Thursday, October 22, 2009

Just Breathe

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What are the lessons buried in the midst of your steroid reduction?

Gosh, I love how you guys ask such easy questions!

[ I might have a tinge of sarcasm in the previous sentence. :) ]

Actually, I love it when you all challenge me to sit back and really think about these experiences. To be honest, it almost makes me shiver when I think back on those days when I’d have to reduce, always knowing what was coming. I think it was so hard for me to accept that it had to be that painful because I’d never had issues with getting off steroids before, but apparently adding Cushing’s to the mix really makes a huge difference. I guess if there is one major lesson buried in that experience it’s this:

It takes just as much effort, if not more, to resist the inevitable as it does to go through the inevitable.

I obviously know what it’s like to have pretty intense pain 24/7, but when I first tried to reduce as I normally would, it was intensely shocking to be jolted awake by a completely new and different pain. It went from my hips to my toes in waves of sharp pain, a pain that seared right down through the bone. While those waves were occurring, there was a pressure of pain in my knees like they were being squeezed in a vice that never let up.

Hence, the whole “not being able to walk and falling when getting out of bed” experience. Ugh. So unpleasant. That intensity lasted upward of five hours, and I was smart enough to immediately pop some steroids in my mouth and go back to my regular dose. What wasn’t smart was this declaration: “They are going to have to put me in a three month coma if they expect me to do this reduction because I CAN’T DO IT.”

Now, I’m not typically a girl who complains or throws a fit or makes such a declarative statement, but I felt in that moment I had earned the right to tell the doctors they had lost their ever-living minds. After all, I was the one living in this body of insanity.

But here’s the problem: I knew I had to get off the steroids. I knew the Cushing’s was getting worse and that it would continue to get worse as long as steroids were in my system. I knew it was inevitable, but in my mind I had decided it was impossible.

I should know by now that nothing is impossible.

In the end, we changed my steroid schedule and worked on different combinations of drugs and pain meds that allowed me to put myself into as much of a coma as I could… so I guess I did get my way a little bit. :) Extra meds or not, it was phenomenally painful, immobilizing and exhausting. But I got through it because I changed my attitude. I bucked up and got stubborn and decided enough was enough… I just wanted it over with. I learned that if I resolved myself to the inevitable instead of fighting it with dread, I could be mentally strong enough to handle it even if I wasn’t physically strong enough.

While I have gotten most of the range of motion back in my knees, I will still at times feel that old vice-like pressure and have moments of that shooting pain in my shin bone. To me it’s a small physical reminder that every beginning has an end as long as we keep moving forward. It’s another example of God already knowing the ending and me simply walking down the road in order to reach it.

The process reminds me of my sister-in-law who had all three of her children without any pain medication. [Let’s all take a moment of silence for that one…] Anyway, her second delivery went so much more smoothly than her first because she had a great labor/delivery nurse who talked her through the pain. She told her to stop holding her breath and fighting it, and instead let the pain be a part of her so she could breathe through it and use that to help her push.

It makes me wonder how much of our lives we spend holding our breath and fighting against the inevitable, rather than embracing the situation and using it to help us through the process. How often are we fighting internally rather than accepting the pain or difficulties in our life… breathing through them with the knowledge that no matter the results, all will be well.

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