You’re walking along just fine and BAM! down ya go. Into the pit. It’s deep, dark, and damp in there. Musty and foul. Hard to climb your way out of sometimes.
I’ve hit several of these “pits” over the course of this last year since my stroke.
Before I go any further, I just wanna preface this by saying that there’s a natural process of grieving that comes with having a stroke, and though I’m going to be pointing out some of the pitfalls that I’ve seen in my own experience, I’m not negating that process. To heal, you MUST walk that journey. To avoid it only slows and impedes your healing processes.
But Praise the Lord, in Christ, there’s no condemnation for these things I’m about to share. God isn’t standing over you with His foot on your throat screaming at you to do better. It takes more than 5 minutes to get past these things. God’s a God who wants to set people free. Not just from their physical infirmities, but from the inner turmoils that often come with traumatic things. He’s a God of Hope and peace, and fellowship who wants to walk with you as you journey in and out and around these pitfalls.
I’ve seen very few discuss these things, but they’re things I’ve seen in my own heart and life that the Lord has dealt with as I’ve walked this dark valley for the last year.
1. Self-pity and feeling sorry for myself. Whining. “Oh, woe is me.” Complaining. Slight annoyance and irritation at my lot in life. Frustration. I have it worse than you. My stroke symptoms are worse than your health symptoms. My day is worse than your day. Sure, other people are tired and they don’t realize how utterly draining tiredness is to a stroke victim. Sure, other people are having bad days and it’s not as bad as yours….but that doesn’t mean what they’re feeling isn’t valid, nor does it mean that I don’t have to be concerned and caring about others. Some would say self-pity is normal, and I do believe it is. I also believe pity-parties aren’t where I want to live continually. Self-pity is really self-love and self-preservation in real time. And underneath, it’s the very subtle whisper that God doesn’t really love me and has forsaken me. Yes, self-pity is normal and I DO have a right to it…but God asks me if I’ll give up my rights.
2. Self-absorption. Focusing only on myself. Isolating myself and not reaching out to others. Again, there’s a need after a stroke to be focused on yourself. It comes with any long term traumatic illness. You have to take care of yourself and be focused there while you recover. You really have no other choice. But the danger is that it becomes a compelling comfort zone where you want to stay and live 24/7. At some point the healing thing is to leave go of looking at self and put your eyes on and efforts into others. This takes a long time, and I wouldn’t say that even after a year, I’m able to do this successfully all the time because my own needs are still alot, but I see the Lord working it into me little by little.
3. Self-justification. Entitlement. I had a stroke. I’m brain injured. I have a right to be treated with care. Expecting people to treat me gently and with concern. I’m entitled to that handicapped space. I have a right that others should be looking out for me, and understand my needs. Truth is, it’s a dog eat dog world, and my trust must be in the Lord to watch out for me. Not man. Never man. Sometimes God’ll send someone when I need them to help with heavy doors or manipulating this or that which needs moved. But I must look to HIM, and not man, or I’ll be disappointed more often than not. Thankfully, there’s still kind people in this world. And sadly, there’s also a lot of people not paying attention and only looking out for themselves. I can be like the first or the second. Which will I choose?
4. Depression and bitterness. They say depression is buried anger and bitterness. Two sides of the same coin. Again, it’s pretty common to go here, especially if you don’t have loving people surrounding you. Relationships change. Folks misunderstand why you do what you do. So so so easy to be discouraged and dwell there. Easy to feel frustrated with God. He could change things. Oh, why doesn’t He change things?? I was really struggling with this one time and plain as day He spoke to my spirit and reminded me of the line from a song: “Will you take from My hand My blessings, and not welcome any pain?” Now, I don’t for a second believe God is sending my troubles, or enjoys me being in pain, but yes, I do believe He sometimes asks His children to suffer and endure hardship like a good soldier. As His Son did. This Life in Christ is about being made more and more like Christ. Again and again, in different ways, He’s brought me to this place of Re-Surrender. And there’s SUCH Freedom in accepting His thoughts and letting go of mine.
Yes, it’s so true. We’ve been through a horrible thing. A stroke. An injured brain. Something that forever changed our lives and traumatized us. As survivors we’re told often that we need to be kind to ourselves and yet, there’s a higher place than just that. Yes, we need to let ourselves be slow, and to grieve, and to go through all the feelings of self-pity, loss, self-focus, and bitterness. Absolutely. I’m not disputing that. But what agony if we stay there in those things and don’t go beyond; higher. What darkness and stench from these pits if we choose to stay stuck there. God will lead us up and out to dwell in His Light and Love, if we’ll put our eyes on His Son and follow Him up and out.
Climb, friend, climb.
<3 love, mary