I sat on the table in the doctor's office, cold, shaky, looking down at my wrist where I could see the faint scarring of the words "I Am" etched in my flesh. The permanent reminder of God's permanent presence. Where are you now though? I thought to myself, feeling defeated and hopeless. I was on my third straight day of pure anxiety-- it felt like something had set off a bomb inside me that made it impossible to function. I had already called in sick to work two days straight, embarrassingly telling my manager, "I think I might be having a nervous breakdown." I was exhausted from waking up at 3 am like clockwork every morning only to not be able to calm myself down enough to go back to sleep. I couldn't think straight. I couldn't turn my brain off. I couldn't eat. I couldn't even brush my teeth without dry heaving over a trash can for five minutes afterwards. And the whole time my poor heart had been running a non-stop race. I kept telling myself it had to stop eventually, but it didn't. I didn't know what else to do, so I went to urgent care, knowing that they probably couldn't do anything, but half hoping they would look at me and immediately send me to the hospital, admit me, give me a feeding tube and pump me full of sedatives just so my body could fix itself without me getting in the way with my stupid anxiety that sabotages everything. I kept thinking of that Hemingway quote, "I love sleep. My life has a tendency to fall apart when I'm awake, you know?" Yeah, I did know.
The doctor, an attractive male in his 30s, walked into the room. Great I thought sarcastically, this isn't embarrassing at all. But I was desperate, and all I wanted was for someone to help me. So when he asked me what was going on, my eyes watered as I told him everything. I told him I couldn't calm myself down, that I was scared my body was becoming malnourished and probably shutting down from not being able to eat, that my heart was probably going to stop from the constant surges of adrenaline. He sat there listening to me, handing me tissues and nodding sympathetically. He assured me that my heart wasn't going to stop, that I could live the rest of my life in a heightened state of anxiety and it wouldn't kill me. I asked if it was possible there was something wrong with my adrenal glands. He looked at me very seriously and said, "it is possible to have an adrenal disorder, but people who have it are usually walking around with very high blood pressure and bleeding from the eyes, so I think we can rule it out." It was the first time I'd laughed in days.
"Nothing's going on where you're scared for your physical safety? Nobody's trying to hurt you?" He asked.
"Okay, good. And you have a good support system in your life?"
"Where do you get your support from?"
I thought for a second before answering. "My family, my friends... my faith."
"Yeah I noticed your earrings," he said, referring to my ichthys fish earrings, "are you a Christian?"
"That's good. Faith is just as powerful as anything I've ever read in any book."
I sat there kind of stunned, is this really coming from a doctor?
"If you'd like, I'll pray for you," he went on."Please, I would really appreciate that," I said, genuinely touched that he would offer to remember me in his prayers. But before I even realized what was going on, he clasped his hands, closed his eyes and bowed his head and started praying out loud. Right there in the doctor's office. A long, thoughtful, personalized prayer, asking God to help me find my strength in Him, to give me the assurance that everything happens for a reason and to trust He will give me His peace, which transcends all understanding. I listened to him with tears going down my face, my head bowed, but my eyes going back to the tattoo on my wrist that 15 minutes earlier made me question where God was in all of this, and how now he was using a medical doctor praying for me to answer me, I'm right here.
When the doctor was done, I didn't know how to properly thank him or express how much it meant to me that he would do that, but I think he understood. I felt this kind of relief and calmness on the drive home, this hopeful feeling that I hadn't quite been able to grasp on my own in the days prior. I knew that I was not, nor would I probably ever be, miraculously set free from my anxiety completely. I am still very much in my broken flesh, and the weeks following the doctor's visit proved that. My anxiety still came and went, yet not as strong or with the same feelings of hopelessness. And never again with the question of God's presence.
I still sometimes wonder about the why, though. Even though He might be here, why does he allow it to happen? And the only real explanation that I can come up with that makes sense to me is to reiterate Proverb 3:5, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding" and Isaiah 55:9, "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." If a doctor were to take an x-ray of me, and then report that something inside myself was broken or not working properly, and the only possible way to fix it was surgery, I would trust that the doctor knew what he was talking about. I wouldn't try to convince him that taking some aspirin would be just as effective nor would I look at the surgeon in the middle of the procedure and say, "Are you sure you know what you're doing? I don't think it should hurt this much." Because I would trust that the doctor knew what he was doing, and that his knowledge and qualifications far exceeded mine. It isn't that the doctor isn't aware that surgery is painful, and the recovery unpleasant, but he knows that it is necessary in order to get things working right. He knows that the end result far outweighs the temporary pain you feel in the process. And if I can trust that a doctor, despite inflicting pain and discomfort, has my best interest in mind, how could I not trust that God is doing the same? Of course it hurts, he probably wants to say to me, you're undergoing an operation! But God isn't heartless, He offers the pain killers of trust and prayer, because He knows it hurts, but He also knows that the pain is inevitable. Because the only way to get inside of you is to cut you open.