Addicted to the Chase
At the ripe old age of five, on our 70‘s style lime green sofa, my pastor explained to me the difference between living my life with me in control or living with God in control. I was raised in a Christian home and attended church regularly, so by the time I turned seven, I knew it was time to make the decision to let God have control. My pastor prayed a prayer with me, I accepted Christ as my savior, and I never looked back.
This was the only life I really knew. Both of my parents were Christians and we went to church every time the doors were open. I attended a Christian school where we studied Bible as a regular subject and memorized “catechisms” (passages of scripture from the Bible) weekly. My friends were Christians; I attended summer camp with church groups, and was very sheltered in “the ways of the world”. My dad wasn’t even sure he wanted to have children because he could not justify bringing a child into this world, and once I came along, my parents never even discussed having another child.
As a teenager and young adult, I listened to speakers with dynamic testimonies. In my minds eye, they’d lived a modern day fairy tale. Their stories tugged at my heartstrings as “once upon a time” was followed by “miserably ever after” with the pain of drugs, depression, or abuse. Then, after a huge appearance from God, they began “happily ever after.” Speakers Beth Moore and Joyce Meyer show an intense passion when they speak. Their love for and relationship with God is evident. While intrigued by their passion and longing for a close relationship with God, I could never feel the passion they did for their Savior. Their passion seemed to be a combination of personality and testimony. I had neither. I would say my personality overall is (well, was) somewhat quiet and shy, and my testimony was no exciting fairy tale!
By the age of 34, my husband and I owned a successful business, I worked part time as a pharmacist, we had three children, and a nice home. Who could ask for more? I was living the American dream…until…
On a beautiful April Saturday morning, we walked into our local pottery studio filled with the excitement of kids buzzing around picking out their paint colors, just itching to get good and messy! Miranda was especially excited, as this was her best friend’s party. The kids at the party were together at a large table, and Trevor and I were painting tiles at another table. From that moment, I remember very little. According to Trevor, I muttered something like, “oh no” and fell forward onto the floor having a seizure. If you have never seen someone have a grand mal seizure, it can be quite disturbing. When a seizure starts, all muscle control is gone, and your body goes crashing to the floor, hitting whatever might be in your way with the full force of your dead weight. Then your body shakes for about 20 seconds or so, you usually bite your tongue, and you are in an unconscious to semiconscious state for about at hour. It is a blessing you don’t remember anything, because it is truly a freaky sight!
After this seizure, I remember the paramedic calling out my name to me over and over, “Celeste, Celeste, can you hear me?” This memory still haunts me today. Upon awakening, I am sure my eyes were filled with fear. I was a prisoner in my own body, unable to communicate, and had absolutely no memory of what happened. The red flashing lights of the ambulance and fire trucks and the blue lights of a police car were dancing in the air just outside. It took me awhile to realize that all of that was because of me! The cavalry had arrived.
Then the paramedics start asking me all kinds of questions.
“Do you know what year it is? Who is the president of the United States? What is your husband’s name?”
My husband’s name? I don’t even know my own name.
I’m sure the clenching of my fists and my saucer like eyes revealed my fear and confusion. I didn’t even recognize my own name.
Now imagine this image from the perspective of 5 and 9 year old children. When Trevor saw me hit the floor, he thought I was dead. Miranda, at the age of 9, had those big sister instincts kick in and she just grabbed Trevor and held him as they watched everyone scramble to get help on the way and try to figure out what was happening. To this day, Trevor will see his tile of a red and green stegosaurus on the wall and say, “That’s the tile I was painting when my mom had her first seizure”.
Since turning 30, I have suffered with migraine headaches. Though not debilitating, they were difficult enough to prompt me to find a neurologist. In his opinion, this seizure was probably an isolated event, caused mainly from stress and lack of sleep, and chose not to put me on anti-seizure medication. In South Carolina, when you have a seizure, you cannot drive for 6 months, unless you are on medication, in which case you must wait for 3 months. I waited the legal amount of time (6 months) before driving, which was very difficult with three kids. I was “lucky” enough to have another seizure right when I was supposed to be able to drive again! My neurologist started trying different seizure medications. After dealing with some frustrating side effects, we finally found the one that seemed to work best for me.
The next seven years proved to be very difficult.
During those seven years, I learned to identify with many different groups of suffering people. I experienced things I never thought I would, especially as a pharmacist. After the first snowball hit–that first seizure–more snowballs began to roll until it became a full-blown avalanche.
I lost my independence when I became unable to drive.
I had to begin taking seizure medication. The first prescription I tried was Depakote, which made gain 15 pounds the first month I took it. (Needless to say I switched to another drug, but I still haven’t lost those extra bulges!)
Depression soon settled in for a long, unwelcome visit.
