Afflicted, But Not Crushed; Perplexed, But Not Driven to Despair

Thursday, February 27, 2020


2 Corinthians 4:-11
But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.

A sweet friend bought a Bible Study for me, Hope when it Hurts, before I left for Arizona for medical treatment. I was already doing a study on James that I wanted to finish so I didn't start it right away.

God, in His perfect Sovereignty, knew exactly when I would need this study.

I started this study not long after arriving back in Tennessee. The first couple of weeks home were very exciting. I was (and still am) so grateful for what God has done. I am so grateful for how far He's brought me.

Going home (back to Knoxville), however, was met with a painful realization.

We had been living in yet another home with mold.

and

We now know that mold will cause severe neurological attacks leading to paralysis for me.

And so we proceeded to lose our 3rd home in 3.5 years.

As I was lamenting this fact to my husband a few days ago, I read that day's devotional:

2 Corinthians 4:16-
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.

This was written by one of the co-authors of the devotional.

I'll never forget the week we lost our home. It was the home that we'd fallen in love with four years before, and we'd said we'd never move again......
.....But God has a way of using painful circumstances such as these to move us in a direction we never would have chosen; such was the case for our family.



This treasure in jars of clay.

We are jars of clay. I can say this most especially of myself. My life is fleeting. Over the past few years I have learned the depth of my fragility.
Yet, God puts His treasure- the gospel- in us to show His glory. He can show through my extreme weakness His strength and that the surpassing power belongs to Him, not us.

I love this excerpt from Elisabeth Elliot's book, A Path Through Suffering:

Corrie Ten Boom was a woman of strong faith and a radiant face. Why? Not because she had not suffered, but because she had, and had responded to the suffering with trust. Learning the dept of human helplessness and weakness, she turned to her "strong tower" and He was faithful to His promises. One of the most soul fortifying pictures I have of her in my mind is of her getting up in the morning, standing up in her solitary cell and singing in a loud voice so that the other prisoners could hear, 'Stand up, Stand up for Jesus!'"

"'Oh, I never could have survived,' we say. Well, we were not asked to. But we could have if the Lord had allowed us to be put in her position, and if we had responded as Corrie did, looking to Him for the next grace. I mean, of course, that we could have survived spiritually. The body they may kill, but so what? Jesus said, 'Do not fear those who kill the body and after that have nothing more they can do.'"

Afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair.

I love the way the Apostle Paul put this. Sometimes it seems the trials will never end. One after another they pound you but Paul says they were not crushed or driven into despair.

We are now trying to start living again. We are dealing with the fact that we are homeless, again. I do not mean to imply that we are living on the street, Praise God!- but we are without a home for our family. We are in a living situation that is going to have to be extremely temporary. So now we have to save money and look for another safe place to live.

I will not imply this is easy or that we have no concerns at all, but we are not crushed nor are we driven to despair. We know our Heavenly Father will guide us and that He has a plan that we can not see.

We are, however, very tired. My husband is having to throw things that he has worked for away- again.
The kids and I are extremely stressed and, as of right now, only getting to see Steve on weekends and 1 night a week.
And now we have to find another safe place for me to live. This will be difficult for the rest of our lives. We will need to find a newer home and, if it isn't brand new, will have to perform at least 2 different mold tests before moving in. If we do have to move out of this area, I will have to find a way to stay in any area first to make sure I can handle it before we find a permanent place to live.

We know that "all things work together for good to those who love God and those who are called according to His purpose" (Rom 8:28) and we have to remind ourselves and each other of this fact daily.

But God is faithful. He is good. And He will provide.

Amen.

Mold Exposure, Setback & Moving Forward

Thursday, February 20, 2020




It has been 2 weeks since our trip home led us to realize that we were probably living in yet another home with mold. This explained a lot about why I deteriorated so seriously in this house and why, no matter what my functional doctor did, I only continued to decline. While home, I started having the shocking sensation in my brain that I haven't had since leaving and, within 12 hours, my legs went. 



Even though I started walking within 2 hours of leaving my home, other symptoms that I have dealt with in the past couple of years came back over the next week. I had a blood sugar dive and my adrenals tanked. With this came a lot of emotions. Last week, I poured my heart out about my struggle with ptsd. I left it in the hands of the Lord. If He wanted me to get another ketamine infusion, I asked that He would give us clarity on that and provide for it (we came home with no money- Steve is working hard to rebuild our finances). If He did not, than I asked that He would show us what we should do.

