the roller coaster of chronic pain

 

I live with chronic pain.  While my husband doesn’t physically have chronic pain, he too has to live with it. He lives with mine. Neither of us got manuals on how to live with this incredibly unfortunate disease, and sometimes that shows.  We think we are in a good rhythm and then our roller coaster cars drop from the highest peak and take us screaming through tight turns and unexpected plunges.

We just want off the roller coaster.  Amen?

From my perspective, here’s where my ticket to ride stems from:

  • I think I can handle more, so I take on more.  And then … I can’t handle it.  I panic.  Then I get sad.  Usually my over-commitment comes in the form of wanting to bring in more money so my husband doesn’t pass out from exhaustion.
  • I feel like I have already given up so much of what used to make up my “normal” life, that I cling to the last few things I do/have until my knuckles turn white.
  • My joy can be depleted on day 3 of immense pain – and then I am a grumpasaurus rex to my family, complete with drooling and teeth baring.

And here’s where my husband’s ticket to ride comes into play:

  • He wants to be helpful but he. is. exhausted.  He is working full-time (and then some for extra money), he cooks, he makes lunches, he does laundry, he cleans, he mows, he does repairs on the house, and sometimes he actually gets to go out with a friend for guy time.
  • He never knows what kind of day I’m having, therefore he never knows what he will be walking in the door to find after work, which is totally not fair and makes him put on a defensive suit somewhere between his truck and the door to the house.
  • He sees my tennis match of emotions (back and forth, back and forth) and he so badly wants me to just figure out that I’m different now and I have to act in accordance with my limitations.

Hold the phone.
I have limitations?

For the love of all things chronic – if you’re reading this and you suffer from chronic pain, YOU HAVE LIMITATIONS!  And guess what, if you’re reading this and you don’t suffer from chronic pain, YOU HAVE LIMITATIONS!

Why do I sometimes think I can do it all?  And I mean all.  It is usually about the time I am half-way through my grocery list in the store when the fatigue slams me, my feet start to spasm, and I have this overwhelming feeling to lay down on the packages of toilet paper on the shelf when I realize — “oh crap, I did it again.”

I want off this ride.
I didn’t ask to ride.
I want this ticket revoked!

Tough circus peanuts.  These are the cards I have been dealt.  I, Ann Skaehill, have fibromyalgia and a weak immune system.  I think it’s fair to say, this roller coaster is here to stay and it’s time for me to grow up and accept it.  I need to appreciate and care for my family FIRST before I fill my schedule with things that make me feel good about myself.  I need to be grateful for medications that can help with a few issues and TAKE THEM.  (Lord have mercy, medication is a whole blog post in itself!)

I’m getting there, but I’m not there yet.  I think if I can embrace this new reality more firmly, then the turns and drops on the roller coaster won’t be so alarming or drastic.  For me, or my husband.

Two days ago my 10-year-old son said, “Hey mom?  You know how sometimes you just get so mad at me for things I do or should have done?  … Well, maybe you can start giving me a sign that I should go in another room.  Why don’t you blink four times and I’ll take off running!”

Ouch.

Reality check.  When I open my mouth to speak, my son is flinching and expecting the worst.  That is a huge problem that I have addressed over the past 2 days with him.  Grumpasaurus rex may still appear from time to time, but I’m working towards her extinction.  Ain’t nobody got time for the damage a dinosaur makes in the modern age.

Today is a new day, and the Bible tells us in Psalm 30:5 that joy comes in the morning.  Embrace your clean slate, and make wise choices today.  First on my list? Washing all the sheets in the house and ensuring my family has good food to eat.  What should be first on your list today?

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what do you say to the brokenhearted?

 

I am a compassionate person, but sometimes I say really stupid things to people who are hurting.  I don’t intend for my words to be stupid, but it happens.  A neighbor of ours lost her precious 4 year old son in a car accident several years ago.  I was still new in my faith and I only had bits and pieces of it figured out – so I tried to connect the dots on my own.

I don’t recommend that.
If you *think* you have it figured out but you aren’t 100% sure, you might want to check with someone who has been on their journey a little longer than you have just to be certain you aren’t creating a donkey with your connect-the-dots art.  Know what I’m sayin?

