anxiety · depression · encouragement · Lyme · motherhood

What Anxiety and Depression Looks Like Sometimes.

Have you ever had a migraine? The kind when you have to cancel your plans for the day. Turn off the lights. Lay in bed. Every sound and smell; the sensation of light on your eyes, makes the pain worse. Basically, all of your senses are on overload. And maybe you had a fun day-out planned, or perhaps it was supposed to be just a regular boring day at home with a long to-do list…

But instead, you have to set your kids up with a movie (or two), and a drink and a snack (or two!) while you lay quiet in bed and wait for the pain to go away. Maybe you have to call a friend or family member to help you watch your kids or do your laundry. Because you’ve tried all your go-to remedies, and they’re not making a dent. There’s nothing you can do except to rest and wait it out. And desperately hope/pray that tomorrow is better.

Or, have you ever had just a *normal* headache? I’m sure you can relate. The kind where you can pop a Tylenol, or drink a hot mug of peppermint tea. And it knocks out the pain for the most part. You can get on with your day, even though maybe you’d prefer to lay in bed if it were up to you! You have responsibilities, and the dull discomfort is there, but you can push through it and mostly think clearly.

Anxiety and depression looks and feels like that in my life sometimes.

 
People might be surprised to learn that anxiety and depression are a nearly constant battle of mine.

I’ve been hesitant to share this for most of my life. My biggest fear is that people will think, “She seems so happy all the time, I should have known she was faking!!”

I’ve always, for as long as I can remember, been praised for being such a happy person.

My God-given disposition, my resting face you could say, is a smile. It’s not a fake smile. And my cheerful persona isn’t fake. I’ll try to explain.

Depression, just a dark sadness cloud that lingers around my head, usually for no reason!, has been lingering around since I was a young teen. Anxiety, just a feeling of being scared, so scared you can’t breathe at times! , has been there off and on since I was a child.

But my anxiety has become so much worse since I got Lyme disease. I always say that panic attacks were my first symptom of Lyme actually. The anxious feeling, which once was only a mental thing, became such a physical thing.

I remember the first time it hit me. I was standing at the sink trying to do the dishes, while my girls fluttered around me like butterflies, wanting my attention. It truly felt like someone had their hands on my shoulders and was pushing down hard. Then that same pressing-down feeling would come to my neck and to the top of my head. It was summertime, and the air conditioning was doing it’s job to make our house nice and cool, but I went crazy thinking it wasn’t working. I was always feeling so hot. I couldn’t breathe or think clearly.

Part of me knew I just needed to do the dishes, to instruct my girls to go and play and give Mommy a minute to finish. But, figuratively speaking, the other part of me felt like I was running away from a lion.

My depression that comes and goes is much easier to deal with, honestly. I can pray, I can read scripture. I can pour over vintage hymn lyrics that are rich with theology that encourages and cheers my soul, despite the pain. I can take my vitamin D and my 5htp.

There might be a dark cloud that comes over me some days. But there is a silver lining of God’s goodness and great love and faithfulness that I can’t deny. This is the reason you see a smile on my face most of the time. It’s rooted there. In Him.

My panic attacks are so much harder. I just dread them. The awful, *real* physical feeling. Having a migraine would be much easier to describe! But it’s anxiety. Some days it’s like a dull headache that I can press through. And some days it’s like a migraine that has me down for the count for an entire day, or more. I know Lyme has contributed, but knowing that doesn’t help the pain go away.

On one hand, I really don’t want to share this! Because I don’t want people to look at me differently! But on the other, I want to share it. Because the Bible tells me that depending on Him in my weakness will make me stronger. So I don’t have to be ashamed.

And I want to share it because I’m sure there are many of you out there who just appear happy to the outside world, but inside you are in turmoil. I hope my story can encourage you that you’re not alone! That God loves you and wants to comfort you and be there for you. And that He has a purpose in your suffering.

