Monday, July 30, 2012

Make No Mistake

i know i wrote in my last blog that my "next" entry would be a continuation on the subject of Biblical marriage --this time from the New Testament, but i am compelled to write about something else tonight.

i want everyone who reads anything of mine to know that although i may sometimes express myself boldly in blogs and get into controversial discussions on Facebook, please make no mistake: my life remains in shambles.

take this weekend, for instance: i rarely get out of the house more than once a week, so this past weekend held two days full of friends and fellowship that i had been looking forward to all week. saturday, there was a baby shower of a dear friend of mine, and sunday at church, they were having a potluck after the service, and since we are new to this church, i was looking forward to getting to know some of the people there.

but saturday morning when i awoke --after a short 24 hours of "relief"-- my PGAD symptoms had returned with a vengeance, and my heart sank. i prayed, and i asked God to help me despite the intense burning symptoms to find joy in being with friends and at church. i took strong pain-killers all weekend, which, by-the-way do not minimize the symptoms but only kind-of blur them, and i attended both events. thankfully, a very dear friend of mine drove me to both, since i do not hydrocone-soma-xanax and drive.

when i came home from church sunday afternoon, i slept for 6 hours. my symptoms throbbing, my lower back and knees aching, my allergies, my still-recovering poison ivy rash, all bothersome...all causing me pain in my body, as well as (especially in) my heart.

today, Monday, i slept for 17 hours in-between feeding the dogs and letting them out and in from the backyard numerous times. my head has been so heavy it feels as though it is filled with water. i am fighting fatigue even as i write this.

i know some of you may be thinking, 'you should get to a nutritionist, Heather', or 'get your thyroid tested' (which i have by-the-way) and a whole lot of other really great ideas, like diet and exercise and so forth...and to those i say, i would love to, trust me, but along with my physical pain and ailments, i have emotional ones as well, like depression and anxiety, and sometimes --more often then i'd like-- they are so intense that i am paralyzed.

this is not the life i want to be living, trust me, even so, i continue to see the love God has for me through these trials, as well as the slow-but-steady progress he is making in me.

i am thankful that i have a close-knit "support group" for when things get really bad for me. this support group consists of God, my incredible husband, my sweet son, my loving mom, and a wonderful group of female friends (for as you can imagine i feel most comfortable speaking with females about my PGAD) and then i have a large group of wonderful family and friends who keep me in their prayers, and send me words of comfort and support.

i am also part of an on-line PGAD support group, which is very helpful in knowing i am not alone, and also knowing i am not the only believer suffering with this disorder --there are many, MANY christian women on the board who have PGAD, and some much worse than mine, and we support each other and pray for each other. these are the things that keep me alive and hopeful, and ever pointing me to The One who loves and sustains me.

please don't get the idea that i'm fine, though. i am in a continual battle to not go to my "default answer" when i feel overwhelmed, when i look at my life and my constant suffering and say, 'you know, you can just give up. you can just end all the suffering and the endless, wearisome struggle.' for it is true, i am weak. God knows how weak and crushed and tired i am. this is where i am still beginning to understand the words in 2 Cor. 12: 9 where God reveals to Paul, concerning what many believe was a chronic affliction that Paul suffered with, '"My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness." [Then Paul responds] So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me."

i have very little to boast about anymore, as God (in his loving-kindness) has stripped me of everything i put my identify in: my looks, my art, my awards...and this, because His and my deepest longing is for my identity to be His Beloved. this process he is taking me through is ever painful, and i often have times when i rebel against it, but i keep trying to place my trust in him, that he has ground me down to ashes so he can re-make me into his child, who knows the depths of his love, and are grounded in it.
for the past several months, God has been using the wonderful books of Henri Nouwen to speak deep, life-changing words into my heart. one of his books, "The Inner Voice of Love" is a collection of entries that Nouwen wrote to himself during a very painful time in his life. his words are heartfelt and very encouraging...if not challenging. i dog-eared one entry in particular that i often return to called 'Keep Choosing God', and will close with part of it's message here:

Keep Choosing God

You are constantly facing choices. The question is whether you will choose for God or for your own doubting self. You know what the right choice is, but your emotions, passions, and feelings keep suggesting you choose the self-rejecting way.

