Therapy Sessions

I’ve been spending a lot of time in therapy lately–physical therapy–with my hubby watching his body pushed beyond its physical and mental limits. Some days I wonder how much more he can take. It’s not easy to watch someone you love struggle, even when it’s for their own good.

Two surgeries after dislocating his right shoulder and fracturing the humerus, my man is working hard to regain strength and range of motion in his dominant arm. I can see pain and determination on his face as he tries to do simple tasks like walk his fingers up a wall. Sometimes I sing the itsy bitsy spider song while he does his wall walks. He does not think I’m funny when he’s in pain. Pain pushes him to his limits every single day and I wonder how much more it will take for him to recover.

The therapy process is slow because the injury was severe. I’ll never forget watching the therapist move his arm gently and slowly those first few weeks. Muscle and soft tissue damage in addition to the fracture had restricted him to passive motion only. He wore an immobilizer to strap his arm to his side. Movement was a big no-no because his body needed time to heal.

I listened one afternoon on our drive home from a therapy session as he vented frustrations about how it seemed like nothing productive was happening. The therapist had spent the entire 45 minutes stretching and massaging his arm. It felt like a huge waste of time. How was he ever going to get back to normal when he wasn’t even able to lift his own arm? He was completely dependent on others to bathe, get dressed, tie his shoes, and even cut his own food. He was so over it. He wanted to be independent and back at work. Truth be told, we both wanted those things. I tried to explain that if he did more than his body was ready for too soon that he could re-injure his arm and do more damage than good. I told him that we had to trust that the therapist knows what he’s doing and that in time he would regain some independence. Please, Lord, let the man be able to scrub his own armpit. Amen.

My husband’s body had been broken. Overnight our lives had been turned upside down and we were living in what I call a haze of grace. There was a lot of HGTV, Food Network, and series binging on Amazon Prime. I ordered take out, made ice packs and tried to keep up with laundry. Oh and then there are the medical bills. We survived on the prayers of our family and friends and several pints of Haagen-Dazs ice cream. But it wasn’t enough. I was falling apart. Again. My world had been rocked and I thought I could pretend that it was all just fine.
The trouble was that I didn’t have time to fall apart. This was not a good time for a breakdown. People needed me and I found myself reverting to a lot of old thought patterns because that’s what I do when I’m in crisis mode. I do what I know, even when it doesn’t help. Basically this looked a lot like beating myself over the head with a baseball bat for not being super woman every moment of every day. I wasn’t a good enough wife. I was the fattest person in the room all of the time. I wasn’t a good enough mom. I wasn’t a good enough Christian because if I were good enough probably none of this crap would have happened in the first place. Jesus was counting on me to suck it up and be a good example of mercy for heaven’s sake!!! I found myself wallowing in a pit of shame for not being enough for this crisis.

Welcome to my pity party. One night I climbed the stairs to my bed after tucking my husband into his recliner, crawled into bed, grabbed my journal and wrote,
“The pain is really bad today. My pain—emotional pain. My brain is so fuzzy I can barely function. There are so many hoops to jump through on any given day. I don’t have the will to jump today. I’m sleepy. I just want to cry and let it all out. The trouble is that I’m not sure I can. I look at my mental list of things that should be done to make it all better and it’s like a wave of depression crashes over me and drags me down–way way down. It’s no wonder people don’t want to continue to live like this day after day. I wish I could just sleep it all off and wake up to everything being better. God, why does this keep happening to me? What can I do to make it never happen again? I wish there was a reset button I could hit on my life. So many mistakes. So many things I wish I could un-do. If only I could make peace with my messy life. But I can’t. I hate it…
I’m feeling terrible—I couldn’t feel worse. Get me on my feet again. You promised, remember? When I told my story, you responded. Train me well in your deep wisdom. Help me understand these things inside and out so I can ponder your miracle wonders. My sad life’s dilapidated, a falling-down barn; build me up again by your word. {Psalm 119:25-28 The Message}

If this was a song I’d play it over and over again. It’s the cry of my heart tonight.
Jesus, help me understand these things inside and out so I can ponder your miracle wonders. Build me up by the power of your Holy Spirit and your living breathing word. Thank you.”