I can only credit the past week to the Lord. I have improved by leaps and bounds. The ptsd feels almost non existent. My energy has been better than it probably ever has. I started feeling a tremendous joy. In fact, I think I started feeling like I used to feel. I had forgotten what that was like.

Last Sunday I drove for the first time in over a year. It was amazing!


I started singing again. While my health has been serious for 3.5 years, I have had health problems for my entire adult life. I think one of the last solos I sang was when Emma was a newborn. She's about to turn 17.



I had my first pilates workout in over a year. It was only 6 minutes long but, I'll take it! My arms are a little sore today. It's a good feeling.


I have been adding new foods with little fear (this has been a HUGE barrier for me). I am cooking, cleaning, and homeschooling my kids. 
All glory truly goes to God. I am absolutely blown away.

I was able to start my cooking club back up on Facebook. I am sharing tips and, Lord willing, will start to share recipes again.

I do feel like I've over done it a little this week. The excitement swept me away. I will take it easy for a few days and give my body some time to recover but overall, I am in total awe.

I was on the phone with my mom the other day. While most people get to enjoy pretty good health while they're young, I started struggling at about 19-20. I have been fighting for my health ever since. This year I turn 38 years old and I feel like, for the first time, I am getting to know what it feels like to feel happy, healthy and strong.

Regardless of what happens in the future, I know God is in control. He has been so good to me, so faithful to me. He has led me step by step.

Psalm 71:3- Be to me a rock of refuge, to which I may continually come; You have given the command to save me, for You are my rock and my fortress.

God has been my rock of refuge. He has been my fortress. He still is. 
God is so, so good.

Coping with Trauma as a Christian

Thursday, February 13, 2020



As I am writing this blog, I have no idea if I am going to release it.
If I allow myself to be truly honest, this will be the most painful, heart-wrenching thing I have written. Will it benefit me? Will it benefit other believers to share?

If not, it's best just kept between myself and the Lord.

If however, God can use it as Paul says in 2 Corinthians 1:3-5-

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.

Then that's a different story.

I have been finished with treatment for 4 weeks tomorrow. There was an initial high that came with that. I got through something I wasn't sure I could. I survived the 4 day RV trip home. I started cooking and cleaning.

Then emotions started coming back. The depth and the heaviness of what I have been through seemed to overwhelm me. The pain of the people who weren't there. (And the gratitude for those who were.)

Going back home and losing the ability to walk again. Realizing that if I am exposed again (to mold. See previous blogs), I am in danger.

Being homeless... again. Being just a couple of years shy of 40 and having to start over again... again.
Being terrified of being unable to handle light and sound again and being shut up in a dark room. Facing fears of adding in new foods and supplements.
Facing my fear of driving.
And, overall, feeling like a shell of the person that I used to be.
Wishing I could skip over the painful part of dealing with this and go straight to living. But knowing, deep down, that I have to face this.
This massive giant staring me down.

P.T.S.D.

I used to think P.T.S.D. was just for soldiers. I know now that it's actually more common in women than in men.
It is embarrassing to me that I have it. I was always known as the "happy person" growing up.

But even more than that, I have a deep love for Christ.
He is my everything. His word sustains me. Sermons by Piper, MacArthur, Durbin and Dr White have helped me through some of my darkest days.
I have a deep love for doctrine. Doctrine is getting to know God in His fullness. 
You can not truly love and study God's word without being changed.
I have been changed by it.

That has helped me through that trauma. I will share more about that in a minute. But it hasn't made it go away.

So where does someone with deep trauma go from there?

First, I want to share that it is ok to get help. As someone with P.T.S.D, I will tell you that it helps to get it from multiple sources. Now that I'm home, I will be starting some treatments back up that have helped me as well as (probably) adding some in.

I have been through Biblical counseling. It is possible that, if I find someone where I'm living, I will go through that again. I want to be clear when I am speaking of Biblical counseling. This is someone who counsels with Scripture as their authority. It is hard to find someone that does this and doesn't use secular psychology as their worldview while sprinkling in some Scripture. This is not Biblical counseling.

Secondly, it is ok to have a psychiatrist. Yes, I recognize that is not a popular view among Christians and I do recommend being careful and screening them hopefully as you would a regular doctor. I have a holistic psychiatrist and she has been one of the greatest helps to me of all the doctors I see. What does a holistic psychiatrist do? Mine will use medication and recommend therapy among other treatments as she deems necessary but she also wants to get to the bottom of what's going on and help you get healthy overall. I am on medication. I believe I will be off of it someday, but for now, it helps me a great deal.

