Monthly NFP Update: Lessons in Drug Reactions

PSALM 73 (1)

August- a month of opposites. The Creighton Method and Naprotechnology treatment requires a huge helping of patience and humility with a hefty sprinkling of courage and trust. In these moments of increased suffering and confusion, my relationship with God shifts into a more pristine focus- better aligned and less muddled by my pride and control.

For a moment, I thought my body and reproductive track considered cooperating. Somewhere between the travel adventures and joyous occasions my body found enough time and energy to protest my Napro treatment for PMDD. About 6 months ago my PMS diagnosis was revised to a PMDD diagnosis. For those who may not be familiar with PMDD or Post-Dysphoric Menstrual Disorder in the most simplistic definition PMDD is a more severe and volatile version of PMS. After I passed with flying colors the screening for PMDD, my local napro doctor prescribed a medication which used in minute dosages can help your body reset the bio-chemical endocrine processes surrounding the transition from one cycle into the next. But it’s a medication to be respected.

Medical need finally tipped the scale outweighing my reservations, and I successfully took the medication for 5 months before the final hurrah. Looking back at my chart, a few positive affects can be noted. ***And I should disclaim this medication has been beneficial for many women undergoing Napro treatment without or with minimal side-effects.***

This month I only made it through 3 days of my 10 day course before having cardiac and neurological symptoms. I ignored the fluttering heart rate and palpitations the first 3 nights before the neurological symptoms hit which were harder to ignore. On night three, I felt a sudden decline in my mental acuity and a heavy mental fog descend, my rate of exhaustion skyrocket, followed by slowed speech and thought, catapulting into decreased balance and increased dizziness. This led to falls, topples, and bashed knees (and a rather scared and confused Hannah.) Two weeks later I regained my mental acuity and the fog dissipated. It took one week to regain my balance in full. My darkened mood hasn’t rebounded yet. I discontinued my med, consulted with my doctor, and spent time recovering. My doctor and I will need to re-evaluate and discern the next steps.

In many ways, I know I am blessed that nothing more severe or life-threatening happened. In other ways, I recognize my medical de-sensitivity played into my ignorance of the severity of my drug reaction. A hard lessen to learn but an important lessen to know when and what your limitations are and when you should seek professional medical help.

I am frustrated by this set-back in my treatment. I am concerned what the next step will be or if there is a next step. I am worried what the ripple affect will be. Already my cycle has changed without the drug treatment. The brokenness is coming back more recognizable and distinct in my charting. The weakness if pouring into where the healing was. I offer up my cup of brokenness and weakness to God. He makes all things good. Everyday He keeps repeating, “Hannah, you are good.” And to that light of love I cling.

“Though my flesh and my heart fail, God is the rock of my heart, my portion forever.” – Psalm 73: 26

 

 

 

 

On the Christian Meaning of Suffering

Mists4
Photo Credit: Isaiah Eyre Photography

BE NOT AFRAID. I decided to return once more to the 1984 Apostolic Letter written by St. JP II titled Salvifici Doloris: On the Christian Meaning of Suffering that addressed the ever present question of suffering: why, what, and how? God transformed even something not part of His original design for humanity (suffering, pain, death, dying, etc.) into a means for transcendence: faith, hope, and charity.

We fear suffering. I can emphatically state in my greatest moments of suffering and the  suffering of my loved ones, I felt closest to heaven- the veil was lifted. Our suffering, united with Christ, can become salvific. “Suffering seems to be particularly essential to the nature of man. It is deep as man himself, precisely because in its own way that depth which is proper to man, and in its own way surpasses it. Suffering seems to belong to man’s transcendence: it is one of those points in which man is in a certain sense “destined” to go beyond himself (3).”

We fear weakness. Weakness means vulnerability & lack of control. Christ chooses weakness as the vehicle for salvation. “To Suffer means to become particularly susceptible, particularly open to the working of the salvific powers of God . . . In [Christ], God has confirmed his desire to act especially through suffering . . . and wishes to have his power known precisely in this weakness and emptying of self (74).”

