Healing begins with knowledge: understanding the emotional impact of IC

JUNE 29, 2016 – Last week I wrote about dejection; today it’s anxiety. This current season of feelings, beginning with extreme aggravation, moving towards dejection and now morphing into anxiety has me quite puzzled. After this past weekend I needed to step back and try to understand just what was going on,

Last week I anticipated a wonderful weekend away with my husband at Hampton Beach, NH. I looked forward to the carnival atmosphere, the gorgeous pristine beaches along Route 1A, the shops and restaurants, and finally, the Happy Together Tour featuring singers and bands of the 1960s (The Turtles, The Cowsills, Mark Lindsay, Billy J. Kramer, Chuck Negron and Gary Puckett).

hamptonbeach

Happy-Together-Cover

The weather was perfection – upper 70s with a refreshing onshore wind. My husband and I have needed this time together after the last hectic few months.

And yet during the trip I was overcome with anxiety. Why?

I have continued to ask God for healing as I pray for friends and family as I sensed I needed those prayers. Just as the book lifted me up and out of myself, prayers for healing uncovered information that related directly to my anxiety. It came from a most unexpected source.

I am researching a biography at the moment and have several years’ worth of notes. They need organizing so today I attended to that.  In the course of the task, I came across an article called “The Psychological Effects of IC.”

ICJust what is IC? Short for Interstital Cystitis, IC is a painful and chronic urinary condition. When paired with Overactive Bladder (which I also have) sufferers experience sudden urges to urinate. If you are not near a bathroom, it can be an excruciating experience both physically and emotionally. It can be quite embarrassing as well. Over time you are conditioned to place the needs of your bladder above all else. I go nowhere now without immediately scouting out bathrooms.

It took years to have this condition diagnosed. Heck, it took years to get a doctor to take my complaints seriously! I took meditation for the Overactive Bladder but it did nothing for the IC. Over time I learned what foods to avoid. The discovery of AZO products (especially Bladder Control Go Less) finally began to bring my IC under control, at least during the daytime. Nighttime is another story (and for another day).

What I have discovered about IC is that it is triggered by stress and anxiety. Going away from home is a sure-fire way to trigger it. If you are not sure where the next bathroom is, you are going to obsess over finding one. Such stress triggers flare ups and before you know it, you’re in a vicious cycle.

What I did not know, however, was that there are long term emotional consequences, something I had begun to suspect after coming home from our weekend. The article I stumbled upon today confirmed that suspicion:

“Although IC is a physiological disease, the effects are emotional. The pain of IC automatically induces an emotional response … The messages from the bladder pain can make a patient feel upset, emotional and depressed as a result.”

In my case, it’s panic. And that’s what I kept experiencing in the lovely yet unfamiliar setting of Hampton Beach, NH. That, and hyper-vigilance:

“IC patients may be seen as emotionally laden victims of a traumatic experience demonstrating hyper-vigilant behavior (the need to be on guard against harm), instead of a person in need of medication to calm the unsettling symptoms of interstitial cystitis.”

This may sound a bit dramatic but the fact it that it is true. This article described my experience to perfection. There was more:

“IC is a daily responsibility … it is not a situational stress that will resolve in time. And, even though most of us build a certain amount of tolerance to the everyday bladder sensitivity (not the painful flare-ups), we still have to place our bladder needs first.”

The world with IC can become very small. And, problems can seem too big to overcome. Sometimes the limitations can make us feel stuck, sometimes with no hope for the future.”

anxietyMy world has definitely shrunk as demonstrated by the tremendous anxiety I experience whenever I have to go away. I am a confirmed homebody—no trip to Europe for me. I chaperone confirmation retreats twice yearly and each weekend is a constant struggle with anxiety-induced obsessive and compulsive tendencies that interfere with my work on the retreat. Finally I have a better understanding of WHY.

I reflected a bit before sharing this blog post. IC and Overactive Bladder are hardly things spoken about freely in polite company. I don’t even know anyone who has it though I know it’s common. So why share this with you?

  • First of all, because someone out there might also be a sufferer and perhaps, this information can be helpful to them.
  • Secondly, to show that healing that comes through God’s grace is more often revealed in steps rather than granted miraculously. But just because a healing unfolds rather than effects an instant cure doesn’t make it any less miraculous in my mind.

I am convinced that because I approached God in prayer for healing (even though I didn’t specify what the healing ought to be) that he gave me the mindfulness to pay attention to this article when I found it.

We’re told that knowledge is half the battle. I believe that. This knowledge has given me great relief.

  • I’m not going crazy.
  • There is a reasonable explanation.
  • Now I know what to ask for in prayer for my healing.

