Despair and Hope

I find the relationship linking despair and hope to be fascinating. I just left the doctor for my monthly checkup. I’m on a very high dose of a very powerful drug (I won’t say which), but it provides little relief from my pain.

As I’ve said before, multiple doctors have confirmed that there is no solution for the causes of my pain: no surgery, no injections that we haven’t tried, no therapies, no magic pills. In short, my brokenness cannot be solved. I’ve come to peace with that fact, but it is nonetheless an unpleasant one. For me, the only long term plan is short term pain management.

I participate in some varied online forums. One is a forum dedicated to those of us with fibromyalgia. We call ourselves fibromites, and men being such an anomaly in the fibromyalgia world, I coined the term fibromates to describe those of us with the XY chromosomes. That forum is great. It gives us a group of peers that understand the struggles. It gives us a place to vent, complain, gripe, and moan. But more importantly, it gives us a positive environment for gentle hugs (figuratively). The community is one of uplifting and realistic optimism. We can seek advice and feedback from those who will be more helpful than the ol’ “pick yourself up by the bootstraps” feedback that is all too common toward the disabled communities.

Another forum is dedicated to those of us who struggle with chronic pain in general. A larger community gives us a greater spectrum of feedback and opinion. There are some who deal with neurological conditions, like fibromyalgia, and others with skeletal, muscular, or other conditions, including depression and anxiety. As you can imagine, at least on the surface, this is a more appropriate community for one like me: one who has neurological disorders, as well as muscular and skeletal disabilities, topped off with psychological or emotional disorders; in short, one who is in constant, chronic pain.

The sad truth truth concerning this second forum, however, is that the atmosphere is greatly different than the first. While the fibromyalgia forum is one of positive reinforcement and uplifting optimism, the chronic pain forum is negatively reinforcing. As you can imagine, for those who struggle constantly with the basic tasks of life, depression can set in pretty quickly, and even more powerfully. There, optimistic and hopeful comments are scoffed at and scorned. Weekly I see posts by people who literally are throwing in the proverbial towel: declaring in one open form or another “I can’t handle this pain anymore, I want to and am planning to die.” I mean that there is no equivocation and I’m not reading between the lines, there are literally people declaring the desire and/or plan for suicide. And worse, the community, in its complete understanding, supports the poster with morbid empathy, telling them that their decision is not only understandable, but perhaps even wise.

Empathetically, I understand the desire for death in the lowest of the lows. While these circumstances have never brought me to a suicidal point, I do understand. Even this morning, talking with Jeff, my exceptional pain specialist, I felt near despairing for that sentiment. The cold truth is that, as strong as my medications are, the best I can ever expect from them is about a %50 reduction in pain (and that’s just for my back, as these medications don’t and can’t address the fibromyalgia). I don’t get that much relief; I’m closer to %26-%30 reduction in pain… and that’s about as good as it gets. This truth is discouraging. Even if I make the (incorrect) assumption that my back will never worsen, my pain levels are about as low as they will ever be.

So I understand the desire for the pain to end at any cost… But I can’t agree with it. As Lehi said:

 “For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so… righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one; wherefore, if it should be one body it must needs remain as dead, having no life neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility. Wherefore, it must needs have been created for a thing of naught; wherefore there would have been no purpose in the end of its creation. Wherefore, this thing must needs destroy the wisdom of God and his eternal purposes, and also the power, and the mercy, and the justice of God.”

In other words, without misery, there can be no joy. Without despair, there can be no hope. So we finally come to the fascinating relationship: there must be ‘opposition in all things.”

God doesn’t give us trials, pain, and misery; rather, he allows those things and turns them to our benefit if we turn to Him. Another prophet of God also empathized with despair:

“O God, where art thou? And where is the pavilion that covereth thy hiding place?…  O Lord God Almighty, maker of heaven, earth, and seas, and of all things that in them are, and who controllest and subjectest the devil, and the dark and benighted dominion of Sheol–stretch forth thy hand; let thine eye pierce; let thy pavilion be taken up; let thy hiding place no longer be covered; let thine ear be inclined; let thine heart be softened, and thy bowels moved with compassion toward [me].”

