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Half Way There

In January of this year, I decided to write one post a month that includes 10 things that I am thankful for during that month. I haven’t been checking in here as often and June just slipped away from me. While I did not post, I have so much to be thankful for each and every day of the year.

1) We recently took a short little overnight trip to get away. Our destination … mini golf. We love some mini golf! It was a cooler, sunny morning. The course was pretty empty. We had so much fun! I am so thankful that we had the opportunity to just get away from it all for a little bit!

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2) I recently took my grandson to a doctor’s appointment in another town. Afterward, we went to a local park that had a free water area for kids. He had the best time! And nothing could replace the look of pure joy on his face as he experienced this for the very first time. Priceless!

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3) I am thankful for the little things in life … like this little butterfly that entertained me outside of the windows while sitting in a waiting room.

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4) I am thankful for creative people that place cool things in their yard for us to see.

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5) I am thankful that the flowers are really blooming from all of this wonderful rain!

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6) I am thankful for summer cookouts and s’mores!

7) I am thankful for wheel barrels, rakes, weed eaters, lawn mowers & all of the convenient tools that help me keep my yard in control!

8) I am thankful for the nail polish that brightens my toes in a pair of flip flops on these warm summer days.

9) With now having a bigger dog in our house, I am so very thankful that I have a shop vac. That little baby is light weight and portable & helps to keep the dog hair to a minimum!

10) I am thankful for over the counter allergy meds to help me deal with these wonderful summer allergies.

We are already halfway through this year … what do you have to be thankful for so far this year?

Take Care of the Caregiver

I had recently started a new nursing job (after my second time declaring that I am retired). Key word “had.”

Every! Single! Day! was a struggle!

It’s not the job specifically, it’s me. Now that truly sounds like a “Dear John” letter to my job. “Dear Job, I want to break up with you. It’s not you, it’s me.”

I think back through my professional career and I think about all of the new jobs that I started without issue, without doubts. It has been so long ago.

In 2007, I knew that my professional façade was cracking. I began to have thoughts of heading to work as normal but to just keep on driving … in essence, running away. I hated going to work. It was hard to focus. I began to need more “prompting” from my team when an emergency situation occurred. Not good when working in an OB department … well, in any healthcare field, really. And something I had never had happen before that time. Unfortunately, that would become my norm on some days. Thankfully, I worked with some great people! I knew that the unit was closing in a few short months. I couldn’t let my friends and co-workers, our doctors or our patient’s down. So, I held on!

I took FMLA when the unit closed so that I could have a procedure done that I had put off. When I returned to nursing in the Geriatric Psych unit, I literally could not understand what they were saying in report one day. They could have just as easily been speaking French as far as I was concerned. That was my last day in nursing for 3 years.

Then the downward spiral began …

For the first bit of time I was off work, I tried to hide what was going on with me. While we lost our house, our car and many worldly possessions, I put on a happy face and glorified it all as I was retiring. The stigma from what was happening in my mind was hard to face. When the panic attacks started and my children became scared, my husband insisted on treatment. Diagnosis … PTSD, anxiety, depression & some traits of bipolar. But, how do you pay for hundreds of dollars of medication a month, and therapy that costs $100 per week when you have children to care for and are losing everything around you. Well, you don’t…  or at least not for long. I made it two months. Maybe I would have fought harder for my treatment if I had actually felt better. The meds for me made me feel like I was living a lie. I didn’t feel well. My husband commented one day that since I had started the meds, I actually looked happy. All I could say to him was, it is a lie. I was not happy, no matter what I looked like on the outside. Now, I know there are great therapists out there, but I just did not get lucky enough to find one. She actually asked me at one of my visits if I cried all the time or just in her office. I think she thought I was putting on a show. Nope, I am a crier! That very visit, she deemed me well enough to see her every two weeks. That was my last visit.

And, of course my spiral continued. I can remember one particular panic attack in the middle of the night where I literally thought I was going to die. I actually prayed for death to come and relieve my suffering.

During this dark time for me, I cried, I got angry, I hurt my family… a lot!

I also felt guilty. Like a loser. Like a quitter.

