Becoming a Master of Disguise

Becoming a Master of Disguise

Lately,  I have been working on developing my make-up skills.  I am learning the secrets of bronzer, lip color, and the art of eye make-up.  I think that this is because I have been desperately trying harder and harder to not appear as sick as I feel. I know people who feel frustrated when they hear “But you don’t look sick.”  When I hear people say this statement to me, I think to myself smugly, “Good,  I’ve been working hard to achieve this goal. I better not look sick.”

I have been putting entirely too much effort into disguising my illness.  In fact, the irony of it all is that I have been pouring almost all of my sorely limited energy into disguising my illness.  I work so diligently on hair, fashion, and make-up that I end up collapsing in bed because I used up all of my POTSie, Masty, and Zebra spoons for the entire day in the 30 minutes that it took me to get ready.  Pointless, right?

Here’s the other kicker–I get so wrapped up in trying to convince people that I am able to be well and self-sufficient that I end up sicker, and I actually have the nerve to get mad at people for believing me.

 

I actually get mad at people for believing me! That’s crazy, right?  I want to look normal, be treated normally, and fit in with the general population, but I also expect people to read my mind when I feel like I’m dying.  I’m learning something revolutionary: People don’t read minds.  Well, generally they don’t.  There are those empaths that are so intuitive that they can see past my BS in a nano-second.  I have about three of them in my life, and thank the Lord, my husband is one of them.  Other than the psychic-seeming empaths, however, 98 percent of the population do not read minds.

I see two reasons for my dysfunctional behavior of covering up my pain:

The first reason for my need to pretend is that I feel the need to prove myself, perform, and not inconvenience anyone.  I have an ingrained sense of responsibility to protect people from my “needy” self, so I desperately try to convince everyone that they don’t need to be concerned about me.  This is probably because I have never felt worthy of nurture or care, and nurture and care make me squirm like a worm-digging, mud-pie building kid forced to don a stiff, unyielding fancy suit at a formal wedding.  Receiving care just doesn’t feel right nor does it feel natural.

My second reason that I can see is that we live in a culture of rugged individualism and fierce independence.  Western society struggles to see the need for interdependence, believing that the stronger we are individually, the more we are able to stand on our own two feet without any support from others.  This is one of the reasons why we as a society are so sick.  We have grown to isolate ourselves more and more, creating a bunch of little one-person-islands trying to pretend that we are content to “go it on our own” yet secretly hoping that someone will see our pain.  I have trended toward giving in to the pervasive message that our society is sending out:  Be strong; do it yourself.  This is not the truth of being created in the image of God.  We were created for relationship, to do life together, to be interdependent, and to grow and learn in community.

What I have attempted to do in creating this facade of independence is insanity.  Here’s the truth:  I am sick, and I need care.  I do not feel well, ever.  I actually feel like I have been hit by a truck, and then again by a city bus, and once again by a freight train.  Ninety-five percent of the time,  I have a fever.  If I stand up for more than two minutes, my brain stops working, my legs give out, and I will fall.  On a good day, I get hives when I am exposed to any kind of fragrance, chemical, or food.  On a bad day,  I will have difficulty breathing and will experience anaphylaxis.  I am on hard-core pain killers to manage the pain caused by my constantly over-extending and dislocating joints, and I frequently have breakthrough pain.  Every task, including walking ten steps down the hall, requires the energy that I used to expend on a 10 to 20 mile run.  I give myself pep-talks to brush my teeth or help my children brush their teeth.  I am better physically if I am lying in bed all day, but I am better emotionally if I am able to be out and engage in the world.  There is no cure for my illnesses, and despite what I try to to communicate,  I am not feeling any better this Holiday season than I was last year.

It’s not a pretty picture.  My illness, like my trauma, does not make people feel good.  That’s why I try not to let it show.  I want to make people feel good.  But here’s the deal:  In trying to make others “feel good”,  I am preventing myself from being known, making myself even sicker, and staving off actual relationships.  And then everyone feels even worse.

There is beauty in our messy, broken lives.  There is no real beauty in a facade.  Our false selves are hollow and ultimately push others away.  Our false independence creates in us attitudes of either arrogance or self-hate.  Our rugged individualism creates walls that end up being prisons.

So here I am, make-up-free, flat on my back, declaring that I am not okay.  I need people, and I need nurture, and sometimes I need people to sit with me in my suffering.  Within my Spirit, a voice whispers that we were all created for this kind of fellowship.

