Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Thoughts On My Second Anniversary of Pain

Today marks the second anniversary of when my pain became debilitating and life altering. It's a day I will never forget. Last year I talked about the cycle of acceptance that occurs when faced with a life changing event, such as chronic pain. I thought then that I was learning to accept my pain, but this past year as my quality of life has greatly fluctuated from being practically housebound and sometimes confined to the couch or bed to being able to do some light daily activities and occasional social outings, I believe acceptance is a lifelong process.

Little by little as abilities are "taken away" I learn to accept my new normal. Many of the things that I couldn't accept when this pain began are now every day normal life. I used to be so embarrassed of sitting on my cushion! Now it goes pretty much everywhere I go. However, I do still struggle to accept some of aspects of my "new life" and how they may affect my future.
  • I have come to accept the fact that I will likely never run again or ride a bike. However, I do still struggle with the fact that I cannot run and play with my daughter outside the way I'd like. We can't go hiking as a family or do other physical activities other than an occasional light walk, which is hard for an active person like myself.
  • I have accepted the fact that we will most likely never serve long term as missionaries overseas (our dream and plan when my husband and I got married). I do, however, struggle to accept that I may never be able to go overseas for even a short term mission trip.
  • I have decided that I will not physically try to have another baby (of course God may have different plans), but I struggle to accept that unless my pain greatly improves we may never be able to adopt (something we've talked about since before we were married) and that my daughter will likely be an only child.
  • I have accepted that fact that I will likely deal with lifelong pain to some degree, but I struggle with the fact that my physical condition may continue to deteriorate (as I have not been able to find any successful treatment yet). I often wonder how will I live life as an elderly person if I can't stand very long, sit more than 20 minutes, or lie on my back?
  • I have accepted the fact that I will probably never be able to sit again like "normal" people. I am OK with using a cushion to sit on and only being able to sit short periods of time. But I have a goal of being able to sit 2 hours with tolerable pain and short breaks because in 2 hours we could drive to a big city to see extended family and visit my doctor, I could make it through Sunday School and church, we could fly short trips for leisure or to see family, we could do more social activities, and I could attend my daughter's future school or sporting events. Currently I sit only for driving (max 30 minutes), the occasional meal, and some of Sunday School; so 2 hours would be amazing!

But what if I never can sit for more than a few minutes? What if I can't go overseas again or my daughter is an only child and I have to miss a lot of her school functions in the future? How will I respond? Will be I angry at God for making my life so hard or will I say like Job with open arms,  "The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD." (Job 1:21)?

When I think of dealing with the possibility of life-long pain, I often think of Joni Eareckson Tada who has lived most of her life in a wheelchair. Providentially, last night, I read this article by John Knight at Desiring God about how God uses disability to His glory.
"What date is burned into your memory? Many people impacted by disability can tell you the day it started. It is the day the child was born, or the diagnosis was made, or the accident occurred, or the virus attacked the body.  And God already knew it.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. (Psalm 139:16)
On July 30, 1967, Joni Eareckson dove into shallow water — and God launched an international ministry." You can continue reading here
I don't know what exactly God has planned for my life, but I know that the events of March 21, 2010 didn't just happen by chance. They were orchestrated by God for a purpose. When it's hard to accept the limitations of life with chronic pain this truth - that God wrote down my days before I was even formed - helps me deal with the uncertainties of the future and gives me hope. This is what I must continue to cling as I strive to be content with the life God has given.

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