Catch 22

Water rises up to the edge of my eyelid, falls into my lashes, and dribbles down my cheek as I watch the screen. My mind is connecting with what I am hearing in a way that I don’t yet have words for, so the tears come. Tears of relief, joy, and hope. Tears for the end of a loooong trial that’s been hard to observe with the naked eye, but has been present all the same.

I’m listening to a nurse practitioner recount the many traumatic brain injuries she’s had through the years. Concussions in many varieties that, at different times, came with a fractured skull and cheekbone, inflammation, cuts and bruises, and debilitating migraines that shock her awake and make her throw up in the middle of the night.

I explain the evolving symptoms of my own migraines, the last remaining symptom of a concussion I suffered in a car accident a few years ago. They have improved drastically despite their lingering and, often, show-stopping presence. But when I describe the deteriorating focus and concentration that has begun to affect my work and scare the crap out of me, I point to depression. Do I feel depressed? No. But since when has any of this ever made sense? One hormone decides to call in sick, or my symptoms evolve unexpectedly, and the whole apple cart turns over.

“It’s not the depression. Your medication would’ve handled that symptom like it did the others. No, it’s the concussion. I think you have medical onset ADD – the predominantly inattentive type.” I have no idea what that means. So, I say some version of a “huh?” to the screen.

“It’s common to have worsening focus and concentratration even years after suffering a traumatic brain injury (TBI). I think the concussion has brought on the inattentiveness. Medication can help with that.” She asks me if I’ve tried “Wellbutrin”. “Yes,” I answer, and add that it made me have suicidal thoughts within hours of taking it. “I’m sensitive to medication.” She pauses, then suggests Adderall.

I listen in silence, letting it sink in. As it does, the tears come. In the next second, I wipe my cheeks, saying, “I’m sorry. I’m getting emotional because this has been so hard, and you’re telling me that there’s a way out of this?”

I don’t remember much of what happened next. I learn that there’s a national shortage and that some people can become addicted. “It wouldn’t be addicting if it didn’t work,” she says. We talk about dosage and my medical history as well as my extended family’s. We end the telehealth session with an agreement to meet again in two weeks.

When the call ends, I’m bowing, sitting on my bed, and then again with my knees on the floor. Warm tears still streaming down my face, I praise God for this, whatever it is. Deliverance. A breakthrough. A resolution to an old prayer that I had only recently begun to pray again. Confirmation that I should expect good things from my Father in heaven. Maybe it was all of the above. But whatever it was, I had to offer my gratitude in praise.

The next couple of days pass in a blur. There’s a hold-up with the medication because there’s a nationwide shortage of the exact dosage for my prescription. It takes another day for the nurse to submit a new prescription for a lower dose. But my hope helps me push through the struggle at work. On the day that it is finally ready, I decide to type “Adderall” into Google, and suddenly, my hope comes crashing down around me.

I see words and phrases like “Amphetamine,” withdrawal symptoms, risk of addiction, and effects similar to Meth, and my mouth goes dry. “What the…?”

“I can’t take this,” I say to myself. “I can’t risk addiction.” And immediately, the option was off the table. But the fears of losing my job because I can’t focus and deliver tap dance their way back into the forefront of my mind.

And this is the challenge that comes with navigating any illness, the catch 22, deciding which is worse, the suffering without the medical intervention or the suffering with it. “There has to be another way,” I think to myself.

By the end of the week, I had spoken to my therapist about it – who advised me to seek a second opinion from a neurologist, asked a mentor about supplements for focus and concentration, and most importantly, asked Jesus about it – a simple question in the journal where I write my prayers.

I also endured a rainy “migraine day” that sent me into dark room rest for most of the day. But when I woke up on that sunny Friday, I felt better, drained and tired, but much better. And on the roughly hour long drive to work, I returned to a practice that I hadn’t done often enough in the new year. I listened to audio of my own voice reading verses of scripture on health, healing, and believing.

Taken from a little purple book by Joyce Meyer called: The Secret Power of Speaking God’s Word, I have scriptures covering a few topics recorded on my phone. Why? Because when I speak God’s word out of my own mouth, things change. I change.

I needed my focus to change. So I listened to my voice saying those verses and to two of my favorite RnB songs that I’ve remixed in my head to remind me of God’s love for me… “So Beautiful” and “Yes” by Musiq Soulchild over and over again as I drove to work. All of which reminded me that my God is undefeated and that the “nickname” of Jehovah Rapha (God who heals) was given for a reason. What are migraines and concussions to an all-powerful God? Crushable ants, that’s what. And I said as much along the way, ignoring how insane I might look to the surrounding drivers.

