Showing Thankfulness, When You Are Struggling to Live One Day At A Time

You’ve made it through Thanksgiving (maybe you have the in-laws or another Thanksgiving celebration to go to this extended weekend). Between the food, friends, family, football, and Black Friday, everyone seems happy, joyful, delighted and thankful. In the depths of depression, it is difficult to join in and there are times, I feel like I am performing and even though I can be surrounded by people, I can be lonely.

This is the time I have to write out what I am thankful for and sometimes we write it out as a family. It can start out simple – air. After being on a ventilator, I am VERY thankful I can breath on my own and eat and drink whatever I want.  Clean water – access to it all the time. Medicine – even with side effects, medicine daily saves my life. My doctors. Shoes. Hair (after the transplants I lost my hair) and it’s grown back Heat. Clothing. Running water.

Then I go to the people in my life. then, most importantly, to my God and Who He is and His unchanging character.

After my transplants or any significant event in your life (wedding, birth or loss of a child, surgery, moving, a marriage separation or divorce, etc.), there seems to be an acceptable amount of time society thinks you need help, prayers, one on one visits, your grass cut ( you get the idea) and you should be recovered.

However, a mood disorder, that is something most people dismiss or don’t know what to say. Some people do, and will remain faithful in keeping up with you, holding you account spiritually, socially, and making sure you are taking care of yourself. Cherish those friendships, invest time and care into them, make time to pray with them or ask them to pray for you when you are too depressed to pray for yourself.

Don’t try to fake it so much, holidays are not all joyous without drawbacks, But you can start making a thankful list and see how blessed you are. Take advantage of the sunshine, give to others and push yourself to make your thankful list as long as possible.

Recognizing Depression

The topic of depression is talked about often in our society. Prescription drugs to fight depression are advertised on television, magazines, and pamphlets in physician’s offices. News stories are easy to spot at all major television networks, print, and online. Even our children say they are depressed after a day at school when they have been teased or bullied.

I started showing signs of depression in 2003, years before my heart failure. I didn’t know these signs and was suffering for a while before I could get professional help. My family misunderstood me and it would cause conflicts and many hurtful words were exchanged on both sides. Meanwhile, a lot was happening physically, chemically, and emotionally inside of me.

There are many depressive disorders, also referred to as affective or mood disorders. Researching these with the guidance of a therapist and a psychiatrist helped me tremendously. Some common early signs of clinical depression can include: mood of sadness, despair, or emptiness; the loss of the ability to experience pleasure (Anhedonia); low self-esteem; apathy, low motivation, and social withdrawal; excessive emotional sensitivity; negative, pessimistic thinking; irritability; suicidal ideas.

Some depression facts include: Suicide rate for patients with major depression is 9%; 18 million people per year suffer from major depression in the United States; the incidence of depression ratio of women to men is 2:1; Only 50% of Americans who suffer a bout of depression will seek treatment. Treatment can be effective up to 80% of depressed patients. *

When I started seeking help from my primary care physician, it was a catastrophe. I highly suggest seeking help from a medical professional – a therapist, psychiatrist, psychologist or a combination of a therapist and a psychiatrist or psychologist.  Therapists and psychologists cannot prescribe medication. However, a good therapist will be well versed in psychotropic medications.

If you suspect you or someone close to you may be suffering from a depressive disorder, seek professional help right away.

 

*Handbook of Clinical Psychopharmacology for Therapists, 6th Edition

How Not To Help A Sufferer

If you experience any type of mood disorder, I can pretty much bet that you have heard all kinds of advice. I live in the Bible Belt of the United States, grew up in a Baptist home, attended a conservative Christian university and all too quickly people are eager to throw out Bible verses to me.

I truly believe the Bible is inspired by God, the authority on His redemption plan for man, and teaches how Christians (those who accept Jesus Christ as their personal Savior and follow Him). However, I ALSO believe the best way to combat depression or mood disorders is a 3 pronged approach: (1) Christian based therapy on a regular basis (2) Regular help with a psychiatrist or psychologist (3) Medication when the exam shows the need for it, especially if the brain or heart has been disrupted.

Below is a link from the Christian Coalition on How Not to Help a Sufferer. I have had all of these comments said to me by either family members or close friends who at the time, did not understand one thing about depression.

https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/how-not-to-help-a-sufferer/

 

Wake Up, Muscles!

It has been a long road in recovery the last 5 1/2 months, especially in the area of physical therapy. After lying in bed in the hospital for 7 weeks waiting for the transplants and 9 weeks post transplant, let’s put it this way: my muscles went into a long winter’s hibernation. Asleep. Dead sleep.

When I wast first “waking up” in mid or late July, I had no idea I would be so handicapped. My legs wouldn’t move, my hands wouldn’t raise up to rub my face or hair, I couldn’t even talk.

So began Physical Therapy, PT and the infamous Amelia. Wiggling my toes, ankle pumps, quad & glute pumps, sitting up, standing up, walking to the door of my ICU room & floor. I’ve never experienced such fear & pain in my life. Even getting moved from the bed to a recliner was fearful & painful. “If I fall on the floor…” was all that I could think. Amelia demanded a lot & wouldn’t take no for an answer if I wasn’t in excruciating pain. She was tough, but I learned that the only way through this was doing the exercises. Hard work, feeling uncomfortable & out of my comfort zone.

If you aren’t exercising, you need to start. My physicians told me repeatedly told me the only way that I was eligible to be the first triple transplant in Georgia, was my strong will, my exercise background of running marathons (18 between 2001-2007), and the fact that I was compliant to what they expected. My past fitness really helped and helps me now to recover.

