On January 2nd at midnight, I rang in Day 2 of 2010 at the Community North emergency room with Jackson, who was having his first serious asthma attack in years. Hearing his 12-year-old lungs wheezing away brought back horrific memories of his toddler years when he nearly collapsed a lung. I knew from past experience that when we arrived at the E.R. I needed to make it clear right away that he wasn’t going to be able to sit around for 45 minutes in the waiting room. I’m normally not a pushy or demanding person but this time I walked in, looked for the first person I saw wearing scrubs, and firmly stated that we had a wheezer. The person running the check-in desk immediately began attending to him while I filled out a form, then within minutes, he was hooked up with a breathing treatment. Then another, after the first treatment didn’t stop the wheezing. BAM. Something about “not breathing” gets priority. And I like that philosophy.
So today, I learned about a woman who sat in a walk-in clinic (in a different city) with her detached finger wrapped in a towel while she waited quietly and – get this – filled out forms!! Forms? While she holds her missing finger in a towel on her lap? This, to me, would’ve been awarded a bit higher priority than, say, a person getting stitches removed or an ankle x-ray. Granted, she was BREATHING. But I can’t very well imagine pointing my perfectly intact finger at this fingerless, bleeding lady and saying, “Maam, if you could take this pen and fill out this form with your one good hand, we’ll call you when its your turn.” I’d be running that woman up the list. She was missing a limb, for the love of Pete!
I generally avoid drama at all costs. I play down things and try to grin and bear whatever discomfort I’m experiencing. (This reminds me of the morning my daughter was born – breech – minutes after my arrival at the hospital, but I won’t go there. Aaand you’re welcome.)
Here’s the deal, though. We are quick to speak up when our kid can’t breathe or someone we love is in danger… but when its us hurting and the hurt isn’t physical – or perhaps our threshold for pain is high – we tend to sit quietly waiting for someone to notice while we conceal the broken pieces of ourselves; because heaven forbid we might disrupt someone with our need. Do you see how ludicrous it sounds when you consider that the body is just a thin, temporary shell for the real us? The eternal part of us is the very dimension of ourselves we’re least likely to protect.
I just want to say that when we’re falling apart or feel like we can’t breathe and we can no longer treat the symptoms of our brokeness ourselves… it’s okay to speak up. It’s okay – in fact highly recommended – to run, not walk, for help. There’s no prize for the person who holds in the most pain, unless ulcers and immune system failure are your idea of a lovely parting gifts. And waiting for someone else to take action for you is just a passive aggressive way to pass off a lack of healing on someone else… “Well, so-and-so knew I was struggling and they didn’t blah blah blah.” Don’t. Just don’t.
If you can’t get through a day without a drink, you know it… so seek treatment for yourself just as you would find medicine for your child or your mama. If you can’t get out of bed in the morning because you feel hopeless and lost… call the stress center, for goodness sake. They help people like us all the time! If you are a punching bag for someone… leave! Then, if you’ve got the kind of pastor I do, call him and you will get support you didn’t realize was available! If food is a problem for you, believe me when I say there are countless others in your community who have the same kind of struggle… call your doctor, join support groups, see a counselor…
If you’re in acute spiritual and/or emotional pain… tell people! I know this is the opposite of what we learned growing up. We were supposed to give the illusion that we had our crap together, right? But that’s a lie. Emergencies of the soul happen to everyone because everyone is human and flawed. Let’s start treating the condition of our souls with the same urgency that we would treat a physical heart condition. There are more resources, people and support systems in place than you might ever believe once you stand up and decide it is YOUR turn.