Therapy Sessions

I’ve been spending a lot of time in therapy lately–physical therapy–with my hubby watching his body pushed beyond its physical and mental limits. Some days I wonder how much more he can take. It’s not easy to watch someone you love struggle, even when it’s for their own good.

Two surgeries after dislocating his right shoulder and fracturing the humerus, my man is working hard to regain strength and range of motion in his dominant arm. I can see pain and determination on his face as he tries to do simple tasks like walk his fingers up a wall. Sometimes I sing the itsy bitsy spider song while he does his wall walks. He does not think I’m funny when he’s in pain. Pain pushes him to his limits every single day and I wonder how much more it will take for him to recover.

The therapy process is slow because the injury was severe. I’ll never forget watching the therapist move his arm gently and slowly those first few weeks. Muscle and soft tissue damage in addition to the fracture had restricted him to passive motion only. He wore an immobilizer to strap his arm to his side. Movement was a big no-no because his body needed time to heal.

I listened one afternoon on our drive home from a therapy session as he vented frustrations about how it seemed like nothing productive was happening. The therapist had spent the entire 45 minutes stretching and massaging his arm. It felt like a huge waste of time. How was he ever going to get back to normal when he wasn’t even able to lift his own arm? He was completely dependent on others to bathe, get dressed, tie his shoes, and even cut his own food. He was so over it. He wanted to be independent and back at work. Truth be told, we both wanted those things. I tried to explain that if he did more than his body was ready for too soon that he could re-injure his arm and do more damage than good. I told him that we had to trust that the therapist knows what he’s doing and that in time he would regain some independence. Please, Lord, let the man be able to scrub his own armpit. Amen.

My husband’s body had been broken. Overnight our lives had been turned upside down and we were living in what I call a haze of grace. There was a lot of HGTV, Food Network, and series binging on Amazon Prime. I ordered take out, made ice packs and tried to keep up with laundry. Oh and then there are the medical bills. We survived on the prayers of our family and friends and several pints of Haagen-Dazs ice cream. But it wasn’t enough. I was falling apart. Again. My world had been rocked and I thought I could pretend that it was all just fine.
The trouble was that I didn’t have time to fall apart. This was not a good time for a breakdown. People needed me and I found myself reverting to a lot of old thought patterns because that’s what I do when I’m in crisis mode. I do what I know, even when it doesn’t help. Basically this looked a lot like beating myself over the head with a baseball bat for not being super woman every moment of every day. I wasn’t a good enough wife. I was the fattest person in the room all of the time. I wasn’t a good enough mom. I wasn’t a good enough Christian because if I were good enough probably none of this crap would have happened in the first place. Jesus was counting on me to suck it up and be a good example of mercy for heaven’s sake!!! I found myself wallowing in a pit of shame for not being enough for this crisis.

Welcome to my pity party. One night I climbed the stairs to my bed after tucking my husband into his recliner, crawled into bed, grabbed my journal and wrote,
“The pain is really bad today. My pain—emotional pain. My brain is so fuzzy I can barely function. There are so many hoops to jump through on any given day. I don’t have the will to jump today. I’m sleepy. I just want to cry and let it all out. The trouble is that I’m not sure I can. I look at my mental list of things that should be done to make it all better and it’s like a wave of depression crashes over me and drags me down–way way down. It’s no wonder people don’t want to continue to live like this day after day. I wish I could just sleep it all off and wake up to everything being better. God, why does this keep happening to me? What can I do to make it never happen again? I wish there was a reset button I could hit on my life. So many mistakes. So many things I wish I could un-do. If only I could make peace with my messy life. But I can’t. I hate it…
I’m feeling terrible—I couldn’t feel worse. Get me on my feet again. You promised, remember? When I told my story, you responded. Train me well in your deep wisdom. Help me understand these things inside and out so I can ponder your miracle wonders. My sad life’s dilapidated, a falling-down barn; build me up again by your word. {Psalm 119:25-28 The Message}

If this was a song I’d play it over and over again. It’s the cry of my heart tonight.
Jesus, help me understand these things inside and out so I can ponder your miracle wonders. Build me up by the power of your Holy Spirit and your living breathing word. Thank you.”