The root choice is to trust at all times that God is with you and will give you what you most need...
God says to you, "I love you, I am with you, I want to see you come closer to me and experience the joy and peace of my presence... Just trust me and let me be your God."

This is the voice to listen to. And that listening requires a real choice, not just once in a while but every moment of each day and night...

Remember you are held safe. You are loved. You are protected. You are in communion with God and with those whom he has sent you. What is of God will last. It belongs to the eternal life. Choose it, and it will be yours.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

It says WHAT???

Considering the many different discussions on marriage that have been all over the internet as of late, and since I keep reading (over and over again) people writing, "according to the Bible, God's design for marriage has and always will be: one man and one woman," I decided to do a little investigation into the Old Testament to find out for myself just what is written in it concerning the history of God's rules on marriage.

To aid my search, I used the wonderful Bible-search-engine --where you can search the Bible in nearly every translation known to man-- and I searched under the words "marry" "marriage" and "wife" and wow, a heckof-alotta verses came up, and I read them all. It was a long night.

What I read, though, was not what I expected.

I came across many, many verses in the Old Testament about men having more than one wife. That's right: one man, more than one woman is in the Bible.

Then, well, then there's just some plain weird stuff, which you just have to read for yourself:

Deuteronomy 22: 23-29 (emphasis mine)

"23 If a man happens to meet in a town a virgin pledged to be married and he sleeps with her, 24 you shall take both of them to the gate of that town and stone them to deaththe girl because she was in a town and did not scream for help, and the man because he violated another man’s wife. You must purge the evil from among you.

25But if out in the country a man happens to meet a girl pledged to be married and rapes her, only the man who has done this shall die. 26 Do nothing to the girl; she has committed no sin deserving death. This case is like that of someone who attacks and murders his neighbor,  27for the man found the girl out in the country, and though the betrothed girl screamed, there was no one to rescue her.

28 If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes her and they are discovered, 29 he shall pay the girl’s father fifty shekels of silver. He must marry the girl, for he has violated her. He can never divorce her as long as he lives."

Hmmm...interesting, right, if not really (really) disturbing?

In Deuteronomy it also says that if a man divorces his wife because she has become "unpleasing to him" and the ex-wife then remarries --only for her new hubby to die-- then her first husband is not allowed to re-marry her, because that would be "detestable in the eyes of the Lord."

Now this verse I came upon has got to be my favorite by far:

"If two Israelite men get into a fight and the wife of one tries to rescue her husband by grabbing the testicles of the other man, you must cut off her hand. Show her no pity."
 (Deut 25:11-12)

I laughed out loud at that one. Careful now ladies on how you choose to defend your man!

 According to the book of Ezekiel, if you're a priest, really nice benefits come along with your vocation:

"...priests.... shall not marry a widow or a divorced woman but shall take virgins from the offspring of the house of Israel, or a widow who is the widow of a priest."

Please note that virgins is plural. Yup, priests get to "take virgins". Wow. Am I reading that right, because I am seeing: one priest, more than one virgin? I'm guessing priests were happy men back in those good Ol' Testament days, huh?

As I continued my search, to my wonderment, I never could find anything in the Old Testament where God gives direct orders that marriage should be as what I keep hearing is "traditional marriage" as we know it, in our present time, in the United States of America.

That leaves me wondering just how many Christians out there who are busy tooting their horns, "One Man, One Woman" and "God created marriage," know about the Old Testament verses above???

Now, I know the New Testament scriptures on marriage are very different from the Old one, because that's when my man J.C. comes on the scene, and His words are not only surprising, but really wonderful too --that topic will be covered in my next blog, though.

