Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Introduction chapter to A Scarlet Cord of life living with guilt, shame, and fear

I would like to give you a preview of my book. Here is the introduction chapter.


As I sat on the front room couch with a blanket over me, I was watching the 10:00 news. I realized I was more tired than I thought I was. I normally watch the local news and flip through various channels until I feel tired enough for sleep. I suddenly felt more than ready for bed. I turned off the TV and went to my bedroom. I got into my bed, next to my sleeping husband, I laid my head on my pillow; I could feel myself ready for sleep. I woke up a few hours later, at 12:30 a.m., I was feeling very nauseous and disoriented. I felt I was suddenly coming down with the flu. I got up and went to the bathroom. As I stood up, my heart started racing wildly. I felt even more nauseous. I felt very afraid. My body was sweaty and clammy. My head was spinning. My chest was hurting. I slowly made it back to the bed after I realized I was not going to get sick. I thought maybe that I just needed to lie down. I felt relief for only a brief moment. Then all of the sudden waves of nausea hit me, as I have never felt before. I felt a strong heat wave go through my body from my head to my toes. I felt my heart beating so fast that I thought it might beat out of my chest! I felt as if I could barely breathe. I was frantically trying to fill my lungs with air. I was very afraid. I felt like I was dying.

In February 2007, I was diagnosed with Anxiety, Panic, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. At first, I fought this diagnosis. I thought PTSD was only for people who served during wartime or who had some sort of major disaster happen in their life. I also did not believe that I had a panic attack. After my first attack, as I lay in the emergency room, I knew this was MUCH more serious than simply being anxious or worried. On that hospital bed, I knew there was something seriously wrong. I knew I was dying.

From all I have learned over the past few years this diagnosis is much more intricate and PTSD, panic and anxiety can go hand in hand. I realize now my diagnosis was correct. With God’s strength, a supportive loving husband and children, as well as two amazing doctors, I am now on a path learning how to control and deal with my panic and anxiety. I am learning trigger points and how to use “the tools in my basket” to help me when situations come up that trigger my anxious response. I am on a journey! For me I know this will be a life-long journey. I know there are many others who are also on a similar journey. Recognizing this fact has also helped me. It is important that we know we are not alone. Our symptoms, triggers, and story may differ, but the underlining issue is the same.

I have felt like my life experiences have been a series of puzzle pieces. I did not know what the final puzzle would look like, but I knew that I needed to put the pieces together to bring order to my life. The goal of this book is to honestly examine each piece as an individual and with God’s help, put them together.

This is not a book complaining about my childhood, or being a victim. This book is not meant to tell every aspect of my life. The events, situations and experiences I tell about are what I feel propelled me into PTSD, panic and anxiety. It was not one event for me; it was a lifetime of events, circumstances and people. As I look back I can see each of these situations and experiences as threads in my life, threads that are not necessarily strong on their own but woven together they created a cord that hung firmly from my neck. The threads, scarlet in color, signify the guilt and shame I felt over different situation and events in my life.

Some things that I mention are to show the patterns I was in that propelled me towards PTSD. I take full responsibility for the things I chose to do and for the relationships, I chose to pursue and stay in. While I do not blame anyone or anything, you will see I was primed for relationships and situations that would plunge me into PTSD, panic and anxiety. You will see certain patterns emerge very early on for me. Perhaps you will be able to recognize patterns and situations in your life and make corrections earlier than I was able to. My heart’s desire is to help someone who needs to hear my story.

As I began this journey of writing I was not sure why or exactly what would come of it. I just knew that I needed to do it. It was very evident to me, as I got closer to the end that God was showing me clearly He was there from the very beginning to the present time. The picture of this is all of the scriptures woven through each chapter. It was as if God was walking through this with me and very lovingly and gently proving Himself to me repeatedly.
I have also added a section called What I Know Now at the end of each chapter. The concept behind this is give you some perspective into what I have learned since then, or a spiritual truth that helped me along the way as I was searching for hope. There is always hope...
Romans 15:4 For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope”.

Tools In My Basket

Many of you have asked me to tell you what are some of the tools in my basket that I use to help me deal with panic/anxiety. I felt the easiest thing to do was to post a part of the chapter in my book A Scarlet Cord of life living with guilt, shame, and fear. This particular chapter has my "tools" listed.

This comes from part of chapter 30 titled Let The Healing Begin

1. Breathing….deep breathes in and out.

2. Remove myself from the situation-even if its around the corner for just a moment-close my eyes and breathe.

3. Peppermint! My symptoms always start in my stomach with nausea. Peppermint is amazing!

4. Ginger tea… I keep ginger tea bags on hand at all times. I breathe in the smell of the tea and slowly sip it, feeling the sensation of the warm tea going down my throat-trying to focus on this sensation rather than my anxiety.

5. Slow down… listen to the sounds around me.

6. Keep hydrated…I always keep a water bottle near me.

7. Take a few moments, when needed, to just sit down in a quite room and close my eyes (even just a few minutes makes a huge difference).

8. Be aware of trigger points…my triggers are movies, books or newspaper articles that deal with mental, verbal or physical abuse. Some things bother me more than others- I just have to be aware of how my mind and body are reacting to it. I have asked my husband to keep me accountable when it comes to what we watch on TV.
9. Prayer and reading the Bible. I also write scriptures on index cards and post them on mirrors or cupboards.

