Archives for October 2013

Though I suffered then, as I look back now…

I hope someday I will be able to say this:

“Though I suffered then, as I look back now, I am grateful that there was not a quick solution to my problem. The fact that I was forced to turn to God for help almost daily over an extended period of years taught me truly how to pray and get answers to prayer and taught me in a very practical way to have faith in God. I came to know my Savior and my Heavenly Father in a way and to a degree that might not have happened otherwise or that might have taken me much longer to achieve. … I learned to trust in the Lord with all my heart. I learned to walk with Him day by day.”
~D. Todd Christopherson

I’m getting there. We’re still struggling and suffering and haven’t found the solution yet but the rest of the quote can be applied to me. I’ve been forced to turn to God for help almost daily over and extended period of years.  I’m learning how to pray and to get answers.  I’m learning to have faith in my Savior and my Heavenly Father and coming to know them and have faith in them and their plan.  I’ve got a long way to go but I’m getting there.

I’ve had several discussions with my daughter about this very thing.  She too is coming to know our Savior and Heavenly Father better because her prayers have been answered and she’s felt his love and peace. We’ve even wondered if my son agreed to this trial for our benefit, so that we could learn what we need to in this life.

 

Elder Faust gave a talk way back in 1979 that I have come to appreciate.

I wish to speak this morning to all, but especially to those who feel they have had more trials, sorrows, pricks, and thorns than they can bear and in their adversity are almost drowned in the waters of bitterness. My message is intended as one of hope, strength, and deliverance. I speak of the refiner’s fire.

Some years ago president David O. McKay told from this pulpit of the experience of some of those in the Martin handcart company. Many of these early converts had emigrated from Europe and were too poor to buy oxen or horses and a wagon. They were forced by their poverty to pull handcarts containing all of their belongings across the plains by their own brute strength. President McKay relates an occurrence which took place some years after the heroic exodus: “A teacher, conducting a class, said it was unwise ever to attempt, even to permit them [the Martin handcart company] to come across the plains under such conditions.

“[According to a class member,] some sharp criticism of the Church and its leaders was being indulged in for permitting any company of converts to venture across the plains with no more supplies or protection than a handcart caravan afforded.

“An old man in the corner … sat silent and listened as long as he could stand it, then he arose and said things that no person who heard him will ever forget. His face was white with emotion, yet he spoke calmly, deliberately, but with great earnestness and sincerity.

“In substance [he] said, ‘I ask you to stop this criticism. You are discussing a matter you know nothing about. Cold historic facts mean nothing here, for they give no proper interpretation of the questions involved. Mistake to send the Handcart Company out so late in the season? Yes. But I was in that company and my wife was in it and Sister Nellie Unthank whom you have cited was there, too. We suffered beyond anything you can imagine and many died of exposure and starvation, but did you ever hear a survivor of that company utter a word of criticism? Not one of that company ever apostatized or left the Church, because everyone of us came through with the absolute knowledge that God lives for we became acquainted with him in our extremities.

handcarts

“‘I have pulled my handcart when I was so weak and weary from illness and lack of food that I could hardly put one foot ahead of the other. I have looked ahead and seen a patch of sand or a hill slope and I have said, I can go only that far and there I must give up, for I cannot pull the load through it.’” He continues: “‘I have gone on to that sand and when I reached it, the cart began pushing me. I have looked back many times to see who was pushing my cart, but my eyes saw no one. I knew then that the angels of God were there.

“‘Was I sorry that I chose to come by handcart? No. Neither then nor any minute of my life since. The price we paid to become acquainted with God was a privilege to pay, and I am thankful that I was privileged to come in the Martin Handcart Company.’” (Relief Society Magazine, Jan. 1948, p. 8.)

Here then is a great truth. In the pain, the agony, and the heroic endeavors of life, we pass through a refiner’s fire, and the insignificant and the unimportant in our lives can melt away like dross and make our faith bright, intact, and strong. In this way the divine image can be mirrored from the soul. It is part of the purging toll exacted of some to become acquainted with God. In the agonies of life, we seem to listen better to the faint, godly whisperings of the Divine Shepherd.

Into every life there come the painful, despairing days of adversity and buffeting. There seems to be a full measure of anguish, sorrow, and often heartbreak for everyone, including those who earnestly seek to do right and be faithful. The thorns that prick, that stick in the flesh, that hurt, often change lives which seem robbed of significance and hope. This change comes about through a refining process which often seems cruel and hard. In this way the soul can become like soft clay in the hands of the Master in building lives of faith, usefulness, beauty, and strength. For some, the refiner’s fire causes a loss of belief and faith in God, but those with eternal perspective understand that such refining is part of the perfection process.

In our extremities, it is possible to become born again, born anew, renewed in heart and spirit. We no longer ride with the flow of the crowd, but instead we enjoy the promise of Isaiah to be renewed in our strength and “mount up with wings as eagles” (Isa. 40:31).

 

What a great message.  I love these 2 lines from the story of the Handcart survivor:

“…everyone of us came through with the absolute knowledge that God lives for we became acquainted with him in our extremities”.

“The price we paid to become acquainted with God was a privilege to pay, and I am thankful…”

I’m trying to keep an eternal perspective.  I have faith that the blessing that have been given and promised to my son will come to pass in this life.  But if they don’t I know that everything will be made clear in the next life and nothing will be denied us if we can but endure this well.

 

 

 

Pride Cometh Before the Fall…

Personal Blog Post from May 25, 2011~

“You’re Going to Prove Me Wrong” – Seriously I couldn’t help but smile at hearing those words out of the psychiatrist’s mouth today.  He was thrilled with how well our oldest is doing. He had told me in all his years of practice he had never seen anyone get well.  I am going to prove him wrong!

