Ruminating…..personal torture

The dictionary defines ruminating as “to meditate on; ponder”. That sounds nice and in a lot of cases it can be. But when ruminating is what call a VCR on a loop (yes, I am old….VCR…haha), it can become a personal form of torture.

I believe that God intended for us to live the day as it comes. We handle what is thrown at us, and then move on. I believe that now. I used to replay the past over and over and over again until it was starting to drive me insane. Things that had been done to me 20 years ago by people I did not even know anymore. Some people replay what they have done and their regrets, wishing they had done something differently. When I write it here, it seems ridiculous and an easy thing to stop, but it is not.

I spent years doing this. Many bad things have been done to me. I would think of things I should have said, or done. I would feel the anxiety of the event all over again. It would just play and play. I would turn on the tv, or the music to make it stop. No way to truly sit and be quiet, so forget meditation or spending time in prayer….nope, “play” is hit on the VCR and it starts playing. Therapists would do their best to either help me forget the event or give me tools to stop the ruminations when they started, but no luck.

At the age of 51, yes, I am 51, I realized another part of life, what my life should look like, and we can talk about that in a different blog. I also started a steady, dedicated time with the Lord in that prayer closet. I now spend an hour in the morning in there, reading a devotion, a few pages of the Bible and then in prayer.

In that time, I read that the Lord did not intend for us to replay things that had happened in the past. I cannot quote the chapter and verse, I have never been very good with that. Maybe someday I will get better so others can look it up. But for now, this was not His plan. He teaches you something with an event, or He uses you to teach someone else a lesson, and we never really know which. But if you did not learn that lesson, there is no reason for you to keep playing it over and over to find it, He will just give you a new lesson to learn the same thing…..until you learn it. I didn’t realize that.

I also thought that in some way I could change the past. But the person who wronged me, doesn’t even know I am thinking about them. What is the expression? “Don’t let someone rent space in your head for free” They do not know or care about what they did you me, or if they do, that is between them and God.

So in the end, I decided when the ruminations come, and they still do, because some of us are just built that way, I just say in my head “I trust you Jesus”, and if they continue, I go back in my prayer closet and I read a little in the Bible and spend some time with the Lord and when I am done…..poof, the thoughts are gone, the VCR is turned off.

As I have been saying a lot lately, we may live in a prison but we all have our own keys. The storm even rages in my own head but I can calm the storm in me, with the help of the Holy Spirit in me. Anyone can, this is God’s promise.

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My prayer closet

In other houses, when things got to be too much, and as a mother of 5 kids, with a panic disorder, that could be quite often, I would go in the closet just to cry. No matter how small the closet was, I would go in there so I could cry, truly ball my eyes out, and then come out all composed and the kids would never know. The kids are all grown now, and they are not disturbed to see me cry now anyway.

But this closet has become my prayer closet. I have part of a shelf dedicated to my devotional book, my Bible and an older pair of glasses that still work, so I can leave them there. My husband now knows that if I am in the closet, there is nothing to worry about, and to just let me be quietly alone in there. He does not knock.

I had heard others talk of a prayer closet, and I fully understood the need to for a place to “hide”, but I did not know how much change this little 100 square feet would make in my life. How important it is to stop and be completely alone with God in a place where no one will disturb you, and you are not waiting to be disturbed (I know you parents know what I am talking about).

I have been going in daily now. I start with a devotional reading from a book my friend Cheryl recommended and I had my husband buy me for Christmas this year (which I think will become a new tradition, a new yearly devotional under the tree for me). I read the devotional, and look up each Bible verse at the end on my phone, only because the phone apps are so much quicker. I think on what I read for a few minutes. Then I pick up my Bible and continue reading from where I left off. I am working on rereading Psalms and Proverbs. I think I will read them a few times through this time, just because someone recommended choosing a book of the Bible and reading it over and over until some of it stuck. Seemed like a good idea. My friends Cheryl and Kim had also recommended reading Psalms when I was in a deep depression, so pick a book….I pick Psalms, and Proverbs.

Then I curl down on my knees, putting my head on the floor and pray for a while. Some about what I read, some about what others need, some about what I need, but I just pray. And in that quiet little closet I can stay focused. Focused on God and my prayer and staying in His Light and Love during that time. When I am done praying, I just spend time in that same Light and Love, I just soak it in, like the sun shining down on me after days of dreary weather.

This is all a rather new practice for me, relatively. But it has changed so much in just the time I have started. I have seen things so much more clearly after two years of being lost…..lost so far down a deep hole, I though I would never see light again. My outlook has changed, my self-talk has changed, rumination have stopped, and our actual circumstances in life have been getting so much better. God is amazing. And He just wants to spend time with his children. As I parent, I think…..”Imagine that, wanting to spend time with your children”, which of course I do.

