For eight years I have lived daily with a skin condition for which no medical professional seemed to be able to find a cause or a cure for. It affected everything, from what I wore to my sex life to how I felt about myself. After thousands of dollars in doctor bills and untold number of ointments, creams, oral medications, natural remedies, diet modifications, light therapy… I gave up. I told myself, “You can’t afford to keep spending time and money on something that just will not go away, so just learn to live with it.” So, I did. I went through life in constant pain, just learning to accept it as a part of who I was.
Somehow, throughout this time, I managed to do a fairly good job at raising two boys, working on my marriage, growing in my walk with God, going through a couple rounds of intense personal counseling, purchasing our first home, earning a second master’s degree, moving my family from New Jersey to Wisconsin, growing closer to some pretty amazing friends, teaching students with learning disabilities, starting my own growing private practice, and completing the required 3,000 counseling hours towards my professional counseling license. WOW. How did I do all that? I have no idea. I just know I did it all while living in constant pain.
Recently, the skin condition took a turn for the worse and turned into a bacterial infection. I had no choice but to subject myself to the medical professionals AGAIN. The first available appointment was with a doctor I had not seen before at our clinic. She hurried into the room on a typically busy morning at the clinic. I assumed we’d have a brief conversation, she’d write a prescription to clear up the infection, and I would have a couple days of relief before all was back to normal with a new flare up. When I casually told her I’d been dealing with this problem for EIGHT years, she looked dumbfounded. I could sense her blocking out everything else going on outside the doors of our little exam room and zeroing in on me. She looked concerned. She asked a lot of questions. I tearfully told her the whole story. She very sensitively examined every affected area of my body. And out of nowhere came an idea of where she thought this might be coming from that immediately made sense to me. It looked to her like my skin was having an allergic reaction to certain types of elastic in my clothing. In eight years, not one medical professional actually took the time to help me figure out the cause. All I heard were lectures on caring for sensitive skin, not scratching or touching when irritated, and not to use certain medications for too long as they could be hazardous to my health. She gave me doctor’s orders to go braless for awhile, and avoid wearing anything that would require elastic or rubber of any kind to touch my skin. That took some doing, but I gladly obeyed. She did write a prescription to help clear up the infection, and within 24 hours, it was gone.
Over the next several days, I thoroughly enjoyed my braless state and wearing bulky sweaters and sweatshirts in the middle of the Wisconsin winter. And less than 48 hours later, I woke up feeling….normal? “Is this what normal feels like?” I forgot what it felt like to not be itching or in pain ANYWHERE. For the first time in eight years, I felt good.
I went to work and found I had a much larger percentage of my heart, mind and body engaged in what I was doing. I had so much more energy to put into the things before me. At home, I was less irritable with my kids. I was into my husband And I started tacking long overdue projects around the house.
My only frustration was this: why didn’t I think of that? Why hadn’t it occurred to me that what I was wearing was causing the problem ? I had to rest with this thought: Sometimes when you’re in the muck of a mess, it’s hard to see clearly. You go into survival mode, and survive I did! What seemed like common sense was so far away from me, because I was so focused on surviving that it never occurred to me that thriving was a very real possibility. Sometimes it takes an objective pair of eyes (and a professional who is dialed in and cares) to see clearly.
I feel like I have my life back….like the possibilities are endless. When I think of what I accomplished in 8 years while operating at less than 60% capacity, I am excited to see what will unfold in the months and years ahead as I get used to the idea of operating at 100% capacity. Watch out, world! Here I come!