That came on the heels of yesterday’s triumph with the counselor giving him a clean bill of health and saying that unless something changes he doesn’t need to see him for a month.

I know we still have such a long way to go.  There are still issues and medical concerns to deal with and there may be relapses to deal with but it has now been over 2 weeks with no medication and he’s doing fabulous.

So for today I’m again focusing on how far we have come instead of how long we still have to go.  It’s going to be a long journey but progress is being made and that makes me smile.

2.5 years later… I’m now much more humble than I was back then.  I look back and realize how proud I was believing that I had “fixed” my son. As they say… Pride cometh before the fall.

I still have an unwavering faith that my son will ultimately be fine. Exactly what “fine” is I leave in the hands of the Lord to determine. It has been a long journey and it may be even longer but I now trust in the Lord’s timing.

I have this quote as the background on my computer and it brings me great peace and comfort.

Strong faith in the Savior is submissively accepting of His will and timing in our lives, even if the outcome is not what we hoped for or wanted. ~ Elder Bednar

strong faith

 

Through the experiences I’ve had I’ve come to trust that God knows what is best for me and my family. I have faith that everything will work out all right in the end.  I’ve seen God’s hand working in our lives so many times the past few months I can’t doubt he is there and aware of what we are going through.

Isaiah 55:8-9 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.

I’ve come to a point of acceptance and submissiveness. When things are out of my control I simply turn them over to the Lord.  My son was my Heavenly Father’s son long before he was mine.  A simple prayer of – I’ve done all I can do and he’s in your hands now – brings me the peace I need. I am then able to stand still and wait without the burden of excessive worry knowing that God loves my son and is watching over him.

Don’t assume you can fix everything, but fix what you can. If those are only small victories, be grateful for them and be patient. Dozens of times in the scriptures, the Lord commands someone to “stand still” or “be still”—and wait. Patiently enduring some things is part of our mortal education. ~ Elder Holland

I’m trying to celebrate the small victories such as the one we experienced yesterday.  For just one day my son was back. That brief 24 hours of “normal” brought me great peace and comfort that he can in fact be made well and whole once again because for those precious 24 hours he was.  That all hope is not lost and that God can in fact work miracles.

Today has been a day of needing to patiently endure.  The kind of day where I need to remember that my son is in the hands of the divine potter and I can’t fix everything… but I can be patient and endure it well.

I thought I had everything figured out… May 2011

Personal Blog post written May 15, 2011.  

That was 2 and a half years ago.  We’re still looking for solutions and answers.  I thought I had everything figured out.  I thought our trial was ending… Oh how naive I was… it was just beginning. We made it through a summer medication free.  We had a season of peace before the next storm arrived.

Looking back I do believe we had started on the right course and I had figured out a few things.  I still believe in the body’s ability to heal.  I still believe there are answers out there and alternatives to prescription drugs. I still believe that one day soon my son will be better.  I still have faith that my son will one day be healed from his afflictions.  But whatever the future holds I will accept and love it!

 

My sister-in-law recently asked my brother if I was ok.  Why?  Because I was not blogging anymore more.  There are many reasons why I haven’t been blogging as much.  I actually had been blogging quite a bit but it was on my book blog.  I was really enjoying book blogging until one of my children got sick about 3 months ago.  Then all my time and energy went to him and trying to figure out how to help him.  There were just not enough hours in the day and something had to go… reading for pleasure and blogging went.

What exactly was wrong with my son … no one really knows.  He has not slept well in a really long time.  At least a year and a half and probably closer to two years.  Personally I believe lack of sleep brought on his recent health issues.  When you don’t get enough sleep, especially as a growing teenager it can cause a lot of problems.  But what was causing the lack of sleep? medical illness, mental illness, a combination of both?  What brought on those conditions?

What do you do when medical doctors don’t have the answers and their only solution is to put your child on medication, medication that doesn’t cure but just treats the symptoms.  Medication that has horrible side effects and when one medication isn’t doing the job they add another one. Medications that costs $1600 a month that we have to pay 25% of making out portion $400 a month. Oh and by the way we should tell you that the medication is known to cause diabetes and often causes uncontrollable weight gain no matter how healthy you eat and a host of other symptoms as well but sorry your child needs to be on this medication possibly for life.  What do you do…. you find a new doctor!  One who is willing to work with you to find the cause, not just mask the symptoms.

What else do you do?  Well if you are like my husband & I you read and study and pray and read some more and have faith that things will turn out ok in the end.

We are LDS.  I have a very strong testimony and belief in God.  I was given a blessing that said as I read and studied and prayed I would be inspired to know how to help our son, that he would be fine and the outcome would be positive. My son was given a blessing that he would be healed.  So that is where I put my faith, in the power of the priesthood and in the power of God.  I know the Lord can heal our son and that he can inspire my husband & I to know what to do and how to help him so that those blessing will be fulfilled.  We will do everything in our power to ensure that blessing is fulfilled.

So we turn to the internet and dozens of books on a myriad of topics.  I’ve drawn my conclusions and started to make some major changes.

Nearly 2 years ago I started couponing.  I loved going shopping and getting free and dirt cheap items.  The problem is nearly everything I bought was processed, refined, sugar filled garbage.  From cold cereal to hamburger helper, canned foods to freezer pizza, almost everything nutritionally speaking was not healthy.  Little Caesar’s pizza and Taco Tuesdays at Del Taco became weekly outings and home cooked meals were few and far between. It was much easier to put a Costco lasagna in the oven instead of making a meal from scratch.  There were weeks when I didn’t have a single piece of fresh fruit or vegetables in the house.  Lucky Charms for breakfast, hot pocket for lunch and pizza for dinner with cookies, brownies and chips for snacks. Not a healthy way to eat.