There is no thunder, or storm in my closet. The storm cannot penetrate my closet. The thunder can roll outside but in my closet, it is silent, and the sun is shining.

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Finding my purpose vs. the worldview

I have been struggling for a while, into a state of depression, over what my purpose is. Somehow, in the current way of thinking, people are supposed to have a purpose, like it is divinely stamped on your forehead and you just can’t read it. We also, somehow think it is something big, such as you will save the world, or be CEO of Tesla.

Two years ago, I got very sick. I was diagnosed with gastroparesis after months of testing, and a feeding tube was put into my intestine. I had been so sick I had lost about 20 pounds in 2 months. They originally thought I had cancer, but quickly ruled that out. Gastroparesis is a condition, where the stomach does not work properly, and does not digest the food in timely manner. It makes the patient very sick. I have had it all my life but did not know it.

I spent almost 2 years in bed between being sick and the surgeries. My wonderful husband took care of everything. Living in Colorado at an altitude of 7000 ft, in a desert, I could not keep enough water down, even with the feeding tube and was in the hospital getting IV’s every month. We decided to move to Florida, in the humidity and sea level. I gained back the weight and started to be able to do things but could not seem to get off the couch.

My husband has “retired” at 47 to take me to Florida. He was still taking care of most things around the house. I had convinced myself that I had chronic fatigue. The formula that goes through a feeding tube is not food, it is corn syrup, milk, soy and vitamins. I had been through a lot in the past two years and I kept listing them off in my head. Of course I was tired, who wouldn’t be? And the friends and family I spoke to and listed these things off to, would only agree with me that I needed rest. The doctors even agreed with me, anesthesia can take as much as a year to wear off, especially if there were many surgeries. All the excuse I needed to lay on the couch and watch tv.

But I was depressed. Normally I have anxiety, and a panic disorder, but not depression. I blamed it on the side effects of the medications they give me for the panic disorder. It is one of the main side effects. In the depression, I could not think. I just kept feeling worthless, absolutely no value. It was a constant attempt to get off the couch and find something I wanted to do but the motivation was not there. It was a struggle to do anything. I could force myself, but then, right back on the couch.

Staying home at 47, was starting to depress my husband as well. We had plans to do things together but we really just watched tv together and did nothing. He decided it was time for him to go back to work. He needed a reason to get up in the morning as well. But he could go back to work, I can’t, I am on disability. A part time job just was not feasible since I have to take my son to school and work.

My husband and I sat down and had a long talk. He did not want me to feel like he was leaving when I needed him. But I told him that I actually did not need him anymore, not physically to take care of me. I could do it myself. I did not want to hurt his feelings by saying I did not need him. This was a long conversation, and we came to the realization that I used to be what I called a “homemaker”. I made a home for everyone and was the linch pin for the whole family. When my children grew up and my father passed away, I felt like my husband did not need taking care of and my job was over. But my husband did like to have me making a home. We liked that he went to work and I would do the chores, run errands, do repairs, whatever needed being done. I had always found satisfaction in keeping things neat and tidy and making sure everyone was comfortable in our home. No one ever yelled for a roll of toilet paper for 12 years. Everything was kept stocked.

I had let the world get in my head. People believe that if you stay at home, you are just a housewife. Just? No, I make a home. I taught my children, I am available when I am needed. I am not sure we wouldn’t have less problems in America if we had a person at home. People think this is sexist, but I do not make distinctions about which person would stay home, or if it were a grandparent. A linchpin. Don’t get me wrong, if this does not work for any family, that is between the people in the family. But the sacrifices are more than worth it, and sometimes it is less sacrifice than most people think.

But I let the world get in my head. I HAD a purpose all along. I should have been fighting to get back to it, instead of looking for a new purpose that did not exist. God gave me a purpose. One that fits our family well. I was depressed a feeling like I was in a prison, when I had the key all along. Isn’t that usually the way? Trusting in God the whole time that I was where I was supposed to be, but I didn’t. I am so glad that I have found it again.

This is going to be a whole new year, and I see it being so much better.

Stepping out in to the storm

I had a plan to continue my story where I left off but I will have to come back to that.  I guess this blog will never follow a specific plan or timeline, because I am just following where I am told to go.

The other day, my cat and my dog were fighting.  They always fight but since the cat is declawed (and please don’t lecture me on declawing a cat, he is the only one we have ever had to do this to but it was for medical reasons), he has never taught the small dog a lesson to leave him alone.  He finally had had enough and got the dog by the throat and was going to do some damage.  I said if he does it again, he has to live someplace else.  It happened again.

