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You know, strength is not just physical. Someone can be physically strong but emotionally and mentally weak. I know people who fall in to this category. However, today I am going to talk about emotional and mental strength…something that is not recognized very often. Going through rough times make people beautiful by strengthening their resolve. You know you can rely on these individuals as nothing will bring them down. I have been through it myself, and I have persevered due to the love and help of God. I want you to know that you can persevere as well.
It’s been a while since I have written a blog, and there is good reason for that. I have been dealing with some medical issues again. After receiving some disturbing news yesterday regarding my health, I thought back on everything that I have been through in my life. I truly believe that everything happens for a reason, so I decided to write this blog to let all those who are suffering know that there is always hope.
My health story begins in 1986 when I suddenly came down with an acute case of appendicitis. I was brought into emergency surgery in the middle of the night, and it turned out that my appendix had ruptured. I stayed in the hospital for six days and was told that I was lucky to be alive.
Around 1990, my whole ordeal with adenomyosis began. The severe pain and extremely heavy bleeding lasted for seventeen years before I was finally diagnosed at hysterectomy. You can read my other blogs for more details on my adenomyosis journey.
In 2009, I woke up and was unable to stand as my right leg gave out from underneath me. It turns out that I had a herniated disc in my lower back and a broken vertebrae. This led to my first spinal fusion. Five months after surgery, I learned that two of the screws broke, and I needed a second surgery.
In 2010, I had my second spinal fusion. Sadly, this fusion also failed, and a third surgery was done in 2012.
In between my second and third back surgeries, just by chance, I learned that I had a brain aneurysm. I had no symptoms. The aneurysm was picked up when I had a head CT scan that was needed prior to a CT myelogram for my back. I was stunned! I had surgery, and the doctor placed a coil and stent to block flow to the aneurysm. Thankfully, the aneurysm is now stable.
While recovering from the coil and stent surgery, I found out that my husband was having an affair. I was an emotional wreck as we had been married for almost twenty years. One month before my third back surgery, we separated and he moved out. We are now divorced.
After my third spinal fusion, my left hip began to hurt. I was unable to sleep on my left side at night. This was the beginning of hip bursitis which plagues me to this day. I get occasional cortisone injections to help ease the discomfort.
Although the third surgery resulted in a fusion (yay!), I still live with chronic daily pain in my lower back. The pain still sometimes radiates down my right leg. Not a day goes by now that I’m not is some degree of pain.
In the last year, I began to have severe upper back pain. An MRI showed four bulging discs in my neck along with a couple of pinched nerves. I haven’t had surgery for this yet. I decided to go to a pain management doctor, and I have had many shots – epidural, facet joint, medial branch nerve blocks, etc. These have all given me minimal relief, so my doctor suggested I try radio-frequency. This procedure deadens the nerves that go from the spinal cord to the brain which block the pain signals. I had this procedure done, but it deadened the feeling in the middle of my back while the pain continued in my shoulders and upper neck. I actually am in more pain now than before the procedure. Sigh…
In the meantime, I have had knee, shoulder, and ankle pain, and at times, my knee and hip lock up and give out. Since so many of my joints were hurting, my family doctor suggested I see a rheumatologist. On my first visit with the rheumatologist, they took eight tubes of blood from my arm.
Several weeks later, I had my follow-up. I was shocked to learn that I had a positive ANA test. This test detects autoantibodies which means that there is an autoimmune process of some sort occurring in my body. I couldn’t believe it. So, the doctor ordered more tests, and I had eight more tubes of blood drawn.
Last week, I had yet another follow-up with the rheumatologist. This time, the blood work showed that I had high levels of cardiolipin and beta-2 glycoprotein. This means that I have a clotting disorder! She told me to start taking an aspirin a day for now, and I have to repeat the blood work in several months to see if the levels are still elevated. If they are, I will be diagnosed with antiphospholipid syndrome.
The most shocking thing about antiphospholipid syndrome/high levels of cardiolipin and beta-2 glycoprotein has to do with pregnancy complications. Apparently high levels are associated with a high incidence of miscarriage. While I was married, there were times when I was quite sure I miscarried. Until now, I thought it was a result of adenomyosis, but now I wonder if these high levels played a role also. By the way, I have no children. I wish I had this information thirty years ago! It doesn’t really apply to me now as I have had a hysterectomy. However, these levels put me at an increased risk of stroke or heart attack, so I definitely need to address it, and the rheumatologist needs to keep an eye on it.
My rheumatologist believes that my aches and pains may be due to fibromyalgia, and I have been put on Lyrica. So, for now, I live with chronic pain…pain in my lower back, pain in my upper back, pain in my shoulders, pain in my hip, and sporadic pain in my knees and ankles. I hope the Lyrica will help.
So…I know what it is like to hurt physically. I know what it is like to hurt emotionally. I know. I get it. I’ve been at that place where you think there is no way things are going to work out. I’ve been at that place where I ask God, “Why me?” But I’ve made it this far with God’s help, so I know I will make it in the future. No matter how bad things get, you will make it. Ask God for His hand, and He will guide you. With His help, you can move mountains. Nothing is impossible with God!
There have been two suicides that I have had to deal with in my life. One was a family member, and the other was a friend. In both situation, the stresses of life were just too much for them, and they clearly felt like there was no other way out.