Ultimately I think our son’s issues stemmed from poor diet and nutrition.  I fully realize there is the possibility of other things going on but diet and lack of nutrition compounded the problem.  If my blessing is to be fulfilled and My son is to be fine than there are things we can do to help, diet and nutrition being the first and most important. Many a medical doctor would tell me I’m crazy but it was the father of medicine Hippocrates who said “All disease begins in the gut” & “Let food by thy medicine and medicine be thy food”.  Everything I’ve read leads me to believe that there is more truth in those statements that I would have believed could be possible.

Dr. Campbell-McBride is one doctor whose research fascinates me – she’s written a book called Gut and Psychology Syndrome – I’ve not yet read the book but have ordered it and plan on reading it.  A quote from her that has really got me thinking is: “Left untreated, gut dysfunction can snowball into a lifelong struggle with neuropsychological and physical disorders from chronic fatigue and IBS to depression and bi-polar”.
There is a wealth of information out there – everyone claims there way is the right way and everyone has contradictory information!  There is only one food everyone agrees is safe to eat in unlimited quantities and that is vegetables!  Everything else from fruit to milk to wheat to meat is objected to by someone.
I just received a timely email today from a site called Incredible Smoothies and here is what is said:

Today’s focus is on diet. What is the healthiest diet? The truth is, nobody really knows!

Every health expert has a strong opinion on what the healthiest diet is and is not. Every dietary philosophy contradicts and confuses. Nutrition science just gives me a migraine.  Some experts recommend a vegetarian or vegan diet while others say you need to eat meat in order to be healthy.  Some say you should eat lots of carbohydrates or fruit while others say you should avoid carbohydrates and especially fruit.  Some experts promote a raw food diet while others say cooking “made us human”.  If you tried to follow every piece of diet advice out there, you’d lose your mind, and probably your health just trying to make sense of it all.

Boy did she nail exactly what I am feeling right on the head!

I don’t know who is right and who is wrong but I figure the best bet for me is to go with the Word of Wisdom.

1 A Word of Wisdom, for the benefit of the council of high priests, assembled in Kirtland, and the church, and also the saints in Zion—
2 To be sent greeting; not by commandment or constraint, but by revelation and the word of wisdom, showing forth the order and will of God in the temporal salvation of all saints in the last days—
3 Given for a principle with promise, adapted to the capacity of the weak and the weakest of all saints, who are or can be called saints.
4 Behold, verily, thus saith the Lord unto you: In consequence of evils and designs which do and will exist in the hearts of conspiring men in the last days, I have warned you, and forewarn you, by giving unto you this word of wisdom by revelation—
5 That inasmuch as any man drinketh wine or strong drink among you, behold it is not good, neither meet in the sight of your Father, only in assembling yourselves together to offer up your sacraments before him.
6 And, behold, this should be wine, yea, pure wine of the grape of the vine, of your own make.
7 And, again, strong drinks are not for the belly, but for the washing of your bodies.
8 And again, tobacco is not for the body, neither for the belly, and is not good for man, but is an herb for bruises and all sick cattle, to be used with judgment and skill.
9 And again, hot drinks are not for the body or belly.
10 And again, verily I say unto you, all wholesome herbs God hath ordained for the constitution, nature, and use of man—
11 Every herb in the season thereof, and every fruit in the season thereof; all these to be used with prudence and thanksgiving.
12 Yea, flesh also of beasts and of the fowls of the air, I, the Lord, have ordained for the use of man with thanksgiving; nevertheless they are to be used sparingly;
13 And it is pleasing unto me that they should not be used, only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine.
14 All grain is ordained for the use of man and of beasts, to be the staff of life, not only for man but for the beasts of the field, and the fowls of heaven, and all wild animals that run or creep on the earth;
15 And these hath God made for the use of man only in times of famine and excess of hunger.
16 All grain is good for the food of man; as also the fruit of the vine; that which yieldeth fruit, whether in the ground or above the ground—
17 Nevertheless, wheat for man, and corn for the ox, and oats for the horse, and rye for the fowls and for swine, and for all beasts of the field, and barley for all useful animals, and for mild drinks, as also other grain.
18 And all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments, shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones;
19 And shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures;
20 And shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint.
21 And I, the Lord, give unto them a promise, that the destroying angel shall pass by them, as the children of Israel, and not slay them. Amen.

That email had some other advice that I totally feels fits right in with the course we are on…

The good news is, there are core fundamentals that nearly every health expert agrees on:

1 – Eat a plant-based diet…. Whatever you do, be sure to eat at minimum 5 servings (better if you eat 10 or more servings) of fresh, whole, ripe, raw fruits and vegetables every day!
Health experts and gurus who do eat meat strongly recommend seeking out grass-fed products from small farms and to avoid, at all costs, anything that was raised in a factory farm (sadly, the vast majority of animal foods in supermarkets and restaurants).

2 – Avoid processed, modern convenience foods. I prefer to call them “manufactured” foods. Anything that has been processed and comes in a package, box or bag, or that has been dehydrated, pre-cooked, refined or tampered with in any way from it’s natural state, should not play any more than a miniscule role in your diet.

3 – Health is more than just what you eat. You can eat the healthiest diet on the planet and still fall short of being healthy if the rest of your life is out of balance. A healthy diet is no substitute for exercise, sunshine, positive outlook and fulfilling relationships.