But in His wisdom, God replied:

“My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment; And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes. Thy friends do stand by thee, and they shall hail thee… with warm hearts and friendly hands.”

So we see in His great Plan of Happiness that trial, tribulation, pain, misery, suffering and even the lowest despair are all allowed to exist in order to provide contrast to the joy, happiness, peace, comfort, salvation and hope that are to be found by the redeeming atonement of the Great Son of God.

I wish I could share this hope with those of my fellow sufferers on the chronic pain forum, but the voice of hope is regrettably not a welcome one. So I write instead here, where I dictatorially control what voices are allowed 😉.

I worry that the topic is heavy, but so is the burden that we all carry, whether you deal with physical pain or not, we all have burdens, trials, and pain. And all of us feel overwhelmed by it sometimes – that’s why understanding the relationship between pain and relief, between sadness and happiness, between despair and hope, is so important. That’s why we have hope: so that we can know the contrast between what we feel and experience now and what we can obtain through the promise of Him who took our burdens upon Himself.

Hope exists, not because we want it to, but because it is the very law of Nature: there must be opposition in all things.

So, my friends, don’t despair. There is hope for relief, even for those of us with the promise of none: after the time of trial, comes the reward of the faithful. Jesus Christ lives. He carried our burdens, so that we might be free of them eventually.

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Quality vs Worth: The Value of Life

Lately, I’ve had some questions from some readers, they are usually variations of this: “Jared, how do you stay so positive with all that is going on that is negative?” 

Sometimes they’re closer to “how do you do it? I don’t think I could keep going if I had ‘x,'” but I assume that, rather than suggesting I should off myself, these questions fit in with the first.

So I want to take a minute to address this question.
First, as is the nature of social media, you don’t often see the lows, if for no other reason than that when I’m really struggling, the last thing I want to do is to write. This is normal, by the way, which is why if we look through the Facebook pages of our high school classmates, we can reasonably assume that every one of them is financially successful, purely joyful, and traveling the world on peace missions, in short, that everyone but ourselves have found the key to happiness. And maybe some have, but I expect that a poll of those people would show that most of them feel like the world is in various stages of collapsing around them, while everyone else has it together. This is the lie of Facebook.

You, as the reader, don’t see nights I spend silently weeping to myself because I’m exhausted to the point of collapse, but am kept awake by the intense pain in my back and or nerves. I try to hide those low moments, even from my wife.  You, as the reader, don’t see me desperately, but without success, try to wake myself up once I’ve finally fallen asleep because the drug induced, hallucination like night terrors. You, as the reader, don’t see me curled up in a ball desperately wondering what the point of it all is. You don’t see the state of my house (that’s no accident…) because I can’t keep up with my chores.

So what is the point of it all? How do I stay positive? Well, the short answer is that I’m not always positive. I’m often angry and bitter about my lot in life (it’s not a lot, but it’s a life… Yuk yuk yuk). But it’s critical to understand the end goal. Life is not made to live from one moment of temporary excitement or high to the next: life is is about happiness, not excitement. But more importantly, life is meant to be a trying test.

This may not really answer the questions, in truth, the thought isn’t really well developed. I don’t struggle with the bitterness of depression, so I can’t speak to the power that it holds over the sound of its victims… Except I have felt that depression. My first buy of advise for those of you dealing with overwhelming depression, or depression that never goes Away (maybe it waxes and wanes, but is always present… Like a stupid song in the back of your mind….) first things first: speak to your doctor. I’ve found it helpful to write down my thoughts before a doctor’s visit (and I have lots of the ) – this helps me not forgot anything. Depressive disorder is crippling, but it’s also not just you: it’s a real medical condition and it can be treated. Please, if I’m describing you here, never free of the blues, call your doctor and schedule an appointment. It can be better.

