Friday, September 27, 2013

My New Normal

Life is... well... it's a whirlwind.  Some days I'm so overjoyed that I feel I will never be affected by the difficulties of life again.  Some days I'm in such despair over things that I wonder how I will make it through.  The in-between days are what keep me going.  I'm just happy to have in-between days.  I never thought they would come.

After working so long to find the "right medication" for my anxiety, I'm having to now learn to live life on a "normal level."  What's "normal?"  I'm not exactly sure.  Anytime I have a "freak out moment," I assume that maybe my medication isn't working or it's not the right one.  But then Robert reminds me that bad days are normal.  It's normal to have little "freak out moments," as long as I come out of them.  In the past, I could be down from something for a long time.  Now I at least come back up pretty quickly when something gets me down.

Difficulty is part of life.  Being emotional is normal.  Having rough (and even horrible) days is totally normal.  And that's how we can enjoy the in-between and great days so much.  Without the bad days, we wouldn't know what a good day is.

I think the biggest struggle for me is that I haven't really been able to have normal emotion for so long.  I had been taking my old medication (except for when I was pregnant) since I was about 23.  I'm 31 now.  That's a long time to not feel much normal emotion.  While my anxiety is getting better (and I'm learning a balance that I've only dreamed of finding), I'm still human.  And my anxiety won't ever go away completely.  It's the thorn that makes me rely on my Savior.  When I try to do anything on my own, I fall quickly.

I'm thankful that I went to counseling this summer because I've truly learned some great coping strategies that I believe are good for anyone.  I've learned how to relax in a moment when I never thought I could.  I've learned how to change my thoughts.  I've learned how to "talk myself down" when I'm in the midst of a difficult moment... but I'm not perfect at these strategies, and I never will be.  And without praying about everything (and having others pray), those strategies are worthless.

Yesterday, I was in a state of mind in which I felt like I couldn't use any of my coping strategies (while the situations weren't great, they weren't as bad as they felt in the moment).  My family and friends interceded for me and prayed that God would give me peace.  And He did.  He is faithful, and I am blessed with amazing friends who love me for me.  Even on the days that I consider myself a complete mess (well, I'm always a mess).

Despite some ups and downs, I do believe that life is good.  I am learning how to get my job done well without working all the time.  I'm enjoying teaching my students.  I am learning that I truly am called to teaching.   I am thankful that we have enough money to pay bills AND buy groceries and gas :-) (and slowly start getting savings/chipping away at debt).  And most importantly, I feel that I am much more intentional with my family time than I have ever been.  Not sure why or how considering I was home a lot more the past few years... but it's just working out that way.  Maybe it's because of my new medication.  Maybe it's because I have a schedule and I work best under structure.  Maybe it's because I am where God wants me to be.  Or maybe it's a combination of all three.

Most importantly I am finding that life is... life.  There is not a "light at the end of the tunnel" because the Light is always there in the midst of the darkness.  Life will never get easy, but He has promised to always be there with us.  I am learning that no change that I make will make life easier.  I am learning to just live life right where I am... if that means laughing with joy or crying in despair.  I will never have it all together because we aren't supposed to on this side of Heaven.  If we did, we wouldn't need Jesus.  We are imperfect people in need of a perfect Savior.

Life is hard, but Jesus is our peace.  I'm learning, one day at a time, to lean on Him.  And when I don't have the strength to call out to Him, He is faithful to surround me with people to do it for me.

Thank you, Jesus.  You are amazing, beautiful, my rock, my redeemer, my refuge.

Your grace finds me.  In the midst of the valleys and the mountains.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Growing through Adversity

I was 7 months pregnant with my third child (in 3 years) when my brother committed suicide.  I remember thinking that I just didn't have time to deal with it because I had to keep going.  I had to take care of my two little ones and prepare for the birth of my third.  I kept myself busy with baking and prepping freezer meals, keeping the house clean (that we moved into 3 weeks after my brother died), organizing, etc.  I "nested" heavily for several months.
Then, Levi was born.  I went through some really difficult nights because I struggled so badly with nursing.  You would think that by the third, and having trouble nursing them all, I would have just given up on it.  Instead, I would nurse for 4-5 hours straight with very little break, not sleep at all, pump constantly, take herbal tinctures three times a day, etc... It was tough.  I eventually started supplementing (because he was dehydrated and losing weight), but then the guilt came.
Things started going downhill.  When I could no longer ignore things because I was always exhausted and always awake, I began getting depressed.  Robert would come home and I would give the baby to him and leave.  He worked up to 100 hours a week, so I couldn't take being with the kids anymore.  I went away and read, wrote, and listened to music... hoping for some relief.  Praying that God would use something to help me in this really deep pit.
When I continued to just want to be away from my kids and struggled to function, my mom and husband both suggested that I go talk to my doctor.
Thankfully, I listened to their advice.  I began taking some medication and it helped tremendously.  I have struggled with anxiety and sometimes depression off and on for years, and I just decided that it was my life and I just needed to deal with it.
Four months later, we moved to my in-laws in Dallas.  I had never lived so far from my family, and it was very difficult.  We realized pretty quickly that we wouldn't be able to ever move out of my in-laws unless I got a job, so I ended up finding a teaching job at a school in Dallas (teaching mostly ESL kiddos in a low income area).
I poured myself into my work.  I loved teaching the kids that I taught, but I also liked that it allowed me to stay busy and not think too much.  I was able to continue living life without really dealing with my brother's gruesome, difficult death.  It would "hit me" every once in a while, but at this point, I still hadn't dealt with it.

