(Disclaimer: This post contains some material that may be triggering for current and/or recovering addicts and alcoholics. Also, there are 2.5 cuss words.)
At 2 am this morning I woke up, my whole body gripped with fear. I’m afraid of having a cancer again. It’s a trigger for me, every pregnancy convinces me I have cancer again. Once it was true, but twice now, it has been nothing more than fear. The sucky part is that this time, this pregnancy, I have to feel the fear. I have to put on my battle gear, pick up my Lamy pen, open my white-paged journal, and bravely slice through each of those oppressive captors. One. By. Effing. One.
That’s what my therapist said to do. Write down all the fears, honor them, give them a voice, feel them. Then tear that shit up asap—DESTROY THEM. Why keep that poison in those pages? Then I went to biblegateway.com, typed in “do not be afraid,” and read each verse. Now I can write this, at 3 am on a Wednesday…
So yes, once upon a time, all my worst fears were realized. That rash, and my shortness of breath, the fatigue, and the itching weren’t just common side effects of pregnancy. They were cancer. It happened once, but once is all a human needs to create a mental monument in honor of said traumatic event. I worshiped at that fear alter daily, offered up panicked thoughts, reality-altering sacrifices, and anger. Each pregnancy after Lucy I found a sneaky way around the grief. It was like all God wanted to do was hold me in His hand, but I kept wriggling through His fingers. I didn’t want to look at Him or feel His tender touch. And He loved me too much to make me stay, against my will; He knew I wasn’t ready…
With Rae I gained 80lbs, I would imagine elaborate meals in my head and then make my poor husband go fetch them. If I could focus on the food, the consumption, then I didn’t have to think about the fact that I was pregnant. Pregnancy equaled cancer in my traumatized brain bits, so I was not going to feel pregnant. I was going to feel full.
I’m on scary meds. It’s only six months after the bone marrow transplant. How could my eggs be safe and unharmed from all that chemo? They SWORE I’d never be able to naturally get pregnant again! I was post-menopausal, they said I didn’t have eggs. I had a PET scan when I was 3 weeks pregnant and she survived, but what if she’s born with defects? Again, scary meds! I can still barely take care of me, how will I do another baby? I have that rash again. It’s hard to breathe. These are all the fears I wished I had honored. I wish I had been brave enough to feel them. Instead I ate, and controlled.
Between Rae and Atticus I decided to get gastric bypass surgery, life was becoming impossible with all the extra weight. So I got a very tiny new stomach, and a really short, new small intestine. Small stomach translates to: I can’t binge anymore. Shorter small intestine translates to: I can feel small amounts of alcohol enter my system much faster and stronger now. Add Oxy to the mix, Adderall to counteract the sleepiness from the Oxy, and Ambien to cancel out the Adderall craziness (all doctor-prescribed and monitored, mind you)… it was the most efficient way to numb out I can imagine. TV, too. Always insane amounts of TV.
Again, instead of honoring the fear, instead of feeling it…I didn’t. Atticus just turned one on 9/14. He is another post-menopausal miracle; he is perfect. After 2 weeks in the NICU detoxing from all the meds I got him hooked on, he came home. A week later I went to rehab. Rae was supposed to be underweight and sickly. She was 11lbs 4oz and 24 inches long. She is also a genius, which I attribute to all the radiation she survived. They are both fine. I was fine. We are all fine.
It’s 3:43 am now, and I got a little lost. Triggers. Yeah. So I’m pregnant again, and I have that same god-damn rash (a reminder that my immune system is forever a little weaker than it used to be). I’m short of breath, and really trusting it’s just symptom of Lyrica withdrawal, not lung tumors again. I’m exhausted, but who isn’t with three kids under five-years-old?
I woke up so abruptly and remembered that old Temple of Terror I built all those years ago. The pathway there is overgrown now, and hasn’t been used in a long time. New territory has been added to the landscape of my brain, new neural pathways, too. I’d like to believe I don’t even know where it is anymore, that’s a lie. I know exactly what to start thinking to get me there, to get me worshiping at the feet of a small god. Four kids is too many kids to leave behind. Who would know all their innermost needs and wants? What does a child do when they have to say goodbye, and THEN NEVER SEES THEIR MAMA AGAIN? Who would brush their hair, David is so bad at that. I don’t want to write out more of the poison because here it can’t be destroyed, but that list filled an entire page. And I wrote small. I wept. My insides heated up, balled up, twisted and squirmed. I hated every minute of it…
Instead of dramatically ripping it to shreds (which I wanted to do so badly), I had to slowly and deliberately tear the paper up, so as not to alert the sleeping children to my downstairs presence. Then? Then I got to speak Truth.
–God is Good, Merciful, and Loving. He loves my children more than I do. He loves David more than I do.
-If they become so wounded, hardened, defended, and angry at God because of my death, if they become addicts, that only means they get the best kind of redemption story. Addiction, trauma, and death shaped me into a person I am proud to be.
-David could do it with Jesus, his family, my family, Shanen, our community, our church. David could do it.
-You (God) are so much bigger than the tiny god my fears create. Nothing is wasted on You. You can’t help but Redeem and make right. Nothing can separate them from Your Love. You are present in all things.
-All things work for the good. ALL things work for the good. ALL THINGS WORK FOR THE GOOD.
The Truths filled up two pages. Again, tiny writing. After setting my fountain pen sword down, and closing my Scripture shield, I exhaled. It’s 4:22 am now, and I am not afraid. I am not afraid. You don’t have to be, either. I’m now singing Proverbs 3:24 to myself, and praying it over all of you, over all of us:
“When you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.”