Beyond SISU

This morning EJ and I should have been off to the hospital for EJ’s MRI. However, yesterday evening his doctor emailed him that his recent x-ray revealed that there are metal slivers in his hand from his years of working as a machinist. Even small bits of metal can cause damage during an MRI so we have to postpone it. We have an initial consultation early this afternoon with a doctor who will remove the splinters. Hopefully, the actual procedure will be scheduled quickly.

Having to delay the MRI is agonizing because it’s more delays and additional medical expenses when the health coverage is draining away. We also can’t plan our next steps until we know the cause of  EJ’s health issues and how serious they are. At EJ’s appointment last week, the doctor had said that his symptoms could be caused by his medications, which means his health should improve once the drugs get out of his symptom. But she also said that his symptoms are very similar to a condition called Hydrocephalus, which is the buildup of fluid in the cavities (ventricles) deep within the brain. The excess fluid increases the size of the ventricles and puts pressure on the brain. The Mayo Clinic website says that the pressure of too much cerebrospinal fluid associated with hydrocephalus can damage brain tissues and cause a range of impairments in brain function. Before EJ’s appointment, we looked up some of his symptoms on the internet, and some of them can be caused by diseases like MS or Lupus. So we could be looking at something relatively minor or something very serious.   We don’t know.

I feel a bit like the description of the sailors in Psalms 107:25-27:

For at his word the storm-wind arose,
lifting up towering waves.
The sailors were raised up to the sky,
then plunged into the depths.
At the danger, their courage failed them,
they reeled and staggered like drunk men,
and all their skill was swallowed up.

I imagine Psalms 107 describing a storm like the one in this Youtube video. I don’t know if this storm is considered just a regular storm or one that causes sailors to lose their courage and skill, but it’s scary enough for me and illustrates what I sometimes feel:

Honestly, I feel like all my courage, strength, and skill has been swallowed up years ago. We persevered while struggling with abusive family through the years. We had faith and Sisu while battling JJ’s cancer a few years ago. It pushed us beyond our emotional, physical, and financial resources. Then we reached deep inside and used Sisu to move to Northern Michigan. I don’t think we would have made it if we had stayed downstate. Since then, I think we have struggled with Complex PTSD, struggling to regain our balance. We’ve battled anxiety, depression, insomnia, nightmares, and have had no emotional resources to handle even minor-ish problems that came our way. Now we are facing EJ’s health problems and loss of income. I think we have used up all our Sisu. We are empty with no resources left.

Right now I’m struggling with a sort of shock, much like I felt when we first learned that our son had cancer a few years ago. I feel a sort of brain freeze, where my mind is spinning but going nowhere. I don’t know what action to take next because there is so much uncertainty. We don’t know if EJ just needs time to rest and get healthy or if we are facing a debilitating illness and he needs to go on Disability. I think uncertainty is a terrible place to be because there is no concrete path or direction to go in. I feel frozen.

Sometimes I think, “God is good. We have blessings. We are going to be ok.” We have been working hard in the last month or so getting projects finished–we were almost through our list when this happened–and the things we have still on our list can wait. We have been busy getting a winter’s supply of food in. We still need a little more poultry feed, but otherwise we have enough pet food and poultry feed for several months. EJ ordered a sheep (killed, butchered, and packaged) from a co-worker to be delivered in the next few days. We thought about canceling it but decided that it would fill our freezer for cheaper than buying meat from the store so we are going ahead with it. Also, EJ already has his deer licenses so he can shoot us some venison. His company has been kind to us, so we have a bit of time to catch our breath. I’m so glad that we were able to get our geo-thermal compressor fixed this last summer, even though it was expensive. It will save us money in heating our house this winter.

I’ve thought, “Ok, so this could be a time of redirection and opportunities, it could be a time of blessing in disguise instead of disaster.” This period can give EJ time to discover what is wrong with his health, to recover, and rest. We have discussed for a couple of years other crafts that we can learn so we can make items we can sell at my Etsy store to bring in extra income. Maybe we can do that now. Maybe this is new opportunities.

But these times are interspersed with frequent periods of acute anxiety, of not knowing if EJ’s health issues are serious, of not knowing if EJ will even be able to work, of not knowing how we are going to manage without an income, of not knowing how we can address serious health issues or pay medical bills after we lose our health insurance. Downstate they let us make payments but up here they require half at the time of the procedure and the rest soon after, which will make it very difficult. I’m wondering if we will end up losing our house, and I don’t know how I will survive if EJ’s health problems end up being life-ending. And it takes energy and money for supplies to be creative, both of which are in short supply. I’m “supposed to be strong” but I feel that I have nothing left. I totally tired, numb, and empty.

We have been working very, very hard at paying off our debts and have made some encouraging progress, but now making extra payments is out of the question. I tell God, “This would be a very, very good time for You to miraculously pay off our house–and possibly our other debts–so we can survive on little income.”

I have friends whom I know are deeply caring, but I haven’t wanted to talk to any of them since EJ lost his job other than ask them for prayer in Facebook groups or chats. I know that some of them have an abundance of difficulties of their own to deal with. My emotions are close to the surface, and I don’t want to add to their burdens by breaking down if I talk to them. I also know that there is a tendency to want to give advice to a suffering person, to “fix” them, and I really don’t want that right now.  Even if it’s really good advice, my brain is frozen and I feel overwhelmed: I can’t take in advice and it just feels like an overwhelming list of “Things I Ought to Do” to “fix” the problem. I don’t want abusive family/people to consider this an opportunity to step back into our lives. Yeah, like we really need more of your kind of “love” that battered, bullied, and damaged us. I also don’t want a theological lecture about how I need more faith, that I should rejoice in suffering, that everything will work out for good, or that emotions like anxiety is a sin. Lectures don’t help when we are struggling to catch our breath and find our balance. In fact, the Bible doesn’t say that if someone is suffering, you should lecture them, even if what you say is Biblically true (which I don’t think it always is). Job’s friends messed up later when they began advising, criticizing, and lecturing him, but they responded very well to him at the beginning:

When Job’s three friends…heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him. When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was. (Job 2:11-13)

In other words, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” (Romans 12:15).

I will probably be ok later when we have an idea of what we are facing, but I find myself pulling in a bit right now. I don’t have the energy to deal with even the most caring responses. I think suffering is very isolating. Maybe it can’t be anything else.

Update: Update: Eric had an appointment with a doctor today about the metal sliver in his hand. It’s in very deep so the doctor will do surgery this coming Monday to remove it. After that he can schedule his MRI.

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One Comment on “Beyond SISU

  1. I hope the metal removal is successful, the MRI can be had and some peace and tranquility will come to your world TJ … what a horrible year this has been for you, starting with your hand injury. Take care of yourself too TJ.

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