This post is purely from my heart. A place of vulnerability with the Lord, myself, you… A topic of identity that’s hard to form into words and admit out loud.
Identity is something that we find purpose in. Identity can be “mom”, “engineer”, “student”, “smart”, “achiever”, or “artist”. Identity can be positive, negative and anything in between. Identity can be something someone else has labeled you, something culture says you are, something you label yourself or something the Lord has named you. I truly believe that we all have labels we stick on ourselves that comes from all of these outlets. Positive identities like “problem solver”, negative identities like “failure”, culture telling us we are “not enough”, and the Lord saying we are “chosen”.
The identity that swallowed me whole ever since I can remember is “sick”. I was born with severe renal (kidney, bladder, ureter) issues that caused my first surgery to be at 21 months old and life-saving reconstructive surgeries done at the Mayo Clinic to follow me for years into my childhood. I remember being five years old overhearing my surgeon tell my parents, “If she doesn’t have double kidney transplants by the time she is six, she won’t live to be six years old.” I can tell you where I was standing. What the background looked like. How my parents and the surgeon were standing. I don’t know if that image will ever go away. Any time, and I mean ANY time I step foot into a hospital, whether it is for me or anyone else, my mind flashes back. I go back to my dad carrying me through Mayo because I was literally too exhausted to walk. I flashback to my mom telling me, “I’ll always tell you the truth.” To the taste in my mouth when I chose root beer flavored anesthesia and how even to this day, I can’t stand root beer flavors. When I see colorful walls, I remember running my fingers along the rainbow walls at Mayo. Even as an adult, when a doctor listens to my heart, I think of Dr. Morganstern putting the stethoscope on my forehead just to make me laugh. I think of “Elvis” showing up, I think of my best friend at Mayo dying of cancer. I think of chicken broth, the game Guess Who, asking for butterfly needles, and this list goes on and on…
I remember the day when I emptied my bladder enough to the point where the doctor said I could pee on my own – without needing catheters. I fully remember the feeling inside my chest staring at that ultrasound screen hoping and hoping I had emptied my bladder enough to hear that news. I remember when I started my cycle and my mom being so excited about it. She later told me that when I was younger, my doctors didn’t think I would live through puberty. But I did, and that was something to be very excited about. I remember having to quit dancing in High School because I developed a heart syndrome that made me pass out on a frequent basis. I remember laying down as they did the ultrasound on my heart and explained to us that my heart was two times too small because I was so sick as a child that my heart never fully developed. I physically remember how awful it felt to go through heart treatment to grow my heart back to full size. Four years ago, I was diagnosed with preeclampsia while my kidney function was failing, my heart syndrome was back in full force, and I was so swollen that walking physically hurt. I’ll never forget waking up from being unresponsive during labor and knowing in my gut I was done having kids. I will never forget the pain that came when a month later, my nephrologist said I could keep having babies or have double kidney transplants. And I will never forget the hurt, hope, and healing that came when I put myself in therapy for nine months to unearth my label of “sick”.
Nine months ago, I had the best nephrologist appointment I have ever had. My levels were so amazing that my nephrologist looked at me with such certainty and said, “You are perfectly normal. You don’t need to see a nephrologist anymore.” Twenty-nine years of being the “sick one” ripped away. Healed. Whole. Normal. Alive. And all without a single transplant.
I wish I could end this post by saying how freeing that felt. By saying how overjoyed I was to have that label removed. How I looked forward to a future free from sickness, doctors, surgeries, and hospitals. But I can’t do that. The hard truth is: I didn’t know who I was anymore without all of that.
Last night for the first time in nine months, I verbally admitted out loud to Chase (and myself) “I don’t know how to move forward mentally without my label. I feel like a crappy Christian not knowing how to just be healed.” He said, “Just like soldiers who get back home from war have to learn how to live life as a regular civilian again, you are having to learn how to live healed.”
So, after avoiding this hard-to-admit truth, I am beginning to ask the Lord to show me how to step forward in his healing and how to live in the wholeness he has given me… I challenge you to admit a hard truth about a label you carry yourself as well.