The accuser

One of the first things we have to do when we dip into a depression or funk or mood is determine what is the right response. For me is it always a combination of quietness, reflection, and writing about it. I’m not seeking encouragement from anyone, I am writing only because the writing helps me and because I’m trying to give you the best “up close” look I can give you of as much of this journey as possible.

Tried to sleep for a while, but well-meaning nurses kept interfering, you know, by taking outstanding care of me. They have all been blessings. Sleep not coming, depression continuing to dance around the edges of my mind. When I listen closely, it says things like this:

“You’re washed up.”
“Why pretend you’re okay with this? You’re no hero.”
“You’re never going to be as good again as you were a week ago.”
“You’ve had your last good day.”

But rather than focus on the messages I am hearing, I hope you will think about the ones you hear. Because we all hear these kinds of messages at times. That’s normal. The big question is when you hear these voices, do you listen? Do you indulge these thoughts? Do you believe them?  

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Letter to my church family

What follows is an update I just posted on my church’s Facebook page, to my church family. I was thinking of them when I wrote it, but I know this blog is read by many dear friends who care deeply for me and my family, so if you’re one of those people, this is for you as well.

Hello church family. I am in my room at Beaumont, a beautiful private room with a wonderful view. I will be receiving IV steroids over five days. Apparently there is some chance that I will be allowed to take the last couple of days at home, but this is uncertain. I will meet with my MS doctor and this floor’s attending physician in the morning.

As many of you know, this flareup actually began in October. I have had very few healthy days since then, and it seems to have culminated in this — the worst exacerbation I have experienced in my 22 years with the disease. I am so looking forward to lots of rest, peace, prayer, meditation, reading, and solitude during my time here. There is even a Starbucks in the food court, so Christy has assured me that fine coffee will play a part in my healing. It has been so long since I have been a whole person. I hope to do much healing in this mandatory down-time so I can return to you whole (or at least partially whole!), and lead us with an energy and enthusiasm that I have mostly lacked all these long months.

When I think of you I am flooded with a sense of my great and good fortune.

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When Is It Okay to Give Up?

Many people have complimented me on my courage and persistence lately, as I continue to struggle with my MS. The question though, really, is what is the alternative? Is it some great virtue that I refuse to cop an attitude and grow whiny and ask “why me” every five minutes? In the face of a huge challenge like this disease, when exactly is it okay to give up? Is there a point where that could ever be rational?

Let’s start with the facts. I have a disease for which there is no cure. Everything happening in my body right now is completely beyond my control, which is to say there is nothing that I can directly do about it. Even nutrition and my daily injections will do nothing at all to modify the outcome of this current flareup. This adds up to one thing: powerlessness. My chosen coping methods (praying, meditating, and staying in the present moment) make a huge difference in my attitude, but are not treatments for the disease itself.

Given this basic state of powerlessness, the question is whether hanging in there, or giving up, is the best thing to do. I think, frankly, the situation calls for both.

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Living with Setbacks

Everybody has setbacks. We all have our cross(es) to bear. No one is exempt. One of the main crosses I bear is multiple sclerosis. As with most crosses people bear, I can’t fix this. There’s nothing I can do to make it very much better. The only thing I can do is decide how I am going to respond to the challenges it presents. Though I have no love for this illness, I can say that it has made me a better person. That is beyond doubt. Setbacks are frustrating. They tend to make us angry and, with enough setbacks, we can become bitter and resentful.

22 years ago, when I was diagnosed with this disease, after the obligatory years of completely freaking out, I decided to work from the possible endpoint, back to my present life. In other words, I pictured the worst — I’m 40 or 50 years old, in a wheelchair. My arms and legs don’t work. I’m incontinent. I cannot feed myself and when I eat I often choke on my food. I cannot do productive work. I am a burden to my family and friends. That is the possible endpoint, the worst case scenario (barring death, which is rare with MS). That may or may not occur. It is not for me to know. But what is for me is to consider what kind of person do I want to be in those circumstances.

So I set out many years ago to become the kind of person I would respect in those circumstances if it were someone else. I wanted to live in a way that, if it was a close friend or family member of mine, would inspire me and make me want to rise to the challenges in my own life.  

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