I was hospitalized for 3 days in July just before Independence Day. The unofficial diagnosis was Too Many Years of Not Living in Freedom. The irony is not lost on me.
It was the wake up call I finally paid attention to.
I was nervous and hesitant to write this post. I always try to be vulnerable and authentic in my writing, but today I’m taking it up a notch. Not because I really want to show this side of myself, but because I’ve been getting this nagging sense that I should. Perhaps by sharing, someone else who is struggling won’t feel so alone. Maybe they will feel brave enough to take a hard look in the mirror before they end up in the hospital. If so, then this post is worth it.
The indicators began showing themselves years ago but undeniably intensified during my summer visit to the family farm. It began with flu-like symptoms, but instead of getting better with time, it became worse. Then, instead of just feeling nauseous, I began to experience sharp pains that I refer to as spasms in the lower-center of my abdomen. I couldn’t keep anything in my body and was in an extreme amount of pain. It was scary to say the least.
The doctors ran multiple tests with puzzled looks on their faces and admitted confusion. They placed me under quarantine, concerned that whatever was attacking my body could be contagious. (It’s a super fun feeling to watch people suit up in hazmat garb before they approach you. Definitely a confidence booster. ;))
Finally, after three days of being poked and prodded, pumped full of drugs and antibiotics, and ruling out one ailment after another, the specialist sat down with me with an anti-climatic diagnosis: my body experienced a severe colon infection that it could not fight off on its own.
I was a bit relieved but incredibly baffled. How did this happen? The doctor agreed that it was especially rare for a strong healthy woman in her early thirties. We began discussing nutrition habits and other lifestyle practices. When we couldn’t seem to pinpoint the cause, he set down his clipboard. “Adriane, have you been experiencing high levels of long term stress?”
I smiled at him and nodded as tears streamed down my face. If only he knew. “Can stress really do something like this to my body?” I squeaked.
His eyes looked at me kindly and he spoke softly. “When the human body endures stress for a long period of time, it eventually hits a road block. Ultimately, no matter how much we exercise or take care of the outside of our bodies, if we aren’t caring for it on the inside, our bodies will let us know. Sometimes in very dramatic ways.”
Honestly, I’m not sure I would have woken up if God tried to get my attention in a less dramatic fashion. He knows me perfectly and uniquely and it was exactly what I needed to aggressively begin a demanding quest of self-discovery.
I could spend pages upon pages elaborating on what I’ve learned. Maybe that will be a blog post for another day. But one of the major takeaways from this journey has been the realization that I have not been living life as my whole authentic self. Sure, I’ve mostly been me; not every word and action has been counterfeit. But I’ve allowed people- pleasing and religious rules to silence pieces of me for far too long. Constantly burying parts of myself that I’ve known are strong, smart, and beautiful ultimately made me sick with stress. In so many devastating ways.
It’s taken me several months to truly believe that healing is possible and that I can return to whole. If this is resonating with you, I pray you know that hope as well.
My story isn’t complete, but it also isn’t a tragedy. I have found tremendous strength in what I’ve learned and have finally embraced what it means to live and appreciate one moment at a time. If I could go back and smack my younger self up side the head, this is what I would say to her…
Hey pretty girl! You are fearfully and wonderfully made. No, but seriously. God made you ON purpose FOR a purpose and he does not make mistakes. You know that gut instinct you have? Trust it. Every single time. Anyone who does not is not worthy of your heart.
Life is about to get real and you will have some big decisions to make. Before you move a muscle, really get to know your Jesus. Dig deep into his word and write your thoughts to him. He will speak and reveal his character, which is more loving and personal than you ever thought possible. This will be crucial because when you are confused or start to feel as though you are being swallowed up, a relationship with him will do far more for you than a list of rules or a great church attendance record.
You will get lost from time to time. It’s ok. Give yourself some grace and let your mistakes shape you, not define you. No one expects you to be perfect; imperfection will be your source of connection to the best people in your life. No matter what you face, remember that you are strong, intelligent, and kind. Don’t let anyone or anything make you believe differently.
You are responsible for your own life. The good and the bad. Blaming others is both misplaced fear and a giant waste of time. Own everything you do.
Everyone always tells you that you have a beautiful smile. Pay attention when they stop.
You have been blessed with incredible family and friends. These people know you to your core, and often better than you do. God has given them to you as a lighthouse. They will always point you to safety. Follow their light and never let them wonder how much you love them.
This life is fast. Much faster than you are comfortable with. Don’t let it rush you. If you need time, give yourself time. If you’re ready to jump, leap with abandon. But do it on your terms. If anyone impatiently taps their finger at you, break it.
Be grateful. This life is miraculous and beauty can be found around every corner if you look for it. Take the time to thank him for each breath, every conversation, and even the tears. Count every blessing and let go of the pain.
Above all, stay true to who he created you to be. By being wholly you, you are giving him the ultimate of honors. Humbly hold your head high and kick ass with no apologies.
I love you,
Do you need to wake up? What would you say in a letter to your younger self?
Thank you for allowing me to share my heart with you today.
Live Life On Purpose,