Life Above the Line: Living the Life You’re Meant to Live
The Worst Pain Of My Life
“Make no small plans, they have no magic to stir men’s souls.” ~Unknown
At only 22 years old, I should have had an amazing life ahead of me. Right? But what was happening to me? The doctor just said that I would likely be dealing with intense pain and debilitating fatigue for the rest of my life. I felt lost, confused. Worse than that, most of the people around me thought I was faking it. Are you kidding me?! All I wanted was to do what I had been sent there to do. But there I was, thousands of miles from home, living with a stranger of a roommate, and in the worst pain of my life.
I was a missionary for my church, a great 18-month adventure far from home, and I knew the Lord wanted me there. It comes with lots of blessings and lots of trials. My first weekend at the training facilities, I got the flu. No big deal, I thought, just part of the experience. Within a day or so I felt better, but soon after I suddenly lost my voice. Getting sick the first time had me already feeling a little awkward around my assigned training group, and there I was, sick again. Then the lost voice turned into back pain – totally not normal. My trainer helped me coordinate some visits to a local chiropractor hoping to help me get some relief. The adjustments seemed to help, so a few weeks later I was sent out to my first area to start working. This time even farther away from home.
During the first few days, my back felt weak and only mildly achy, so I didn’t think much about it. But the life of a missionary includes walking and teaching and serving for many hours each day, and the pain was increasing. You need to understand that there is a culture among missionaries of giving your all, holding nothing back in the service of the Lord and others. And if someone is struggling to live up to that standard – especially without visible cause – it can be confusing and frustrating. So I guess it’s not surprising that my new companion/teaching partner seemed a little impatient with my struggles, and even a bit argumentative about us keeping up the pace. I tried to explain that I was doing my best, but that something was wrong and I didn’t know what it was. There may be some who just can’t handle the workload, but that wasn’t me.
The days wore on and the pain increased. I felt my energy diminishing until, one morning, I was completely exhausted and I could hardly get out of bed. At this point I really started to worry. Here I was, thousands of miles from home, deteriorating for no apparent reason, and scared. I received permission from our mission leader to go to a doctor. One medical appointment turned into several as no one could figure out what was going on. They poked and prodded and tested, but the doctors didn’t know what to do with me. They made their guesses, but the numerous tests they ran amounted to no more than circumstantial evidence that it was probably all in my head. That’s what they told my leaders, and that’s when is when it got ugly.
My mission leader was now convinced that I was just a problematic youth trying to get out of something. He lectured me sternly and told me to get back to work. He also informed me that my companion had told him I was trouble. This stunned me. I was dealing with massive pain, intense fatigue and now betrayal. I was terrified and, for the first time in my life, truly angry. When I saw my companion next, she received the best ‘go to heck’ look I could give. It must have been good, because she stepped back. I think she realized she had messed up.
With new disdain and renewed determination, I said I would do whatever we needed to do. This meant a lot of walking in whatever weather was to be had – rain, cold, etc. So out we went. By the time we were done with that day of work, pushing as hard as I could, I collapsed. My companion had to carry me to the car to head home and then practically carry me into the apartment. I was shattered. Suddenly, she could see the truth: I was really sick.
My companion helped me get to another doctor, a kindhearted Internist. She said she had an idea of what was going on (finally!), but that it was bad news. She stopped short of giving a diagnosis, but if it was what she suspected, it would be a life sentence of misery. Well, the good news was that my companion and one of the other missionaries in our group finally believed me. Everyone else that mattered, however, was convinced of my tenacious deception and made my life incredibly difficult.
Soon after, bad went to worse. In our weekly missionary training meetings, I had easily memorized and retained numerous scriptures and teaching materials. I was very good at it. Then, one day, it just stopped. It was bizarre and disturbing. I couldn’t retain more than a sentence. My short-term memory had suddenly turned off, and I was almost paralyzed with fear. All of the pressure, mocking, threats to get back to work, and now this made me think I was losing my mind. I just wanted to find out what was wrong, take care of it and finish what I was there to do. But, it was hopeless. Impatience surrounded me and the doubts in my mind were leading me toward the loony bin.
Like a ray of light shining through the dark clouds, my mom swung in and pulled me out of the pit. She called me unexpectedly one day after speaking with the mission leader. Something I had said a few days earlier had her worried, so she was just checking back in, and the person he described didn’t sound like the daughter she knew at all. So at just the right time, she called my apartment and pulled me out of the terrified stupor I was in, helping me muster up the strength to face my situation. I met with the mission leader, where he gave me the option to stay or to go home. I had given everything to make it work, and I could see that it was just not going to work after all. Only a few weeks into my 18-month assignment, I told him I was ready to go home.
Within a few days I was on a plane and headed back home to a safe, nurturing, albeit confused family. After picking me up and seeing a withered, pale, sickly version of the daughter my parents had sent out to serve a mission, they were stunned and quickly shifted gears. While they strategized how to unravel the mystery of my sudden decline in health, I wondered what would come of me. Would I ever feel good again? I love to learn, but would I get to return to college to finish my degree? Would anyone want to marry this invalid I had turned into? These questions haunted me as I struggled beneath the weight of constant, mind-numbing pain in my back, a non-existent short-term memory, paralyzing fatigue and a host of other random symptoms.
As if the new illness were not enough, I now felt like a failure. We had spent hundreds of dollars, massive faith and months preparing for my mission, and I had wasted it all. I was so sure that it was right – I knew it was – then somehow it wasn’t. I had to face my failure as well as my family and neighbors who had been so excited for me. Even some of them questioned if I was really sick, and it really hurt. I couldn’t bear the judgment and questions. I was devastated.
The days and nights dragged on as I attempted to deal with the pain and rest as well as I could. Being born into a strong, faith-filled family, we sought guidance through prayer. One day after a prayer my father offered on my behalf, he told me he felt strongly that I would eventually get well. When I heard those words, I felt something, too. It was almost as if the pain in my body recognized this was a temporary stop. I took the words as a literal message from heaven. That day began the greatest treasure hunt of my life, and I knew that I would eventually be healthy again. It was just a matter of faith and time.
I want you to experience this shift in your own life. The power is inside of you. The techniques you will learn in this book will facilitate a powerful change within you and around you. You will be able to benefit from this beautiful treasure that I discovered through my life and body-healing journey. After 18 years, my healing quest was finally complete. The constant pain is gone. My energy is restored. I feel capable once again to live a life of my choosing. That’s what this book is about – how my life changed, and how yours can too.