July 28, 2017

Healing or Growing Old: Construction Vehicle, Do Not Follow

Image result for construction vehicle do not follow

Have you ever seen a vehicle with a sign like this? "Construction vehicle do not follow."  This is one of my favorite signs ever.  I have to admit that once I was behind a truck like this at a stop light.  As I was pondering the sign, the light turned green and I went forward, following the truck.  Before I knew it, I had all these construction workers waving their arms at me trying to keep me from entering a construction site that I was heading into-- because I was following the construction vehicle.  Haha.  Even as I was trying to understand the sign, I was actually doing what the sign warned me against.  

I saw a truck like this on my way home from school this week and it made me laugh out loud.  I kept thinking I need a sign like this on my blog.  

For the next year (or two) I am spending a lot of time outside of my home getting a graduate degree.  While I know this is right for me and my family.  I don't know if it is right for you and your family.  So, don't follow me.  

There is another part of my need to go back to school.  Something that I don't really understand completely.

When I gave birth to Ben, I had balloon catheters in the main arteries to my legs.  The balloon catheters burst and doctors had to cauterize those arteries.  I did not have good circulation to my legs.  I couldn't walk.  My right foot was completely cold.  They also severed my right illiac (which provides the main blood circulation to my right side. I also had a near-fatal blood clot that formed in my right leg and was caught by an IVC filter just seconds after they placed it near my lungs (saving my life AGAIN).  I couldn't walk for weeks.  I used a walker or wheelchair for months.  There was a time when doctors felt I might end up paralyzed in my legs.  (That time is hazy in my mind.)  

My point is, the path to my physical recovery was LONG and PAINFUL.  I had nerve damage in my feet that was excruciating.  It was almost constant and lasted for months.  My nerve damage went away after a few months, but does return when I'm stressed.  

But, overall, I can WALK! My feet get blood.  I'm pain-free most of the time (and so empathetic of those who suffer with long-term pain).  My body healed.  My body created new passageways to deliver the blood to my feet.  HEALING is amazing.  (I also had two major reconstruction surgeries in the past four years that were similarly life-threatening.)  My body is a warrior body.  I have NO urinary issues, no intimacy issues.  I feel good.  AMAZING.

It was hard to heal physically from a trauma.  But, it has been HARDER to heal mentally.

After twelve hours of surgery and over 200 units of blood transfusion, doctors were not sure that my brain would still work at all.  They warned my husband I might never talk again.  I might have permanent brain damage.  I couldn't SEE for a week after my surgery.  I was swollen to over 200 lbs and my poor brain and nervous system took a beating.  

YEARS after my surgery, I could still feel my body in FIGHT or FLIGHT or FREEZE mode.  Something would happen, a minor stress, and my brain just didn't handle it well.  I couldn't think.  I couldn't make decisions.  I have a very hard time understanding people who talk with accents (something I never experienced before my surgery) and I am awful with directions (I was like that before my surgery but I think it's worse now).  I have a hard time with word recall.  When my brain is tired, I really have a hard time naming things (like my children or the pantry).  

Stress effects my body.  
My ankles swell.  My hands tingle.  I had a full-blown case of Sarcoidosis (where doctors told me I had stage 4 lung cancer, but it was really just an auto-immune response).  

I was home everyday with my children, but I was a different mom.  Joy was harder to find.  I felt overwhelmed with life.  I was pushing through everyday and I just couldn't get back where I wanted to be.  I also had a strong feeling that I was going to die young.  It is hard to prepare for death and then live.  Death haunts you.  It is hard to be frail physically and mentally, to accept years of bed rest or modified ability and then come out of it.  I tried but the more I pushed, the more my body flared up.  

I'm not complaining.  I'm just admitting that the physical part of healing was tough but it was still easier than the mental aspect.  

My PCP wants me to go to a neurologist.  I still haven't.  Perhaps I don't want to know if there really is something wrong with my brain.  

Anyway, I was at a pretty low place when my husband suggested I apply to grad schools.  Thanksgiving and Christmas used to be my favorite time of year, but with my new stress-brain and large family and love of visitors, those months are hard for me to navigate.  