My husband loves that old grumpy cat.  There was no way he was letting him go live somewhere else.  He was not home when it happened.  I knew this was going to be a large argument before he even got home.  I sat and waited for him to get home, in a depression, from the fear (there are only two basic emotions, love and fear, as I mentioned before), that we would be fighting like cats and dogs over a cat and a dog.

I did not go to God and ask Him how to handle this.  I did not let it sit and figure something out.  I was afraid.  I hate confrontation when it comes to my husband.  And lately, our communication has not been going well with all the stress of the hurricane, and a million other things.  I sat and worried about the confrontation and the argument.  Are you seeing where this is going?  

I stepped right out into that storm.  Just walked out of the Love and Peace in Jesus, and out the door and into the storm, like it was easy.  My husband walked in the door and got hit with it.  He didn’t make the dog and cat fight but he got it anyway.  In my mind, he had not stopped it either.  I had tried, I had worked with the dog but if only one side is behaving, this will not work.  But when my husband said he did not want to talk about it anymore, I kept the storm raging.  I followed him when he left the room.  I wanted a solution, and he did not have one, which just made us fight.  He did the only thing he knew to do and he left, with no phone, and not saying where he was going.  I have a panic disorder and gastroparesis.  This kind of thing will just make me sick.  And I did it anyway.  I stood in that storm like I had no idea there was another option, and I let it rage all around me.  

I did not sleep that night.  I knew he got home a couple hours later, but I did not sleep.  I am not sure he did either.  Let’s be clear, this was over a cat and a small dog fighting; not children, not a crisis, but a cat and a dog.  In hindsight, it seems beyond ridiculous, but at the time seemed like the most important thing because we were not at peace, we were not in God’s loving hands were we would have perspective.  Fear ruled the moment.  

I calmed down first the next day and discussed the whole incident with my friend Kay, and she did exactly what I needed her to do.  She did not take my side, and tell me that I was right.  She just listened and helped me figure out why I would do what I did.  And remind me that we are all human.  We make mistakes.  

Then I went to Jesus, on my knees, curled up in my bedroom closet, where I know no one will disturb me, and I confessed to Him all about how I had not had the faith to stay in Him and trust Him, but  took this silly problem on myself and messed up so much.  I asked for His forgiveness and prayed that my husband would forgive me too.  And I forgave him for leaving me, which always freaks me out.

It gave me such a clear view of how stupid worldly problems can be.  Preachers can preach, and you think they have it all figured out, but they do not.  And someone can know how to fix a problem and still do exactly the opposite.   I have to listen to what I already know, to stay inside….there’s a storm out there!!! 

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The recent rough patch (Part 2)

Oh wait, this is exactly what this blog is about NOT doing.  I will give you a little more information because it is when I made a realization, but making a list of all the things that happen around you as an excuse to be angry, or scared, or unmotivated, is exactly what NOT to do.

To quote Dr. David Jeremiah in the book Overdrive “When someone strikes out at you to hurt you with an evil act or accusation, don’t curse it; don’t rehearse it; don’t nurse it – but do reverse it”.  He was discussing revenge at the time but the ‘rehearsing’ it part is where I can be the worst.  I can run the bad things over in my head to the point where they become what I remember the most, and not the good times.  They become my excuse for the behavior that God would disapprove of the most.

To finish the story in a short way, my husband and I had our identity stolen at one bank.  One quick thinking customer service representative realized something wasn’t exactly right and she called my husband while the thief was on the other line.  We did everything we were supposed to do change password and logins, give phone passwords, other forms of identification to lock this person out, but because they had so much information on us, they were able to continually sweet talk another customer service agent into letting them in.  We were playing a game of whack-a-mole with some very smart person in Maryland (were the credit card copies went).  Imagine if this person would use that amazing brain power for the good of humanity and not just to get our bank account.  

After that I had more issues with getting my temporary feeding tube replaced because my surgeon was no longer available.  In the end I was told to go to the Emergency Room again and force their hand into putting in a new permanent tube.  

After two ER’s in the same day, a very nice Nurse Practitioner told me that the surgeon said he could see me the next day in his office.  But without realizing it, my fight/flight/freeze mode had gone into fight.  Purely out of survival, but it was stuck.  I was rude to her, and she had a look on her face that I had not seen in years. I had promised myself never to go into fight mode again.  Years of being terrorized had caused me to do damage to others for the excuse of survival.  