This wave of anxiety will, in fact, pass. And when I feel it return, I know where to go and Who to ask when I need help.

p.s. Those of you suffering from Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome – there is something for you in “The Psychological Effects of IC.” Something tells me we have walked down a similar path.

 

 

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Many people find coloring to be a wonderful way to relax and experience harmony in their lives. Is that you? Join my Email List to subscribe to this blog and receive your free Harmony coloring book (and more).

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Susan Bailey, Author, Speaker, Musician on Facebook and Twitter
Read my other blog, Louisa May Alcott is My Passion

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What makes you think of spiritual things? Here’s an exercise to help you identify them.

flow lesson logo-640
Materials needed: pen or pencil and paper, and your memories

Pick a quiet place in your home to do this exercise and make sure you can sit still comfortably for several minutes.

Be still

Take a moment to be still with God, taking several long and deep breaths and listening as you breathe. In and out, in and out. Be conscious of the rhythm of the breathing. As you breathe in, whisper the name of Jesus; as you breathe out whisper, “Be with me.” Do this for several moments until you feel quiet and still. Continue reading “What makes you think of spiritual things? Here’s an exercise to help you identify them.”

Lifted up and out—breaking free from dejection

jenny on my lapJUNE 20, 2016 — We all go through spells where we feel blue, even downright dejected. I know lately I’ve been waking up in the morning and feeling a sense of dread about facing a new day. Those fears and anxieties that lie just below the surface tend to be magnified in the wee hours of the morning before the alarm goes off. A quick cup of coffee, some time in prayer with Jenny on my lap purring, and those feelings begin to dissipate. Lately however, I’ve had a harder time getting them to leave me.

One of the psalms that I pray each morning describes dejection to the point of despair:

You have put me in the lowest pit,
in the darkest depths.
Your wrath lies heavily on me;
you have overwhelmed me with all your waves.
You have taken from me my closest friends
and have made me repulsive to them.
I am confined and cannot escape;
my eyes are dim with grief.

Psalm 88, 6-9 NIV

Most days I think of those I have known who have experienced that kind of despair. I think too of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane, overcome by the knowledge of the suffering he would experience. But some days, I think of me.

I pride myself with knowing why I feel the way I do—I am introspective by nature, and to a fault. But lately I am not clear as to why I feel the way I do. Perhaps it’s the cycle of days seeming to go by faster and faster. It could be those small aches and pains of age reminding me that youth is long over. Maybe I need to stop paying attention to the news because the world no longer makes sense. Maybe I need to stop being so introspective!

I prayed to God today during that psalm and I prayed again during the one o’clock hour when I lift up petitions of healing for family and friends. I rarely include myself but today I did. I asked for grace to come up out of myself, to be lifted up and out. And my prayer was answered.

pedlar's progressI am reading an antique book printed in 1937 about an historical figure, Amos Bronson Alcott. The book is large, its pages browning, the paper soft to the touch. The spine is such that that the book stays open by itself. The cover is exquisite, vintage 1930s art in earth tones. The biographer is totally immersed in his subject, revealing to me the mind and the heart of one of recent histories’ biggest conundrums. Alcott was a man of extremes—at once brilliant, original, insightful while at the same time blind to the physical needs of his family, unable, unwilling at times to work to support them. He drew amazing creativity out of his daughters but inflicted great scars through his demands for perfection and virtue, causing one to become a workaholic to support the family while constantly striving to prove her virtue (Louisa) while another found that virtue perfectly in death rather than life (Lizzie).

peddlar's progressWith all his fatal flaws, Amos Bronson Alcott is a fascinating figure and Odell Shepherd, the biographer, writes about the man with incredible beauty and insight. Some call it “old-fashioned” but I say that Shepherd, because he wrote the book only forty-nine years after Alcott’s death, was closer to him that current biographers could ever hope to be. Perhaps the writing style is “dated;” the fact that there are no footnotes proves to be frustrating for scholars. But there is general agreement that the work is authentic. And that’s why it speaks to me.

And today during my lunch break as I read, scribbling notes in the margins, I found myself being lifted out of my dejection by the sheer beauty of the words and the tactile experience of holding that magnificent old book.

God answered my prayer. Through the experience of reading, I could be lifted out of the prison of myself, my eyes no longer dimmed with grief, my spirit no longer overcome with waves. Because I could get lost in the life of another through the exquisite writing of his biographer, I could receive a gift of grace.

