Can I just tell you something?
Pain is humbling.
Pain is hard.
Pain is exhausting.
Pain is a blessing.
Yes. You read that right. It doesn’t feel like it when you’re in the middle of it, but pain is a beautiful gift.
I read a book in high school that had a profound impact on me. It is called “The Gift of Pain” by Phillip Yancey and Dr. Paul Brand. A doctor studying Leprosy patients discovered that the root cause of damage from Leprosy is the inability to feel pain. Dr. Brand learned how important pain is to the body. It is the indicator that lets us know something is wrong. “Pain has a value that becomes clearest in its absence. Pain is a gift that none of us want and yet none of us can do without.” (The Gift of Pain) If there is no pain, then we don’t know something serious is wrong.
Whether it is spiritual, physical, or emotional pain – God can use pain to strengthen our spirit like nothing else can. Pain points to a bigger problem that we can either ignore (and it gets worse) or we can confront and treat the ailment. Without the pain, there is no healing. Pain can be a great teacher, too as I have discovered in a very visual way this week.
I’ve been brought to my knees many times during this illness and each time, God teaches me through the pain. But I have had to be dependent on others more than ever before. With a PICC line, I can’t push myself like I always do – even with a debilitating disease and a broken body, I am usually able to press on to some degree. But, last week I accidentally pulled my catheter out of my arm 5cm – probably because I was lifting groceries, grabbing laundry baskets, or leaning out of the car window to reach the ATM. Whatever caused it, it was frightening, but my nurse assured me that it is nothing to worry about unless it comes all the way out. But these experiences taught me a lesson to stop trying to be a healthy person in a diseased body. I am not there. I can’t keep up with you healthy, active ones… yet. I have to stop trying to keep up when my body is telling me to stop. Because I tried so hard to do things on my own, I developed a bad rash near my PICC site. It’s an allergic reaction mixed with a fungal issue likely caused from when I took a shower (without help) and the dressing got wet. This has made my life miserable the last several days. Inadvertently, I have made this whole ordeal harder than it should have been because of my stubborn independence.
Today I texted my husband that I was worried about taking a shower because my nurse had finished my new PICC dressing and I was instructed that I absolutely COULD NOT get it wet because my rash is getting worse. Before I knew what I was doing, I asked him if he could wash my hair for me and help me take a shower tonight. As always, he said he would do whatever I needed him to. It was then that I came to the teeth grinding realization that I need help. I can’t do this by myself (not that I really was, but I tried.) After seeing his “read receipt” on my phone and reading my own words in my head – my independent, “Type A” personality crumbled in pieces all around me. I have never had to ask anyone to do that before in my life. I felt very loved, humbled and a little depressed all in one moment. I let go… Of trying to do this alone. Of not letting people see me at my worst. Of continuing to say I’m getting better, when some days I really feel like death warmed over. Of making things more complicated than they have to be. Of holding onto my pride with a white knuckled grip. It took a few years, but I think I’m finally resigned to just let things be. It is what it is. News flash: I. Am. Sick. And if I want to be on the other side of this, then maybe that means I must humble myself in every way possible.
I need to slow down and let my body heal. Let the meds do their job. Give myself a break. Let the unimportant things I keep trying to carry fall to the floor for a few months. It’s ok. Really it is. Life will go on even if our house is a wreck and the laundry hampers are all overflowing and we have to eat cereal for the third night in a row. I know my family would much rather have the “real me” back in action sooner than later, than to live in a perfect house right now.
So, maybe this is all just the pain talking or maybe it’s the exhausted weariness of living in the space between barely living and merely surviving, but that’s kind of what pain does. It gives perspective. It dusts off the dirt around the view finder and reveals what really matters in life. I’m determined to do what it takes to get better and not live life constantly in pain. But in the meantime, pain is teaching me, humbling me and smoothing out the dog-eared, tattered edges of my spirit and in spite of it all, I truly am thankful for the blessing that comes with the pain.