Probably the most shocking and frustrating experience I had led me to identify with people addicted to prescription drugs. After a seizure, broken nose, and resulting sinus surgery, I ended up taking Lortab for about two months. Once I’d healed from the surgery and no longer needed the Lortab for pain, I stopped taking it and began throwing up. Suddenly my body needed this stupid drug to just feel normal! Now as a pharmacist and a perfectionist, the fact that I had allowed this to happen was embarrassing and I was ashamed of myself. I guess I thought since I was a pharmacist, I was smart enough not to let something like that happen. Luckily, I realized the problem and immediately sought the help I needed to get off of it.
As you can probably imagine, guilt was an unwelcome resident in my brain as well. Between the inability to drive, the depression, and the medications I had to take, I felt like a horrible mom and wife. In sharing my story I hope to shed a new light on the dangers of prescriptions drugs that affect your brain, and reveal the foot in the door that Satan gets when our minds are weakened from disease, depression, and drugs.
Once I had to take the seizure and pain medications, both of which directly affected my brain, it seemed as though my doctors kept prescribing more and more meds to try for my migraines, depression, seizures, and insomnia…and I am quite sure if I had gone to a doctor for the overall and fatigue and generalized pain I felt, I would have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia, and more prescriptions would have ensued. I tried some of the meds they suggested, and refused others. The seizures, constant migraines, medications, and depression had my brain in a completely bumfuzzled state. I not only gave Satan a foot in the door, but a chauffer escorting his evilness through a wide open gate with a party waiting inside!
There were times I would walk past a mirror and my reflection was that of a woman beaten and battered, physically and emotionally. I was not attacked by someone, but instead by my malfunctioning, altered brain. Time and time again I had seizures and ended up out cold on the floor in a pool of blood, twice from breaking my nose and eye socket, and twice from a gash in my head. I have had staples in my head, stitches in my top lip, sinus surgery, and a broken tailbone. It would not be exaggerating to say I have been to the emergency room at least a dozen times and spent 15-20 days in the hospital. I searched and tried everything possible to be normal again! I exhausted all resources available to me in both eastern and western medicine. So not only did I spend money on doctors and prescriptions (by the way my seizure medicine alone was $545 a month), I paid for chiropractors, spinal therapy, nutritionists, health and wellness doctors, vitamins, herbs…I bought into any hope that came my way. I was addicted to the chase…the chase to find my cure. Much of my time was spent throwing up, whether I had eaten or not, and all too often, my bed was the bathroom floor. I consistently prayed, pleading with God to heal me, or just bring on the rapture! There was no end in sight. The look on my face, evident to everyone, was misery…for seven years!
My last seizure was August 4, 2010. After 7 years of praying for the rapture and for God to just take me, I prayed Jeremiah 29:11. “I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future”. I knew this wasn’t the life God had planned for me, and I genuinely wanted to know his purpose in all of this more than I wanted to be healed.
For three weeks following my normal “getting over a seizure” routine, my mom took care of me so my husband could take care of our kids and the house. With my independence still far, far away, I was totally dependent on those around me. I could not drive at all, or even take a bath without someone with me, for the fear I would drown if I had a seizure. I envisioned spending the rest of my life in a nursing home or some type of extended care facility…a frightening realization! The devil had a stronghold on my brain. He knew it would be very easy to keep me trying different things to no avail. I knew too much about medicine for my own good, and he was just sneaky enough to make me believe it would take something physically done to me or something ingested to heal me.
By September, I had given up. I cried out to God and told him I could not handle living another 30 years in this state of depression. I felt such guilt about how depressed I was. Every time I looked at David or one of my kids, their eyes revealed disappointment even though their words did not. My resilience was gone.
Then it happened…
On September 25th, a Saturday morning, I woke up feeling different. I suddenly felt at peace. Energy and joy welled up inside of me. I was hesitant to embrace this feeling. It had been so long since I felt happiness, I didn’t recognize it. When the feeling continued and I began to embrace it, I knew without a doubt God had given me a miracle! A real, honest-to-goodness, overnight miracle!
The person looking at me in the mirror was not such a stranger anymore! My husband and kids did not know what to think. From the outside looking in, I probably looked like I was on “speed”, which is actually how I felt for about three months! I was so thankful I prayed continuously, maintaining an ongoing dialogue with God. The more I talked with Him and thanked Him, the better I felt! Every morning I woke up fearing that it was a dream. This little bit of fear inside me has kept me close to Him. I make a point every day to do things to praise Him. I keep God very close to my heart by sharing my story, listening to Christian music, and talking to Him. The devil no longer has a satisfied smile on his evil face because of me, and never will again!
“Why, God? Why have we had to go through this struggle?”
