Archive for the ‘Third Act of Life’ Category

It would be difficult to describe how busy and stressful the last year of our lives have been in a blog post short enough people would read. So, briefly, a recap would look like this:

  • Continued healing and nurturing from my iatrogenic illness
  • House hunting and purchase of the West Virginia home
  • Moved 1/2 our belongings to WV in December
  • Oversaw renovation of that home from Maryland
  • Renovated Maryland house A LOT
  • Tossed, donated and packed up 20 years of belongings
  • Found an apartment and moved oldest son
  • Listed and sold family home in 5 days
  • UN-BE-LIEVABLE stress from buyers and settlement company
  • More of that last bullet point, grrrrrr
  • Moved rest of belongings and me to WV
  • Doran returned to live with son and work for another month

Part of my mantra after dealing with my debilitating illness during 2013-14 was to appreciate everything and enjoy the journey.  For the most part that has been true, but the last few months, I will admit, were hard to enjoy.  The stress was beyond my coping ability and my compromised central nervous system just said ‘no more.’  By the time I pulled away from our Maryland home, following Doran in the rental car, I felt little.  I certainly felt no joy.  Perhaps that would be normal for anyone, but I was disappointed that the most important lesson of health – to be IN the now, had failed me.

I was also melancholy. Because of buyer demand, we settled earlier than we wanted to which meant driving separately so that Doran could return because retirement date did not align with house selling date.  And by this time games were being played on the real estate end, and the process was not going well.  Rather than he and I driving off into the sunset together free of that home and life, each of us was alone and had concerns about how the house sale would pan out.   I was decidedly un-Christian in my thoughts about real estate, buyers, and even the house made me angry.

And then a funny thing happened on the way to my new life…..God sat next to me on that drive which I thought I was making alone.  He filled my head with decades worth of memories of a van packed with kids and dog and cargo as we headed together to vacation in Canaan Valley.  I smiled and remembered.  And with each mile away from the Maryland location where I felt so much trauma over all I endured when sick…..all the loss I felt from that community….the life which truly ended when I had to hibernate with the brain/cns injury….I felt peace.  twitter

The expression ‘I felt 10 pounds lighter’ was true for me.  I found my smile as I climbed the mountain.  And, God, who we know has a sense of humor, sent me a verbal gift to go with that sense of peace I discovered in the car.  As I made my way up our dirt and gravel road away from civilization the GPS simply said: You have arrived.

Indeed.  I have.







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the next steps

My heart is heavy. This is the last night my oldest son sleeps in his childhood bedroom. Tomorrow he moves to his own apartment; Monday I move to another state 4+ hours away. I have defined the last 23 years of my life as ‘mom’. I did it joyfully and with no regrets.

My whole goal has been to raise happier, emotionally healthier children than my mom raised. I wanted my boys to understand with no doubt whatsoever that they are treasured, and valued, and cared for unconditionally, while also instilling in them the strength and confidence needed to go out into the world. All of this because I believe the Lord allowed me to have these boys in order to grow men who are destined for things I can’t imagine.  twitter

When we took our first born son to college, leaving him was something I dreaded. As his stay at home mom, and home school teacher, I wasn’t ready for the next part of the journey. How do you plop your baby in another state and drive away?

The speaker at the welcome ceremony at Grove City College was exactly who I needed to hear that morning. When he finished his talk, I was filled with the faith of the Holy Spirit that God had this and I could let go.

His words then apply now so I share them here to remind me:

You are prepared.
You have been called.
And God has a plan.

Those words 5 years ago were meant for apprehensive freshman at the start of a journey which might be frightening. Today, I repeat them for me as I begin my own new journey as long distance Mom to grown, capable, and most important, Godly, men.


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After years of dreaming of retirement to our beloved Canaan Valley, WV the time is fast drawing near. Our home of 20+ years goes on the market this week. It is one of the moments in time that you thought would never arrive, and in the blink of an eye, here it is.

If you know me, you know I talk to God daily and try very hard to turn to Him in all things, and let Him lead my steps. So, it is inevitable that this sale is a point of conversation He and I are having. One of the main goals in selling a home is getting top dollar, but I won’t be praying to God to “show us the money.”

Instead I’m praying for the following:

1) Let this home be a blessing to the next family. We couldn’t have asked for a better place to raise our kids. This home was full of good times and memories which will last forever. I hope those who follow enjoy it just as much as we did.

2) Let the next people be kind. Our neighborhood is full of amazing people who have enriched our lives. I hope whoever takes our place brings smiles and joy to those who live on this street.