One of the most amazing things I have done for P.T.S.D is ketamine therapy. As a side note, it was also what helped me retain any movement at all while we were trying to get to the bottom of what was going on with my mold illness. Ketamine has an amazing track record against p.t.s.d which is incredibly hard to treat because it does change the brain. It is also a very low risk alternative to treatment resistant anxiety and depression.

If you are within driving distance to Knoxville, TN, they have, I believe, probably one of the best (if not the best) ketamine clinic. Revitalist Clinic has on staff certified counselors that are experienced with ketamine. You can pay extra to have one in the room. Ketamine does bring out trauma and these counselors can help you work through it in a safe environment. I absolutely refuse to do ketamine without the counselor because she has had such an impact on my recovery.

Because I have had people ask, I will go ahead and explain how it works. You start out with an initial 6 sessions in 2 weeks. This helps to rebuild neurotransmitters and repair neural pathways. After that, as long as you will allow them, they will keep up with you via a daily text to rate how you're doing on a scale of 1 to 10. If they see those numbers start to drop, they are going to call and check on you and see if you need to get in with either them, your doctor, or both. As someone who has struggled with mental illness for my entire adult life, they are light years ahead of everyone else.

Some people will need to come in for a booster ketamine (this time just one as opposed to 6) every 12 weeks. Some longer. Some will never need to come back. I have found that I am every 8-12. Next week will be 12 weeks which, I suspect, is one of the reasons that I am really starting to struggle.

The last thing that has helped me is journaling. This has been hard but probably the best discipline that I have developed. I like to be in control and I hate dealing with emotions that aren't happy. Ignoring them has been my preferred method of coping (yes, I know that's not coping) for the majority of my life. Sometimes, however, we have to cry and face what we're feeling.

I know, as a Christian, I have worked hard to not let my emotions run my life. That is great, but emotions aren't evil. We were created by God to have emotions and ignoring them does not make them go away. So today, when the overwhelm hit me, I sat down, cried and poured it out into my journal. I usually pour my heart out in my journal in the form of prayers to God. This is one way that I talk to Him. Journaling has also been helpful at helping me reframe my thoughts and to put them in the context of Scripture and prayers. I can not count the number of times that I have sat down with an enormous amount of stress and anxiety and written out prayers, Scriptures, and walked away at peace. God's word really does change our hearts.


There are other treatments that I may try. Red light therapy has been used in treatment for p.t.s.d (see here and here.) Some essential oils have positive research behind them (see here, here.) I am still learning about herbs and adding in some key nutrients. I can continue to share as I'm learning.

I have no doubt that I will overcome this. I can honestly say that for the first time. While at Envita I met some of the most amazing people. Want to know the ones who survive? The ones who say,

"This will not beat me. I have things to do."

And so, I say that. I have seen God do amazing things. Did you miss that time that God provided $30,000, a RV and a free place to stay in less than a month?

God is my hope and my deliverer. What do I have to fear?
He works all things together for my good and His glory.
So even in the midst of this suffering, I know it is not meaningless. I thank God for the depth of His word, His promises and His provision.

I know He will guide me on the next step.

Soli Deo Gloria



Two Steps Forward, One Step Back: Definite Answers on Our Future

Saturday, February 8, 2020


It has been 3 weeks since I left Envita Medical Center and this is my first blog post. It wasn't my intention to wait this long to update, but there has been a lot to figure out since we left and we've had limited internet during that time.

At my last appointment with my doctor, he emphasized that I seem to be very effected by my environment and that it was very possible that we would have to move. We had shared this concern on past blog posts as well.

The question was... where?

No offense to anyone that lives there, but Steve, the kids and I really didn't like the desert. Would we move there if my health depended on it? Yes. Would we chose somewhere else that has grass and was within a day's drive of family first?

Absolutely.

As Steve and I evaluated the past 3.5 years (this past week was exactly 3.5 years since I got sick), we realized there was a place that I always improved and always felt better. When I first got sick and we were trying to figure out if we had mold in our home, Steve took me to his parents' house up on a mountain in Cookeville, TN. I improved almost immediately. I stayed for about 10 days. During that time I started coming back to life, running errands with the kids and sleeping... something I wasn't able to do at home.