But assuming that one’s chemistry is under control, we have to look at some of the other causes of misery: at the risk of sounding like a preacher, often we feel like bad people because, well… we are…. if we are living our lives free of the bother of moral compass, we might (or should) feel bad about ourselves. That’s not depression, it’s conscience. When I have not been right with my wife, or with my kids, or with my Lord, I have not been more than temporarily happy. It’s a feeling that I can’t shake, and no matter how great I may feel for a moment, it always fades back to a disappointing base. So we spent last week preparing for Resurrection Sunday – we repented of our sins, and we sought  to make amends to those whom we have wronged. If you didn’t follow us on that journey, it’s not too late: begin the process of being right with God. If you don’t believe, then at least make sure that you are right with everyone else (not quite the same, but a big first step).  

Next, forgiveness is critical. Again, I’m sure, I sound like a preacher, but not without cause. Once we’ve repented of our sins, we need to move on. We need to trust God that He has forgiven them. Sometimes the memory of that sin can come back to bite us a long time later- especially if it was particularly egregious, but trust isn’t a one off type of thing: I don’t just trust my wife once: I trust her always. The same is true with our heavenly relationships: we don’t just trust God to forgive us once, we must actively work toward the trust that He continually forgives us.  Sometimes the people that we have wronged don’t forgive us, even when we have truly repented. I’d love to say “move on, they aren’t worth your time anyway.” But I’d be lying… At least with some people. Unlike the Father, we are not perfect, and being forgiven isn’t guaranteed with our fellow man like it is with Him. If we have really repented, however, we recognize and accept that their non-forgiveness may be a consequence of our actions. We just move on the best we can. And finally, we need to accept and forgive ourselves. I’ve found that no one holds a grudge against me like I do. I find myself loathing actions from decades ago: “couldn’t I be a little kinder?” “Couldn’t I have responded better.” – but moving on with our lives means that we have to forgive ourselves, after we have done everything we can to correct the problem. 

If we have are chemically balanced correctly, we have a clean conscience, and we have accepted the forgiveness of God, sought the forgiveness of others (and accepted whichever response they chose) and forgiven ourselves; once we have done all of those things, then we can tackle the rest:

Life sucks. There. I said it. Life is full of pain, misery, sorrow, weakness, impossible choices, dirty laundry, and burned dinners. All of those things happen even if we have been forgiven, are making righteous decisions, and aren’t depressed. So what’s the point?

I wanted it share an analogy complete with home video. I even found the old 30 second clip in all it’s 144p glory (from my first camera phone…) but sadly the sound is corrupted, and without my shrieks of agony, you’d never be able to see from the video only that you were watching me get tazed (oops, spilled the beans on that one.)

But how do we answer the point of this life? Simply put, just as I willingly was tazed because I needed to understand the power of the tool, we willingly agreed to this life so we could have the experience of it: dirty socks and all.

How the do I stay positive despite being in constant physical pain? How do I sit in my chair (I’ve been unable to sleep more than an hour of three in a bed for years), shivering because I have the window open to the sleeting cold in order to counteract the sweats of the medicine and leather of my chair? How do I find joy despite being unable to move for a great portion of the day? How do I feel whole despite being broken in every significant measurable physical measure (and many mental measurements)? How do I live when living is without… Wait, turning off the country music station on Pandora… Okay, better: how do I have a sense of humor despite… Well… Everything?

I agreed to this. Well, maybe not the dirty laundered or the damnable spiders, the laundry is just par for the course, and the spiders are the tools of the devil… But the rest, I agreed to. I stood with the he host of heaven and trusted my Father when He told me about His plan: I cheered when he told me that I could come to earth, obtain a body, learn, live, marry, and have children. I cherished the opportunity to be like Him. And whether you believe it or not, whether you know it or not, heck, whether you know me or not; so did you.

We knew what challenges would face us, maybe not in detail, but how do you really understand something without experiencing it? I might have had a different opinion had they told me about the spiders (“I’ll just stay here, okay?”), and had I known about the laundry, my cheers might have been a bit less exuberant… 

But we also knew we would sin. We knew that we would fall short of the perfection needed to live with God in His Glory. We knew we would damn ourselves (auto correct just put that to ‘dang ourselves,’ you think it knows I’m a Mormon?) and most importantly, we accepted all of that risk and pain because we trusted the Father’s plan: we trusted His Son and the promised atonement which would cleanse us of our sins.

