Sunday, 24 August 2014

Mental Strength

As I sit here reflecting on the past few weeks since the latest (partial) diagnosis came down for my husband, I am left crushed for the weight of it on him and awed by his strength. He was recently diagnosed with anxiety disorder and some form of depression. Both have been cunning demons, lurking in dark corners, pouncing on him when he least expects it. Since long before I've known him, anxiety has stolen his peace for months at a time.   I can theorize on the whys and hows, but what matters most of all is that after years of fighting in the dark, he is finally getting the help he needs.

When I first met him, the monster hid under the disguise of diabetes. He was just tired, the Doctors surmised, from his blood sugars being too high. The weakness he felt even when his sugars were normal and he ate with precision were the price of years living with chronic illness.

Later as he had spells of muscle weakness and forgetfulness, they sent him for a battery of tests. He saw neurologists, cardiologists, gastroenterologists, and many more ists, each ordering tailored tests that would surely show the underlying cause. Everything came back clean, although his heart rate jumped on several occasions. So the Docs each dropped him. He wasn't their problem. For a while the symptoms subsided, and no brilliant Dr. House showed up to pursue his case. He was handed back to our baffled family doctor. Everyone simply told him to get his blood sugar and diet under control as though he wasn't trying. As though he wanted to endure the progression of his chronic illness without fighting and railing against it.

Then the spells started up again. He'd fall down. He'd be too weak to get up. He had awful hallucinations. He would wake up in a panic repeating the same thing over and over again, covered head to toe with sweat and tears. This would happen in cycles as stresses came and went, often lasting for the better part of the day for weeks. Then one morning as he was clearly overwhelmed, his leg shaking rhythmically, I saw it. I recognized it in his eyes. How had I missed it? Anyone who has had a full blown panic attack or seen someone have them knows the look I mean. Complete helplessness. The look of a person drowning. That same day we went to our family doctor and told her what should have been so obvious: he suffers from some sort of anxiety disorder. I could see the light turn on for her too. How had we missed it?

Since then he has started some meds to go along with therapy he was already getting. He is also going on a silent retreat to work on strengthening his spirit. Despite all the drama and struggles, all of this has left me in awe of him. Looking back he has been fighting an impossible battle alone for years. While I could easily tag him with label the of mental illness, what I see more than anything is mental strength. Since before we met he has been battling a chemical imbalance that was swallowing him up alive, and yet he has been the most giving, loving and forgiving man I've ever met. He has been an incredible father and husband. I look forward to sharing this part of our journey (with all its hills and valleys) with him.

Already we have been blessed to see the change in his heart as he labours to chip away at the darkness. God is with us and God is with him. His suffering is not without purpose. So, please join me in praying for him as he works towards finding the right balance.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

One Year

Tuesday is the one year anniversary of my Mom's breast cancer diagnosis. I am so proud of the year she's had. We had lost nearly all hope in September and October, only to see her bounce back so fast we were left breathless with awe. I am grateful for all the compassionate doctors and nurses, and my dearest friend, a talented physiotherapist, who helped Mom steal back her mobility and energy.

All our carefully carved out schedules were thrown out the window and instead became (by choice) consumed in the journey of this year. Which meds? How much metastases? Is the oxygen tube pinched? Every visit is precious even when kids are wild. The kids remain partially oblivious to the darkness that was gnawing at her bones, which, oddly, showed up as blinding brightness on scans. As the light fades to pinpoints on scans, the darkness retreats from her bones. Hope for more months. Hope for more years. Hope that the baby who was a newborn this time last year will get to visit and laugh and remember his Grammie too.

So here we are. Twelve months so far of snatching moments with her, struggling to create memories for the smallest ones, and working always to push down the burning, aching feeling that threatens to steal the joy we are squeezing out of each day. We have shared birthdays (some of which she was too sick to remember), witnessed my parents renew with poignant truth their vows of nearly 40 years (in sickness and in health...), and even watched her walk down the aisle with my oldest brother at his wedding in PEI. We have attended plays at the local theatre (whose closing anthem still carries us out the door with smiles on sun filled days), shared stories about bees, attended Mass for Christmas morning (after they said she'd never see another Christmas), saw my eldest daughter read at Mass twice, relaxed on a bench while the kids played in the yard and kept watch on a blooming blueberry bush.

I don't know where we will find ourselves this time next year. That's for God to take care of. What I do know is that He and my Mom will keep surprising all of us. I know that this journey is one worth walking because the company is great. I know that in the years to come when things get harder again, we will look back and see the incredible miracle that every moment has been since August 19, 2013. We will be grateful that God is gentle with our hearts and plans the manner and means of all things. Most of all, we will cry out that He is good, He is our one defense and righteousness, and bless His Holy Name.