Wednesday, December 7, 2016

It Is Well

It's been a year. Well, more than a year, but you get the idea.

It's amazing how much can change in a year. Or a day, really.

September 1st, 2015 changed a lot of things for my husband and I. It was our first day back to work after our two weeks off for our wedding and honeymoon. After having a great two weeks off, we expected the first day back to be a little stressful and difficult, but I don't think either of us expected it to be what it was. The first half  hour revealed that we were the recipients of some very unwelcomed and unexpected manipulation and cruelty at the hand of someone we'd once called a friend. While this person failed to get my husband fired, they did succeed in getting his entire department dissolved while we were gone, and painted some very untrue pictures of my husbands character in the process.

In the weeks and months that followed, as we watched the effects of this cruelty play out, my job was undergoing some serious changes as well. Through a series of events, what was once a department of 3 people, was now just me.
I remember waking up in the middle of the night feeling sick, and then being terrified about not being able to go into work if I was sick. "Oh my God....who will do my job if I'm not there?" No one else knew how to do payroll, or a lot of the different parts of my job for that matter. Hell, I was still stumbling along learning how to do payroll myself. I'd never been so stressed in my life.

And then I started not feeling well. A lot. Every day I felt sick to my stomach, and exhausted, and emotional. I'd been feeling sick for years off and on, but this consistency was new. At first I thought maybe it was all the stress, but as my new 3 person job became the norm, I wasn't so stressed out about it anymore, but I still felt terrible. So after a while I figured it was my birth control. I saw a doctor to see if there was anything I could do to help it. It became very obvious within the first few minutes that while I was describing how sick I'd been feeling, all my doctor was focusing on was the small piece of information I'd offered about life the last few months.
Before I knew it, I was being told that I needed to take an anti-depressant.

If I hadn't been stressed before, now I was thru the roof. As I read the long list of side effects for the particular pill she wanted me to take, my panic grew. All of the likely side effects of this medication were the very symptoms I had gone to see the doctor for in the first place. And now I need to take a pill that could very likely make all of this things worse?

The thing that panicked me even more was the idea of having to take an anti-depressant in the first place. I grew up going to the pharmacy with my mom to pick up her prescriptions for years. Seeing her have to take a whole host of pills everyday just to manage her illness (s). The thought of ending up like my mom in that way scared me beyond belief. "I'm only 23....how can this be happening..."

I'd never had a panic attack before, but I was about to have several of them. You know the sad character in the movies that has an emotional breakdown in the shower? Sobbing under the water, asking God why, begging for help. Yeah. I've been that person more times in the last year than I care to admit. I tried the pills for a few days, and sure enough, they made me sicker. I finally told my doctor I didn't want my IUD anymore, and despite the many warnings I got, I had it removed. Within hours I felt better in a multitude of ways. I thought I was in the clear.

Fast-forward to now. A little over a year since my first visit in a long line of doctors and medical bills. I've gotten sicker. I've had lots of tests done. Some embarrassing, some scary, and some just expensive. I've been told more times than I care to remember that "even though you seem very calm and collected, you probably just have an anxiety disorder", (as if an anxiety disorder is so insignificant) and in so many words, "Its all in your head."

I've been angry. I've been depressed. I've been apathetic. I've lived in a false sense of acceptance, only to get even angrier once I realized how fake my acceptance of my circumstances had been. I've tried just about everything to be healthy again, only to find myself no better off, and in lots of ways, even worse. I've wanted to punch people in the throat for telling me to persevere. Have faith, God is in control, look at the bright side, and a whole host of other clich├ęs and useless platitudes. My constant response has been, "Yeah. I know God's in control. I know He can heal me. That's precisely why I'm pissed at him. Because I've been begging him to for years now, and I've only gotten worse, so the only conclusion is that He won't. And not just that he won't, but that it seems like he's actively involved in making everything worse!"

Few knew how to respond to so much pain and hurt, masked in the intense anger and bitterness I chose, because somehow that felt safer than admitting how broken hearted and scared I felt.
Those who did know how to respond though, responded well. Often times it was as simple as "I know it sucks, and I'm so sorry." from a friend who would cry alongside me, that would help to get me through.

And then one night not too long ago I picked up a copy of C.S. Lewis' The Problem of Pain. I stumbled through the first few chapters, trying to absorb the meaning of his words, but getting frustrated because his writing is so hard to understand sometimes. And then I read this:

“We are, not metaphorically but in very truth, a Divine work of art, something that God is making, and therefore something with which He will not be satisfied until it has a certain character. Here again we come up against what I have called the “intolerable compliment.” Over a sketch made idly to amuse a child, an artist may not take much trouble: he may be content to let it go even though it is not exactly as he meant it to be. But over the great picture of his life—the work which he loves, though in a different fashion, as intensely as a man loves a woman or a mother a child—he will take endless trouble—and would doubtless, thereby give endless trouble to the picture if it were sentient. One can imagine a sentient picture, after being rubbed and scraped and re-commenced for the tenth time, wishing that it were only a thumb-nail sketch whose making was over in a minute. In the same way, it is natural for us to wish that God had designed for us a less glorious and less arduous destiny; but then we are wishing not for more love but for less.”  

An intolerable compliment. That's what this season has been. An intolerable, gut wrenching, painful compliment. And by asking God to take it all away, and make everything better, I've been asking not for more love from him, but for less. Much less. By asking God to remove all of my pain and sickness and hurt, and then being so angry with him when he wouldn't, I've been missing all of the grace and kindness he's given me in the midst of it. My incredible husband, who has been by my side doing everything under the sun to help me. My family, who has consistently gone out of their way to help me feel less alone and isolated with get-togethers by having food that I can eat.
My friends, who've been so faithful and good to me. The common grace of ginger and other remedies for nausea and stomach pain.

I don't think I've been completely oblivious to these things, I think I just appreciated them less because I couldn't reconcile them to a God who seemed so cruel and unfeeling. And I'll admit, I still don't know how to focus on the good when you feel immense sickness, but I'm learning how to be thankful for the storm in the moments after it's passed; when I can think again.

For a while now my plea to God has been to give me hope beyond hope, because mine has been so broken for so long now. To help me to get my eyes up off of me, and onto his glory and grace. And honestly? I can say that I have a hope now that I haven't had in a long time. And it's not just an eternal hope that one day He'll return and everything will be perfect again (although that is no small hope either), but a hope that He will answer my cries for health and healing one day, and that maybe, just maybe, that day is sooner than I dare to hope yet.

But even if he doesn't....
It is well.