Saturday, November 9, 2013

Chronically Sick Homeschool Mama (reposted)

Reposted 07-22-2014 (Originally written November 9, 2013, during a health trial that got much worse...)

After getting a decent amount of sleep I feel a little more equal to the task of writing about what is going on in our home these days.

I am a sick mama. I’ve been trying to fight it. I’ve been trying to disguise it. I’ve been trying to outright deny it (to myself). But, the truth is, I am one sick mama.

The symptoms for which we recently expected a pituitary gland tumor were these: both ears ringing. Loudly. Since October 8th. Lactating, though it has been more than half a year since I nursed the baby. Drastic change in appetite. Terrible weight gain. Forgetfulness. Headaches. And more.

As I noted yesterday, the MRI showed absolutely no problems with my brain. This is good news, but not necessarily easy news. Hear me out… I do NOT want to have a tumor! I do not want cancer, or MS. I am NOT saying that it would be easier to be sick from any of those awful causes! But, for a few days I felt like (for the first time in eight or so years) I was justified in my sickness. You cannot possibly understand unless you too have an invisible illness like chronic fatigue, or fibromyalgia, or hypothyroid, or some other undiagnosed sickness.

For years I have battled in my own mind how to be a mama of all these kiddoes and homeschool while I am so very sick. And, yet, no one really knows how sick I am. I do not necessarily “hide it.” I flatter myself to think that I am one of the most authentic people you will ever meet. (Let that sentence in and of itself tell you of my authenticity *winks*)

Yet… I am a recovering SuperMom. I am one of that class of homeschool mamas that wants to represent the homeschool movement (and the Lord!) so well that I push myself beyond my breaking point each and every day. My body would say “sleep, rest,” and my mind would say “but the dishes aren’t done!” As though the dishes are more important than my health. To be honest, it has been as though for the last eight or so years of homeschooling, I carry a host of condemning voices with me throughout my day.

These voices (or rather ideas/notions) enslaved me as only the most brutal task master could ever do. I was/am driven to have a perfectly clean house. Driven to have the perfect diet. Driven to be the perfect mom and have the perfect kids. And, usually these condemning voices/notions came at me in the form of believers… not unbelievers. Comparing myself to the blogger mom with ten kids who appears perfect. Comparing myself to the books I read that locked me into this cage in the first place. Seeing myself (I supposed) through the eyes of Christians who choose not to homeschool and (I supposed) were always pointing fingers at me. On and on goes the list.

So, yes, I am unwell… But, I don’t think the biggest problem I am currently facing is my thyroid scores being the worst my doctor has ever seen… or my chronic vitamin D deficiency… or anemia… or adrenal fatigue.

Honestly, the biggest sickness is the one in my heart/spirit. Yes, I am a very sick woman – physically. But, there is an even bigger issue that I need to be healed from… the disease of comparison and condemnation.

Because, you see, I would feel justified being sick if I had a diagnosis of a brain tumor. I would have finally – after all these years – given myself permission to slow down. To be sick. To take time to heal. But, there is a place in my mind that is still wanting to be SuperMom. “What?!,” it says, “And admit you aren’t the perfect mom?! That you are sick?”

This will not make sense to you unless you have been there. I am writing this post to those of you who have been there… who are there.

I am done. I am done trying to be SuperMom. I REPENT of the sin of PRIDE!

I awoke from a dream this morning that I was writing for a newspaper. I was a featured writer on page two. I was brainstorming ideas what I would write about. My list was all ideas of what it really looks like to be a homeschool family… and to be a sick homeschool mama, at that. The Lord, I believe, was showing me that I have to be a herald for the truth. (Of course I am a herald for THE Truth, Jesus Christ, first and foremost!) But, I need to be a voice that is NOT adding further condemnation to mamas who are already burdened.

Lord willing, I will be a voice of one who tells you how to un-strap those burdens off your backs as I learn how to cast aside my own.

Lord willing, this blog will be better used than ever before (by me, the primary author) to exalt the Lord and help us Christian families to see ourselves as the Lord sees us.

The Father loves us. He sent Jesus to die for us. He wants to strengthen us for the journey one day at a time. We are His flock of chicks, He is the Mama Hen who gathers us under His wings. We are all brothers and sisters, as well as fellow soldiers, who need to link arms and hold each other up through the battles of this life.

There is something seriously wrong with a Christian culture that leads to mamas who feel like they can’t even be sick! And, it is not all “in my head.” I have had real life people tell me that I can keep going and do all the things that [she] thinks I was supposed to be. (You know, homeschool mama - teach three languages, teach three musical instruments, and so forth…) I have had others who told me that I am not sick at all… I just need to “overcome” and press on.

