On January 1 I woke up in pain. I had shooting pain in my shoulder and down into my arm and fingers, and it was scary. I’d struggled with some neck and shoulder pain off and on for awhile–too much pottery work and typing at a very non-ergonomic computer console–and I’d been ignoring it, and apparently my body got sick of this and went into spasms.
Although I’ve taken a little bit of every drug made for pain, as well as visited doctors, a chiropractor, and a massage therapist, I’m still feeling great pain, four weeks out. And, during the past few weeks, I’ve learned a few things about myself. Not always good things, either.
First, I have trivialized people in pain. When someone stays home from an event because of back or body pain, I don’t understand how horrible they might feel. I don’t offer help or aid because I don’t get it. Well, people, next time you feel body pain call me up, because I now get it. Pain is ugly and all-consuming, and if you’re feeling it, I want to come help you.
Second, I don’t know how to ask for help. My house has not been cleaned in three weeks. We have pets, so the floors are coated in animal fur. Clutter is everywhere. I can’t reach the floor easily, so things are just lying there being stepped on. I’ve kept up with laundry and cleaning cat litter, but that’s it. My middle son is keeping dishes clean and put away. I can’t do it, but I also can’t ask for help. The words just don’t come out. I’m teaching pottery, and it’s miserable, but again, instead of asking someone to help me out once or twice, I just do it alone. I claim I desire to live in Christian community, but I also want to be completely independent. Part of it is fear of rejection, but I also trivialize myself. There are people out there dealing with death and loss and divorce and cancer, and they seem much more important than me. But, I have the right, as a child of God, to ask my Christian family for help. I just need to learn to do it.
Pain can be the most selfish thing ever. Really, my solitary goal right now is pain control. I want to stop hurting. The pain can be sharp, the kind that makes you gasp and see spots, and all I think about is avoiding that. I’m useless to family, friends, my church, everyone. I don’t know how to fix this one, but it feels wrong to get into such a self-absorbed spot and just linger there. I know I should spend time with God, but that takes more concentration than I seem to be able to muster; instead, I’ve watched a lot of Netflix this month. Escaping into a story is about the only way I can get my focus to leave ME.
I also have a greater sympathy for those who struggle with drug addictions. I’ve reacted badly to two different meds during this month, and yet, I keep trying to find some miracle concoction that will help me function again. Because I lost someone dear to me to drug abuse, I try to be careful, but there are moments I would take anything anyone offered if it could help me feel better. No more judging those who fall into this particular trap.
Finally, I judge my worth by what I can do. God still loves me when I’m lying on the sofa watching TV. I haven’t done anything I value in weeks, from housekeeping to hobbies, and it’s driving me crazy. I don’t feel like me. I don’t feel like I matter or count for anything right now. But I do. If God chooses to make this a permanent part of my life, He still values me. And he’ll find ways to make me useful to him, even though right now I can’t see what value I might have. Some of this is trusting God. Not that he exists, not that has the power to do anything at all, but I struggle to trust that the little daily burdens of my life matter to him. It’s partially me thinking I have to Wow God to be valuable, and part of it is seeing God as a distant and impersonal being who doesn’t really care about anything but disciplining me for future glory. I need to remember he is a loving father willing to sweep me under his wings in his love and protection.
I don’t know what’s going to happen to me. Decisions need to be made about doctors, specialists, alternative medicines. We have little money and no insurance, but it’s important I do what I can do be functional, for I don’t really believe God’s plan for me is limited to my sofa. I think healing will come, slowly, and I have to keep heart and faith, trusting him and thanking him even when I feel less than thankful. I need to learn to ask for help and then be aware of others who can’t ask for help but need it, and offer help when tables turn. I need to cling to the Word even if I can’t quite concentrate on it, and I need to set frustrations aside and focus on things for which I can be thankful, like my husband’s new job and my children’s health and well being.
Pain control is new. And I hope this is a short lesson I won’t need to repeat often. But I don’t think I’ll forget it for a very long time to come.