This blog post in obviously only a first step in my “coming out” process.  I stand in this liminal space, here in the blogosphere, declaring my need for interdependence, vulnerability, and truth, and I will carry it into the real world.  I will reach out to one person, and then another, and then another.

It might require baby steps.  I don’t plan on stopping the application of make-up, but I do plan on re-prioritizing.  Looking like I am well does not need to be my first priority.  Being daily transformed to the character of Christ, being authentic, loving my children, just connecting with others moment-by-moment, and taking care of myself spiritually, physically, and emotionally: These need to be my priorities.  If I am living into these priorities, then I am moving in the right direction.

We are not doing anyone anyone any favors by pretending that we are “okay” when we truly are not okay.  We are not protecting others, we are not protecting ourselves, and we are not protecting God.  We are stunting our growth and killing our relationships.  So, friends, as we step into reality and truth, let’s start trusting one another a little bit more, let’s lay down our self-sufficient pride enough to risk “looking sick” and making ourselves and others a little bit uncomfortable.

I am learning that I am falsely assuming that others want to hear that I am well when I am not.  I am learning that more often than not in my relationships, people ask because they care.  I am learning that as a body of Christ, we meet each other’s compassion with truth, not false images of wellness.  Our healing comes in our vulnerability, and our deceptions worsen our sicknesses. An old AA adage goes as follows:  “You are only as sick as your secrets.”  What if we lived in the open?  What if we laid down the masks? What if we met compassion with honesty and actually lived in community?  I know that my own life would look radically different, and I know that my load would feel undoubtably lighter.   We cannot bear one another’s burdens if we are not willing to disclose to others our own burdens.

Love has two sides:  Grace and truth.  Let’s meet others with both compassion and honesty as we live authentic, vulnerable, facade-free lives.

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Who is my Enemy?

Who is my Enemy?

Do you ever forget what battle you are fighting?  I think that I get so angry, so self-righteous, so indignant, so flame-throwing, nail-spitting mad, that I just close my eyes and throw fists every which way I can muster, hitting innocent victims, and only accomplishing more self-hatred.

Oh my,  I’m fighting hard.  I’m fighting the people I love the most.  I’m fighting those who are trying their hardest to help me.  I’m fighting against my own body.  I’m even fighting God who loves me more than I can ever imagine.  I’m blindly lashing out because I am spitting’ mad. 

And by golly, I sure feel like I have all the reasons in the world to be mad.  So in indignation,  I spit in the face of anyone who challenges me for lashing out.

But in my anger, I am having a free-for-all flow of aggression. I have no aim, no real enemy.  Thus, everyone who is actually for me becomes the enemy.  I become the enemy. God becomes the enemy.  But the real enemy remains totally unchallenged, and I imagine that he is doing a little victory dance as I blindly let my fists fly at my most cherished allies.

Why is it so easy to forget?

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood [all the people who love you and care about you, your own body], but against rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:12, additional comments my own). 

I gravitate toward the softer, sweeter ideas about God and the spiritual world.  I fail to consider the reality of evil, darkness, and dun-dun-dun….Satan.  No one wants to hear about that guy.  I certainly don’t.  Why don’t we?  It doesn’t feel good.  We can’t comprehend evil.  The nature of the unseen realm is that we….wait for it….can’t see it.  We can’t see it, and we can’t wrap our brains around it.   So it must not be there, right?

But wait….why does it feel like I am being hit from all sides?  Why does all of this fighting feel for naught?  Why does evidence show that prayer actually is effective, powerful, and meaningful?  And why in the world is the Bible (you know,  God’s own Spirit-breathed, life-giving word) so hyper-focused on these ideas of Spiritual battle?  Why do I feel like a warrior if I’m not actually created to fight a real, bonafide enemy?  (Hint:  I’m pretty sure my enemy is not other people, my own body, my family, or the medical world).

Maybe I’m the only one who has fallen for this sugar-coated, palatable, white-washed Christianity.  Maybe I’m the only one who has started cringing at any mention of “forces of evil,”  “weapons of the enemy,” and any scripture that refers to life as warfare.  So if I am writing only to myself, it is still worth it. I’ve got some major lessons to learn.  Everyone else can just read along and eves-drop on my internal conversation if you would like.  But based on some conversations that I have had,  I get the feeling that I’m not alone.

