I am in pain.
Constant, present, pain.
This is not an analogy, my words do not represent. I speak literally. For years, I have lived with pain.
This year, I did something about it. Not because I wanted to. Not because I chose myself. But because someone I love asked me to. That, and, I keep fainting inexplicably. (Oh yea, there is that....)
I could give you the long history. I could detail the chain of events in an attempt to unravel them, to find the source, to know where to attack the issue. But honestly, that story's been told before. Not here, perhaps, but elsewhere. In doctor's offices all over Austin (at this point I've seen two neurologists, two cardiologists, two OB's, one psychiatrist, one physical therapy team, and one primary care physician), I have spoken and they have listened. Granted, with varying degrees of success, but they have at least tried to hear me.
The source? No one knows. The cardiologists say it's neurological. The neurologists say it's psychological. The PCP, PT and OB have no idea. Lovely. Aren't these people supposed to help?
Really, I can't blame them. For one, I waited fifteen years before seeing anyone. In the meantime, the first issue created a second issue which created a third, and so on. Second, the body is a mystery. We aren't the Creator, so I shouldn't expect "us" to be able to magically understand every mystery our bodies present. Third...well, honestly, I believe this is both spiritual and physical (and emotional, and psychological, and intellectual). I believe that as I achieve alignment, order, peace in one area, health will spill over into others.
For the record, I do not believe I can heal myself. I am not a humanist. But I do believe I can engage the process - the process of becoming whole, perfect (as in, complete), healthy. I know I can partner with the Healer.
This is a huge leap for me. As I've alluded to, for many years I avoided my body. I ignored it. I didn't pay much attention to how I dressed, rarely worked out, certainly didn't acknowledge the pain that was happening inside of it.
Instead I spent years focusing on the heart - peeling back layers of lies and unbelief to change my mind and heal my heart. I prayed, went to therapy, laughed, cried - in short, worked through a lot. I felt everything, but I also felt nothing. Nothing physical, that is. I refused to. Until I could no longer resist.
Last spring the neck pain became unbearable.
Last summer the fainting returned (the doctors had previously thought it was pregnancy-induced neuro-cardiogenic syncopy...guess what? I wasn't pregnant when I began fainting again!).
This fall, I am still in pain. But something is different now. I have engaged the process, I no longer deny my body's voice. As I began giving legitimacy to its pain - attacking the voices in my head - I began to realize how much I've devalued myself by ignoring myself. (You know the voices...mine say things like, "you're a hypochondriac", "quit complaining", "you're so dramatic", "you're making this all up", "why are you always so negative?" I could now tell you exactly where and when all of these voices entered my head. For the record, they didn't come from God.) I listened to lies and accusations instead of choosing to love the physical part of myself as much as the emotional or intellectual or spiritual.
In so doing, I created an imbalance. I also made myself Lord. Who am I to decide that my body doesn't matter? Who am I to place one part of my being - a being designed to be whole - over another? There is only one Head, and I am not it. He calls us to "love one another as you love yourselves". We are called to self-love, self-love, not love of one part of oneself.
So I'm trying to repent. I'm trying to act as though my body matters as much as the rest of me. I give it time, attention, love. I listen when it speaks. I seek help when it needs it.
I still feel uncomfortable as I do this. As if I'm being self-indulgent. Another lie, I suppose, but it's hard for me to believe that it's okay to give my body this much attention.
I press in. I act in spite of my discomfort, knowing that what I do is more important than the unhealthy way I feel about it at present.
I work out regularly. I eat better (still working on this). I go to doctors and therapists and do what they say.
And I learn from my body. I learn how twisted I have viewed things (quite literally - my neck is completely twisted up). I learn that I am very tense (again, literally - this is the diagnosis for my pain...the tension in my nerves and muscles has created pain (and other issues)...this tension, at the cellular level, has effectively been a form of self-protection. My muscles have tensed in order to hold unstable, misaligned parts of me in place). I learn that stress and anxiety happen at all levels, not just in the soul space.
I learn that the tighter I hold on to my coping mechanisms, the worse I feel. I learn that letting go - releasing - is a slow process. If I try to power through pain and "just get better", my body re-doubles its efforts at self-protection. The message I send it when I power through: I have not cared for it. I have not shown it that I will withdraw one stabilizing system only when another, better one is in place. I have not shown it that I will not put it in danger, in other words, not get rid of unhealth only to leave it with nothing. I have not been trustworthy.
It is when I slowly, methodically, make the transition from old to new that my body responds well. If my therapist feels a tight spot, she doesn't cram her thumb into it, hell-bent on getting that knot to release whether it wants to or not. No. She moves deeper as my body allows her to, gently applying more pressure when the body gives in to the first amount applied. She works the supporting tissue to give the released muscle a place to move. With her fingers she listens, speaks, listens more, responds to what she hears. In short, she respects my body's voice.
I owe it that same respect. It has been sinful of me to honor the other parts of my being - mind, heart, soul - and not honor my body. God made all of me. I dishonor Him by dishonoring that.
I'm excited about this process. As you know, I am most definitely still in a lot of pain. But I am also making progress. Slowly. Methodically. But progress, nonetheless.