I wish I could tell you that I woke up the next morning and everything made perfect sense. It didn’t. But somehow along the way I began to see that I was broken too. I didn’t have the physical injury that my husband had, but I was just as in need of healing. Overnight our lives had been turned upside down and I needed to give this crisis the respect it deserved in my own life as well as my husband’s body. There wasn’t a single thing I could do to make it better. In fact, all of my trying to be better was just making it worse. I needed to trust the Therapist and let Him do his job. I had to stop trying so hard.

For my recovery I’ve been reading encouraging books written by people who dare to use their pain to help people like me see that my messy imperfect life is covered by more love and grace than I will ever be able to sort through in this lifetime. I’ve started praying more than reading my Bible. I’m allowing Jesus to tend to my broken heart and I stopped beating myself up for not being good enough when he is more than good enough. I sleep more. Sleep is good, like really good. I watch Jimmy Fallon YouTube videos and laugh a lot more. People are alive because of Jimmy Fallon. Finally, I told that mean bossy B in my head to leave and never come back and she did. We are all the better for it.

Some wonderful crazy things happened when I stopped trying so hard to be good enough. Joy returned. It had been a couple of years since I’d had any joy. Anxiety was the front and center drama queen demanding ALL of my attention. The slightest misstep would send me into a full blown meltdown. Something as annoying as being late for an appointment took days to recover from. Perfectionism once again had its hooks deep in my soul. I felt hopeless that I could ever get free. Guess what? Anxiety is not front and center any longer. I’m a total freaking mess AND IT’S OK. I’m not doing a single thing I thought I’d be doing at this moment in life AND IT’S OK. It’s really ok. I have peace again, and man, I have missed it. I stopped clinging to the HaagenDazs life raft and have embraced healthy food again. It’s so much easier to love people when peace and joy are actually welcome in my heart and mind…and I’m not jacked up on caffeine and sugar 24/7.

I wonder what our lives would look like if we truly believed how much God really loves us. What if we simply rested in believing that he is enough and we are loved?

Sometimes we have to stop trying so hard and let the Therapist do his job. It might not feel like much is being accomplished, but when we allow for rest and healing to take place in our brokenness we will be stronger for the people and the plans God has for our lives. The Therapist knows what He’s doing. He really does. After all, my man has started to do planks at his physical therapy sessions. His muscles are shaky and it hurts like heck, but I’m beginning to think anything is possible.

Thank you for praying for us. Your prayers are powerful. Don’t ever forget it. Thanks for stopping by.

No Time for Dog Drama

This winter when the polar vortex would not let it go my boys got a chance to attend a sledding day event with some homeschool families. I teetered between gratitude that they would be socializing somewhere other than at work with me and guilt that I wouldn’t be able to be there like the other moms. On any other Tuesday this wouldn’t have been a big deal, but I had scheduled a hair appointment for our two Labs at our favorite boarding kennel. Carpets full of fur had gotten the best of me and even in the dead of winter I knew it was the only way we were going to make it until spring. Something had to go. Hair seemed to be the easiest way. Normally the boys would corral the dogs and save me some stress, but not that day. I decided to take one for the team and take the dogs in myself. I should have rescheduled the appointment and saved myself a lot of drama.

I drove ten miles per hour under the speed limit the entire way because of icy road conditions. The SUV’s outside thermostat read -4 Fahrenheit. My sons had given me the longest leashes known to mankind for the dogs and they were completely tangled by the time I got to the boarding kennel. As soon as I opened the back hatch of my car, the dogs jumped out while I tried to hold on to their leashes as they wound themselves around me. I began to shout like a mad woman.

Sit! Minnie! Mocha! Sit! Don’t you dare knock me down out here! I!!! Said!!! Sit!!!

It took a few minutes to get them signed in at the front desk. Before I could catch my breath I was back in the car on my way to work trying not to have a total meltdown because they had nearly killed me in the parking lot. I had become Cruella Deville and my husband was going to get what was coming to him! Heads were gonna roll! I’d had it with those puppies! Thank God I work near a Starbucks because I had more than earned it this morning! Venti! Breve! Pumpkin spice latte! Please. I was paying for my drink when my phone rang. I didn’t recognize the number on my screen, but answered it anyway. It was the boarding kennel.