I went back to the waiting room and told my husband about it and he said, you should just take the appointment.  I went back and found the NP and told her that I had had been rude and I had no excuse and that I was sorry.  I would be happy to take that appointment and clear some room in the ER for other patients.  She said she could not make me take and form of care I did not want, and that is why she had that look, but she would make the appointment and was very kind and helpful after.

I went home after and hadn’t quite fully come out of this mode yet.  This was not the full shock I needed.  I actually started to argue with my husband, who is nothing but supportive and helpful.  He did not say what he was probably thinking, which would have been rude, but as we started to argue I started crying and realizing what was happening.  I told him, I think I am stuck in fight mode.  He said, well, I told you that you had been snippy lately, which is his polite was of saying what he could not say.  I had to see it for myself.  I had to come to the point of needing to fall on my knees and ask for forgiveness and help from the Lord before anything was going to change.  

The next morning, I tend to wake up about an hour or more before any alarms go off, and this is my quiet time, my time to talk to God, or listen to Him.  In the next entry, I will tell you how the blog came to come into existence.  

If you wish to contact me, there is a contact button at the top and I try to answer all emails.  Thank for reading.

And the thunder continues to roll……..

The recent rough patch (Part 1)

I start writing this post while looking over the devastation after Hurricane Micheal gave us a direct hit here in Panama City Florida.  That was the beginning of the rough patch after we had just moved here in May.  Luckily, we had evacuated just as the storm started.  As some saw on the news, we had very little warning that it was coming and even less to decide when it increased in size and speed to become a killer storm.  I had just had a feeding tube surgically placed and was no longer in the hospital but my feeding pump would need to be charged daily, and all we had was a small generator.  We knew that when it became a category 4, increasing to a category 5, it would leave us without power for at least 2 weeks.  I had already been through a storm this size in 1998, during Hurricane Hugo in Charleston, SC and knew it would not be good.  My husband has also been through his share of natural disasters.  We left and stayed with my sister and her husband until power was restored.

 (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Thanks to the power crews that came from all over the country, it was back up in 10 days.  They were a blessing, working day and night, and living in tent cities.  They even had to clear roads just to get their work done.  

When we returned, we found our house to have taken little damage, other than the neighbors large castle playhouse on our back porch, taking the fence and railing with it, and the usual damaged roof and siding.  Our house was livable, unlike so many.  We were blessed. We had no gas stations, no grocery stores, no pharmacies.  The GPS would take us to roads that no longer were passable but had no way to understand we needed to redirect around those roads.  We were new enough to the area to not know how to get around and even the natives were confused at times.

We managed to find an open grocery store in the next town, clean out our refrigerator and freezers of all the rotten food and get supplies.  Water had to be boiled before use but that was not too difficult.  Water in bottles was being handed out all over town in cases, thanks to the generosity of people all over the country.  

We started helping neighbors, my husband with a chain saw and I helped at the church food bank.  We dragged limbs and picked up trash and debris.  All around us was the zombie stare of people with every kind of problem imaginable.

Soon we ran out of our normal medications.  One of mine is a Class 4 medication for a panic disorder.  I cannot go without it.  My doctor was both homeless and office-less at the time and nowhere to be found.   The pop-up clinics could not fill any Class drugs with no history on the patient.  I went from one to another trying to get help, but was only told “I don’t know what to tell you”.  I was getting to my last few and it was getting scary.  My husband thought of the VA.  We are both veterans, and next to the VA is also a Navy clinic.  The Navy clinic saw me and filled the prescription, one week at a time.  They did not want to clean out the little pop up pharmacies, that were really semi trailers.  But for the near future, that problem was under control.

My feeding tube had just been placed on August 31st and the tube still in was a temporary tube used for healing.  It was made of rubber and tore.  I went to the Emergency Room where it was originally placed to find that the hospital had been heavily damaged.   

Bay Medical Sacred Heart Hospital

The surgeon could not replace it because the supply building was deemed contaminated and as you can see in the picture, there was nothing left to work with.  The surgeon, his nurses, and I tried to hold the tube together with everything from tie wraps, to paper clips, but two days later I woke up in a pool of formula.  Back to the Emergency room, but this time at the other hospital in town.  They replaced with another temporary tube, which needs to be sewn to my stomach to hold it in place, while I am awake.  I went into a seizure. 

This was just our first two weeks home.  We also noticed that the news covered it nationally for about two days, and once the fires in California started, we were forgotten.  People started saying “that still hasn’t been cleaned up?”.  In reality, this will take about 5-6 years to rebuild, and the trees will not grow back in my life time. And every day I was praying, asking for prayer from friends, and every day I felt like it only got worse.

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Next comes the identity theft…….And the thunder rolls.