Thursday, November 12, 2009

Pretty Pain-volume 1

In 2002 I was reading the Book of Mormon on King Benjamin's dissertation to his people. When he was through "they all cried with on voice saying: Yea we believe all the words which thou hast spoken unto us; and also, we know of their surety and truth, because of the spirit of the Lord omnipotent, which has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually."

I wanted to feel the way they did.


I didn't yet understand what that 'mighty change' was and I wanted it more than anything. I got on my knees and I pled, I begged to feel as they did, to truly be converted. I didn't understand what this journey would entail, perhaps I thought a feeling would come over me or I could wake up the next day changed. I had no idea what was in store, but I have never regretted praying for this gift on that day.

Within 2 days I had fallen down a flight of stairs. I would unknowingly go to an unlicensed massage therapist who would hurt me terribly and set in motion a condition that lay dormant and that I didn't even realize I had.
I was born with two extra cervical ribs and because of that there is very limited space in my brachial plexus which causes my arteries and nerves to become impinged. It is called Thoracic Outlet Syndrome.

I will not attempt to describe in too much detail how it feels, but mine was severe enough that it felt as if someone was sticking icepicks into my shoulder, back ,arms, neck, head and face. And it never went away. I stopped sleeping, I began dropping things so had to stop holding my 18 month old son. He would take a stool and climb into my lap and I would silently weep, but never so he could see. I never wanted my baby to know how much I hurt. Everyone else would keep their distance because the slightest touch would be agony.

I went to neurologists, orthopedic surgeons, chiropractors, physical therapists. No one knew what was wrong and several told me it was in my head and to go get 'help'. Xrays and MRIs showed nothing. I thought maybe I was crazy. I received so many blessings that my baby would lay his hands on my head and bless me and the experience gave him an empathy that I cannot regret that he carries.

I pled for the pain to go away. I prayed for deliverance. I prayed for a year. That's how long it took to get a diagnosis. I would visualize myself literally taking the Lord's hand and holding it for comfort. He was the only source of relief. My nerves misfired all the time, I would have unbidden pins and needles, my extremities would go numb and I wondered who this creature was that my body had become. My spirit yearned for release from this physical prison.

During this time I was called to teach Relief Society to the women of our church. I couldn't understand this call. I could barely move. Other people cleaned my home and cared for my son and the Lord wanted me to stand in front of all these other women for forty minutes? What could I possibly teach them? What was I except the one others pitied?

I accepted the calling. I sat in my chair and I immersed myself in the scriptures, in great books of gospel doctrine and I learned. I continued to pray for deliverance and then my prayers began to change. I went through the classic stages of grief though I hadn't lost a loved one, I'd lost myself.
The first Sunday I would teach approached and I prayed that somehow by my diligence I could be healed of this phantom malady that racked my body. The day dawned and I stood in front of the sea of faces and the pain left me...I opened my mouth and was filled with sweet relief. I taught the lesson and testified and the words were not my own. I had a profound witness that God loved me and I had a powerful love for these women I would teach.

I said "Amen" and sat down and immediately I came to myself again and the pain chained itself back to my body. I would go through the same process every month I taught. You can imagine how I looked forward to that temporary respite. How I truly sought to obtain the word so in that moment I could truly declare what he would have me declare. How this 'weakness' became the catalyst for the opportunity to walk with HIM.

The scripture in Ephesians by the apostle Paul took on a poignant personal meaning for me:

"There was given to me a thorn in the flesh , the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong."


to be continued...

15 comments:

clan of the cave hair said...

Oh,I don't even know what to say, I'm certain that your post is not to illicit sympathy, (though you have mine, my goodness) but to proclaim your faith in God and your gratitude for His blessings. But I still have to say I'm so sorry that you're having to deal with this physical pain. You are so talented with words, I hope you'll write more about this experience.

Kristina P. said...

Wow, I had no idea, Rachel!

I am excited to hear about the rest of the story.

Lara said...

I hope this story has a happy ending! I love to read your blog, so glad you are posting:)

Christie Gardiner said...

I'm so glad that you are writing this. It needs to be said.

deadchickenman said...

Maybe now everybody will meet the hero I have known for years. Maybe now they'll see person who refuses to be defined by the worst this world can dish out. People need to read this. They need to know. They need to know because you are proof that the dignity of the human soul can not be bailed out, or destroyed. But that it must be nurtured and preserved if it is not to grow dim.

Great job sweetheart!

Lara said...

Wow Rachel. I really have no words. This is beautifully written (of course), but also has helped my heart to change just a little bit. Thank you for sharing this experience...I look forward to hearing even more.

mindij said...

Ok, weird question, and maybe this isn't what you would want-have you thought of sending this to the Ensign to be published? That was beautifully written. I'm with Christie-this needed to be written!

You are amazing and I hope I can be just like you when I grow up-without the extra ribs, of course...;)

rubberbandgirl said...

I agree with Tony, though he knows you so much better, but you are profoundly amazing.
I honor you, my friend and I am so pleased with this.
Your writing is above reproach and your soul...oh your soul.
I'm glad it comes in contact with mine.

Donna said...

Wow, what an amazing experience. I'm looking forward to hearing more...

The Kooky Queen--Rachel said...

WOW!!!!!!!! What an amazing, painful, and very moving journey you've been on! Thank you for sharing! I can't wait to hear more!!

Devri said...

Ok girl, this is why I love you! You truly are a special child of God and I had tears rolling down my face, then I read the comments and got to your husbands.. wow, started tearing up again. Sorry you have to go through this, but we all know that Heavenly Father doesn't give us anything we can't handle, keep strong and faithful, it will all work out! Bless you my friend.

Finding Joy in the Moments said...

It is nice to hear from your own mouth about your illness. I so want to understand your struggles. I know that is not possible. I do admire your willingness to share your greatest weakness and your greatest blessing. I know too that through weak things we made be made strong. Some of my greatest weaknesses are also my greatest blessings. God knows how to humble his children. He provides the perfect expreriences for each one of us so we can become like him. I know it is sometimes hard to enjoy the journey but you have learned to do just that. Thanks for sharing your heart with me this morning.

Erin said...

What a faith strengthening story! Thank you for sharing it with us!

Jeana said...

I'm glad to hear this in your own written words.

Kellie said...

Rachel, I knew you were having health issues, but I had no idea that were so bad. I'm so glad you've been able to find a doctor to help you now. You'll be in our prayers. You may not consider yourself a hero, but I do look up to you and you are beautiful.