I also wanted to share because there is so much going on in this world in which mental health is discussed and debated. And maybe I can be a face for you to put with the discussions. By God’s grace, my anxiety and depression hasn’t led me to do anything harmful to others. But it has in the past, before I understood the Gospel, led me to do things harmful to myself. And whenever I hear stories of people with anxiety who are brought to a place in which they harm others, my heart aches. It’s a complicated ache…

But with God’s grace, that ache can turn to praise. As I remember that someday, all pain -including anxiety and depression and mental illness pain- will be banished forever! God did not intend for this kind of pain to be part of His world, but because of sin, it is. And because of the Gospel, I can rejoice and praise Him as I look forward to the day it will be taken away. From me. From loved ones who struggle in a similar way. And perhaps from you too?

 

“And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. ” 1 Corinthians 2:9-10

“And the ransomed of the LORD shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.” Isaiah 51:11

 

Ye fearful saints fresh courage take,
The clouds you so much dread,
Are big with mercy, and shall break,
With blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust him for his grace.
Behind a frowning providence,
He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast, Unfolding every hour.
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.

God Moves in a Mysterious Way,

William Cowper, 1774

Lyme · Uncategorized

: “It Will Still Be The Best” :

“Smooth let it be, or rough-

it will still be the best.

Winding or straight it leads

right onward to Thy rest.”

When I picture my family, months ago, standing before this path of Lyme disease… it looks like an ugly and dangerous turn, full of scary shadows and darkness and dead foliage.

I imagine myself calling out, “Why are we going down this way; what are you doing Lord?” Desperately wanting to turn back, like “Surely there has to be another path towards holiness and joy!” But God kept calling us down this dark path,telling us we can trust Him. Reminding us of the promises in His Word.

And it took a little while, but

before too long, as we walked along that scary path,

the loveliest colors and sweetest flowers began to unfold at our feet,

as His promises were proving true.

Slowly we began to relax, feeling silly for ever doubting our Faithful Father.

My family is closer than we ever have been. There has been so much redemption in our marriage, and in a difficult relationship with our daughter. We are seeing growth we never thought possible. I am crying my eyes out almost every Sunday during worship because the Gospel is more real to me than ever! We wouldn’t trade this beauty for the world.

And all I can attribute it to is the faithfulness of God.

His mercy, His love, His kindness.

I have been feeling a lot better lately. We found a new treatment and have been having such great results. “Rejoicing, and ready to get on with life” is the best way to describe my heart these days.

So I was all excited this week when I went to my chiropractor appointment, “I’m feeling better, is it safe to start trying for a baby?” I was crushed when he said I should wait a couple more months till the Lyme is consistently not showing up.

Of course, my husband and I are perfectly at liberty to follow our doctor’s advice, or not. The chiropractor said so himself.

But of course, I was hoping for a sure and definite “Yes, absolutely! You can go ahead and get on with your life-plans now.”

That familiar temptation to bitterness crept back in. And that familiar “Lord, where are You taking me?!”  feeling returned.

When I talked to my husband about it later, I was hoping for some sympathy. Instead he graciously and firmly told me God is trying to remind me that my satisfaction can only be found in Him. I didn’t like that comment in the moment. But, Oh! He was so right.

We had it planned for a couple years: in Fall 2017 I would be pregnant. “A little before, or a little after Sadie turns 3”, that was our plan. And I must admit, this is the one area of our life effected by Lyme that just seems like too much for me!

I thought Lyme was going to stop getting in the way of things,

but here it was again staring me square in the eye.

This feels so personal and vulnerable, but I just want to share how God is meeting me. Here right in the middle of Proverbs 16:9, “The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.”

I opened my devotional the next morning, feeling bitterness and knowing I needed God’s Word. And the Lord lifted my face toward Him with a simple line from Psalm 103. A verse I’ve heard hundreds of times, but it’s like I was reading it for the first time.

