Monday, January 23, 2012

# 108 - Healing and Coping

There's an old saying, "Time Heals All Wounds." I'm sure you've heard it. Sometimes people just say, "Time Heals." To me, it's kind of a detached viewpoint or opinion to give someone, almost as if you're telling them that today is not so important because your tomorrow will be different and better.

Have I said this old saying to someone? Probably, I have, but I've learned through the years that this saying is not always the wisest thing to let come out of your mouth. I do not want to discredit what a person is going through right now because I want to convince them that time in itself will serve as a salve for everything. For some wounds, time does heal, but time is not a certain cure-all for all of life's "wounds."

Okay...time is great, but what about getting through the seconds that are ticking away on the clock at this moment? For a person who is suffering, that future date and time is often hard to conceive.

I learned, the hard way, that sometimes you must tell someone to just focus on getting through each moment, as it comes. I've been through some difficult times when I was not even able to embrace a "day-by-day" kind of focus, but instead had to figure out that I had to concentrate on intense strength needed to get through the moment at hand. There are certain kinds of suffering that can be that intensely challenging. I never would have imagined that people could live through unbelievable suffering until I'd experienced it first-hand.

I'll try to explain...

My first taste at true physical suffering on a deeply painful level did not come with Addison's disease. Yes, I deeply suffered with my prolonged diagnosis of Addison's and this disease has nearly killed me, a few times, but it doesn't necessarily cause major pain. I hadn't even been introduced to full suffering on the night I officially coded at the hospital. However, I most certainly got a big hand-shake with pain which brought a new level of suffering into my mental file cabinet after I'd gone through a cardio-thoracic surgery and found myself at home with a collapsed lung and a chest cavity filling with blood from internal bleeding.

Not only was I enduring the pain of a large incision, a drainage tube stitched in place as it came out of my shoulder after being threaded deep into my thoracic region, but I was also in great pain from my first rib being surgically removed...along with some muscles that were cut out. My arteries had clips on them - clips that are still there until this day - but something went wrong in recovery. The inside of my arteries are squeaky clean, but the tissue, muscle and bone surrounding my arteries were choking my arteries closed. Not a good dilemma; my body needed surgery to free the artery of being strangled. So, the highly skilled cardio-thoracic surgeon went into my thoracic region and began the long process of removing a few things that a normal person would not be able to imagine having removed.

A couple of days after being discharged from the hospital visit, I lay in bed at home and struggled to breathe. Breathing became hard work. Every gasp of air brought me pain like I'd didn't know could be possible. I would soon discover that over one liter of blood had flowed into my chest wall and there was so much blood that it coagulated and pressed against my lung so that it caused my lung to collapse. That, along with phrenic nerve damage caused my diaphragm to be partially paralyzed, so breathing had become a painfully maddening experience.

Each breath I struggled to take was a moment I had to get through. And breathing is something that you can't automatically put on hold, you can't avoid it, you don't want it to stop, yet each breath itself feels like it is killing you...and for was not good. Moment by moment, I battled my own body. My oxygen levels were dangerously low. Once I had been admitted back into the hospital, I soon learned to breathe deeply though the oxygen tubes sticking in my nostrils...breathe in deeply with the mouth closed and try not to move. You'd be amazed at how much oxygen it takes for us to move a little muscle.

I was in bad shape. My surgery had not been without its risks; some are like that...they aren't so routine and they come with horrendous recoveries. No frilly answer.

With my surgery and complications, I was finding myself in such pain that I floated out of the here and now. Thank God my mom had recognized that my situation seemed to be well beyond typical recovery issues...she heard my whimpers and she knew I was in serious trouble. So, the ambulance showed up and off I went back to the hospital...and to be shocked about the level of my internal bleeding and collapsed lung.

This is just one time-frame in my life that has taught me about living through each moment and figuring out how to cope so that you can have a better chance to continue living through more moments.

For those people who are trying to get through their lives, second by second, moment by moment, I am here to say that those moments right now are the best you can to get through each one. Each moment is precious. It may be true that Time Heals CERTAIN wounds, but not all wounds can be healed with time.

Some wounds and problems and pains must be lived with every moment of every day. Personally, I believe that you better learn to cope with such problems as time passes. Time does often help us to adjust and to adapt...we cope.

Another area of tremendous pain came after my cervical spine reconstruction in 2009. My cervical spine is held together by metal...the hardware cannot be removed, it is there to stay, permanently. My "healing" for my collapsed spine can only have a certain level of healing, and after that point, I have to deal with and live with the constant pain of the substantial hardware that holds my spine together. Most people seeing me in a grocery store on in the front yard would NEVER IMAGINE that I've confronted such health problems...I am good a the "fake it til you make it" facade, unless you look closely and see the scars.

However, facing the fact that the word "healing" is a relative term has been a part of my health challenge. A more appropriate word for my situation(s) and for many others is that you might not have necessarily "healed" from your situation, but you've learned to COPE with your difficulties...if they aren't going to go away or heal like a normal broken bone or cut, then you must learn to cope with the problems the ongoing issue will bring to your life.

This is when you learn to take things one moment at a time. You learn to be deeply grateful for those beautiful moments. You learn that the excruciating moments are likely to pass, even if they feel like an eternity. You eventually learn to do things that will help you LIVE with the issue. And you might even find the coping mechanisms and adaptations that will allow you to live a rich life, with the "new" you.

So, if you are struggling today, my prayer is that you take a breath and focus on each moment you get through and hopefully those moments will begin to get better and better as you adapt.

For me, I live an extremely fulfilling life. For me, having great faith in God and holding onto that faith in spite of circumstances has been my life-line during times of nearly drowning in sinking sand. Living with health issues requires action and it usually requires a different set of thinking skills. Whether you have MS, diabetes, a war injury or a funky weird, rare can move forward in a new way while focusing on the here and now.

The great thing that underlies such hurdles in life is that we humans are adaptable. We are pretty amazing creatures. I've discovered just how far our bodies and minds can stretch into the realm of adaptability. Just when we think we can't stretch any further, we do. And yes, I admit that time can help us to stretch farther, even if it won't let us heal as completely as we had expected.

For each of us, our unique situations may be easier or more difficult than the next, but each requires that we reach deep inside of ourselves and rise to the challenge of that particular moment. And you can do it.

So, if time won't necessarily heal your wounds, I hope that time will allow you to find the best ways to cope with the wounds you must carry. Take each moment as it comes and be glad for the small, yet significant triumphs.


  1. Your My Hero. You have show me that nothing is impossible, if you just take life moment by moment.

    1. Ditto...Thank you for staying by my side through tremendous challenges that many others would have fought to avoid at all costs. Everyone should have someone in their life like this...sadly, not everyone does. Even through our ups and downs, I've seen that we have such a beautiful love and a deep bond, beyond imagination.

      Your "R"


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