So how do I keep on? I simply do it because I always have. I started out a long time ago trusting God. I started out a long time ago with the end goal in mind: Salvation and Eternal Progression with my loving Father in Heaven. I began this journey a long time ago, and while I hadn’t yet experienced the misery of dirty underwear, I knew that all the laundry in the world was worth the prize.

And do you know what? So did you.

So despite my aching legs and churning stomach tonight, I want to share with you my joy. Life isn’t always great, but it is always worth it. If you ever doubt that, please reach out to someone for help. Be chase while we knew that we’d have a lot of muck to slog through, we never have to slog alone. Your family loves you. Your friends love you. I love you, even if we’ve never met. And with the greatest love of all, our Savior and our Father love you.

Life is always hard, but it is always worth it.

Peter Hollens, Pain Medicines, and Filter

Ask me how I’m doing at your own risk. I usually try to give people the chance to rescind by asking “do you want to know, or are you just being polite?” Uncomfortable and realizing the hypocrisy of the socially demanded question, people usually tell me that they really want to know. For those that know me personally, it’s pretty common knowledge that I’ve never learned to shut up or filter myself. The result is usually wide eyes and open mouths as I tell the truth. 

Aside from dry mouth, I have been blessedly free of side effects on my current pain medication. For this reason my doctor has kept me on this drug rather than risk one that, while potentially more effective, may have significant impact on my life. Regardless, I’ve begun to notice a new impact, particularly in the higher dose I’m now (the highest safely allowed for long term use): any filter I may have had, (which, as we’ve established, was weak) is totally gone. It’s almost like having Terrets’s: any word that comes to mind, comes to mouth.

Last night after Julie asked Nathaniel to give me hugs before he needed to get in bed, he walked  grumpily toward me and grumbled “sit” under his breath. Bruce was not around (I discovered later that he had been inadvertently left out and was, at the moment, curled up under the hedge trying to keep warm and dry: I’m a terrible owner), and I was already sitting, so we weren’t sure to whom he was speaking. Basic questioning made it clear that he was, in fact, saying something else. Apparently my lack of filter has taught my 3 year old the finer aspects of expletive use. Shamed, emberassed, and amused I hugged him goodnight. 

Further, I’ve found that my emotions are always at the surface with the this medication. This is fabulous when I’m feeling happy, as I tend toward school-girl giggliness. If I’m feeling even remotely grumpy, I fly off the handle at the lightest provocation. And even the smallest melancholy brings me to tears. As you can imagine, this is simultaneously amusing and exhausting for my family, not to mention shocking for those who don’t know me. 

This morning I was listening to the fabulous Peter Hollens while on the way to the gym. As I silently wept to Into the West, I wondered what the daycare employees were thinking, and I tried not to notice the tough guys I passed on the way to the locker room. 

I haven’t learned how to address this seeming phycosis with those close enough to understand and merit an explanation, not to mention those who aren’t and don’t. Oh well, the weepy, bearded guy guy at the gym gets in the water where frequent dips cover the tears. Hiding my annoyance at the sloppy, splashing swimmers is a bit more difficult.

Ultimately, I find myself with the need to mentally delete some of my extensive vocabulary of expletives. It already includes a large variety of “dad” words (boogers and bugger start the ‘b’s) but also include the less appropriate “not dad words,” (there’s some ‘b’ words on that list too). My medicinally agrivated lack of filter means that if they’re on the list, they will be said. 

Heaven help the poor soul who asks how I’m doing on a day involving digestive problems.

Remembering and Looking Forward

I remember trying to step where he stepped, but his strides were too big. He could go a lot farther than me, too. I’d be exhausted and he’d just be starting. I still loved those outings.

I remember my first hunting trip. I got so excited seeing that buck that I nearly wet myself, figuratively. I realized that I hadn’t paid clear attention in my hunting lessons: I didn’t know how to take the buck (30 points if it had 2), and I was forced to let it go. In my breathless excitement I remember telling him all about it, and I look back with a chuckle on his quietly amused response.