It makes NO SENSE at all for someone who is already overwhelmed with life to think that adding MORE stress is going to help.  NO SENSE AT ALL.  I know that.  That's why I told my husband he was crazy.  It is also why I was SHOCKED when I started feeling the answer to my years of praying for health was to just start studying for grad school.  

Sometimes, it is easy to tell when God is talking to you, because He tells you things that you would never think of on your own.  I barely trust myself as a mother.  I worried that my surgery had changed me.  I would just never be the person I was before my surgery.  That was OK, but sad.  

And then, I started studying MATH and vocabulary.  Equation after equation.  It almost felt like taking those first few steps down the hospital corridors.  

I personally believe that my brain is creating new pathways because old pathways were damaged, just like in my legs.  Maybe, instead of hurting my brain, using my brain more is helping to heal it.  

There is another part of me that realizes it was VERY hard for me to consider my oldest son, Jakob, leaving my home forever (or two years).  The thought ripped out my heart.  It was really, really hard for me.  I sometimes wonder if God knew I would not be able to sit at home and just watch my children leave one after one.  (In the next four years, four of my kids will leave home.)  I don't think I can handle that very well.  I wonder if God ignited a dream inside my soul to distract me from my loss or to replace loss with growth?  

I don't know.  I don't know why.  But, I do know that I was praying for joy and God blessed me with desire.  Desire to do something I never, ever imagined I would do.  I was having a hard time planning meals and God has me planning Day Care Budgets, personnel, fringe benefits, tax rates, etc.  My brain is stretching and my feet are NOT swelling.  I'm amazed and so, so grateful.  

And, how is my home?  While I am at school, my mother and my husband are with my children. My mom has been untangling the mess at my house.  She has been able (in one month) to create an order in my home that I have been unable to create in four years.  We needed her.  My kids needed her.  I needed her.  Even though I am using my mind more, there is a greater peace because my house is in order.  My home wasn't bad.  But, it wasn't my standard either.  

This wasn't something I wanted to talk about on my blog.  For months I thought that my blogging stage was done.  Blogging seemed to die with my old-self.  I was scared to type because I feel different.  But, this was something I miss.  I don't type for YOU, I type for me.  I type for my daughters because I want them to read my thoughts when I'm gone and when they are 40, so they can know how I felt.  

There is a very real possibility that what I am experiencing is brain-damage.  There is also a very real possibility that what I am experiencing is called MIDDLE AGE.  That maybe, after 40 years of life, people change.  Either way, I just want to say, don't follow me because I am just doing ME.  I'm trusting my own ability to receive inspiration on this one.  I'm trusting that after 40 years of life I know how to receive revelation and that God could have opened my heart and poured in me a deep contentment at home and he did not.  Instead, I feel really, really excited to learn and grow and to make new goals for my future that do not revolve around having children.  Maybe this is evil, but it doesn't feel wrong.  It feels ALIVE.  

I need to know God still has a purpose for my life.  I need to know that my brain works and my body works.

It is hard to tell your story when you feel you are unsure what the next chapter will look like.
But, all along, I've shared my ROUGH DRAFT with whoever wants to read it. 
I'm still in rough draft stage.  

I really, really tried to just stay home and be happy as a mom whose children were growing up.  
But, for whatever reason, I COULD NOT DO IT.  
Now, I am a mother whose children are growing up, with a goal.  
And, it feels SO GOOD.  

Pray for me.  I have a final this morning that I really do not think I can possibly do in the 3 hour time frame.  And-- I love this.  
God saved my life for a reason.  I don't know why.  But, I do know that I'm alive today.  I can study and take a silly test.  
Then, I am going to drive to Palmyra and spend the afternoon with Drew, my second son, and one of my favorite people in the world.  My mom and my dad (who have been divorced for years) are both here at my house helping to fix things around the barn and celebrating Jakob's mission farewell that is this Sunday.  The weather is beautiful.  Todd is in Michigan, camping with the kids and his family.  They get home tomorrow.  My cow, Daisy, is pregnant and could deliver any day.  

