Thursday, May 29, 2014

Chronic is as chronic does: How To Survive A Heart Condition

I have explained the story of my heart and I have even been the subject of various articles in medical journals... LOOK! It's my INSIDES!

 Even though I know my medical history front ways, sideways, backwards and forwards... I still find myself living mostly in denial that there is something different about the way heart works. I like my life with my head in the sand about reality. Able to rattle off my medical history as if it were from a book I had just read; a character I can relate to, but events that didn't really happen to ME.

The problem with this approach is that when I have days where I feel really and totally crummy, I can't handle it. It's like I have to re-learn that I have an actual condition which means I might feel an actual symptom or two from time to time. 

I had a pretty good run of feeling great. With my head planted firmly in the sand, I was able to work with a personal trainer, started taking yoga classes on top of what I do on my own at home, and even worked with a Pilates instructor on a reformer. 

And then, seemingly out of nowhere, I can't stand up without blacking out. My hearing is the first to go, followed shortly by my vision. But I am a pro at not fainting; I can correct my position so I don't come crashing down. And even though this has happened countless times before, even though I know it's happening because I've gone into some strange heart rhythm, I act surprised. Completely taken aback that I can't go to my Pilates lesson because I can't get off the sofa without fear of playing out the scene from Steel Magnolias; Julia Roberts' character found by her husband, unconscious on the floor, baby crying next to her limp body. 

And so, after two weeks of feeling like my heart is not beating strong enough to power my body, feeling breathless, like there's not enough air in the room, I'm starting to feel better. 

My feet are planted on the ground, head out of the sand, and I'm determined to learn the lesson this time. 

I don't want to hear, let alone preach, the bumper sticker gospel of 'God will only give you what He knows you can handle'. But I do believe that there is a lot to be learned in living with a chronic health condition. I see that I need humility. I need patience. I need grace and understanding of my weaknesses. I pray for all these things.

I don't pray for God to heal me; I pray for the ability to handle my reality. To look it dead in the eye and say 'I've got this'. 

The sand is no place for anyone's head, weather you stuck it there to avoid eye contact with a chronic health condition, a toxic friendship, problems with your marriage... it's suffocating in the sand. The best we can hope for is deep breaths, standing tall, facing whatever it is you think you have to avoid-- with all the grace and strength invested in you by the Holy Spirit. Put that on a bumper sticker.

Psalm 73:26 My flesh and he heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.