I remember laughing as he pretended his swollen leg was a prosthetic. I remember curiously poking at the black and brown spots  that were indicative of the congealed blood inside his leg. I remember curiously wondering why he grimaced when he walked sometimes. I remember playing with his crooked cane like a shepherds crook, especially around Christmas.

But it’s only been in recent years that I’ve understood, at least to some extent, what he was dealing with, both personally, and in setting a positive example.

My dad was born handicapped. I guess I’ve never been really clear on what that looked like, if I understand it correctly, neither do the doctors. There was some sort of mutated gene that made one leg significantly longer than the other, and added a few extra arteries in there, causing it to have way too much blood and swell to twice the size of the ‘normal’ leg. It hurts him, too, though he stubbornly hid that from everyone.

My dad set some powerful life lessons for me, like “work hard,” a lesson he may have taken a bit too far. He taught me to enjoy the outdoors, and even now when I haven’t hunted in years, I keep my rifle clean and my powder dry (literally and figuratively). I long for the forests. I am desperate to teach that lesson to my boys, as it is one of the fondest lessons I’ve ever learned. He taught me that disability doesn’t have to define you. Most people don’t know that he is handicapped, after all. He never taught this directly, of course, as none of his children had any disabilities at the time.

It’s this lesson that I’ve taken the hardest. As my disability has taken over my life, I’ve been desperate to not be my disability. It’s an ongoing challenge to teach my sons hard work when my disability has stripped me of my mobility. I haven’t spent any time in the forests of my youth lately, but my sons have enjoyed being towed in their trailer behind my tricycle. As I learn new things about myself, I hope that I am teaching my boys to not be defined by their physical characteristics.

Overall, the things that I strive to be as a father are reflective of the father that I have. Thanks for the example, dad.

Getting High and Making Dumplings

You know, some days I feel better than others. I’ve been reading some different treatments for Cluster Headaches. The other day, I found that caffeine may be an effective treatment, if taken just as the headache starts. So… I bought some caffeine pills. They have had some positive effects for the headaches, which is lovely… They’ve also given me TONS of energy, and for a little while, I feel great (comparatively speaking, of course)!  Now, the downside is that I’ve totally overdone it. This little project that I started a week ago… well, let’s just say that I have a bowl of dumpling filling going sour in the fridge. I ran out of strength mid-project… I haven’t recovered yet (Yay, the joys of fibromyalgia!) It can take some time to recover from overdoing it.

Anyway, here are some pictures and descriptions of my recent venturing back into the world of cooking. Hopefully the website won’t freak out with as many as I’m posting….

Cutting up some boiled chicken breast
Cutting up some boiled chicken breast
Shredding said chicken breast
Shredding said chicken breast
Cutting up some cabbage
Cutting up some cabbage
Equal parts shredded cabbage and chicken breast
Equal parts shredded cabbage and chicken breast

I like my dumplings with very finely shredded filling, some people like to taste the ingredients separately… not me.

Equal parts ginger and garlic
Equal parts ginger and garlic
Mixing all of the ingredients together into one homogeneous... thing
Mixing all of the ingredients together into one homogeneous… thing

 That’s chicken broth in the bowl behind the salt.

Nicely mixed
Nicely mixed
I used pre-made wraps... 'cause I'm lazy
I used pre-made wraps… ’cause I’m lazy
Filling the dumplings
Filling the dumplings
Starting the process off!
Starting the process off!
These freeze nicely, so I do a bunch at once.
These freeze nicely, so I do a bunch at once.
Put a bunch on a cookie sheet with wax paper, but make sure they don't touch!
Put a bunch on a cookie sheet with wax paper, but make sure they don’t touch!

Once the cookie sheet is full, I freeze them. Once they’re frozen, I can take them and put them in a freezer bag.

IMG_4075[1]
Nice, hot, wok
These freeze nicely, so I do a bunch at once
Gently wok fry. I like them crispy.
Finished and ready for eating!
Finished and ready for eating!

