I’ve been wanting to write about the Sabbath for a long time, and ironically, I have struggled to rest well enough to write. In general. Or read. Or do much of anything outside the things I absolutely must get done (and I have had to funnel those to even the bare minimum). While a post from me is long overdue, I have learned that sometimes the best thing you can do is come humbly with all you have, even if it’s not as much as you hoped.
Here I am. At the end of a wonderful Sabbath. Homemade “Blizzard” in my stomach for dinner. Salsa vegetables roasting in the oven. Mascara streaked down my face from cutting onions. It’s not the most extravagant life, but it’s mine and I do love it. That’s not how I felt this morning though.
I woke up in the middle of the night to the rain. The rain is my comfort weather. I could fall asleep to it and wake up to it every morning and be okay with that. Some Oregonians complain about Seasonal Affective Disorder and taking their vitamin D; but unlike them, I get to be depressed year-round, so give me the gloomy weather. *winces at making a sad joke*
Yesterday I could feel a spiral starting. I was inward-focused and extra sarcastic, then became aware of my spiraling and became self-conscious and insecure. I felt like talking about it but didn’t know what to say or what exactly triggered it. Then I remembered I had a follow-up appointment with my OBGYN the next day about an ovarian cyst.
In mid-July, I ended up being recommended to an emergency clinic due to severe abdominal pain triggered during running. I used to run cross country, and still run regularly when my knees and hips permit, so this was out of the norm. Not only that, but I have a pretty high pain tolerance. So when after doing an easy 11:30 pace mile I doubled over in pain and nearly passed out, it was concerning. I stumbled the rest of the way home, stopping multiple times over the last quarter mile of my loop to sit, lean on a tree, or just stop moving when a wave of pain came through. Should I probably have called someone to pick me up? Yes. Am I stubborn? More yes.
After chatting with a doctor online, I ended up at the emergency clinic. I had to pee into two cups, get four vials of blood drawn, and do two ultrasounds, one that was much more invasive than I anticipated. As the nurse put a catheter in my arm as a “precaution in case they find anything during the ultrasound”, I went into full-denial mode. I ended up in the clinic for a little over three hours, having to cancel my lunch date at a new Italian place I was super hyped about. Special shout out to my friend, who met me at the clinic with a brownie and took me out for food after, not minding that we had to bail on pasta.
Transvaginal ultrasounds aren’t at all uncommon, but they are definitely unpleasant. And when they aren’t sure what’s going on, it can sometimes take a while. “Is it rude to check my watch?” I thought as I stared at the ceiling. I tried to casually move my wrist to trigger my fitbit without being obvious, but my smart watch refused to comply. I thought about making jokes or casual conversation with my ultrasound tech, but I was at a loss of words. I couldn’t think of anything I could say that wouldn’t make things awkward.
“Did you get lost down there? You are in unexplored territory.”
“Thanks for the attention to detail.”
“So… the weather has been nice lately.”
Why am I the way I am.
I managed to keep myself calm during the ultrasound, wrapped myself up in the sheet they gave me and shuffled to the bathroom to get dressed. As soon as the door closed behind me, the panic hit all at once. My breath caught in my throat and I had this sickening feeling like I was dirty and would never be able to get clean again. And then I remembered this wasn’t my first ultrasound.
Some of my earliest memories are from when I was checked for sexual abuse when I was around three years old. I have a very distinct one of being in a hospital gown going through an ultrasound and check. Using a camera, everything was exposed on a TV brought in on a rolling cart. I don’t have answers about what happened when I was young, but that experience in itself was apparently traumatizing.
I thought I was fine. I had a small cyst, nothing medically concerning, just something to keep an eye on. But I couldn’t get that feeling of exposure, that feeling of uncleanliness to leave me. I had a panic attack at work on my break, and my hormones were completely chaotic. Like, I walked into New Seasons on my break and when I saw strawberry Poptarts on the shelf, I teared up.
I wanted those Poptarts so badly. I looked at them like my star-crossed lover, letting a tear fall down my cheek as I remembered we don’t have a toaster in the break room at work. Carrying them back to work was like walking down the aisle, and my hormones were telling me that this was the right choice. The best moment of my life.
But the honeymoon phase wasn’t meant to last. I mean, there were only six Poptarts in that box.
Using our Employee Assistance Program, I scheduled a counseling appointment to try to find answers and clarity. The doctor appointments drained a good portion of my savings, and I did not have much cash to spare. Those appointments ended up not going anywhere, and over time I began to stabilize. The only thing my doctor wanted me to do was keep running and track my symptoms. The only thing my counselor could do was tell me I might need to be okay with not having answers.
Nearly two months after that first ultrasound, I walked the dog this morning letting the rain fall on my shoulders. Today was my Sabbath, and on my day of rest I had to go and experience a triggering event all over again. Trying to get into a positive mindset, my earbuds blared my “Sad AF” playlist on Spotify and I felt the spiral continue. I reached out to a few friends who were busy, and the thoughts of isolation crept in.
I mentally prepared myself to see my OBGYN, just to have her tell me she is going to refer me to another clinic because she wants me to do another ultrasound. “I was under the impression it was going to happen here…” I felt my eyes get hot.
“Unfortunately I can’t do it here, but the good news is if my hypothesis is correct, we just need to confirm that your cyst is gone.”
Between appointments I took my book with me and grabbed a coffee. I can’t say what switched it, but my mood started to lift. The thoughts running through my head from the morning, the ever-lingering fears of if I will get sad again and never snap out of it, felt smaller. I texted one of my friends who was working today. “Uhm if you’re at work, I’m coming to visit. I have an appt in NE.” Sometimes when you need a friend, you have to go to them.
When I did get to see him, I had just dropped another $500 at the doctor’s to be told I’m most likely experiencing normal period cramps. I was ready to burn something to the ground, but I wasn’t left feeling dirty like the last time. On his ten minute break, he laughed with me about how ridiculous life is sometimes and let me grab both of his hands and tell him about some of the happier things going on in my life right now. I am so loved by my brother, and I am wildly thankful for his presence in my life.
I came home and finished my book, which always brings a special joy. In practicing the Sabbath, there are two things I always make myself do. The first is I refuse to make plans for it until the day of so I don’t feel obligated to do something that wouldn’t rest my soul. The second is to remember what has happened that is good, and what good is yet to come. Even after I have failed to care for my body by staying up until 2 AM on a work night (zero regrets, y’all, it was worth it), failed to care for my mind by giving myself time to reflect, and failed to care for my heart by letting it hide, God is doing good work. On the first Sabbath, God enjoyed the good (Gen 2:2-3). He sanctified the seventh day.
There are times when I feel like I crawl into the Sabbath empty-handed, but God isn’t requiring my work to enjoy Him in His. As always, it has never been about me or what I have done, or even what I have yet to accomplish. It is about God and His glory. What a relief, a gift, a privilege. This is why I’m not apologizing for late blog posts, or tangents about my ovaries. Because there are times when I will miss the mark, and I will give Jesus what I have even when it is next to nothing.
“Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, ‘Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.” -Mark 12:41-44
Give everything you have to live on, friends. Even when it’s next to nothing after a visit to your OBGYN.