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Archive for February, 2013

I am a person who struggles with headaches on a regular basis. They started roughly the same time as I hit puberty and have bothered me on and off since then. I’m now approaching menopause and am actually excited about that as I’ve been told that the headaches will likely disappear. Yay!

I’ve seen three neurologists, 2 dentists, a nurse practitioner, 2 family doctors, a periodontist and a psychologist to discuss possible reasons. No two headaches are the same. I’ve been told I have three different types of headaches; from migraines (although there is no consensus on that one), to cluster headaches (of which there is no treatment).

Most of the time I can catch the headache as it’s starting and with some behaviour modification it only lasts a day or two. Sometimes they start with a thunderclap and then there’s nothing I can do. I try medication, I try relaxation, I try lying down in a dark room. And after about 4 days it goes away. For those four days I walk around in a fog, and it’s often scary.

I am going to get my eyes checked (again) and see if that helps. I know I’m now in the market for bifocals, which does bother me somewhat, but I know it’s time. And that’s okay. I’m a woman “of a certain age” and that’s okay. Age is a gift.

I send this out as a record of acknowledging the pain in which I sometimes feel trapped. The diagnosis and treatments are often contradictory, especially about things like caffeine. If it’s a migraine, caffeine is good. If it’s a tension headache, headache is a trigger. Frustrating.

So today is day 6 of a headache cluster that contains elements of tension headaches, barometric pressure related headaches and migraine. Yay me. I hope that tomorrow will be better. I will stand up straight, drink lots of water, think positive thoughts and medicate as much as I can. Oh, and I’ll breathe.

I didn’t realise until recently that I clench my jaw when I feel stress and I hold my breath. Both are not good things. But I’m working on them. I’m a work in progress. Just like you.

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Words

I received a phone call this morning from a young colleague in the community. She and I have done a couple of shared services and I enjoy and admire her energy and enthusiasm. In December we did a Service of Light and Remembrance for people who had suffered a loss or simply found a traditional Christmas service difficult.

On the week leading up to the service I was coming down with the ‘flu and by the day of the event I had little if any voice left. It was our turn to host and thus my turn to “preach”. My colleague did the lion’s share of the work and was happy to do so.

We massed her congregation and mine, her choir and mine. The turnout wasn’t exorbitant, but the weather was also iffy. At the end of the service I received many positive comments about my message and at the prospect of us working together again.

This morning she told me that her elders were “concerned” about her working with me because of the language I use. I try to keep my language as neutral as possible, but on occasion a rendering of vernacular slips into my message. I tried to remember which words may be considered inappropriate and couldn’t really come up with anything.

I know a time, not that long ago, when I would have been insulted and offended. But today I realised that the theological background of our two denominations is different and the language issue wasn’t necessarily the issue, but the theological language.

My colleague was hesitant to raise the issue, but I assured her it didn’t change how I felt about her, and the desire to continue working with her and the congregation.

So just before the morning Ash Wednesday service, I sent her an email with the history of ecumenism in my six years in the community, as well as a heartfelt apology for any words that may have offended. I also expressed a desire to work with her and her congregation on a go-forward basis.

She replied immediately, by email, that she was sure this would smooth some ruffled feathers and may open the way for the two of us to work together again.

I must admit, I swear worse than anyone I know. I can make sailors and truckers blush. I try not to let this language slip into homilies, but an occasional “that sucks” works it way in.

I know there are better ways to communicate, and I am going to try to use more neutral, but still accessible language in my homilies.

I don’t want anyone to feel they can’t say something to me, or I will be offended by their language. But I also appreciate when I am told that my language has offended. Because that is never my intention.

It is time for me to re-evaluate the words I use and how I use them. I will still be as accessible and transparent as I can be, while endeavouring to be more sensitive to how a word I use is received.

Blessed by the One who Created us, Sustains us, Nurtures us and Forgives us.

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Tomorrow is my third wedding anniversary. My husband currently works three jobs. He starts his work day at 5:00 a.m. until about 8:00 a.m. at his first job. Then he stops for breakfast on the way to his second job which is from 9:00 to 5:00 p.m. His third job is sporadic, but starts at 6:00 p.m. until about 8:00 or 9:00 p.m.

Tomorrow is also Shrove Tuesday, or Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday) where there is a tremendous celebration, to the point of excess, before the 40 days plus Sundays and fasting of Lent. Lent is one of my most favourite times of the year. It’s a time when we take a spiritual inventory and hopefully throw out some of the behaviours that are not productive.

I have recently gained weight that I’m not at all happy about. I want to lose the weight and I know with a healthier diet, exercise and stress reduction, I will lose the weight I’ve gained and hopefully more. The major factor that disallows that is stress. I have a very stressful “job”, but I also have a stressful life. Right now I’m caring for my 76 year old mother. She’s been with us for two weeks and is here because of an injury and the resulting shock. Trying to balance parenting my parent, looking after my husband and daughter, as well as the housework, laundry and full-time ministry to an ever growing congregation is a challenge.

Sometimes I find myself feeling a bit resentful because there doesn’t seem to be anyone to look after me. I cook a healthy meal, and then I get to clean up the plethora of dishes, etc., from making that healthy meal. It’s not a big deal, but it is irritating when I feel like it’s not appreciated.

