My experience at Yoga the other night has had me thinking. I absolutely loved every minute of it, but more than that, I love that this quest I am on to take over my health and make it my own has already taken me back to the place where I felt most out of control. The time prior to my diagnosis 11 years ago was scary. A time of feeling helpless and lost. It felt so powerful to realize how far from that I am today.
As I have reflected the last few days I was reminded of a thought paper I wrote while getting my Bachelor’s in Nursing. It was for a Religion and Healing seminar a LeMoyne, I wrote it a year into my nursing career, and I thought it would be appropriate to share here if you are interested in reading.
I am a nurse. I like facts, measurements, objective results. I like control. In medicine everything is about control; control of variables, control of interventions, and control of outcomes. Medicine is quantitative, in medicine we measure everything, doses, time in therapy, and disease size, whether this be the diameter of the tumor or the percent of the body that is burned Sometimes however, I am aware that what I do, and what goes on in the healing process is outside of the realm of the quantitative. Some healing is simply, for lack of a more all encompassing term, spiritual. To accept this, we must give up control and accept that something outside of our scope has occurred. Spiritual healing is qualitative, it can not necessarily be seen or measured, a choice of faith tells us that the healing has been spiritual. Furthermore, the healing itself may be a qualitative change in attitude or feeling of comfort rather than a quantitative decrease in tumor size. Spiritual healing is often not immediate. The result of a prayer or meditation may come months or even years later.
As a medical professional, I have seen families experience this, with the illness or loss of a child, I have often experienced it with them. As a patient I have experienced it as well. A change unexplainable in any earthly terms, between me, God, and those I love. I have had two powerful experiences with spiritual healing, neither of them could be measured quantitatively, neither could be proved to be of God, The healing occurred two fold, both immediately, and again many years later.
When I was 14 years old I became very ill. I had terrible pain in my stomach, constant nausea and absolutely no desire to eat. In the fall of my freshman year of high school my symptoms became more and more severe. I had increased trouble eating, was chronically fatigued, and struggled to keep up with my busy schedule. I was a serious dancer, taking classes after school for three to four hours every night. Over Christmas vacation I became even more ill, weaker, and over the next month was in and out of the hospital continually. I lost a large amount of weight and refused to eat. Because I was naturally thin, an adolescent girl, and an aspiring dancer, the gastroenterologist chose to believe I had anything more than an eating disorder.
With every hospital stay a few tests would be performed, all with negative results. Towards the end of January I was once again in the hospital, admitted for weighing close to 80 pounds, a dangerous weight on my over five foot six inch frame. The doctors and my parents were discouraged, I felt helpless and afraid. The adults around us felt I was controlling my ‘illness’ and while my parents supported me and believed there was more going on, they too felt helpless and afraid. I had not been to school in over a month and was told I would probably never dance again. My mother had been a professional dancer and my dream was to follow in her footsteps.
At the age of 14 I thought my life was over. Discouraged, helpless, and afraid I took a walk in the hall outside of the pediatric unit with my parents. It used all of my strength to walk, clinging to my dad with one arm, my IV pole with the other. We walked through the double doors leaving my unit, past a bank of elevators, and eventually along a curved corridor. On the right side were windows to the outside. I saw cars and people, going about their day, coming and going from or work time with sick loved ones. On the left was another wall with four small windows, each with pink mini blinds shielding to view of the other side. I leaned my tired body on that wall, wondering what was on the other side, but distracted by my anger at God for letting my life be over at this young age, for taking every dream I thought I had and destroying them before my eyes.
When I got back to my room the doctors came to talk to my parents. I over heard them saying that they did not know what to do. That I was keeping myself from eating, and that if I did not get over my eating disorder I would remain dangerously ill, severely underweight. I cried in my bed, feeling so alone. Was the pain in my stomach not real? Was this all really in my head? I prayed to God to heal me however he saw fit, to come into my body, to give me hope, to be in my present and my future. To take my dreams and make them better, make them different if needed. And then, as I tried to let go, I felt an overwhelming sense of peace. That everything would be alright, that God had his hand in my life. I slept that night for the first time in days, and while the pain was still there, emotionally I felt in a new place.
The following morning I was diagnosed with Crohns disease. Medication took away some of my pain, I began eating again, and was able to eventually dance again, but I began to accept it would never be my career. When I gave my future up to God that night He healed me of my doubt in him, and although He never truly healed me of Crohns, He has used it in my life in more ways than I could imagine.
Now, eight years, and multiple surgeries and medications later, my life is in a place I never could have imagined it. I stopped dancing after high school, seeing that it would be too much for me to pursue. I went into nursing, and was hired in a neonatal intensive care unit, something that I love more than any job I could have imagined. On my first day of work I walked into the hospital, full of excitement and anticipation for my new career. I took the elevator to the fifth floor, turned left toward a corridor, and walked past a curved wall with four windows. At the end of the hall, as I turned to the door into the NICU I paused, familiar with where I was from years of clinical experience, but felt something different. As I entered the NICU for the first time, on my first day, it was suddenly clear, I was on the other side of that mysterious wall, the four small windows, the four pink blinds.
Spiritual healing, a response to a prayer, a desperate plea eight years earlier was here again. Now every day that I go to work I reflect on that feeling of desperation that everything was over, leaning on a wall praying that God would make something of my life that was being torn apart. I had spent so long wondering what was on the other side of that wall, and now I know. I am on the other side of that wall.
None of this story can be quantified. It can’t be proven to others to be of God. No doctor or medical intervention controlled this healing. It is between me and God, and the thing that makes it spiritual healing is my faith, my belief that beyond a shadow of a doubt this was of God. That God planned for me to be on that wall, that God has used my disease to bring me to where I am. He has not healed me of Crohns, but has used it to give me a purposeful life, taken the dream that I thought I had and given me something more. That cannot be measured, cannot be controlled, it simply is.
I hope you enjoyed that, while I wrote it years ago it was a powerful experience, and I have many similar experiences since.
I got up bright and early on my day off again today for Crossfit with my friend Kim. It was a challenge to remove myself from my warm bed after a late night with great friends from work last night; Snacks, wine, games, and holiday cheer. It was a lot of fun! And although I hated my alarm at 5:30 it felt great to get up and get going. I am loving the way my body and mind feel right now. Back to Yoga tonight and another Christmas party after. ‘Tis the Season!