I can’t say what for sure did it. The peace of an empty and quiet office. The joy of a sunny Friday. A grateful attitude. The remembrance of the power and faithfulness of my God. Or, more likely, in my opinion, the very words themselves. But I went on to have the most productive day that I’ve ever had at this job, probably in an entire year, if not longer. And my amazement remains.

I did the practical thing. I filled the prescription. In the off chance that the neurologist agrees with the nurse, I didn’t want to wait even longer due to shortages. And maybe that’s a failure of faith, I dont know. But do I expect to use it? No. Will I forget that it’s there? Probably not, especially if the focus of that Friday never returns.

But I do expect it to return. I believe it will and will say so every day if I have to, with God’s help. Maybe the threat of an addiction will spur my mouth into action, I don’t know. And if I have to throw the pills away, then so be it. But I have been amazed, tantalized by the power of God, and I want to, need to, see it again.

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Rejection

This isn’t a thanksgiving post, especially since the day has already passed (LOL). But with that said, given the week that we’ve had preparing for and welcoming, enduring or escaping family, we all have a fresh reminder that family is a trip, right? I’ve heard it said that there’s the family we’re born into and the family that we choose.  That is, our friends. No family is perfect – even those we choose. And every family comes in one of many shapes and sizes.

Even the family that we’re born into doesn’t always look like the self-contained nuclear family of black and white TV. Like me, many people are raised by a village and your “family” may share some of your DNA or none at all. In my own, bloodlines never mattered and thankfully, they still don’t. But…people are still people (who be peoplin’) and so those bruises and breaks still come along with them.  It’s an unfortunate truth that those who are closest to you can hurt you the most. It’s something from which we can never be immune.  We are often compelled to make choices around how we handle the hurt and those who do the hurting. The same is true about the bruises and breaks that we inflict on ourselves.

When I think of my experience with mental illness, and depression specifically, it seems to me to be a very selfish disease. Not selfish in the sense of being stingy, but instead, self-centered. Depression is a disease that takes our natural pre-occupation with ourselves and both perverts and expands it to the point that it can be nearly impossible to see through or around it to the other manifold aspects of life. With depression, you are always on your mind. And most often, it’s our most unflattering aspects that are the focus.

Maybe it’s the time you excused yourself from an important meeting to go to the ‘potty’ instead of the very adult restroom on your floor. Or maybe it’s the time when you spent an entire day at work and happy hour afterward with spinach between your two front teeth. Or, more seriously, the day someone you thought you knew became a predator and labeled you prey.

Somehow, whether silly or severe, each thought or memory that darts through your brain all have a common and well-traveled pathway. Those tinted visions of ineptitude, a lack of sophistication, clumsiness, gullibility, and whatever else that speeds through your brain all lead to one destination and that’s … rejection.

I find that regardless of who started the assault, because I am with myself more than anyone, the heaviest beatings come from my own hand. And believe me, no-one’s dagger is sharper than my own. Because depression underscores and magnifies the negative and is so self-focused, it can feel nearly impossible to do anything, but reject ourselves. I mean, what other conclusion could there be?

The self-rejection in my life made me want to hide from the rest of the world. I couldn’t let anyone truly get close to me, because if they did, they would see what I see and, ultimately, reject me.  What other choice could there be?

One of the things that is so remarkable to me about this faith thing is that I have never felt rejected by God. It has certainly crossed my mind that God should reject me. But I’ve never had the sense, once I started talking to God (a.k.a praying), that God would ever echo the sentiments that I had about myself.

Even as I complained and mocked myself, I never had the sense that God would agree. I didn’t feel it or see some cosmic co-sign in the heavens. Most days, I saw and felt very little beyond depression’s walls.  But after learning about God’s character, I now have a visual to go with that stillness.

It’s a facial expression that, hopefully, we’ve all seen in the eyes of someone who really loves us. It’s a look of concern.  A head tilted, angled as if to hear me better. A hand holding both cheeks and chin and brows furrowed, signaling the seriousness of the thoughts in the brain above it. And a sadness creeping into loving eyes. When I think of the days where I struggle and depression riddles my every thought, I see Jesus listening intently and then whispering, ‘My daughter, I long for you to always see yourself the way that I see you. But I’m here and ready to remind you again and again for as long as it takes.’

What about you? Do you have a visual in your mind that reflects who you know or believe God to be?  Leave a comment or shoot me an email at creatorskind@gmail.com.

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