Anyway, tomorrow our parish offers pancakes and sausages as well as dessert for a free-will offering. Most people are very generous and we do quite well each year. I don’t think my husband and I will get a chance to celebrate our anniversary together; rather we’ll exchange texts and possibly phone calls tomorrow. He will get to the church about 6:30 for dinner, and then the great clean up happens.

Perhaps next year we’ll have a chance to get away, and spend some time together. Who knows?

Tomorrow is the last day of unhealthy eating for me. I’m giving up alcohol, artificial sweeteners and processed foods for the 40 days plus Sundays. I will need God’s strength to do it, but it can be done. I need self-control, discipline and willpower. And because I’ve blogged this promise to myself, now I have all of “you” to hold me accountable.

I’ll let you know how it goes. There will likely be slips along the way, but in the end I expect to emerge transformed from the way I feel right now…tired, bloated, old and frumpy.

Like all good and worthwhile things, it may not always be fun, but it will be worth it.

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In the media lately there’s been a lot of hype about the 12th of February as “Let’s talk about it” day to promote Mental Health Awareness.  The irony is that the 12th of February 2013 is Shrove Tuesday, the day when, historically, all fat i.e. butter, sugar, etc., was used up before Ash Wednesday, and the beginning of Lent.

 The 12th of February is also my 3rd wedding anniversary.  So our romantic Anniversary Dinner will consist of pancakes.  Andrew will eat the sausages for me (he’s good like that), and we will spend a couple of hours with our Parish Family and the wider community.

 I’d like to begin discussion a little earlier than the 12th of February, as I’ll be rather busy on the actual day. 

I have struggled with depression since puberty and it was, ironically, our First wedding anniversary in 2011 when I finally recognised that the black hole had returned.  It is said Winston Churchill referred to his depression as a black dog, but for me, the image is more of a hole, that may or may not have a cover.  I feel like I need to go there and stay there as it is quiet and nobody bothers me.  I get enveloped by the darkness and feel comfortable in my absolute inability to move.  My inability to do much of anything, but absolutely cannot sleep.

 The year 2012 was particularly difficult as my husband was unemployed for a good part of it.  My father died in June and the grief, at times, felt unbearable.  But I persevered, as that is what I do.  I put on a happy face and simply got on with it.  Until the fall.  There’s something about the fall that sets me back on my heels.  It’s one of my favourite times of the year and also a very frightening time of year.  As the earth begins to prepare herself for hibernation, I find myself longing for the longer nights.  I like the darkness.  It’s peaceful.

 Recently I saw a periodontist about TMJ (I don’t know what that stands for) and he suggested I increase the meds I take at night to help me sleep.  He’s also built up my night guard so I can train my jaw muscles to not clench as often as I sleep.  He said it will take me a couple of weeks to get used to it.  I’m on day 4 of it, and not sleeping well, but I understand why.

 Mental Health is something I live with every day.  Most days are completely manageable.  Some days even feel like there’s nothing wrong at all.  And then there’s the “bad patch” days when everything is massive.  Getting dressed is a chore.  Going to work is a struggle, and I LOVE my “job”.  The idea of talking to anyone feels like an insurmountable obstacle, and most days like this I can force myself, one step at a time, one minute at a time, one moment at a time, to do what I have to do.  And some days like these, I can’t.  So I don’t.

 I recognise that there are times when I am not fun to be around.  And I try to remove myself from everyone so I can try to figure out what on earth is going on.  Or at least, rest myself, perhaps journal, do yoga, and sleep.

 Mental Health is something that is greatly misunderstood.  It is much maligned as something that a strong person can “snap out of” if they choose to do so.  That is, with all due respect, absolute bullshit.  

 I can act, I can pretend, and I think I do a pretty good job of putting on a game face and getting the job done. Very few people have ever seen me in a deep depressive state, because I tend to not be around folks when I’m in the cave.  We, as society, need to stop closeting people who struggle and live with mental illness.  It’s not all in our head…well, actually, it kind of is.  It is not imaginary.  There are voices, smells and sights that may not exist to anyone else but us.

 Sometimes we talk to ourselves, sometimes we answer ourselves.  But aside from the quirks and anomalies that make us stand out, there is the private hell that we face.  You can’t save us.  You can’t say a magic phrase to make it all okay.  There is no magic pill to “cure” us.  The reality is, we have to find our way through combinations of drug therapy, talk therapy, good nutrition, exercise, and a support group of professionals, amateurs, family and friends.

 No two of us are the same, and that’s awesome.

 If someone you love seems to be struggling, don’t be afraid to ask us if we’re okay.  Chances are we’ll tell you we’re “fine”, but we may tell you the truth.  And it may be frightening to hear.

 If you are someone who struggles, find someone to share your struggle with.  Find someone to trust completely and share what you’re really feeling.  It won’t be easy.  You may get hurt.  But the reality is, no-one deserves to struggle alone.

 As a relatively high-functioning depressive in a small Southwestern Ontario village, I think it’s important that people see me for who I am.  A quirky, humorous, dignified Anglican priest (not priestess) who tells it like it is, is as down to earth as she can be, and who loves what she does.

 Ask me anything at all.  I reserve the right to refuse to answer.  And I reserve the right to tell you the truth.

 It’s time for us to talk about mental illness.  So let’s get the conversation started…

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