Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Emotions in the days before an endoscopy, and other ramblings on empathy and life.

(I wrote much of this blog post in my car on my work commute using voice-to-text. Ahhhhh the luxuries of technology! Also, to all you people unfamiliar with endoscopies [which is a very large proportion of you I'm sure], the term "scope" is just a shorthand way of saying "endoscopy," and it's when they put a person under anesthesia, put a tube down their throat with a camera to inspect the esophagus, stomach, and intestine, and also oftentimes take biopsies while they're looking. Also, if you'd like to catch up on our health journey with Greyden and know why he's having an endoscopy tomorrow, you can read about that in the following posts, listed in chronological order:

And then life got crazier.
Where We Are Now
God (in)couraged me
National Eosinophil Awareness Week: Greyden's Story
Update on Greyden and Me
Cyclic Vomiting? FPIES? Whatever it is, we don't like it.
The Teal Pumpkin Project and Reflections on a Year Ago
Snoke Family Update Christmas 2015

And now, on to our featured presentation...)

Greyden has an endoscopy tomorrow. But Sunday was the day when all of my anxieties over it crashed in on me.

Ironically, Sunday morning’s sermon at church was about anxiety and worry. And yet, I had the hardest time figuring out how to filter my concerns over the endoscopy through the lessons in the sermon. I found myself choking up during the service, with a knot filling my throat, if I allowed myself for even a moment to ponder on the upcoming scope. Instead, I thought about all the other anxieties or worries in my life that would fill my head on a more typical day, and tried to let them be the focus of my sermon application. I succeeded somewhat. I didn't cry during the service, but I'm also not sure how much I actually learned.

That afternoon Dave was at frisbee practice, I was home with the kids, and I found myself just falling apart. I was snapping at my children over everything and felt like there were a million inputs flying at me from every direction. My head was spinning, my heart pounding. My whole life felt like too much, everything around me was screaming at me to pay attention to it, fix it, clean it, or do something with it. I was trying to maintain everything and get on top of it, but I couldn’t, and my boys were constantly interrupting me and I wanted to scream. I felt so out of control. I knew I was overwhelmed with anxiety and was on the verge of a panic attack. But I had no idea why. When Dave finally came home from his frisbee practice, I immediately told him I was really struggling with anxiety, and without warning my tears started to fall. We went upstairs and laid on our bed for a while and I just cried and cried to him.

We talked and I just let all my fears and anxieties pour out. It allowed me to sort through my thoughts. I was able to realize that the pending endoscopy for Greyden had my insides in turmoil. I felt so at a loss for control as a parent. It’s like we had this huge life-altering test coming up, but there was no way to study or prepare for it, and the results of the test could affect our future dramatically. I then realized that because I felt so helpless when it came to Greyden's endoscopy, I was trying to tighten my control on everything else in my life around me. I wanted my kids to do exactly what I said, I wanted my house to be perfectly clean and in order, I wanted my to-do list to be completed. So it felt like everything that wasn't perfect was screaming at me to make it perfect. I was fighting ridiculously hard for all these things to be controlled to a T, unleashing my frustrations on my children if they dared to cross me, all the while knowing that none of these expectations were even slightly reasonable at this time in our lives. I was just desperately seeking a sense of control in the midst of what was going on. Obviously I could not attain that control, and so I was feeling panicked and anxious because of it. All of these thoughts and realizations poured out of my mouth, and once I was able to acknowledge it all and cry to Dave, I finally felt the pressure around my heart and in my throat release. (He sure is an awesome husband, btw, handling my crying fits so well.)

Since then, I have been much calmer. I still feel anxious at times, but I haven't had that constant lump in my throat like I'm about to have a breakdown. These endoscopies are just so incredibly nerve-racking for me. The results that we obtain from them are so influential on our lives, and especially Greyden's. After every scope we’ve had to make changes to our lives, sometimes drastic changes. The scopes also give the status of Greyden’s health, which is obviously a huge concern for us and the whole reason we’re going through any of this. At this point for this endoscopy, I’m allowing myself to neither feel hope nor fear the worst. His last scope was the first improved (although still not good enough) one of the four he’s had in the last year and a half. The first three were bad and got worse with each one. I told a friend this morning that I think after a lot of bad news you get scared to let your mind set on something good because then the bad would be that much more painful. That’s simply where I’m at - not expecting good but not assuming the bad, either. On top of concerns over the results, there is the difficulty - emotionally, mentally, and logistically - of putting Greyden through these procedures. It absolutely breaks my heart to see him scared, and there is no way around it. We’re taking him to the hospital and allowing strangers to cover him in tubes and stickers, poking and prodding at him. The worst part is when they roll him away from us on his hospital bed, wide-awake and completely unsedated, to take him back to the procedure room. I know that is always the scariest part for him, and I’m pretty sure I cry every time. Then we sit in the waiting room and wait. Usually my heart pounds the whole time and I can’t do anything but sit there and try to keep my mind blank so I don’t freak out about my child being under anesthesia with a bunch of medical professionals poking at him. Then after a short but seemingly long time, we meet with the doctor to hear the initial results, and my heart continues to nearly pound out of my chest. Then, whether the results are good or bad, there is the walking into the recovery room and seeing your baby covered in tubes, sleeping on the bed, with monitors hooked up to him all over the place. It all wrenches at your heart on so many levels.