Vs11″ For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is His steadfast love toward those who fear Him.”

As far as the heavens are above the earth? I had seen this verse on coffee mugs and canvas Sunday-school-teacher bags, but never really stopped to ponder it. The devotional I was reading compared it to the children’s storybook line “I love you to the moon and back.”

Tears of joy filled my eyes, and peace flooded my heart. God didn’t hit me with a verse that morning about my sin and pride, He gave me a verse about His love for me. That’s all I needed! “Bitterness dissolves when I remember the love with which He has for me.”, said Elisabeth Elliot.

And for these last few days, the simple act of looking up at the sky has just been such a treat. As I drive my girls around; as we play outside in the cold for a few minutes, as I peek out the window while I wash dishes, or run out to get the mail—

I feel like He is inviting me to look up at the sky, ponder it’s vastness, and remember that “so great” is His steadfast love toward me. And since that is true, anything He brings my way -all the paths that take turns I dare not choose- will be made sweet and beautiful by that love.

Verse 12 makes it all the more meaningful,

“as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions…”

because there again is the Gospel- where the fullness of His steadfast love was put on display, in all it’s power and wonder. He took my place. He has removed My transgressions. Hallelujah.

Another interesting way God has reached out to me this past week: on Revive Our Hearts Radio. A lady named Sarah Walton is telling her story of God’s faithfulness in trial. Her trial? Lyme disease! And she has passed it on to her children. She wrote a book, and I am going to have to read it. In the meantime, I commented on her blog and asked her what’s she thought about pregnancy and Lyme.

Her reply was prompt, and kind and sweet. And she didn’t tell me, one way or the other, what I *should* do. Instead, she simply told me to seek God. And that’s exactly what I needed to hear.

“Thank you so much for taking the time to write! Yes, it would certainly be an easier conversation to have over coffee! : ) But since that isn’t possible, I first want to say that I want to be careful not to push you one way or another. That isn’t my place and I don’t know if anyone has a clear answer as to what is right or not. But what I will say that I have learned over the years in this area is…we should seek to make decisions with wisdom rather than out of fear. It’s obviously good that we listen to the advise of doctors and I think it’s good to consider different viewpoints. In the end, however, I’m thankful for the children that God has given us…Lyme Disease, struggles, disappointments, and all. In our case, we were ignorant to the fact that I had Lyme and could pass it on, but my husband and I have both said multiple times that we are thankful that we didn’t know in some ways, because we never would have changed the path God has brought us on (well…most of the time. ; )) Do I wish my kids didn’t suffer with this disease? Of course. But has God used it in their lives and our lives? Yes – in a million ways. So I don’t believe that there is a clear right or wrong answer in this area. But God is not a God of confusion and is faithful to lead us as we seek His guidance. In the end, whatever happens, He still reigns. So, although this isn’t really an answer because it’s not an answer for me to give, I hope our own journey will encourage you. I will pray for you and your family right now…for wisdom, unity, and God’s glory to be shown through whatever the future holds for you and your children. Blessings to you, Sarah ”

All that to say, we still don’t quite know what we’re going to do!

Just that we will be seeking the Lord.

And that He will lead us.

And there is so much grace now, to enjoy the two girls God has given us; they are such gifts! There is grace to look up at the sky and enjoy fellowship with my faithful Father.

There is “the peace that passes understanding” despite disappointments,

and changes of plans, and hard decisions.

This old hymn, made new by  Sovereign Grace Music has been a comfort this week.

Thy way, not mine, O Lord,
However dark it be;
Lead me by Thine own hand,
Choose out the Path for me.

Smooth let it be, or rough,
It will be still the best;
Winding or straight it leads
Right onward to Thy rest.

I dare not choose my lot;
I would not if I might:
Choose Thou for me, my God,
So shall I walk aright.

Take Thou my cup, and it
With joy or sorrow fill,
As best to Thee may seem;
Choose Thou my good and ill.

