True Rest and Learning to Suffer Well

by | Nov 08, 2018

“How do I even work this machine?”

“That guy is huge”

“Everyone knows it’s my first day here”

Does everyone think these things when they walk around in a gym, or is it just me?

I’ve never been one who really knew how to work out or navigate a gym. I could get out on the road and run for awhile—and even that took a long time. I had the same thoughts about running.

“Everyone driving by knows I’m not actually a runner”

When you work out in front of a bunch of strangers, you’re way more aware of your own story than they are. How often do I see someone at the gym or running on the street and think, “ha, what a newbie. Looks like she has no idea what she is doing.”

Never. I never think that. I always assume they are stellar athletes.

But somewhere along the way the fear of working out crept into my life and has lain dormant ever since.

I overcame that fear when I went to my first CrossFit class with huge, ripped men that encouraged me the whole time. I lost that fear when I decided to train for my first half marathon.

The fear was reawakened from its dormant state when I lost my ability to exercise.

So here I am, heading into unfamiliar territory in a gym yet again. It’s unfamiliar because my cardiac rehab program is so slow in its progression that it takes more self control to take it easy than it does for me to push myself to work harder. I just sit on a recumbent bike and casually pedal for 20 minutes, constantly making sure my heart rate doesn’t climb (which is near impossible for POTS patients) and then I leave.

I’m not allowed to do anything else.

Yet again, I am reminded that I have nothing to rely on. I cannot rely on my athletic achievements or my own strength.

The reality is, this lesson I’m learning goes further than my life in a gym. I’m learning this at work—the place where I’ve always felt I can thrive.

The past few weeks at work have been so tough. On any given day I can have at least one of my symptoms: fatigue, dizziness, anxiety, feeling overwhelmed, fogginess, or easily frustrated. I feel overwhelmed most mornings as I head into work as I feel that I can’t make it through the day. I always know I’ll make it, but at what cost?

I have—dare I say—one of the easiest group of students that I’ve ever had. They are enjoyable, fun, hard-working, relatable, creative, they follow directions. I have a few tough kids, but nothing like I’ve experienced in past years. And yet, here I am struggling to complete each week.

I would start every day with a mental countdown to the weekend, but the weekend was interrupted by anxiety on Saturday night as I knew the next day was Sunday and Sunday was the day before Monday—when I’d have to make it through another week all over again.

I didn’t think about a way to make it through until I decided to talk to my nurse practitioner, my husband, my principal, my mom and my friends. All of these people helped me to see a way to make it through this year without completely giving up.

Starting next week, per my nurse practitioner, I will be taking off every Wednesday so that I can have that necessary recovery time in the middle of the week.

I struggled with this decision. I know a lot of my coworkers struggle with health conditions and stress and I felt that it wouldn’t be right of me to take off days. Since my syndrome is so invisible, I worried that people wouldn’t believe me and would think I was taking advantage of my condition.

But I can’t make decisions based on what I fear people will say. I’m incredibly grateful to have a principal and assistant principal who are willing to understand what I am going through and do whatever it takes to help me to get well. I’m thankful for the substitute who is willing to cover my class every week and care for my kids with me. I’m thankful for my team for understanding what I need.

My hope is that I will start to get progressively and noticeably better as I continue with cardiac rehab, increased salt and water intake, a partial-paleo diet, possibly medication, and other lifestyle changes.

More than getting better, my hope all along has been to suffer well. I am learning that I am not in control. I am learning that true strength is not physical or mental—but spiritual. I’m learning that the only identity that matters is that I’m a loved child of God. I’m learning to be patient. I’m learning to say that I’m not doing ok, but that’s ok. I’m learning to say “no” to what I can’t do. I’m learning to rest. Rest physically and rest in the finished work of Jesus.

I don’t have to strive to have it all together or to get it right or even to get better because Jesus lived a perfect life and died on the cross for all of my imperfections. We strive for perfection when perfection was already won and handed to us through his life and death and resurrection. The work is done. There’s nothing left to do but to rest.

So I will rest.

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