Each year, more homes are damaged by termites than by fires and tornadoes combined. (National Pest Management Association (NPMA). Because their destruction occurs while hiding beneath the surface, their damage is done before the infestation is even detected.
Last winter, I had my own infestation of ‘termites.’ For days, toxic bacteria was invading my appendix. My body was trying to send me some warning signals, but I was quick to ignore them. “I must have just eaten something nasty,” I told myself. “Maybe a run will help.”
So I continued to live my life as normal. Until I couldn’t.
In an instant, I crossed the threshold into a battle with excruciating pain unlike anything I’d ever experienced. For 48 hours we wrestled. I barely remember anything other than looking at the clock wondering when this pain would end. I lost my ability to focus on anything or anyone. I couldn’t eat or sleep and finding a comfortable position or distraction was impossible.
Yet, I stubbornly insisted I didn’t need any medical help because I was certain I’d be better soon. For a woman who hates to admit she’s actually sick, letting my husband take me to nearest immediate care center should tell you how much I needed some relief. Armed with my desire to numb my stabbing pain, I hobbled out the door.
I was certain they’d give me a muscle relaxant or even pain meds, and I’d finally get some of that sweet sleep I’d been missing. It shouldn’t take long at all. Wrong. After a quick assessment at the immediate care center, I was sent to the closest emergency room.
I naively still couldn’t believe anything was seriously wrong even though the doctor stressed the urgency of my situation. As we waited for the emergency room doctor, I actually told my husband that we should just go home. Fortunately, he didn’t listen to my foolishness because he knew I needed to get to the root of this. It wasn’t long before I found myself lying in a cat scan machine.
What on earth?
Everything began to move quickly and slowly at the same time. Admitted to the hospital. A more in-depth cat scan. Ruptured appendix (TWO DAYS AGO?). Perforated abscess. Leaking into my abdomen. Too septic to operate. Five long days and four even longer nights in the hospital. I honestly was stunned at each step along the way. How in the world had I not known something was seriously wrong with me?
My team of doctors decided the safest way to rid me of my ‘termites’ was to literally drain them out of the abscess in my abdomen. For nearly five weeks, I walked around with a bag which collected the toxic, stinking bacteria. I had the’ privilege’ of emptying it throughout the day face to face with what had been brewing inside of me. My body was getting clean from the inside out.
Throughout that humbling process, I held tightly to the fact that I was alive. These ‘termites’ could have cost me everything. More often than I’d like to admit, I’ve had ‘termites’ burrowing into my emotional world as well.
These nasty termites did their nasty deeds inside my heart bite by bite. Each bite more deeply embedded the lies I’d chosen to believe years ago.
“You’re not enough.” Chomp. “You need to make sure everybody is ok.” Chomp. “You can’t fail at anything.” Chomp.
For years, I didn’t recognize the external symptoms these lies created.
Having grown up in a home where positive or negative emotions weren’t embraced, I’d learned to navigate much of my life in the ‘I’m fine’ camp. Anytime I felt sad or angry, I found ways to quickly shut those feelings down without losing my good girl status.
But I wasn’t fine as the ‘termites’ marched. It took more work to paint a smile on my face because I was so disjointed inside. More trips to the mall or more miles on the trail didn’t work. I was still sad or angry. And slowly Linda was being eaten up inside.
Just as a house being eaten to death by termites looks ‘fine’ on the outside, I looked ‘fine’ too.
In fact, many would have envied my life. I didn’t understand the disconnect either. Why was I so unhappy in the middle of my great life?
Through wise counsel, I learned that I’d replaced the real me with the person I thought everyone else wanted. I was done. Sitting in my counselor’s office I declared, “I don’t want to feel like this anymore. I want to be Linda again.”
Wouldn’t it be great if we could read our damaging emotions with the ease of a radiologist reading a cat scan? Insert a drain. Drain those toxic lies in a few weeks. It doesn’t work that way.
It’s taken time and patience and support and courage to rebuild my broken places.
It’s required wise counsel and safe relationships. I’ve learned to be kind to myself. And I celebrate when I feel like me again. Pain, even the pain hidden under the surface, has become a friend to me. It is what warns me that I need to humble myself and ask for help.
My abdominal pain saved my life. But more importantly, my emotional pain saved me from damaging or losing the people that I love dearly.
Bio: Linda cares deeply about encouraging others to notice the people and moments in their lives. She has been married to Ron for 37 years, has three amazing adult children, all of whom are married, and two grandsons. A farm girl at heart, she loves all things outdoors and all of the seasons, but especially winter. Connect with Linda on her blog.