Tag Archive | calm

Multiple Diagnoses

Psalm 23.2

“I can’t take it anymore.” What’s your ‘it?’ Mine was more bad news from a doctor. I didn’t think life could get more stressful. But I was wrong.

It had been hard enough for me to bear knowing the challenges Chris faced because of his Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). And even more heart-wrenching watching mental illness (MI) ravage his life.

Life seemed to be back on track for Chris. God had helped us pass through turbulent waters and we were enjoying smooth sailing. Then multiple health scares plunged us back into troubled waters. Took us by surprise.

But who expects to have trials? Not me. I expected the opposite. We’d just endured trying times with MI. Somehow I thought God would space out our struggles. So we could catch our breath.

It didn’t seem possible for me to withstand the next storm. So I turned to the Bible for solace. God reminded me, “No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; he’ll never let you be pushed past your limit; he’ll always be there to help you come through it [1 Corinthians 10:13 (MSG)].”

He also assured me that He’s the Good Shepherd who, “makes me lie down in green pastures” and “leads me beside quiet waters (Psalm 23:2).” So I trusted Him to calm my fears.

♦♦♦♦♦♦

The first few weeks of college for Chris seemed to be running smoothly. He communicated with me daily. Sometimes by computer, but usually by phone. He needed to hear our voices. Calling frequently helped him through the adjustment to his first semester.

“How are things going, Chris?” I’d inquire.

“Pretty good,” he’d replied convincingly.

“How are your classes?” I asked during his first week away from home.

“I like them. But mostly I like my schedule. I can sleep until noon just about every day.”

I barraged him with typical questions. Covering all the necessary inquiries about his physical needs.

“What are you eating? How’s the food? Are you sleeping well? Do you have warm enough clothes?…”

He tolerated my motherly interrogation. So I ventured into more sensitive areas.

“Are you interacting with others, rather than isolating? Are you taking your medication? How are things going with your roommate?…”

“Yes, Mom. I’m taking my medication. My roommate is hardly ever in the room,” he replied.

That’s probably less stressful for Chris. Kind of like having a room to himself. Thank You, Father, that Chris is willing to answer my questions and that he’s taking his medication. Thank You for calming my fears.

As planned, I drove to his campus Friday afternoons so Chris could spend the weekends at home. Like any mom, I needed to see Chris face-to-face. It helped to look into his eyes and know he’s okay. He really did seem happy. Until one weekend.

Like most Fridays, I had arrived at Chris’s campus early. I never wanted to make him wait. Chris approached my car walking stiff-legged. It was so pronounced that it looked like he was walking like a robot.

That’s odd. Is he hurt? He didn’t say anything on the phone.

“What’s wrong, Chris? Why are you walking that way,” I asked as soon as Chris opened the car door.

“My heels hurt,” he explained.

“Maybe it’s from all that marching you did in high school. I’ll get you some orthotics for your shoes while you’re home. They should provide added support and comfort.”

Problem solved. Or so I thought. Each week Chris seemed worse, not better. After about two months Chris began to complain of new soreness.

“My back and shoulders hurt.”

“Do you think it’s because of all the books you’re carrying across campus?” I asked, hoping that was the cause. Fearing it wasn’t as simple as that.

When the pain and stiffness spread to more parts of his body I realized Chris needed to see his doctor. When Dr. Kent saw Chris, he was shocked at the severity of Chris’s condition. Chris couldn’t turn his head, rotate his arm, or bend over to put on his shoes.

“It appears you have Rheumatoid Arthritis, Chris,” he predicted. “I’m going to prescribe some blood tests. The results may confirm my suspicions. It will take several weeks for us to get the results. In the meantime, I’ll also prescribe some anti-inflammatory meds to ease your discomfort.”

Several days before Christmas Chris came home for the semester break. We got a call from Dr. Kent. The results of Chris’s blood tests had come in.

“It looks like…The results seem to indicate…It’s possible Chris has systemic lupus.” I didn’t know anything about the disease. But the doctor’s stammering and halting words concerned me.

Dr. Kent paused for my response. Fear gripped me. I couldn’t process the information. Dr. Kent explained the next step.

“No one wants to hear they have lupus. We’ll need to have Chris seen by a specialist to confirm the diagnosis. A rheumatologist will know if that’s the cause of Chris’s pain and stiffness.”

I hung up the phone and found Howie.

“That was Dr. Kent. He said Chris’s blood tests indicate he has lupus.”

“What’s lupus?” Howie asked.

“I have no idea. I’m going to check it out on the computer.”

A quick google search led me to the National Lupus Foundation and other sites. Someone recommended the book The Lupus Book; A guide for Patients and Their Families by Daniel J. Wallace, J. D. So I ordered the book. Big mistake.

Wallace’s book arrived Christmas Eve. I had been busy making our holiday meal so I only had time to glance at the inside cover. I learned the hard way that it’s not a good idea to investigate lupus on my own. The information I read terrified me.