If you recognize that your diet is in need of a serious overhaul, don’t feel pressured to change it overnight. It takes time to establish a new habit.

I do feel pressure, tremendous pressure to make overnight changes.

Armed with the knowledge we have started to make drastic changes in the way we eat.  It has meant that I have cleaned out my kitchen and food storage of almost everything processed or refined.  Most everything that has additives, sugar, preservatives, etc. has been thrown away or given away. No corn syrup, no refined sugar, no MSG, no aspartme or splenda, no additives – if I can’t pronounce it then we can’t eat it.  I’m working on getting rid of the rest of the processed food and trying to replace it with healthy alternatives. Anyone know of a good alternative to ranch dressing to make raw vegetables edible?
Changes that have been made so far been embraced fairly well by most of the family.  A little bribery helped – if the kids go off sugar for the month they get to go to Disneyland.  My 4 youngest children have been very good about not eating sugar.  They have all turned down multiple offers of sugar and other sweets and I’m so proud of them.
Of course I’m just the mom and don’t know anything according to my teenage son because I’m not a doctor but at least after giving me a hard time and saying he won’t do something he usually complies with my ideas.  He has willing sat through countless doctors appointments sometimes as many as 3 or 4 a week.  He’s submitted to several rounds of bloodwork including the most recent round which included 16 vials of blood being drawn, he’s willing taken what seems like a zillion supplements a day and for the most part embraced our new diet (if it weren’t for those dang church activities where all they serve are sugar filled processed refreshments he’d be doing much better).
Today I picked up my bountiful basket of fruit and vegetables.  We didn’t order just one basket for the week we ordered 3.  (Anyone want any artichokes – we made a valiant effort and tried them tonight but once this week was more than enough). I walk through the aisles of the grocery store chanting – whole foods, unprocessed food, no sugar, no refined foods, no additives and end up putting very little in my cart that is not found in the produce aisle.
I’ve learned how to make green smoothies which are more often than not quite good or at least edible in most cases. I’ve taught myself to tolerate raw vegetables by forcing myself to just take a couple bites of them each day.  I am trying to cook everything we eat from scratch.  It is time consuming.  My dishwasher needs to be run 3 or 4 times a day.  Other things are not getting done like folding the laundry and cleaning the toilets.  But I can only run so fast each day and at the end of the day try to focus on what did get done instead of what didn’t.
I’ve always loved this quote: “It May Not Be Easy, But It Will Be Worth It”
worth it

It is not easy but I am sure it will be worth it!

The good news is my oldest son has now been off all his medication for a week!  The last couple nights he has even gone to sleep without any melatonin or other herbs or supplements to help him sleep.  He’s happier than I have seen him in the past year.
I realize there might be set backs coming.  There may be times when medication will be necessary again. I’ve consulted with 3 different doctors and have back up plans in place.  It’s a lot of trial and error and I don’t have all the answers but for now the stress of the last couple months is gone.  I don’t wake up wondering and worrying what the day will bring.  I don’t cringe because I’m no longer handing my son pills that I know are going to have long term side effects.
I’m grateful for simple things like having the technology to draw and analyze blood to tell us there are deficiencies in vitamins and amino acids and inflammation that needs to be addressed.  I’m grateful for a husband who stays up late researching and gives up some of his favorite foods and sits down to a dinner that is definitely not steak and potatoes without complaint and that he didn’t look at me like I’m crazy when I got rid of the microwave. I’m grateful for simple things like walking into the library and seeing a book on the counter that has the exact information I need.  For doing an online search based on something my sister in law suggested and finding out there is a free class on that subject the very next day here is my small town.  For arriving at the health food store at the same time a knowledgeable health food person is making a delivery and can answer my questions.  I’m grateful for my Uncle and Aunt and don’t even want to think of where we would be at without their intervention and help. I’m grateful for my dad who knew things were tight for us and helped out with medical bills and took our 4 younger kids for a week so we could have a week to focus all our attention on just our oldest.  I’m grateful for my brother who cared enough to get involved and sought out help when we didn’t know what to do or where to turn. I’m grateful for the fasting and prayers of family members and friends.  In case you can’t tell I’m feeling very grateful for answers to prayers that have come in small and simple ways.  So here we go on a new grand adventure of trial and error as we try to become healthier.

The Calm Before the Storm or Have the Winds Ceased?

Most nights when my head finally hits the pillow I fall sound asleep within minutes.  Tonight I am unable to sleep.   The past couple of months (or more accurately years) have been so full of daily ups and downs. I’ve been in flight or fight mode for a long time.  We’ve had seasons of peace and seasons of storm but recently it seems like there has been far more storms than peace. However today has been a blessedly calm day around here.

I don’t think my mind and body remember what to do with calm. Don’t get me wrong I am grateful for the reprieve that today has been but it makes me wonder… Have the winds finally ceased to blow or is this just the calm before the next storm?

raging seas

Is there sunlight on the horizon or is this just a brief break in the storm clouds?

calm

Have we finally turned a corner?  Or is the next challenge just around the bend?

Are we finally in for a season of calm?  Or will our refiner’s fire continue?

I’ve been laying in bed pondering the events of the last few years. So many ups, so many downs.  I’ve barely begun to scratch the surface of all that we’ve been through.  It’s hard to share the details because so many things are so very personal. Much of what we have experienced can never be shared. The storms have definitely been raging around us. But isn’t it that way for everyone?  No one escapes this life without their share of troubles and trials. My trials are tailor made for what I need to learn and I wouldn’t trade them.  I’m grateful for them.  I’m grateful for what they have helped me learn.  I’m grateful for what have helped me become.