The good news is that our neighbor knew that I was genuinely hurting for her and her family.  I cried… often (and ugly) for this family.  She recently told me that it’s indeed hard to know what to say when someone is brokenhearted, but this morning I came across this scripture in a book study I am doing and I think that instead of trying to find just the right thing to say next time, I might just quote the scripture in the picture above.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted.

Because He is.
He is close to the brokenhearted.

He shows up in family members who come running to be by your side.
He speaks through the countless cards and texts and emails you receive.
He works through the hands of those who come clean your house.
He loves through the hearts who care for your children when you are unable to.
He shows compassion through the meals and groceries that start showing up at your house.

I can’t answer the age-old question of “why”… WHY is this happening?  What did that happen?  Why is God doing this? – because as Jen Hatmaker (you know, my best friend) posted recently, the WHY could be any number of things depending upon the situation… and even then, we aren’t God and we don’t have all the answers.  And this is why we need faith.

We need faith, and we need to connect the dots on our own on a regular basis so that we can SEE God in action — but not the dots I first mentioned.  Instead, connect the dots of who shows up as His representative, who speaks with His loving voice, who allows Him to work through their hands, who loves with a heart like His, and who shows you compassion just as He did for countless people in the 3 short years that he ministered to others on this earth.

That’s your Lord.
That’s how much He loves you.
He is close.
Closer than you think.

(Thanks to my precious friend Anne who shared her inspiring idea of “God Dots” with me this summer – you can see more of her God Dot inspiration by following her here or here.)

yeah, but … what is your heart saying?

When we were kids and we would push back at something my mom said, our big comeback was, “yeah, but…”  I know, original, right?  My mom used to turn around and say, “no yeah-buts!” and wave her cute little pointer finger at us.  Or if we were “lucky” she would sing it back to us.  (so that’s where I get that, so sorry kiddo!)

Today, I’m telling that to myself.  “NO YEAH-BUTS!”

It’s raining.  

photo from rudlavibizon
photo from rudlavibizon

No big deal to someone without chronic pain but my body has felt this rain coming for days. Yesterday it was a migraine that derailed my plans and today my hips, knees, and ankles are stiff and incredibly painful.  The tendons in my wrists and fingers hurt.  And I just realized I’m clenching my teeth.

(PS: Thank you God for this RAIN!  Holy cow, Dallas has needed this badly!!!)

I have work that needs to get done and the little kid in me says, “yeah, but my body is killing me and I just want to lay down!”  The grown-up in me is saying, “no yeah-buts!”  The chronic pain sufferer in me is saying things that Q*bert would say.

Which automatically leads me to this scripture:

Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks. Luke 6:45b

Ok … so if I’m speaking like Q*bert that must mean there are serious issues to be addressed elsewhere, perhaps I should look in my heart.

Because I am in pain today, I struggle to see my heart for what it truly is. But if I asked a good friend to remind me who I am, she might say:

  • you are a child of the living God who created you masterfully!
  • you are genuine and funny and you love people
  • you are transparent and people learn through your words and actions

Ok, so that tells me I do have a good heart and my problem today is my attitude.  Maybe if I pray for myself (like my friend Dee always reminds me to do), I can ask God to help me change my attitude.  In fact, I think I will pray directly out of scripture:

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer!  (Psalm 62:6)

You might hear the words coming out of your mouth, so do a but-check … well wait, don’t do that.  (where are my emoticons when I need them?!?!)  In all seriousness, you can hear the words you speak but you can’t always see the meditation in your heart.

Do a heart-check.
Dissect it if you have to (friends are incredibly helpful in this activity).
If the forecast in your heart is cloudy with a chance of frustration and angst, I recommend you do the following things:

  1. Surround yourself with people who have pure hearts.  We tend to become more and more like the people with whom we congregate.
  2. Consider forgiveness.  Perhaps you need to forgive yourself or someone else … or even both … before you can dust off the happy places in your heart.
  3. Go to church.  No, I’m not kidding.  Today is Friday – that gives you plenty of time to research churches near you and seek out one that would be a good fit for you.  God is everywhere but sometimes being in a house of worship creates a direct connection from His heart to yours.

Once you’ve begun to address the cobwebs in your heart, you’ll find it much easier to appreciate life and learn to accept things like chronic pain that unfortunately can’t be altogether avoided.