This was a question everyone around me was asking. My husband and mom frequently stated that God must have been preparing me for something for me to be going through such a difficult time. God uses our suffering to mold us into the person He wants us to be, for when we are suffering, we are humbled and cry out to Him. We are broken down so that He can put us together again to glorify Him. My vision and perspective have been crystal clear since September 25th. God has taken the puzzle pieces that have been my life and put them together into a beautiful picture right before my very eyes! God has used my struggles, taught me well, and has given me the clear task of writing for Him.
For the answer to my prayer, I had to wait. I had to wait for seven years. Now that I am “on the other side” of this it is crystal clear to me why I had to wait. If you can imagine, for seven years, my eyes looked down, the corners of my mouth were turned down, and my whole body was heavy and ached. The way I can explain it the easiest, is to say that every single nerve ending in my body faced downward. I tried everything I could to fix myself. Notice the “I” in that sentence. I bought into every doctor, miracle juice, or therapy that came my way, and didn’t put nearly enough of my effort into the one and only, true and free way to complete healing and restoration of my body and mind.
God’s timing is perfect. He had to let me get past all of the methods at my disposal to help myself before He could step in, and I would know without a doubt that He and He alone was the reason for my healing. He knew that by giving me this amazing blessing exactly when He did would be used to glorify Him!
While I felt like the last seven years were wasted, God is now redeeming every second that I thought was wasted. Just in the short months since September 25, 2010, He has shown me very clearly how every circumstance in my life is being used as a path to Him. Time after time God has placed people in my path for very specific reasons. Circumstances beyond coincidence seem to happen daily. After stumbling around with a blindfold on, I now have 20/20 vision! I have a whole new appreciation for God’s amazing grace, “I once was blind, but now I see”. God has used the last seven years of hell to put me on a direct path to Heaven, and I pray God will use my story to take as many with me as possible!
Since God’s intervention in my life on September 25th, 2010, my walk with Him has continued to grow, and will continue for the rest of my life here on earth. One question I have been asked frequently is why God chose to rescue me, but not them. I wish that I could give specific instructions as to how anyone can be rescued by God. I can only use God’s instruction in the Bible to speculate.
God does not tell us in his word that our life will be easy. From the moment sin entered into the world, God’s people have undergone struggles, but sooner or later God’s providence prevails.
God does tell us His desire for us, and how we can ultimately achieve it. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future”. He has no depression in His plan!
He created a masterpiece when He created us. In the story of creation in Genesis, we learn that we were made in His image. Psalm 139:13-16 tells us that we were “fearfully and wonderfully made”. God created us…from scratch! God designed our bodies in an intricate and precise manner, exactly the way he planned. How could such a wonderful creator desire anything but the very best for His children?
Romans 8:28 says, “All things work together for those who love God, and are the called according to His purpose.” No matter what circumstances make up your life, good or bad, God can use them to further His kingdom.
What can you do in the meantime?
Begin to lay up your treasures in Heaven. Whenever I have read the verse that instructs us to lay up our treasures in Heaven, for some reason I could only think of the verse that tells us it is easier for a camel to pass through a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. I get that part…all of the trouble that some celebrities get themselves into is evidence enough. I guess the “treasures” word got me off track.
So what exactly will be our treasures in Heaven?
I believe our relationship with our heavenly father will be our biggest treasure, and also the friends and family who have gone before us and are waiting for us there.
How do we “lay up” those treasures?
The Great Commission is God’s instruction for laying up our treasures in Heaven, and is found in Matthew 28:19-20: “Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the son, and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And lo, I am with you always, even until the end of the world.”
Whether you are struggling over the loss of someone, poor health, finances, etc., resources are available for whatever you might need. You know better than anyone how you feel, and although doctors or counselors might try to understand and help, God is the only one who really knows you completely, and the only one who can ultimately give you complete restoration of your body and mind. God is in control, no one else. When you can relinquish control and leave everything in His hands, He will answer your prayers. It might not be on your timing, but He will answer! You might not even receive healing on this earth, but in everything will be restored to you in Heaven. After death, “…the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”(Romans 6:23)
As of August 4th of this year, I have been seizure free for one year, and completely off any medication since January 1st. I wish I could look back and say I handled the tough times better than I did, but past is past. I’m just thankful that I can see things so much more clearly now. It takes much more trust and faith to see God during the tough times than the good times. I always knew in my heart that God had a bigger plan for me, and a purpose in my illness, but I think he also knew that I’m a wimp and had to come to my rescue! After all, he did make me…
I have thought and read a lot about prayer and healing lately, and I came across a quote from Max Lucado that helps me partially understand relationship between them. “If God’s aim is to grant perfect health to all his children, he has failed, because no one enjoys perfect health, and everyone dies. But if God’s aim is to expand the boundaries of his kingdom, then he has succeeded. For every time he heals, a thousand sermons are preached.”
…Or in my case, books written.