3) Let there be peace throughout this process. It is stressful for everyone and I pray that things go smoothly and each of us is satisfied. We bought from owners who were deceptive and left us with expensive repairs which we made. I pray that we have been good caretakers and leave the property in better shape than when we received it.

4) Finally, I pray that when my children look back at their childhood, they recall happy memories of a loving family. I hope they know we chose people over things for a reason and that tattered furniture was a sign of time well spent with the right priorities.

I found some pictures and each made me happy. Thank you to those who crossed our threshold during our time in Rockville.

We are blessed.



PicMonkey Collage

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For those who follow my experience with the benzodiazepine Ativan (lorazepam), here’s an update.

My doctor prescribed 1 mg Ativan to be taken as needed for tongue pain caused by menopause.  After 3 months use, I developed interdose withdrawal – basically my body stopped producing gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) because the benzo was providing that.  I suffered a list of symptoms including rapid heart beat, high blood pressure, coma like fatigue (sleeping 18 hours a day), migraines, gastro pain, etc.  In one month I saw 7 doctors, including 2 visits to urgent care.  No doctor could find anything wrong except for the blood pressure which I’d never experienced before, and which went away during taper.  They wanted to add blood pressure meds (I said no), and gave me several rounds of steroids and antibiotics “just in case”.  Finally we discovered the one prescription medication I was taking is only supposed to be used short term (2-3 weeks), and every side effect I was experiencing was because I followed my doctor’s orders.

The problem with benzos is that once your brain stops producing GABA, it takes a long time for the neurons to upregulate.  If you cold turkey the benzo, or taper too rapidly, the body suffers terribly, perhaps for many years, while the brain repairs.  A successful taper means slowly reducing the amount of drug in your body in small enough amounts that you “fool it” and it isn’t shocked by the withdrawal of drug.  For me, the dose reduction that worked was .00125mg per day via a liquid micro taper.  Staying at 7% reduction per month made my symptoms bearable.  Hard, but bearable.  If you are thinking of tapering your drug, please seek advice from benzo experts in the UK who take this iatrogenic illness seriously.

It took me 17 months to taper a drug which I took for only 3 months before my brain and central nervous system were damaged.  My last dose was July 23, 2014.  I stepped off feeling close to 100% healed, and saw improvements in my health through most of the taper.  I went from blogbeing unable to sleep to unable to stay awake for 2am doses during the last few months.

When I completed the taper I still struggled with fatigue. I would get hit with sudden waves of exhaustion and inability to fight it off. I also felt lethargic and unmotivated. I wonder now if the lack of interest which continued for a while was more post traumatic stress and trying to figure out what was left of my life outside my walls. It has all gotten better.

Just like during taper, right after I stepped off, I continued to be a slave to the calendar. I watched days go by and any tiny blip gave me jolts of fear that this might be delayed withdrawal.  For some who taper too quickly, but feel okay during the taper, months later they can be slammed with symptoms.  At month 4 I knew that I should no longer fear delayed; I’d escaped that.

At month 7, despite some small remaining brain things (concentration was hard, following book plots was hard, staying interested in movies was hard), I celebrated being at 100% healed. By then I’d read enough on perimenopause, and was actively tracking my symptoms of that, I believe the remaining symptoms I was dealing with were peri not the benzo.

More recently it suddenly occurred to me that I’d listened from start to finish to 5 audio books in a row and remembered the plot. I read before bed and enjoy it. That came out of nowhere and was just normal. I’ve stopped thinking about symptoms and just live life.

The thing I think that would have helped me to know during healing is: how do you live after this experience and not be fearful or have anger?

I believe the brain engages a sort of amnesia which allows us to forget much of what we suffered. I don’t think about Ativan or what I went through on a regular basis. When I talk about it, I no longer cry. Even though I remain as an admin in my benzo support group and participate daily, my brain is forgetting what the experience was truly like. This week someone asked about physical pain and who doesn’t have it. I spent a long time trying to remember. I didn’t journal everything but I know that there were times I took 3 baths a day because the Epsom salt and essential oils were the only thing that helped with the aches. So, I can say I must have had pain, but I truly don’t remember the specifics. I know there was stuff with benzo belly and laying on my stomach in a semi fetal position when it hurt – but I can’t remember the details, how often, how bad…..

I talk less about those 2 years now because it feels more like the plot of a barely remembered book than something I struggled with 24/7. I am in an interesting position where for the first time I can see the perspective from friends and family on this – how could this possibly be true? How can one tiny drug (taken such a short time for me) have led to such damage? Especially now that it no longer feels like something I lived; it doesn’t feel like my story, my pain, my losses, because everything feels right and better.

