Tag Archive | faith

this is the way, walk in it

in 72 hours, i presented myself twice (and no less) to the Emergency Department, afraid of bscklash, wallowing in shame and guilt. how did things become this way?

in June, and even now in July, i struggle. i can tell you that having faith itself and claiming to have head knowledge are a world of a difference. i know that in my utter brokenness, my faith is lacking. i don’t claim as much as i can, my identity as the beloved child and daughter of God. i always remember from retreats and from conversations with friends, about how Peter walked on water. i have to learn from him, in that he trained his eyes on Jesus- he had faith and he believed! because when his eyes wandered he sank!

i have to constantly keep my gaze on God, my saviour! i may not always know why i am triggered or upset, but i guess i just have to put my faith and trust in Him? and yes, i have to learn to open the door of my heart to Him!!!

“He destined us in love to be his sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace which he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace which he lavished upon us.”

-Ephesians 1:5-8

p.s. Haemoglobin has dropped to 8.5g/dL, but they said it wasn’t low enough for a blood transfusion. Hand surgeons said Palmaris Longus and Flexor Carpi Radialis Sheath both sustained cuts (ie damage) but they weren’t gonna repair it. On a backslab now.

dei gratia


by the grace of God (latin)

God doesn’t necessarily gives us what we want. He gives us what we need.

in the same vein, thinking for years that i needed answers to heal? i couldn’t be more wrong. i always wondered why i couldn’t find the healing that eluded me. i believed that if i had answers, i could heal. but to be completely honest, i already have the answers. but answers don’t magically make everything go away.

going to the retreat in early January, not knowing much of what i wanted out of the retreat except that i wanted healing (by default that is always what i want out of a retreat), i left feeling rather unchanged. i didn’t “feel” like i was healed. but then again, what does it feel like to be healed? i felt underwhelmed. but as days go by, it became more evident that God’s grace was working in me. i was more joyful, less melancholic. i was able to cooperate with His grace. i am even more than 2 months cut-free! ah, such grace! also, God’s grace working inside of me though intangible, was even witnessed by my community!

this grace He gives was what i needed. it was a long time coming, but we live in God’s time!

10 years

seeing my anaesthetist today brought back ┬ámany memories. the waiting, the feeble attempts to get my point across to the doctors, the plucking up of courage to ask for something, the decision to say yes to another medication, the sigh that comes with resignation…

it’s been 10 years since i begrudgingly said yes to my first diagnosis of RA and the treatment that ensues. the fuss over waiting times, doing blood tests and unpredictable results, imagings, complications, ever-changing prescriptions, side effects, new symptoms, rehabilitation, and the costs of everything. most of all, it is the constant struggle to carry on. but God gives me the grace to trudge on, to embrace the pain as it continues to keep me rooted to the truth in the cross. and most of all i am reminded to be gentle with myself. nothing comes out of being hard on myself, except bitterness and frustration. in the midst of these all, i am called to say yes always; to bear this cross with love and gentleness!


i was restarted on topiramate again to help with the constant tension headaches. bummed that my pill burden cannot be lessened despite my efforts in the last few years. i asked for trigger point injections in my back because it’s been killing me for many weeks now. so he gave me 2 bupivacaine shots. i was asked to try accupuncture and of course physiotherapy. couldn’t escape the question about exercise.


i can’t seem to escape the pill burden that’s haunting me for the past decade. i’ve tried deprescribing over the last few years, and while i’ve succeeded sometimes (especially with DMARDs), it somehow gets undone insidiously:

  1. Paracetamol+orphenadrine
  2. Etoricoxib
  3. Tramadol
  4. Metoclopramide
  5. Ergotamine+caffeine
  6. Topiramate
  7. Escitalopram
  8. Lithium
  9. Clonazepam
  10. Quetiapine

it still stands at 10 now, the number of prescribed drugs. and it drives me mad. but it’s ok; i’ve had worse. once again i am called to say yes to this struggle that comes with the cross i’ve said yes to carrying.


all these years struggling with pain has hardened my heart and made me bitter. i guess it’s time to reexamine how i will be coping with something that is inevitably a permanence in my life!

failing flesh

we’re only 1.5 months into 2017, and i’ve already had a taste of what this year might be like for me. although nothing actually changes when we left 2016 behind, there is always this inevitable desire of better year ahead. is there actually anything wrong in hoping? i guess not. but it would be prudent to temper these hopes with some realism.

