Will – 10: Body – 0
For the past several years I have been making a comeback. In 2016, after ten years of warring with my body, my brain finally delivered the knock-out blow. Previously, I had been pushing boundaries, ignoring the warnings and, by pure force of will, overrode all of my body’s defences. Fuelled by pride, nothing was going to stop me from fulfilling my unrealistic expectations of wife, mum and lay minister. I drove myself further into the ground each year and suffered multiple forms of burnout. However, in the end, my brain said, “Enough” and took me out of action.
Brain – 1: Will – Down For The Count!
As each wave of burnout washed over me, I successfully conquered it by sheer force of will. I pushed my body further into a corner until it had nowhere else to go. It was then that my brain created the only successful method, to date, that slowed me down.
Pain. Significant pain.
It started with my wrists and then moved to my fingers. There was nothing to show on any scan or test because it was “all in my head”. Next, my elbows, and shoulders gave way. I had always had trouble with my knees, and they kicked up a level and were shortly followed by my ankles and toes. Every minor joint in my body ached beyond belief.
In one of my many manifestations of burnout, I developed a habit of passing out when my brain felt too taxed. Because I had destroyed my reserves, this happened a lot. But when I learned it was psychosomatic (literally in my head), I was horrified and pushed through it, determined to conquer the weakness. This time round, when my whole body rebelled against me, I was once again told, “it is all in your head”. So, I did what I do best; I pushed through.
My Brain Won the Battle
For three years the pain increased and my mobility decreased. But when my hips jumped on the band wagon, I’d had enough. I booked myself into see a psychologist. No longer caring where the problem lay, I just wanted out.
Pain, frustration, exhaustion, and ignorance made a toxic cocktail that was destroying me.
I felt justified when my psychologist confirmed that the pain was real. But so was my confusion and self-doubt. What was the cause? If it wasn’t physiological and it wasn’t psychological, what on earth was it? I couldn’t maintain the pain medication I was on because of the side effects. But I couldn’t function without it.
In the end, the doctors and psychologists said there was nothing more they could do for me. On the earthly level, I was at a dead end. On the spiritual level, I knew God was teaching me an invaluable lesson. I had been praying for humility and asking God to help me deal with pride and arrogance. I felt, that whilst he didn’t cause this problem, he was definitely using it to answer my prayer.
I sat down and struggled to put all the pieces of the puzzle together. In the end, I realised it was another form burnout; a souped up, steroid taking, monster of a burnout. One that I couldn’t push through. It grabbed me by the ears, looked me in the eyes and said,
“Sit down, shut up, and be still…or I WILL take you out.”
So, I did the only thing I could. I listened.
I hadn’t wanted to see a Pain Management Specialist. What was the point? What could she do? Teach me a thing or two about life…as it turned out.
I learned that I was on the right track to solving the problem but, I needed help and more information. It was then I started the long and slow process of retraining my brain. It was my daily, hourly, moment by moment job, to assure my brain that I was safe and that I would do things differently.
I know it sounds weird, But I was divided into two. I had a lot of work to do, to reconcile myself to…myself. But not only did I have to talk the talk, I had to walk the walk. My brain knew when I was lying. After totally restructuring my life and constructing very big boundaries around everything. I started to see improvement.
It’s a Long Road to Recovery
However, it seems I still had a lot to learn. When I started to feel better, I raced about like a blue-bottomed-fly…and knocked myself out again. Not realising how out of condition I was, I overtaxed my under-toned body and ended up back in bed again.
After another year of learning how to do things the right way, I slowly made my way out of the woods. Now that my brain and my will are back on the same team, I am finally able to get some sleep. My boundaries have come in a bit, but stay firmly entrenched around my priorities; God, family, down-time.
God Was Not Silent
Through it all, I called out to God. I knew this is not what He intended life to be like. I knew I was doing something wrong. But, I couldn’t see the forest for the trees. He told me, not only was I not perfect, I couldn’t be. Only He is.
He said I was not supposed to do everything. Only He could.
I was not called to be successful, rather, I was called to be faithful. Bottom line: I’m not God.
Once I stepped out of his shoes and back into mine, life got a whole lot better.
I still have a long way to go, but the learning curve has been steep and nasty.
I have learned a lot about pain and suffering, grief and loss, as well as humility and humiliation. But the most precious thing of all has been learning more about the grace, mercy, love, compassion, and patience of our God. Through this whole process He has not been silent nor has He been distant.
Have The Lessons Been Worth It?
Yes. I’d be dead and I’m not ready for that yet.
Would I do it all again to gain the same reward?
Not if I didn’t have to.
I really don’t like suffering that much. But I’m also a bit stubborn (okay, so more than a bit) and more than likely wouldn’t have learned any other way.