Invisible Illness Primer – (or ‘We Didn’t Choose our Bodies’)

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By: Jana Greene
For all of you Normies (normal people) out there, I hope the shines a light on what living with a chronic illness feels like. For all of you who suffer from an invisible illness, I pray this blesses you and assures you that YOU ARE NEVER ALONE!
Woke up this morning feeling like Death’s younger, less apprenticed sister/ like “shit on a shingle,” as we used to say in Texas (!?) Like I  should get busy living or get busy dying (props to Shawshank Redemption), but suck at both endeavors right now and am kind of hovering around in between? Health Purgatory.
When people with a chronic illness tell you “Meh, I have good days and bad days,” they ain’t whistling Dixie. It means they have good days in which they feel manically invincible and squeeze a thousand little errands in that ONE day because they never know when a ‘bad’ day will hit, thus exhausting themselves and hastening a ‘bad’ day. On good days, you do the normalsauce stuff other people complain about having to do with great aplomb. Gleefully, almost.
  • BAD DAYS:  Every. Cell. In. Your. Body. Hurts. You feel like you could sleep for days  except your head is exploding.  Going out to the mailbox saps you. You find yourself wondering where the exhaustion ends and you begin. Bad days are weepy, sore, frustrating days of complete unproductiveness. You are down for the count.
  • GOOD DAYS: Yesterday was a GOOD day, I went about my business like a regular normal person. That’s all I want! – To have a solid week with no pain or migraine or nasty bug. Can I just give a shout out to the GOOD DAY, the one in which it doesn’t hurt to dress yourself, and you go to Trader Joes AND Food Lion in ONE day, and have the strength to carry in the groceries when you get home? I get a natural HIGH on days like these. And praise Jesus for making them possible.
  • MY IMMUNE SYSTEM IS A REAL ASSHOLE:  It is the Hostess with the Mostess, that system.Lets EVERYBODY IN – flu,  sinus infection, UTI issues, 24-hour bug…you name it. It is super hospitable. I can almost hear my autoimmune disease say to a  virus that’s finally moving on, “Ya’ll come back here, ya’ hear!?”
  • ‘BORING THING’ ENVY: I’m talking when you are so tired or in pain that you are jealous that your husband is cleaning the litter boxes, because he can do it and you cannot. When my friends on social media complain about the boringness of having to take a car to have their oil changed, and your excruciating migrained head can only WISH you could do something like that  on this sunny, beautiful day. Instead, you are laying in a dark, silent room praying that your neighbor will not decide to mow his freaking lawn outside your window for the fourth time this week.
  • WHY YES, I HAVE TRIED THE ST. JOHN’S WORT!: Peeps, I’ve  tried it. Whatever you are fixin’ to suggest,  I’ve done it. Fancy and expensive shake mixes, check. Green Superfood, check. Yoga, check. Eating clean, eating dirty, fasting, Britta water filter, meditation,  pharmaceuticals galore, and (of course) prayer. Also tried essential oils, Dialectical Behavior techniques, and good old fashion denial. I have even had a spinal tap once, to rule out MS.
  • WATCH FOR DEPRESSION: If you have too may ‘bad days’ in a row, the bedfellow of depression creeps in, because let’s face it, THIS SUCKS. Is it any wonder that the number of chronic illness sufferers who experience mild to severe depression is sky high? When you don’t feel good, YOU DON’T FEEL GOOD, and it’s a real buzzkill to your body, mind, and spirit.
  • SILLY STUPID THINGS: Cough or sneeze? Subluxated rib (ribs temporarily dislocate – it is every bit as fun as it sounds). Drive over to the Quick-E-Mart? No can do – double vision from a migraine. I once broke my ankle in two places from climbing out of bed and walking to the bathroom to pee. Torqued my leg in just the ‘right’ way, and felt my bones breaking. Turns out, it is related to the syndrome I’ve been diagnosed with. (I wonder what the odd are of harming oneself just by getting up to pee? Hmmm.)
  • HUGS ARE THE BEST: I’m not actually sure this has anything to do with chronic illness, but it surely doesn’t hurt!
  • FAITH AND HUMOR are my saving graces. How do we still smile and laugh in the midst of pain and suffering, when our bodies that betray us on the regular? Because NOT to do so would take us from our feeling like death ‘warmed over,’ and straight into death – of the spirit and mind, if not outright and altogether. Gallows humor is still HUMOR.
  • PRAISE GOD FOR YOUR HEATH AND NORMALITY. If YOU are a regular normal person whose body jovially goes along with whatever you tell it to do, get on your knees and thank your Maker. Truly. Dude, I’m so jealous of you right now.
  • INVITE US: I know we cancel plans a lot. It makes us feel unreliable, and I’m so sorry for that. It comes with the EDS, Hashimotos (or a plethora of other ‘invisible’ illnesses) and is one of the worst things about this. It isn’t that we don’t miss you and love you, it’s usually because we are in pain or chronically fatigued and simply CAN NOT. It’s not you; it’s me.
  • APPRECIATE YOUR SUPPORT SYSTEM: My Beloved (husband) has stood by in side for the past 10 years like crazy. I don’t know how he does it (I sure as hell wouldn’t be married to me!) He has never doubted my illnesses or pain. He takes tender care of me every single day. You need people around you who BELIEVE you and will never give up on you.

