Friday, June 6, 2008

Anxiety Issues

Earlier today Brian had to undergo a minor surgery to have some lypomas removed. Lypomas are essentially little tumors that primarily consist of benign fat tissue and they are generally hereditary. They're not much of a health scare, but they can cause irritation and minor pain - which is why he decided to have a few removed.

When we first arrived at the hospital I was immediately aware of my heightened level of anxiety and discomfort. I concluded that the anxiety was associated with something deeper and more existential than the mere fear for Brian and his minor surgery. As I sat waiting for him to complete his initial check-in procedure I looked around the near-empty waiting room that had been packed with broken and hurting people a couple of months previously when Krisalyn had an allergic reaction to her medication. The memory of that night caused my stomach to tighten up. (One of the lasting effects of my Mars Hill Practicum experience has been the development of an acute awareness of what is going on for me on an internal level throughout my daily happenings and relational interactions). So as I began mentally pressing myself to further examine this noticeable anxiety, I began to ask the question - "What is it, Shauna? What is so upsetting about this place?"

I've never been one to particularly enjoy hospitals. I initially thought my discomfort could be easily explained by the natural associations of painful experiences with hospital visits. Memories of stitches in my knee and images of my baby sister in the hospital bed at the age of five after falling from our second story bedroom window onto the driveway and fracturing her skull were surprisingly easy to access. I attempted to counter such unpleasant memories with visualizing the remarkable deliveries of all three of my beautiful baby girls. I said to myself, "See...hospitals aren't just about pain or death - they're about life and healing, too." But the anxiety did not fade...maybe it's because I remembered the pain of labor.

I chuckled at the thought of my former career plan c. If MHGS hadn't worked out I was actually considering becoming a teacher (plan b) and nursing (plan c). As anxiety-ridden as I was in that moment, I realized that a path in nursing might have inevitably concluded with a stress-induced heart attack. God must have known what he was doing when he cleared the way for me to attend Mars Hill.

This short diversion in my though process actually helped me to land on the answer to my prodding question. In thinking about my bad habit of always needing well-developed plans and then a back-up plan...and then a back-up plan for the back-up plan, I was reminded of my unending efforts in maintaining some sense of control in my life. The hospital had been a reminder to me that, though there are many little things in life that I fight to gain control over, the larger more unnerving realities of life and death, pain and healing, seem to lie somewhere outside of my realm of control. Sure, we have the power to sabatoge our lives, contribute to our deaths, perpetuate our pain and prevent our own healing - but we do not have ultimate control. And that scares me to death (pun intended).

Hospitals, illness or injury are reminders of human fragility and vulnerability. The brokenness and woundedness we find in such medical facilities cannot be ignored. Though I may have escaped a career path in nursing that would have brought enormous attention to our physical fragility on a near daily-basis, I pondered the irony of entering into the realm of psychotherapy where internal, often hidden, brokenness and woundedness are exposed and experienced. What will I do with this reality - with this constant reminder of our lack of control? How can I learn to accept the human predicament of not being masters of our own ultimate destiny? How does the capacity to hold my own anxiety of such a lack of control, not to mention the anxiety of others, begin to grow and develop? My practicum leader spoke to my questions about anxiety in one of my reflective papers. In her opinion, actually allowing ourselves to deeply feel and experience our fears is what helps us. And when we can get our fears into someone else who has a sense of their own fears, not an "intellectual" understanding of their own fears, but a "felt" understanding - that is when we learn to bear our fears together.

I feel so fortunate to have met a handful (if that) of people who seem to have a sense of their own fear and anxiety, people whom I have been able to "get into" if even for mere moments. I can only pray that my willingness to further "feel" and acknowledge my own anxieties will somehow create space within me for others to get into.

~S

p.s. Brian survived his surgery. We'll get his lab results back soon.

1 comment:

:::No Longer Mute said...

i'm always amazed at the topics you post because in some way, i immediately relate. just this past week in counseling, shari and i discussed the issue of control - my issue of relinquishing control and acknowledging my needs. and in allender's book "breaking the idols of your heart" the first chapter is about chasing after power or control and how fruitless it is - "a chasing after the wind" as the ecclesiastical author puts it. the whole book talks about the fruitless things we chase after. it is a study of ecclesiastes. i'm hoping to do it in our women to women this fall. nontheless - you're not alone in your struggle to gain control...ultimately we are daughters of eve.