I need to start fighting the real enemy again, using the weapons that I have been gifted with from the Father of Lights, who gives wonderful gifts to His children.  He, who has filled us with perfect love that casts out all fear (1 John 4:18), has called us to go forth into battle with our eyes wide open.  And the great thing is that we have a complete set of armor to wear into battle. (Ephesians 6: 14-17).  We are fully equipped, empowered by the Spirit of God, with the Son of God at the right hand of the father interceding for us.

But I’ve got to stop fighting the non-enemies.  As long as I am fighting aimlessly, I will always be defeated.  And as long as I forget who is my real enemy, I will keep fighting aimlessly.

So today, I draw the line in the sand (this may be like my 35th line in the sand–Good thing God is so patient and long-suffering):  I will put on the armor: truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation, and the word of God.  I will allow the Spirit of God to open my eyes, and I will fight the real enemy.

I don’t know what the outcome will be.   There’s no guarantee that it will result in physical healing, the absence of mental illness, complete resolution of trauma, or the absence of suffering in life.  It will result, however, in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).  And honestly, I don’t think that I could ask for a better life than one filled with all of those gifts.

So watch out, Satan.  I’m no longer turning a blind eye.

The cloud of cynicism eclipsed by the light of love 

The cloud of cynicism eclipsed by the light of love 

Over the last few weeks, my mood has gotten increasingly dark. Hope has proven itself to be scarce, and deep despair has sprung up like unwelcome weeds in my mind and heart. I’ve grown bitter, grumpy, antagonistic, and jaded.  

Part of the cause of my dark season has been pure exhaustion. No one in our house is sleeping well. Part of the cause of my soul-darkness is medication mishaps. Prednisone, psychologically speaking, is clearly not my friend. In addition, my treatment team has been having conversations about their own fear of the potential fatality of my conditions and what long-term prognosis looks like. With all of these factors at play, my typical resilient ability to reframe my daily suffering has been less than stellar. 

I find myself tired of fighting what feels like a losing battle for my body, I feel tired of desperately trying to maintain my tenuous grip on hope in a situation that appears hopeless, and I am tired of living this life of passing out, unexpected and unexplained reactivity,  chronic pain, and total dependency.  I am tired of playing wack-a-mole with 15 symptoms at once, wielding faulty mallets. I am bone-exhausted. 

I wrestle with God over healing, and I read of the “severe mercies” of God: when God withholds something good because He possibly knows something that we don’t (St. Augustine, Confessions XI, 25). 

But really, God? I’m too tired to see good in this. I’m too sick to feel hope.  And, if I’m really honest, I’m almost offended by this “severe mercy” concept right now. It seems a little bit like mockery.  And yet I know that God is good, that He is for me, not against me, that He loves me. 

I know that I will continue to pray for healing, and I know that for reasons that can’t always be grasped by my measly human brain, He doesn’t always heal. And I have my toddler-style tantrums when the medical tests yeild no clear-cut answers, when treatment is a continual crap-shoot because no one seems to know what to do with me. I sit and pout, looking longingly at the sky for that one rain cloud that will bring the much-needed refreshment for my body and soul. And I have snarky, angry comments for God when not even a single measly cloud floats in to give me a sign of possible rain.  

My humble honesty of the past when I approached God in grief on my knees is precariously teetering on the edge of a cliff called cynicism. I am entering into the danger-zone of hostile, accusing, finger-pointing.  The result of humble, grief-stricken, heart-wide-open brokenness is communion with God in suffering. When we come to God with  fist-throwing, accusation-hurling fury, we run the risk of walking away in entitled bitterness, estranged from our life-source. 

In this season, I am tempted to choose to be offended by God and interpret lack of healing as abandonment.  I am inclined to curl in a ball and believe that it is God who continues to hit me when I am down. Worse yet, I start to believe that He has walked away, apathetic to my agony.

