I know that one day, maybe starting now, I can encourage people who are going through some of the things I’m going through or have gone through in the past.
I met Lisa Ann Eaton through blogging. She came to my blog, responded to one of my posts, and we quickly became friends. On her blog, she writes very thoughtfully and openly about her daily struggles as she methodically works to ease herself off of anti-depressant medications. But this isn’t her only struggle: at the age of 26, Lisa Ann was diagnosed with intracranial hypertension . IH is the condition where the pressure in the cerebrospinal fluid in the skull is too high. Add those two major health conditions to the normal stress of daily living, maintaining relationships, and finances, and the smile that you see on Lisa Ann’s face, and the “all-heart” style of writing that she maintains make it evident that there is already a miracle at work in her life.
Where Her Struggles Began
Lisa Ann’s struggles didn’t start with IH. From the time she was fifteen until she was 22, she, her mother and her younger siblings dealt on and off again with homelessness. It was around this time that she first started experiencing migraines. To add to the migraines, when Lisa Ann was 22, she and her family dealt with an eviction, and Lisa Ann started experiencing panic attacks. “It [the eviction] was a very traumatic experience for me, although I didn’t recognize it at the time. I just kind of pushed through and buried the pain.” Her doctor diagnosed her with post-traumatic stress disorder and sent her home with a prescription for Zoloft. This was her first introduction to anti-depressants.
Before the doctor prescribed Zoloft, Lisa Ann had been leery of drugs and all the side effects. But at that point in her life, she felt she just needed something to be able to function. Despite this, Lisa Ann was determined not to use Zoloft indefinitely. By the time she was 23, she had already stopped taking them. It would be the IH that indirectly brought her back to them. When she was 25, she started experiencing headaches every day. A neurologist brushed them off as part of her “history” with depression, and told her to go back on anti-depressants and start seeing a psychiatrist. But this advice didn’t help. Her headaches only continued to get worse.
Kidnapped By Chronic Illness
Lisa Ann was living on her own, maintaining a position at a bank when the headaches mixed with depression became so bad, she had to come home. By this time, she had been diagnosed with IH, and a guessing game started for how much medicine (or how little) she need to take. Too little medicine, and the headaches persisted, too much meant a severe spinal headache. Lisa Ann also returns to the neurologist every six months to receive a lumbar puncture: that’s when the doctor sticks a needle in her lower back to remove fluid from her brain to lessen the pressure, and therefore the pain it causes. Headaches stop for about a week.
Between sensitivity to light and sound, dizziness, nausea and exhaustion, Lisa Ann’s life was kidnapped by this “silent” health condition. Not only was she not able to keep a job in this condition, but she couldn’t even enjoy the smaller, less taxing things like reading, writing, drawing, and video games. These things require vision (hers is fuzzy sometimes from the IH) and clear thinking. Lisa Ann says these “are in short supply these days.” Lisa Ann is 32 years old now, and has spent the larger portion of her adult life struggling with these two silent diseases, doing her best to manage the pain and keep her spirits up. Many people would give up in a situation like this. Not Lisa Ann.
Chronic Illness, Family, and God
Though her own father has not been able to understand the health problems she deals with, Lisa Ann has learned to lean on a different “father:” God. Her earthly father is a minister, and so taught her from a young age everything he knew about God. But his inability to understand and be supportive of her in her health problems made her re-examine her own relationship with God. This is what Lisa Ann wrote to explain how she forged a new relationship with God.
When you have a strained relationship with your father, when he doesn’t support you emotionally, when he doesn’t understand you, or stick up for you, or encourage you and when he judges you for everything…it affects your entire view of God the Father. If this is how a father acts, it stands to reason that God the Father is like that too—magnified by infinity. It took me a long time to separate my understanding of who Dad was and my understanding of who God the Father was. I learned that God is full of emotion—we were made in His image after all. He is gentle and understanding. You can lean on Him—always. He avenges any wrongs against me. He constantly encourages me in my spirit and through the people that love me. And since He’s forgiven my sins, He doesn’t judge me. He’s put my sins as far as the East is from the West. He does not judge me. He loves me unconditionally, in a way no human is capable of doing. Once you can separate God from Man it truly strengthens your relationship with Him.
Lisa Ann continues to have a relationship with her father. And though it is strained, she focuses on the good that she sees in him. That is in part because family is one of the most important things in her life. Her sisters have been there for her in all of this, giving her pep talks when she needed them, fixing her meals when she was too down to do it herself, and just being there for her. Lisa Ann is the oldest sibling, and she describes herself as the “muscle” in the family; and so, accepting this help is not always easy.
Lisa Ann’s forgiving spirit towards her father, and her ability to accept the offered help are reasons I admire her. But my admiration for Lisa Ann doesn’t stop there. Lisa Ann started her blog because she wanted to help others. In fact, it is her “other”-centered nature that helps her stay sane in all of this. “The more I focus on others, the less I focus on myself and my problems. It’s not always easy, but it’s a good way to live.”
Her Dream Pulls Her Forward, Despite Her Obstacles
Lisa Ann’s main goal in life is to become a writer. And it is evident from her blog that she truly is a gifted writer. It’s amazing to me that while she deals with IH and depression—in addition to the withdraw symptoms she experiences as she pulls away from the anti-depressants, she is able to continue her blog. But there is something that pulls her to write and get just a little closer to her dream every day. “I feel like I was born to be a storyteller,” says Lisa Ann. “No matter what, I try every day to get just a little closer to my dream. I’m not looking to win awards; I’m just looking to tell stories.”
Join Lisa Ann as she continues to write her own story on Quit the Cure. You will not be disappointed.