“Lupus, a disease of the immune system, can be quite deadly, claiming the lives of thousands of patients yearly.” Chris’s previous bout with psychosis prior to his stiffness seemed consistent with systemic lupus.

Does this mean Chris will die young? Had he overcome MI only to be struck with this deadly disease? Father, this can’t be. Oh, please, dear God, don’t let this happen!

I began to sob. I became filled with sorrow and fear.

Please, Father, calm my fears.

The well-respected rheumatologist had a long waiting list. We scheduled an appointment for a weekday so Chris could be seen as soon as possible. We’d have to wait two months before getting a final diagnosis. That seemed like an eternity.

The day came for the appointment. Howie drove Chris to the doctor’s office located in the city. I had to meet them there since it was difficult for me to take off from work. As I drove toward the city I realized that in a short time I’d find out Chris’s fate. I tried to ignore my fears. But it got harder as I got closer to my destination. I felt as though I was about to hear a sentence from a judge: life or death for Chris.

When I reached the city I drove through stop-and-go traffic. I noticed the narrow city streets were filled with teenagers and young adults. None were dressed in business attire. The streets seemed to be speckled with police officers.

Something’s going down.

Suddenly I heard what sounded like rapid-fire gun shots.

Lord, help me arrive at the office safely. And find a safe place to park.

In the doctor’s office I overheard someone talking about the firecrackers going off to celebrate the Chinese New Year. There had been no danger. I had feared the worst before knowing the facts. That’s precisely what I’d done with Chris’s diagnosis also. The specialist informed us Chris did not have lupus. He had psoriatic arthritis. A condition treatable by medication. Never deadly.

Months later, at a follow-up visit with his primary physician Chris needed more blood work done. The results of those tests revealed that Chris had developed a thyroid problem. He’d have to take medication to treat that condition. The total amount of pills climbed to fourteen a day. He hadn’t gotten an early-death prognosis. But I worried about his future. How would he manage college? Would he face more pain? More suffering?

Another illness for him? I can’t stand watching Chris go through any more pain. Please calm my fears and remove all my anxieties.

 

Advertisements

Encouragement for Emotional Exhaustion

calm.response

Are there days you wish you could be like Star Trek’s Spock? Void of emotions. Ever wish you could take a day off from your emotions?

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could pick and choose which emotions you’d experience? I’d keep exuberant joy, passionate love, and heartfelt compassion. And pass on sorrow, worry, depression, and frustration.

Emotions seem so hard to tame. It’s critical to control our responses to a child with serious mental illness (MI). If we don’t hide our reactions, we could enflame an explosive situation. If we reveal our frustration, we could drive a child deeper into depression.

A new perspective will help us maintain a calm demeanor. Here’s how I tried to convey that point to a teacher. As Director of Instruction, I provided support to educators. One day a teacher came to me with a concern.

“Frank comes into my class every day late. He never has all his supplies or his homework. He doesn’t pay attention and calls out regularly.”

“Why are you angry?” was my reply.

He blinked in confusion and repeated his statement.

“Frank comes into my class every day late. He never has all his supplies or his homework. He doesn’t pay attention and calls out regularly.”

“Why are you angry?” I repeated, using a casual tone.

Assuming I didn’t understand his statement, he elaborated on the points made.

“Frank interrupts my class by coming into my class every day late. He’s failing academically because he never has all his supplies or his homework. When he doesn’t pay attention he feels it’s okay to call out without raising his hand.”

“Why are you angry?” I repeated with the same calm tone.

In stunned silence he glared at me. He needed my support and expected my sympathy. And felt like he got neither. First, he needed to hear my explanation.

“Frank’s not doing it TO you. You’re the professional. You need not take his behavior personally. He has ADHD. He’s lacking the skills. I can help you by providing suggestions and support to equip Frank with improved study skills.”

Anger can make a situation worse. It’s possible to respond without being annoyed when we understand the source of the behaviors.

MI causes behaviors which mimic noncompliance. A parent demands, “Answer me.” The depressed child who remains silent can seem disobedient. A mother shouts, “Stop throwing things!” The psychotic child who throws again can appear rebellious.

Do we excuse wrong behaviors because the child has MI? No. Do we stop requiring appropriate behaviors? No. But we need not react in anger when our instructions aren’t followed correctly.

It helps to keep a focus on the source of behaviors. Allowing the Holy Spirit guide our reactions helps even more. The fruit of the Holy Spirit includes gentleness. We have access to divine calmness if we learn to yield to it. Could that be one reason God has allowed MI to enter our world? For our spiritual growth. To see Him work in our lives.

One of my favorite inspirational speakers and authors is John Maxwell. Here’s one of his quotes.