Because God loves us “to the moon and back” ,

because He has removed our transgressions!,

We can certainly trust Him to fill our life’s cup with joy or sorrow; to choose our good and ill. Because He is sovereign and good and faithful, “It will still be the best.”

Thanks for reading my story, friends. Tell me your story!

Lyme

Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him.

In my seven months of dealing with Lyme, I have really been committed to not Google-searching my symptoms. Everyone knows, Google leads only to despair! Friends email me links, which often are good links. But I don’t go looking for information myself. (I might research natural remedies or anti-inflammatory topics and such, but not the ins-and-outs of Lyme itself.)

This past week, thankfully, was a week with less exhaustion and migraines and brain-fog. But, a new symptom has started that basically feels like arthritis in my hands. Once in a while these past few months, a couple of the knuckles on my right hand might hurt a bit…ya know *joint pain*, I’d call it.

But this week it’s spread to all my fingers. First my right hand, then my left. And I know they are just fingers! But it’s been hard to not get discouraged at the reality of a new symptom being added to our life.

I gave in, and I *googled* “Lyme Disease and Arthritis”. And, as always, was not encouraged by what Google had to tell me.

“Lyme disease is an infection caused by bacterium carried by deer ticks. If caught early, it is easily treated with antibiotics. If left untreated, the infection can spread to the joints, heart, and nervous system, causing a complex debilitating disorder that is more difficult to treat.”

Oy. The words glowing on the screen: “If caught early, it is easily treated with antibiotics.”

“If left untreated, the infection can spread…

…complex debilitating disorder…” Yikes!

I put my husband’s phone back on the counter. It hit me again: If my Lyme was caught early, the antibiotics could have done their job. And if I hadn’t gone so long (however long it was) “untreated”, it wouldn’t have become so “difficult to treat.”

And again, (like every other day, or every other hour!,)

it felt like the Lord was quietly asking my heart: “Will you still trust me?”

You see, I believe strongly in the sovereignty and goodness of God, in all things. The entire Bible is a story of this! And the sovereignty and goodness of God in all things would have to include these new symptoms I’m experiencing (even now as I type). And it would have to include the fact that we did not catch my Lyme in that early stage where it’s easiest to treat.

Like Peter walking on the water, first in faith, but then he falls as he looks at the waves beneath his feet…I’m tempted to look down at the waves below me. To take my eyes off Christ. I look at my circumstances, and I start to despair. “Maybe He’s not so good and faithful, ready and waiting to help me.”, wonders my wandering heart.

I said to my husband before bed that night of the Google-search, half-kidding, half-serious: “Babe, I don’t want to lose the use of my hands!” (Google has a way of planting crazy ideas in my head.) He told me to just go to sleep, but first he prayed for me.

I have recently begun making art again after a six year hiatus, and thoughts flooded my mind. How could God allow that back in my life only to take it away again, by giving me crippled hands?? Of course, I was being a little dramatic. Letting my fears run free. My hands still work just fine. But, again, the Lord was prompting my heart: Will I still trust Him?

Kind of like how it’s impossible to assuage my five year old’s endless anxious pleadings before bedtime, the Lord can’t really give me much relief when I allow the thoughts to spin round and round in my head.

He just asks me to trust Him. And that’s all I can do.

The story of Jesus and his disciples in John chapter 6 has been a comfort to me in the past month. Jesus had said some pretty heavy things to a crowd of his followers, and many decided that they just couldn’t follow Him anymore. It was too much for them. They didn’t see the beauty and joy, they only saw the cost and the pain. They didn’t see their need.

John 6:67-69, “So Jesus said to the twelve, ‘Do you want to go away as well?’ Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life,  and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.’ “

I hope I am not taking too much liberty here, but sometimes I imagine Jesus is asking me that question. When I’m faced with another hard-to-follow-Jesus moment, this loving question is like a refreshing splash of cold water to my face.

He asks, “Do you want to go away as well?”