Sick Mamas, we WILL overcome! But, overcoming might mean that in your sickness you learn to tame your tongue, you learn to let yourself be sick, you learn to be patient and content in all circumstances while the Lord is at work to conform you into the image of His Son while you participate in a small sampling of His sufferings. You WILL overcome. We WILL be more than conquerors. But, that might mean that you will remain in your sickness a bit longer while the Lord does His Perfect Work in your life.

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. Romans 8:18 (NKJV)

Friday, November 8, 2013

Brain Update

Regarding the MRI that I mentioned in my last post.

My MRI was unremarkable. There was no brain tumor. No cancer. No MS. Nothing.

This is a good report. But we still don't really know what is wrong with me.

I'll try to write more on a day when I'm not so tired and overwhelmed.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Health Update - Bethany's Brain

Last week I went to a new doctor to see if I might get a new perspective on some of my health issues. My hypothyroid condition has been particularly out of control lately, and we are trying to put all the pieces of my health puzzle together. Also, we recently found out through blood work that not only was my thyroid score literally off-the-charts hypothyroid, but I am still terribly vitamin D deficient as well. (My end of Summer vitamin D score was far worse than my January mid-winter score last year!). So, I had some concerns about my health. Also, I am no longer taking NatureThroid as it turns out I am "sensitive" to pork and I felt better after discontinuing the medicine than I felt the nine months I was on it.

Meanwhile, I was seeing many of my health symptoms spiraling out of control. Paul said that I am in the worst health he has ever seen in me... this includes my bouts of disability... so, that says a lot... I am  NOT currently disabled. But, I see some patterns that, if not nipped in the bud, could potentially go that direction. My hands are not able to hold a pen most days. (I am able to type easily.) But, it hurts to play piano. I cannot comfortably lift up my arms to comb or arrange my hair... etc.

So, I went to a new doctor. And, she picked up on a number of symptoms that she thought correlated and took a blood test (among others) to check my prolactin level. I asked her what she was checking for and she said "pituitary gland tumor." I did not freak out. I actually thought, "yeah... that would certainly explain some things..."

Then, Monday we got the results of the blood work. My prolactin is quite elevated and I need to have an MRI done tomorrow to check for a tumor in my pituitary gland. I spoke to my naturopath today as well. And, he also now suspects to see a prolactinoma on the imagining tomorrow. My naturopath was very encouraging, telling me that he has treated this condition successfully before. In fact, he said that he has seen great results simply from eliminating gluten from the diet. (Yes, I was gluten free for a while, but we recently reintroduced grains in abundance as an attempt to cut back grocery expenses.) My doctor did not say that prolactinoma is caused by gluten sensitivity, but he did strongly state that gluten can/does exacerbate the condition. So, it looks like I will be going GF again. (At the very least)

Neither of my doctors expects that this tumor (which we expect to find) will be malignant. Pituitary gland tumors are generally benign. Neither does either doctor expect this health concern to be at all life threatening. And, to be honest, I never feared that. My anxieties were always more along the line of, "IF I have to ... THEN who would watch the kids/homeschool the kids/cook/clean/etc..." Rebecca is amazing! She is the momentum that keeps this family in motion right now (humanly speaking). She is stepping up as little mama in a big way! And, she is feeling the physical strain. She is quite tired.

I will let you know the results of the MRI as soon as I am able. I think at this point we would all be surprised if it is NOT a tumor... but you just never know. Last week a brain tumor was not even in my foggiest ideas for my future. Now, I am talking about it like it is a certainty. But, we do not know anything for sure yet, except that my prolactin score was high.

Now, knowing that these types of posts (on my blog) get more hits than anything else, I feel obligated to say that I HAVE PEACE, Friends! And, you can too! I can trust in the Lord no matter what is going on with my thyroid health, my vitamin D level, my pituitary gland tumor etc. I am clinging to several verses of Scripture throughout this ordeal and all the others of this past year. With my health and Paul's health. With Paul's job loss and everything else we have faced - we CAN and we DO have peace. We have moments of weakness, but we CAN have peace!

Here is a small sampling:

Romans 8:28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
Romans 8:29 
For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.

Psalms 57:1-2 Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me,
    for in you my soul takes refuge;
in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge,
    till the storms of destruction pass by.
I cry out to God Most High,
    to God who fulfills his purpose for me.
Isaiah 26:3 You keep him in perfect peace
    whose mind is stayed on you,
    because he trusts in you.

God is fulfilling his purposes for my life. And one of His ultimate purposes is to conform me to the image of His Son. Whether you believe that God "allows" bad things to happen or whether He has "ordained" bad things to happen-- God WILL use all circumstances in my life for my good and for His glory. We can have peace.   

To God be the Glory.