After about 10 days we had a local lab come out which confirmed our worst fears- mold was everywhere under our house. You can read more about that and what happened at the previous link. Our church found us a place to stay for 6 weeks while we proceeded to throw out everything we owned and find a new place to live. As soon as I got back to Knoxville, I deteriorated.

Every time, however, I have come back to this mountain in Cookeville, I improve. Every time I come back I have energy, start cleaning like crazy and go on walks with the kids.

Last October we flew out of Nashville to Phoenix for testing at Envita. When we left our house in Knoxville, I was in the wheelchair and unable to walk. We came to Cookeville the night before and I started walking. By the time we got to Nashville the next morning, it started going again.


(on the way out of town)

Looking back at all of this, we decided we'd try an experiment. Cookeville was on the way home anyway. We'd stop in Cookeville on the way home and let me stay there for a week or two and see how I feel. If I couldn't even handle Cookeville, then I most definitely couldn't handle Knoxville.


So why not Knoxville? What could really be so different about two parts of Tennessee a little less than 2 hours apart? Anyone who lives in East Tennessee knows we're in the valley. There is a plateau on one side, and the Great Smokey Mountain National Park on the other (one of the most beautiful places on God's green earth, I'm convinced.) The problem we learned, however, is that the air never really moves. All of the mold, pollen, pollution, and anything else in the air just kind of sits there. Ask anyone who lives there how bad their allergies are- they'll tell you!

After arriving in Cookeville I stayed before about a week. I felt great! I was cooking three times a day. I walked my dog for the first time- ever! (I got Winston after my first paralysis episode.)


Things were going really well.

We got a big rain front in (about 5 inches in 3 days). The rain didn't bother me at all- I was out walking my dog in it a few times a day and still felt great. However, it did cause some septic issues where we were staying so we thought we'd go home for a bit. I actually said to my friend,

"I'm not worried about losing the ability to walk again or anything. I think if anything I might just not feel good and feel kind of sluggish."

Wednesday night we went home. It had been almost exactly two months since we had been gone. There have been a few questions and points of confusion in sharing this story so I want to clarify a couple of things:

  • This was not the home where I originally got exposed to mold and got sick 3.5 years ago. We left that home then.
  • There are no leaks in this home
  • My dad had ordered a high quality air filter for me and set it up. It had been running for a week before I came home.

We arrived around 9 pm Wednesday night. The air felt so crisp and clean when I walked in (thanks to my dad and the aforementioned air filter).
We got some laundry started and got the kids to bed. I went to bed around 11. Almost immediately I started getting "shocked" awake. I don't know how to describe this feeling other than to say it feels like something is shocking your brain. I've also called it brain pulses. It's horrible. And it's something that I've dealt with with mold exposures. After being shocked awake multiple times in my room, I finally went to sleep on the couch and got some broken sleep- but better- in there.

Thursday morning I woke up and started making breakfast. I was almost done with mine when I started feeling it- the weak shakiness that I feel in my legs right before they start going. I called Steve with the bad news.

"It feels like my legs are about to go."

"You're kidding. You've been home less than 12 hours!"

I called my father in law and he said he'd come get me immediately. I started to walk to the kitchen and had to yell for Emma and Reese. My legs were turned in and going. They caught me and dragged me to the couch.

I called Steve sobbing, "Emma and Reese just dragged me to the couch. They're gone."

He said, "I'm on the way home."

A couple of minutes later I got up so I could record what my legs were doing just a few hours after coming home. You can hear Isaac in the background yelling and telling me to sit down.



I don't record all of this because it's fun. I record it because I have proof. If you go through any illness, especially if it's rare, you WILL have to fight for yourself and, unfortunately, you probably will have to record it.

Within two hours of leaving my house I was walking normally. I've been walking normally ever since. This is a video from the next day.



We had been praying (and others told us that they were praying as well) for definite answers on where we should live. I would say that we have those answers. It is possible that I could feel worse once everything starts blooming in a month or two, but since it hasn't been an issue before now, I don't believe it will. So, I would say we are about 99% certain that we are moving to Cookeville.

As we look back over this journey, it is really quite appropriate. Steve and I met in Cookeville.


We got married at a church on the same road where we're now living.



So I guess you can say, we're going home.

Please pray for us during these next steps. 

I have come so far but still have a way to go.
Steve is starting a new business.
And we are very sad to say goodbye to family and friends in Knoxville.

But God has been good to us on this journey.
We will continue to share.

In Christ,
Megan