Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Embrace the pain

Would you rather live like a Zombie but pain free, or live in pain but feel ALIVE?

(For the record, I HATE the would you rather game. Because the answer is always - NEITHER!)

I'm in one of those weird places right now where my physical being is practically mimicking the emotional. So bear with me. Cheesy analogies and strange rants may or may be a part of this post.

I've battled physical pain for many years. Most of the time it doesn't interfere with life. Sometimes it does. Since June of this past year has been one of the "does" times. I've gone to various Doctors, undergone lots of expensive tests only to come up with nothing. I was most recently referred to the pain management clinic. The goal was more diagnostic than one of actually managing the pain. Long story short - I left the clinic without having the intended procedure done, but only after crumbling to pieces in front of the Dr. "It's just so hard to live in so much pain and not know why", was my cry to him. (No really, I cried. Shoot me now.) He was very compassionate and kind, and sent me on my way with some more drugs to experiment with. This would be all fine and good if I hadn't reached a point in January where I decided I was done with experimenting and certainly done with the drugs. I was feeling more and more like a Zombie...only I STILL wasn't pain free.

Sometimes it's just time to embrace the pain.

As for what this has to do with the emotional realm...allow me to {attempt to} tie my world together for you. (No pretty bow on top will be promised though.) Aside from the physical, I've found myself in some intense emotional pain over the past 2 years as well. I've slowly been crumbling to pieces because like I said to the Dr. earlier today - it's hard to live in so much pain and not know why. (Okay, so obviously I know WHY I'm in emotional pain...I just don't know WHY God has me here.) Following in suit with the medical world - I've examined, cut away, talked to all the specialist (AKA: the friends who are brave enough to enter into my drama), only to find myself heavily medicating...trying desperately to make it just go stop hurting.

We all do it at times. We look straight in the face of pain, be it physical or emotional, and immediately look for the closest Exit. Makes sense. Who wants to be in pain? We reach for the drugs (prescription or not), the alcohol, TV, books, sports, work, sleep, noise....ESCAPE. But let me just tell you that when you add all these things together (or even on their own), you can and will grow numb enough to not only block out any pain, but perhaps any good as well.

Enough with the silly analogies. I was a mess. I am a mess. (So are you, so don't judge me.) The medications, alcohol, food, running (physically and emotionally) has gotten me nowhere other then rock bottom. So like I said - in January I decided to be done medicating. Done with the drugs, done with running (emotionally). It was time to embrace the pain.

If it's true that there is supposed to be joy in the journey - it will be impossible to have such joy if all you are is numb.

I want to reclaim joy. (After all, the Joy of the Lord is my strength. Sometimes you don't really know what that verse means until you are lacking all joy and all strength at the exact same time.)

Getting to the place of being able to embrace the pain is NOT an easy task. There's no manual for it. But when God is asking you to stand broken, bloody and bruised before him - well, you may as well just do it.  He will not be fooled by the band aids. This could mean standing still. Or it could mean battling. For me, the last month in a half has required being silent. I needed the rest. Because now? Now it's time to battle. I will not let the pain win. My God is bigger.

Some would say: "But, Jody? It's too hard. I don't know where to start. Which pain/issue do I tackle first?" (Remember, we're talking about the emotional pain at this point. Keep up, folks.)

I don't know the answer to those questions. I do know it's not easy. When I take pause to look at the many areas that are broken, I can either become paralyzed by them, or just start fighting. For instance - the physical pain.... The absence of drugs means I have to learn to modify my life to do what I can. I don't like having physical limits. But I do. For example, my knee has stopped working for the past 7 months. (Which when running is your drug of choice...this is NOT helpful.) But I KNOW I feel better physically overall when my diet and my fitness are at an optimal level. Do you think I've enjoyed doing water aerobics or running 1.5 miles when I KNOW I'm capable of a MARATHON? Not at all. So I battle. Do you think it's easy for me to extend grace and love to the one person who is the hardest person for me to love? Not at all. So I battle. Is it easy to pursue my dreams and passions when everything around me seems to want to kill them? Nope. So I battle. Is it easy to stay when all you want to do is run away? Certainly not. Battle!

But the battle is not mine alone. I am not in this alone.

