you read this and understand my heart.  I pray that you can really LISTEN and soak it in and absorb what I'm trying to say because it is so heavily, deeply, powerfully engraved on my heart.  This is something I am passionate about.

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For years now, 4 out of the 5 members of my household have struggled, in one way or another, with a mental health issue. I won't go into detail about which family member deals with which thing. That's personal & I will always strive to protect my family's dignity and safety.  If you know our family personally, you may know the details.  (And if so, please do not comment here with any specifics.  Join me in protecting our family!)  Or you may know us & have NO IDEA that we've been dealing with anything at all.  (If so, surprise!)

For years, I've watched people's reactions when they find out the facts about my family.  Learning that this person sees a psychiatrist....or that this one sees a counselor... or this one takes meds every day...or that one has been hospitalized...   Some nod and smile, hug and encourage, understanding full well the depth of what it's like to live with or support someone who deals with a brain chemistry imbalance. (Those people make me want to hug them & invite them into my inner circle for s'mores and late night talks.)  Others ask rude questions or insinuate it's "all in your head".  Others have pointed fingers & asked which side of the family has these issues---were they passed down through genetics?  Others have made a point to talk about how those with faith in their lives shouldn't be dealing with these things, that if we prayed enough or believed strongly enough, we wouldn't have these issues.  And still others turn up their nose, gasp in shock or otherwise cut us from their lives because they believe that somehow having a mental health illness/disorder/issue is something to be ashamed of.

As I type this tonight, I am looking back on the past 20 years of having one psychiatric drug or another in my medicine cabinet. Sometimes I've had a combination of several drugs in my medicine cabinet.  I have heard people compare mental health to other chronic illnesses-- diabetes or asthma, for example-- and they have talked about the similarities. Both require long-term medications, continual care by a doctor, potentially a hospitalization now & then to get back on track when things go awry, and taking care of oneself to prevent those "flare ups".  There is so much truth in all of that and I can appreciate the comparisons.

But here's the kicker:  no one looks at you funny if you have diabetes.  No one judges you if you have asthma.  No one thinks a person with Crohn's disease is a monster or somehow dangerous.  No one assumes that a person with Cystic Fibrosis is apt to 'snap' and hurt someone. There is no stigma attached to most chronic illnesses.  But there IS to persons who deal with mental illness.

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Why is that?

We all understand when a person has a heart problem that their heart is 'sick'. We all understand that diabetes means a person has a 'sick' pancreas.  We know that having asthma means having 'sick' lungs.  So why can't we accept that mentally ill people have a 'sick' brain?  Why can we understand that those conditions are medical in nature but we look at mental illness as some other sort of thing altogether. Why can't we as a society see that mental illness is just as much an illness, too?

The definition of mental illness I most often relate to people is a condition where the chemistry of the brain gets out of whack.  I know it is much more complicated than that, including all sorts of genetic, environmental, and biological factors.  And the conditions that fit the mental illness category are as diverse as can be, but most are classified by how they affect a person's mood, behavior and thinking. With all of them, you see a doctor, do testing before a diagnosis, take meds to help with the problem and go on about your life. None of these conditions were ones the person asked for.  None of them are the person's fault or were somehow 'caused' by a bad choice.  None of them were planned for or desired.  Most of the people affected have zero desire to spend their life in doctor's offices or taking a handful of medication every day....

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You know, JUST LIKE those who have diabetes, asthma, cystic fibrosis, crohn's and all the other chronic illnesses you can think of.... Image result for mental health stigma

It's time for us to do SOMETHING about this overwhelming, seemingly never-ending thing that  people have stuck in their heads about children and adults who have a mental illness.  STOP IT.  These conditions are very real, very hard to manage sometimes, very hard to 'own' (because of the stigma!), very hard for caregivers and family to support.  These conditions are no less medical in nature than all the other chronic illnesses I mentioned here.

I'm not sure I ever REALLY grasped all this before I was faced with it myself.  But, being face to face with individuals who are fighting daily to stay on top of their illness, I can tell you one thing for sure:

These persons are fully capable of living normal lives, looking just like you, going to school or work, carrying on a regular lifestyle, having successful relationships, embracing physical activities, becoming parents, caring for others, being members of the PTA, serving on the neighborhood watch team, teaching Sunday School and so much more.  I doubt you have any idea just how many people you interact with every single day who are dealing with things like anxiety, depression, PTSD, Bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, schizophrenia, ADD/ADHD, eating disorders, PPD, SAD, Disassociative Disorders, phobias and on & on & on.

Seriously, let's put this 'second class citizen' treatment to rest.  A person with mental illness is no less human, no less capable of emotion than anyone else.  So dig up your compassion glasses & put them on.  It's time to stop the ignorance and the awful stigma.  After all, can you tell which of these people suffers from a mental health condition & which do not?