10. Physical touch…a hug or hand squeeze (even texture- a soft blanket, a fluffy pillow).

11. Journal - writing things down has really helped….thoughts, feelings, memories, prayers, etc.

12. Listen to soft instrumental music.

13. Communication….talk things over….don’t let things fester or get pushed under the rug.

14. Acknowledge the choices I have. Maybe I can’t change the situation but I can choose how I handle it, if I stay in it, and what I want to do about it.

15. Medication. This was very helpful for me in the beginning of all of this, but now, it is a very rare moment when I need this anymore.

* there is more in this chapter, this is only the list of tools, but I wanted to skip down to the end and share the What I Know Now with you as well:

What I Know Now:

1. The tools I listed above may or may not work for you. I share these with you to give you an idea of the tools that are in my tool basket.

2. As I have learned more about myself my triggers and how my body responds there have been times when I have tried all of my tools and ended up taking medication to ease the panic attack.

3. I will always have panic and anxiety, but as my husband reminded me , it will never be like it was in the beginning. Dr. Anne once said, "you can never unlearn what you have learned".

4. I believe God can use doctors and medication to help or heal.

5. Isaiah 12:2 "Behold God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid; for the Lord God is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation".

Monday, August 3, 2009

When God doesn't answer our prayers the way we want

These past six weeks have been very hard on all of us. My son has been very ill this summer. They are pretty sure he contacted Giardia from a local river while at a day camp earlier this summer. The Giardia has now turned into post infectious irritable bowel. He has been dealing with severe nausea and now constipation. I wont go into all the details because my point on this blog is to focus more on the spiritual side of this experience.

From the very first moment that my son showed signs of illness we began to pray. We have covered him in prayer and have reached out to many family, friends and even strangers to also join us in prayer. At first we just wanted to understand what he had and for him to get well. Then as the weeks progressed my anxiety starting getting the best of me and I was worrying that he wouldn't be able to make a trip that was planned for him and and my husband to go to California for a family wedding. They were also going to catch a Giants game while they were there. That is their favorite team and Doug scored GREAT seats. I was looking forward to the quite time at home to focus on my final edits of the book, as I added a new section to each chapter called, What I Know Now. I was also looking forward to spending some quality time with Lauren. As the day for the trip creeped closer and closer, I knew in my heart he would not be ready. The other factor besides the trip is that he starts school August 10th. It is far more important that he is ready for school. As we continued to seek doctors and pray, others prayed with us and a friend even fasted and prayed for Garic. We asked God to please make it clear...should he go on the trip and also PLEASE LORD HEAL HIS BODY. Obviously we wanted him well enough for the trip and school. Garic kept saying I KNOW I will be well enough for the trip. I have faith.

Over the years as I have grown as a Christan (I am certainly not done yet), I have learned to pray for my needs, wants, etc but I also say, "Lord, your will be done". That means here is the answers I am looking for,but if that is not your will, then I put my will aside, and embrace whatever it is you, Lord, have for me at this time. This is so easy to say but when you actually have to put it into practice that is another story. It is also a hard lesson for a 10 (almost 11) year old boy to learn.

I think its so easy to forget who God really is. He is not a magician, nor a jolly old (fat) man, nor is He our own personal genie, that we can make requests and poof we have it. On the other side we are not puppets or robots. How do you reconcile a prayer request knowing God loves you, wants the best for you, has plans to prosper you and not harm you, but you think you know the right way or right answer, so that is what you are praying for (as well as saying, "your will be done") but then it turns out as you pray and ask God to make it clear (God is not a God of confusion), that when you receive the answer it is different than what you wanted. Does this mean God is mean. Does this mean God didn't quite hear you. Does it mean that you were not good enough. Does this mean God is busy with bigger and more meaningful requests. The answer to all of these (and possibly other questions in your mind) is...are you ready?...NO Just as I told my son, yes God heard you, yes God loves you, you (no one) can ever be good enough (we are saved by grace NOT works), God is not mean, but He is just. God is so incredible and more than any human being can fathom. He can multi task thousands upon thousands of things at one time, so the thought that He could ever be to busy is unrealistic. That is why God IS God and we are not.

I know God heard our prayers. I also know He IS healing Garic. I confess, its a slower process than I like or wanted BUT ultimately I am praying for Gods will to be done. My faith is still growing but it is strong enough to say, ok Lord, I surrender now that its clear as crystal that my son is not to go on this trip, but please Lord, let him be well enough for school. My faith has to be just as unwavering if August 10th rolls around and Garic is still dealing with nausea and intestinal issues. I will cry. I will be sad. I may even be mad. And that is ok. We are not expected to be robots and suppress our emotions. The Bible clearly says don't sin in your anger. Anger in itself is not a sin, its what you choose to do with it. I wont sin in my anger but I will still question WHY? and I may never know why, but that is where my faith MUST come in.

We are still praying that God will heal Garic and he will be more than ready for school on August 10th. If he is not then we will be continue to pray, seek medical help and trust that Gods will is being done for His purposes. He loves Garic more than we do. He knows what Garic needs.

I encourage you if you have been disappointed, mad or sad at a prayer request that was not answered the way you wanted, remember we are not God, we may never understand why, but God is sovereign and good. Our faith should not be simply because we get what we want.