Chronic Pain

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I’m very much a realist. While some of my creative stories will occasionally end “happily ever after,” with the marriage salvaged or the desperate couple pregnant, it’s more likely that my ending will leave you in tears or make you think. I hold Ernest Hemingway’s advice very closely: “Write hard and clear about what hurts.” So I do. Even though it hurts, I write…and in the process, I heal.

I don’t like to hurt. I’m not the best at being vulnerable. I’m horrible at it, actually.

Those of you who are close to me know I’ve been living with the chronic painful condition of endometriosis for the past 10 years. I’ve dealt with doctors and surgeries and hospitals more than I’ve cared to. It’s a struggle. Sometimes the battle is just getting through the day with a forced smile; sometimes I’m victorious. Sometimes I’m not.

Those of you who are very close to me know that someone very special to me was diagnosed a few months ago with a chronic disease. There’s a small difference between this infirmity and mine. Mine’s not fatal. Cancer is.

Pain.

There’s something so final about the word chronic. There’s a brief moment of silence before a life-changing event. A mere second stretches into what feels like hours as the world freezes; it’s a peaceful quiet that makes me wish that moment would stretch on forever. That moment  right before the father beats his child, or the semi truck crashes into the car, or the doctor delivers the message.

And then the silence shatters and the world crashes around me, and there’s nothing I can do about it. Chronic. Nothing we can do.

People blink or raise an eyebrow when I mention the topic of my senior capstone project. I’m writing about what? It ends how? Why would I do that? What’s the point? What’s your message?

My message is that life is hard.

Horrible things happen to people who don’t deserve it. The single mom loses her job, or the seemingly devoted father suddenly abandons his family after 15 years, or the newly engaged woman is diagnosed with cancer, or there’s a deadly car crash on the family vacation. Horrendous, unspeakable things happen….so I write about it. It’s therapeutic. People call me morbid when I say that, and maybe I am. I don’t know.

I just know that chronic pain isn’t only about physical ailments. I know people live with emotional wounds that I cannot even fathom. My heart breaks for them. For my loved ones. For myself. For the broken world in which we find ourselves. I ache because I know that’s not how my God intended it to be. I write and I have faith because I know “He himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By His wounds you have been healed” (1 Peter 2:24). I believe this with all of my heart; I don’t know where I’d be if I didn’t.

So I fight. I fight through the pain and the heartache and the mess that breaks my Savior’s heart even more than it breaks mine. And I have hope that someday, everything will be set right again.

Faith.

I hold tight. It’s the only thing stronger than chronic pain.

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