Trauma and pain are a team sport. Through all my bumps and bruises in life I’ve made the mistake of thinking I was alone and that my pain needed to be avoided. But In order for pain to be healed it must be felt, but not in isolation away from community. True healing takes teamwork and celebration.
At 34, I am no stranger to trauma and pain. My college entrance essay focused on a baseball game I played in the fourth grade. My team was down to only seven players. For every player below nine, you have an automatic out. I scored on a drop third strike home run. Running the bases in such a crazy way brought on a severe migraine. But I couldn’t leave the game. I spent the next several innings puking my guts out spread out on my back in left field. I didn’t want to quit because my team would have been forced to forfeit. I have suffered from abdominal migraines most of my life. Most of the time when I have been dealing with a migraine episode I tell myself that this won’t last forever and that if I have made it through a migraine once, I can make it through one again.
I needed that same motivation a little over two-and-a-half years ago when in September of 2015, I nearly died. I was rushed to the hospital after my left lung attacked me. It turned out I had Necrotizing Pneumonia. It took two surgeries, ten days in the hospital to rid my body of the infection, a month at home recovering from the physical damage, and much longer to recover from the emotional damage.
Night after night, cramped up on the hospital bed, time blurred together. One night after watching Captain America: The Winter Soldier, so drugged out on pain meds, I had a dream that Hydra was after me. I clearly remember being half awake and a nurse entering the room to check my IV. I was positive that she was a Hydra agent and that if I moved she would kill me. When I woke up in the morning, I was still not sure who the Hydra agents were and who were normal civilians.
That same week as I sat in the hospital, feeling scared, tired of being woken up early, friends kept popping by to remind me that I was not alone. After my first surgery Mike Davis came up to watch the Broncos play the Chiefs with me. The game was extremely stressful and when we won on a last second fumble recovery returned for a touchdown all I could do was raise my hands to celebrate. But celebrate we did.
Now it has been a little over two-and-a-half years since I spent ten days in the hospital, and I still struggle with how to process all of what happened to me. Sometimes it feels like I am still under attack as if Hydra were really after me. Like I am all alone back in that hospital bed. I think that is how pain and trauma works. It wants you to make you think you are all alone and under attack. So we numb it, hoping it goes away. But the awesome thing is, my pain, as I have spoken about it and decided to feel it, has helped me heal and brought me closer to my community.
Back in September, on the second anniversary of the surgery that saved my life, I decided to take a walk. As I circled my neighborhood I felt pride at my recovered the strength, but I also felt broken. I knew without God’s help I would be lost, in pain, and alone. I started to weep when Lauren Daigle’s song Come Alive (Dry Bones) started playing through my headphones. I knew I wasn’t the only one broken and in need of healing so I was inspired to started this blog months ago. I keep coming back to it, trying to figure out how to write it, but admitting how alone I have felt through all of this is difficult and takes vulnerability. So here it goes.
On one hand I want to focus on how hilarious it was that I thought Hydra was after me, but on the other I want to encapsulate how isolated I felt while in the hospital and afterword while I recovered at home. But then I wasn’t alone and I know now that God never left me. He used my nephew Linc, who sent me legos and butter fingers or as he called them, futterbingers. He used Bailey, my little friend, who invited me to her fourth birthday party before I went to the hospital and prayed and prayed I would be able to go once I was released. Her party was the day after I left the hospital, so of course I went.
Now, as I type this my scar still aches, my stomach still feels like its half taped down, and deep quick breaths still feel oddly sharp. Yet, I am healing and I think that this is what this post is about. We all have pain in our lives, but not everyone heals. Maybe not everyone has friends who visit them while they are sick or maybe in pain people push their loved ones away.
When I first left the hospital, I could hardly walk a block. My healing took the form of long walks. God used those walks to tell me he was with me he still loved me and then he gave me April, my wife who I have blogged quite a bit about, but can be summed up in one word; wonderful. He shattered my false sense of isolation with love. He brought my family around me and continued to use friends to tell me that I was not alone. They sent cards, brought food, and laughed with me at the funny little things. This is how pain is healed; through teamwork and love.
This year I saw love and trauma in action on the basketball court. This might feel like a hard left turn, but it did wonders for my own trauma. I decided to help coach basketball and it was extremely difficult. First, I hadn’t played basketball since I was in middle school and worse yet I was a church league bench rider, so it isn’t like I was that good. Second, I knew way more about Basketball than almost all of the girls on my team. Third, I signed up to be the head coach and was quickly moved down to assistant because God loves me.
This is not going to be a story about how my team learned how to play together and because of that we started to win games. No, we piled up losses and it hurt. The girls were embarrassed and two girls quit the team. This painful season wasn’t really how I thought coaching would go. Yet, the girls formed a bond and continued to play their hearts out even when we were losing 92-5. They did this for the love of the game and for the love of each other.
As the season drug on, and injuries mounted, the girls dug deep. They did not resort to blaming each other for their losses, no they joked with each other and continued to work on improving their own game. In their trauma they treated each other with love. They kept running up and down the court and they never gave up. When the season ended only one word could describe how I felt toward my team. Proud. As exhausted as I was, ready to see my wife before 11 each night, I know this was a beautiful experience. So we celebrated. This is what is supposed to happen in times of trauma. People need to be surrounded by love, celebration is a must.
The celebration and the love the team showed for each other helped heal any wounds that the losses may have inflicted. As their coach, I could not have felt more proud. So this last week when we were finally able to gather together for our banquet, it was a true victory celebration. We celebrated a hard fought season that saw us go winless, but also brought us together as we received letter after letter from other schools telling us how hard and respectful we played. We celebrated because we formed a bond of love in a time of trauma.
My own scars are being redeemed through love. God is using April to help me heal. She is my teammate who never gives up even when the loss is imminent. Without the pain that pneumonia wrought on me, I do not think I would know how to keep fighting when life is difficult. I might not even be married because I am pretty sure the sight of my scar on our first date is what brought us together. Yes, I lifted my shirt and showed her my scar on our first date. Judge me! Maybe she thought I had been attacked by Hydra or maybe she knew I had been through a great deal of pain and she felt for me. She loved me in my pain and brokenness. Without her and my friends and family who rallied around me, celebrated with me, I would not know how to love those around me when trauma happens to them and so, my scars are redeemed.