The second to last time I went to urgent care, I was able to tell the doctor there that the ER people said “hi”, because they know each other, and now they all know me. And that has been my winter in a nutshell.
There’s a myth that teachers have iron-clad immune systems. We basically work in a Petri dish of seasonal germs after all. But the problem is we are also exhausted. We see the sun rise each morning, and in winter months consider it a victory when we drive home and there’s still some light remaining. We spend the days on our feet, projecting energy, eating on the go, and leaping from coffee cup to coffee cup, like rocks in a raging river. But this winter something snapped, and I find myself with no other choice but to learn how to be still. It’s been a crazy ride.
I ignored the symptoms for so long, writing them off as allergies, and then by the time I admitted to myself I was full-blown sick I wound up in urgent care on the way to work and in the ER several days later, slumped over in a wheelchair when I was supposed to be lined up with my choir walking in to the festival of lessons and carols.
I didn’t anticipate a reaction to that first round of medication that would leave me so weak that I could barely stand for longer than a few minutes at a time. I missed almost a week of work, which as fellow teachers will know is an unthinkable amount of time to be out of the classroom. When I did eventually go back to work, I quickly relapsed. It took three failed cycles of antibiotics and getting sick before a specialist found an actual diagnosis. Then the newer stronger medication caused some serious reactions, including episodes of debilitating pain, which have left me knocked out again while it runs its course.
The end of November is when I first got sick. For the following months since then I’ve felt like I’m tied to a moving car and my body is failing me, but we’re moving too fast, and stopping is not an option. However as I look ahead at another week away from work, I’m coming to accept that stopping is okay. This whole time I’ve been fighting the pressures of my job, the pressure I put on myself, even stupid New Years pressures that quickly fell flat, but there’s a strange peace in being completely defeated.
Since my brother died in 2009, I have a hard time owning up to anything else in my life qualifying as “suffering” because nothing holds a candle to that. But as I lay in bed at 1 am, fighting through intense pain that wrestled sleep from me at every turn, I had the realization that there’s a unique grace that comes with admitting this is hard, and in knowing God is with me. For so long, I’ve been so wedded to the idea of what my life should look like or who I should be but instead I’m just walking around feeling horrible and doing nothing well. There is such peace in letting that go, and realizing my value is greater than my performance.
With peace comes gratefulness. I know I am carried on the prayers of friends and family and a church that has supported me at every step. I also know that the worst symptoms right now mean healing is happening and there is an end in sight. I am heartbroken to think of the many friends who have chronic pain, chronic health issues, or more dangerous diagnoses. Please know you have my prayers more earnestly than ever. I don’t know exactly what the future holds, but I have hope, peace, and most of all rest, maybe the hardest lesson for a teacher to learn.