I wish I could tell you that I woke up the next morning and everything made perfect sense. It didn’t. But somehow along the way I began to see that I was broken too. I didn’t have the physical injury that my husband had, but I was just as in need of healing. Overnight our lives had been turned upside down and I needed to give this crisis the respect it deserved in my own life as well as my husband’s body. There wasn’t a single thing I could do to make it better. In fact, all of my trying to be better was just making it worse. I needed to trust the Therapist and let Him do his job. I had to stop trying so hard.

For my recovery I’ve been reading encouraging books written by people who dare to use their pain to help people like me see that my messy imperfect life is covered by more love and grace than I will ever be able to sort through in this lifetime. I’ve started praying more than reading my Bible. I’m allowing Jesus to tend to my broken heart and I stopped beating myself up for not being good enough when he is more than good enough. I sleep more. Sleep is good, like really good. I watch Jimmy Fallon YouTube videos and laugh a lot more. People are alive because of Jimmy Fallon. Finally, I told that mean bossy B in my head to leave and never come back and she did. We are all the better for it.

Some wonderful crazy things happened when I stopped trying so hard to be good enough. Joy returned. It had been a couple of years since I’d had any joy. Anxiety was the front and center drama queen demanding ALL of my attention. The slightest misstep would send me into a full blown meltdown. Something as annoying as being late for an appointment took days to recover from. Perfectionism once again had its hooks deep in my soul. I felt hopeless that I could ever get free. Guess what? Anxiety is not front and center any longer. I’m a total freaking mess AND IT’S OK. I’m not doing a single thing I thought I’d be doing at this moment in life AND IT’S OK. It’s really ok. I have peace again, and man, I have missed it. I stopped clinging to the HaagenDazs life raft and have embraced healthy food again. It’s so much easier to love people when peace and joy are actually welcome in my heart and mind…and I’m not jacked up on caffeine and sugar 24/7.

I wonder what our lives would look like if we truly believed how much God really loves us. What if we simply rested in believing that he is enough and we are loved?

Sometimes we have to stop trying so hard and let the Therapist do his job. It might not feel like much is being accomplished, but when we allow for rest and healing to take place in our brokenness we will be stronger for the people and the plans God has for our lives. The Therapist knows what He’s doing. He really does. After all, my man has started to do planks at his physical therapy sessions. His muscles are shaky and it hurts like heck, but I’m beginning to think anything is possible.

Thank you for praying for us. Your prayers are powerful. Don’t ever forget it. Thanks for stopping by.

You’re Not Trapped

My seventh grader’s school year ended about a month earlier than intended. It did not end well. In fact, it didn’t turn out like I thought it would at all.

I’ve been trying to home school my sons for a few years. Last fall it became very apparent that my youngest son did not want to be home schooled anymore and I was really OK with that. We made a few phone calls and enrolled him in a local Christian school. It wasn’t easy for me to admit defeat (again), but it was what he needed. It was what I needed. And I really thought it was going to fix everything.

But it didn’t.

Before my boys were school aged I had made a decision to home school them. I knew several other mothers who were doing it and looked like it was a really good thing for their family. I needed to do something good for my family. You see, I was falling apart and not mothering well. My solution at that time was to just do what the good moms were doing and everything would be OK. I tried teaching my kindergartner for about six weeks before realizing something was very wrong. He had a learning disability that I couldn’t recognize. Instead, I assumed it was because I wasn’t doing it right which made my depression even worse. I didn’t know how to get out of the mess I had made.

I didn’t know how to ask for help. Asking for help would alert everyone that I did NOT have a clue how to teach my child. Asking for help would expose me for the mothering mess that I was. I felt trapped. Months went by while I spiraled deeper into depression because I couldn’t fix it.

So now my boys are older, and by the grace of God, I’m not quite the mess I used to be. We have options. We’ve learned some tough lessons along the way.

But it’s still hard to ask for help.

I recently sat down with our home school coordinator and told her how things were going. I told her how my plan to fix everything had failed. I told her that the future plan is to home school both boys unless God provides another solution. The rapture sounds pretty good. I explained how I really just want to facilitate their education. I’m willing to write checks for tutoring or whatever it takes. And then I said the words I’ve been afraid to say to her for 8 years. I don’t like teaching. I don’t. There, I said it.