We all have tools we use to help ourselves feel better when we are blue. Some like to listen to music, go for a walk, take a swim or see friends. These are all gifts of grace from God who knows our every need. In my case, rather late in life, I was given the grace to lose myself in a book and in the lives of fascinating historical figures.

Thank you Lord.

 

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Many people find coloring to be a wonderful way to relax and experience harmony in their lives. Is that you? Join my Email List to subscribe to this blog and receive your free Harmony coloring book (and more).

River of Grace Audio book with soundtrack music available now on Bandcamp. Listen to the preface of the book, and all the songs.

Susan Bailey, Author, Speaker, Musician on Facebook and Twitter
Read my other blog, Louisa May Alcott is My Passion

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Reaching my weight loss goal through the toolbox of Grace

My latest Catholic Free Press column (June 17, 2016)

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Grace is invisible.

We feel its power pushing us forward, carrying us as does a river’s current. It takes us many places both serene and chaotic. It molds and shapes us. Yet there’s nothing concrete to grasp onto. We cannot dip our hands into its waters nor physically feel that current.

Or can we?

Continue reading “Reaching my weight loss goal through the toolbox of Grace”

My secret sin – My secret singing

This is my latest column in The Catholic Free Press.

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I have a lifelong habit of talking to myself. I don’t consider a thought to be valid unless it is spoken out loud.

I’m that crazy lady you see barreling down the highway with hands waving and a mouth that never stops moving. I do my best brainstorming in the car. I also vent. My face displays my mood for all to see: happy, sad, excited, angry. I am oblivious to anyone around me and so I let loose.

So what possible harm can there be in all that? This has been the lesson of my Lent this year.

thirty steps to heavenWhile reading a book by Father Vassilios Papavassiliou, a Greek Orthodox priest called Thirty Steps to Heaven: The Ladder of Divine Ascent for All Walks of Life, I came across a chapter titled “Talkativeness and Silence.” There was another chapter further in called “Stillness.” Stillness is something I have long desired but felt I could not achieve. I can’t sit still for one moment without fidgeting nor can I keep my mind from racing. Furthermore, I cannot seem to get out of the prison of myself. These chapters both outlined the problem and offered solutions. The tools are simple to use but the task is impossible without God’s grace.

The chapter on “Talkativeness and Silence” made it clear that talking to myself was often not a good thing. For one thing, it creates noise that blocks communion with God–how can I listen above the din of my own voice? Talking to myself leads me deep within but not to the place where God dwells.

I have a hot temper and am easily aggravated; frequent venting is the result. Such open expression of my anger in private stokes negative feelings that spill over to others. A perfect example is road rage—in my outburst of anger against the driver who supposedly wronged me I judge someone unjustly. The more I rage, the more aggressively I drive to the point where it could endanger others. Road rage sometimes interrupts prayer, severing communion with God. It takes a great deal of effort to restart that conversation.

Cursing to myself happens without a thought. The inability to control that urge in private makes it harder to control my tongue in public, going beyond simple cursing to gossip and hurtful words towards others. Cursing to myself reinforces those behaviors.

Father Papavassiliou is right: “As long as we consider the tongue to be autonomous—something that falls outside the scope of Christian ascesis, something independent of God—it will inevitably become a tool of sin.”

Talking-to-Self

The Scriptures tell us that there’s no such thing as a private sin: “For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open”–Luke 8:17 (NIV)

You may not talk to yourself but everyone harbors thoughts. Where do those thoughts lead you? How do you express them? There is no thought that will not be revealed in one form or another. Those of us who vocalize our thoughts, even if just to ourselves exacerbate the danger of those thoughts harming someone else.

Conquering a lifetime of venting, lamenting and cursing seems like an impossible task. By my own power–not doable. Through an all merciful and powerful God, it will be done, especially as I humble myself and ask others to pray for me. The grace that comes through those prayers will help to control my tongue. Replacing negative thoughts with remembrances of all the wonderful ways God has blessed me is a powerful way to dispel any negativity.

Toni Birrer Complaining
Toni Birrer Complaining, Flickr Creative Commons

In asking God for help with my tongue, he has given me a wonderful tool—singing. Father Papavassiliou recommends this too. Therefore, if you see me driving down the Mass Pike, mouth moving and face happy and determined, you may witness me using this tool. The scriptures recommend it: “psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord (Ephesians 5:19, NIV). It does a world of good for my soul, driving out wrongful thoughts. I know it silences my tongue.

For more aids to your Lenten journey, visit the Lenten Resources page for posts, podcasts, music and videos.

