I was recently enamored with a question on a medical message board that I frequent: "What stresses you out?" In a month that has been so difficult in our mito community, I found myself pondering this question over and over. Two of our precious "mito kids" have passed away in the past couple of weeks, and one of our dear friends, Cooper Knight, is currently in a battle that may take his life. It has been a very difficult couple of weeks in the mito community...a very stressful time.
Stress...that is a word that is often discussed during morning news shows and seen in multiple medical journals. We are all under some degree of stress in our lives...some more than others. Many studies have been conducted to try to understand the role of stress on the body. Stress is a good autonomic response of the body to help you try to deal with any sort of danger in your life. The amount of stress someone can handle depends mostly on personality, as some may be able to cushion intense amounts of stress without much issue and others may fold at the mere mention of a stressful situation. But, it has been proven over and over that prolonged stress almost always causes severe health problems and symptoms to those who endure it...a reason why so many soldiers come home from war-lorn situations "different" from a mental and physical perspective.
Prolonged stress has been known to cause numerous health issues...heart disease, digestive and sleep problems, obesity and depression...all complications that can be induced by stress in one's life. But is all stress bad? And how much stress if too much?
It is no secret that our family has a lot of stress encompassing our life. As an outsider looking in through the window of our family, I would be the first to say "I don't know how they do it". Before I had children...and furthermore, before we had Nathan...I had NO IDEA how people lived life with a medically complicated child. How stressful! But families live this life every single day...they live life, experience life, and enjoy life. While it seems stressful on the outside looking in, it does not "always" seem stressful as you are living it. We live life, experience life, enjoy life.
I put "always" in parenthesis because sometimes life is indeed so difficult to handle. In the above question of "What stresses you out?", my reply was the following...
"The unanswerable and hard questions stress me out...will this fever land him inpatient? why is he retracting so much today? What do these strange test results that no doctor understands truly mean? Will kids make fun of him if we send him to school? How do I answer tough questions about Nathan's life from my daughters...his sisters? How do I prepare for the future? Do I push him so that he may attend college someday? Or do let I him play and enjoy every single aspect of life without the extensive educational load? How do I make his life as normal as possible? If we do "X" this weekend, what will the effects do to his body? How do I accurately explain his disease to others who ask about it? How do I accurately explain his disease to those in the medical community genuinely interested in knowing more? How do I explain to those who have a preconceived stereotype of others with his same disease? How do I continue to build the bridge of trust and respect between us and the medical community? Have I done enough research and reading to understand enough about this disease? Have I given enough love, support, comfort, teaching, understanding, and guidance in order to support my son and his sisters through this life? Do we have enough life insurance to bury him if the worst shall happen? Where will we bury him if that does happen? These...these questions are what stress me out on a daily basis"
So, do we have more daily stress than others? Maybe...but maybe not. I don't want to underestimate the stress of marital issues, financial burden, drug abuse, job insecurity. But I will admit that we do indeed have a lot of daily stress encompassing our lives. It is indeed quite difficult watching your child suffering from an incurable degenerative disease. It is difficult to constantly make sure that our other children are getting adequate attention and loving arms around them during these times. It is difficult to make sure that our marriage is getting ample time of reconnection and communication.
But, how do you deal with stress? Excessive food, nicotine, drugs and alcohol, social withdrawal and neglect...these are all ways that a lot of people deal with stress. Personally, I like to run...run while listening to good music. It truly does help my emotional needs.
But more than anything, I turn to a scripture I was taught to memorize as a child: "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Matthew 11:28 For that is the greatest "medicine" for stress.