Courage to Heal: A Haphazard Series of Brief (or not) Thoughts, Part 2

Abby, my oldest, lost a lot of blood last Christmas after an arterial bleed in her throat following a tonsillectomy for recurrent Strep. The bleed started at home, at bedtime, 24 hours after surgery, and steadily trickled into a bowl she held on her lap while she cried and I ran red lights to the hospital. After a second, emergency, surgery, I wasn’t surprised when he doctor recommended a transfusion; after all, I was the one in the ER catching vomit bag after vomit bag of the increasing stream and the massive clots she purged from her stomach. 

And I was the one using my calmest voice to assure her they would fix her while making wide-eyed contact with the doctor who kept nodding to me to assure me I was telling her the truth. I don’t like that memory or the memory of holding her warm blood bag in my hands, and I’m still coming to terms with it so I can process it and deal. Obviously. But I don’t like the sad feelings or the scary ones, and I especially don’t like feeling out of control or weak, so allowing myself to feel  feelings or admit I have needs has always been a particular challenge. 

I flew with Abby back to college after Christmas because she was still too weak to travel alone. When we arrived , there was a note waiting from her friend. It said she was praying for Abby to have strength and courage to heal, which I thought was kind and sweet. But, because I’m a writer by both profession and at heart, critiquing word choice is an ever-present, back-of-the-brain activity, so I also thought, “Well — Abby needs physical strength to heal, sure, but her body will make more blood whether she has courage or not.” 

I know; my brain’s an asshole sometimes. Don’t worry — I scolded myself for it. :/ 

Abby propped the note next to her bathroom mirror here at school, so I’ve had the opportunity to see it again getting ready int he morning to do Important Things like binge-watch the third season of Gossip Girl or try to convince the roommate with a car to make a Starbucks run, and this morning I read it with a tiny headache while I engaged in Fretful and Premature Panicky Thinking, afraid if it grows into a full-blown, unmanageable migraine like last week’s, I’ll be forced to miss graduation tonight and the celebratory dinner and possibly my flight home, and Abby will have to take me to the hospital on her moped in the dark (it’s daytime) in the rain (it’s sunny) and that will be dangerous and I will have ruined everything. Bless my dramatic heart. 

“I pray you have the strength and courage to heal.”

”OH,” I thought.


Oh, yeah.

There are things our bodies do on their own to heal — like make more blood when ours is depleted — and there are choices we can make to aid our healing like hydration and seeking good counsel and taking our meds and facing our Fear but refusing to let it control our hearts or our minds. Acknowledging we have been — and are — in pain. Acknowledging we have been and are anxious. Acknowledging we don’t want hope to disappoint us so remaining jaded is tempting. 

And choosing to be gentle and kind to ourselves anyway.

The courage to face ourselves.

The courage to heal. 






P.S. I treated myself as kindly and gently as I could this morning. I drank coffee. I drank water. I drank more water. I ate an orange. I sat in the sun. I ignored all the quick tasks I felt like I “should” do in favor of taking care of myself first. And after a few hours, my headache disappeared. 

P.P.S. Now I have the world’s mildest back pain — so mild that “pain” is an exaggeration —  and I’ve decided I’m going to need gall bladder surgery. 🙄 I am just the very most precious human. Jesus take the wheel.

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19 responses to “Courage to Heal: A Haphazard Series of Brief (or not) Thoughts, Part 2”

  1. I’ve been super forgetful lately and just finished reading “Still Alice” (good book but maybe perhaps not for the anxiety-inclined). I am absolutely sure that I am going to die of horrible Alzheimer’s-related side effects but only after breaking my family’s hearts by not remembering anything for them even though I am The Rememberer of All Things. …

    Maybe I need to have the courage to admit that it is grief, and stress at several difficult transitions, and that time and proper self care are the things that will help (and not dementia meds).

  2. I love this whole thing. I wrote a poem after RHE died that talks about just this. Courage. Courage to keep walking when I’m sure that twinge in my leg is actually cancer that is quickly spreading to my brain and I’ll be dead in just a day or two. You know, precious thoughts like that. You are the most precious human. Thank you for sharing.

  3. I had a lump in my throat last month and was pretty sure I was going to die from esophageal cancer.
    Turns out, it’s yet another symptom of anxiety. Like all of my other ailments.

  4. Beth, I’m glad you are in my life, even though it’s just electronically. My life is better because of you. <3

  5. Exactly what I needed to hear today as I’m recovering from an almost week long hospital stay and fighting with the anxiety that apparently comes with nearly dying. Today, I will be brave enough to heal.

  6. Oh my gosh, the gall bladder comment, that’s me, I actually almost started crying once because a new pain popped up and I knew I’d have to go to the doctor to get it checked out or it would cause panic attacks and I was so tired of being that person. My therapist has gently started making hints that I may need anxiety medicine but is also trying not to push me (wouldn’t you know, I also have a fear of taking pills) but I think she’s right, and have now Meant To Call my primary care physician for six months now, so it’ll happen soon. I’m glad the headache went away

    • I recognize this. Isn’t it funny (read: not funny) how anxiety and depression cause symptoms that include being unable to call the doctor? Good times. Here’s hoping you can manage it soon… or force someone else to call for you.

  7. Dearest Beth,
    Thank you. I’m recovering from chemo, which has obviously exacerbated my anxiety/depression and I just couldn’t face work today. But I felt bad about working from home because anxiety isn’t a “real sickness”. I needed to hear this so badly.

    • Oh lordy. I SO understand this Not Giving Ourselves Compassion move. Here’s some extra compassion from me to you. Good job taking the day off. And I’m so glad you’re recovering.

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