Mask

During times of stress, I have lost my ability to talk. It has not happened for a while, but there was a pattern I noticed where when times got tense, I would develop laryngitis. I realize now it was my body’s response to dealing with an uncomfortable situation. If that part of me was shut down, I could not speak up, and I could use it as an excuse to be quiet. Once the uproar had passed, my throat would heal until the next bout would seemingly come out of nowhere. At the time, I saw no correlation between my outward circumstances and this occurring. 

It wasn’t easy when I had two small children who wanted my attention, and they needed me for guidance. Or, one would say,

“Mom, can you read me a book?”

I spent hours gargling with salt water and whispering. By the end of the day, I felt drained from trying to get my point across. I didn’t understand that as I stuffed my feelings down, I was creating a physical silence. 

Years later, I looked this up and discovered a vast number of articles on the subject. Some have it happen when going through the grieving process and describe it as having a lump in their throat because they can’t get past the loss. When living in a state of unrelenting fear, others, like myself, will experience what I did. 

My biggest concern was that I would sound like a dragon lady for the rest of my life. I was coming across like a chronic smoker. While I desperately wanted it back, would it return normal? During one of these episodes, my daughter asked,

“What if it never comes back?”

 It was an innocent question as it had been going on for two weeks, with slight underlying worries that it was gone forever. So when she said that, I gargled more. 

As the years went on, it stopped. But, I had other symptoms manifest in other places. While I no longer lost my voice, I would get horrific lower back pain connected to my sciatic nerve. My daughter had found information that if this happened, there was a pressure point on the back of the leg that could be activated to alleviate it. 

The process was to lay face down while she took a closed fist and punched this area. It was weird, but it worked. However, it was only a temporary fix because it was emotionally based. I sought chiropractic treatments that helped, and when this nerve pain in my back seemed to have lost the fight, it found another place to take up residence. 

I have had reoccurring pain in the right side of my face. This time, I became aware of it being caused by outside issues that I wasn’t dealing with correctly. As I employed acupuncture, meditation and went back to the chiropractor, it has gotten better, but on occasion, it will strike and cause me to be unable to function. It is called ‘suicide pain’, which I try not to think about when in the middle of the problem.

Last April, my dad fell and was admitted to the hospital. It was discovered that he had been given a medication that should not have been administered. It was a tangled web of trying to find answers, and as my annoyance began to soar, the nerve in my face was sending out excruciating signals. I didn’t have time to sit on the couch because I didn’t want him to be alone.

He needed supplies from his apartment, including a cream that helps with pain in his knee. So as I have done before, I pushed my feelings aside and went to his rescue. I explained to the hospital staff his hearing issues, and they told me that as long as I shut his door, I could speak to him without a mask. 

On this particular day, with my face on fire, I was on my phone responding to a text while he was watching a baseball game. I had tried to hand off his medicated cream at the desk, but I was told to give it to the nurse assigned to him for that shift. I was told she would be by to get it from me. It was going on two hours since I had arrived, but I decided to wait it out. I had taken a pain reliever with not much relief.

I still had my mask, but it was on my chin as he would ask me questions; it was just easier for him to comprehend what I was saying. 

I heard his door open, and I looked up. 

“Pull up your mask!” She yelled. 

I instinctively did because, after a year of this, I never want to make anyone uncomfortable.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “He is hard of hearing and..”

“I don’t care! You both should be wearing a mask! If I get sick because of you, then who is going to work here if I’m at home having to use up my vacation time?”

Wow, that was a lot of take in. I tried again to diffuse the situation.

“He is really hard of hearing, and I pulled it down so he could…”

“I don’t care! There are so many people coming in and out of these rooms not taking this seriously, and then I have to deal with it!”

I watched her grab his arm forcefully to put on the blood pressure cuff. He looked over at her and said,

“Hey, take it easy.”

She started the process of getting a reading and was quiet, so I said,

“It must be hard for you to work in these conditions, and you must be stressed out by it.”

Usually, when I take this approach, I get a calmer response back. Not with this one.

“It’s people like you that are the problem! Both of you. And I’m the one that’s going to get sick! Because of you!”

“He has been tested, and he is fine. I have no symptoms of…”

“I don’t care!” She abruptly ripped off the cuff.

“I will be back later.”

I held up the medications I needed to give her. 

“I need you to take these for him.”

“I will be back after you leave!”

She spun out the door.

I glanced over at him. His eyes were glued to the tv. Oblivious, thank goodness. He saw me looking at him and said,

“Is everything ok, Chris?”

“Yes,” I said, lying my face off. “I need to go speak to the nurse at the desk, but I will be right back.”

Every masked face looked up as I approached. 

“Can I help you?”

“Yes. The person helping my dad needs to be terminated!”

All the eyes got wide as I explained the unbelievable beating I had just taken. I made sure that no one sitting there was unaware of what I had endured. The charge nurse asked another staff person to take the medication, and she walked me back to his room. 

“She usually is assigned to another floor. You be with your dad, and we will sort it out. I am so sorry she acted like that.”

I shut his door behind me as I entered. I startled him, and he knocked an entire cup of water on the floor. I grabbed something to clean it up and was crouched down by the side of the bed. I heard his door slam open. She was back for round two. 

I stood up with water dripping off my hands. 

“What knee does this cream go on?!” She said with the same tone as before. I saw that she was holding the containers in her hands. 

“You don’t know? Are you not in charge of his care right now?”

I was not the same person she had come across moments ago.

“I have not had time to look at his chart!”

