Today, in church, we sang, “it is well with my soul” and we sang about our darkness undone” with Jesus. I have had so much darkness these past few years, 2018 especially. I’ve seen my life crumble as I succumb to crippling vices like overeating or alcohol that most would write off to just “enjoying desserts” or “relaxing with a glass.”
I’ve hidden in the corner of my kitchen consuming more peanut m&ms than I care to remember.
I have a hard time singing “it is well with my soul” and “with Jesus my darkness undone.” So much of my pain seems to be my fault but yet he allowed so much to happen to me. When I was a child I couldn’t prevent my grandfather’s inappropriate behavior. I couldn’t stop my cousin from dying prematurely. When I was a young girl, I couldn’t keep boys from saying, “well you’re not THAT beautiful.” I couldn’t keep from hearing other women say, “don’t get me in the picture.” or “I just need to lose weight” or “Oh, my belly.” When you hear that stuff enough, you start thinking the same things about yourself I guess. When I was in 5th grade I couldn’t make the other girls play with me, they just decided I had to “wait on that rock” until their club was done meeting. – Now, I would have some “words” for those girls. Wait on a rock?! Why didn’t I just say, “forget you!”… Who knows? –
When I had children, I couldn’t change that they developed food allergies. Multiple food allergies.
Brene Brown, in her teaching, “The Power of Vulnerability,” recommends vulnerability is our path towards wholehearted living. When we are vulnerable we are actually being very courageous and it’s not weakness. There are many moments in my life which I acted the part or put on the extra smile in order to please. As I make my way toward a healthier me by 40, I’m also working towards more wholehearted living. And I think that means allowing myself to be more vulnerable. This seems pretty freakin’ vulnerable. Writing. I don’t feel like much of a writer. But I want to share my story with you. I’ve asked God at times if maybe I can be helpful to others. Perhaps I’m trying to find some reason why MY kids were allowed to have allergies and why OUR family was struck with this unusual life. But sometimes there really is no reason to pinpoint.
“Tie up your hair and get to work!”
I have a group of women, I call my support group, that I owe so much to after this last year (but I’m sure they wouldn’t take a penny). I have a husband that deserves a million date nights for all the crazy I put him through before my meds started working, but he loves me anyway. I’m so thankful for the gifts God has given me, but I don’t want to forgo looking back at the pain that brought me to my knees. I don’t want to forget that I also need him. But I’m not afraid to be vulnerable and acknowledge that sometimes my soul still doesn’t feel all that “well” even though I know the Holy Spirit resides in me. Because I’m still human and I have a billion feelings (let me tell ya, more feelings than I care to admit). I would rather they just left town because I have stuff to do. I usually don’t make time for feeeelings. I’m the kinda gal that says to myself, “tie up your hair and get to work!” If I’m stressed or anxious, I used to just clean something, organize something, start a project, or stay at my desk a little later that night checking off more goals. My good friend, Laura, and I would always joke that some day on our gravestones it would read, “Here lies _______, She got s*#t done.”
At church our pastor discussed Ecclesiastes 3 in reference to making sense out of life. Ecclesiastes 3:1 starts a list of pairs of opposites. “There’s a time to weep and a time to laugh…a time to mourn and a time to dance.” He said we don’t always get to choose. The season of weeping or the season of laughing, neither is permanent. Neither is forever. This brings comfort but is also very disrupting and as my pastor said, “very puzzling,” because it’s as though we are given only a few puzzle pieces to our lives and not allowed to see the box cover. Not allowed to see how the pieces fall together. Why do bad things happen? My children were born with food allergies. Different food allergies. Charlie is severely allergic to milk and Vivian is allergic to soy, peas, green beans, spinach, and sweet potatoes. I have pretty strong food intolerances to both gluten and dairy. My husband, Justin, hasn’t gotten by without a scratch. He has some pretty bad heartburn at times, but so far no diagnosed allergies or intolerances. (My husband and I blame my side of the family for our crazy life…. But no hard feelings, guys.)
I love food and cooking, did I mention that? I even went to culinary school (back in the day). I have 2 major food groups I have to (sort of) avoid and my young children have (different) food allergies. There are times I weep when I think, my true passion and hobby has been stolen from me.
Like many women, I had this dream when I got married that someday I would be a parent. Parenting looked a certain way in my dreams. No one could prepare me for the reality. The sleepless nights. Everyone tells you, but you really don’t know it until you can’t hold your head up even when you’re supposed to be holding up a tiny person to your boob at 3am. I never knew I would sit in a room with 10 women while we all cried together about whether or not our kids were “eating” enough. Every lactation consultant tells you your body is likely producing enough milk but you always wonder. I never knew I would sit in that same room with all those women while we got our boobs out to feed our kids. There was so much I didn’t expect. So much no one could prepare me for.
