“Real contentment must come from within. You and I cannot change or control the world around us, but we can change and control the world within us.” – Warren Wiersbe
My journey over the past 2 years, or so, with a spinal CSF leak has been a journey of discovering deeper inner contentment, DESPITE physically battling the unending storm of so many physical limitations and chronic pain.
I have learnt more than ever over those 2 years that inner CALMNESS is the only way to flow through life with a CSF leak. Stress, worry, constantly pushing through symptoms too much and rushing about, simply make me feel incredibly ill and physically (and consequently mentally) anxious. They only exacerbate intense neurological symptoms.
So I am learning to…
And surrender to a quieter calmer life.
This has not been an easy journey for me for many reasons…
- I have ALWAYS lived a very full and busy life.
- I was used to living at a FAST pace
- I had bought into the lie, to a certain extent, that how busy you are equates to how significant your life is. As I wrote about here a while back.
- CSF leaks mean you struggle to function upright for a long (or sometimes even a short time – as in my worst times) which brings a natural anxiety when you are feeling very ill.
- Pain is not in anyway calming.
- Parenting and calmness can be very challenging at times. (Especially when kids are fighting).
Because of this there were a number of things I had to face and let go of. That has been a process and a journey I am still on. So I have had to…
- Let go of the need to be ‘someone’ and be ‘doing’ something significant and instead embrace the ‘me’ of this season and what I can do here.
- Stop connecting my identity to what I do.
- STOP ALL ‘rushing’ because my body simply can’t handle it.
- Take each day as I can.
- Learn to flow with my body and take regular lying flat breaks – rather than heroically trying to constantly to push through pain and other exhausting symptoms. (Most hours of being upright for me involve pushing through symptoms, I could not live life without ‘pushing through’ pain, exhaustion, brain fog, nausea etc. But it’s learning not to ‘push’ too much to my absolute limit, which will inevitably bring an element of physical and mental anxiety, as my body screams at me to lie flat and be released from the intense exhausting tension of being upright).
- Be OK with missing out on events and things I used to enjoy.
- Removing myself from stressful parenting moments – when appropriate – so as not allow stress/ raising my voice etc to make my symptoms worse.
I have had to rediscover the place of…
Within me more deeply and learn how to maintain it as much as possible. This involves keeping control of my thoughts & embracing the deep serenity found in my spirit.
I have a wonderful friend who has kindly supported me a lot in this season. Who has helped me to see how to live more fully present in each moment. And to approach my ongoing health problems through ‘acceptance with hope’. This means facing and accepting my current limitations, so I can truly LIVE and embrace life here, whilst also holding out hope for a healthier future.
I read the Bible daily for wisdom and spiritual encouragement and it also talks about living in this present moment, not worrying about tomorrow, letting go of the past, whilst hoping for a better tomorrow. They are all things that have been a part of my life for decades.
“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” – Matthew 6:34
“…I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead,” -Philippians 3:13
However, having a spinal leak has meant I have had to delve further into these truths. So as to find the place deep within me where the river is serenely calm. It is always there – but some days it’s easier to find than other days. Sometimes the storminess above it clouds it from view. There are also times the surface pain distracts from that inner peace, because pain shouts at us so loudly.
The sky is ALWAYS blue way above the storm. If I can focus on the consistency of the blue sky above I can then dive into that river of peace within me and swim in its warm calming waters of love.
Some days and moments peace can feel elusive, you search for it and it’s a battle to find it. No sooner have you found it and get ready to dive in to its peaceful waters that you lose it again as some other anxious thought breaks in, as another memory unsettles the heart, as the pain takes over and the exhaustion floors you.
When I had a mental and physical breakdown at the end of 2015 I could no longer find that tranquil river within me anymore that had anchored me all year. It was still there but it was so hidden from me because of the chaos of my mind and body. I felt completely lost at sea, drowning in a whirlpool of negativity and mental deception.
Fear screamed at me!
Anxiety shook me!
Despair consumed me!
Exhaustion overwhelmed me!
I just needed it ALL to stop.
2016 marked my journey of acceptance and mental and spiritual recovery. It was my time of learning to LET GO. I had to conquer the anxiety that bound me. I had to find my new identity. I had to learn how to keep LIVING in the chaos and unknowns.
I had to….
Because I knew that was where the river of peace still flowed. I knew I had to learn how to dive in deeper.
I realised I had to go where I had never been before.
That journey has been an adventure. A journey of both gritted teeth endurance, as well of a satisfying joy. A journey of discovery and rediscovery. A journey of realising a deeper and more profound love that overwhelms the fear. A journey of not focusing on what I don’t have but celebrating/ being thankful for what I do so I can make the most of LIVING here.
God showed me the way. He gave me the sign posts. He brought the people I needed at the right time. And He spoke through the voices He placed around me. He gave me friends and loved ones to cheer me a long the way.
It’s April 2017.
I have been unwell for 2 years and 4 months.
It’s been the hardest season of my life so far.
My life looks very different to the one I lived before.
But I am a different person. If you look closely the old Becky can still be found. Many people will not see the change from the surface. My passion for God, my love for people, my fondness of communication and words are all still there. But if you watch me, if you listen to me, if you compare me to who I used to be. There is a deep transformation within me as well.
Perhaps not recognisable to everyone, but very clear to me.
And it is intrinsically linked to an increasing CALMNESS. A decision to FLOW through each day, whatever it may bring. An ability to ‘let go’ more easily and throw off the chains of worry and anxiety. A greater ability to make the most of every opportunity. More depth of wisdom…
…as I have been OVERCOME…
…became the one who OVERCAME!
Yes this Becky is very different and even though I never want to relive those dark days again. Even though I daily wish I didn’t have to dwell in this debilitated body. There is no lesson more profound than meeting the full extent of your weakness and failure face on and falling apart in a way you never imagined possible….
To then rise again despite it all…
stronger yet calmer,
wiser yet more humble,
broken yet fuller,
different yet still me.
There is always more peace to be found. It is always being offered to us as a gift. We just sometimes have to take a journey to realise how much we need it. And to learn how to break through the storm around us on the outside, so that we can then dive into the tranquillity that can only truly reside within.
Jesus said, “”I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” - John 14:27 The Bible
To read more about my story of living with a chronic spinal CSF Leak click here.
Here is a brilliant 2 min animation about Spinal CSF leaks.