Okay, so there are some dumplings I made. They taste good, so long as the cabbage hasn’t had time to get strong. Then they taste cabbage-y. Some people like them with strong cabbage… I’m not one of those people.  I made a bunch, and then got sooooooo worn out I couldn’t finish. I refrigerated the filling to “finish them tomorrow.”That was about a week ago. The fridge smells like cabbage. The filling needs to go… I still hurt so bad I can barely move, so I haven’t even been able to cook and enjoy these things! Fortunately the finished dumplings are frozen and will be good for a while now.

Hope you like this post, it’s part of a new section called “broken dad cooks” – if you like it, share it with your friends. post it on facebook! Tweet it on twitter! link it in your blog!

Thanks from http://www.brokendad.com

Summary and What’s Going on Now

Okay, so the last couple posts have taken some downer turns…

Here’s a summary of what I’m dealing with in terms of my health:

I hurt, constantly. My back reduced my mobility to nothing. My fibromyalgia causes pain in everything else. The RLS makes it so I am a chronic insomniac, and the generalized anxiety makes it so I cannot function well in public even when I am well enough to go out. My stomach problems are… significant and frequent. I won’t publish the details publicly because… well, people don’t want to know that.

Overall, my ability to function have reduced to the point that we’re not sure if I’ll be able to work again. Julie is working now in support of our family. I’m looking for work, and have some good prospects, but the accommodations that are needed are so significant that I doubt they will fall into the category of “reasonable”

This has led to some major life changes. With my lost job from Panda, we’ve lost our house (or, the foreclosure is complete in 11 days) we’re now living in a water-closet sized apartment in Utah, which is actually quite nice, for a water-closet.

During the process of moving, the mortgage company broke into our house, changed locks, and either directly or indirectly, stole about $15000 worth of our stuff, including all of my tools, my camping gear, my archery gear, my climbing gear and a good chunk of my reloading gear (as well as my toilet paper and dutch ovens, which I’m not sure which of those I’m more upset about. You just don’t take another man’s cast iron, people!)

I’m in the process of applying for disability, which I am not proud to admit. I will almost definitely get turned down, as something in the realm of %95 of first-time applicants get turned down. Then begins the arduous and many-year process of appealing that decision. I’ll probably get my rejection letter some time this week.

Julie was asked to interview for a management position within a couple of weeks of beginning her new job, and she was given that position. She’ll do very well, but it’s pay is not quite enough to live on (yet).

My last Dr. appointment, the doctor was concerned about my heart health because, since 2012, I’ve gained somewhere in the ballpark of 40 lbs. Sedentary lifestyle doesn’t suit me well. After that appointment, we went and got a recumbent trike. I’m not longer able to ride a regular bicycle, and I can’t balance enough to ride anything with 2 wheels. I find great joy in that, when I’m well enough to ride (which isn’t often enough, to be honest: only about 1 or 2 times per week, and then finding the time when i’m feeling well makes it… hard)

I’m working on losing weight with diet alone, which is proving difficult, because I’d rather be fat than hungry… and that preference is going to kill me.

So here goes the struggle of the 30’s – maintaining one’s youth without getting fat, ornery, and jaded. So far I’ve failed, but that was the point of the previous post.

I’m moving on from the stuff with Panda. Without others, I cannot do anything else, so I’ll leave the remaining justice to God. I’m trying to move past my brokenness and the things I cannot do, and focus on the things I can.

I’m not looking for sympathy. Generally it doesn’t help anyway. I’m still me. I’m just a more angry me (I’m working on that, too). I’m still the same guy you used to know (if you used to know me), I just can’t do the same things I used to… and I’m learning the new things that I can do.

Of late, I am realizing I don’t like the person I’ve become. I’m not pleasant to be around, and that’s worked for me, because I have had so much anxiety about being around people, it’s easier if they just don’t want to be around me. I don’t like how I look. I don’t like that I have wasted so much time living in the past.