WE DIDN’T CHOOSE THIS FOR OUR BODIES. WE DIDN’T CHOOSE THIS FOR OUR LIVES:

Thank you for your understanding, Normies. We need your support to survive this thing.

God bless us, every one.

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The Fierceness of Facing Age

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Ugh. It was really hard to put this picture up on the blog. No make-up, no filters. Photo filters are increasingly becoming my very best friend, to be honest….

 

By: Jana Greene

About that ageing gracefully thing….

Let me just preface this with a nod to those more spiritually evolved than myself, who will remind me that old age is an honor, and that silver hair a crown of glory, and that women are like fine wine and only get better with age (I never understood that one, but I drank only wine that came in a box before I got sober 15 years ago.)

You are right, yes. I get it! But some days, plain old regular vanity kicks in and sucks all the platitudes right out of getting older.Sometimes it’s just helpful to hear, “You, too?”

Remember those first wrinkles you discovered around your eyes in your early thirties? The ones that snapped you out of the delusion that wrinkles weren’t going to happen to you? The ones that spurred you on to buy that expensive sunblock at the Clinique counter? Doesn’t that seem wildly over-reactive and optimistic now?

Sometimes when I look in the mirror, I feel like Father Time has been walking on my face wearing soccer cleats and things on my body (including my face) are forever getting softer, lower, and unable to ‘snap back.’ Can we just be honest about it?

I was musing about this on Facebook one day, and I invited my women friends to weigh in on their processes of ageing AND accepting that the process is a thing.

Crepey neck skin, bags under my eyes – who said “getting old is for sissies”? Is there a meat clever around? I’ll give em sissies!

Ah, the crepey skin. Just when I’d finally learned how to properly apply eye shadow, it disappears into the crepey folds of eye lid.  (Take care to take your eye makeup off without rubbing, young ones! You will thank me later on.)

Another sister really just kind of summed it up thus: (If ever there were an occasion to use multiple emoticons, it is here. Mid-life is ONE LONG EMOTICON, I’m finding.)

Hello death to the metabolism… Moment of silence please …… Ok, no need to expound there … Attack of weird skin issues. All things saggy , crepey, spotted, super dry, moles, veins veins, veins..did I mention veins ? Hormones that go up and down, like the rides at the county fair …. One minute I want to devour my husband, and another I want to zap him with a stun gun!  😍😘🔥😱😁😂 😊… Let’s just Changing sleep patterns can not be a good thing 😱😁💤😴💤😵😵😵and so begins The Strangeness … Memory ? Oh yeah what was I saying ? Why did I come In this room again? … I don’t feel like doing a darn thing ..life takes too much energy…

