As I sit here trying to put into words my journey that has led me to this moment in time, I cannot help but be overwhelmed and brought to tears. Life can bring some unexpected, terrifying, and completely crazy experiences sometimes. And it can happen in the blink of an eye. For the past several years, I have struggled and suffered through many trials…all health related. I was the kid who was never sick. I was always on the go, involved in several things at a time, ran myself thin at times but could always bounce back with ease… until a sudden vertigo attack came out of nowhere (on my honeymoon in Mexico of all places!) Talk about scary! I didn’t know if I was coming down with something or had eaten bad foreign food that was not setting right. Well, those attacks didn’t go away once we returned home and in fact, they became worse with increasing symptoms that knocked me off my feet. Am I having a stroke? I remember thinking one day teaching my class of 2nd graders as my whole left side went numb briefly. After progressing symptoms and a new introduction to the feeling of extreme anxiety, I began to search for answers and visited numerous doctors. No one could really help me. Talk of migraines, hormones, thyroid, or stress and anxiety were mentioned and of course medication was recommended. But still no real answer. Now, at this point I had always considered myself a Christian…went to church, sang in choir, and read my Bible occasionally. But, I’d never had that strong, intimate connection with God that others spoke of. When I couldn’t find answers to explain what was happening to me, I began to turn to my God. He started to lead me to doctors that were able to diagnose me with Chiari Malformation, a rare brain disorder that I was probably born with but never showed symptoms of until that dreadful day in Mexico. Confused yet relieved I had an answer, I continued to ask God to give me the strength to move forward with what to do about this scary thing going on in my head.
After years of MRI’s and several other scary tests, I was finally blessed to find a specialist who decided to monitor my case until symptoms proved bad enough to require surgery. In the meantime, I became pregnant with our son and enjoyed the blissful and exciting nine months anticipating his birth. God showed His light throughout this pregnancy for sure. My loving, amazing husband and I had a strong relationship; we both had great jobs, and we were expecting our little boy. Although I continued to have symptoms, they were bearable and I found ways to cope. Noah was born…I had a tricky, long, painful labor and he was born early with minimal complications. I seemed okay.
Until I wasn’t.
Symptoms returned, and anxiety rocketed. Doctors believed it was post-partum so I went with that. I remember thinking Lord, please help me through this.
It’s crazy what motherhood does to you. You can go from being completely filled with joy praising God for His amazing blessings to crying uncontrollably for no reason. It was during those hard days, sometimes weeks that I began to notice I was struggling mentally. My body was beginning to do strange things. I experienced pain chronically and my thoughts began to be more focused on the negative, what ifs, and worst case scenarios. Still I clung to Him for strength…even though the layers of darkness were beginning to cast a shadow on my seemingly perfect life.
Another pregnancy 2 years later brought my beautiful daughter into our lives…but the overwhelming intense labor of pushing for 2 hours with a 9 lb baby unknowingly made my brain problem significantly worse overnight. Needless to say, I should have had a c-section. Scary symptoms and severe anxiety began to take over and blanket my now mama of 2 gorgeous babies life. More darkness… Still I clung to Him for hope. I was not going to give in to the darkness and fear. My Lord carried me through, some of those days I have no idea how.
After getting to the point of debilitating symptoms and only the grace of God carrying through my days, 18 months after my daughter was born, I faced the decision to go through with brain surgery….7 hours away from home, saying goodbye to my kids not knowing how I would be returning home to them, and putting my life in God’s hands (through my surgeon.) I did it. I remember feeling so out of my own body on the drive to Milwaukee, the prep op visits, and preparing for the scariest moment of my life. Watching the worry on my parent’s faces, as they tried to be strong for me, clinging to my husband with tears of utter disbelief this was my reality, and questioning God if this truly was what He had planned for me (to be healed of these symptoms that were ruining my life.)