In the meanwhile, I'll leave you with this very interesting diagram of the not-so-long-ago History of Traditional Marriage in the United States:

Thursday, July 19, 2012

new doctor, new medications, new hope

i haven't written about my PGAD or my health in a while, and really, i haven't been able to, not since my sweet dog, Sarah, passed away the day before Easter, and soon after we adopted a new puppy, Hannah, an adorable Altman's White English bulldog. i have been in mourning, adjusting to a new puppy, as well as continuing to deal with PGAD. tonight, i finally felt up to covering what's been going on, so here is my over-due update:

ever since i stopped taking Topamax back in the middle of March, and was recently put back on Paxil (about 3 months ago) my mental health has been much better. the Topamax was definitely making me even more depressed and suicidal (see link above to read how Topamax can affect people this way). i am so grateful that Jeremy was told by a christian brother of ours that Topamax had a similar effect on his mother, and that i should get off the stuff ASAP --it was definitely guidance from God-- because in about a week of being off it, i felt a dark cloud lift, though my sky still remained a grey overcast with the continual suffering of PGAD.

at the end of March, after my pain physician, Dr. Owens, performed two nerves blocks on me: a Caudal, followed by a Ganglion Impar block, and neither made any difference what-so-ever for my PGAD, he kindly told me he was at a loss and didn't know what else he could do for me.

thankfully, before the pain physician gave me this news, i had googled, on a whim, to see if there were any doctors in my area who knew about pudendal nerve damage and/or PGAD. one name came up: Dr. Redmond. there was an e-mail to contact Dr. Redmond, so i wrote him, explaining my situation, and Dr. Redmond actually wrote me back himself. he said he had tested and treated some women with PGAD, and that some had pudendal nerve damage, though some did not. so at my last and final visit to Dr. Owens when he gave me the bad news that he was at a loss, i told him about Dr. Redmond, and he gladly made a referral for me to see him.

i had a bit of a scare for a moment, though, when Dr. Owens' office tried to make an appointment for me to see Dr. Redmond, i was informed by the Midland's Orthopedic staff, where Dr. Redmond works, that they could not take me on as a patient because they will not see people who have no medical insurance! i freaked at the news, but wrote Dr. Redmond and asked him if he'd make an exception, since we could pay in-full for my pudendal nerve test, but that we just didn't have medical insurance.

Dr. Redmond e-mailed me back right away, and apologized, saying he'd gladly see me, and he could also reduce the cost of the test for me, which he did.

So at the end of March, Dr. Redmond performed a Pudendal Nerve Test on me by means of a Pudendal Nerve Motor Latency Test (PMLT).  he found that my pudendal nerve is not badly damaged, but only slightly elongated on the left side, which is common in women who have had vaginal births, and concluded that it is probably not the cause behind my PGAD.

he suggested i try Gabapentin, which i did, for about a month, but i had the commonly felt disconnectedness that most people experience on Gabapentin, and to my dismay, it did not help much with my PGAD: when it came time to relieve myself from the overwhelmingly built-up sensations, it was nearly impossible to climax. so i made an appointment in the beginning of April to chat with Dr. Redmond, and i asked him if i could go off the Gabapentin and give Paxil another try --since it had been a good 10 months since i had been off of it, and maybe it would work again like it used to. so he called in an RX of 30mgs per day of Paxil for me, and told me to keep in touch via e-mail. (i'm telling you, Dr Redmond is a rarity among doctors today, and i am SO blessed that God lead me to him!)

so far, the Paxil is not working like it did for me all those years before. my PGAD is still as unpredictable and unreliable as when i went off of Paxil 10 months ago. sometimes i am able to "take care of" my PGAD for an hour, and it goes away, but other times it takes 3 hours to even get a sense of relief only for the PGAD to return within hours, and even worse than before i started! so, understandably, it is not difficult for me to have anxiety when it comes to the point where i have to "take of it".

the only positive thing about being back on Paxil though, is that there has been a huge difference in my depression --like some rays of light shooting through spots of divided clouds in my overcast sky. none of the other antidepressants i have been on these past 10 months have helped my mental well-being as much as Paxil, so i am grateful for this improvement.

