Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Teen Years

     Being a teenager is hard. Being in high school is hard. At least for some (most?) of us. I have heard of a few people who enjoyed their adolescence, or at least claimed to. But for many of us, myself included of course, it is often a miserable, trying time. Obviously, we all have different reasons for it. Depression, body changes, new emotions, new faces, new schools, awkwardness, self esteem issues, judgement and rejection, fears of many kinds, social pressures, academic pressures, parental pressures, any number of struggles can make this time in our lives so hard. We struggle to fit in, or try to stand out. We try to follow or lead the crowd, we try to learn, or try to avoid it. There are so many things to think about and be confused about or distracted by.  
     As a teen, I struggled with my weight and a hoard of physical problems, and on top of these, I often faced nearly crippling depression. I have fibromyalgia and, in those days, (less than a decade, shut up) it was not widely accepted as a "real" illness. PE was pure hell for me. I couldn't do what most of the other kids could. I was in constant pain, and my self esteem, because of these things, took a huge nosedive. I was made fun of as being fat and lazy, when I wanted nothing more to break out of this fat suit and run like the wind.
     With such low self esteem, it was difficult to make friends, or at least good ones. At first, anyway. We'll get to the happy part later. I felt lonely, isolated, and worthless. I sometimes cut myself. Or burned myself. Small self mutilations which I hid for a long time. I was careful not to scar most of the time, so no one really suspected. I ended up sharing with my parents, but that was much later. Even after that, it took a lot of years, and a lot of understanding from a few amazing people to really make me stop.
     One of my favorite (least favorite) fibro symptoms is brain fog. I get confused, overwhelmed, disoriented, and struggle to retain some types of information. I struggled a lot in my classes because of this. I excelled in English, and did well in electives (such as art, writers' workshop, and choir.) I mostly went home and spent time alone, wishing, praying, and hoping for a change. It came.
     I had many things also to be thankful for. So many blessings. I am blessed with wonderful, understanding parents, to whom I have always been close. I could talk to them about nearly anything, and often did. I was involved in the youth group at our church, and had a growing faith. I wasn't always close to a lot of the youth group kids, but a lot of that was due to my own judgements, and my fear of rejection. I didn't try hard enough. I went to everything I could make it to anyway. I'm so thankful that I did. No matter how hard it was, I always felt so much better when I attended church and youth group functions.
     I prayed without ceasing, (something I'm trying to be better at again) I sang my heart out in worship, I tried to be an encourager to others, whether outcasts (perceived or actual) like myself or social butterflies. The biggest impact the youth group had on me was the fervor with which they (we) served others. We went on mission trips, fed the homeless, and helped put together food boxes during holidays. No matter how close or far we were from one another, we banded together to serve. I miss that.
    My faith in God, and my youth group, and youth minister helped me to work out who I was. Who I wanted to be. I tried to thicken my skin to the pressures of teen years, and let the insults roll off of me. I worked at being a good influence on others, rather than falling under others' influence. (I know that I often came off as self righteous and judgmental and I pray that I never hurt others' faith or potential for faith because of this.) I also found a wonderful, loving group of friends. At school.
     I joined choir and had a group of people who shared with me a love of music. Also, I found a friend, counselor, and ally in an absolutely amazing teacher. Someone who told me what I needed to hear, even if it hurt a little. Someone who listened to my problems, however superficial, and either gave advice or just a smile and nod. Always just what I needed. {Thank you, Lee Frick. You will be in my heart forever, and I hope to see you in Glory.}
     The reason I'm sharing my story is to let teens know that they are not alone. I was there. Sometimes it seems like yesterday, but it often feels like a different life. I pray that I don't ever forget, though. I want to be there for my children, other young people I know and love, and anyone else I can who is going through such things, or have gone through such. I want you to all know that it can get better. Find someone you can talk to. A counselor, a teacher, a youth minister, an older sibling, somebody. You need a listening ear. One without judgement. One who has been there. 
     I want to take the time to pray about these things, because putting these struggles in God's hand will have the biggest impact. He knows just what you need, and He loves you.

    Father in Heaven,
I am remembering painful times, as I see young people, teenagers, sailing the rough waters of high school. I want teens today to know that they aren't alone. That they can find a friend. I want them to know the peace that I have gained, and learn to rely on You. I want young people to ask for Your comfort and guidance, Your strength and wisdom when they are in need, rather than looking to unhealthy, dangerous pastimes. I thank You, Father, for always pulling me through the deepest muck, and reminded me that You are there. I praise You for Your goodness, and am so grateful for Your sacrifice, and Your unlimited love, grace, and mercy. Without these, nothing good could ever be. Please hold the teens of our world in Your hand, and give them the strength and courage to fly through these rough times unscathed.
  It is in Your son, Jesus' holy name that I pray,


Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Not Baby

Well. It has finally come. My two year old Brenna-baby now identifies herself as Not Baby. I'm a little sad, but also proud of her developing personality and self awareness. Also, she's really stinking cute. Still. Here's our conversation this morning:

Brenna climbs up next to me on the couch, and says, "Hi Mommy-Silly-Goose."
I reply, amused, "Hi Brenna-baby." (This is where it gets interesting.)
"No! I not Judy!" she points to Judy, her 11 month old sister. "Judy there!"
"Well, I know you're not Judy. You're my Brenna-baby!" I say this while replaying my response in my head, sure that I called the right kid the right name for once. Pretty sure I said "Brenna-baby."
 Brenna rolls her big blue heart-breaking eyes, and says, "I not baby! Judy baby!" She says this last while pointing to Judy again.
"Ohhhh..." I seem to be getting it, finally. "You're not a baby anymore? Just Judy is?"
"Yeah, Judy-baby. Brenna-Not baby." She seems content that her message has made it through my silly head now, and wanders off.
  There you have it. My Brenna is a Not Baby. My favorite part? The fact that all of this was spoken through a binky, while clutching her blankie. Looks like she's more baby than she thinks. She'll always be baby to me. 