So now I’m moving on. That’s an intimidating challenge, but I’m up to it. I have hope for the future, which is saying something considering that I don’t see how we could fall much lower. I guess that’s where the hope comes from – there’s only one way to go – up. My uncle Jim posted on his Facebook a meme that said something along the lines of “people always get caught-up on whether the glass is half empty or half full: they forget that the glass is refillable.”

Naming Names and Anxiety

We’re getting nearer the end now.

I worked at Panda Express. I loved that job. I was good at that job. My boss retired, but before he did, he warned me that his replacement didn’t like me. He hinted that it was because of my skin color, but wouldn’t say it out loud. It was at Panda that I fell and hurt my back, but we may have waited to long to discover it, and we’re still waiting to see if i can get worker’s comp for that injury.

Because my new boss was pre-disposed to dislike me (starting about Feb 2012), and because I was hurting so bad, going to work started to make me anxious… a lot. The anxiety has gotten so bad that, long after my time with Panda is over, I still have panic attacks. I still find myself hyperventilating for no reason. I don’t struggle with Major Depressive Disorder but I absolutely struggle with major Generalized Anxiety Disorder. It’s crippling. I’m afraid to go into public and be seen falling, or hurting, or wincing or having a panic attack. I have real problems (medically, not morally) with the constant questions about my problems… and real problems (more morally than medically) with “My cousin’s boyfriend’s roommate’s ex-sister-in-law had that problem and she…. so you just need to do that)

Anxiety is a problem. It’s the reason I’ve failed so fully in letting those close to me know what is going on with me.

Panda eventually fired me in a case of (in my opinion) clear discrimination. My attorney though so too, but because a couple of people refused to testify (they still work there, so I understand) and stand for the truth, the lawsuit stands stagnant. I think i have 1 month left to move forward, and then it dies. That hurts, because truth needs to be out there. You won’t see me go to a Panda Express, Haibatchi San, or Panda Inn, not because they fired me, but because they covered up and ignored clear discrimination for months. Their Human Resource Department actively hid evidence that showed the discrimination, and failed to follow up on repeated claims of discrimination from others (not just me) – and nothing is going to happen to them because there are some people who do not have the courage to stand. I’m not saying that I don’t understand their cowardice. But to you of whom I am speaking: know this, your failure to stand means that this will happen again to someone else. I stood. I lost the best job I ever had because I stood. You sit and keep your heads down hoping that mine was an isolated incident. It was not.

Now, unless some of those who have previously reused to testify come forward now, this case is dead. I know. It sucks. It causes panic attacks to talk about it, so i really don’t want to. Yes, they discriminated against me. Yes that was morally and legally wrong. No, without testimony of those who remain silent, there isn’t enough evidence to move forward. The law is really not on the side of the victims of discrimination when the perpetrators are big businesses. I’m not sure the legal solution to that.

I won’t ask you to stop going to restaurants owned by Panda Restaurant Group, but I do want you to know why I don’t.

Falling and the Misdiagnosis… Kind Of

Around Christmas of 2011, I was hanging decorations in my restaurant. It was probably 2:30 in the morning, as we had just opened, and I was working long hours (9:30 AM to 2:30 AM Monday through Sunday for… 10 weeks? Yeah, I think 10 weeks before I got a full day off). I slipped off the ladder… and landed on the retaining wall in the restaurant on my back… and was promptly folded in half backwards. That felt nice. My pride was bruised, and so was my back. I went home, and let my employees finish up.

Starting in about February of 2012, I was hurting a lot. I went into the doctor. Looking at my symptoms, he diagnosed me with fibromyalgia. I don’t often name this when speaking to people, because of the common belief that fibromyalgia is psychosomatic, It is not. If you still believe that it is, go do some more research. After that research, if you are still convinced that it is psychosomatic, go stuff yourself. I don’t want to discuss it with you.

We based my treatments (insufficient at best) off of this diagnosis until really last year. But the problem was, this wasn’t the problem. It was a mis-diagnosis… kind of.