Immediately I know my answer: Of course I don’t want to go away! Where else could I go?? Of course I want to be with Him, here, in my suffering, where He promises to be. I have believed and come to know that Jesus is the Holy One of God. He has the words of eternal life. And He is here with me. There’s no place I’d rather be.

And suddenly instead of despair, He fills my heart with praises.

Like Psalm 43:

“Send out your light and your truth;  let them lead me;
let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling!
 Then I will go to the altar of God, to God ,my exceeding joy..

Why are you cast down, O my soul,

and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,

my salvation and my God.”

& I’ll have to end this post with a Sara Groves song. It’s been a comfort to me through many years of walking with the Lord, in joy and pain, and is pretty much guaranteed to make me cry whenever and wherever I hear it: He’s Always Been Faithful.

Because He has. And I did nothing to deserve it!

Morning by morning I wake up to find
The power and comfort of God’s hand in mine
Season by season I watch Him, amazed
In awe of the mystery of His perfect ways
All I have need of, His hand will provide
He’s always been faithful to me

I can’t remember a trial or a pain
He did not recycle to bring me gain
I can’t remember one single regret
In serving God only, and trusting His hand
All I have need of, His hand will provide
He’s always been faithful to me

This is my anthem, this is my song
The theme of the stories I’ve heard for so long
God has been faithful, He will be again
His loving compassion, it knows no end
All I have need of, His hand will provide
He’s always been faithful, He’s always been faithful
He’s always been faithful to me

 

 

Photo credit: My husband took this picture of our church, from the woods while he was hunting last week. So thankful for my church family, where God has shown me His faithfulness again and again.

Lyme · Uncategorized

🍂”You can see something else.”🍂 A Late-September’s Ramble.

Once a month, I’ll post a rambly post from my rambly heart ,without taking time to edit and overthink. (Believe it or not I really do hack away for a day or two at all my posts before I share them, so they’re slightly more cohesive.) Here I go:

Last month, when I wrote, it was early August. Definitely the prime of Summertime, but in the the air it was feeling like Fall. I do believe I was drinking a chai that day. ☕️

And I wrote about how I was looking expectantly to the season ahead, with cooler weather and shorter days, and more chai teas. I wrote about how it seemed then that my Lyme symptoms were fading too, just like those Summer days…

Today, it’s late September, early Fall, and ironically it’s been feeling like Summer again. It’s like these two months should trade places. The leaves on the maple tree outside my bedroom window are half gone, as I look at them now…

But I’ve traded in that spiced chai for iced coffee. And the shorts and summer clothes I had packed away are out again; it’s been so hot.

And kind of like those shorts, that I thought I was done with, that I didn’t want to think about for a long, long time, and so I pushed them back in the closet where I couldn’t see them;

just like the season of Summer I thought was over, but isn’t,

that I’d hoped I was trading in for a new, fresher, fuller one, but I’m not…

my Lyme symptoms are back with a vengeance.

As I wrote last month, & I quote:

I’m looking forward to Fall because I feel like this Summer has been all about recovering from Lyme disease. And I don’t know for sure, but the worst seems to be behind us now, and the Fall and Winter ahead just seem like an invitation to get on with life.

Or,

it might get worse again,

and that’s okay too.”

Of course, I meant it at the time. The first part :and: the second part. And I still do.

But, of course, I hoped this new season would be “an invitation to get on with life”, and not an invitation back to the couch.

I was out in the heat with the girls yesterday, ripping out the half-dead zinnias from our front yard. There were big puffs of dusty-dirt as I yanked up their roots, and my youngest one laughed at me and she tried to help.

As my daughters ran around in the grass and got all sweaty in September, and the dirt from my shovel poured over my sandals-in-September-feet,

it was hitting me how “so-not-what-I-wanted” life had been the past week. Yesterday was a pretty “good day” as friends who know Lyme will understand. But the weekend was rough. I was in bed all day Saturday and half of Sunday.

