Yesterday I discussed my two greatest challenges, historically. Today I will attempt to pinpoint what areas I am tempted to trip over and which cause me great difficulty day to day in my current life. Honestly, the largest area of difficulty is not one that is related much to mental illness, but it does, however, affect my perspective on life and my daily willingness to get out of bed and face another day. You may have already guessed it but the answer is "pain." Asthma is bad; pain is worse. It keeps me a prisoner in many ways and one of them is through the bondage of fear.
Yesterday I had a church picnic to attend and I really had looked forward to it, but had a very miserable night with pain that I can't begin to describe. By 9 a.m. my pain was under better control but I was afraid. Afraid that I would get there and have a miserable time because of my pain...afraid that I would feel that horrible alienation that comes as a result of both my mental illness and my physical struggles. I waivered and probably would have chickened out from attending, but a good friend I chat with online, identified the source of my reluctance and told me, "If you don't go then FEAR WINS! and the only one to blame is you." (Isn't it great to have friends that lay it on the line?) So I went. It hurt. But I also had a fairly good time. True, I had to leave early. I knew that would probably happen, but I'm glad that I got to go anyway.
So pain creates fear. I have a friend in my Bible Study who has a bulging disc in his back. He received an injection of cortisone into his back and the pain was greatly alleviated, but he still is walking stiffly as though he has a board strapped to his back. When he said to me, "I don't know why I'm walking this way, when I'm actually feeling better...." I told him, "I do. You are AFRAID of inducing more pain by some inadvertent motion, so you are walking in a way that you think will protect you from that."
This has all kinds of parallels and implications to us as humans who suffer and to patients with mental illness. Fear causes us to stiffen; to dread; to cause ourselves new pain by the way we tense ourselves and keep ourselves from relaxing into life once again....once the crisis has past. This anxiety is one that my husband and daughter suffer from greatly...while they wait the (inevitable, according to them) breakdown that I will experience any day now. They do not enjoy the days when I am doing well, cannot relax and laugh and allow themselves to hope that maybe I'll stay out of the hospital for a while now. The anticipation of pain causes us great and often unnecessary fear.
I got off on sort of a tangent. This is maybe one of my family's greatest struggles now, but for me the actual daily struggle with physical pain is one that sometimes seems insurmountable. It causes me to have sleepless nights and exhausted days. It causes me to not have much pleasure even in events that should be relaxing and fun. It causes me to miss out on much of the "normal" events of people's lives and changes inconsequential things like a trip to the grocery store into a herculean task. The fact that my condition is one that will deteriorate even more throughout my future, makes me want to hide and not go there. It keeps me from having any pleasant anticipatory thoughts about what is upcoming. Sometimes, like last night, it is a teeth grinding, muscle-clenching, second counting effort to just make it through the minute I inhabit and I cannot look beyond that to imagine five more of them coming afterwards!
I've experienced such mental anguish that the same could be said of it as well. And honestly, if I had to choose between that mental suffering and my physical suffering, I would be at a loss to know which is worse. That is not to say that my pain is minimal...that is to try to give you a picture of how INTENSE the suffering of despair can be. That is why and how suicide can seem to be a logical option...to just END that misery.Thank you God, that you do not give us both physical agony simulataneous with mental anguish. Thank you that your Grace is sufficient for me...every second of every day. Thank you for humor...for friends...and for being there in those long, lonely nights when we suffer "alone."