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Say What?!

Allie Rachelle, realizing her tummy was full, exclaimed, "Sad mouth!! I can't eat anymore!!"

Say What?!

After trying a new cereal today, which features flax and cornmeal as main ingredients, Allie Rachelle proclaimed, "This cereal is total dumpster!" Unfortunately... I agree. Couldn't have said it better.

Say What?!

My 2 year old, Brenna, has been keeping herself busy this morning by stacking unopened plastic containers of baby food. One of her baby food towers fell, and she yelled, "Oh no!! Baby food hopping!!"

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Say What?!

I have decided that for the next however-long-I-feel-like-it, I'm going to post a kid related quote of the day. From either one of my three precious girls, me, or the hubby. I may or may not share the context. Depending on what amuses me the most. Enjoy.

"Judy! Do not brush your hair with cornbread!" ~Me.

Friday, May 4, 2012

How To Learn What Fibromyalgia is Like for Me

Hi there. Miss me? Because it's been a while. I lost the little bit of writing mojo I had worked up . I couldn't think of a worthwhile post that didn't have to do with my body issues. I don't want this to be a blog all about my issues, but this is a big piece of who I am. I try not to let it define me, but it does color other areas of my life. Anyway, I am who I am, and my body is what it is. I'm working on it. It's a work in progress just as I am a work in progress. So, here goes. 

How To Learn What Fibromyalgia is Like for Me:

1. Walking (on a “good” day)-
Sprain your left ankle severely. Have someone beat or dislocate your right knee (might I suggest Tanya Harding?). Try to figure out which side is worse, so you can limp properly. Put on a set of ten pound ankle weights. Put on a fanny pack full of rocks, and turn it so it hangs over your bum/fanny. Find a child or small adult (85-100 lbs should do) and carry them over both shoulders. Now go for a walk on a slight incline. Try to keep up with a healthy person who is power walking. Try to breathe properly and not pant like a hot canine.

2. Walking (on a bad day)-
Do the same as in number 1, but add some jumping jacks before you walk to make the knee and ankle worse, add two more sets of ankle weights and another rock-filled fanny pack. Paint your shoes with wet cement. Let them dry, then put them on. Carry a heavier adult (maybe 120lbs) over your shoulders. Walk up a steep hill.

3. IBS-
(This should be done in freezing weather, so you can sort of mimic the chills) Have someone randomly “spike” your food with a strong laxative, without warning you when or where this will happen. When it suddenly hits, repeat number 2, (no pun intended), take a shot of everclear (so that when you're outside in the cold, you'll feel hot inside and cold outside) and try to get to a public restroom down the road, without drawing attention to your desperate condition or having an accident.

4. Migraines-
Have somebody boot you in the back of the head a couple of times, wearing steel-toed boots, then punch you in the forehead and each temple. Have everyone around you increase their speaking volume, and turn up any radios, computers, tvs, etc. Close your eyes and rub them hard to make “fireworks”. Now squint and try to continue in your normal activities.

5. Depression- Do all of these for years, while trying to care for your family, keep your house clean, hold a caregiving/CNA job, spend quality time with three children and a spouse, and maintain your positive outlook and sense of humor. Try explaining this entire experience to someone who only understands a totally foreign language. Try to make it clear to them that you are not lazy, self-pitying and weak, and that you really are doing your best. Try not to scream when they tell you what they think is your real problem, or what you should do to make it better, or share any other presumptuous, uneducated little morsel, which you, having dealt with this for years, have most likely already heard of and/or tried. Try not to take it personally, or be hurt or offended by it when people come into your home and judge you and turn up their noses because your home isn't up to their standards of orderly perfection. Try to be cheerful and energetic.

6. Fibro Fog/Brain Fog- While doing all these things, try to think straight, speak clearly, and remember words. With forty-seven people of varying ages and IQ's speaking at you and demanding your immediate attention. Try not to forget anything. Names, dates, numbers, plans, etc. Form complete, intelligent sentences without having to pause and collect yourself.

Now, you may have the general idea. Maybe.

I don't share these things to gain pity, or to cause anyone to feel guilty. I'm trying for understanding. I'm trying to explain something that is considered an "invisible" illness, so that maybe folks will not be so quick to judge. I tried to make this kinda lighthearted, but I think I failed in that. But oh well. Hopefully, it will get the point across. 

I have learned to laugh my way through this. Here's a good post about how laughter can help.
And, here is another post about what Fibromyalgia feels like.

"Life is pain, Highness; anyone who says different is selling something." 
Wesley/Man in Black from The Princess Bride

Thanks for reading.