since Dr. Redmond cannot prescribe me the medications that Dr. Owens (the pain physician) had me on, i saw my nurse practitioner at the end of June, and brought in all the meds Dr. Owens had me on, and she was very kind and refilled them all for me.

i am on more medications than i'd like to be, but with the Paxil still being unpredictable, these medications help me get through my PGAD rough patches. i take soma, about 2x, sometimes 3x's a day, with tramadol and xanax --this often stops the strange "buzzing" that usually leads to full-blown PGAD. on really bad days, i take a soma with a hydrocodone....and bad days are about 3-4 days a week, sometimes more.

i don't like being on all these meds, but i suffer so much without them, and if i am not careful, suffering leads me to into depression, then anxiety, followed by thoughts of suicide. the meds sedate me, and the hydrocodone gives me the "munchies", so i am quite sedentary, and my ass has enlarged more than i'd like as well, but hey, i'm alive.

although this is not the ideal life i would like to be living, God has been helping me through all this, reminding me that He is in control, and that He is working on me, changing and guiding me. He is teaching me how His strength is made perfect in my weakness, as well as the scripture that says, "Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day." i want to write more about how He has been helping, but i will save that for a near-future blog.

in the meanwhile, Dr. Redmond and i have decided, via an e-mail recommendation from a gynecologist in AZ, that i try a medication called Domperidone, which is a dopamine antagonist --it will decrease my dopamine levels, which in turn will increase my prolactin. prolactin is the important hormone in the "refractory phase" after orgasm --which basically means it tells the brain to stop feeling aroused after orgasm. this happens much faster in men than women, hence the reason why some women (who do not have PGAD) are capable of multiple orgasms before the prolactin kicks into gear.

Dr. Redmond had to order Domperidone from Canada though, because you can only get it in the US from a compounding pharmacy --which good ol' WalMart is not.

as soon as it arrives and i start taking it, i will blog about it's effects. i am praying it works! one possible, and very yucky side effect of Domperidone is that i may start lactating...ya' know, making milk! i am so hoping that doesn't happen! i've been there, made way too much, and hated it. but if it really makes a dramatic, positive difference with my PGAD, i will gladly wear breast pads the rest of my life! hey, i may even go up a bra size! won't my husband be happy!

FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, PLEASE NOTE: any attempt to post comments/responses in way of unsolicited advice, criticism, analysis, words-of-wisdom or correction, or worse-case-scenario: berating and condemning me for my expressed opinions, thoughts or emotions on this blog, on Facebook, or via e-mail are not welcome! THE ABOVE LIST OF RESPONSES ARE TERMED "INVALIDATION". LOOK IT UP. IT'S A FORM OF PSYCHOLOGICAL ABUSE AND I WILL NOT TOLERATE IT. only positive comments or messages with uplifting, encouraging content, such as, "thank you for sharing" or "i will be praying" are welcome, as well as the ever-so-confirming "like" button on FB. thank you for being gracious. much love ~Heather

Friday, July 13, 2012

saying goodbye to Sarah

I have been working on-and-off at writing this blog since Easter --the day after Sarah passed. It has been a struggle to write, as I still miss her terribly each and every day. Completing this blog has been good (though difficult) therapy in helping me walk through the stages of grief and mourning. Sarah was my precious girl, and I will miss her in the same way I continue to miss all the dear animal-family-members we have had, until we are all, finally (at last!!!) together, once again.

My Sweet Sarah
For thirteen years I have had a constant companion, a sweet and gentle American Bulldog, named Sarah. We got her when we lived in Perry, Florida. She was four months old, and Jonah, our son, was four years old. She was our first family dog, and she was a perfect fit for us.

The day we went to get her, she and her brother were the last puppies left from her litter. She rode in my lap on the drive home, and crawled up into my lap once we got home. Jeremy asked me, "Do you like her?" and I replied, "I love her," holding her to me, and kissing her soft, white head.