So as we approach Greyden’s endoscopy tomorrow morning, I would love any and all prayers we can get. Although we are in a much better place than we were a year ago, it is still very emotional and stressful, wondering what the results will be and what the future holds.

I share my emotions regarding Greyden’s endscopy for two reasons. One, it is an outlet for me. Sometimes I just want to get things off my chest. But two, I want to give a glimpse, even if just a little, into the intricacies of what it’s like to go through such situations. We are very obviously not the only family struggling with a child with health issues or other issues. And really, we are surrounded by so many loving people who are supporting us. But there are so many hard things in life that so many people go through, much much worse things than us, and although we are aware that they are going through those things, we never understand the depth of the emotional, mental, or physical difficulties of what they are experiencing. It has been on my heart for a while now that we need to stop raising awareness and start raising empathy. We can be aware of so many hard life situations, sicknesses, diseases, or losses, but until we think about what it's like to be in those people’s shoes, we don't understand the complexities of what they are going through and really can’t know how to support and love them in the best way. But once we are able to even briefly experience what they are experiencing - even if it’s just through the description in a blog or an honest conversation - it brings to light so much, and gives us so much direction as to how to love them best in this season of their lives. I'm not just saying this for Greyden or for Dave and me, but for all the kids and families of kids in similar situations, and even beyond that to the hurt and suffering I see around me. I see all of these awareness campaigns, but really I think we need empathy campaigns. We need to love on one another, not just see and acknowledge each other and say, “I see you’ve got that difficulty. Bummer.” It’s not just a bummer. This is someone’s life.

What we are going through with Greyden is just a little blip compared to what some other parents are going through with their children. But the experiences we've had with Greyden have helped me to understand more fully and feel so much more deeply when I hear about other families’ struggles. When I hear about a parent with a scary health concern for a child, my heart now breaks on a much different level than it did before. When I hear about a child going into surgery or going through a difficult health procedure, I just want to reach out and hug those parents and that child as my heart aches with a new level of understanding. I don’t think God has us go through these situations simply so we can understand and comfort others going through the same, but I do think it’s a silver lining to it all. We can now empathize and offer sympathy and hope to someone who may really need it in a trying time.

At the same time, through all of this, I have learned to have such a new hope and joy in simply living the life that God has given me here and now. I can’t even describe it. Just this solid, constant drive to continue moving forward in life no matter what comes, to continue seeking Him and His will, to continue doing what He wants me to do and continue taking care of what He charges me with. And to do it with an uplifted heart. I have my down days, my days filled with attitude, don’t get me wrong. But I now know what it means to struggle and hurt and be afraid, but to still have hope for a better day, most likely here on earth but if not, in heaven. And I am more satisfied and fulfilled now than I ever was in the past, even before health scares and endoscopies and food allergies galore. Perhaps it’s spiritual maturity or life maturity, but either way, it appears that I’ve grown up in a way I didn’t know I could. Thanks to Jesus, God’s got my heart in His hands and I know I’m taken care of. And so even though I’d say life is more difficult now than I expected it would be, it also feels more right and acceptable than I knew it could be. It’s like I now know that I’ve got the correct life focus, and things feel constant even when they aren’t, because I’ve got my eyes on my Lord and I trust Him to lead me where He wants me, even if it’s a downright miserable place in my opinion. And really, I’d much rather have that than a life down easy street. It’s much better to know that you’re where you’re supposed to be and have it hard than to be where you’re not supposed to be and have it easy.

Alright, how’s that for some long ramblings? :)

Thanks for reading, friends. Go love someone with some empathy. And thank you for any prayers you send up on our behalf - they are appreciated more than you know.

Monday, April 25, 2016

My Favorite Podcasts

I'm a learner.  I love, love, love to learn. Which typically would mean I'd want to read and research a lot, but I'm finding it hard to find the time to sit down with a book these days.  Too many other things screaming my name.

What's a girl to do?

Enter podcasts.

Podcasts are the bomb-diggity, people.  I love them.  No matter my mood, no matter what I'm interested in, there always seems to be a podcast for that.

I listen to podcasts while I cook, while I clean, while I do laundry, while I work in the yard, and while I drive.  Basically anytime when I'm doing something that does not require all my brain power, and I'm simultaneously also not also talking to someone (such as my husband or children), then I flip on a podcast. It allows me to ingest information like I would from reading, but I can keep my hands and eyes free to do other things.

I'm subscribed to so many different types of podcasts; homemaking, whole foods diets, natural living, green living, autoimmunity, clutter control, organization, productivity, Christianity, parenting, even biostatistics.  If there's something you're interested in, there's probably a podcast for that.

If you're not familiar with podcasts, you can listen to them on any podcast app on your phone.  You can also often listen to them in iTunes on your computer or even through the podcast's associated website.  I almost exclusively use my iPhone.  I don't use the iPhone's generic podcast app, ever since a time period when the app stopped working for me and I was devastated to lose track of all my subscriptions (it was quite a long list of podcasts to try to remember).  Since that frustrating situation, I've been using the app iCatcher! which I've been very happy with.  It did cost a small amount of money, but it's been totally worth it.  It's incredibly customizable which I love and it allows me to keep personal lists of podcasts so I can easily select the topic I'm interested in at the current moment.