A man on the other end of the conversation began to explain that our 9 year old black lab, Minnie, had been assaulted by another dog when she was introduced to the doggy daycare group. I cannot believe I just typed those words, but there they are. A more aggressive dog had bit her left ear and caused it to bleed. The staff was trying to get the bleeding to stop, but they weren’t having much success and wanted to make me aware in case they couldn’t get it stopped.

Here’s the thing: I am not a dog person. You probably already figured that out, but I struggle with being seen in public with our dogs because I feel like a fake. They are not my dogs. They are my husband and sons dogs. Get it? I just make sure they get fed and watered and let them outside no less than 476 times a day. I’m not a dog person.

I thanked the guy for telling me what happened to Minnie and then a wave of guilt crashed over me. I had been so angry because of these animals just moments before, and now Minnie was hurt. She was in a strange place with people she didn’t know.

I called my husband at work. I was planning on giving him a piece of my mind anyway. The call rolled to his voice mail and I explained what was going on with his dog and began to sob. I didn’t know what to do or how I should even be responding at this time. All at once I felt bad for the people taking care of Minnie, but I didn’t have time to deal with dog drama. I had to get to work and stop blubbering about the stupid dog.

Why couldn’t my dog to take a self-defense course and stop the cycle of being the victim? I knew it wasn’t her fault that she had been the runt of the litter when we brought her home almost 9 years ago. I had watched her be dominated by her sister and was constantly trying to get her to stick up for herself. Minnie just needed to get aggressive and fight the lies she’d believed from her past and refuse to accept that she was stuck forever. Because dogs can do that, right? Ok, maybe not.

Once at work I dove into the distractions (and joys) of my job. Somehow I managed to miss every single call from the boarding kennel throughout the day updating Minnie’s progress. Their final message said they had tried everything they knew to do to stop the bleeding but were unsuccessful and were taking her to a nearby vet. My mind was reeling. How did a simple grooming appointment turn into an emergency vet visit? They assured me that Minnie would be fine and updated me every step of the way. Minnie ended up getting four stitches in her ear by the time I left work.

When I picked the dogs up to take them home Minnie was wearing one of those plastic cones of shame. She was woozy from being sedated and anxious to get home. I had a stress migraine and felt as if I was going to vomit any moment and could have gone for some serious sedation myself.

Once we were in the front door, Minnie bumped into her kennel because the cone distorted her vision. She couldn’t even get past the trash can to go outside to do her business without our help. She thought she could, but she couldn’t. We felt so bad for her, even though it was funny at times to watch her so disoriented. My gut churned because I knew how she felt all too well. I know what it’s like not to be able to do the things that seem easy to other people…to try to do it on my own, only to get stuck and feel like a fool.

imageMy husband kept telling me she’d be fine. My brain knew that Minnie would be fine, but I wasn’t so sure about me.

The haunting memories of being bullied by my classmates in the 6th grade would not leave me alone. I could see their faces and I felt the shame all over again. It didn’t make any sense. I kept trying to push down the pain that happened 30 years ago! 30! I thought that I had dealt with a lot of that pain, but it had surfaced again because of my stupid dog. Why did she have to be such a wuss in the first place? What was it about her that made her a target for a bully? These kinds of questions kept pestering me and I couldn’t answer them.

I knew Minnie’s history and there was nothing I could do to change her. She was destined to play the victim from the very start. In the animal kingdom she was the runt of the litter which meant she got whatever was left of her mother’s milk. There were always bigger, stronger, more dominating dogs that got there first. She learned to not expect anything more than what she got. I watched it play out a thousand times in how she interacted with her sister. She unravelled when we brought Mocha home from the same set of dog parents just 2 years later. Mocha was anything BUT the runt of the litter and made her presence known from day one. Minnie acted out…she started peeing on the floor again. Even in my frustration I could see the pain in her eyes…please help me. I don’t know how to stop.

We could have given up in frustration that Minnie was a bad dog and taken her to the pound to become someone else’s problem. Honestly, the thought crossed my mind more than I care to admit. That would have devastated my children and broken a deep trust with them. That trust is sacred and I wasn’t willing to give it up without a fight.