Ok, so you probably won’t have three transplants in your future. You may be in a car accident, develop disease, get older, etc. if you smoke or heavily drink, you’ve increased your health risks for many diseases. Do you really want to settle for a low quality of life?

Stop the excuses: it’s too hot, it’s too cold, I don’t have time, I don’t like to exercise, I can’t afford a gym membership, blah, blah, blah. Find some music & walk. Park far away in a parking lot instead of circling like a vulture wasting time for someone to get out of the closer parking space. Go upstairs & downstairs in your house 10 times. Use soup cans to do bicep curls or straight arm raises. Move your body out of the couch and do something! If not for yourself, think of your family without you prematurely. I do a lot of painful exercises for my husband, Jack, & Chloe.

If you choose not to exercise, don’t be surprised that as you age or something happens in your health that decreases your quality of life.

Spices to use (instead of salt)

Today’s women, whether stay at home moms, working moms, working childless wives, or retired women, all of us run into a common dilemma around 4 p.m. What’s for dinner? There’s our old standby meals, spaghetti or sandwiches;  there’s endless choices of drive-thrus, offering WONDERFUL nutrients; there’s eating out in a sit down restaurant (more expensive & annoying people to watch or listen to), or cooking at home.

I generally use a meal plan for the week. Main dish & sides for supper, main dish for breakfast & lunch. This helps save the time & headache. And something changes EVERY week, so not every night goes according to plan. Life happens.

A year ago, I had to radically change my diet to leave out as much salt as I could.  Let’s face it, salt tastes good. Combine salt with bad fats and sugars, and ta da! You have every restaurant chains’ secret on good food. Good tasting food, bad long term results.

I completed 18 sessions of card rehab, and 2 nutrition classes. They gave out handouts & the one that has made a huge difference is my spices chart. Spices give flavor that salt can’t. It opened your taste buds to different avenues you might not have had before. It can change your children’s taste buds before they even get the “I want McDonalds & I want it NOW!” taste buds.

Try using this chart if you are interested — it helps me! An when people taste my food, women generally compliment it, where men usually say it’s not that bad.  Except for my husband & dad…. these men know better and they are kinder to me than the average Joe.

 

Allspice Lean ground meats Stews
Tomatoes
Peaches
Applesauce
Cranberry sauce Gravies Lean meat
Almond Extract Puddings Fruits
Basil Fish Lamb Lean ground meats Stews Poultry Soups Sauces Fish
Bay Leaves Lean meats Stews Poultry Soups Tomatoes
Caraway Seeds Lean meats Stews,  soups Salads Breads Cabbage Asparagus Noodles
Chives Salads Sauces Soups Lean meats Veggies
Cider Vinegar Salads Veggies Sauces
Cinnamon Fruits Breads Pie crusts
Curry Powder Lean meats Lamb Chicken fish Tomatoes T. Soup Mayo
Dill Fish sauces Soups Tomatoes Veggies Salads Mac & Cheese Chicken fish Potatoes
Garlic (garlic salt) Lean meats Fish Soup Salads Veggies Tomatoes Potatoes
Ginger Cicken Fruits
Lemon Juice Lean meats Fish
Poultry
Salads Veggies
Mustard (dry) Lean gr
Meats
Lean meats Chicken
Fish
Salads Asparagus Broccoli
Cabbage
Sauces
Nutmeg Fish Piecrusts Lemonade Potatoes Chicken
Fish
Lean meat loaf Pudding
Onion Lean meats Stews Veggies Salads Soups
Paprika Lean meats Fish Soups
Salads
Sauces Veggies
Parsley Lean meats Fish Soups
Salads
Sauces Veggies
Peppermint extract Puddings Fruits
Pimiento Salads Veggies Casseroles
Rosemary Chicken
Veal
Lean beef
Lean pork
Sauces Stuffings Peas Lima beans
Sage Lean meats Stews Biscuits Tomatoes Green beans Fish Lima beans Lean pork
Savory Salads Lean pork Lean meats Soups Green beans Lima beans Peas
Thyme Lean meat Sauces Soups Onions Peas Tomatoes Salads
Turmeric Lean meat Fish Sauces Rice

Good news/bad news

At the beginning of last week we found out that Stephanie had a mass on her liver, and the radiologists diagnosed it as malignant. Their diagnosis was that the liver was stage 3+ damaged (stage 4 is severe cirrhosis). The liver doctor felt that a liver that was that severely damaged could not survive open heart surgery, and her heart couldn’t take open heart surgery and a liver transplant (or chemo/radiation), so they said that the best course of action would be a liver and heart transplant.

Thursday and Friday Emory had a big conference with over 15 liver specialists to review her case. They examined the MRI and liver biopsy in detail, and they questioned the original diagnosis. They changed the diagnosis to a nonmalignant mass, and downgraded the diagnosis of liver damage to a low 3.

This means that the original plan of open heart surgery is back on for January 12th, and that most likely no transplants will be required.

The hematologist (liver doc) still wants to biopsy the mass, but he is very confident that it is not malignant. We were supposed to have the biopsy today; however, the insurance company is fighting it. It will happen, the hospital just needed some more time to fight with the insurance company, so we rescheduled it for the 4th of January.

This is somewhat of a disappointment, but also a blessing–this will let us combine two trips to the hospital(we would have had to go down on the 4th anyway to meet with the cardiologist), and it is nice to be able to relax a bit during the week of Christmas.

So on the whole, we are feeling a lot more positive than one week ago. It’s amazing to be talking about "just having open heart surgery," but your perspective changes when you start thinking about cancer and transplants.

This will still be very complex surgery that will probably take 10+ hours and require a two week hospital stay and 8 week recovery time, and a transplant may be in the picture within the next 20-30 years. We are overwhelmed by the outpouring of love from friends, including some I hadn’t talked to for years.