Updated: Feb 20, 2018
I have a story to tell......or rather a puzzle to put together. The reason I decided to tell it is because I am about to change it.
Day by day, week by week, month by month, I am going to change it. If you feel so inclined, I would love for you to come on this journey with me. Perhaps you need inspiration for your own changes. Perhaps you need to know that there is hope in what feels like "hopeless" situations. Perhaps you just like stories where you are praying for a happy ending. I'll warn you, as of right now, our story does not have a happy ending. It's a tear jerker. It's dirty and messy and hard to look at. It's honestly hard to share about. That's what I am going to change. I don't even know exactly how I will do this yet, but I have always been the person, who when told "you can't do that", says "watch me".
I like to view our lives as jigsaw puzzles. There are SO many pieces that fill in the whole picture. Don't you think, if desired, the pieces can be changed out? If the picture isn't turning out the way you want, don't you have the power to remove the pieces that are negatively affecting the picture, in turn replacing them with positive pieces? I am ready to find out. I do know that I have the power of a mighty, gracious, loving God behind me. He will be a very large piece of the puzzle. I might dare to say He will make up the entire border.
First you will need some back ground.
To be honest I’m not quite sure where to start. My childhood makes up so many of the pieces that fill in the puzzle of my life. But, I am afraid those stories may need to be saved to be told another day. Maybe they will just come out organically here and there. For now, I want to address some of the pieces that I believe brought me to right where I am today.
About 12 years ago, both my beloved sister Stacey, and my big, strong Dad ended up in wheel chairs from different illnesses.........I think that's where I will start.
Stacey and I were best friends. We finished each others sentences. Most of the pictures from our early years, show her little blonde head tilted just so, to look "up" at me for what we should be doing for the camera. We were inseparable, sharing friends, hosting weekend sleepovers, comforting each other through typical boyfriend dramas and basically loving life. Then, at the young age of 17, Stacey was diagnosed with MS (Multiple Sclerosis). Some simple eye pain ultimately revealed plaque on her brain. These little white spots showed up on an MRI. They would change the trajectory of her life, of all of our lives. For several years she maintained a somewhat normal lifestyle. She worked, she danced, she lived. Slowly, but surely, this disease has taken my beautiful sister, my best friend, away from me. She has now lost the ability to walk, to drive, and to do the simplest of tasks that we all take for granted. I desperately miss my sister. I miss who she was and I miss who she was going to be. She is one of the reasons I have decided to make it my mission to not only share our story, but to change the ending.
My dad has diabetes, he has probably had it forever. He doesn't seem to be able to grasp the concept of taking care of himself. Making the right food choices does not come easily. He taught himself to fill up (physically and metaphorically) on material things, as an attempt to fill a hole that can only be filled by God. I'm not sure it has worked yet. He knows God, for that I am grateful, but sometimes he struggles with choices and they can end up having a negative impact that ripples through all of our lives. It has been a long yucky, emotional road that has led to his full time life in a wheel chair...But, unfortunately that is now a permanent piece of his story. The current picture of his life feels dark and lonely. I miss my Dad in the same ways I miss my sister. As I have processed who this new man is, I realized I have been grieving who he "should" have been for all these years. Please know that I love my dad, very, very much. As I work on this project I will share more. I will ask him what he is ready to share. I don't know if his picture can ever be changed. But I am going to try. I wonder what the pieces will look like that will bring light and life back into his heart and soul???
The deterioration of Dad's and Stacey's physical health has had profound effects on our family. Over the years, each time I picked my sister up off the floor or watched my big strong dad become more and more disabled, I didn’t realize that a small part of me was dying. I didn't realize that I was actually becoming sick myself. Care free living had given way to struggle. Some of my happiness had slowly been replaced by sadness, by feelings of inadequacy of not being able to help, and by bitterness that could not be relinquished. Holidays had gone from being lively and full of wonderful memories to evenings of tears and moments of frustration as we worked out new ways of doing things. Photo albums that should have been full of captured moments spent together at various vacation destinations, you know, the ones at the beach, the ones in front of the "castle", remain glaringly empty. My beautiful, funny, precious mom has become a shadow of her true self as she has taken on being a full time caregiver (to two). If you have never stepped into the role of caregiver, I can't convey strongly enough the challenges....
Brian and I met and fell in love before any of this even started. He has literally been by my side through all of our family's changes! We had no idea that as we walked these new roads with Dad and Stacey, that our little family would soon be thrown some curve balls too! After we were married, we had three sons very close together. We were loving our young family life!
Then, in 2009, at the age of 8, my middle son was diagnosed to be on the Autism spectrum. That led to a whole new level of “Things for Mom to stress about”. At some point in 2013 I began having bouts of anxiety/depression. It wasn’t crippling, I managed, I always managed…but it was only a shadow of what was to come. At the end of 2014, my 12 year old son was away at one of his first Boy Scout camps. While I was at work, my husband got a call that he had been found on the ground and it was thought he had a concussion. Brian rushed to pick him up. By the time he got there, Logan was doing ok and there wasn’t much to be done besides bring him home. A couple of days later his scout leader e-mailed and said “I think he had a seizure”. That was crazy, we don’t “have” seizures. Well, three weeks later “crazy” became our new normal. I witnessed my son have a grand mal seizure, in our bedroom, while Brian was out of town. We rushed to the hospital in an ambulance. Over the course of tests and MRI’s, it was determined he suffered from three main types of seizures: absence, petit mal, and grand mal. A bonus find was also discovered; a benign (praise God) tumor, in his cerebellum, that needs to continue to be monitored by MRI for the rest of his life. Over the next 15 months, we experienced at least 60 grand mal seizures. They could happen anytime, anywhere. We could be driving, we could be making breakfast, we could be going to bed. I was on high alert ALL THE TIME. I was catching him, “dragging” him to a soft place to land, making sure he kept breathing. It was terrifying. And it was our new normal. Meds have helped us get them somewhat under control, but the fear doesn’t go away; it always lurks. So, that brings us to my personal health struggles. Unbeknownst to me, my body was about to turn our family upside down, one more time. I had been fighting many symptoms over the last few months of Logan's seizure struggles, too many to list. At first they were tame and seemed kind of normal. Fatigue, hair loss, some brain fog. I am a homeschooling, working mom, of three boys, it's to be expected, right? Then, the symptoms suddenly spiraled. I had muscle weakness, tingling limbs, vision problems, more bouts of anxiety/depression, mood swings, more brain fog, etc. I didn’t recognize myself. I was told I had Hashimoto's. There is no “cure” for this. Conventional medicine “manages” the symptoms with drugs. I have decided to take a different approach. I am "managing" my symptoms with a healthy diet and lifestyle. I am totally winning.
So, these puzzle pieces, are a few of the ones that I have walked through. There are many more pieces to fill in. We have been a family that has NEVER ever given up on each other. We are changing out some pieces of the puzzle!! So, please join me on this journey as I explore all of the puzzle pieces of wellness and figure out how to create a beautiful final masterpiece.