A lot of the posts on this site relate to our experience going through Sophia’s trials. It has been something that has consumed my mental, physical and emotional energy for a long time - and it is something I think about daily. This fact hit home as I went through more than a few posts, preparing for a talk I gave on Friday to Magnolia Bible Church’s MOPS group. It went very well, it flowed, I keep saying. It felt like I was right where I was supposed to be and the message was exactly what I should be talking about right now. I am going to work on condensing my 7 pages of notes into a blog post – and hopefully I can encourage you to embrace God through your trials (that’s the main theme of the talk after all!)
But I ran across an issue I’m not sure I talk too much about – how we are dealing with life after treatment. In conversation, I’ve equated our experience to a solider returning from war with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). It is the best analogy I can give because we were so focused on winning the war against cancer, with the battlefield being Sophia's little body. A definition of PTSD I ran across on someone’s Facebook page described it this way:
PTSD is "war feels normal", so "normal feels like war".
I would say our ability to adjust back to “normal” life is still challenging. There are a lot of flashbacks – although less now, the farther we get away from it. But especially at first, when we would have to go back to the scene of the crime – Texas Children’s Hospital here in Houston. I would start to hyperventilate along the way while Sophia would hold her panic in check until the parking garage. We are together all the way through it, though – and it is easier to hold hands with someone when you walk back into the dark than to walk in there alone.
But the kind of stress we endured leaves its mark.
I know I’ve said this before, but I was raised in a “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” kind of family. I also married into one. It’s useful actually, we are all, in general, pretty good in a jam. What I didn’t anticipate though, was the amount of emotional damage I’d sustained in this war. It’s the kind of stuff that sneaks up on you – feelings you know are there but at the time, the best you can do is stuff them in your gut because you don’t have the energy or time to deal with them at the moment.
As it turns out, I’d gotten real good at stuffing my feelings into my gut prior to Sophia’s cancer. So good, in fact, that when Sophia’s cancer came upon us, especially once we got past the initial shock and awe of the situation, most days I was able to function. My little junk drawer of buried feelings got more and more cluttered, until such a day it could be cleaned out. Apparently, in late January of this year, that day arrived.
I started seeing a homeopathic practitioner on the advice of my best friend – to undergo Natural Health and Allergy Elimination (NAET – find more information here). The impetus was a rash on my face, neck and chest that I couldn’t get rid of. Through her methodology, she has been able to identify some major problems that hold my body back from being in the balance it should be. Most are food related, some are involve the medications I take for my thyroid and insulin resistance (the big offender) and some are your typical environmental allergens. What I didn’t anticipate (nor could forecast) is how critical my emotional health was to my physical well-being. Like I said, I knew I was emotionally scarred from our experience but to quote my practitioner:
The situations that I seemed to suppress were not the ones I expected. But they created the most intense emotions in me - including anger, despair, frustration, irritation and worst of all guilt.It is rarely what you think it is.
Anger I've dealt with for a long time, and it was the first to make it self known. Then came issues related to despair and frustration. And this week, after being "stuck" in my treatment for going on four weeks - irritation and guilt reared their ugly heads. Here is a good example of what has happened to my insides:
When I stuffed my irritation at say: hospitals, procedures, circumstances and yes, even Sophia herself down deep, it scarred more than my heart. It built up and took a toll on my insides causing inflammation. Then, the guilt I felt for having those feelings made it worse. Then I got irritated at myself for being guilty - the vicious cycle built upon itself until the irritation and the guilt were suffocating my health. It's more than being out of whack - something was wrong with me. It took time to uncover the heart of it - I'm 4 months into this treatment and we are just now dealing with this issue but most people take longer.
(I doubt this will be the last time I run into an effect from my suppressed emotions.)
Yet, I'm hopeful. There is healing going on, even if it takes longer than I would like. All of these feeling required layers to be peeled away - I couldn't do with them all at once. It's a takes time to clear them and address the other things that hold my body back. The process of healing - mind, body and/or spirit is not for the fainthearted. I never imagined when I got into all of this that I would be de-toxing this long or from things I thought I really had under control.
I am ever expectant of God’s Handiwork in all of this. I don’t think I would be responding as well or as quickly, especially to the emotional aspect of this treatment, unless He wanted it out of me to begin with. I don’t know what the future will bring, but I kind of feel like all this emotional, physical and spiritual work is on the fast-track. I also hope that getting all of this hidden/buried/dormant junk out of my system will make me a much better wife, mother, writer and general contributor to the Kingdom of God.
No, I know it will.
If you are dealing with a treacherous past, full of hurt, insecurity, anger, guilt, unforgiveness and instability – I don’t know if my path will work the same for you. But there are a lot of other options. The key is to get it out – not to let it harden your heart, mind or your body. The longer it is in there, the worse the effects. God wants you free of what holds you back – free to accept all of His grace, mercy, blessings and abundance.
Let the Healer work - don't hold back any longer!