My NP (nurse practitioner) was great. She made sure that I understood that it was like a switch in my brain that had gone haywire. She told me that I wasn’t a quitter when I had been a practicing nurse for so long. She encouraged me to look at it as if that path had come to an end and I was choosing a different path. That all sounds perfect to a normal brain. But, most days it is really hard to convince myself of those things.

Despite being off the meds and not seeing a therapist, I was determined to get better. And, by the Grace of God, I was able to pull myself up out of those pits for several years. I went back to work in nursing and was doing well. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I struggled some days. But, I had a supportive boss, great co-workers and a job that I loved.

But, with each passing day, my struggle became a little more difficult. With one situation at work, my mind took over, the actual events got distorted for me and I literally had a week long panic attack. We had the week off for Christmas and it went by in a blur! I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t focus or achieve any task. I just paced my house for hours every day. I even called my co-workers often with extreme requests (That they thankfully indulged to get me better) to ease my mind. My friend & co-worker finally convinced me to try meds again. I went back to my NP, confessed about why I stopped the meds before and we tried something new. Thankfully, I was able to continue working. Thankfully, I actually felt better for once in my adult life.

But, after about a year, we had a change in management at work. (not for the good!) The workload increased. My hours at work increased. And, so did my issues. With a heavy heart, I left my co-workers & my job to be proactive for me.

My husband and I decided that I would take the holidays off & just take care of me. While I am in my own cocoon, doing my own thing, in my “safe” world, I am fine most days. When I venture out, my world crumbles so easily. I know that I need to get out there and to not hide. But, I want to hide. It is not easy to face the demons.

After this last break from working, I began looking for jobs outside of nursing. Virtually impossible to get any employer to even give you a chance with an interview in my small town. Even harder to convince my brain that I can do anything at all.

So, back to nursing. I understand that every person starting a new job has the nervous jitters. This is more than that. This is not normal. The anxiety rears it’s ugly head. The desire to run far away from home returns. I get angry at the world. It takes all of my emotional energy just to get myself to go to work. I work through the panic attack as I am walking into the building. I force myself to focus, to use my brain. I make myself make it through one shift to only begin immediately to dread the next one. I can sit here and tell myself that I like the people that work there. I can tell myself that I am fully capable of doing the job. I can come home from work and know that everything is ok. I can tell myself that I can do this. But, I cannot make myself believe that. And for those naysayers that think that I am too lazy to work, that is not the issue! I am a good worker. But, when faced with fight or flight, flight will always win out with me. I wish I could bring back that confident, strong nurse that I once was. The one that loved her job and did not hate going in to work.

My husband tries to understand. He tries to be supportive. But, as an extrovert, he just doesn’t get it. He thinks that I don’t want to be happy. He would say that this quote describes me …

Most of the shadows of this life are caused by our standing in our own sunshine – author unknown

Of course, our lifestyle changed dramatically since I first left nursing. We set up our new norm to consist of things that did not take my nursing salary to maintain … just in case. Setting myself up for the next failure that I knew would come … eventually.

What disappoints me most in myself is that I am a big chicken. I cannot face people when I know that I am going to let them down by telling them the truth about myself. And, phone calls are not my “thing.” (I remember as a teenage girl, the phone was basically attached to my ear. Now, I do good to be able to call my family sometimes) I know I let my new employer down. But, flight this time involved a no show, no call. It was safer for me. I took the easy way out. I was still on orientation. I knew that no patient’s or other employees would be affected by my absence. Another bridge burnt on my trail of fear.

