Health

Finding Purpose in the Pain

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Have you ever been given a mission? A gift or ability that you know you are meant to use to help others? I am a writer and yet the words to describe this fail me. It has been almost supernatural and definitely spiritual. All I know is that it is something bigger than I am, and it awakened during my struggle with health issues and pain. I am not even sure what the gift is or how, exactly, it is supposed to be used.

The last few years have been a warped version of a serious of unfortunate events health-wise. Last year was three neck surgeries. This year started with surgery to repair a pseudomengiocele from a previous surgery that was allowing CSF fluid to leak out of my spinal canal and form a giant leaking bubble under the skin. As unpleasant as that sounds, it felt even worse. If you have ever had a low CSF headache, aka a “spinal headache,” you know how horrible they are. Mine lasted for weeks. Thankfully, the surgery worked.

Four weeks after that surgery, we were on vacation in the Ozarks when I slipped on the steps of our RV and ended up with a compression fracture of my L4 vertebrae. I also ruptured a disc at L5/S1. Another surgery took care of the compression fracture. By late summer, I finally felt firmly on the road to recovery.

I have some chronic medical problems like adrenal insufficiency and Sick Sinus Syndrome. For the most part, those are under control. Day by day now, I feel better. Stronger. Then reality hits. I will never be back to normal. I will never be able to do the things I could do just five years ago.

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Psychologically, I am learning to be okay with that. I went through a grieving process for things that will never be the same, and then I found my gratitude. Still, normal will look different now. I have to find out what my new normal is. I can’t take care of my own house (at least not without paying for it for days with pain and the inability to do anything else). Simple things like buying groceries mean I have to take someone along to help.

Believe it or not, this isn’t a whiny post about how pitiful my life is. I am genuinely grateful that I am finally able to be quickly weaning off of pain medication, that I can get out of the house and go places with manageable pain. I am thrilled that I can walk the beach, swim, and plan vacations without everything having to revolve around my health.

There was a long time when I couldn’t imagine getting here. I honestly could not see a time when pain and weakness would not be part of my everyday life. I will always have pain, but not like I expected to have. I feel like I have a second chance, and I don’t intend to waste it. I no longer take the good days for granted.

The gift I brought from this experience is love and compassion that seems so much more real than they ever have before. It feels like a gift and a tool. It is something I need to use to make a change wherever that is possible. I have a couple of ideas on how to use my writing to support the causes closest to my heart. Maybe that is the gift I am meant to use or maybe it just unlocks a door to something else.

I have always thought of myself as a compassionate person, but my compassion has grown and stretched in ways I did not think possible. I feel deeply passionate about a couple of things. The first is people suffering from mental health issues and unable to access resources. I am also determined to do what I can to destroy the aura of the stigma that still surrounds mental health issues.

My second passion is the beloved Abuelos (grandparents) of the Yucatan Peninsula. We had a chance to serve them briefly on a trip that we took, and I am committed to finding some small way to help. These are older people who have no one to care for them. Unlike here, the conditions these people are housed in are horrid. These dear souls are abandoned, alone, sick and there are so few resources for so many in need.

I know that our forgotten elderly, here in the United States, are often warehoused in sub-par facilities. Trust me when I say those are five-star resorts compared to what is available to those who are poor and elderly on the Yucatan. My story of these dear souls will be my most important piece to date. I have held off on writing it because it is too important to give less than 100 percent of my effort.

Finally, I am looking forward and not back. I can focus on more than just getting through the day. Having been granted that grace, the time has come to use it to serve others. Some part of me thinks that this burning need to help others in some way is how I will continue to heal. All that I have been through will have a purpose if it awakens the passionate advocate inside myself. I have had years to look inside myself. Now, I am genuinely excited to look outside myself and find a way to help others.

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