And…

Inside there is this 20 year old thinking she can still do what she used to. Then someone decided we need mirrors over every stinking bathroom sink and BAM! I see that the outside is not a 20 year old any longer.
How did that happen?
Wrinkles? Seriously? They are coming folks and it doesn’t matter how much cream or moisturizer you apply, they are coming.
I think the hardest part is the wisdom streaks that seem to be popping up everywhere. Anywhere there is hair.  Sheesh.  Gray…… thank God for this wonderful invention of color. We really can be anything we want to be. Not a blond? Not a brunette? Not a red head? No problem, there’s a color to suit your every whim.
For me, well, I’ll try to continue to do this aging thing gracefully but I’m just not ready to show all of my wisdom to the world just yet. Maybe in another 20 or 30 years. Maybe by then, I won’t be bothered by those pesky, lying bathroom mirrors anymore.
In the meantime, I know whose child I am and He loves me even with all of wrinkles that pop up daily it seems and the ever growing wisdom streaks..

Dang, that’s good.

I have the best girlfriends in the world, ya’ll.

Arthritis in the back. I love being active and that reminds me every time that I am not at young as I used to be. Not that it is stopping me now. I just fear it will some day!

Fear is a big thing with us, but we need to let that go. We ARE all still 20 year-olds, we are just driving classic cars now. Costly, sputtering, high-maintence, they-don’t-make-’em-like-that-anymore classics. We’ve survived this long, Baby.

Suck it, Fear. (I say that now….wait 5 minutes for mood to change, and we’ll re-assess.)

Several friends mentioned the dreaded and slow-morphing phenomenon that is ‘turkey neck,’ which deserves it’s very own blog post. Seriously, it needs a blog post all it’s own.

But then this:

I like me more emotionally, spiritually, and mentally. So things drag a bit…and the skin is drier, and there are things I never had before–moles, skin tags, hairy face….I am good with me. I love this stage of life.

OMG, I love this stage in my life, too. I really do!  I can be authentic without feeling like I need to apologize for being who I am.  The younger me wanted to people please 24/7, and was always worried about making herself small.  Part of authenticity is being honest about grieving the loss of the season, while still being cognizant of the honor that comes with age.

As the Facebook thread bemoaning our collective youth kept moving along, the posts got more positive. Like we all needed to just SAY IT – admit our struggles in gory detail – and find camaraderie with one another.And then we could entertain the awesomeness of mid-life.

We are all women who love God and know that silver hair is a crown of glory. But sometimes we bitch about getting older anyway, and grace fills in the cracks in our vanity like the wrinkle creams promised to do for our faces. Grace-fully.

Slowly, the sentiment became – yes, our bodies, faces and minds carry the wear and tear – but our spirits have never been so vibrant! Getting older ain’t for sissies, but that’s okay. We ain’t sissies.

We’re FIERCE, friends!

I wouldn’t take all the young, taught skin and youthful energy in the world for the relationship I have with The Father now – it took a lifetime to learn how to ACCEPT His love. My earlier years were so focused on earning it, I forgot to accept it.

I laugh more, share more, love more, taste more, savor more, give more. In the end, I suppose vanity aims to squash down the ‘more-ness.’ Don’t let it take your MORE!

If there’s a damn wrinkle cream on the planet that works, I haven’t found it. And there are a thousand things about ageing I sincerely do not appreciate. I would like my metabolism back, pretty please. Also, I’m very sorry I didn’t appreciate estrogen when I had tons of it…in retrospect, it was rad. I wish I still only equated ‘crepey’ with French foods, and thought only of giblets when I consider the ‘turkey neck.’

About that ageing gracefully thing again….to re-quote a fabulous friend of mine:

….In the meantime, I know whose child I am and He loves me even with all of wrinkles that pop up daily it seems and the ever growing wisdom streaks..

You, too?

Amen, Sister.

Amen.