If it's true that God's power is made perfect in my weakness (again, one of those verses that is really hard to grasp more often then not) - then maybe it's time to embrace my weakness. Instead of running from who I am (the good, the bad, and the ugly), or dulling my senses when it is all too much - maybe it's worth a shot to let HIS strength and power be made perfect. How fascinating it would be to see HIM win the battle when I am tired, broken, afraid, lonely, and bruised.

 (**cheesy analogy alert**)
 JESUS is the ultimate pain management specialist. He can handle us crumbling to pieces. He is okay with us denying the fact he wants us to. He knows the full diagnosis even when we don't. And he isn't keeping it from us because we are a medical mystery (figuratively speaking) - sometimes he's keeping it from us because HE is strong and we???? Well .... we're not.

2 Corinthians 12: 7-10
7 ...... for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to [b]torment me—to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast [c]about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.10 Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with [d]insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

**Please know that I have NO problem with taking prescribed medicine to manage pain. I believe God gave us brilliant Doctors and science to help us. But for me, I'm in a season where I feel he is asking me to....well...just embrace the pain.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Musings from a "recovered" Bulimic

Being underweight (by choice) is just as unhealthy as being overweight.

This year, for the first time ever - I followed along with the show The Biggest Loser. I'm inspired by the transformations and stories of how people get to unhealthy in the first place, then return to healthy. I just am. Because I am one of them.

However, last night I couldn't go to sleep after watching the finale. And I awoke to quickly run to the computer in hopes that TBL was addressing what everyone was feeling last night. The winning contestant did NOT look healthy. (To put it into perspective, I read that she is the same height as Karen Carpenter but weighed in 5 lbs less than Karen was at when she died of anorexia. Not sure if that is accurate, but the picture paints it well.) American's watched what quickly turned from inspiring to uncomfortable and concerning. The look on the Trainers faces said what we all were thinking. And yet she was rewarded for what is the opposite of the shows beliefs - being healthy. But this post isn't about TBL show, per say.

I promote weight loss, health, and athleticism for a living. So don't get me wrong - HEALTH is important. So why the disappointment with last nights show?? Well, because I also battled an eating disorder for 9 years of my life. Along with that, even though I can say I am "recovered" from the physical act - the battle in the mind of someone with an eating disorder is a hard one to win. So I was just sad for Rachel. So sad. To get to obese doesn't generally happen for no reason. Neither does anorexia or bulimia. There are issues that need to be dealt with in both scenarios - again, I speak as someone from both ends of the spectrum.

When battling overweight turns obsessive, well - you are securing yourself a need to start an entirely new battle. Same story, next chapter. Unhealthy underweight. Both are driven out of just that - obsession. Watching Rachel's story unfold from TBL, she was the "fat" girl who hid behind food. She secluded herself from the world and let food be her friend. Next thing you know, she is in the spotlight week after week as she regains her life. As much as I was a fan of hers all season, I did often wonder about the mindset of people who shift from being known as the "fat girl" to being known for their new found health. It can be a slippery slope.

Here's the thing. Our identity is NOT a number on the scale. Our identity cannot be and should not be how fat or how thin we are. There is just no way to stand up under such a weight. (Pun intended.)

The glorification of the scale needs to stop. The admiration and obsession that our culture gives to people who look like Rachel did last night HAS TO STOP. It's time to shift our focus from a number, to a picture of HEALTH.

Healthy looks different for all of us. Do I still battle weight at times? Yes. Because my frame is just unhealthy at a certain weight. But finding the way to take my mind off the numbers because I didn't know it was possible to FEEL so healthy has been invaluable in battling my mind. I have finally grown okay with the fact that I will never be 105 lbs. Because what it would take to get ME there would most certainly be unhealthy and miserable. Heck, I'd be miserable much under 145 because it is just not natural or healthy FOR ME. Watching Rachel last night as she tripped up the stairs, missed the fact that she had won until being told .... she just looked miserable. And that made me sad. Having your heart hide behind your overweight self is just as sad as your heart hiding behind your new underweight self.

So if you are still reading, and especially if you are a woman - know that you are beautiful. Find a way to get healthy without obsession. Process through the battle in your mind that takes you to extremes and FIGHT it. Fight it with making one healthy choice after another, and dare I say - allowing yourself an unhealthy choice every now and then. You WILL win.

(Shameless plug - I would LOVE to tell you about the Nutritional Cleansing system that has honestly FREED me from my obsession and drawn me to view HEALTHY as beautiful more so than the number in my head or even on the scale. It has been a game changer for me!)