But this is my opportunity to employ some sound DBT strategies. I can choose to engage in the opposite-to-emotion tool that I know has carried me through difficult times. God has a host of promises that are unchanging. These are the promises that I can count on:

Never will He leave me or forsake me. ( Hebrews 13:5)

Because of His great love we are not consumed. The Lord’s lovingkindnesses never cease. They are new every morning. Great is His faithfulness. ( Lamentations 3:22)

Neither life, nor death, nor angels, nor demons, nor anything else in all creation is able to separate me from the Love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)

Weeping may endure for a night but joy comes in the morning. (Psalm 30:5)

We are hard pressed on every side but not crushed, perplexed but not in despair, persecuted but not abandoned, struck down but not destroyed. ( 2 Corinthians 4:8)

My heart has grown uncomfortably hard, and I am ready for some softening. God’s promises knead my heart and soften it just enough for the fog of disillusionment to lift and for me to rememember the Father’s deep, deep love for me.  

Don’t get me wrong, God can handle our anger and accusations. He will not turn from us when we bring whatever broken mess we carry to Him, even when we are furious with Him.  He also wants to show us how deeply and unbelievably loved we are. And when we cling to the anger, resentment, and offense like they are our best friends, we tend to build walls up against the loving God of the universe (from our side). 

It is time for me to lay down my God-thrashing weapons and come to Him on my knees once again,  open to whatever healing may look like.  It’s time to drop the cold, bitter cynicism.  God wants to wash my offense away with His love.  

What if I’m not physically healed? I will not fear, because I will still have Jesus, and He is more than enough. 

He makes every little broken thing beautiful

He makes every little broken thing beautiful

I shoved my rear-end closer to the window as the plane prepared for take-off.  The passenger beside me stretched out to get comfortable. I tried to make myself smaller so that I would not be an inconvenience for the person wedged next to me in these impossibly small airplane seats.  Never mind that I had the right to occupy my entire seat.  In my mind, I had no rights.  The space that I occupied was space that I shouldn’t take up.  As I tried to become smaller so that the person beside of me could expand,  I realized that I held a core belief that was horribly faulty.  I could not change my system of thinking on my own.  It was too deeply embedded.  That plane ride was four years ago, before I became sick.

My belief that I was not allowed to take up space was birthed out of a great deal of trauma and abuse.  When a child is taught that she is evil and at fault for the evils that are committed against her,  she learns that she must try desperately to disappear in order to make the world a better place.  Before I learned the truth of my identity in Christ,  I held white-knuckled to this belief.  I held so closely to it that I tried to rid the world of my very existence.  When this type of reality is drilled into your head early in life, it seems nearly impossible to unlearn.

God has a masterful way of using horrible situations to help us grow in ways that we never thought possible. When I got sick, I started to take up more space.  I’m not talking actual physical space necessarily, but a wheelchair certainly takes up more space in a vehicle.  It is harder to hide when you are ill.  You have many more needs than a healthy person.  Those around you are more aware of you and the risks that come with your presence.  With food restrictions, you make a challenging dinner guest.  Often, your dietary limitations dictate the menu for the evening.  When you are a house guest, you quickly become aware of how high-maintenance you are.  Your special diet, need for rest, wheelchair requirements, and medications are front and center.

As my illness gets more severe, I seem to be ever-expanding.  I can’t disappear into the background like I once did.  In a recent church meeting, at each break,  many individuals turned to check on me: to see how I was feeling, if I needed anything to drink, if I needed to lie down.

I am so appreciative of the care that I receive.  I need it.  And I resist it.  God is using my illness, however, to show me that it is okay to take up space.  He is showing me how wonderfully loved that I am, and that He created me to take up a certain amount of space.  He designed me in such a way to make an impact on people, to leave footprints, to change lives.  I can’t do that without taking up space and owning my space.

So here’s the thing:  In God’s gracious, generous way of making every little broken thing beautiful,  He is transforming my illnesses and disabilities into powerful teachers.  He is using them to show me how incredibly valuable that I am.  He is teaching me that I am worth every square-inch of space that I take up.  He is showing me that I am worth the care that people give me.   Why am I worth it?  Because I am His child.  As a child of God,  I have a right to take up space.  Not only do I have a right to take up space, but my existence is important and cherished.

I do not need to try to shrink myself into a half of a plane seat in order to make someone else more comfortable.  I can lean over and start a conversation with my fellow passenger, and we can enjoy the gift of one another.  I don’t have to dismiss my dietary restrictions in order to make my hostess’s job easier.  I can graciously accept generosity and allow others to love and care for me.

Graciously receiving is a gift to the giver and the receiver.

