All my life I have buried my feelings. It’s proven itself true again and again that I can be exceptionally content when I engage this accomplished skill of hiding that something is bothering me, persevering under serious challenges, or denying the existence of the challenges altogether, i.e. avoidance. Most of the reason for this defense mechanism is that I hate drawing attention to myself; especially attention that appears to be drawn from weakness. Which makes me about the worst candidate for a progressive disease, since it seems as the years go on, drawing attention to myself comes with the territory. It’s a process. God is teaching me to be okay with my weaknesses, however, I am still learning how to manage this publicly; in other words, I care a little too much what people think and how they view me. I still, after all, am a fairly young, active person. (Can I still call myself young at nearly 40?) I don’t look sick, and therefore I try really hard not to act sick. On the days I can’t fake it in public, the questions overwhelm me and make me insecure about myself. Additionally, I have dreams and desires of a youngish person, and I must profess, I do not know how to decipher between the two realities: weak, yet not anywhere near ready to submit to the weakness. This can be very isolating, as the fears associated with my various weaknesses, cause me to want to say “no” more than I probably should, but also “yes” more than I should. Unfortunately, in my experience, my body only allows me to use my defense mechanisms for so long before I break and it overflows from deep within me in the form of unplanned, unwanted tears. It’s like my emotional capacity fills to the brim and has no choice but to start leaking. When this happens in front of others, I kind of want to punch myself in the face.
I had a very busy weekend and possibly my threshold for tolerating tough-stuff was a bit lower. (Denial – CHECK.) Additionally, some relational stuff has kicked me in the butt the last forty-eight hours. I decided under the circumstances to go to church by myself, as my family is a bit all over the place at the moment, and needing too much pushing from a mom who barely had the strength to push herself this Sunday morning, which is an extremely rare event for me. I’ll inform you now that I ”forgot” my cane in my car and you can imagine where this is going. (I’ve actually never “remembered” to take it out of the car unless I’m by myself, in a town other than the town I live in. Avoidance – CHECK.) Service was great, and sitting is my favorite, but then they announce communion. Okay, never before have I actually strongly considered leaving before communion like I did today. In our church, communion is like a procession where we all end up at the altar to dip the bread in the wine. This never bothered me until I started having leg weakness, which then I alleviated by linking arms with the nearest family member – except today I had no family members. Figuring that planning my escape route during communion may not be the right choice, I might have become overly optimistic about my predicament, and I pressed forward. All was mostly fine along the way because there are walls, and pews I can touch and/or stabilize myself with. Until I reached the end, where to anyone else just looks like a small amount of open space where the pastors are giving communion, but to me this is like walking on a tightrope because there is nothing to brace myself with, even ever so slightly. And have I mentioned when I get nervous my leg weakness is severely amplified? Long story short, I got through it, much more wobbly than I’d like to admit, and I thank God I do not have eyes in places that would allow me to see what I looked like to others. I immediately went to my seat, attempting to be invisible and purposely trying not to think about what just happened, because the tears began to well up inside, and I knew given the opportunity, the Niagara Falls of my emotions were at my doorstep. Maybe everyone else was too self-focused or God-focused to notice the last twenty seconds of my attempt to reach my seat? I mean that is the idea of communion right? Internally, I instantly regretted coming to church alone, and shamefully I’ll admit I was mad at my family for allowing me to do so, as ridiculous as that probably sounds. Yet, independent by nature, I counter that thought with I never want to be that dependent on anyone. As I prepared to sneak out before the final song, fearing someone would talk to me and I wouldn’t be able to contain my emotions, a friend of ours suddenly approached me. I honestly played it off as long as I could, but then another, and then another, and I’m not even kidding, there were five or six people surrounding me, and it only took one question, how are you doing? Which I knew meant, I saw you struggling, how much has this disease changed you since the five years we’ve really spoken? And I couldn’t contain it any longer, and the tears started to leak out. One drop at a time I let others see the pieces of my grief I just can’t get a handle on. I hate this disease. I hate that the story I just heard from the pastor about healing I can’t believe for myself. I hate that I have to even think about where and how to take a step like I’m a puppeteer. I hate that I can’t be stronger. I hate that I’m so sensitive. I hate that I can’t get myself to embrace this part of the community of the church, and instead I hate that they know as much as they know right now and I hate that I couldn’t keep it from showing. I hate that I live in a body that seems to be completely disconnected from my thoughts, because my thoughts are simple: walk like everyone else, walk like you used to. But the truth is I don’t even recognize this body that won’t do the tiny simple tasks I ask it to do, and I’m beginning to think this body doesn’t recognize me either since it’s chosen to attack itself.
I mentioned this wasn’t just about this moment, it’s a lot of moments over the last couple of days or more combined that caused me to overflow in this way today. When I have these weak times, they are in a way reality checks. The armor I’ve built of denial and avoidance is not sufficient. This disease is in control and I am not and the reality of this truth crushes me at times, for a time.
When I finally was able to leave church, I drove to an empty parking lot and cried in my car as my mind flooded with the truth of my situation and everything my brain tries to deny. Today was just a piece to the puzzle that is my existence. The longer I live I find there are so many pieces that don’t fit. Some of them almost fit, they resemble the shape and their colors match, but clearly they are being forced. But, maybe I can force them to fit this time, press them firmly in place, but certainly they aren’t a natural fit. No wonder they collapse and fail.
It’s a new day, I’ve mostly come out of this negative mindset, but the pieces of my truth are out there, and I must find a way to acknowledge them, accept them, and move on. Persevere under serious challenges – CHECK.