Below are my current favorites, sorted by category.  You should look them up in your favorite podcast app or iTunes if their topic interests you. :)  I have a ton others that I listen to also, but these are the ones that I currently tend to gravitate toward when new episodes come out.  My favorites tend to fluctuate over time, so in a couple months I may have a different list.  After you look through this list, let me know if you have any personal favorites in these categories that I should know about!

Kara's Current Favorite Podcasts as of April 2016

A Slob Comes Clean
Organize 365 Podcast

Christian homemaking:
The Homemaking Foundations Podcast

Being a mom:
Power of Moms Radio

The Busy Mom

General Health:
The Paleo Women Podcast
Healthy Living with Angela Busby
Balanced Bites
The Paleo View

Autoimmune Adventures
Phoenix Helix

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

What Fills Me Up

Lately - maybe for months now - I've been fighting times of feeling really low. Sometimes it's a half day, sometimes it's a full day, sometimes it's off and on for a couple days. I do think that these feelings are often related to my health and maybe even food reactions I'm having, but sometimes it also seems like there's something else going on.

A couple weeks ago I was working in the kitchen, as I do most days these days, pondering over my at-that-moment horrible mood. As my frustrated, grumpy thoughts tumbled over one another, I suddenly had a realization: I was desperately missing being me. Through our life circumstances and also just the busyness that comes with motherhood, nearly everything that I enjoy, all those things that make my insides leap with excitement, had all but disappeared from my life. I thought through my day and the days prior. I couldn't think of anything I'd done for myself to truly fill me up. I'd taken care of the kids, run errands, meal planned, cooked, cleaned, done research on our health, and worked my job. Maybe I'd taken a hot bath or two. I'd squeezed in my quiet time with God and we'd done our church activities. Those are all good and much-needed things, and I don't mean to discredit the importance of God time and church activities - without Him in my life and my reliance on His grace and strength I'd be an absolute mess. But none of those things were just me being me, me doing the things that make my insides fill up with satisfaction at accomplishing something that brings me joy. I'd experienced joy, yes, but there is joy you feel simply from noticing all the blessings and grace in your life, and then there's joy that comes from doing something that is inherently who you are and what makes you happy. I don't know if that makes any sense. Maybe it's passive joy vs active joy? If so, I've had lots of passive joy but very little active joy lately.

So I've decided I need to make a list of the things that fill me up and start focusing on them. The things that bring me active joy. I need to figure them out and get them back into my life, even if in very small quantities. Our pastor has told us several times over the years that things in our life either drain us or fill us. If we have too many things draining us and not enough filling us, we're going to run out and have nothing left to give. I think I'm really starting to experience this in my day-to-day life in a greater magnitude than ever before.

Along these lines, I heard in a podcast recently that the things that fill some people up may seem like work to others. It's like a lightbulb went off in my head when I heard this, and it suddenly hit me: I'd put my blogging by the wayside for a long time now because I assumed it was something that drained me and it was a sacrifice I needed to make. Blogging is a responsibility, a thing to do, and hence it's work, right? To many people, maybe so. But now I'm realizing, to me it's not. I feel SO FILLED when I write on my blog. Like seriously, it makes my insides just beam with joy. And it's weird, because I'm really not a naturally good writer. It takes me forever (which may be another reason I thought I should mostly give it up). I have to proofread posts a million times (perfectionistic much?) before I feel like they're written well enough to share. Only a handful of people even come to my blog to read what I write. But something about it just makes me feel so happy and satisfied inside. I think it's because I'm getting to be me. And I miss that a lot.

So first thing on my list is blogging, which I hope, hope, hope I can start doing more. Maybe this post is the start. I've been working on thinking of other fill-me-up items, also. Below is my list so far. I may add more to it as ideas come to mind.

  • Blogging
  • Singing
  • Photography and editing photos
  • Interior decor and organization
  • Working in the yard
  • Playing piano
  • Sitting in the sun
  • Volunteering that includes social interaction
There is also a list of things that seem like they should fill me up but don't. The interesting thing is that these are all things I enjoy. I like doing them. But they don't give me that excited-about-life-satisfied-joy feeling inside. I think it's good to be aware of these so I'm not trying to fill myself with the wrong things when I'm already so strapped for time. These non-fillers that seem like they should be fillers would include the following: exercising, crafts, DIY projects, art, cooking, baking, reading, hot baths, and non-social volunteering. And I'm sure many other things that I'm not thinking of right now. It's still good and fine to do these things, but if I have a choice between them and the things that truly fill me up listed above, then I need to start choosing the things from above so my tank can refill.

(On a complete tangent, I am having a horrible time differentiating between "chose" and "choose" while writing this post. This is really atypical for me, so WHAT is going on??? I'm losing my mind!!)

Anyway. :) I think that's all for now. Maybe you should start thinking about the things that fill you up, too. :)