After-benzo-Sue is happier. I don’t sweat the small stuff anymore. I’ve taken the techniques of healing, have learned how to talk myself through stuff, find alternatives like nutrition, exercise, oils, to fight what in the past would have meant an ibruprofen or doctor visit. I don’t get into a panic if I feel a twinge. I am more relaxed about everything. Went to Dunkin Donuts for a freebie coffee and just plain forgot to ask for decaf. After drinking about half, and realizing I goofed on my order, I handed the cup to my husband and never thought about it again. No panic. Had no revving of symptoms, which was nice, but still plan to avoid it.

I know many of you still exist in a place of fear given how our brains get hijacked during this season of suffering. I just want to reassure you with all my heart – it won’t be this way forever and you won’t be anchored by the baggage of this experience. One day it will all be over. You’ll come out wiser, more content, better equipped to deal with life than the average person.

You just need to hang on until your brain resets.

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What’s the job where if you do it well enough after about two decades you are guaranteed to be fired??  Oh yeah, motherhood. blog

The summers of 2013 and 2014 I was suffering from the damage caused by Ativan and it’s impact on my brain and central nervous system.  One huge side effect of that iatrogenic illness was emotional blunting.  I felt nothing.  I spent 20+ hours a day in bed just trying to survive.  Had there been a fire in my house it’s not an exaggeration to say I am unsure I could have worked up the energy to bother getting up.

During those lost years of illness my children grew up.  The youngest graduated high school and joined his brother at college.  The transition from homeschooler to successful college student was seamless.  They managed their course loads, performed well academically, chose good friends, made wise decisions.  Both have become amazing citizens and will be successful in anything they attempt.

But now I am feeling well and FEELING in general and they are living at home.  But instead of the kids I sent off to college, I’m living with two adult males who no longer need a mommy.  That’s been my identity and the only job I was designed for since June 1993.  My brain knows I’ve done my job well and it’s time, but my heart says “just a little longer please.”  I’m grateful that I can again feel all the emotions God gifted us with, but some days I wish that elusive time machine would finally be built so I could hold my boy’s hands and relive some of the best years of my life.

I love this scene from Galaxy Quest.  Gwen sums up what I was and what I shall always be.  Please watch:


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Today is Mother’s Day but this post isn’t so much about being a mother as it is about family. A few weeks ago, going through my mom’s things left to me on her passing, I rediscovered my grandmother’s mother’s ring. These rings are the piece of jewelry given to many moms with birthstones representing their kids.

I slipped Grandmas ring on and it fit perfectly.  Like it was made for me.  I have found myself looking at my no-longer-young hand and thinking of Grandma.  blog4Remembering fondly the many summers spent with her, my aunt & uncle and cousins who enriched my childhood. Time and distance, families and responsibilities of our own means close family ties get farther and farther apart, but those memories are precious to me.  Baseball games, Marco Polo, Del’s lemonade, Tripoley….fun.

As an adult who had great conversations with my Uncle who is no longer with us, I now realize they worked hard to help improve a childhood they knew was not easy.  Uncle Bob & Aunt Pauline were the example of a loving married couple who doted on their kids and took in my Grandma and cared for her.  Contrast that to my own Mom’s example of three marriages (by the 70s when divorce wasn’t as common), walking away from two kids, emotional abuse….

I feel eternally grateful that I had summers living with a family that not only showed me what family was supposed to be like, but gave me a goal to achieve.  I wanted for my kids what my cousins enjoyed.  God is good and I married a man from a similar emotionally unhealthy childhood and we broke the cycle we could have repeated and instead created a close family with lots of love and memories of our own.

Mother’s Day is not an easy holiday for many.  We didn’t all get the moms we wanted and even as adults may still be dealing with toxic relationships and hurts.  If this is your story, I am so sorry.  I feel your pain.

I won’t be thinking of my own mom today with gratitude; I just can’t.  Instead, I’m focusing on the whole family who helped me grow to be the person I am now.  I’m remembering summers in Pawtucket.  I’m thinking of my two guys knee deep in final exams.  Praying for my many “kids” I’ve adopted in my heart as my own.  Dreaming of a future in our soon to be home of West Virginia, the birthplace of all the kids in Grandma’s ring.  And I’m hoping that when my boys are grown and raising kids of their own, they will remember their mom as the person who loved them beyond measure and was proud of the men they became.

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