All of us have had difficult events in our lives. But have you ever felt like your life was completely falling apart? Have you ever been in a situation where you felt like there was no way out?
I’ve been there. Let me give you a little background information about me. I danced for over twenty years. I started dancing at the age of four when my mom put me in ballet classes. In my teenage years, I became the captain of my high school flag team and began to take jazz classes. Eventually I moved onto modern, pointe, and even ballroom dancing while I was in college. After college, I tried ice skating and tap. Needless to say, I absolutely loved to dance!
In high school, I really became interested in science and performed quite well in science fairs. This interest propelled me into getting a bachelor’s degree in Microbiology, and eventually I ended up working in the field of genetics for about twenty years. I loved this work even though most people don’t understand why…lol…as I sat behind a microscope for eight hours of the day. The passion for this work was just something I was born with, I guess!
I met my husband when I was 25, and we married a year later. I thought I had found the love of my life. We lived in three different states – South Carolina, Virginia, and Texas – and I worked in the laboratory in all three states, sometimes teaching aerobic classes after work. We had a beautiful home and plenty of great friends. I thought my life was perfect…until…
It all began when I woke up one morning and my right leg gave out. I had a herniated disc in my lower back, and a few months later, I had my first spinal fusion. During the surgery, the doctor discovered that my back was actually broken. About five months later, we learned that two of the screws broke, and the fusion had failed. A few months later, a second spinal fusion was performed. This second surgery also failed. I began to worry that I would never be able to dance again. Also, I had to leave my job due to these ongoing issues with my back. So, at this point, I had lost my favorite hobby, and I had lost the ability to work.
Around this same time, my dad was diagnosed with lymphoma. He began chemotherapy about a month later but had a very bad reaction to it and ended up in the hospital for about 9 weeks. During that time, he almost went into respiratory arrest due to an infection in his lungs. Fortunately, he was able to recover and eventually went into remission.
While preparing for my third surgery, an imaging test revealed that I had a brain aneurysm. I was shocked and frustrated at that point. Two days later, I woke up and realized that the right side of my face was paralyzed. Terrified that I had a stroke as a result of the aneurysm, I rushed to the hospital along with my husband and parents. Luckily, I only had Bell’s Palsy, and it cleared up within a couple of months. But the experience was awful!
About a month later, I underwent surgery for the brain aneurysm. The doctor placed a coil and stent in the affected blood vessel, and thankfully, it has remained stable to this day. However, I had to take a blood thinner for several months to make sure a deadly blood clot didn’t form near the aneurysm. This meant that I couldn’t have back surgery until I was taken off the blood thinner. Eventually, I was able to plan for the third back surgery.
One month before the surgery, I found out that my husband had been having an affair. We separated almost immediately. The next few weeks were the worst of my life as I had to obtain an attorney, fill out mounds of paperwork, make sure evidence of the affair was secured, have pre-surgery testing while crying and venting to the nurse (who was incredibly supportive, btw), and make sure I was prepared for surgery (food, transportation, etc). During this month, I endured many phone calls from my husband who wanted to sell the house prior to my surgery, believe it or not! Thankfully, I had an excellent attorney who squashed that idea rather quickly.
This was definitely the lowest point of my life. I had lost my favorite hobby, my career, and my husband. I felt like there was no way out and that my life was over. I can’t even describe the feelings of anger and desperation that I felt. But, I chose to turn to God.
After recovering from my third spinal fusion, I made plans to move from my house into a smaller home. The day of the move was long and tedious, and I was exhausted when the movers left at around 11 p.m. The next morning, I woke up to a house full of boxes, but before I could start the unpacking process, I had to return to my former home for its final cleaning. On my way there, I received a phone call from my mom saying that my dad was in bad shape. He passed away later that day. Thankfully, a close friend stepped up and offered to help me. She and her family cleaned my old home and began to unpack boxes for me while I was with my mom planning my dad’s funeral. Two weeks later, my divorce was finalized. So…in a period of about three weeks, I had a major move, a death, and the finalization of my divorce.
In my previous blogs, I describe numerous times when God sent me signs during this deep valley in my life…from dreams to rainbows. I hung onto Him and His Word for dear life, and He pulled me through. Through prayer and counseling, I have recovered and am living a peaceful life. I now write books as much as my back will allow me to do so, and I have the most incredibly supportive friends and family around me. I enjoy watching dance shows and listening to old music as it brings back so many great memories. My life has definitely changed, but I’ve never been happier. I not only survived, but I am a much better and incredibly stronger person than I ever was before. I am here to tell others that suicide and/or giving up should never be an option. God can pull you through anything…and I mean anything!
I thought about writing this blog after I read a passage in Psalms yesterday. This particular passage really touched my heart, and I want to share it with you today 🙂 When times are tough, really tough, reach out to God. Cry out to Him and NEVER GIVE UP!
“In my distress I called upon the Lord; to my God I cried for help. From his temple He heard my voice, and my cry to Him reached His ears…He reached down from on high, He took me; He drew me out of mighty waters. He delivered me from my strong enemy, and from those who hated me; for they were too mighty for me. They confronted me in the day of my calamity; but the Lord was my support. He brought me out into a broad place; He delivered me, because He delighted in me.” Psalms 6, 16-19