We fear the acquisition of virtue. Striving is the key word when acquiring virtue. Virtue acquisition takes hard work and doesn’t always “pay-off” in this life. “Suffering contains a special call to virtue . . . and this is the virtue of perseverance in bearing whatever disturbs and causes harm. In doing this, the individual unleashes hope, which maintain him the conviction that suffering will not get the better of him, it will not deprive him of his dignity as a human being, a dignity liked to the awareness of the meaning of life (75).”

We fear purgation. Purgation leads to heaven. God calls you and I to redeem ourselves and the world in our little way. “The Gospel of suffering is being written unceasingly, and it speaks unceasingly the words of this strange paradox: the springs of divine power gush forth precisely in the midst of human weakness. . . The more a person is threatened by sin, the heavier the structure of sin in which today’s world brings with it, the greater the eloquence which human suffering possesses in itself (89).”

We fear true compassion. Our culture & society throws around the term compassion. What is compassion? Compassion comes from the Latin root com (with) and pati (suffer). Together compatior means “to suffer with.” Compassion means “to suffer with” another person. “We could say that suffering, which is present under so many different forms in our human world, is also present in order to unleash love in the human person, that unselfish gift of one “I” on behalf of other people, especially to those who suffer (92).”

In the Gospels, Jesus repeats dozens of times, “BE NOT AFRAID.” It’s time to let go of the fear associated with suffering, death, & dying. And focus on living. Life is beautiful in all its forms & functions. It’s time to relearn how to suffer with each other. In the words of a man who understood and lived suffering: “In the messianic programme of Christ, which is at the same time the programme of the Kingdom of God, suffering is present in the world in order to release love, in order to give birth to works of love towards neighbor, in order to transform the whole of human civilization into a “civilization of love (96).” Let us go forth and build a civilization of love . . .

Come What May- The Tears Behind My NFP Story

Compline 2

“I stretch out my arms to you, I stretch out my soul, like a land without water.” Psalm 142-143 is recited during Compline or Night Prayer of the Liturgy of the Hours every few rotations. This verse always sticks with me. Sometimes this verse lingers for days. I figured after rejecting writing this post for years, the holy Spirit finally granted me enough courage and wisdom to proceed.

I hope when people read my blog posts involving my personal journey of seeking reproductive health and wellness through Natural Family Planning’s Creighton Method and Naptrotechnology they feel encouraged or dare I say empowered to seek their own health, wellness, and healing too. In my experience, health comes after a journey. A journey which mostly consists of striving, seeking, failing, falling, and struggle with brilliant moments of awe, splendor, joy, healing, and beauty.

On occasion I make fleeting references to “deep spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical pain.” My disposition and cultural upbringing upholds privacy in high regards followed by sucking it up maybe even higher. Before I continue. I disclaim that Creighton NFP and Naprotechnolgy is 100% worthwhile and 100% character and virtue building.

Over the past three years I have practiced Creighton NFP and undergone Naprotechnology treatment, I’ve suffered in ways I never thought imaginable. Even with all my years of chronic illness, pain, and struggles there were moments I didn’t know you could feel so poorly and still be alive. During the height of my precipitous hormonal spikes and plummets coupled with mind-boggling pain, I felt myself slowly slipping into emotional and mental decline fraying at the seams. There were moments I felt out-of-control and one worse moment away from the shreds of sanity I clung onto slipping through my fingers. It was the first time in my life I prayed to God, “even if I loose my mind, you will take care of me and love me.” To this day, those darker moments of my NFP journey taught me a richer humility and gratitude.

The first Valentine’s Day I spent with the dear man I’m courting involved watching the movie “La Vita E Bella” or “Life Is Beautiful” and ended with me crippled over sobbing and shaking in severe pain which would eventually be diagnosed a year and half later as endometriosis. My life became moments between varying degrees of pain, discomfort, bloating, and swelling. I approached my family, work, social, and spiritual life as a calculated measure of energy and health with the possibility of rapid changes. I remember a specific incident at a Diocesan Young Adult Adoration when I laid curled up in the pew wheezing between painful stabs. I have countless similar memories.