I have lived a life dominated by the lie that I don’t deserve to take up space, and my illnesses have given me the opportunity to take a step back and realize the value of my existence and the space that I occupy.   God created me.  I wasn’t a mistake.  I am still not a mistake.  I don’t have to apologize for my existence.  I also don’t have to apologize for being ill.  I have always been and will be valuable because I am a daughter of God.

There may be those out there who are reading this and thinking, “Well, no duh, Sherlock. Of course you can take up space.  We all can.”  I am so thankful that you have never had to experience the torture of having to live apologetically, desperately trying to pay penance for your very existence.

For those of you who can relate,  please hear me:  You are valuable.  You are made in the image of God.  You can take up the space that you take up.  You’re worth it because God calls you worthy.

And He is making every little broken thing beautiful.

When we are stripped down to nothing, and see everything more clearly

When we are stripped down to nothing, and see everything more clearly

Some lessons take a long time to learn.

I have always believed that i don’t have to be productive to be valuable, or at least I claimed to believe it. I don’t know how many times I have heard that we are “human beings”, not “human doings”.

But we live in this culture that stresses achievement above all other qualities.  Even the church says out of one side of our mouth, “You are valuable no matter what,”  and on the other side, we sound frighteningly similar to the “do, do, do” mandate of our culture.  If we are not producing, we question our worth.  If we are not accomplishing something, we feel like our time has been wasted.  If, heaven forbid, we watch an entire day lapse where we don’t crank out projects or achieve something, we thrash ourselves to a pulp and feel restless and pointless.  At least, this is my experience.

For me, simply hearing that I am intrinsically valuable has not been sufficient for actual heart change.  I still place unrealistic demands on myself .  I get to the end of my day and tally up what I have accomplished.  My self-worth often depends on the evidence of my productivity for the day.

Last week was one of those weeks that made me question the point of my life.  My kids and husband went to VBS each evening, leaving me home, bed-bound, watching Netflix.  My illnesses were flaring full-force, and I was unable to even think, let alone try to accomplish anything.  I couldn’t manage to call a friend. I couldn’t even read or write. I couldn’t rest because I was in too much pain.   I just vegged out in my bed, with the TV on, trying to distract myself from the pain.

In my highly driven, type-A brain, this was unacceptable.  If I am not accomplishing something,  reaching out to someone, writing a blog post, or enhancing someone else’s life in some way, I might as well not exist.  I know this is extreme, but I have this driving need to “earn my keep”.

VBS spanned Monday through Friday.  By Friday night,  I was sobbing, stricken with self-hate and condemnation.  I had a friend who was also stuck at home, recovering from a surgery, but I still felt too sick to even let my husband drive me to visit her.  I felt like I failed her, my family, the rest of the world, and God.

If you are following this line of faulty beliefs, you have picked up on my distorted self-perception by now.  Or, you can really relate with my works-based sense of self.

Last week, God said clearly that He had more to teach me through my illnesses.  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to connect the dots here and realize that He has some major things to teach me about my value as His beloved child.

It is so easy to say that you are a precious daughter of God when you are “performing” in ways that seem appropriate.  But what about when you are lying in bed, a couple days behind in hygiene,  with dishes piled high in your sink, and a husband who is working like a horse taking care of your children?  This is a situation where I have had to come to terms with my true sense of worth.

Am I just as valuable here, in 2017, with no job and no ability to physically serve others, as I was in 2013, when I was working, generating an income, helping to lead worship at our church, running five miles a day, and actively engaged in mutually beneficial relationships?  It seems so counterintuitive to think that I still have a right to breathe the same air, take up space on this earth, and be loved by God and others.  When I can’t contribute in the ways that I once did, am I still just as valuable?

And yet, God still whispers to my heart that He loves me, that He is delighted in me, that He has made me worthy and valuable.  Can I grasp this?  Can I accept it? Can I see that I am loved and accepted just as I am, with a brain that doesn’t function the way that it once functioned, with legs that don’t always work the way that they are supposed to, as a person on disability who is not actively contributing to the betterment of society in a quantifiable way?

My intrinsic value is one of the most difficult things for me to accept, and I don’t know that I would really be able to learn that God loves me for me if I were not so incapacitated.  I am extremely stubborn and bull-headed.  I obviously need dire situations to learn valuable lessons, and this lie of works-based self-worth needs to be extracted at it’s roots.