“… if you don’t have peace, it isn’t because someone took it from you; you gave it away. You cannot always control what happens to you, but you can control what happens in you.”
John C. Maxwell, Be a People Person

John Maxwell’s father once told him, “It’s not what’s happening around you that’s important; it’s what’s happening IN you.”

God is using our trial to cultivate the fruits of the Spirit: gentleness, long suffering, joy, peace, and unconditional love.

Father, help us know which battles to choose and when to ignore behaviors. Help us pause in situations to let You have victory in our emotional responses.

Matt Redman sings about God being slow to anger in his song ‘Bless the Lord.’

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9jYLTn4fKYQ

I blew it.

failure

I’d reached my breaking point. I managed to keep my composure when Chris was in the psychiatric unit. And then held it together when he got treatment in the partial-care facility. He was on the road to recovery. But, my emotional stress built as he transitioned back into school.

Chris started going to some band rehearsals after school. When it came time for a performance, I was concerned.

Will he be able to handle the pressure? Will he act normally in front of everyone? Will his peers ask him why he wasn’t in school?

I sat in the auditorium waiting for the program to begin. Not relaxed, but uneasy. Days leading up to the performance, we had Chris practice what he’d say if curious students asked him why he wasn’t in school. He would simply reply, “I was sick and now I’m feeling better.”

Where is Chris now? What’s he doing back stage? I hope he doesn’t do or say anything to embarrass himself or his brother. I hope he remembers what to say if anyone asks him why he was absent.

My thoughts were interrupted by a parent I didn’t know well. She bluntly asked, “What did you think of Chris’s partial-care facility?”

How does she know where Chris was? Does everyone know? What a rude and insensitive question!

I mustered up the strength to respond. As casually as I could I answered, “How did you know Chris was receiving treatment in a partial-care facility?”

“A friend of mine had a daughter there when Chris was there?”

Great! Just perfect! I guess everyone knows our business. I suppose it’s impossible to keep Chris’s friends from finding out.

I responded without looking at her, “It was okay.”

Maybe she’ll get the message I don’t want to talk about it. Just leave!!!

I couldn’t believe I actually answered her intrusive question. Instead of politely telling her she shouldn’t have asked me.

People just don’t understand how upsetting it can be to have a loved one who is mentally ill.

It wasn’t possible for me to simply enjoy the band performance without someone reminding me Chris was recovering from his illness.

Several days later, Chris and I were in the car. He brought up the partial-care therapy. For the millionth time! Chris needed to process the experiences. I wanted to just forget it. Our needs collided that day.

“When I was in the partial-care unit, they didn’t care about the patients. It was horrible. The counselor was mean to me. We had to sit there all day and talk about drug abuse. Even though that wasn’t my problem.”

In sheer frustration, I lost my temper. I yelled, “I got it, Chris! I know it was a nightmare for you! I’m sorry you had to go there! I’m tired of hearing about it.”

The three months of stress had taken its toll on me. I spoke harshly to Chris. Afterwards, I felt tremendous guilt.

I’m such a failure. How could I speak to Chris so meanly? He’s still so vulnerable. But, I just can’t take it anymore.

I couldn’t allow myself to wallow in self-pity.

I need help. Maybe, I’m not the worst parent in the world. I’ll talk to Chris’s out-patient psychologist. He’ll give me his honest opinion on how I’ve handled our crisis.

The psychologist assured me, “You’ve been handling things amazingly well considering the circumstances. You’ve persevered for a long time. You need to take time out for yourself. Get some rest and relaxation. Find some time for entertainment for yourself.”

Soon after, God provided some needed encouragement.

Chris and I spent some time walking by a creek. As we strolled along, I reminisced.

“When I was younger, I used to sit for hours on a rock in a creek near our house. I marveled at God’s creation. When surrounded by God’s creation instead of the world (man-made thing and earthly troubles), I found peace. It was comforting to see God’s power and love demonstrated in His beautiful creation.”

We walked closer to the water.

“Look at that water before the boulders. See how calm it is. As long as it’s perfectly still, it can reflect the sunlight. Now look at the rippling water falling from the boulders. See how the light sparkles in that water? Listen to the soothing sound of that gurgling water. It’s so soothing.”

I went on to relate it to our lives.

“The creek is a picture of our lives. There are calm times, followed by turbulent times. During calm times, if we can remain perfectly still, we can reflect the Son’s love. Even during turbulent times, we can reflect His love. But, in a more vibrant way. God can be found in our difficulties. And glorified the most through our trials. See farther down the creek? The water is still again. Your life will be calmer again, too. God is helping you pass through this turbulent time.”

I’ll always cherish that day with Chris. The analogy I shared with him, reassured my heart as well.

Did you ever feel like you blew it?

Decades ago, Simon & Garfunkel sang “Bridge over Troubled Water.” Listen to the words to the song and imagine God singing them to you.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jjNgn4r6SOA