Update: Stroke of Grace has become In Darkness Sing and has moved to JenniferSaake.com.

Thirty-nine-year-old Jennifer Saake (founder, Hannah's Prayer Ministries), experienced 6 strokes via vertebral dissection at a chiropractic office, including brain stem and cerebellum bleeds, in Oct. 2011. Jenni remained hospitalized for nearly 2 months and was not expected to live (near death experience) nor recover, but if she even survived, she was slated to live out her days in a nursing home or, best case, to maybe come home but wheelchair-bound and needing 24-hour care. At 5 years, 7 months God showed how He was writing her story from the beginning.

Jenni is currently writing more books and stays active on both Facebook and Pinterest. Stroke of Grace became In Darkness Sing in early 2018 and has moved, along with all five of Jennifer's active blogs, to one location at JenniferSaake.com.

Since Jenni's chiropractor carried no insurance and moved out of the country soon after the accident (thus avoiding any legal or financial consequences), if you would like to help contribute to the Saake (pronounced like the two small words, say and key) family's massive financial needs (medical expenses alone are estimated to cost between $1- and $1.5- Million in Jenni's lifetime), please visit Jennifer Saake's Stroke Survivor GoFundMe Page. (This support information has been added in direct response to several reader requests.) The Saakes sincerely thank you for your prayers and if God prompts and equips you to send any monetary assistance as well, this is a significant added blessing.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Almost 34 Months

The bulk of what I want to share are my thoughts on depression and suicide, spurred on my blogging from Gay Idol and her post Tears of a Clown, reflections on Robin Williams' suicide.  You may read my thoughts by following my link to Gay's blog, or in the quote (of my own words) in pink, at the end of today's post.

I had another two month lag in water therapy. These things sometimes happen when you are without a driver's license and others in your life have their own lives to live, oh, like surgery! (Mom's recovering slowly, but nicely. Thanks for your prayers!) When I returned to the gym this week, it was interesting how my left leg throbbed within about two minutes of being in the water, before I had even asked it to do much yet. It was like a whining little kid, complaining at what it knew I was about to ask of it. Crazy!

Oh the good news side, I came the closest I have come since the strokes to actually being able to balance and walk the straight pool line in the water. Granted, by best attempt probably still wouldn't equate to you worst try, but I'm seeing a wee bit improvement in "tightrope" style walking that has totally eluded me all the months and that's exciting! Also my hips and shoulders responded really well to the return to the pool, significant reductions in pain in these areas.

My lower back was a bit achy for a day of so, just normal muscle protest from restarting use of muscles that have been relatively neglected for too long. My neck, not too happy with me, thus some pretty intense headaches, but better than the "good" hip that had gotten so angry over my unsteady gait. Win some, loose some. It is what it is.

I have dealt with a lot of hiccups since my strokes. I've read this is a cerebellar or brain stem issue, I can't remember which and honestly don't feel up to trying to track down that particular bit of trivia at the moment. I just remember it was such a constant in the rehab hospital that my therapists always knew I was rolling down the hall well before I got there. The first year home was still pretty bad, but the past several months it is usually just a few random hiccups here and there, scattered throughout almost every day, along with the occasional "normal" round of hiccups anyone might face, apparently often aggravation of the Vega (?) nerve running from the brain to abdomen. Yesterday I got hit with those reminiscent to the hospital, for the first time in many months. Hard, fierce, several-a-minute, shake-your-rib-cage, punch-you-in-the-gut, unrelenting for over half an hour. Frustrating and painful! Loud and all-consuming. Holding breath didn't slow them in the least, nor drinking water. I was about to try a sugar trick a friend suggested when they stopped just as abruptly and inexplicably as they started. I had a few more random hiccups throughout the rest of the day, but nothing significant. Nothing today. Living in stroke recovery is just plain odd!