 

I love this quote.  It reminds me to be grateful for the ride that is my life.

 

 “Anyone who imagines that bliss is normal is going to waste a lot of time running around shouting that he’s been robbed. The fact is that most putts don’t drop, most beef is tough, most children grow up to just be people, most successful marriages require a high degree of mutual toleration, most jobs are more often dull than otherwise. Life is like an old time rail journey…delays…sidetracks, smoke, dust, cinders and jolts, interspersed only occasionally by beautiful vistas and thrilling burst of speed. The trick is to thank the Lord for letting you have the ride.” ~Gordon B. Hinckley

 

Whatever today was I’m grateful for it.

 

I am grateful that…

Today was a day free of obsessions and compulsions.

Today there was laughter in our home.

Today I didn’t have to worry where my son was.

Today when the phone rang there was no moment of panic as to who was calling and why.

Today we sat around the table as a family to eat a dinner that I actually prepared.

Today all my children are home safe.

Today was a great day.

 

Whatever tomorrow brings I will be grateful for it.

Panic Attacks

I’ve never had a panic attack.  Never even come close but I’ve experienced them from the outside looking.

February 10, 2011 – my son had his first panic attack.  It was late, about 1 am.  He had been trying to fall asleep and couldn’t.  He became really anxious because he needed sleep and couldn’t get it. He came upstairs and thought he was going to die. His heart was racing, he couldn’t think right and he wanted us to call 911 because he was so freaked out and thought he needed to go to the hospital. Honestly I was freaked out too because I didn’t know what was wrong with him. I was ready to call 911 but my husband was more aware of what might be going on.  As he explained what he was experiencing we came to realize what was happening…  a panic or anxiety attack. We talked him through it and assured him he would be ok. We woke up our neighbor who came over to help give him a blessing.  I remember sitting by him trying to soothe him and reassure him he would be ok.  It was a long night. After what seemed like forever he finally settled down and fell asleep on the couch.

The next morning I let him skip school so he could sleep in.  I called a sleep specialist, the next available appointment was several weeks away.  The thought of calling a psychiatrist never crossed my mind.  He couldn’t sleep, nothing more.

Panic attack warning.

This night stands out in my memory as the beginning of the downhill slide.  It was just a couple days later that I started to realize we were dealing with something other than insomnia.  In hindsight there were signs of issues before that night but I wasn’t looking for a problem so I didn’t recognize them.  Prior to that night all I had noticed was insomnia.  The signs of something deeper were there but I was oblivious to them.

Come What May and Love It!

come what may

This is a talk that I have loved since Elder Wirthlin gave it 5 years ago.

 

When I was young I loved playing sports, and I have many fond memories of those days. But not all of them are pleasant. I remember one day after my football team lost a tough game, I came home feeling discouraged. My mother was there. She listened to my sad story. She taught her children to trust in themselves and each other, not blame others for their misfortunes, and give their best effort in everything they attempted.

When we fell down, she expected us to pick ourselves up and get going again. So the advice my mother gave to me then wasn’t altogether unexpected. It has stayed with me all my life.

“Joseph,” she said, “come what may, and love it.”

I have often reflected on that counsel.

I think she may have meant that every life has peaks and shadows and times when it seems that the birds don’t sing and bells don’t ring. Yet in spite of discouragement and adversity, those who are happiest seem to have a way of learning from difficult times, becoming stronger, wiser, and happier as a result…

 

come what may 2

 

 

How little I knew then of what awaited me in later years. But whenever my steps led through seasons of sadness and sorrow, my mother’s words often came back to me: “Come what may, and love it.”

How can we love days that are filled with sorrow? We can’t—at least not in the moment. I don’t think my mother was suggesting that we suppress discouragement or deny the reality of pain. I don’t think she was suggesting that we smother unpleasant truths beneath a cloak of pretended happiness. But I do believe that the way we react to adversity can be a major factor in how happy and successful we can be in life.

If we approach adversities wisely, our hardest times can be times of greatest growth, which in turn can lead toward times of greatest happiness.

 

come what may 3

 

Although my mother has long since passed to her eternal reward, her words are always with me. I still remember her advice to me given on that day long ago when my team lost a football game: “Come what may, and love it.”

I know why there must be opposition in all things. Adversity, if handled correctly, can be a blessing in our lives. We can learn to love it.

As we look for humor, seek for the eternal perspective, understand the principle of compensation, and draw near to our Heavenly Father, we can endure hardship and trial. We can say, as did my mother, “Come what may, and love it.”

 

Dealing with the unknown of mental illness has really worn on me at times.  By adopting the motto “Come what may and love it” I’ve been able to better deal with what comes my way.  Instead of worrying about the future and what tomorrow will bring if I instead have a come what may and love it attitude I’m so much happier.

We’ve learned to laugh and find the silver lining in things.

 

I’ve always been a huge fan of the movie Pollyanna.  I love the quote in her locket

“When you look for the bad in mankind, expecting to find it, you surely will”. – Abraham Lincoln.

I believe the reverse is also true.  If we look for the good we can and will find it.  So rather than dwelling on the negative and the unknown I try my best to see the world through rose colored glasses. I look for the good.  I focus on the positive. I play the “glad game”.

So here are a few of the things I can be glad about.

I’ve seen miracles.

I’ve had my prayers answered.

I’ve felt the Lord’s love for me and my son.

I know that whatever the outcome may be it is going to be ok.

I’ve felt the love and concern of family and friends.

I’ve got to know some amazing doctors and nurses who truly care.

My faith has increased.

I have learned so much about so many different things.

I can empathize with others who are going through trials.