 

(**Side note: If you are a woman in mid-life and have not read Nora Ephron’s book “I feel Bad about my Neck, and other thoughts on being a Woman,” please do. You will relate and likely be brought to tears from laughter. Which may bring more smile lines, but honey, it’s WORTH it. Laughter is ALWAYS worth it!**)

 

 

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The Dream-Maker’s Daughters – Women stepping out in mid-life

The Beggar's Bakery

wish“When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, ‘I used everything you gave me.” – (The Great) Erma Bombeck

By: Jana Greene

Once upon a time, there was a girl who wanted to do a lot of things. But while she was waiting until she had time to do them, she did other things. She became a woman who did lots of important life work:

She became a mother and raised children.

She fell in love and got married.

She wrote a lot of poetry read a lot of books.

She even wrote a few.

She held several full-time jobs at one time or another.

She served in church.

Pretty standard fare.

Then, one by one, many of the manifestations of importance in her life grew up and moved on…

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Learning to Love the Common Cat

From the archives, just for fun🙂

The Beggar's Bakery

It’s true that The Beggar’s Bakery is a blog heavy on the substance abuse recovery material. That’s my passion. But through the ages (the nearly three years I’ve been blogging) I like to mix things up a little on occasion. I am also a “recovering” cat hater. Truly.

Recovery is my passion, but it’s not my ONLY passion. There is also my family, and the kitty cats – animals of all kinds, really – and chocolate, and music, and clothes with elastic waistbands.

Here is one from a blog I maintained for, um….about two posts. But I’m re-posting it because sometimes you just need to write a little, er….FLUFF to go along with the heavier issues.

What’s fluffier than kitties?

This is Catsby, the first cat I've ever heard that is truly mine, a Mama's Boy through-and-through. This is Catsby, the first cat I’ve ever had that is truly mine (Bob claims him, too, but he is a  Mama’s Boy through-and-through!)

I used to have a funny…

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Mountain Climbing with Jesus

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By: Jana Greene

Let me preface this piece by saying that I’m going through a bit of a depression. And yes, I know that depression is “not of God” and that if I had mustard seed-sized faith, I could declare to this mountain MOVE, and verily I say unto thee, it shall be done as it is written.

But I’m kind of a regular Joe, who navigates the terrain in fits and starts, wholeheartedly loving my Jesus, but not always making the grade.

So this morning, I found myself in the ice cream aisle of our local grocery store, crying, and in doing so, made the stock boy feel kind of awkward. I’m sure I’m not the first menopausal lady to cry in the ice cream aisle but who knows. At least I’m not crying in the liquor store, which is – in all honesty – where I’d end up in days of yore. I’m 15 years into sobriety from alcohol, praise Jesus. I’ve cried in liquor stores many times.

I came home and put my ice cream(s) in the freezer, and sat down on the hardwood floor because my energy was gone right that very minute and I had no auxiliary source in which to plug. I’m kind of slow-burn crying, and my amazing and very codependent tuxedo cat, Catsby, threw all 20 pounds of himself against me in purry solidarity. Oh my God, I love that little guy.

“Ugh,” I told God. “I’m so tired of being SAD. Why won’t you just come pluck me out of this Sad?”

And then God – who was sitting on the floor with Catsby and I, his arms around me – gave me the craziest vision. I feel I should make the distinction right now that my depression is rather garden variety, and not psychotic, and my the vision was not an apparition. I don’t hear audible voices. It is more like a vivid and comforting thought visual. But whatever, I’ll take communication from God any way I can get it.

And it looked like this:

I’m sitting in the forest, wearing climbing gear. All around me are beautiful mountainous peaks and lush valleys, and I have NO IDEA where I am. None. I’ve gone missing in perilous terrain and I radio for help. A chopper appears from nowhere, lowers a rope, and whisks me away from all danger. I am plopped into familiar territory and the helicopter  leaves, having done it’s job. And I’m alone.

In an instant, I understood what Abba was trying to tell me.

Do I want a God who will be my Genie in a bottle and pluck me out of every precarious situation, and then be on His merry way? (Although that sounds good sometimes, it’s not the deity I crave.)

I felt Abba say, “How deep would our relationship be, if I were only ever your rescue party?” In my mind’s eye, I imagine Him sitting with me and my big fat cat, and in my imaginings, God is also wearing climbing gear.