And, life feels SO, SO good.  

Life is good.  

Do not follow--  Construction Vehicle.  


Aflyonmyhomeschoolwall said...

What you've written here is so lovely and so sensible. I just wish I could hug you and congratulate you for all of your courage! When you first posted about your score of zero on that first practice exam and how your kids rallied around you to help you, and you scored a passing grade with time and practice, I was just overwhelmed with gratitude for a God who knows just what we need to help us heal. You need this!! You need this for yourself. You need this for your kids. You need this for your eternal progression.

We're in the process of hoping to stimulate the hurt brains of some of our kids into new growth and healing. The brain is a miracle! And you are an inspiration to me to find and build my own life.

How I hope you keep finding time to blog. :)

Elicia Gregg said...

I am so glad you are blogging again with some regularity. I love your honesty. I love how you are open with your struggles and your triumphs. How you show your readers that you are human just like the rest of us, and that we all have different paths and different choices to create/make in our lives, but that this doesn't make us any less human. I love how you remind me that we are all made of the same flesh and that there is more that we all have in common if we are just willing to open our eyes and see. I am excited to watch from afar as your life unfolds in the words of this space that you so graciously share with me.

Jenifer Moss said...

Oh thank you sweet women. This was a post I wrote and published without rereading. (It's probably full of typos.) I was embarrassed walking to my exam and planned on just erasing it when I got home. But, you're right. Our stories mean something and life is about struggles as well as strengths. Thank you for seeing what I was trying to say!

Brynn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Brynn said...

Thank you for your courage in sharing your pondering. I am excited to follow your journey.

Sunwoo Shim said...

Very encouraging. Keep on keeping on! I have found that is the only answer - forward not backward.

Amber said...

I know you write for your daughters and sons, but I am glad you are writing again too. I've been wondering what happened to you and I am so happy to read that you've found joy again. This world is full of so many hard, and discouraging things. I am SO happy to read that you have joy again. I am so happy to read that you are doing your best to find that joy with the help of the Lord and your husband and your family. I am so glad you are doing well! How is it that someone I've never met can help me through my own struggles? Just to know you haven't given up or shut down means a lot to me. Thank you for sharing this part of yourself. ~Amber

Anonymous said...

I am so glad to see you are blogging again, and I love that the Huffington Post suggestion seems to have helped you get back into the saddle again, as it were.

I have just read closely all of the recent posts and the comments. Obviously much of it is outside my experience. But what I am learning more and more about is brains. And I am fascinated at how returning to school may be exactly what your body needs to help refresh and rework some neural pathways after such trauma. That is solid in science and it seems to be solid from a spiritual side too, as this conversation seems to show. It makes absolute sense to me that having a structured plan for how to exercise your brain via this degree is as important to your healing as the exercise and physical work you have done to get other parts of your body strong again.

You wrote that in seeking counsel you appealed to someone with the words, "Help me! I think I'm selling my birthright for a bowl of porridge." I am pretty sure you know that is nearly the same phrasing that your Scottish great-grandmother used once upon a time (when refusing to give up her citizenship after moving to the USA). When I read that line, I felt this connection flow down through the ages.

I am as always impressed by the way you approach your life and the thoroughness with which you think through your decisions. I am sure it's important for many that you continue to blog about your experiences. Maybe none more so than yourself.

You know I believe there are ways to be a mom and a wife and to work - sometimes those things all combine in some way that makes us better at all those different roles. If I had not been working, I would not have the job I have now. If I did not have the job I have now, I would not be able to be such a good mom to our children, especially our youngest who has special needs - needs I did not fully understand, needs I can hopefully meet better as a result of the work I am doing and the networks I have come to know through this work. It has all led to this place. Hopefully, in the process I can make things better for many like him, on a larger scale. Who knows where your journey is leading, but I believe it all 'fits' and it all makes sense. I understand why you are making the point that this is highly individual but don't undersell yourself, you are a strong presence and it's not really such a bad thing to think some others might follow your example, each in their own time and their own way...

Love you, Aunt Sandra

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