This week, if I am stuck in bed,  I choose to lie in bed, resting in the awareness that I am loved and cherished for who I am, not for what I can accomplish.  God created me fearfully and wonderfully, even when I am sick, even when I am stripped down to just me.  There is no place for pretense or performance.  Simply me.  And God says, somehow, that He is proud to call me His child.

We are His masterpieces, no matter what our capacity.   We are His beloved children every day, even on the days when we feel like a waste of space. He loves the able-bodied and the disabled equally, with His overwhelmingly unstoppable, unquenchable love. We know that His eye is on the tiniest sparrow.  Our worth is determined by God’s name for us, not by the name that we make for ourselves. 

So here I am, simply Megan, telling you that God loves me for me, and He loves you for you. 

When Your Reality Seems Unreal

How does an adult child of abusive parents approach life and her perception of reality?  With great agony and skepticism.

She told me that I was a liar.  She taught me that I could not be trusted. She taught me that I was evil.  This schema that drilled into my mind about my perception of reality served them well.   If a child cannot trust her experiences, then she will never disclose the reality that she is living.  She will never trust herself enough to risk the reputation and lives of those that she loves.   If you teach a child self-doubt and extreme loyalty, then you will never risk exposure.  You can get away with anything.  If all that you care about in your narcissism is your own self-preservation, then this strategy is win-win.

But what of the life of that brainwashed child?  How will she grow up? How will she ever come to terms with reality?  She will for the rest of her life question the reality of your behavior.  Oh, but it goes so much farther than this.  The consequences of this self-distrust are catastrophic.  The ripples of this early teaching touch every single experience that touch the life of this manipulated soul.

My life is currently under the influence of medical restrictions.  I am at the mercy of  individuals who are helping and caring my family.   I cannot get a drink without the assistance of someone else.  Over the last two years,  I have been piled with medical diagnoses.  It started with hyperadrenergic Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (HyperPOTS), followed by Interstitial Cystitis. A few months down the road, Gastroparesis surfaced, followed by Mast Cell Activation Syndrome.  I fear that if I allow further testing, the list would get longer.  There are a few extra illnesses that I think have been confirmed, but I am not entirely sure, so for the sake of accuracy, I will not include them in my list.  Any rational person could look at my medical history, or glance at me physically, and conclude that I am very ill.   There is no question about it….and yet….I find myself asking the question “Am I actually sick?” Every.  Single. Day.

How can I question the reality of my illness? The self-doubt undermines every recovery effort, because I question the need for treatment every step of the way.  I ask if I really need my daily infusions, or if they are placebo.  I ask if my PEG tube is absolutely necessary.   I look at my 11 medications that I take daily, in my massive pill organizer, and I wonder if the doctors are just prescribing them to placate me.  I have an epinephrine shot in my medicine cabinet for anaphylactic reactions, and I haven’t bothered to read the instructions, because I am under the assumption that when my throat is closing up, it is probably just anxiety.  I allowed myself to fall asleep last night in the midst of a near anaphylactic reaction without bothering to even ask the question if my situation could be an emergency.  It is only today that I can look at it in retrospect and see that I should have taken more extreme measures.  How can I begin to assess my situation as one that needs to be managed with care and caution? How can I ever begin to validate my bodily experience?

I feel sabotaged.  I feel like someone removed my brain, took out my ability to believe myself, inserted it back in my head, and let me loose, saying “Go on, have fun trying to live your life under the assumption that you are always, without a doubt, a deceptive, manipulative, liar.”

Here’s the catch.  Since childhood, no one has ever echoed the message that my parents drilled into my head.  No one has ever questioned the validity of my word, my experience, or my perception.  People have trusted and believed me.  Even with rare, hard to understand diagnoses that are often questioned,  I have never experienced a doctor communicate implicitly or explicitly that it is “all in my head.”

Upon communicating my doubt to my specialist this week, she responded by stating her credentials, achievements, and specialties, all of which are in my areas of diagnosis.  After asserting her qualifications and skills set, she said, “I absolutely, without a doubt, am entirely confident that you have these illnesses, and that you are incredibly sick.” I responded with a skeptical, “Are you sure?”, to which she responded with a face-palm.

I am desperately trying to navigate this path toward truth and trusting myself.  We all have misperceptions at times, and we all need input from others to help ascertain that we have a firm grasp on reality every once in a while, but it becomes dysfunctional when we doubt, question, and test every perception we have as we walk through our day. It becomes a problem when no matter how much we are reassured by loved ones, professionals, and friends, we still cannot believe ourselves.  I am so tired of this self-doubt.  The consequences of being taught that I could not trust my perception of reality are extensive and crippling.