They are well past their prime and I really wish I had taken pictures two or three days ago, but this is the daily joy and encouraging view from my chair, given to me by my hubby last week in celebration of God's grace in giving us 22 years of marriage that so easily should not have weathered many of those years:

So often the church at large wants to make depression a purely spiritual issue. That as long as you are a Christian you cannot possibly face depression and still be in a right relationship with the Lord. I love how you talked of the complex interaction between mind, spirit and body then said, "That is not to say that people who are Christians do not struggle with depression. Some do. But the answers to our deepest longings can be found in Him. Joy is not a condition of the heart that is brought about by the perfect circumstances in life. Joy is the hope in the One who is our salvation, our hope, and our grace, in spite of the pains, the wounds that we attain in this life on earth. Joy comes about when we allow those feelings of anxiousness, and fear turn us to God, remembering His goodness, even when our world seems to be falling apart; trusting the One who can bring us through the storms of life." 

After my strokes I was deeply depressed (sudden blindness, hearing loss, serious nerve pain, loss of any form of self balance or ability to walk, could do that to a person!) but I surrounded myself with praise music, audio Bibles, and a couple months in when I could finally make limited use of a large print Bible, submerged myself in Scripture that way too. I prayed rather continually and sought the Lord daily, fervently. The pastor, elders, friends would come pray over me, with me. Still, I grew more and more depressed and quite suicidal for many months. 

About 6 months in my doctor convinced me to try an antidepressant, something I had resisted up until this time, thinking depression to be purely circumstantial and needing greater spiritual discipline to come through the storm. We didn't get the medication correctly balanced the very first try, but it was a starting point. Within a few weeks, it was doing enough good that I could see small rays of hope breaking through my despair for the first time, enough so that I was willing to continue working with my doctor to find the correct dose (that, once achieved, offered a night and day difference!). As it turned out, the strokes had caused enough damage to specific emotional processing centers of my brain and the overall chemical balance of this organ, that short of God's divine healing, my brain was simply incapable of creating anything other than a deep, dark slimy pit where joyful emotions should be. The medication was providing a better balance of the chemicals my body should have already been producing on its own, but was simply incapable of now.
Once I got on the right dosage of medication, my body had also had many months to gain physical healing, so the circumstances, while still daunting, were no longer as intensely grim nor dire. I also gained insurance approval to start counseling, so I finally had professional help to start unpacking emotional baggage. When the mind and body were properly addressed, ALONG WITH the spiritual, then there was room for spiritual healing as well. My prayer, from the beginning had been "restore to me the joy of Your salvation" and God DID both renew a right spirit within me and overwhelm me with His joy.
At almost 3 years, I now walk with a cane, have mostly restored vision, have regained a little hearing, but the chronic physical pain issues become more intense all the time (and were horrid to start with). So if we are going purely by circumstantial issues, there are great gains in some areas and ongoing losses in others. But I will tell you, I would so much rather choose this physical pain along with restored hope, than the emotional/spiritual writhing of depression!
Lest you think I am making an argument for depression being purely chemical, physical or circumstantial, I still believe there is a great spiritual interplay as well. A year ago I went through several weeks of a slippery slide springily downward, back into the slimy pit. I couldn't understand what nor why this was happening. I was on the verge of calling my doctor and asking him to raise my antidepressant dose, when a STILL SMALL VOICE broke through to my heart to remind me I had been neglecting consistent time alone with Him over recent weeks. Oh, my life was filled with good "Christian things" but in the new-found business, one-on-one intimacy with the Lord was lacking.
I returned to Him, confessed my neglect, and recommitted myself to seeking out priority alone time with Christ. Amazingly, all traces of my heavy heart vanished within a few days! When I start to struggle now, as I still do at times, my first question is always honest self-evaluation of the state of intimacy I'm enjoying (or not) with my Heavenly Father. Often a little adjustment there will make an indescribably amount of difference! If it doesn't bring about immediate positive change, I now know there could be other physical or mental issues at play, so I think through recent dietary choices, physical exercise schedule, check my pill box to be sure I haven't been missing any antidepressant doses over the past week, and I have yet to face a time when the heart/soul, mind and body are all being cared for as they should that I could even fathom suicide as a viable option anymore! 

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