In the fall of 2013, I went to a rheumatologist to get an official diagnosis, as a GP’s diagnosis of fibromyalgia doesn’t generally hold much weight. He thought that I likely had Ankylosing spondylitis, which is nasty. Fortunately, I don’t have that. He neither confirmed nor denied my fibromyalgia diagnosis, because we needed to rule everything else out. He discovered spinal damage. He sent me to a neurosurgeon… Over the next year, we discovered that my lower back is… bad… I have 1 ruptured disc, which protrudes into my already small spinal column. Now, normally a ruptured disk can also be described as herniated. Mine is not herniated so much as… exploded… and it likes to push on my spinal cord. I have 3 compressed disks in my middle back.

So, If you see me with my cane, it’s because I can no longer walk more than a few feet without it. If you see me fall… that happens. It’s embarrassing. It hurts. There’s nothing to be done at this point. If you see me wince, it’s probably not something you said, it’s probably pain. I try to hide it. I try not to wine, but… I fail…

Most recently, we discovered that my upper back is fine! That’s great news, but it also confirms the diagnosis of fibromyalgia… which sucks…

So basically it goes like this: My back feels like I’ve been kicked by a large horse… twice… and it always feels like that. It doesn’t really feel better… ever… “get better” feels more like a slap than anything else, because I can’t. Surgery isn’t really an option, according to my neurosurgeon (well, it’s elective with a %50 chance of making it a little better and a %50 chance of making it a lot worse. I don’t like those odds).

If you see my hands twisted against my chest, that’s the fibromyalgia. That’s just my body’s reaction to nervous system pain in the arms and hands. If you see me weep a little, that happens too. I don’t like that. It’s embarrassing, and I try to hide inside during those times.

So, for me the back injury and fibromyalgia are tied together, not because of any level of cause and effect, but because they started about the same time, at least, they were discovered about the same time (looking back, I’ve probably had the fibromyalgia since about puberty, but at least since my crash in high school)

Headaches and… Cancer?

As a young missionary, I began experiencing headaches. Not little uncomfortable things. Massive, severe… pain. Lots and lots of pain. I’d lock myself in a dark room and m3ake my companion have to sit in the apartment just waiting on me to feel well again. I went to the doctor, obviously. our conversation went something like this:
Doctor: “well, there are some possibilities.”
Me: “okay.”
“It could be stress headaches, but based on your description, I don’t think that’s it”
“Okay”
“It could be migraines, but I don’t think that quite fits the bill”
“okay”
“it could be some muscles spasming in your neck, but I don’t see any signs of that”
“Okay”
“it could be a tumor…”
“…”
“Let’s check your blood pressure”
“wait, it… what?”
“your blood pressure is high, did you exercise before this appointment? Or are you nervous about something?
“you… nervous? why would I be?”
“i’m going to order a cat scan on your brain, but let’s reduce your sodium intake for that blood pressure, okay?”
“…okay…?”

Turns out, the doctor said that my “brain is perfectly normal.” Take that, deniers! I didn’t have a tumor, but the headaches continued. The problem with headaches, and all neurological disorders, to be honest, is that there are HUNDREDS of possible factors that can lead to the same symptoms, so diagnosis can take a long time, if it ever really happens at all. My headaches didn’t fit the bill for migraines because they were too frequent and too short. I wasn’t really able to monitor frequency at the time because all I could concentrate on was the pain.

I believe in the Bible. I believe James’ council (5:14), I had the elders lay their hands on me and offer me a blessing of healing. What I got was not that. I remember KYLE BROGDON acting as voice for that blessing. I remember his determination to command my body to be whole, to heal. I remember this because it’s what we both wanted. We both wanted to be able to work, to not be limited by my headaches. I remember his almost… awkward?… hesitation as he gave me these words instead: “you will not be healed of this affliction. You will have these pains the remainder of your life.” If you’ve never had the Lord confirm truth to you, it may be a difficult thing to understand, but at that moment, I had the truth of his promise confirmed to my soul. At the time, I believed it to be limited to the headaches. I’ve been shown since that it is not my place to put limitations on the Lord.

My headaches haven’t gotten better. I’ve been able to identify that they happen 4-8 times a day, and last 30-90 minutes, which better fits cluster headaches than migraines, but I’ve no official diagnosis there, either.