Sheesh, that was out of control. It felt like I was a combat veteran in one of the thriller movies I like to watch. You know the scene? A car backfires and the loud bang sends the vet into a complete and irrational panic? Yeah, it was like that, except it wasn’t a bang that sent me spinning. My flashback was triggered by a sudden sharp pain in my right side at the bottom of my rib cage. My mind immediately recognized the pain that I have not felt since before my liver transplant. I put my hand tightly against my abdomen and thought, “oh no, not again.”
My heart started racing and I went into self-talk. “Relax, it was just a random pain.”
It was the exact pain that kept me up so many nights. It was the same pain that left me curled up on the cold, bathroom floor begging God to let me die. Then it hit again … and then again. I laid down and pulled my knees as tight to my stomach as I could, just like I used to. Yeah .. just … like … I used to.
“What the hell is happening? God, I don’t want to go through this again. This is not THAT pain, is it?”
I went over my day and thought about every food I ate. I did lift a pretty heavy printer. Maybe I pulled a muscle. Maybe my scar tissue was complaining? I couldn’t convince myself no matter how hard I tried. The pain was the pain, not just a pain.
I turned to my network of transplant friends online. Most echoed my thoughts; bile duct problems. No one said, “Bah, it’s nothing. No worries.” I wanted them to say that. They’ve said that lots of times in the past 27 months. Instead I heard of one of them going in every 8 weeks to get a new stent placed in her bile duct. Another told me of a permanent drain port sticking out of his side with attached bag. I like my liver community normally, but not so much at the moment. They were scaring me
The good news is that, other than that afternoon and evening, I’ve not felt the sharp pain again in three days. The occasional discomfort may just be imagined. I restarted the bile thinning medication that I was weaning from and have my next round of blood labs in a few weeks. My mental state is a bit better but I’d be lying if I told you that worry isn’t just below the surface.
I know, I know, worrying accomplishes nothing and my faith should be bigger than fear. And I know the bible verses some of you will email me. Really, I get it. But, the reality is that I still worry and I still have fear. Sorry to disappoint but I know my God knows me better than I know myself and I know He gets it. I’m thankful He’s patient.
Freaking out did have some positives though:
First, my psycho reaction (one friend called it “PTSD”) made me ask myself some tough questions like, “are you doing what you want to be doing?” For the most part, the answer is yes but then I also have to admit that I’m being stupid. I haven’t written anything in a month and a half, I am not reading anything for pleasure, my alone time with God is sporadic and rushed, my weight is climbing from lack of food discipline and I’ve averaged maybe only 30 miles a week on my bike over the past month; zero the last ten days. I haven’t been smelling any roses lately and have been falling behind in the rat race.
Abraham Lincoln would say that I’ve been in a race cutting logs without stopping to sharpen the saw. When we don’t sharpen the saw we work twice as hard and see half the results. I’m as sharp as a marble right now.
I’m a builder-creator-planner personality. I am always thinking about what comes next. I love that in my new life as a coach/shepherd/mentor/leader I have tons of dreams and so much I want to do. The toughest part for me has always been to recognize that it can’t all be done at the same time and that my God doesn’t even want it done at the same time. He has time.
Think about this for a minute. God worked 6 days and then rested, right? Did He need to rest? He’s God, right? Omnipotent, never-sleeping God, rested. Is that odd to you? From what I figure, He rested not because He was tired. So, then why would He rest?
I think He rested to enjoy looking at all He had created. I think He stopped to smell the roses because roses smell awesome, not because He was tired of making roses. I think He rested to show me that resting, even when I am not yet tired, is good. God doesn’t need to “sharpen the saw” but you and I do. We get tired. We get stressed. We burn out. I think God was showing all of us that it is not only okay to rest, but it is good to rest. When I am tired I get cynical, grumpy, snippy and I lose my words filter. I say things that don’t need to be said. My motivation goes out the window and my self-esteem takes a hit.
According to my transplant friends, I am not a total nut-case. Apparently most of them have had similar panic attacks at one time or another. Apparently what we endured was trauma and PTSD occurrences among transplant survivors is common. Somehow that knowledge doesn’t really make me feel any better but it does tell me I’m not alone.
Second, my episode woke me up enough to remember that I don’t ever want to go back to what I was before my transplant journey. I’ve been dozing, getting sucked into and discouraged by things that don’t matter, and being distracted by stuff that can wait. I’ve been letting the urgent overtake the important. It’s time to reboot, reprioritize and start again.
Direction, not intention, determine destination. I intend to be a healthy, balanced person who values people. I intend to be a reflection of the Jesus I follow. But my direction lately has been taking me to an entirely different destination. My path and recent habits, if I continue to follow them, will take me to an unhealthy, obese, stressed out, grumpy man that is very unlike Jesus. Hope will be swallowed by cynicism, patience replaced by pressure and love for others obscured with “I don’t have time.”
I’m praying that the pains do not return. I don’t want a drainage bag hanging at my side. Having to endure biliary stents being replaced every 8 weeks is something I don’t even want to think about. For now, I’m going to do my best to push those worries back and just focus on doing all I can to reach my destination.
It’s time that my direction match my intentions.
“Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” ~Jesus (Matthew 11:29-30 The Message)