it’s been quite rocky since the start of the new year. when i wasn’t feeling too deeply (emotionally or physically), i was feeling nothing at all. the madness here is that i was never content with either. when i sat in the darkness of melancholy and physical pain, i craved for reprieve from the sadness and pain. and when i swung to the opposite end, feeling absolutely nothing at all, neither sadness nor pain, i lamented that i needed to feel something. i do realise this is me in the entirety in of my world that can only be black or white, and either-or. i also do realise i need to gain a footing on middle ground, of a world that can embrace grey. but again, this is a lesson that i will be learning for the rest of my existence.

as fibromyalgia flares come and go, and as i struggled with the difficulty getting through a day, i wonder how i made it through 2 decades of RA. i wonder what gave me the strength to trudge on then, what made me plainly grit and bear. and then i wonder if i’m really just tired of fighting the pain. although my RA is largely quiescent now, the occasional joint flares do remind me that i might be so lucky to only have to fight against fibro. perhaps i can seek some comfort in that?┬ábut however much i’ve settled with the chronicity of pain in my life, i never get used to it. there are all the pain pills, tennis ball, TENS unit, and injections to help me cope. there is also a certain sense of acceptance that comes with unrelenting pain that doesn’t wane. but i will never get used to it. pain always demands to be felt.

also as sadness waxes and wanes, i wonder how i got through the last 6 years. there has never really been a time when i can honestly say that i am “good”. it has always been either a “bad”, or an “okay”. my doctors and i have been trying every damn thing there is to augment the perpetual depression. anti-depressants, mood stabilisers, anti-psychotics, benzodiazepines, therapy, ECTS… i’ve had better days. but more than that i have days when i am entirely filled with sadness that i am driven to either mutilate myself, or fantasize about and/or plan to completely annihilate myself. as i constantly question, i wonder if there will be a day when i can truly say that i am “good”. because at this rate i am going, together with chronic pain, i think it is likely that i will expire in years to come. there is only so much one can take. i might accept that i have to live with RA and fibro for the rest of my life, but i do secretly harbour this hope that one day, i will be free of the chains of these mental afflictions.

i can’t do any of these alone. human effort will not suffice, as i have come to appreciate over the years. i can only surrender everything to God, do my best, and let Him do the rest. even these however, can be difficult to do. i am constantly tried and tested- my faith, pain, mood, triggers, urges, life- and all i can do is to hold on tight, pray, and carry on.


seeing my anaesthestist, psychotherapist and psychiatrist next week. hoping to get some bupivacaine jabs in my back and right knee. expecting quetiapine to be upped to 50mg, and cutting out escitalopram completely because it is doing nothing(i was only supposed to cut 1/4 of it, but i was too lazy to half the pill so i cut down 1/2 instead).

 

stronghold

Image result for the lord is my stronghold

each morning, i wake up to a mood that usually dictates how the rest of my day goes. it usually isn’t a good one. and while i sigh, resigned to the day my mood has already condemned, i forget there is a greater Being in my life in the midst of it all.

He is my stronghold.

i sobbed in therapy last Wednesday, and asked rhetorically if i would ever see the light again. i was reminded gently by my Catholic psychotherapist, that recovery is about growth. that it’s a journey, not a destination. in my own true fashion, i retorted that it’s been so long. would i ever live to see the light?

the disordered mind rages and talks, asserting itself, while the heart aches. i feel too deeply what my mind thinks, and i can’t seem to help it. the mind never ceases to demand that i should despair. that i should go, when it finally gets too much. but the heart keeps fighting. fighting to cling onto Him, fighting to stay, fighting to tell the mind that i just need to hold on and trust. that i will surely see the light, if only i gave it more time.

back then in a matter of years, my doctor told my parents to be “mentally prepared”. i was dying then. and i was dying of sadness, of utter despair. i don’t think i know though, if i ever got better from that state of being. the mind still asserts that it is easier to go, while the heart fights and clings on tightly to the One.

i may despair or rejoice from day to day, or feel nothing at all. the pain from the despair might feel so visceral, and the tears may fall. everyday is a struggle to hold on, and i still don’t have the confidence to say that i will live to see the light.

but the Lord is my stronghold. what do i have to fear?

i will continue to trudge on, and i will continue to give thanks to Him for all that He has given to me. my heart will keep fighting to live, even if my mind says no.

