I'm coming off two days of hard work on the construction site. For those of you who haven't stayed in the loop, I've been working directly under a contractor since about mid-June (until, you know, I can find some less physically demanding work that's a bit more stable) and I'm absolutely loving it. But there's an added benefit to this opportunity that's impact is not lost on me.
It's the chance to put myself back in my body.
As some know and many don't, I became very ill in 2004. Unexpectedly, severely ill to the extent that the doctor in the emergency room was honestly shocked when I regained consciousness the first night we realized anything was wrong. What followed was five solid years of pure agony during which time, I dropped 60 pounds in about five months, had trouble eating and drinking (for more than half a year, I literally woke up in the mornings, shoved a mini bagel pizza down my throat and didn't eat for the rest of the day; I couldn't), spent my days lying in bed too weak and scared to even try to get up, and having absolutely no idea, despite tens of thousands of dollars and dozens of doctors, what in the world was happening to me. The only thing that anyone could tell me was that if we didn't figure it out soon, I wouldn't live to know the answer. (Oddly, they said this with the same urgency at day one as they did at year five.)
It was an excruciating five years, to say the least. I'd have a few days here and there where I felt like I might be a little stronger, only to try to do something so simple as go to church and fall hard into medical emergency all over again. I was bouncing in and out of emergency rooms and knowing the ambulance crews on a first-name basis, signing out Against Medical Advice because I needed more than "you're going to die" to convince me to stay in a hospital where they admitted they didn't know how to fix it.
Somewhere in all of that, my body took over my mind. I came to be in this constant state of assessment, checking on my status at every second to make sure nothing was creeping up on me, that I'd be able to stand up long enough to take a shower, that there wasn't a chance I'd have another severe episode somewhere terrible and be - for real - horribly embarrassed. Worried about the tiniest signs in myself that might indicate my homeostasis was about to be shaken. Because honestly, I didn't know either. I never knew when it was going to get bad or when I'd get a few hours break (rarely). I didn't know what was causing it, so I didn't know how to stay away from the bad stuff and protect myself. I really felt like I was a victim to everything around me because something was coming against me hard and I couldn't find it. So the only control I had was to be in concerted analysis of my own body and pray that I could catch it before it caught me.
Then in 2009, we nailed it. An actual diagnosis with an actual plan of action that, to be honest, I had researched on my own with a 3"-thick binder full of five years of test results. I stumbled upon this fairly rare (.04 of 1% at adult-onset) condition that fit absolutely everything I had, then went back over it all with one of my then-doctors. The treatment...the only possible treatment out there, which is a control treatment rather than a cure...worked in less than 24 hours. I swear to you I felt my body finally release after all those years.
And I cried. And I thanked God.
And I worried again. Because it seemed somehow terrible that the answer was so simple when five years had been so hellish. Because it seemed ridiculous that the doctors had never caught, in any of those emergency rooms, what was right in front of their eyes and should have been something they'd have recognized right away, at least as a problem in itself though for this case, it is merely a symptom. Because over five years, I'd had probably three dozen different diagnoses that never panned out and I refused to believe any more that I could ever trust this body to heal.
Three years later, I hate to say it, but it's easy to be in constant check mode, looking around for that next thing that's going to push me over a steep edge, though I admit that it's nice to finally know what most of those things are. (A few surprise me here and there.) I have tools to handle it now. But I had no idea how hard it would be to ever trust my body again. I have known how much I was holding myself back because of my concern, because of always watching over myself...skipping things, missing things, stopping, and just caving in to every little nerve in my being...because I just haven't known how to go back to how things used to be - when I had strength. When I had power. When I could do anything I wanted to do and not think about it. When I was a runner, a dancer, an athlete. When I attended every school event and every church function and a few things here and there just because. When I jumped in my car and drove back-and-forth to college (an hour each way) and didn't worry about being a hazard to other drivers on the interstate. When I didn't worry about being out somewhere and something happening.
Then my neighbor dropped this job in my lap, and I jumped on it. This is work that I love to do and work that I actually did before I got sick - domestic mission trips four summers to renovate and rehab houses in poverty-stricken areas. Painting. Porches. Drywall. Windows. Cleaning up. Plumbing. Stairs. Delivering goods. Those were some of the best summers of my life.
Now, this one's right there, too. Because I get to get up every morning and do this again. And I get to get up every morning and make a choice. A choice to give my body a chance, to trust in myself to be able to do it, to trust in my tools and my medicines (2 daily, 1 emergency - down from about 37 pills multiple times per day), and to just throw myself into this work and get lost. And at the end of the day, to realize that I'm fine. I'm better than fine; I'm fantastic. I'm strong. I'm buff. I'm able. (I'm tan.) And I'm hungry. Ravenously, ravenously hungry...and blessed to eat. A lot.
So yeah, I'm getting some cool work. A little bit of money. A great way to spend a summer, doing something I love so much. But the greatest blessing in all of this is getting back into my body and learning to trust in its wisdom, in my strength, and in His healing.