That’s the thing. (Warning: Cornball mountain / valley analogy ahead:)

Our Father longs to hike the tough peaks and deep valleys alongside us. That’s where the relationship grows. When we don’t have the strength to command the mountains to move, Jesus treks with us. He knows the way out, He has all the right tools and equipment, and most of all, He has a passionate love for me that will not allow Him to leave me behind.

Valleys are depressions in rock formations. Depressions. He could easily pluck me from the midst of my circumstance, and sometimes He does. But other times, He is my mountain guide, walking with me every step, talking with me, laughing and joking, picking flowers, climbing seemingly insurmountable peaks. He is my Spotter, my Safety Net, the Director of my Steps. He holds on to me and refuses to let go. He CARES about the little stuff along the journey. We are BONDED, man. We have a bond. It’s deep and rich and personal.

A bond we would never have if I only depended on him to pluck me from danger and depression every time I asked.  It’s such a comfort to know that He will never leave me behind!

I kept sitting on the floor with my cat and my God. I sat til I stopped crying (for now.) Catsby got up and stretched, and so did I. And I thought I’d better write this down before I forget it. So here it is, I’m sharing it with you in the hopes that your Sad might be lessened if you’re reminded that Jesus treks with you, too. It’s not instant wisdom or bottled Genie wish-granting, but reassurance that you aren’t climbing alone and you were never meant to.

Today, I’m still sad, but that’s okay. Everything isn’t coming up sunshine and rainbows and unicorn farts because I have the best mountain guide ever. It just doesn’t work that way. And I’m pretty sure Jesus GETS that.

I’m still going to eat my ice cream to make myself feel better, and that’s okay too. I’ll share it with Jesus, if he wants. I don’t have any Mustard Seed flavored ice cream, but I do have Belgian chocolate, and that’s got to count for something.

He will be sitting right next to me just like always, in this perilous terrain. I’m never alone.

 

 

 

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Whatever Comes Further, God is already There

 

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By: Jana Greene

“Hey, God…..”

“Yes?”

“What’s going to happen further along down the road?”

“I’m sorry, that’s on a need-to-know basis. Just trust me.”

“But….”

“Trust me, love. Whatever comes further, I’m already there with you.”

I’m always badgering God about what’s next, even though I know that I couldn’t even handle it if I knew. Seriously, I COULD NOT EVEN. But in some convoluted way, I ask God to reveal to me the outcome of certain things, but the gift of prophesy is not my strong suit.

I am considering this today as I’m struggling with my health issues. I have a rare-ish condition that causes chronic fatigue, migraines, intermittent system pain, and recurrent infections. It’s not going to kill me, but some days I feel like it would kill me if it were more merciful.

Here’s the thing, though: If God had revealed to me that I would do battle with this for the rest of my life, I don’t know that I would have stayed sober. I don’t know if I’d handle it well at all, so I’m grateful for the not knowing.

While I was busy NOT knowing, He went further down the road with me when I wasn’t even looking. The manifestations of His mighty hand over this struggle were being constructed long before I was even symptomatic.

If God had revealed that I would carry this thorn, maybe it would have gone down like this:

“Child, enough badgering! Come sit with me, and I will indulge your curiosity….

“As you grow older, you will feel like your mind and body are falling apart, because they will be – sort of – and you will be scared and tired and frustrated. But I’m working on an infrastructure for your life so that you will be able to carry this yoke…..

“I will bring you a spouse who adores you, and believes you when you are telling the truth about your pain. He will never give up on you, even when you are really sick….

“I will drop friends into your life with EXACTLY this same disease that you suffer from, and they will seemingly drop from the clear blue sky. You will marvel that I took such care to place those perfect people in your life at just the right moments. Lean on them and let them lean into you. They are sent directly from me….

“When you are having a bad day and hurting inside and out, I will scootch right up next to you so close that you can feel my love  for you, even through the pain. My Holy Spirit will be IN you, giving you fresh hope, even through the tears…..

“I will give you the gift to write about your experience, so that you can pay this Love forward to others….the ones who are gravely sick but look well, the ones whose labs and tests all come back normal and they feel like they are losing their minds, and that nobody believes them. YOU will comfort and believe them, just as you have been comforted….