“Well, maybe you should. Maybe you should know what you are dealing with. Is it my fault that you aren’t doing your job?”

As I spoke, she visibly started to wither. I didn’t raise my voice, but I decided to pick my words very clearly.

“You are the worst example of a nurse I have ever met. You have no idea what this man has been through coming off a pill that could have caused a major injury. And you are a poor listener. It would be best if you never worked with the public. You should figure out your retirement package immediately.”

I don’t recall the rest of my come to Jesus speech, but her eyes were wide, and she clutched both bottles under her chin. I know I kept my language in line, but I was now in protective mode over a vulnerable adult, and once that is on, there is no coming back. Words streamed from my mouth, and I had no idea what I was saying. I was not about to lose my voice as I had in times past. 

When I quit, she blinked rapidly and stammered,

“I will go look into this.”

“You do that,” I said, going back to the spill at my feet.

I looked over at him. 

“Is everything ok, Chris?”

“Just perfect. Who is winning?”

A new nurse appeared and took over his case for the night. I found out later that the former one had upset numerous people, staff included, and my confrontation was helpful in having her adequately dealt with.

Amazingly, the fire that had been coursing through my jaw wasn’t on the forefront of my mind. I know that there is a scripture that says a kind answer turns away wrath. But, in this case, that didn’t work. 

Proverbs 31:8-9 says,

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushedYes, speak up for the poor and helpless,

and see that they get justice. (NLT) 

There is a balance to all things that God has created. Sometimes, I think people try to ‘nice’ their way through life. I am not against being kind, and I will always chose that before DEF-CON 5, but there are times when a person needs to confront and not enable bad behavior. Don’t cause yourself trouble by not handling conflict properly because your body will begin to manifest symptoms you do not want. Let your voice be heard, be your authentic self, and come out from behind the mask.

Breathe Easier

I didn’t know how I came to stand by her hospital bed. It was quite shocking to see such a small child fighting for her life. A family member had asked for prayer, so I said I would go along to stand unassumingly in a dark corner.

During this era, I was getting very little sleep at night, I wasn’t eating, and my whole life seemed out of control. While driving my car, and at a red light, I would tell my daughter to let me know when it was green, so I could open my eyes to go. Often, I fell sound asleep with my head on the kitchen table while going over bills making sure I was doing it right. I would wake up at 2 am, with a stiff neck, pen in hand, and go back to figuring out numbers.

It was a miserable existence trying to adjust to being divorced and having all the responsibility suddenly on me. I was clinging to the idea that God was in charge no matter what, but my mind would tell me otherwise. Every day I anticipated a problem that I would have to fix with a racing heart. I would be struck so hard with anxiety that I would not be able to breathe, gasping for air. That is how I learned that panic attacks exist.

So it was beyond me as to why I, of all people, would be willing to help out in such a high tension situation. According to the child’s grandmother, she had been very sick with a high fever. I don’t fully recall what medical emergency was happening because I was in a bit of a fog, but some critical numbers were off, and the little one was heading for a dire health situation. She wasn’t eating, and if that didn’t occur, a feeding tube was going to be placed. I could feel the fear radiating from the mom. Even though she tried to smile, I could see the worry and fatigue in her eyes, much the same as mine. We shared common ground even though our situations were different.

I observed as others stepped forward to pray while standing in the shadows trying not to be noticed. That is when I started to think of my own two healthy kids at home. How would I feel if I were in this situation with one of them? I remained silent with these images floating around in my head.

A slight pressure began to build in my chest as I heard the words spoken in my mind: Go help, Chris.

Really? How about I stick to the corner of the room and let other people handle it this time? They hadn’t exactly asked me to do anything but be present. The feeling kept growing, and just as everyone was about to leave, I knew that if I didn’t volunteer, the moment would be gone, and the results would not be favorable.

I slid up next to mother and daughter. The quiet chatting that had been happening in the room went silent.

“Can I hold your hand?” I asked.

She hesitantly gave me the one that wasn’t cradling the baby. I could see on her face that this wasn’t something she was used to. I had been told on the trip over that this was a last resort type of thing for her. She had been relying on the physician and nursing staff to bring a miracle, and it wasn’t happening. Nothing was helping.

My hand radiated a warmth that encircled hers, and I placed my other hand on the bed near them.

I closed my eyes and didn’t say a word at first. Strangely, it was like I had my hands on a cradle that was rocking from side to side. I opened one eye to see that nothing was moving, and I went back to not looking while the swaying motion became more pronounced. I just stood still like that, swept up in this heaven sent lullaby minus the music. Amazingly I was becoming calmer in the process as all my cares began to fade away. This otherworldly sensation was hypnotic and relaxing.

I spoke just a few simple words that the child’s condition would immediately improve and that she would return to normal. When I felt the movement stop, I removed my hands, smiled at the parents, and said I was believing for them that all would be well.

The next day, the call came that the little girl’s temperature was normal; she was eating as usual and was discharged to go home. She had a complete turnaround after I prayed.

That bright moment helped me forge ahead despite the hardships and unfamiliarity of everything going on around me. It brought to life this scripture from Hebrews 4:16 that says: Let us step boldly to the throne of grace, where we can find mercy and grace to help when we need it most. (Voice)

When I momentarily put my trouble aside, I became an instrument for the healing power of God to flow through to bless a terrified family. In return, I noticed that some of my unnecessary mental torment lessened; while it didn’t disappear entirely and there were more mountains to climb, it gave me room to breathe easier.