I waited for her to fall off of her chair or for some denim jumper wearing home schooling mom flash mob to drag me to the dungeon.  It never happened. Instead, she encouraged me by telling me she has friends who feel the same way. Never once did she look at me and say, “You’re right. You can’t do this. You are a failure and I’m calling the school district right now.”

We spent the next hour or so talking about some creative ways to educate teenaged boys while fleshing out the doubt and fear in my heart. It was incredibly helpful.

Now, I wish I had something fantastic to write here about how I woke up this morning with a burning desire to teach my kids and feed their minds with Latin and Shakespeare. That’s not my reality. I will tell you that I don’t feel quite as desperate this morning. It feels good to have admitted that I’m not a hard core educator like it appears most of the other moms in our group are. For the past 5 years I have gone to every single meeting wishing I could wear a t-shirt that says “I Love My Kids Most When They Are At School”. When educational ideas for co-ops were passed around and my turn to volunteer for something (anything) would arrive, I would ask if there were going to be any parties. I kid you not.

And yet, for reasons I do not understand, this is something that God has not released me from. So I need to hang on to that if He has called me to do this, that He alone will equip me to do it. With help. And that the way we educate doesn’t need to look anything like the way other people do it. We’re not trapped. We’re free. Do you know that?

You’re not trapped. You’re free.

I’d like to pray for us:

Heavenly Father, You know our every weakness and still, You call us to do things that are beyond our skill set not to make us look foolish or weak, but so that You can show your power and might. Kill the pride that keeps us from asking for help. You have not set a trap for us, but have set us free to live for You and to trust You with every area of our lives. Strengthen our hands to do the work that You have called us to do. Renew our minds so that we don’t have to spiral downward into depression because we think there’s no way out. I thank you for the encouragement I received yesterday and ask that You spread it beyond this page to every person who needs it. In the powerful name of Jesus Christ, amen.

 

 

The Cost of Being High Maintenance

A little more than eight years ago I entered a mentoring program at House of Hope to face my depression head on for once and for all. The mentors told me that God could heal me and I was desperate enough to give him a shot because nothing else I tried had worked. The medication my doctor prescribed had worked well in the beginning, but my body stopped responding to it. Even though I tried different medications, the side effects were starting to outweigh the benefits from my initial experienced. My daily ‘happy pill’ wasn’t working anymore.

The medication had given me enough hope of feeling ‘normal’ that I began to depend on it. I gave regular testimonies about how good I felt. When ‘normal’ evaporated, hopelessness moved back in. This was a normal I wasn’t willing to accept. My boys deserved better.

House of Hope’s program was intense. I was expected to not only participate in group therapy type sessions, I also had to attend bible studies, personal development classes, and do my homework. It was hard. I hadn’t had time to read a book that didn’t rhyme and have pictures in years. I still don’t know how I was able to pull it off other than I know that a small army was praying for me.

After I graduated from the mentoring program depression free, I tried to do life the way I had before. It didn’t work. Joy felt too good to not be my permanent ‘normal’ and my circumstances hadn’t changed. My kids still needed more than I had to give on a daily basis. I had a choice to make. Fall back into my old habits OR learn how to make the truth I’d learned during those three months continue to transform my mind and heal my heart? I chose Truth.

For me, this means doing my homework. I have to have some kind of bible study to work on almost every day. My family had to learn that this was an important step in staying healthy. Like taking medicine. If I begin to feel funky, I can almost always relate it to not being in a study.

The truth is that I used to resent the fact that I needed that kind of maintenance to feel ‘normal’. Finding time isn’t any easier now than it was all those  years ago, but the stakes are too high to ignore the facts. I am a different person than I was eight years ago and I will never go back. Whatever it takes.

Some of us need more maintenance than others. That’s OK. I don’t know what it is that you need regularly to feel ‘normal’ or experience peace and true joy. Perhaps you’re not even sure. This I do know, the more you allow God to be part of your everything, the more you will not want to go back to life without him.

He loves you with an everlasting love. Every single day.

**Some of my favorite resources have been studies and books written by Beth Moore. Not all of her studies have intense homework. I highly recommend The Inheritance series as a great place to start. Priscilla Shirer, Jennifer Rothschild and Kelly Minter have also written studies that are about six weeks long. These are fun to do with some girlfriends and all of them have digital video downloads for as little as $5 per week. It costs about the same as my favorite Starbucks drink, but lasts a whole lot longer.**

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