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Keep up with news and free giveaways regarding Susan’s new books, River of Grace
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Susan Bailey, Author, Speaker, Musician on Facebook and Twitter
Read Susan’s blog, Louisa May Alcott is My Passion

“Do you want to be healed?” is a tricky question.

father-steven-labaireI am pleased to present this guest post from
Father Steven LaBaire, pastor of Holy Family Parish in Worcester, MA.

Today’s gospel reading (John 5:1-16) at the Pool of Bethesda where Jesus heals the man who had been lame for over thirty years struck a familiar chord. In that reading, Jesus asks a most obvious question: “Do you want to be healed?” He sensed that the man having been ill for so long, was stuck in that mode.

pool-of-bethesda-949739-print
The Pool of Bethesda

I remember hearing that question in my head when I had my throat blessed two years ago on the Feast of St. Blaise--that blessing healed my singing voice. Actually my answer to the question at that point was “No!”

Why the heck not??

I no longer wanted the responsibility associated with being a singer. It sounds ridiculous even as I write this but leading the singing at mass each week had become a grind. That’s what happens when you do it too long without a break. It was time to step aside and I used my lack of singing voice to do that. I sure as heck didn’t want my voice to come back–it would take away my excuse!

cantering

Eventually I came to understand that it was perfectly okay to take time away. I have only just returned to singing in church but this time as a member of the choir, without the leadership responsibility.

Get that elephant off of me!

Then there was the feeling of being stuck when it came to my weight. I felt like I had an elephant sitting on top of me–loosing weight seemed like an impossibility.

elephant on chest

A rare hour spent in church in front of the monstrance changed everything. The grace I received from that time of prayer helped me to gently prod the elephant to move away. He did and I was able to embrace my diet (which is now a chosen lifestyle). I’ve lost 22 of the 27 pounds that I wish to lose. That elephant will not visit me again.

Praying at home

As I wrote in my spiritual journal, “Is My Day Your Day,”  Even though I felt the insistent call again and again to stop, be still and pray, I could not get myself to do it. Again, it was time spent in adoration that caused that elephant to move away as well.

prayer corner4 smaller

True healing

I was healed: my voice came back, I lost the weight, I’ve started praying in my corner each morning and each night.

Healing removes burdens, not just of the physical ailment or stubborn mindset, but of the guilt and attachment associated with those things.

Sometimes it is there for so long that it becomes your identity. It can be a excuse to avoid doing something that is difficult. It definitely requires a truthful assessment of yourself and that can be painful.

All of that was true. But in each case, I experienced transformation. SO worth it!

Not such a simple question is it: “Do you want to be healed?”

For aids to your Lenten journey, visit the Lenten Resources page for posts, podcasts, music and videos.

00 twitter profile 400x400both books river first-640Join my Email List (special surprises just for you!)
to subscribe to this blog.
Keep up with news and free giveaways regarding Susan’s new books, River of Grace
and Louisa May Alcott: Iluminated by The Message!
Susan Bailey, Author, Speaker, Musician on Facebook and Twitter
Read Susan’s blog, Louisa May Alcott is My Passion

Find Susan’s books here on AmazonPurchase Susan’s CD.

Getting beyond “I’m not good enough” – this week’s Gospel reflection by Father Steven LaBaire

father steven labaireI am pleased to present this guest post from Father Steven LaBaire, pastor of Holy Family Parish in Worcester, MA.

This Sunday’s gospel is about some fishermen who encounter Jesus. (Luke 5:1-11)

One of the fishermen, Simon Peter, is so overwhelmed by his meeting Jesus that he actually tells Jesus to go away. Yes, he really says that to Jesus.

“Go away from me, for I’m a sinful man.” In other words, “ Leave, please leave … I’m not good enough.”

Have you ever had the experience of feeling “not good enough?”

  • Not “good enough” to make the team.
  • Not” good enough” to be invited to that party.
  • Not “good enough” to be her friend.
  • Not “good enough” to be loved by him.
  • Not “good enough” to be remembered or thought of… by “them.”

One of the saddest experiences of being a priest is when I ask someone to serve the church in some way and instead of a smile of acceptance, I see a bewildered face that replies:

“Father, I’d love to… but… I’m not good enough.  I’m unworthy of that…”

(In other words, I’ve got some stuff I’m not proud of. I’ve got “skeletons” in my closet.  I’ve got a past. There are parts of my story I don’t want to share or for you to know about.)

Like Simon Peter, we cannot imagine God passionately in love with us, who so often have felt “not good enough.”

But that is the “mystery” of God: that God loves us despite ourselves. We’re loved anyway. (Hard to really  get that through our heads sometimes, isn’t it?)

Notice that Jesus refuses to heed Simon Peter’s request “to go away.”