Back when I first knew something was truly wrong, I wondered why all of a sudden this was happening to me. Truth is, if I really stop and think about it, it was there all along. I was a really moody child. I can remember trips that we took where I would remain in the car because I did not want to interact with others. I was well into adulthood before I ever went through a drive-thru. I went through school covering my mouth as I ate lunch because I did not want other kids to see me eating. And, in my senior year, I dropped out of all of the activities that I loved because I suddenly just didn’t feel like I belonged. When I married, my husband would often push my buttons. I would get so angry that I would throw things, etc.  Sometimes during these episodes, I unknowing put myself in harm’s way. Like the time I couldn’t take it anymore and I left a shopping center in downtown Pittsburgh on foot. We were visiting. I had no idea where I was. I just kept walking. I apparently ended up in a really bad part of town. My husband found me sometime later. I was still so upset when he found me that I did not want to go with him. He forced me to. I could keep listing my issues, but I think you get the point. We can chalk these up to temper tantrums, being spoiled, or whatever you want to call it.  But, I was always a rule follower. I did not like to get in trouble. I have never even experimented with smoking or recreational drugs of any sort. I never drank alcohol until I was well into adulthood. I did not skip school. I did not sneak out at night as a teen. It even makes me uneasy when my husband wants to go through the doctor’s cabinets while we wait. 😮 In truth, I was a good kid. But, during these episodes, I felt as though I was on the outside of my body looking back at me, unable to control what I was doing even though I wanted to. That is what I think, for me, makes these episodes outside of normal.

When I started writing this a couple days ago, it was more to vent about my latest job fiasco. To just work out some of my thoughts here. But, now, I feel more burdened to say that I have let my fear of what other people may think of me or say about me stand in the way of how I have dealt with my situation. I delayed treatment, which could have resulted in horrible, irreversible consequences. People with mental illness do not choose to be sick, no more so than someone with heart disease chooses it. If you or someone that you love has symptoms of a mental illness, seek treatment. Don’t delay!

As for me, I am nowhere near as close to the bottom of the pits as I was before. But, I will be heading back to my NP to see what we can do for me because I never want to be there again. Prevention. Tweaking the regimen. I have to take care of me before I can take care of others.

Side note: This song has been playing through my mind as I have been finishing up this post. So, I wanted to share it with you.

Giving Thanks in February

Last month I decided that if I would only have the things left that I had thanked God for each day, my world would be empty. I made it my goal to be more mindful of all of the things that I am thankful for everyday and to post a list each month of at least 10 of those things. No repeats.

Last month, I talked of my thankfulness for family, friends and some of the basic necessities of life. Last month, I had no idea how our little part of the world would be turned upside down … at least for a few days.

This month, after an ice storm that knocked our electricity out for 3 entire days and nights during some very cold weather, I am very blessed …

1) That my Dad had the forethought to cut down some very huge trees from our front yard.

This may seem like a crazy thing to be thankful for. However, as I drive through our town and see all of the damage from fallen trees. I am very thankful that those trees did not have the opportunity to fall onto our house. We wanted to keep the trees. My Dad insisted they come down. Thank you Dad!

These are our neighbor’s trees that fell over our fence. One scraped the side of our house, but no damage.

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2) Electric workers & all of those additional workers helping them to get us up and running again.

Last month, sitting in my warm home, I admitted how I was thankful for our electricity. I had no idea how thankful that I would truly become when we lost that power. Over 18,000 people have been without power in our little town for the past 3 to 4 days. They are saying that the power may be out for another week. I can believe that. We have seen crews all over town diligently working in the freezing temperatures to restore power to all of us that have been without. Thank you would never be enough!

3) My son’s girlfriend

She welcomed 6 of us into her home without question so we could warm up and get a good night sleep on the coldest night that we were without power. I know we turned her world upside down. But, we are truly grateful!

4) My brothers.

When I think about it, they should have been included in my first list along with my other family. We don’t see each other as often as we should. But, I am still thankful to have them in my life! My oldest brother is an artist & photographer. We have a good time when we get together. He is thoughtful and generous. My younger brother is a jack of all trades. He never hesitates to come over and help us with computer issues, home remodel issues, etc. And, he made sure that my parent’s were doing ok without power.

5) My grandson

After many years without small children in our home, he gives us wonderful chaos. He says and does the sweetest things. It’s such a delight to see things through a child’s eyes. He remained with us during our recent “chill.” It is amazing how children adapt. He always brought us laughter when things seemed so dreary while we were awaiting the crews to restore our power.

6) My eye sight

My niece is legally blind from a juvenile form of macular degeneration. My brother was recently diagnosed as being in the early stages of macular degeneration at the age of 49. Upon doing more research, I found out that my great grandmother was also blind. Heredity plays a big part in this disease.  During our time without power, we were often in the dark or with little light from candles & lanterns. Today and every day, I am thankful for no signs of this affecting my vision.