She was a calm puppy. Never had a problem nipping or biting or chewing up things she shouldn't. She adored Jonah, and was protective of us and our home from the start. When she was about eight months old, we got our sweet and goofy Bully puppy, who was six weeks old, and she mothered him, played with him like a best friend, but made it clear, for the following ten years of his life, that she was the Alpha dog, and Bully, being a sweetheart, never challenged her on that, though, on occasion, they would get into a "scrap" when playing tug-of-war with a rope or ball, but it was all noise and no teeth --never any cuts or blood. You can see how good of friends they were and the love they had for each other in the photo album at the end of this blog, and in this video below you can see how well they behaved together --especially with boney-bones being offered!

Sarah had funny quirks. She lifted her leg when she peed on a tree or bush. She didn't like to walk on the black tile in Jonah's room --she would shake and whine at the edge of his open door, like she was going to fall into a black hole. To get on and off of the bed in our master bedroom, she would use the treadmill next to the bed like a ramp, and whenever she got excited, like when we'd leave her at home (even for just a little while), she'd do a happy, wiggly walk around us, sneezing over and over again when we returned and walked through the front door.

One of my favorite "Sarah quirks" was when she ate her food. She'd begin by taking a single bit of kibble into her mouth, walk across the room, and spit it out. Then she'd return to her food bowl and eat all her food. As she got older, she'd just take the first piece our and spit it beside her bowl. She also LOVED to have left-over tuna fish water or oil put in with her food, and she especially loved spaghetti sauce mixed in. For at least the last five years of her life, she started a new habit: she wouldn't eat her food until the person feeding her kissed her head first, then said in a sweet tone, "Eat your food." Just a few days before she died, I took a photo of her eating her food (below) and you can see the piece of kibble by her bowl.

For most of her life, Sarah didn't like when male friends of ours would visit us. She was suspicious of all men, but she took to females who entered our door much easier. As she got older, she mellowed out and loved everyone. She gave her paw to our visitors, even if they didn't want it. She'd place her paw, claws out and pressing on our company's knee, demanding to be loved.

Sarah gained many nicknames over the years: Grumpy (because her face rarely showed her emotions, even when she was happy, her face didn't change much, and she always looked, well, grumpy!) Sometimes it was just Grump, or Grumpy-girl. Then there was Sarah-pooh, Pooh-girl, Girly-girl, Pookie, and just plain Pooh, and she responded to all of them!

Whenever any of us would approach her when she was lying down (which she did a lot of in her final years) she would stretch out her body and arms, asking for love. You can see her do this in the video link below, as well as make her grumpy, disciplining face to young Chopper.

Sarah slept beside me almost every night of her life, her head beside mine, on her very own human pillow, usually with her back against my chest, and my arm around her. I have not slept in my bed since she passed, just ten days ago (at this writing).

Sarah always came to my side whenever I was crying. If I was in another room and she heard me crying, she find me and try to console me. Even a few days before she died, I was crying on the couch sitting next to Jeremy, and she tried to push her way past Jeremy's leg, her eyes wide with concern and her paw reaching over Jeremy's knee to reach me. She was such a comfort, such a big, sweet-hearted girl.

When Bully passed, he was only ten, and I was not prepared. He was still young and full of pep, then one day his belly got big, and the vet told Jeremy it was cancer, and when Jeremy called to tell me, I was not prepared to hear we had to put him down. He brought Bully home to spend one last night with us, and we gave him pain killers, but he still panted in pain all night. It was unbearable to see him like that. The next morning we took him to the vet, and stupidly, they did not give him an IV or a sedative, and Bully, being a big baby whenever it came to needles, cried out as they injected him, and the cry kept coming until his life left him. He cried out, a cry that not only sounded like he was crying because of the needle, but like he crying out against his death. Bully was a dog full of life and joy, and loved his life with us, and he cried out because he did not want to leave, and we did not want him to go so soon either.