I’ve tasted the bitter which has helped me to appreciate the sweet.

I’ve learned to be grateful for what I have.

I celebrate the small things like a good symptom free day.

Come what may I will love it!

Sleep (or the lack thereof)

Once viewed only as symptoms, sleep problems may actually contribute to psychiatric disorders.

Americans are notoriously sleep deprived, but those with psychiatric conditions are even more likely to be yawning or groggy during the day. Chronic sleep problems affect 50% to 80% of patients in a typical psychiatric practice, compared with 10% to 18% of adults in the general U.S. population. Sleep problems are particularly common in patients with anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Traditionally, clinicians treating patients with psychiatric disorders have viewed insomnia and other sleep disorders as symptoms. But studies in both adults and children suggest that sleep problems may raise risk for, and even directly contribute to, the development of some psychiatric disorders. This research has clinical application, because treating a sleep disorder may also help alleviate symptoms of a co-occurring mental health problem.

The brain basis of a mutual relationship between sleep and mental health is not yet completely understood. But neuroimaging and neurochemistry studies suggest that a good night’s sleep helps foster both mental and emotional resilience, while chronic sleep disruptions set the stage for negative thinking and emotional vulnerability.

~Sleep and Mental Health

 

So which came first the chicken or the egg?

sleep

The first sign of any trouble came when my son started having trouble sleeping.  We didn’t even know it was an issue for a long time….

One afternoon he came to me and said “My friend said it’s not normal to lay awake for hours before falling asleep, how long does it take you to fall asleep?”  During the discussion that followed I learned that he was laying awake for hours each night before falling asleep and was waking often during the night.

A couple trips to the doctors office lead us to try melatonin and then Hydroxyzine (an antihistamine) both helped temporarily but didn’t fix the problem.

Overtime I came to learn that he was laying in bed thinking about things while he couldn’t sleep.  Thoughts were playing over and over in his mind and he began to have a lot of fear and worry over why he couldn’t get his mind to stop thinking.

Getting adequate sleep was a struggle for him and remains that way even today. I can almost predict trouble heading our way by the amount of sleep he gets (or doesn’t get).

Unfortunately there has been no easy solution to this problem.  We’ve tried various medications with varying degrees of success and failure.  Exercise, diet and sleep hygiene techniques have not lead to a alleviation of symptoms.

Many nights we’ve both been up all night while he tries to sleep, paces the floor or eventually heads out to walk the streets because he is so restless.

I know how I feel when I don’t get enough sleep for just a night or two.  I get irritable and it is hard for me to think clearly. Dealing with that night after night, day after day is not something I would wish on anyone.  Oh to be able to wave a magic wand and be able to make his body fall asleep and break the downward cycle, because it is a cycle.  The less sleep he gets the more anxious he becomes, with more anxiety it becomes harder to fall asleep.

What started the cycle?  How can we break it?  Those are questions we are still trying to find the answers to.

Triggers & Causes

I think it’s totally normal to wonder why?

What causes mental illness? Could we have done something to prevent it? Or is it simply genetic predisposition and completely out of our hands?

Is it reversible? What role does diet, exercise, sleep, toxins and a multitude of other factors play?

Back in 2007 my son got sick. Not the stuck in bed kind of sick, but the no energy I just don’t feel well kind of sick. He would make complaints like “I used to be one of the fastest runners in P.E. but now I can’t run fast”. It went on for several weeks, maybe longer. There was nothing majorly wrong but he just seemed off. I took him to the doctor and they did a few test which all came back negative. I asked that they run some blood work to check for mono. The results came back that he had in fact had mono but it was in the past and what he currently had was an untreated strep infection.  A shot of bicillin and we were told he would be better soon.  It wasn’t over night but within a couple months he improved.  Follow up visits showed no signs of problems with his heart and things seemed to have returned to normal.

Streo

But I’m left to wonder was strep the trigger that started us down the road to mental illness?  It’s not something I’ll likely ever find out in this life but there are plenty of studies out there linking strep infections to OCD and the onset of mental illness. In my mind it is a strong possibility that it at least contributed to my son’s struggles.

What about genetic predisposition?  What role does it play?  One question we’ve been asked repeatedly is what kinds of mental health issues run in the family.

Mental illness is something new to me.  Not having personally struggled with it I’ve felt baffled many times by what is going on around me. By nature I do have an obsessive personality.  Nothing I consider to be abnormal but I am a very all or nothing kind of person.  Through the years I’ve put my obsessive tendencies to good use by focusing on hobbies and interests ranging from scrapbooking to diet & exercise, volunteering, reading and blogging to various other things that hold my interest.  I jump into things with both feet and give everything I have to the projects I am working on.

Here is one example.  When I was a new mom I joined a family home evening group.  There were about a dozen moms and every couple of month we each picked a topic and created 12 identical family home evening lessons.  Then we got together and shared what we had created and we each went home with a dozen prepared lessons.  I did this several times and then continued to create packets until I had over 100 of them.  Awesome except for the fact that I didn’t use them very often.  I had fun creating them but there were only a handful of them that I ever used.  Obsessive – yes, but unhealthy – I don’t really think so.  It was something I enjoyed doing in my free time as a stay at home mom. Ultimately all but a few of those packets made their way to the D.I. where I hope someone else was able to enjoy what I had created. Various other hobbies and interests have filled my time as the years have gone by.

My husband’s side of the family has some mild mental health issues, mainly anxiety, but nothing like what my son is dealing with. So if you take my obsessive nature and cross it with the anxiety issues my husband’s genes bring to the pool do you get what my son is suffering from?