Sara Groves wrote a song called Like A Lake. And It describes how I’ve been feeling lately.

“Everything in me is drawing in, curling in around this ache. :I am fighting to stay open:, like the surface of a like; wide open like a lake.”

That is me each day lately, fighting for faith in God’s goodness and plan. Fighting against “curling in around this ache” with thoughts of doubt, and temptation to withdraw in bitterness from friends and family and church…

This morning as Bron lead our family in Bible reading, he asked the girls what we can pray for this week. Emmy immediately said “to help Mommy’s ‘Lymes’ be all gone.” And Bron added, with a gracious/teasing side-eye: “and that Mommy will trust God in a hard season.”

I’m thankful for a husband (and daughter) who pray for me.

We chose antibiotics in hopes that the Lyme bacteria in my body would be dealt with quicker that way. All the stories we heard of the natural route for treating Lyme seemed to indicate that it takes forever to recover that way.

We didn’t feel like we had forever! We didn’t want to have to deal with this long term. I hoped I could be one of those people who can say “I had Lyme.” But instead it seems more likely that I may be among the many who have Lyme Disease. (Or, Post-Lyme, or Chronic Lyme, whatever you want to call it.)

So, I’m following my family doctor’s advice to be done with antibiotics after a three month round of trying to kill the bacteria this Summer. He said if three months didn’t kill it, more time won’t either. And I appreciate his honestly! I need to find another treatment.

IMG_4975

So, now I’m doing a 30 day regimen of essential oils, and searching for a doable anti-fungal/anti-inflammatory diet to help alongside that. I must admit, I’m not quite as hopeful as I begin this new treatment !

Before, when I’d pop my antibiotic each morning and evening I would pray “Please Lord, kill this bacteria so we can get on with life!” But God did not answer my prayer in the way that I hoped.

Now as I layer essential oils on the bottoms of my feet and wrists and I take my supplements, I’m praying prayers that He’ll just get me through the day– give wisdom for when to work and when to rest; how much to push myself on my good days and how much to rest on my bad days.

Praying that He’ll keep me “open , like a lake”, not “curled around the ache” that He didn’t answer my prayers as I would have thought best. That He’ll use this for His glory, and keep me close to Him as I learn to trust Him more.

Another Sara Groves song I love describes my prayers lately too:

“From this one place I can’t see very far;

in this one moment, I’m square in the dark.

these are the things I will trust in my heart:

You can see something else.”

God can see something else, because He’s the one in control of it all. And whatever becomes of my health, He’s sovereign and good over it all. He’s been faithful and kind though it all. I can continue to trust Him, even as it looks like I’m stepping into the territory of “Chronic Lyme” I was praying against.

Have you heard of the prosperity gospel ? Well first of all, it is heresy, but second of all it is :nothing: compared to the true gospel. The prosperity gospel tells me that God loves me and wants me to be happy and if I have enough faith, God will give me health, wealth and prosperity on this earth.

But the true gospel tells me that  “because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, God made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ.” 

 

I don’t need health, wealth, and prosperity. I was dead in my trespasses, and God made me alive! That is what I needed, and I have it!

I need the immeasurable riches of His grace. I need His Kindness. I need His great love. And I have it in Christ. And so can you.

He brings meaning and beauty to my suffering, because of the meaning and beauty shown on the cross. And as I behold the cross, He is changing me.

So, these are things I tell myself as I lay in bed with a migraine and joint pain, when there’s so much to be done. And it applies to you too wherever you are struggling; wherever He has you. He wants to help you too.

Because of the cross, we can sing the faith-filled song with Sara Groves “from this one place I can’t see very far; [But] You can see something else.” And we can agree with Charles Spurgeon, like I shared last month, when things seemed brighter. It is true even moreso in suffering:

‘Send me what thou wilt, my God, so long as it comes from thee;

never came there an ill portion from thy table to any of thy children.”