If you need prayer about the current condition of your heart (or any other issue), leave me a comment – I absolutely love praying for people.

mend your wall

Today I did something that was very hard to do.

I addressed part of my wall that needed mending.
Let me explain…

For several years I have had someone in my life who I have really admired, but I didn’t always make the wise choice to respect her.  She is smart, witty, and outwardly loves God more than anyone else I had ever met in life.  And at one point in my journey, she was my boss.

Now, I don’t know what happens inside of us when we lack the discipline to keep jealousy and frustration from penetrating our hearts — but I clearly lacked it.  I started to feel attacked because she could see the vision of what we needed to do and I couldn’t.  I felt frustrated.  I lacked enthusiasm because my pride got in the way.  I hid it from her, but I wasn’t afraid to share it all with my friend because my sinful human nature needed someone “on my side.”  UGH – why do we DO that?!?! (See Psalm 64 reference below … and PS: that was totally gossip on my part which is completely uncool.)

What was happening, unbeknownst to me, was that I was slowly kicking rocks away from one section of the wall inside of me.  My “wall” is what keeps me from doing the things that I know will not bring any good to me.

“Wall” – also known as healthy boundaries, willpower, and courage.

When your wall is strong you can fend off fits of rage and jealousy.  When your wall is weakened you create a big hole, and much like a dog who knows how to masterfully sneak out of his yard, you start going to that weak spot as an outlet for your negative thoughts and feelings.  It’s like you’ve taught yourself “it’s ok to be ugly when I’m over here, because that’s what this spot is for!”  If you aren’t careful, you begin to congregate with other people who also use that weak spot in the wall to unload their negativity. I have had friendships like this in the past and it made me feel dirty after we were done gossipping about other people.  If you’re in those kinds of relationships try addressing how it makes you feel.  If that doesn’t work, it’s time to seek out other friendships.

Psalm 64 says that an evildoer is someone who plots with others to hide their snares saying “who will know? No one but us!” — uh yeah, about that.  God knows.  He sees it all.  So you aren’t fooling anyone but yourself.

It’s never ok to hang out in your weak spot because it’s comfortable there, and never ever because “your people” are there.
I’m just going to leave that hanging for you to think about…. “your people.”

So what do we do about it?

Recently in church we’ve been learning about David and how he respected Saul EVEN WHEN Saul was trying to kill him.  (1 Samuel, chapters 18-28) David had multiple opportunities to slander Saul and even to kill him, but every single time he would say, “yeah but, God anointed this dude and I respect God’s choices and God’s chosen people so I’m not going to kill him.” (obviously that’s my own interpretation – but I think the next bible translation absolutely needs the word “dude” in it)

DUDE … could I still respect someone who was trying to kill me?  Um, it’s not likely.
So why couldn’t I respect someone who cares for me and who has always wanted the best for me? Seems easy enough.

I realized I was mending my wall from the top, down.  I glossed over the real issue and made nicey-nice with myself by saying it wasn’t that big of a deal. In actuality I was avoiding attending to the foundation.   But guess what happens if you don’t have a good foundation for your structure?  Yeah, your walls come tumbling down.  So, I chose this morning to start at the bottom.  It was time to begin repairs on the wall correctly, starting with the foundation.

I called her and asked for forgiveness.  

Even though she hasn’t been my boss for some time now, it has been eating away at me.  I needed her to hear me say that I was sorry, that I was in the wrong, and that I was weak then but didn’t want to be anymore.

Was it hard?
Yes. Terrifying actually.
It’s never easy to admit you have been wrong, especially when you’ve grown so used to that weak spot that the thought of the labor required to rebuild the wall feels overwhelming.

But you know what?
It was life-giving.
It was a conversation filled with grace and forgiveness and prayer and sharing … and love.

I’m not “fixed”, but I am forgiven.

She forgave me and I prayed to the Lord my God for forgiveness as well.  And now, I have the first few stones of my foundation set in place to mend my wall.  Now I just need to keep it up and keep making wise choices.

What mending do you need to address?
What is stopping you?

Ecclesiastes 3:7 says there’s a time to tear, and a time to mend.

Go mend your wall.
You won’t regret it.