I've been putting off writing this post. I'm anxious about it. I worry I won't capture this important experience properly. That you won't understand. And I'm scared to find those feelings again, to be in that moment of intense pain and fear so I can write it. But I must. It needs to be told.
Seven years ago my life was very different. I was working. A lot. My kids were younger (7, 8, 10, 12, 14) and involved in many activities. My husband and I were in therapy. I was just going through life, trying to stay afloat. My husband finally saw that he was abusive and was trying to change. He was questioning the church and trying to decide if he believed in God. I was learning how to set boundaries and choose for myself. I was trying to figure out who I was. Who I truly was and who I wanted to be.
And then I got a headache.
I'd had headaches before. Bad headaches. Headaches that lasted for days. A headache that made me go blind. And headaches that weren't severe but just made life hard. Headaches were nothing new.
So when I got this headache I figured it would be like the others. I would wait it out, treat it with Excedrin, and eventually it would go away. But it didn't. Some days it was so bad I couldn't work. Some days my vision and dizziness were so bad someone else had to drive me home from work. Some days it was more subtle and I could go on. But it was always there.
After a few weeks, my husband started to think I was faking. He even said so. No one has a headache that long. You're just using it as an excuse so I have to do everything. I'm so sick of this stupid headache excuse. Yeah, me too.
After I'd had it six weeks, two of my toes went numb. This made me nervous. When you get a headache that doesn't go away that long, there is a tiny tickling in your mind that says, "What if it's a brain tumor?" That tickling got stronger.
I told my husband. He freaked out and immediately made an appointment for me to see the doctor.
We went to the doctor together. He did a regular work up. Then he did a neurological screening. Looking for signs that it might be a brain tumor. He didn't find anything that pointed that direction, but he was bothered by how long I'd had it and the numbness in my toes. He talked to me about migraines and said that's what he thought it was; they can cause numbness, too. He gave me some meds to try and said if it didn't break in a week I needed to come back. After this appointment Bill said, "At least I know you're not faking."
It didn't break. I went back. He repeated the neurological screening. He still didn't find anything, but he was concerned. He suggested we do an MRI.
By this point I was getting nervous. My headache should have broken by now. I'd never had a headache like this. What if this is for real? What if it's a tumor?
We couldn't get in for the MRI for a few days. Waiting for that was so hard. And that's when it happened.
It was the night before my MRI. I was taking a shower so I'd be all ready in the morning. And all the walls I'd been putting up to protect myself and my family from the fear came crashing down. What if it is a tumor? What if it isn't something that can be fixed? What if I die? What about my children? What will happen to my children? Although he was finally aware of being abusive, my husband was still mean a lot of the time. He was learning to be more kind, but his natural tendency was still to strike out when he was stressed or angry. What would happen if I wasn't there to protect my children? If I died, they would be alone with him. Who would protect them? And I knew he no longer believed in God or going to church. How would my children remain close to God? How would they be taught all they needed to know without the gospel in their lives? How would they know how precious they were to God and how powerful they were and what they should do if I wasn't there to teach them? I was living with a man who'd made our lives hell for so many years. These children were his. I didn't trust him alone with them. How could I go away and leave them to him? This is too much for them. How can they go on without me? He would put the older ones in charge, make them assume many of my duties. They would no longer be able to be children. This isn't fair to them. It's too much. If I'm not here to guide their lives, they could become lost. My death would push my husband to a very dark place; what if he takes it out on the children? What if he goes into a depression again? How will they deal with it without me? How will they get through it? Who will take care of my children? Who will love them? Who will make sure they know they are God's children?
The weight of all of this overwhelmed me. I crumpled to the floor of the shower in a ball. Hugging my knees. Rocking. Sobbing. In so much emotional anguish. In so much pain for my children.
I began to pray. I wanted to beg to be spared, for my children. I wanted to plead for my life. But that wasn't the prayer that came to my heart. I knew the prayer I needed to offer. And it was the hardest prayer in my life. I couldn't do it. I couldn't say it. I knew I needed to, but I just couldn't. The wrestle in my mind and heart was great. I fought with all I had. Until I could finally say it. And mean it.
"Please. I want to live. I want to raise my children. I want to protect them. I want to love them through the difficulties of life. Please. But . . . thy will be done. If it is not to be, if I am not to live, I know that they are thy children. I trust that thou wilt love them and protect them. I know you want the world for them, too. I know you love them in a way I can't even understand. As much as I love them and want to stay, I trust thy will."
Meaning it was so important. In that moment, I fully surrendered my will to God in a way I never had before. I understood that all would be well even if I weren't to live. I understood, more than I ever had before, that He watches over and cares.
There was still some fear of what would come. But there was also an underlying peace. A knowledge that my children wouldn't be alone. An understanding that if I couldn't be there, He would bring others into their lives who would meet those needs. He loves them. He watches over them. They are His.
And to this day, that is a knowledge that gets me through.
Update: My husband went to therapy for a long time. He's doing much better. He still slips occasionally, but we both know how to handle it in healthier ways. There is no tumor. They still have no answer for my headache, but all tests indicate it isn't life-threatening. Yes, I still have it.