The Watchman

The Watchman

Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Big Picture

For about fifteen years I have been cycling through periods of feeling normal contrasted with times where I have experienced episodes of severe stiffness and swollen joints.  There was a time that I was determined to learn what was causing the symptoms.  Many tests were done, but no conclusions were reached.  What I did learn was that if I got enough rest, kept my stress under control by finding ways to relax, and watched my diet, I could maintain the periods of normal and minimize the periods of discomfort.  I decided I was tired of being a pincushion and feeling like maybe I was just crazy and so I stopped bugging the docs and just did what worked for me.  I will also admit to surfing the internet and reading about different conditions and applying the advice found for what most seemed to fit in my "symptoms".

My plan seemed to work, as I was able to give birth to two beautiful little girls, keep up with teenagers and toddlers all at the same time while being employed full-time and keeping a house going.  A lot of credit for my continued health during this time goes to my most amazing husband.  He really is my rock, the love of my life, my biggest supporter and most importantly my best friend.  But age and stress seem to have caught up to me and the episodes of discomfort occur more frequently and last longer.  Looking at what was going on, my sweetheart and I decided it was time to once again seek the opinion of a professional.  

As we sat in the doctor's office this week listening to his recitation of the results of a multitude of tests that had been run, we once again experienced the feeling of defeat as the result of each individual test was negative.  This is good news he kept saying.  It didn't feel that way to us.  I watched Rick's face reflect my own feelings of frustration.  Finally the doctor ended his list of what the tests said wasn't wrong with what he felt was causing all the discomfort.  At first I was taken aback, because hadn't he already told us that the specific tests were negative.  We asked for clarification.  This is what I learned: although the specific tests that most usually would indicate the conclusion were negative, when he reviewed my overall history, including things that I had never payed attention to before, he noticed a pattern and that pattern left him 100% certain of his diagnosis.  

Now I get to say again how much I love Rick.  He is not afraid to kick me in the butt when necessary.  After leaving the doctor, I was depressed.  I knew what the doctor's words meant.  I just knew my life was going to change.  How was I going to do deal with this latest development in life?  Rick exercised great restraint in not rolling his eyes or laughing out loud at my ridiculousness.  He did give me time to process the new label in my own way, but he would not let me wallow in self-pity.  I won't say that I didn't try though.  What difference did a label make he asked.  You have been living with this for fifteen years.  Be glad you now have a name to place on it and because of the name, there is a way to move forward.  We have gone through hard times before and done just fine.  A name doesn't make this hard, and if down the road it does get hard, we will get through it together just like everything else.  Yep, Rick too looked at the big picture.

So here I sit three days later.  I have done a lot of reflecting on the discussion Rick and I had.  I have refocused from the minutia to the big picture.  I have thought back most specifically on the last year and what a year it has been.  On any stress test, our family would have scored quite high.  Yet here we are still together, still laughing, still with goals and looking forward to the good times ahead.  We still have our faith and testimony in a loving Heavenly Father and His Son, our Brother, Jesus Christ.  In fact that testimony has grown for all of us as we have had a front row seat to witness His tender mercies.  We are still happy and full of joy.  

At work we were having a discussion on the power of the brain.  The brain is an amazing organ.  As human beings, we use a very small part of its capacity.  It is also a part of our body that we can continually change or reprogram.  Studies have shown that where an individual places their focus will literally develop pathways or connections in the brain tissue.  As a result, an individual can lead themselves to dark places in thought that are hard to escape.  Yet there are other individuals that experience similar trauma that have found a resiliency that allows them to move forward and upward with their lives.  

A human beings, when we get so caught up in the details, we lose sight of our reality.  We can become so focused on a small point that we lose sight of the big picture.  On a trip to Chicago, Rick and I visited The Art Institute of Chicago where I was able to view one of my favorite paintings: A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte by Georges Seurat.  This painting is an enormous seven feet by ten feet.  In the gallery there is a bench directly in front of the exhibit where you can sit and gaze upon its magnificence.  For those who may not know about this masterpiece, it was done in a technique called pointillism which is the application of uniform size dots instead of brushstrokes.  I had viewed images in textbooks and on postcards.  I had studied the technique of pointillism.  But while we sat there and took in the detail of the master's hand, I found myself lost in the individual dots to the point of losing the image and only seeing chaos.  It was when I took a step back and refocused my perspective that I once again could truly enjoy the view.

This is who I want to be.  I do not want any label to define me.  I will continue to work to keep my life in balance, not ignoring or rejecting this newest label, but accepting and incorporating it into the bigger picture that is my life.  I have been too blessed to let one thing define who I am or what I can still accomplish.  Yes, there may be limitations, but having a diagnosis also provides me with better options for treatment and a professional to guide and advise me in those decisions.  I was looking back to something Rick said shortly after our home had been destroyed: "Our life before was great, we couldn't imagine it being better.  Right now life is good, but it will be great again."  That is my big picture - I have a great life.

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  1. Bless you. I can't explain how similar our experiences are. How many hours I've had blood drawn or sat nervously in a cold doctor's office. Waiting too long for a diagnosis. I thought I'd be happier when I received the confirmations; but I wasn't. Unfortunately, there isn't a band-aid for autoimmune disease.
    I, like you have an amazing husband that stands by my side and let's me cry and feel sorry for myself. He's also the first to make fun of me. I like that best; because it's then when I don't feel broken.
    Sending love to you.

    1. I think we have both been blessed with wonderful men. Thank heaven for that! Hang in there my friend.<3