And Jesus goes on to tell him. “Don’t be afraid.” ( In other words: Don’t be afraid of being imperfect. Don’t fear your humanity. That’s the way you were made. God will put it to good use.)

Beryl Allee Skeletons in My Closet, Flickr Creative Commons
Beryl Allee Skeletons in My Closet, Flickr Creative Commons
Leonard J shoes of the fisherman, Flickr Creative Commons
Leonard J shoes of the fisherman, Flickr Creative Commons

Simon Peter then leaves everything behind and follows Jesus.

When we stop being afraid of “not being good enough,” God can lead us down some amazing paths. God will even make us better people.

Being imperfect is no excuse for not doing the work that Jesus calls us to do. Being imperfect doesn’t exclude anyone from being loved by God.

And that’s more than being “good enough.”

That’s  grace.

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Do we go to church to hear what we want to hear? This week’s gospel reflection by Father Steven LaBaire

father steven labaireI am pleased to present this guest post from Father Steven LaBaire, pastor of Holy Family Parish in Worcester, MA.

 

 

This Sunday’s gospel tells us that Jesus began to speak publicly in the synagogue (Luke 4:21-30).

At first, the people seem to like what he has to say. “And all were spoke highly of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth.”

But then, things suddenly change.

Jesus makes a reference to Old Testament story about how God worked great deeds through some non-Jewish folks in the past.

He infers that God’s grace is being extended beyond the Jews to Gentiles.

Theresa J. Marquez Jesus is preaching in the synagogue, Flickr Creative Commons
Theresa J. Marquez Jesus is preaching in the synagogue, Flickr Creative Commons

That’s not what the congregation wants to hear.

And that’s when things start going downhill…literally.

When the people hear this, they drive him out of his own town. They are furious.

They even try to throw him down a hill.

But Jesus escapes and moves on to the next town.

The story raises some good questions about the gospel we hear on Sundays.

The message of Jesus wasn’t meant to please audiences the way political candidates sometimes craft their messages to please their audiences and to get applause.

Jesus was popular as long people liked what he had to say. When they didn’t, popularity wasn’t one of Jesus’ assets.

www.slideshare.net
www.slideshare.net

Do we go to church to hear what we want to hear?
To reinforce what we already think?

The gospel is always “good news” but it isn’t always comfortable because it stretches us beyond our comfort zones.

And, over the course of time we’re bound to hear something at Mass that unsettles our ideas about right and wrong:

  • about justice, mercy and forgiveness;
  • about our responsibility in the face of human misery;
  • about death and our ultimate accountability and judgment;
  • and about the dignity of every human life.

There’s an old saying that the gospel (and the sermon) is meant to “trouble the comfortable and comfort the troubled.”

When we feel challenged or unsettled by the Gospel, what will our response be? Amazement or fury?

Will we “expel” the message and the messenger as did the inhabitants of that unreceptive village?

Or, will we ask for the Grace, to re-think everything in life and ask the Divine Teacher to lead us where we need to go?

00 twitter profile 400x400both books river first-640Join my Email List (special surprises just for you!)
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Keep up with news and free giveaways regarding Susan’s new books, River of Grace
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Susan Bailey, Author, Speaker, Musician on Facebook and Twitter
Read Susan’s blog, Louisa May Alcott is My Passion

Find Susan’s books here on AmazonPurchase Susan’s CD.

 

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Facing challenges in our lives–an interview on Relevant Radio.

relevant radioI had a wonderful conversation with John Harper on Relevant Radio’s Morning Air program. He did a great job of encapsulating the hopeful message of River of Grace. Here’s the interview:

I was in good company judging from the guests:

morning air

Be sure and visit the show’s archive page to hear these other guests. I have Sarah Reinhard’s wonderful book, Word by Word, on the Hail Mary and just received Lisa Maldinich’s book called True Radiance: Finding Grace in the Second Half of Life (with a stunning front cover). Great stuff out there!

You can find River of Grace in paperback, audio and ebook on Amazon.

For those of you who live in the Central Massachusetts area, come on out to the Westborough Public Library in Westborough, MA between 12 and 3 on Saturday, the 14th. See you there!

00 twitter profile 400x400both books river firstJoin my Email List (special surprises just for you!)
to subscribe to this blog.
Keep up with news and free giveaways regarding Susan’s new books, River of Grace
and Louisa May Alcott: Iluminated by The Message!
Susan Bailey, Author, Speaker, Musician on Facebook and Twitter
Read Susan’s blog, Louisa May Alcott is My Passion

Find Susan’s books here on AmazonPurchase Susan’s CD.