 

what you don’t know

  1. RA and fibromyalgia changes a person. living with chronic pain does that to you. it makes me embittered and disillusioned with life and the healthcare system.
  2. Chronic pain means that i carry a pouch of medications in my bag always. Painkillers that go up the spectrum in its strength. Topical painkillers. Anti-emetics in case the painkillers make me nauseated. Anxiety also means i carry with me benzodiazepines (usually clonazepam). Without this pouch when i’m out, i’m practically nothing.
  3. RA is an autoimmune disorder, and it can only be managed (put nicely, put in remission), never cured. And there was nothing i did to induce such a chronic and debilitating disease. Mine started when i was merely 1 years old.
  4. Fibromyalgia is a legitimate illness. It is not a diagnosis placed on a person if a doctor can’t figure out what a patient is going through (i.e. garbage diagnosis). No my pain is not psychosomatic. No my pain is not because i’m doing everything wrongly (posture, ergonomics at school/work, the way i sleep etc), No i’m not lazy, i’m just perpetually exhausted/fatigued despite the amount of sleep/naps i get.
  5. I don’t find excuses because of my illnesses. I try my best even through the pain and the exhaustion. Heck it even takes courage to admit that i am giving something up, or if i have to say no, when i feel my disease involvement is really being tested and exacerbated.
  6. i have chronic depression, and it happened (and still persists) not because i was weak. it started in 2010 because i gave too much of a damn about something- something that i was passionate about, and was good at, that pride took over. at that point my eating disorder was in full swing for a year already, and it didn’t help with the stress and pressure i faced.
  7. i fight. and i don’t stop fighting. i fought to finishing nursing school, and fought to finish it well. i fought at and for work as a nurse. i gave up my career as a nurse because undue pressure and sanctions were placed on me just to validate my license. it triggered me everytime i had to go down to board’s office to submit the letter from my psychiatrist.
  8. the people who are in the caring profession are the very people who perpetuate the stigma of mental illnesses. this was something i could never understand.
  9. i’ve lived in hospitals- medical and psychiatric- for a total of nearly 3 years. it takes courage to go in, to admit that i need help. it is not attention-seeking behaviour. and to be honest, all these time in hospitals are the ones that kept me alive.
  10. and yes, as much as it seems the opposite, i am fighting to live. i subjected myself to 63 sessions of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT- in layman terms, electric currents that runs through the head), because i struggle with chronic suicidality. if i seem forgetful, this is why. amnesia is the primary side effect of ECTs.
  11. i’ve been labelled as the “worst case” my psychiatrist has seen, “the most difficult patient” my psychiatrist has had. 70 over sessions with my psychologist yielded almost no effect on my mental health. so pardon me if i think i am a hopeless case.
  12. people have asked it, and implore you not to ask it nor even think about it, why i am “still like that”. do you actually think any sane person (yes i am very much sane) would want any of this bullshit? if i can have it my way, i want nothing of this.
  13. i am always fighting to manage my conditions, and that includes working towards recovery. sometimes i am able to muster the strength to stay relatively well (usually from extrinsic motivations). but it doesn’t mean that i’ve done it before, that it cann be replicated. circumstances are always different. and not reaching recovery doesn’t mean i am weak. it means i’m still fighting. whether it is me managing my symptoms because that seems to be more important at that time, or whether it is me fighting my demons because it feels like i’m well enough to work towards recovery.
  14. i am always seeing doctors, and again this is not attention-seeking. i see a rheumatologist, a pain specialist, a psychiatrist and a psychotherapist (who’s also a psychiatrist), with the occasional visit to a gastroenterologist, a nephrologist, a neurologist etc. i am for the record, not the healthiest person around, and no i did nothing to deserve anything that warrants these visits.

  15. when i cancel on you, it does not mean i’m not keeping my end of my promise. it usually means i’m exhausted through and through, either from the disease process of RA, fibro, or even depression. or it means my mood has plunged, and/or i am crippled with anxiety that i can’t leave the house.
  16. when you see me smiling and laughing, talking (sometimes loudly), walking with normal strides with my head held up, 99% of the time it is a facade you see. this facade is quite true to my old self. and it takes immense energy to keep the facade up.
  17. when you see me turn a little quieter, becoming more reserved and isolated, head down, and walking a little slower, it means the energy that’s keeping up my facade has run out. it means you are seeing a more genuine side of me, and honestly, i’m not fun to be with once this occurs. it can dampen the spirits of everyone, and i don’t mean to do that.
  18. i am easily triggered. when i see images or hear about things like suicide, means to kill oneself (like ropes, pills etc), and all, i immediately withdraw. it can mean that self-harm will come later, but that’s just the way i am. i am extremely sensitive.
  19. when i bare my arms to you, it means i trust you enough not to judge me. i am not proud of my scars. but i don’t want to tie it so much to shame as well.
  20. it’ll be difficult to accept me because of the way i butcher myself. but i always hope people can understand that self-harm is my way of coping, of self-regulating. it’s just like how people turn to alcohol, drugs and ciggs. and if you have questions, i really don’t mind being asked, as long as it is done tastefully.