Somehow only a being like Our Heavenly Father could have brought so much good into so much pain, suffering, confusion, and hopelessness. Yes, I cooperated with His grace and offered up my suffering gladly. Only a current of grace kept me from drowning. There was a wind beneath my faltering wings that shouldn’t have existed but did. Somewhere in the bleakness I discovered my God-given worth and dignity. There were moments I faltered. Somehow I found God in the darkness shining out His soft, warm, and merciful glow. A light that not only saved me but permeated my being and illuminated how God saw me- BEAUTIFULLY and WONDERFULLY Made. This rocked me to my core. Creighton NFP didn’t just give me a chance at health, wellness, healing, and fertility but saved my view of womanhood and femininity. NFP taught me my dignity as a woman come what may.

The whole learning, practicing, and utilizing Creighton NFP is NOT easy. There rarely is a quick fix, a magic pill or device, or a happy phrase or witty expression to make it all go away. Your vision will eventually blur from trying to decide how to categorize your cervical mucous. Your chart might look like a Christmas display with colors and corrections. You may feel scared, frustrated, angry, concerned, confused, exasperated, exhausted, isolated, etc.  You may even “give up” or “take a break.” You may forget when to start your hormone therapy or pull out your hair trying to decide when to have your P+7 labs drawn. It’s okay to mess up and fail. It’s not about practicing to perfection. It’s simply about practicing, learning, and growing. Take it all one day at a time. Learn how to brush yourself off when you fall down and learn how to move forward in a healthier and kinder manner. Practicing NFP is about trying and not giving up on the method, yourself, God, or you loved ones.

Don’t give up on yourself even when you’re broken- beautifully broken- and feel unlovable and lost. God sees you whole, beautiful, and worthy of love- ALWAYS.

Holy Person of the Month: Blessed Chiara Luce Badano, Patron of Chronically Catholic Blog

Photo Credit: cassiepeasedesign.com
Photo Credit: cassiepeasedesign.com

After 11 years of hoping and praying for a child, Ruggero and Maria Theresa Badano welcomed their daughter, Chiara Lucu, on October 29th, 1971. Born in the small Italian village of Sassello, she was considered a beautiful and simple child; Chiara exhibited an acute awareness and compassion for the poor and suffering, especially drug addicts and persons with mental illness. The simple, beautiful child grew into a vivacious and active youth filled with zest and love for life. She enjoyed swimming, outdoor actives, and socializing with friends. In 1980, Chiara became involved in the Focalare Movement and an active member in her local youth group. Chiara, though virtuous and unique, enjoyed being a modern teenager.

In 1988, while playing tennis, Chiara experienced excruciating pain in her shoulder, and soon received the diagnosed of osteogenic sarcoma- bone cancer. During her final two years, Chaira fulfilled her name’s mean “Clear Light” becoming a illuminating presence of joy in the midst of immense suffering. After an excruciating night, she stated, “I suffered a lot, but my soul was singing.” Even in her weakened state, Chiara’s presence touched many lives. One of her doctors remarked, “Through her smile, and through her eyes full of light, she showed us that death doesn’t exist; only life exists.” Intrigued by stories of this heroic teenager, Cardinal Saldarini visited her in the hospital and asked, “The light in your eyes is splendid. Where does it come from?” Chiara replied: “I try to love Jesus as much as I can.”

Chiara in the Hospital
Chiara in the Hospital

Even after she received her terminal diagnosis and during treatment, Chiara keenly understood the value of redemptive suffering. She often repeated the phrase, “If this is what you want, Jesus, so do I.” As Chiara’s beautiful locks fell out due to chemotherapy, she prayed as each strand fell, “For you, Jesus.”  She even refused pain management wanting to remain lucid. She explained, “I want to share as much as possible in His suffering on the cross.” Chiara befriended another adolescent struggling with depression and drug-dependency. Despite how painful walking was because of a large growth on her spine, Chiara walked with this girl; “I’ll have time to rest later.”