My cousin died a year and a half after my brother (at 23 years old), which brought things up again... and it was another really difficult time for my whole family.

I ended up teaching 1 1/2 years at the difficult school and left because I couldn't balance.  My work was all I could think about and my family was suffering.  Part of it was how the staff was treated, and part of it was just my own issues.
I taught part-time last year at a preschool and it was what I needed to be busy, but not too busy.

I thought that things were on the "upswing," then I stayed in the hospital with my grandpa in November, and he ended up dying two days after I left (on Thanksgiving day, a few days before the anniversary of my brother's death).  This brought things back up.  I had some very difficult days... but didn't know how to deal with it.

One day in mid-May of this year, I went for a run and struggled to catch my breath.  I figured that maybe I was just extra tired, so I just tried to move on.
Then later that day when I still felt like I couldn't catch my breath, I told my co-teacher about it and she said that she thinks it's anxiety.  But I was an anxiety expert... I have struggled with it for years and had never experienced this.
When it continued, I decided that I needed to go to the doctor and maybe try to see a counselor.  Maybe my body was telling me it was time to deal with something.  The doctor did a complete check-up, including blood work, and we both came to the conclusion that it was anxiety.

After months of dealing with being unable to breath normal, going to a counselor, and changing meds several times, I decided to go see a psychiatrist.  Turns out, the medication that I had been on has not been right for me.  She changed it to a new one and the breathing issues almost immediately stopped... I had other issues while I came off of a med (including extreme dizziness), but I am now breathing normal (and I'm not dizzy anymore).

Something even more amazing than being able to breathe happened... I am now able to cry.

You see, I didn't realize it, but my old medication made me numb.  I couldn't deal with my brother's death because of that.  When I talked about it before, it was as if it was a dream or a movie... it didn't feel as though it had happened to ME.  I am finally at a point in which I can deal with the difficulty of the past few years, grieve my brother's death as it comes, and I'm able to be "normal" and balance.  I allow myself to cry, and it is a relief.

I learned so much this summer as I journeyed through this difficult time:
* I am ME.  God made me on purpose, for a purpose.  He has a plan to use me for His glory.  I don't have to apologize to people if I am not who they want me to be.
* I am not a stay at home mom.  I am not a homeschooling mom.  I tried so hard to be someone that I'm not for most of the time that I've had kids.
* I am a teacher.  I'm not a perfect teacher, but I am one and God will use me in this area.
* I can balance.  It is possible.  I don't have to, nor can I be perfect at anything (or everything).
* Life is hard.  Difficult things such as death, trauma, etc don't surprise me.  We were not promised an easy life.  I just always go to the Father with these things because it is not something that humans can truly understand.
* I am able to love others better.  I can see past certain behaviors and see that there's usually more to it.  I can love despite how I'm being treated or how people are acting (which is an important part of teaching).
* I can enjoy life and just pray that God will continue to get me through hard times.
* I see God's hand in most things.
* I have amazing friends and family.  I am loved by the God that created me and the people that He created for me to be in community with.
* A relationship with Jesus is the only way I could have survived the past several years.
* I am imperfect and always will be, but it's also okay for me to want to be my best at what I do.  In Colossians 3:23, Paul says, "Whatever you do, work heartily as for the Lord and not men."
* My husband is my best friend.  I don't know what I would do without him.  He has taken care of me and our family.

Well, I could go on and on... but I'll leave you with some verses that Steve Ferrar spoke on today at church:
"Consider the work of God: who can make straight what He has made crooked?  In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider: God has made the one as well as the other, so that man may not find out anything that will be after him."  Ecclesiastes 7:13-14

Reviving this Blog

Two years ago (almost), I decided to utilize a free year of a self-hosted blog and attempt trying to make it "big" in the blogging world.  After two years of trying, and it not working out, I decided to get rid of my self-hosted blog because I was tired of paying for something that didn't bring in any income.  I also felt that I spent too much time on it, and I tried to make it perfect (it became a product instead of a process).

I missed blogging, though, so I decided to revive this one!  This one will be full of real life just like the other one... and maybe even more so than the other one.

A lot has changed since I posted on here... including the fact that we have moved, I ended up teaching part time last year, and now I'm teaching full time again.  Homeschooling didn't work out for our family, and now I see that it was never in God's plan for us to homeschool... it was just my idea.

I've changed a lot over the past few years; God has done a lot of work on me.

This blog will show the "new me" and how I've changed over the years!  I hope it will also minister to and encourage you!