There are a whole range of other factors that can play a role in developing mental illness… everything from diet, environmental toxins, immunizations, trauma, prenatal factors and who knows what else.

Reality is I will likely never know exactly what triggered or caused the mental illness and that’s ok. We’ve been given a challenge to deal with and we’ll deal with it the best we can.  I’ve spent plenty of time researching treatments, medications and natural alternatives in the quest to help him.  So far despite trying multiple medications, therapy and various natural treatments we haven’t found a solution that has worked long term. I know there is an answer out there and that someday we’ll find it.  A solution that will one day help him be able to function and live a productive life, not one ruled by obsessions and compulsions.

In the mean time I’ve adopted the following motto “Come What May, and Love It!

“There should be no more shame in acknowledging them…”

I live with mental illness.

There I’ve said it…. finally!

And although it may not be me personally who has the illness I live with it and am affected by it on a very personal level every single day because it is one of my children who suffers from it.

It’s something that I have tried to keep quiet. After all I love my son and would do anything for him.  I want him to be happy and I want him to live a good happy productive life.  I don’t want others judging him and limiting him. And I definitely don’t want to put all the intimate details of our struggle out their for all to see and mock and judge.

And struggle it has been, one that has been a roller coaster ride of highs and lows for the past four years.  For the first year it was something that we were able to keep to ourselves, but as time went on circumstances meant others started to notice something wasn’t quite right.  In fact for that first year we didn’t even realize there was something wrong.

In hindsight the clues were all there but we were blinded and didn’t see them for what they were.  Even when terms like mood disorder, thought disorder, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar, anxiety, OCD, mania, depression, aspergers, delusions, hallucinations, Tourettes, schizophrenia, psychiatric ward, and a multitude of other terms no parent wants to hear began to be discussed by doctors and specialist I was in denial that such a thing could be our new reality.

Anyone who knows me knows that I do not consider myself to be a good a writer.  I run a book blog with a title stating that very clearly.

So why this blog?

Why share portions of our very private life?

Because I was touched by a recent talk given by Elder Jeffrey R Holland.  That talk titled Like A Broken Vessel inspired me to start this blog.  As I once again sat in the emergency room earlier this month wondering how we had once again found ourselves in unwanted circumstances I flipped on the television and heard these word come from a servant of the Lord:

In that spirit I wish to speak to those who suffer from some form of mental illness or emotional disorder, whether those afflictions be slight or severe, of brief duration or persistent over a lifetime. We sense the complexity of such matters when we hear professionals speak of neuroses and psychoses, of genetic predispositions and chromosome defects, of bipolarity, paranoia, and schizophrenia. However bewildering this all may be, these afflictions are some of the realities of mortal life, and there should be no more shame in acknowledging them than in acknowledging a battle with high blood pressure or the sudden appearance of a malignant tumor.

 

hope

I’ve come to learn that I’m not alone in this struggle.  It may be something I’ve felt too ashamed of to admit and talk about but I’ve come to realize that I am not alone and have no need to be ashamed of the struggle we are going through. I’ve come to recognize the Lord’s hand in my life and feel his love for me.  As we’ve passed through this personal, painful refiner’s fire my faith has been increased and my testimony of a loving Heavenly Father has been strengthened.

A close friend has told me I should be writing my experiences down so that I can share them with others.  In all honesty that was the last thing I wanted to do for far too long.  I wanted to forget what we were going through and focus on other things.  Now I wish I’d taken that advice and had started writing things down long before now but better late than never right?

I don’t claim to be an expert or have any of the answers but I have learned a lot in my journey and have decided to share some of our experiences with the hope that I can bring a measure of peace and hope to other who might be going through their own personal struggles.

Like a Broken Vessel by Jeffrey R. Holland

Like a Broken Vessel by Jeffery R. Holland (reposted from LDS.org)

The Apostle Peter wrote that disciples of Jesus Christ are to have “compassion one of another.”1 In that spirit I wish to speak to those who suffer from some form of mental illness or emotional disorder, whether those afflictions be slight or severe, of brief duration or persistent over a lifetime. We sense the complexity of such matters when we hear professionals speak of neuroses and psychoses, of genetic predispositions and chromosome defects, of bipolarity, paranoia, and schizophrenia. However bewildering this all may be, these afflictions are some of the realities of mortal life, and there should be no more shame in acknowledging them than in acknowledging a battle with high blood pressure or the sudden appearance of a malignant tumor.

In striving for some peace and understanding in these difficult matters, it is crucial to remember that we are living—and chose to live—in a fallen world where for divine purposes our pursuit of godliness will be tested and tried again and again. Of greatest assurance in God’s plan is that a Savior was promised, a Redeemer, who through our faith in Him would lift us triumphantly over those tests and trials, even though the cost to do so would be unfathomable for both the Father who sent Him and the Son who came. It is only an appreciation of this divine love that will make our own lesser suffering first bearable, then understandable, and finally redemptive.

Let me leave the extraordinary illnesses I have mentioned to concentrate on MDD—“major depressive disorder”—or, more commonly, “depression.” When I speak of this, I am not speaking of bad hair days, tax deadlines, or other discouraging moments we all have. Everyone is going to be anxious or downhearted on occasion. The Book of Mormon says Ammon and his brethren were depressed at a very difficult time,2 and so can the rest of us be. But today I am speaking of something more serious, of an affliction so severe that it significantly restricts a person’s ability to function fully, a crater in the mind so deep that no one can responsibly suggest it would surely go away if those victims would just square their shoulders and think more positively—though I am a vigorous advocate of square shoulders and positive thinking!

