Saturday, 6am: another morning with an aching head, the tension like a bar of iron across my neck. This night-time ‘clenching’ has obviously become a habit and the battle is on to break it before it becomes ingrained. Bruxism is apparently a common problem and I’ll need a mouthguard soon to stop me grinding down my teeth! It’s so frustrating that there’s nothing I can do about it when I am asleep – an unconscious behaviour that just proves the strong link between mental, emotional and physical states. At the moment I do hope I can reverse the trend – yet fighting it is probably not the best approach, it’s the constant battle that has caused it! Oh how I wish I could afford a ‘stress-buster’ massage every day – that Charlotte at the health club has a magic touch 😉
Instead I’ll work at relaxing, write and process – and apologise to those who read. Melodrama’s always been one of my strong suits and clever descriptions can make it sound much worse than it stays once it’s out of my system. The dark feelings are true enough, but they pass because I know what to do with them. Just like a chick that has to force it’s way out of the shell, bursting to escape from the confined space it’s as if I’ve used my ‘beak’ to make a hole and pushed and shoved my way into the wider world – no wonder my face hurts! Now standing shivering in the unfamiliar expanse, a tiny speck in a huge universe, of course the vulnerability and intimidation strike – and there’s no way back into the broken shell, just like my unusable, old bathroom in pieces lying on the skip. But always there’s the Mother Hen who calls Her brood to shelter – always there’s a place to run and hide, the safety of the love of God.
That’s certainly a picture of new birth, transition, any change we face in life – the struggle and the scariness of freedom once we’ve broken out, the cost of growth. It helps to look at it this way… Or maybe I can see this recently inflamed jaw joint as my very own expression of post-traumatic stress: I’ve ‘set my face’ for so long now perhaps it has got stuck! At any rate, it’s not surprising I don’t get off scot-free when you think about our journey and all we’ve faced: I wouldn’t have got this far without the prayer support and grace and love – and prosac! Yes, and writing too…
Because the deepest journey of my heart has of course been about Sam son and on Wednesday it was 1.8.12, the date I’d looked toward as if it had some news for me – exactly 40 months on from when all this first began. I’d first clocked it in December 2010 while writing 20:20 vision – and marked it at the time as a possible culmination point on our journey – 40 being a common ‘journey’ number in Scripture. So it was that, with my aching-face-that-makes-me-want-to-cry, on that very morning I found myself sitting in the same chair in the doctor’s surgery as the one Sam sat in when the GP looked into his eyes and sent us straight to Eye Emergency: before 1st April 2009 was out we’d seen the scan pictures of the lesions in his brain. My kindly doctor said he too clearly remembered that day… raised intra-cranial pressure causing papilloedema is the kind of diagnosis that no medic wants to have to make on a 22 year old young man.
So 40 months on, how far have we come? As I have been trying to express, it does feel in some ways like an ending for me with – despite the struggles – some hope of new things ahead. But what about Sam? He hopes, believes, insists, that he can beat ‘this thing’ and we are not permitted to say anything otherwise: he is as well as he can be and seems to have it all under control – “I’ve taken care of everything” is his most fervent assertion. Emotions only escape every so often as he battens them down and finds his ways to cope – the monster always lurks and growls and looks for the cracks in what Sam calls ‘constant low-level anxiety’ – it really is a psychological nightmare for a young man and he’s done so well to keep going, staring down the threat of death. Physically things are quite different now to 40 months ago, when he was so ill with awful headaches and we were in fear of him losing his vision and the ability to use his left arm and leg: the shunt helps drain the extra pressure from the mass, the cancer cells are kept in check, through all the different means he’s tried.
So thankfully he’s now living independently – with benefit income because of his diagnosis and thanks to Jessica coming here last year we bought the house; she also got his belovèd kittens that help so much… Although he doesn’t want to be in Loughborough – would definitely prefer LA! – things have been a whole lot worse and thanks to prayer and grace and maybe even cannabis – who knows? – this status quo is where we find ourselves.
I don’t really expect much more – I know my son. He has great plans and projects but he always hits the wall of fear and stays trapped: it’s part of the internal problem he is trying to resolve with spiritual healing. Bullied as a child, always uber-intelligent and ‘different’, he took to secrecy – emotionally hid, withdrew from everyone. In recent months he’s finding more freedom with a few chosen friends and our family relationships are better than they’ve ever been – I’m more than grateful for redemption and the love we now express and receive as mum and dad: that is undoubtedly one result of this 40 months.
But 40 speaks of wilderness and coming out into a promised land… and that is what I really want to see. There’s no doubt Sam has carefully worked out plans to get his business up and running – he’s poured hours into internet training with his need to get everything perfect and leave no possibility of failure: the fear of failure always holds him back from taking that plunge into the world. So if you pray… please pray for courage to step out and that his meticulously laid plans could actually succeed!
Do I believe it can happen, can Sam grow and change with such a disability? He’s hampered more than most, his right brain taken over by this mass, his personality forged, his path beyond unusual. It’s been amazing – even if I do have ‘post-traumatic stress’! – but I don’t know what happens now: in many ways it’s not my responsibility. I am choosing to live and trust one day at a time, whether that means sitting while he rants, absorbing all the anger he has to let out until he feels better or leaving him to his own devices for days on end because it’s quite normal for a man of 25 to push his mother away.
But it doesn’t go away: 40 months on, we’re still here with all the tension that’s so easily bound up with hope. On the marker day this week I wasn’t looking for a sign, but it just so happened that on Wednesday in both our houses new shower trays were fitted… yes, I told the Lord His riddles are getting too difficult for even me! But both on the same day? What could that mean – if anything? 😉 I’m hoping that it means the establishing of a firm and secure place to stand for the showers of blessing to fall on our heads and a way of draining away the dirty water without any collateral damage! “He lifted me up out of the horrible pit, out of the miry clay… and gave me a firm place to stand” Psalm 40v2
And that is something else you can pray for too, thank you. May we all be cleansed, washed, refreshed and ready for what lies ahead, with no more stress or fear.