My therapist visits have changed in frequency from two to three months, a sign that the medications are doing what they are supposed to do and that I am responding in helpful and healthy ways. I make solid eye contact now and I am not sure that I have ever done this in my life. Tears which once flowed at the drop of a hat come rarely now and then ever briefly. I am less defensive, less prone to despair and paralyzing anxiety, but still likely to take on too much and forget to ask for help. This is real life after all.
Stress can trigger lupus attacks and my stress level history during the Christmas season is notoriously out of sight high. From stress-induced aggravations of my hiatal hernia that left me at the altar doubled over in pain while others sang “Joy to the World,” to uncontrollable eye-twitching, to insomnia, to being unable to drive a day after Christmas more than a handful of miles of a 300 plus mile vacation journey, the season of Christmas was a nightmare for me physically, emotionally and spiritually. Each year by Christmas morning I had nothing left in the tank for anyone. My poor family just dealt with it year after year.
I am mostly mellow; God bless the twin wonders of pharmacology and psychiatry. And I am often tired as I learn to live into the new normal of lupus and the headaches and body aches and bone-weary exhaustion that strike without warning and seemingly out of thin air. Even when I have been “good” by wearing my sun-proof get up and sunscreen and getting adequate sleep. Some days just suck despite every precaution. Not a day goes by without someone asking me how I am doing or telling me that they are praying for me. All sorts of people. It amazes me and humbles me and would have left the old me in a puddle of appreciative tears until my eyes would have burned from the salt. I say “thank you” and mean it and do not fall apart. On the great checklist of life I will count this in the “plus” column.
I have come to appreciate even more deeply the care and concern capacity of the people of the congregation in which I am privileged to serve. This flock has embraced my struggles and used the opportunity to offer me abiding prayer and encouragement. They anoint me on healing Sundays and pray over me and declare God shall make me well. I am tempted to re-purpose the prayer shawl they gave me into a stole. My honesty about my diseases and medications has led to numerous conversations. One is never alone in such struggles; not me and not others who once thought they were.
This Christmas won’t return to the innocent wonder of my childhood when a stocking filled with chocolate coins and a balsa wood airplane magically appeared at the foot of my bed early in the morning before all awoke and together we would behold the tree and what awaited beneath. Nor, do I think I will be dragging my anxiety and exhaustion wracked body from fitful slumber to the couch and pasting a smile upon my face and trying to say all of the right things. The ghost of Christmas Present has not yet arrived to show me what is, but I have gotten a head start on a heart full of gratitude and for now that is enough.