Then, that early morning before my surgery I experienced that peace that people talk about. Praying pretty much the whole night before due to insomnia, I somehow knew that all was well. That He was in control. The next 18 months were long, slow, and at times doubtful and terrifying. However, I can honestly say that I found my true relationship with God. I began journaling and having deep conversations with Him about how this would all play out. But I still kept a tight grasp on trying to control it all. And as much as I said I was giving it all to Him, I wasn’t fully in my heart. Until one day, I remember the exact place and time…I did. I surrendered my brain healing process to my Heavenly Father. And I began to see a big turn-around and a peace I couldn’t describe.
Fast forward through the next 5 years…life was pretty darn good. I got a new part time job, we moved houses, we found our church home, our marriage became stronger…and although I still had some residual symptoms, I considered myself recovered and in a good place. I began to sing again, one of my true passions, and it made a huge difference in my life. Then, we became pregnant again! Equally excited and nervous about facing a pregnancy, labor, and delivery post brain surgery and the risk of having problems return, my doctor suggested a c-section with our 3rd daughter. It was a great experience with no complications for either of us, and I now had another perfect, healthy baby girl. God continued to bless our lives everyday we discovered what life was like as a family of 5. Life was good.
This past fall I began another new job. All was going just fine until I woke up needing an emergency root canal from extreme tooth pain. Not knowing at all what was to come following this fairly routine procedure, I had it done and returned home a couple hours later. That night, I began to feel so so strange and ill. After trying to stick it out for a couple days, I contacted my dentist and he thought I was having an allergic reaction to the strong antibiotic given to me following the root canal. He told me to stop taking it. That didn’t help. I continued to feel awful. I couldn’t eat (would gag every time I would try), I couldn’t sleep, began having extreme panic attacks, my heartrate and blood pressure were elevated on a regular basis, I suffered from heart palpitations, etc. Many scary symptoms that kept getting increasingly worse started landing me in the ER… still with now answers. I kept trying to push myself to work. Inside I started to feel the internal battle coming back. I began to feel those layers of darkness suffocating me.
What was happening? The Lord seemed so far away. I would cry out…praying for relief but would never see it. After speaking to some friends, talk of Lyme disease came up with a reference to a doctor who treats it. No way I thought. But then I did remember that tiny tick bite I had found the previous summer. Well, long story short. Yep. I diagnosed with Lyme. And not only that, but several other co-infections associated with Lyme. I remember thinking, Are you kidding me? Another bizarre medical problem. Great.
The next four months was a blur. I dropped 35 pounds, suffered from severe anxiety and depression, and completely detached myself from reality. It was terrifying. As I began treatment, I actually started to feel worse leaving me stricken with intense fear all day everyday. Is this all really true? Is this treatment hurting me? Will I ever return to normal? Dear dear God, why aren’t you helping me? I can honestly say those four months were the scariest of my life. Yes, even scarier than brain surgery.
So now we’ve arrived at today- I now have eight weeks left of treatment. Am I healed 100%? No. Will I ever be? God only knows that answer. But I do know that I am changed. I thought I had surrendered my life to Him that day years ago recovering from my surgery. Now I KNOW I have.
Jesus is my everything. In the midst of terror, sorrow, mental illness, and my body giving out on me…HE was there. He was there in the smile on my baby girl’s face and her snuggle, He was there in my laughing kids playing outside together, He was there in the warm embrace of my husband, He was there in the reassuring, multiple conversations with mom and dad, He was there in the texts, cards, donations, willingness to help from friends and family, He was there as tears streamed down my face during worship in church. He was always there. Jesus has shown me the Light. That light to keep going, to persevere through the unbearable moments and days, and to keep fighting for my kids, my family. He is restoring my joy. I feel it. I am able to seek Him and find happiness even on the hard days. I read an article the other day about seeing the flowers in life instead of the weeds. And I am so so grateful that through the love of God, I am able to do that more and more everyday. Each day, that’s all we can do anyway. Each moment. My husband said to me the other night, The only time we are truly living is when we see the good of our soul reaching out and connecting with the soul of those around us. That is my goal, that is my purpose. To connect with any and every person in my life in the most positive way I can. God has carried me through many layers of darkness for a reason, a purpose…and it’s now my turn to begin to find that purpose and do my very best to live for Him, every moment of every day.