When Pain Arrives

This is Chrissie. She's a fighter.  She's a good listener, she's the friend that friends go to when they need a safe person, she's funny, she laughs easily, and she's had a year full of the stuff life throws at a person.  I admire Chrissie's independence and I wondered how the past months might have affected it.  I asked a few strong women to take some time and write out their thoughts (you can read about my intentions here). Below are the thoughts of a incredible warrior woman. 

I prefer anyone hilarious. Hanna is one of these people. I can’t look at a crockpot or hotdogs without thinking of her and smirking. She’s asked me to share a portion of my tour with cancer. She specifically named something about me that only something like cancer could so greatly soften—my independence.

My childhood bent me into a parental posture that has made asking for help or stopping for rest to be novel. Independence is too gracious a term. Stubborn shame is far more honest. This penchant for helping and being parental lends the back story of my chosen profession as well. I’m a therapist.

Just before cancer, I went through a year-long advanced certification program specific to trauma counseling. The success of this particular program lies in the design. The therapist students must immerse themselves in therapy aimed at their own trauma stories. Picture a therapy group made up of therapists who are all therapizing each other’s early childhood traumas. Sounds relaxing right? *deep sigh* Friends, it was hard. It was also very freeing and healing.

I learned that I am not so good at rest and not so good at the vulnerable art of receiving care. I feel okay when I’m productive and figuring it out on my own. My therapist friends helped me see how my body has held the tension and stubbornness and shame of it all. As my ability to slow and notice improved, my cortisol began to subside as is often the case when someone confusing motion with progress finally goes on vacation or retires. And, as often happens when cortisol subsides, I got sick. Esophageal spasms from acid reflux, appendicitis, etc. A few months later there was cancer.

God rarely reveals himself directly and He often invites people to communicate that He sees us, knows us, and hasn’t forgotten us. In the beginning, I wasn’t super interested in letting the world into my life as a cancer patient. I wanted to work, wear a fabulous wig and be as normal as possible when I wasn’t in bed or at the hospital.

Eventually, I went public.

The writing felt cathartic and purposeful and good. As I poured out the truth in words, my friend Cassie pasted the truth in photos. The blog was the battlefield where my community rallied. Their pursuit was staggering. I grew and there is proof! I began to keep a little list of small things I needed or wanted in case a friend were to text. This was considerable progress from the “Thanks, I’m good!” responses I would have previously sent. I began allowing a friend to clean our house every week while we were at small group. I even stopped cleaning before she came to clean. I know right?! I accepted a friend’s offer to provide me with free chiropractic care and another friend’s offer of personal training sessions. I asked for all kinds of things from food, gift cards and yard work to prayer, puzzles and barf bags. 

Today, thanks to my forced sabbatical, I am different.

I am not stress free or magically comfortable with people being in my home when it is a disaster. I am; however, more likely to receive care, ask for help, and give myself grace when I don’t. There is something about pain mixed with vulnerable community that right-sizes everything. I don’t wish pain on anyone but I do wish you great community when pain arrives.


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