7) Nature

Without the use of computers & tv over the past few days, we really appreciated the nature around us. We could even find the beauty amongst the downed trees.

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And flowers … definitely looking forward to spring!

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And all of the beautiful things that God has created in nature. Flowers just make me happy. They are just like a great big smile from God!

8) Bathtub

Most people I know would prefer a shower over a bath. Not me. A nice long hot soak in a bath is a true blessing! Me time. Something that I sure did miss over the past few days!

9) Restaurants

Without them, we would have had very little hot food over the past few days. And, also thankful to the workers who went to work to feed us even when they did not have electric themselves.

10) God’s promises

Without those, we have no hope. A plan for our future. Rest for the weary. Strength to the weak. Peace. Saving Grace. Eternal life. Victory. This is just a short list of His promises to us. Those we don’t deserve. Gifts.

Every day, with every move we make & with every issue that we must overcome, we have multiple things to be thankful for. Thank you, God!

What are you thankful for?

 

 

Giving Thanks in January

In November, in honor of Thanksgiving day, I always see so many friends making lists for all that they are thankful. I think that being thankful is always a good thing. It helps us to focus more on the positives and less on the negatives.

I remember a post shared by a friend on facebook that said something like …what if you woke up today with only what you thanked God for yesterday? If this were true, what would you have left tomorrow morning? Unfortunately, many of us would have nothing.

This year, I plan to take one day each month to thank God for his many blessings in writing. While I will still be thankful for all of the things from the previous month, I will build upon my list … no repeats.

1) I am thankful that both of my parents are still living.

My parents are both in their 70’s. I have watched many of the friend’s my age having to say good bye to one or both of their parents. My mother has dealt with many health issues through the years. But, fortunately, both my Mother and my Father are still happy and healthy. Thank you, God!

2) I am thankful for my boys.

While my three boys have been typical boys and have not always made the best decisions, they are good boys. Actually, they are now men. My oldest is a good father. A good provider. My middle one has a kind heart. He is a hard worker. My youngest is shy. But, we have recently learned that he has reached out to classmates and is a good teacher / friend. He is very caring. He had a snow day off from school today and one of the first things he said to me was, “I want to cook lunch for you today.” It was yummy! They love their Momma! I have no complaints there!

3) I am thankful for my husband.

My husband and I have not always had a path that has been smooth. But, I am thankful for where we are today. He is thoughtful, forgiving, loving. I look forward to growing old(er) with him.

4) I am thankful for a roof over my head.

I am not always happy with our house. I always see the negative. The closets are small. The windows are too old and small. There is no “safe” place in case of tornado. But, I am truly thankful for the house that we have. It has lots of potential. It has a great yard. We were able to totally remodel it. And, best of all, our payment is cheaper than rent. Thank you, God!

5) I am thankful for transportation.

As the temperatures dip to the lowest lows and the snow comes down, I am even more thankful for having reliable transportation.

6) I am thankful for a full belly.

As I am on a quest to lose weight, I think I am hungry. But, I am thankful to have never had to know what it is like to be truly hungry. We are blessed to not only have a full belly, but to also be able to afford to eat what we are craving. Thank you, God!

7) I am thankful for education.

As I am trying to find a job outside of nursing, I have become more thankful for my education. As I have recently tried a job in the seafood department of a grocery store, I have learned that some jobs are just not for me.

8) I am thankful for electricity.

As the snow comes down outside, I am warm from the heater, eating my warm lunch, watching tv while writing this post. Thank you, God!

9) I am thankful for sunshine.

One thing about living where we do, is that it rains a lot. This is why we have so much green in our area! As the sun is shining through my window today, I am thankful for the sunshine.

10) I am thankful for my friends.

I do not have a lot of close friends. But, I am thankful for those that I do have. They are there in the good times and the bad. Always there for me in thought and in actions.

This is only the tip of the iceberg for me. I am going to be more mindful of all things that I am thankful for in the coming months, material blessings and spiritual blessings. What are you thankful for today?

Chris Martin Writes

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