When my son, Charlie, was diagnosed with a severe milk allergy around the age of 2, my stress level and anxiety with parenting took on a whole new level. We knew he was allergic to milk and eggs (milk since he was a baby) but we didn’t realize it had gotten so bad. As a parent you have certain worries for your kids: Will they get enough to eat? Will they be kind? Will they make any friends? Will they be smart? Will they get a job someday? But in general I’m not a worrier. I don’t worry too much about someone stealing my kid or my kid falling off a ladder we don’t have. But I want good things for my kids and I want them to give me kisses still when they’re 22. In my head I always pictured myself sitting at a picnic with other moms chatting and watching my kids from afar. Then shoving whatever snacks in their mouth and demanding they at least TRY whatever “aunt so-and-so” lovingly made for everyone. I grew up being taught good manners. You try foods you’re offered and you don’t ask too many questions about the ingredients…”just try it.” And really, as a kid, I liked a lot of stuff. I always remember eating my vegetables. I like vegetables. You can ask my mom, but I don’t think I was one of the kids she had to worry about eating vegetables. I could have scarfed down a whole can of spinach all by myself at 4 years old. I loved the stuff (and Popeye).
My life as a mom took a different turn. I couldn’t even share food with my kids off my own plate (which I never wanted to do in the first place, but I at least wanted the choice). The real challenge has always been special events with friends or family. It’s better now that we have certain routines in place. We also have friends that know us well enough to make special treats we can have too. For a while I had to take a Xanax after returning home from certain big events. My helicopter parenting to keep my kids from being handed, or accidentally served, food that would potentially KILL them was too much strain. If you’re not familiar with Xanax, it’s an anti-anxiety medication that is used in special circumstances of high anxiety but with caution. It’s highly addictive. I have only the tiniest dose and my psychiatrist trusts me with it, but knowing myself, I still second guess if I should take it at times. There are moments when the panic is so real and so deep in my chest that all I can do is either cry, weep, shake, or scream at someone. So I take some medicine. I think the reason it’s so hard is because everyone else is just laughing and having a great time at the party. While I’m standing there looking at all the food my kids can’t eat and worried it might end up in their mouths. Or there are actually times I’ve stared at a carton of milk and (in my head) thought, “poison.” That’s when, per recommendation from my new friend Brene Brown, I practice my statements of gratitude to calm me down from my anxiety moments. Sometimes meds are needed, but in the smaller moments gratitude and thanking God for some real specific gifts is super helpful to calm me down.
Later that summer we had our first experience with the Epi-pen. Let’s just say, I have a new appreciation for that weird pen and what it can do for my kid. I’ll share that story later.
When my daughter was around 1 ½ years old, she was diagnosed with EoE (Eosinophilic Esophagitis) and then FPIES (Food Protein Induced Enterocolitis Syndrome) allergies. That’s a story for another day too, but let’s just say we’re still living both stories, and neither was what I expected as a parent. My kids are about 19 months apart. I’m a dietitian, I live a pretty healthy life. I thought I would have healthy kids.
Ecclesiastes 3:9-11 “What does the worker gain from their toil?… I have see the burden God has laid on the human race….. He has set eternity in our hearts….”
“God does not abandon us to sorrow.”
God has given us the ability to ask why, to question, to challenge. I learned today that it’s ok to ask why and we may never know the answer. Tragedy doesn’t have to kill our faith but challenging it is ok. My pastor reminded me today that faith in God is trusting him in the seasons of burden and believe he can be trusted. Believing that this season is not permanent. I don’t know what that looks like for me, but seeking help for my depression and anxiety has been a great start to managing the pain of burden so I can see God’s gifts more clearly. In Jeff Manion’s book, “The Land Between”, he said that “[God] did not abandon us to sorrow.” God provides us with resources to relieve some of the suffering and pain that comes with the burdens – like counseling, medication, good friends, supportive family, a supportive spouse, or a sweet kiss from my two little sweeties who are, thankfully, alive and well.
In all of this perhaps I have become a more creative cook even if at times a bitter one (no pun intended).
(Reliving some of these stories has made me want to eat a second cinnamon roll, but I didn’t. I took one bite and got back to writing. Thanks, besties, aka. my counselors and my psychiatrist).
After 2 years in therapy. Being smoke free for over a year. Following the recommendations of a fabulous psychiatrist. Practicing some gratitude regularly. Attempting to exercise regularly (aka occasionally). Still looking over and seeing a husband that adores me 20-30 lbs heavier. And having some of the sweetest friends a girl could ask for. I have so much to be grateful for. And now, I can take one bite of a cinnamon roll and put the rest away for later. That’s what I teach my students is a sign of “normal eating”. And I can have a glass of wine in the evening sitting by my peaceful fireplace and enjoy the moment without needing more.
All in all… I think after some time of reflection, my soul is better off then I thought.
Do you or your family have any food allergies or food intolerances? I would love to know how you have managed the stress and fatigue it puts on relationships. Share with us how you take care of your soul.