it’s difficult for people, and even my doctors, to see how pain is inevitably intertwined with depression. everyday is a battle for me. i start off my day downing anti-depressants and a cocktail of pain medications. it’s a judgement call to make, for how much pain medications i need to start my day. a painful day makes for a very moody and/or angsty day. on the other hand, there is no happy pill. when i’m anxious, i pop a clonazepam, but it doesn’t make it go away totally. sadness, despair, distress and worry usually accompany anxiety. and if i can, i lie down, hide under a blanket, an try to sleep it off. if i’m out, i try with all my might to get home to do precisely that- hide and sleep. the worst is when my mind decides that my life is not worth living. there is no anti-suicidality pill. there is only self-injury and ECTs. i don’t hurt myself for the sake of it. ironically i hurt myself to stave off the suicidality (at least when i’m not inpatient), and it does help. it’s difficult to believe it, but it really does help. it helps me to at least live till tomorrow. and sometimes that’s all that is important right?

everyday is still a day of self-discovery, of learning who i am and what i am. everyday is a chance to be stronger, more resilient, more accepting, and a chance to desire living instead of dying.

my friend from my community described me as a fighter, as do many others, in different ways and words. i constantly deny them, because depression tells me everything otherwise. but for the past few days, i’ve thought about it. if i hadn’t fought, even as a child with undiagnosed juvenile RA, would i be here? if i hadn’t fought through the pain even as it progressed into adulthood, and then also fighting with fibro, would i be here? if i hadn’t fought with depression and bulimia, would i even still exist? it answers it all.

lastly, without my faith in God, i am nothing. He was the one who carried me through all these years, giving me the strength and courage when there was none to go on. He carried my crosses (which are my burdens and struggles) with me, and never left me even when i turned the other cheek. what can i say? God is good. God is Love!!!

The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be still. -Exodus 14:14

a little reminder from God

today, unexpectedly, God spoke to me while i was in church. while it might seem trivial, but i felt very strongly about it. it was also reminiscent of a similar situation that occurred a few years back when i tried feebly to return to church (Novena Church).

at the end of the Mass, an announcement was made asking for a doctor as someone has fainted. i saw someone responding immediately, and guessed he was a doctor. i went looking for where that person might be once the priest exited. it happened that she was a friend of a friend’s. while she did not lose consciousness, she got physically very weak. the doctor asked her a series of questions, and what stood out was her history of gastrointestinal symptoms. because he was a male doctor, he couldn’t do a physical examination on her. he kept asking her to press on her abdomen to see if it elicited any pain. till that point everyone else, including me, were just bystanders. i wanted to let the doctor do his thing. but by then, i stepped in, told the doctor i was a registered nurse, and asked if i could help palpating her inguinal area. it was evident that it was difficult for any lay person to be palpating in the right regions, and with enough depth. he was glad someone could actually properly palpate her inguinal area. pain was elicited when i palpated her right inguinal area, but nil for her left side. it confirmed his suspicion of appendicitis. she was shivering too, despite a sweater over her. she told me she was still feeling cold, so i took off my thick sweater and laid it on her. i did this despite knowing my scarred arms would be bared for all, even the doctor, to see. but nothing was more important than the wellbeing of a patient, that i knew. we stayed with her till the ambulance came, and i reported the findings of right inguinal pain to the paramedics. i stopped short of reporting rebound tenderness, although that is characteristic of appendicitis, because i did not palpate that. but seeing she was in good hands, the doctor and i left.

throughout the whole situation, and after that while i was in the adoration room, i cannot help but feel a stirring in my heart. again it was the same stirring i got a few years back. i felt like God was reminding me of what He first called me to be- a nurse. whether or not it was a push to return to nursing, or if it was a reminder of my identity as God’s child and my gifts that were God-given, i do not know. but i know this will linger in my mind and heart for a long while.

i’d give anything to go back to nursing, but i’ve tried very hard and subjected myself to a lot of scrutiny and “abuse” because of my mental illnesses. it remains to be seen if i will return to nursing one day. maybe one day i’ll be well enough to go back, barring my scar-laden arms.

thank you Papa God, for reminding me of who i am, and the fire that burned so brightly in me once upon a time. this calling is something i can never forget, and will continue to pursue, even if i’m studying psychology right now.