“I will give you humor in copious quantities, so that you can not just survive, but THRIVE….

“Whatever comes further, I am already there with you.”

I get by with a LOT of help from my friends.

God bless us, every one.

 

 

 

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Love Swings Harder

distresstolerance

By:Jana Greene

“Persuasion confirms confident expectation and proves the unseen world to be more real than the seen. Faith celebrates as certain what hope visualizes as future.” – Hebrews 11:1 (The Mirror Bible translation)

Can I just take a minute to appreciate the beauty of that verse? Faith celebrates as certain what hope visualizes as future. MIND BLOWN.

There doesn’t seem to be a glut of things to celebrate right now.

I was turbo-thumb scrolling through Facebook chuckling at goofy cats wearing hats and babies teaching each other to walk, and then.. a trickle of posts from news agencies. Lives of yet more law enforcement officers were taken in Baton Rouge, and oh my dear Lord, what is happening to us?

Oh no. Please God, no.

I’m ashamed to say I haven’t even tuned in for live coverage yet. Much like the grounds of my beloved hometown of Houston, my ground is saturated. My spirit is just saturated. I can’t take one more sad thing. Storm after storm have filled the ground and there’s nowhere for the runoff to go. I know we are all hurting. We are all just trying to doggy paddle in the flood of awfulness right now.

The past few weeks have been an abysmally horrible example of what people of a godless world can inflict upon each other. Does blood mean NOTHING to us anymore?

In between tragedies and murders, there have been tides of goodwill and love between fellow men. Each tragedy followed by an outpouring of people helping one another, followed by another blow, followed by good people acting, followed by more blood in the street….Each time Grace gets on her feet, she is assaulted with another hard swing. But like a boxing match between Hatred and Grace, Grace is getting its ass kicked.

Or so it seems.

But still …

I keep thinking of the end of Jesus’s last day on earth, and how terrified the disciples must have been when the sky turned black and their One True Hope died just like a regular guy. Can you imagine?  Talk about feeling like God has left the building!  There was even an earthquake as His Spirit ascended, but from the human viewpoint, it just looked like the world was ending.

It just looked like doom.

That’s what it feels like to me now.

Blood means everything, and is the only way anything matters. The darkening sky had to happen; It had to happen for love to swing harder. Blood and disaster ushered in hope for the whole of mankind.

I guess faith isn’t about not questioning, because any sane person is doubting and questioning right now. I know I am – big time. Just being honest.

In spite of everything, I believe we are on this planet right now because God deemed us fit to thrive in it for His sake. Not just survive – but thrive.

Even when I just want to make a blanket fort and consume multiple cartons of Haagen Dazs and wash it down with boxed chardonnay while I snuggle with my cats and listen to sad Coldplay songs so I can properly grieve the state of the Union (and the state of the world.)

Again, just being honest.

I’ve been sober a long time, but I have to tell you, I am asking God for help every single day. I need him to help me stay sober and sane.

How can love swing harder if we all stay drunk in our blanket forts? Faith celebrates as certain what hope visualizes as future.

Here’s my strategy, and it’s kind of weird but wildly helpful to me:

Each time I become despondent and feel anxiety rising,  I try to visualize the expressions on the faces of the disciples when they laid their actual EYES on the resurrected Jesus. Awe, wonder, hope sprung eternal. Doom turned to dust, death made impotent for all eternity.

Jesus was all like “TA DAAA!”

And “What part of ‘I’m coming back’ don’t you understand?”

And “I love you! Go now and love on everybody else.”

That’s how I’m coping and staying sober – striving toward the day Hatred doesn’t get the last swing, the day evil gets its ass kicked forevermore. Leaning INTO a loving Father whose heart is breaking for the way His kids are treating one another.

And trying to honor the One True Hope – and be the best ambassador for Him that I can.

When it looks like doom, stand on this saturated ground with me, and keep proclaiming who we KNOW God to be. By grace, love wins. This broken world needs to know it.

God bless us EVERY one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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