One year ago today, I was admitted to Bromenn for a L3-L4 microdiscectomy. The week prior, was full of repeated ER visits, begging and pleading for help with the worst pain I have ever experienced. It was so humbling to be the patient and not the nurse. To have literally no power to help myself and being completely dependent on the care of others. Care, those others werent very willing to give. The doctors accused me of faking the pain, of being a drug seeker. They told me, if the pain were real, I would be screaming and acting out. They sent me home with no help…time and time again. Finally, my primary doctor was able to get an MRI approved with my insurance. It showed I indeed, had several nerves pinched and not doing surgery may result in permanent nerve damage. So, I went into the hospital to be admitted for surgery. While there, the nerve function worsened. I became incontinent of urine and had to have a catheter. There are few things more humbling than that. being 26 years old and not being able to pee on our own. The surgeon who agreed to do the surgery, had been a patient of mine when I was working in primary care and had agreed to work me onto her surgery schedule, that day, as a personal favor. She was so kind, but unfortunately, her words before surgery were less than encouraging. “Surgery will take care of these acute symptoms, the pain, the incontinence, but you may never have feeling in your right leg again. You will need more surgery in the future. There is no guarantee this will help any chronic issues. The nerve damage is pretty severe.” I have struggled with chronic back pain since high school. The numbness started shortly after Levi was born and I worked so hard to avoid surgery. Hearing that it was my only option broke my heart, because I knew the long term outlook wasnt good. But, here I was left with no choice. Surgery ended up being a little more involved than planned. They needed to take more disc tissue than they thought, which meant a more extensive recovery. I was at high risk for re-rupturing the discs, so recovery would be very, very slow.
The hardest part of recovery wasnt the pain, wasnt dealing with the nerve swelling that left my legs numb and tingly. It was the total and complete loss of control of the situation. I crave control. I never really thought of myself as a controlling person until these days, when I realized how dependent I was upon “being in charge”. In years past, my driving personality was crucial to survival. To get me through the collapse of my family, the start of a new marriage, financial concerns, nursing school, a new career etc, etc. While that served me well through those times, it was causing damage in the present. My husband didnt feel validated as a man, because I made all of the decisions. We werent acting as helpmates, but in competition. Not to say that our marriage was awful, but it wasnt optimal. We both knew we wanted to make changes but werent exactly sure where to start. Its hard to break a long term cycle. This past year, has been an answer to our prayers. We prayed that God would change our marriage to rightly reflect being a team with a common goal. It took, a year of trials, to teach me, especially, how to allow those around me to help me and to relinquish that control. To act as a teammate and not as a dictator. Coming home after surgery, I wasnt allowed to bend or turn in any way for a week. So I relied completely on my husband to bathe and clothe me. He had to help me, get seated on the toilet for the first few days. When my feet were cold and I wanted socks, I couldnt put them on myself, I had to ask him to do it. I dont care how much you love someone, relying on their care, like that, is very humbling. I was still nursing Emma. It was so difficult to not be able to hold my baby when she cried for me and wanted my comfort. To have to deny her something she had known as normal for her entire life. I did resume nursing after a few days, but needed someone to bring her to me and pad us with pillows. It was not easy or relaxing for either of us. It was difficult not to be able to interact with Levi and Eva the way I wanted. Not to be able to take them to the park or enjoy our summer together, at all. It was difficult to sit on the couch and watch time pass me by. The whole family rallied to make me comfortable, but the stress on all of us was very obvious. It was just so tough. I felt like my world was rocked and there was no way I could regain any control. I really floundered.
Back surgery was just a start, as the year continued to unfold, so did the hardships. I got back on my feet. Back to life, back to work. Back in control. The stress grew again. I guess im a slow learner, because it took a year of loss and pain to get it through my head. They were dark times. I have written about that before. Im feeling like, we are now on the “other side”. Back on the mountain top after that low valley. A year later, I still dont have full feeling in my right leg, and likely wont. Some days are worse than others. Most days, it just feels like my foot is asleep. I have to be careful, to lead with my left foot, which is difficult for a right hand dominant person. Im careful about lifting and bending. I keep my diet clean and low in inflammatory foods. Ive adapted. I made it through, what once seemed impossible. But more than the physical, I am so thankful for the emotional growth and development. Im thankful for restoration in my marriage. It will always be a work in progress, but there has been healing. Healing of wounds Im not even sure I knew were there. Im thankful for growth as an individual. I have always struggled with allowing myself to embrace who I am, to show my true self. Today, Im enjoying hobbys that I would have never even considered trying before. I am more connected with my kids and so much more appreciative of the time we have together. I am learning, still, to let go of the control. My own desire for control and allowing others to have control over me and my thoughts about myself. I am learning that perfection, is a myth. The messiness of life is where the beauty is. I may not be the best at everything I do, but my talents may still be a blessing to others. It selfish, not to share those things because of worry of judgement of others. Its selfish to give others control and not to allow myself to be used by God. Its now my goal to be real. To share the mishaps and the mayhem of life with a tiny family. No more “fake face” trying to make everyone think I have it all under control. I dont, I probably wont ever. There are more important things to focus on.
I have always loved the verse, Jeremiah 29: 11-13: For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future. Then you will seek me and find me when you seek me with all of your heart.
This verse is even more treasured to me now. I asked God to do a work in me. In order to do that work, he needed to break me down, to show me the flaws that needed repair. He allowed these hardships to grow me. I couldnt always see it at the time, but now, I see it and Im thankful. The good Lord has alot more work to do in this life, but I am so thankful for a Lord that hears me, answers me and carries me. Im thankful for Lord that knows how to use those important people in my life to benefit me and be His hands in my life.
I want to give a special thanks to Darren for being so patient. So understanding and loving. For allowing me to flounder and never leaving my side. There arent words to describe how much I need him and am just so blessed to have his goofy self right by my side. Its so obvious now, that God had a plan for us some 16 years ago when we became friends.
When I think about how hard this past year has been, it scares me a bit. I see the pain and never want to experience pain like that again. I feel like I have “done my time” and I desire for life to be smooth sailing form here. I know thats not reality. Life will always have mountain tops and valleys. For now, I will enjoy the beauty of the mountain top and know, that when I again find myself in a valley, I will never wander there alone. I will seek Him and find Him when I seek Him with all of my heart.