I take comfort in the idea that the Spirit of Truth lives within me, and that I can trust that Spirit to lead me into truth.  This is a promise delivered to us by Jesus.  Sometimes I feel like I am cycling around and around, making no progress at all in my pursuit of self-validation and trust, but I am reminded of how far I have come.  I have sought treatment, allowed doctors to prescribe medications and surgical interventions.  I have surrendered my driver’s license and allowed helpers to come into my home every day to care for my children and for me.  I have recognized the cost that my body pays for doing simple chores and have sacrificed my sense of household duty for meaningful connection and relationship with my children and husband.  I have moments when I trust myself and entrust myself to the care of others because I know that I am weak and need help.  I am not a lost cause.

Where there is life, there is hope, and as long as I am living, I will continue to trust that God can rebuild and restore any and every area of brokenness in my life.  He will continue to do so until my final breath.  And as surely as the Spirit of Truth dwells within my heart,  I will continue to trust Him to re-write the messages of my childhood and to re-wire my brain.

Life, Near-Death, and the Good Shepherd

Life, Near-Death, and the Good Shepherd

It’s a pretty common occurrence to brush shoulders with death. We ride in cars. Those can be dangerous. We shower. We could fall and hit our head. We or someone we know could encounter the next world at any minute. No one is immune. “I almost died” is not an outlandish statement.   It can be scary, but it can be a reality. With that being said, I am not sure how to process my recent encounters with my own “near-death” experiences. I spent a solid week as a wandering soul, stuck somewhere between this life and the next.   I feel strange when people talk to me about it. When they describe the sensation of sitting in my hospital room, watching my sleeping body, teetering on the tightrope between time and eternity, not sure which direction I would fall at any given minute. I have no elaborate out-of-body experience to describe. I only have medical facts, second-hand information from my husband, loved ones, and doctors, and a lingering sense of displacement in a world that seems a bit off and foreign at the moment.

 

It started with a simple outpatient surgery and a body that was more fragile than the doctors had accounted for. They had been told, but they brushed off the warnings of my faltering health as they tossed me into the assembly-style line set up to be prepped for surgery. My one doctor who was keenly aware of my precarious state had made every effort to set the stage for caution, care, and safety, but her words were disregarded by the business side of the medical industry as their hands were somewhat forced by financial constraints imposed by the broken system of insurance-dictated care.

 

Thus, I was sedated normally, operated on as a routine patient, and tossed like rag-doll back into the assembly-line recovery room as my descent into the valley of the shadow of death began. They did not realize that you cannot toss a china doll like you can a rag-doll, and unknowingly, they started a slow shattering of my delicate physiognomy that would usher me up to the gate of heaven.

 

Pain was unmanaged, my lungs could not cope, there was systemic collapse and chaos, shifting the balance of my precarious composition to a place of toxicity and implosion. No one can blame individuals within the system. They are over-extended, with computers full of faceless names, as they carry the lives of these names, into a place of fragility and vulnerability. It is their job. They may or may not care about the faces, about the back-stories, about the countless lives intertwined in the lives of their patients. There are many who do indeed care. But they are slaves to the broken system which is a slave to a broken system called fallen humanity.

 

I am thankful, exceedingly, abundantly thankful, that my life, my real solid substantial life, was never truly in the hands of the broken system. They were never truly in control. Under the master care of the Master Caregiver, I was always safe. He held my hand in the darkest valley of systemic bodily failure, cardiac uncertainty, and roller-coaster blood levels that threatened to send me careening into eternity.   I was never abandoned in the midst of compromised external care, because my Jehovah is the Lord who heals, who holds, whose arms are never too full, who never loses His children in the shuffle, or overlooks a critical lab value. The same would be true if He had carried me into eternity in the midst of the chaos of last week, because HE would have been the one who carried me there. I am not lost or overlooked. I am the beloved of the Most High God, and He holds me in the palm of His careful, tender hand. He knew all about my journey to the precipice of death before I took my first step into the surgeon’s office, and He whispered to my soul, “It is well. I am with you.”

I am so thankful that I am not lost. I’m also very glad to still be on this side of eternity.