September 15th, 2014 made me a bit of a basket case. I’ve been in several wrecks in my life (most of which were not my fault) but never expected that the wreck that day would lead to so much pain thereafter. For the first few weeks, I just suspected the soreness would wear off with time. Rest. Ice. Repeat. However once I hit the three-month mark, my condition was given a name and the term “chronic” set in. I went from never having back pain in my life to “Chronic Bilateral L4/L5 Spondylolysis, partial Spondylolisthesis, two disc bulges, muscle spasms, and sciatica“. Surely I couldn’t have a chronic condition at 20 years of age. This is supposed to be the peak of my life. I’m supposed to be full of life, unstoppable.
For those who know me, you know I’m stubborn. Probably one of the most stubborn people you’ve met. Rest is not a part of my vocabulary and I never say no to a task. In my mind, nothing is too big for me to tackle. No matter how many other things I have on my plate. I remember during my senior year, I spent part of my senior banquet sitting in the news room editing a video for the senior class. In high school I tackled sports, editing the news during after-school hours, and up to 6 hours of homework a night after I arrived home from swim meets and tennis matches before hitting the pillows. In college I work anywhere from 20-40 hours a week on top of being a full-time student all while I handle other tasks asked of me. I also take time to come home quite often to fellowship with my church and to spend time with my family. I always reassure myself I’m coming home for a break but we all know that’s impossible.
My entire life, I’ve taken the reigns. I haven’t let my grip fall in the slightest. Well that is until shortly after my wreck last year. A few weeks into the so-called “recovery” process, I still tried to give as much time to my studies, work, and other duties as I had previously. The week of my wreck, I missed an entire week of work/pay and that was inconceivable in my mind. I wanted to attend work mind my doctors better judgment. I did not have time to “rest”, let alone attend all of the doctors and therapy appointments that were to be scheduled. I mean a month of the chiropractor and then 5 ½ months of therapy? A 20-year-old does not have time for that kind of commitment. For a while, I just endured the pain and kept on. One thing I have mastered throughout my life is pain tolerance. When another’s pain level might be a 10 and on their way to the hospital, I just grit my teeth, take a deep breath, and push through. One week this spring I did not even realize that I had strep because I was in bed with consistent back spasms for an entire week, on and off every few minutes. I would endure the spasm episodes every day and remind myself that they would end. Or so I hoped.
For the first few months, I blamed God. I turned my back on Him as I imagined He had turned His back on me. He let this happen, I thought. I remember pausing for a moment of reflection about three months in and realized that I had not once truly thanked God for allowing me to survive the wreck, for giving me perfect reaction time and reflexes that even the doctors could not comprehend given the time frame of the wreck. It made me reevaluate my relationship with Him. How am I to blame Him for this? I quickly had to learn the hard way that my life is not my own. I cannot control every outcome as I desire. He allowed this to happen and used it for a greater good. That being that I would have to learn to trust Him on days when I could not even trust my own body to do what it was supposed to do. I hated myself most days in that I could not function as I previously could. I had to learn that there is good in rest even when I did not want to attend a therapy appointment or sleep longer than my usual 5 hours a night.
When your body can’t function as it’s supposed to, it’s utterly exhausting and devastating. For example, before my accident I stressed the importance to set goals for my health and to exercise almost, if not daily. I had gained enough upper body and abdominal strength that I could hold a 6 ½ minute plank and this was a goal I was quite proud to achieve. The first day of rehab, my therapist had one plank on my agenda. Within the first second of trying to plank, I immediately fell. I had no lower back strength left whatsoever and the task seemed impossible. It’s quite humiliating and intimidating to know that you are in rehab with mostly older people and you can’t hold a simple exercise for longer than a second.
Well today marks a year since my accident. Through the tons of insurance annoyances, daily medications, exhausting therapy, and days and nights spent relying on an ice pack and heating pad, my pain level is a 1. That seemed inconceivable even just a month ago. My physiatrist and I decided the next step was facet joint injections and after two rounds, the second worked within days. Now I can’t be sure that they will last for long. But I have faith that through whatever I might face in the future, I have a God who is willing to take control. I’m not promised a pain-free/struggle-free life. No in this life I will face troubles, and mine are minimal compared to some of the pains my acquaintances may face in life. But it sure does feel great to put my faith in something greater than myself. Someone that will not fail me. Someone that has promised me a greater future no matter what this world throws at me. In that, I can find rest.
Romans 8:18 “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us”.
All of the other struggles and trials I had previously faced in my life, I could control. I could decide to turn them around. The fear brought on by an uncontrollable body was more than I thought I could handle. But it honestly was the perfect battle for God to use to make me seek Him. Think back on the trials that God has allowed you to go through but has in return made you stronger and more refined in the long run. Thank Him first and battle with Him. You can’t do it alone. He is the only one that can turn pain into progress.