Bully's cry, along with the sound of the shotgun that took my father's life, are sounds that haunt me, that return to me when I lay down to sleep, and continue to weep over.
My sweet Sarah became arthritic a few years ago, and we gave her supplements our vet prescribed, which helped her, but whenever she got up to walk, her joints were slow to warm up, so she walked stiffly, like an old woman, until she got going. Her body changed as she aged, and she looked like an old dog, still, I hoped to have her around longer.

Almost a year ago, at this writing, we went on a family vacation to Folly Beach, SC, where dogs are allowed on the beach in the morning and evening. Being on the beach with Sarah is one of my favorite memories, especially because she was so happy! Here is a video of Jeremy walking Sarah and Chopper back to me on the beach, and Chopper escapes from his leash and immediately tries to get Sarah to play with him. It's adorable!

The day after Bully died, Jeremy told me he talked to Sarah, and asked her to stay with us for at least a few more years, to not leave us so soon after Bully's death. She kept her promise, and it happened so quickly, it is still hard to believe.

Sarah showed no signs of being sick, except for about a month before her death, and inconsistently, she'd cough for a less than a minute, followed by gagging a few times. I thought it was just acid reflux, as a friend of mine had a dog with it, and had the same symptoms. Often when she'd cough and gag, I'd give her a bite of bread, and she'd stop.

Friday night (April 6th) Sarah and I hung out together, she in her chair beside the couch where I sat, and we shared a bag of peanut-butter pretzels and I stroked her head and belly. As most of you know, I keep the sleeping schedule of a vampire, and Sarah always waits for me to finish cleaning the kitchen, and then around 6am, we both head upstairs together to go to bed. Well, this night, around 6am, Sarah started coughing. I gave her a bite of bread, but the coughing did not stop. Soon the cough was worsening and blood was coming up.

I knew then that something was terribly wrong. I rushed her over to the Animal Emergency hospital.

They ran x-rays on her, which revealed that her left lung was almost completely filled with a giant tumor. Then they ran more tests on her, and discovered it was not an infection, which only pointed to one thing: cancer.

By 12 noon, Jeremy met me at the Animal Hospital where they lead Sarah in to be with us, one last time. When she came through the door, she collapsed in exhaustion and pain at our feet. We wept and cried over her, telling her how much we loved her, thanking her for all the joy she had brought into our lives...and then she was gone.

As I got into my car to drive back home, I was suddenly aware of Sarah's spirit, hovering just to the right of me. She was not sad, but concerned, like she always was whenever I cried. I said out loud, through tears "I'm okay, Sarah. Mommy will be okay. You go on, you go on to Father and enter into the joy you deserve. I love you, baby. I'll miss you, but I will be okay." Then I felt, somehow, that she understood, and her presence drifted away.

This was the day before Easter. Easter is when our Savior rose from the grave, having redeemed ALL of HIS creation, including my sweet, Sarah-pooh. I am thankful she was in my life. I am thankful that she only suffered for 6 hours before she died. I am thankful that God created her, lent her to me and my family, and that He has her in His wonderful kingdom, where we will certainly meet again.

Below is a Smilebox scrapbook I put together of Sarah (click on the photos to enlarge them), however, there is also an extensive photo album at Photobucket, that I made with love and many tears:

Click to play this Smilebox scrapbook
Create your own scrapbook - Powered by Smilebox
Free digital scrapbooking design made with Smilebox

FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, PLEASE NOTE: any attempt to post comments/responses in way of unsolicited advice, criticism, analysis, words-of-wisdom or correction, or worse-case-scenario: berating and condemning me for my expressed opinions, thoughts or emotions on this blog, on Facebook, or via e-mail are not welcome! THE ABOVE LIST OF RESPONSES ARE TERMED "INVALIDATION". LOOK IT UP. IT'S A FORM OF PSYCHOLOGICAL ABUSE AND I WILL NOT TOLERATE IT. only positive comments or messages with uplifting, encouraging content, such as, "thank you for sharing" or "i will be praying" are welcome, as well as the ever-so-confirming "like" button on FB. thank you for being gracious. much love ~Heather