Friday, July 25, 2014

A Reluctant TOS Prayer

I stopped referencing 'God' or spiritual things after my first few posts because I want everyone to feel welcome here. 
That being said, today I want to share with my fellow TOSers something that has become a great help to me in living with TOS. 

After hearing about my continuing struggle with TOS, someone challenged me to spend some time with the well-known Serenity Prayer
Initially, I had to approach it as more of an inspirational mantra, because the very first word of the prayer (God) tripped me up.
Getting past the idea of asking for something from a 'God' I am not so sure is A. concerned about my pain, or B. trustworthy, is hard for me. So I skipped the first word for a while and daily read the prayer, meditating on its meaning for my life.  Does it ever apply to living with TOS!

Everyone who lives with an ongoing pain issue, like TOS, faces things that are not in their control, that they cannot change. 
Your body has betrayed you and gone haywire. 
You endure sleepless nights and foggy days, restless with pain, and wonder what the heck you did to deserve this. 
You try everything you know hoping for pain relief; consult medical and alternative practitioners, tests, surgery, therapy, shots, medications, gadgets, lotions-the list could go on, and still the pain remains. 
It's frankly been infuriating to me that I can't just rip out the cause of the pain and get on with life. 

Thoracic Outlet Syndrome backed me into a corner. There was nowhere to go to get away from the pain, which tapped into my stubborn streak. I pretty much unplugged from faith and life over the last few years. I've used pain as an excuse to not do or go or participate. 
The more I've withdrawn, the more the pain has intensified. I ate to stuff my feelings. Pity-parties with chocolate, donuts, cookies in-hand were happening daily. I gained a lot of weight, which exacerbated TOS symptoms. Add in some prescription medications and their unpleasant side effects and I was a depressed mess.

My daily thoughts were about how angry and resentful I was about being stuck in the grip of this insidious pain. My faith turned into questions and doubts. 
Watching TOS affect the lives of my kids has been heart breaking. Three of us dealing with TOS in one family?! It seemed to me 'God' must be cruel, unreliable, and cold. 
New symptoms on top of the usual TOS appeared; ear, head, and jaw pain. Instead of driving me toward humility and faith, the pain became a wall between me and anything that might touch my spirit. 
Thoracic Outlet Syndrome weighed down my life in every way. 
I'd become a different person, someone I didn't like. That is the state I was in when a very wise woman handed me a copy of this prayer.

After spending some time sitting with the prayer on my lap, reading and thinking, it became clear to me I was at a crossroad. I have been in desperate need of some "serenity, to accept the things I cannot change". 
Would I choose to continue on my life journey with TOS and take the path that leads to my life being taken over by this monster, or would I choose to go another direction, one that requires engaging in my life again? Would I choose "courage, to change the things that I can"

A thought occurred to me, that just maybe that bit of scripture that says"...the kingdom of God is within you..." is true concerning the things in this prayer. Serenity, courage, and wisdom are already inside me and I simply need to summon them.

Lately, I've been including the first word of the prayer. That word comes with a lot of questions, and honesty about my disappointments. Over time, my faith is being renewed.  It's looking a lot different than it used to back when I thought my requests would be fulfilled in my favor (according to 'Gods' will) as long as I asked fervently enough.

I'm learning to be ok with the mystery of 'God', and with admitting I can't fix my broken self with myself. However, I can tap into the reservoir of courage and be better, change the things that I'm able to change.

I only see and understand this life in part, and I need discernment to know when to relax and not try so hard..."wisdom, to know the difference".
It's all a work in progress, a journey. But the view on this part of the path is improving, hopeful, even healing.

I hope this well-known prayer may be a source of encouragement for my fellow TOSers as you each choose, bit by bit, one day at a time, how you will live with this TOS companion.
You all inspire courage in me. 
I wish I could take the pain and fix it, for all of us. 
But just maybe this struggle is making us into people with resilience and fortitude that this world desperately needs.

Gentle hugs~