And so my husband asked some friends at work about crazy dog behavior. We searched the internet. There was an explanation for Minnie’s relapse and there were answers to help fix it. She needed to be treated like an alpha dog even though Mocha clearly had the alpha instinct. She needed to be shown respect. It seemed silly to us, but we began to make extra effort to give Minnie what she needed. This meant that Minnie would be petted first when my husband came home from work. She would be allowed to go out the door before Mocha. She would be first. It didn’t seem like a lot, but it meant everything to Minnie. It didn’t take long before Minnie was back to her old self. No more peeing on the floor. No more acting like she was having a total meltdown. Whenever we left for vacation and had someone watch our dogs, I would leave specific instructions for Minnie because her mental and emotional health depended on it.

Funny the lengths we’ll go to for a pet, or our kids, or even a friend, but not for ourselves. Surely the care vital and necessary to our mental, spiritual, and emotional health is just as valuable, if not more?

As I thought about how Minnie was targeted and wounded, I couldn’t help but see how differently our wounds had been treated. Minnie had a team of caring adults with her all day long making sure she was comfortable and getting the care she needed. Sadly, that was not true for me. Nobody helped me when my classmates shamed and humiliated me over and over and over again. My mom tried to get my teacher to intervene, but it only made it worse. His idea of helping me meant singling me out to let me know how attractive he thought I was. No, that was not helpful at all. It was inappropriate and only confirmed the negative messages I had received about my body. Unlike Minnie I was not safe with the people who were supposed to be taking care of me.

It was a busy week and I didn’t have time for revisiting 6th grade hell. I had a birthday party to plan, but I could not be present because my dog’s wounds had uncovered my own. Finally I sat at my kitchen table with a pen and my journal and asked Jesus to help me. The tears came because I could no longer hold them back. Jesus gently took me back to the young places in the 6th grade so that this older me can move forward. He saw my pain. He knew I was struggling and invited me to take His hand. This time I wouldn’t go alone. He would go with me.

I wrote down the names of the classmates who had made my life a living hell. Their vicious schemes replayed in my mind as if they had happened yesterday. The pain washed over me and I sobbed.  I wanted to ask them why they chose me as their target. What was it about me that invited that kind of cruelty? Why me? Why did they perceive me as a threat to their social structure?   

It was time for someone to tend to my wounds. I kept hearing Jesus say, “I bind up your wounds.”  It’s core to who Jesus is and what He does for us. He heals the brokenhearted, binds up our wounds, and restores us. But in order for Him to bind anything, I had to be willing to allow Him access. I could no longer ignore the meanness and the affect it had on my heart…the affect it was still having. I had to stop blaming myself.

The truth is that I deserved to have teachers and people in authority come to my rescue. I deserved to have justice. I was worthy of all the care and attention required to stop the cycle of abuse. That’s what it was and it’s ok to tell the truth about it. The truth is that I had no idea how to navigate the abuse and pain I experienced when I was 11 and 12 years old. It shattered my heart and I pieced it back together as best as I could. Looking back, I can see how I mishandled my wounds in every way, but it’s not too late.

Receiving healing meant I needed to let go of the pain. It meant forgiving the kids (and adults) who inflicted the pain and letting them go. It didn’t mean that what they did was ok. It meant taking that power from them. I had been afraid for so long of being made fun of. I would often assess everyone when I walk into a room full of people I don’t know, assume the worst and work my way backwards. If you happen to be a man, consider yourself condemned until proven you otherwise. I’m only beginning to realize how fear has dominated my interaction with the opposite sex for far too long. Jesus has been showing me how He has put good men in my life and that I don’t have to be afraid. I have never been alone. Nor am I alone now. Jesus has always been there. He’s here now.

It’s never too late for Jesus to heal and mend a broken heart. Healing comes in such unexpected ways. It often comes when we don’t have time for it, but it does come and when it does it is beautiful.

I’m not a dog person, but I am forever grateful for the dog that Jesus used to help heal and mend this broken heart. She loved me well. I hope her story encourages you today. It’s never too late for Jesus to heal and mend your broken heart.

Thanks for stopping by.

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Mac with Minnie Sue Christmas Eve 2006

In memory of Minnie {April 4, 2005-April 24th, 2014}

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