As her impending death approached, Chiara encouraged her mother, “When you’re getting me ready, Mum, you have to keep saying to yourself, ‘Chiara Luce is now seeing Jesus.’” With her friends and family present, Chiara Luce died October 7, 1990. Her last words were: “Goodbye. Be happy because I’m happy.” Her family buried her in a wedding dress as requested.

bl. Chiara Luce Badano When Chiara died, I was one year old. Her first confirmed miracle involved a young Italian boy dying from meningitis induced organ failure. His parent’s asked for Chiara’s intercession. A panel of doctors ruled that there was no medical explanation for the boy’s full recovery. On September 25, 2010, Pope Emeritus Benedict VXI beatified Chiara Luce Badano- the first blessed from Generation X.

In the words of Chiara: “Previously I felt … the most I could do was to let go. Instead, now I feel enfolded in a marvelous plan of God, which is slowly being unveiled to me.”

Bl. Chiara Luce Badano, pray for us!

Why did I choose Bl. Chiara for my blog patron? I stumbled into her story and witness during a period of intense medical fragility and complexity in my life. I became dehabilitated. I was lost. More doors and windows were shut than opened. Then the Holy Spirit guided me to this young woman who died around the time I was born. I felt an instant connection. I felt hope. When I decided to chose a patroness for my blog, I chose her. I believe in the Communion of Saints. She helped me ad continues to intercede for me. And I want to share her heroic virtue and story with the world- even just a small corner. 

“All beautiful you are, my darling; there is no flaw in you”

Song of Songs 4:7.

 . . . Wrapped in the warmth of his personhood, I nestled safely tucked within his side. No tinges of pain nor worries of tomorrow crept into our sanctuary. Contentment filled the void of worry. After years of familiarity, silence echoed instead of words. Calmness ensued. The art of being came easily. The art of being came naturally.

Within our sanctuary aglow crept in the worries of tomorrow and the pains of today. A tinge followed by a twinge shattered our calm moment. Within breaths all changed except the loved we shared. That instead grew more by each aching and uncertain breath. Tested yet purified by fire love emerges brighter and stronger.  . .

Choice. A strong word with many connotations. But our choices and the choices of other dictate our lives, the direction of our lives, and the relationships in our lives. Many love quotes and verses mirror the sentiment of choice: “I choose you.” “I choose us.” & “Two imperfect people that choose each other.” etc. Love within intimate relationships constitutes a choice- a daily choice to choose each other and the other over selfishness and selfish desires. Narcissism is rampant in Western culture.

Suffering. Another strong word with many connotations. But how we suffer and how we suffer with dictates our lives, the direction of our lives, and the relationships in our lives. Compatibility derives from the Latin phrase “to suffer with.” Compatible means to “Suffer with.” If we are unable to suffer with another, we aren’t compatible. Love within intimate relationships requires compatibility- a daily choice to suffer well and suffer with another.

Beauty. Another strong word with many connotations. But what we recognize as beauty dictates our lives, the direction of our lives, and the relationships in our lives. Do we value earthly beauty or heavenly beauty? The beauty of spirit or of the body? Beauty resides within each person regardless of form or function. Beauty within an intimate relationship requires constant pursuit of virtue and maturation of ideals which must uphold each person’s intrinsic dignity.

snowflakes
Photo Credit: Isaiah Eyre Photography

Choice. Suffering. Beauty. . .  The story above recalls an incident when we chose each other, suffered with each other, and recognized the beauty within each other. Our peaceful movie night turned into mind-blowing pain and frightful concern. I now know the endometriosis plus other factors caused the incident. This wasn’t the first time an incident like this occurred but the severity was unparalleled. Would I have preferred a calm, unhindered movie night that didn’t end with keeling over in pain while he opened windows, brought water and pain meds, and prayed while holding my hand? Yes. But instead we experienced an opportunity for growth.

In my moment of weakness and vulnerability as a human and as a woman, I asked three question.

Did he choose me in that moment? Yes.

Did he suffer with me in that moment? Yes.

Did he reaffirm my beauty as a woman, God’s creation? Yes.