As I sit here waiting for my pain medication to kick in, keeping my eye on Emelia’s monitor, going through my mental to-do list, wondering how I’ll pull through the day, I’m realizing there’s an issue bigger than my pain and bigger than my anxiety.
On days like this, my pain brings me to tears and makes my mind wander into a deep abyss of anxiety stemming from my time in the OR. Murky waters clouded with “what if’s” and “why me’s” seep into my mind and a strange panic sets in. Between diaper changes and story time and running errands, there is a question that lingers, suspended:
How will I get through motherhood today?
I wonder how I will take care of Emelia when I’m feeling so sick. When the pain is unrelenting, makes me dizzy and nauseated, and rolls into a fatigue that causes brain fog. It all quickly cascades into self doubt.
And the guilt is immense. The frustration escalates. I get angry when simple tasks are difficult for me, such as doing the dishes, meeting up with a friend for coffee, carrying Emelia, standing up long enough to make a meal, and having a conversation with Mike after dinner.
And this question is ever present: Why can’t my body just behave?
Recently, I was faced with a medical emergency. It caused intense pain and nausea and I waited a long time before I finally told Mike we needed to go to the ER. I was upset that, yet again, my body was misbehaving and that I was going to become an inconvenience. I didn’t want to bother anyone to take care of Emelia in the middle of the night. I didn’t want to make a big deal out of it. Of course, the moment he woke up and saw the pain in my face, he got dressed and we got in the car. He was upset that I had waited so long. And tests showed I had a very good reason for being doubled over in pain all night. Thank God, it wasn’t anything serious.
Aside from not feeling well, I was hit with intense anxiety as nurses wheeled me up and down the long hallways that felt oh so familiar. I had flashbacks of the many times I was in triage, being given injections and tests and fighting for my baby’s life and of the few moments in the OR before I stopped breathing. I handled it better than I thought, but I threw a secret pity party deep inside: why me? And laying flat on the table for a CT scan, practicing my breathing exercises, I finally prayed.
God, I can’t do this. Why are you letting this happen?
And then I heard my therapist’s voice in my head. “Positive talk. Don’t tell yourself you can’t do something. Remember that the physical discomfort of anxiety will end at some point. It won’t last forever.”
God, with your help, I can do this.
To anyone who suffers from chronic illness or pain, whether physical or emotional, you’ll probably understand and relate when I say that sometimes I say I’m “giving it to God,” but in reality, I’m relying on myself for strength and stamina.
This is the bigger issue. My pride.
But God is never weak, and His strength is made perfect in my weakness.
The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all; he protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken. Psalm 34:17-20
In the midst of the pain and anxiety and frustration and guilt, the question of why my body constantly misbehaves is ever-present.
But so is my God.