No, this dark night of the mind and spirit is more than mere discouragement. I have seen it come to an absolutely angelic man when his beloved spouse of 50 years passed away. I have seen it in new mothers with what is euphemistically labeled “after-baby blues.” I have seen it strike anxious students, military veterans, and grandmothers worried about the well-being of their grown children.

And I have seen it in young fathers trying to provide for their families. In that regard I once terrifyingly saw it in myself. At one point in our married life when financial fears collided with staggering fatigue, I took a psychic blow that was as unanticipated as it was real. With the grace of God and the love of my family, I kept functioning and kept working, but even after all these years I continue to feel a deep sympathy for others more chronically or more deeply afflicted with such gloom than I was. In any case we have all taken courage from those who, in the words of the Prophet Joseph, “search[ed] … and contemplate[d] the darkest abyss”3 and persevered through it—not the least of whom were Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, and Elder George Albert Smith, the latter being one of the most gentle and Christlike men of our dispensation, who battled recurring depression for some years before later becoming the universally beloved eighth prophet and President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

So how do you best respond when mental or emotional challenges confront you or those you love? Above all, never lose faith in your Father in Heaven, who loves you more than you can comprehend. As President Monson said to the Relief Society sisters so movingly last Saturday evening: “That love never changes. … It is there for you when you are sad or happy, discouraged or hopeful. God’s love is there for you whether or not you feel you deserve [it]. It is simply always there.”4 Never, ever doubt that, and never harden your heart. Faithfully pursue the time-tested devotional practices that bring the Spirit of the Lord into your life. Seek the counsel of those who hold keys for your spiritual well-being. Ask for and cherish priesthood blessings. Take the sacrament every week, and hold fast to the perfecting promises of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Believe in miracles. I have seen so many of them come when every other indication would say that hope was lost. Hope is never lost. If those miracles do not come soon or fully or seemingly at all, remember the Savior’s own anguished example: if the bitter cup does not pass, drink it and be strong, trusting in happier days ahead.5

In preventing illness whenever possible, watch for the stress indicators in yourself and in others you may be able to help. As with your automobile, be alert to rising temperatures, excessive speed, or a tank low on fuel. When you face “depletion depression,” make the requisite adjustments. Fatigue is the common enemy of us all—so slow down, rest up, replenish, and refill. Physicians promise us that if we do not take time to be well, we most assuredly will take time later on to be ill.

If things continue to be debilitating, seek the advice of reputable people with certified training, professional skills, and good values. Be honest with them about your history and your struggles. Prayerfully and responsibly consider the counsel they give and the solutions they prescribe. If you had appendicitis, God would expect you to seek a priesthood blessing and get the best medical care available. So too with emotional disorders. Our Father in Heaven expects us to use all of the marvelous gifts He has provided in this glorious dispensation.

If you are the one afflicted or a caregiver to such, try not to be overwhelmed with the size of your task. Don’t assume you can fix everything, but fix what you can. If those are only small victories, be grateful for them and be patient. Dozens of times in the scriptures, the Lord commands someone to “stand still” or “be still”—and wait.6 Patiently enduring some things is part of our mortal education.

For caregivers, in your devoted effort to assist with another’s health, do not destroy your own. In all these things be wise. Do not run faster than you have strength.7 Whatever else you may or may not be able to provide, you can offer your prayers and you can give “love unfeigned.”8 “Charity suffereth long, and is kind; … [it] beareth all things, … hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth.”9

Also let us remember that through any illness or difficult challenge, there is still much in life to be hopeful about and grateful for. We are infinitely more than our limitations or our afflictions! Stephanie Clark Nielson and her family have been our friends for more than 30 years. On August 16, 2008, Stephanie and her husband, Christian, were in a plane crash and subsequent fire that scarred her so horrifically that only her painted toenails were recognizable when family members came to indentify the victims. There was almost no chance Stephanie could live. After three months in a sleep-induced coma, she awoke to see herself. With that, the psyche-scarring and horrendous depression came. Having four children under the age of seven, Stephanie did not want them to see her ever again. She felt it would be better not to live. “I thought it would be easier,” Stephanie once told me in my office, “if they just forgot about me and I quietly slipped out of their life.”

But to her eternal credit, and with the prayers of her husband, family, friends, four beautiful children, and a fifth born to the Nielsons just 18 months ago, Stephanie fought her way back from the abyss of self-destruction to be one of the most popular “mommy bloggers” in the nation, openly declaring to the four million who follow her blog that her “divine purpose” in life is to be a mom and to cherish every day she has been given on this beautiful earth.

Whatever your struggle, my brothers and sisters—mental or emotional or physical or otherwise—do not vote against the preciousness of life by ending it! Trust in God. Hold on in His love. Know that one day the dawn will break brightly and all shadows of mortality will flee. Though we may feel we are “like a broken vessel,” as the Psalmist says,10 we must remember, that vessel is in the hands of the divine potter. Broken minds can be healed just the way broken bones and broken hearts are healed. While God is at work making those repairs, the rest of us can help by being merciful, nonjudgmental, and kind.

I testify of the holy Resurrection, that unspeakable cornerstone gift in the Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ! With the Apostle Paul, I testify that that which was sown in corruption will one day be raised in incorruption and that which was sown in weakness will ultimately be raised in power.11I bear witness of that day when loved ones whom we knew to have disabilities in mortality will stand before us glorified and grand, breathtakingly perfect in body and mind. What a thrilling moment that will be! I do not know whether we will be happier for ourselves that we have witnessed such a miracle or happier for them that they are fully perfect and finally “free at last.”12 Until that hour when Christ’s consummate gift is evident to us all, may we live by faith, hold fast to hope, and show “compassion one of another,”13 I pray, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.