|Posted on February 28, 2020 at 8:45 AM|
Photo by Hush Naidoo on Unsplash
When I had my cardiac event, I learned a difficult lesson about caring for myself. This “heart attack” landed me in the hospital with troponin levels at 17, which is extremely high; I mistook a coronary artery spasm for an allergic reaction and used my Epi-pen. This spasm caused tightness in mythroat and difficulty breathing. To make a long story short, the adrenalin in the Epi-pen increased the intensity of the spasms, which lasted for two long, miserable hours, making my cardiac enzymes soar. It wasn’t a good situation.
I learned my first lesson: our bodies are more fragile than we care to admit. Just because I’ve taken care of my body for the past 20+ years, after eating junk and not exercising, things can happen to our bodies that are out of our control. In my case, my genetics set me up for potential autoimmune diseases. When coupled with certain viruses and environmental hazards, even the healthiest people can become chronically ill. One of my symptoms for autoimmune disease is coronary artery spasms. I was strong, fit, and doing great even with fibromyalgia until certain triggers flipped specific switches on in my DNA. I was in denial of how fragile my body really was.
The second lesson I learned: don’t go into denial and wave off the doctor’s recommendations. At first, when I was in the ER, the doctor kept referring to a heart attack, and I kept trying to correct him by insisting I had an allergic reaction. Evidently, I was a normal heart attack patient because many deny they are having a heart attack assuming it is something else. After I accepted that I was having one, I didn’t expect to have such difficulty after I was released to go home. I had a heart catheterization, which meant that I had a small device in my groin to prevent the artery from popping open. As soon as I took the stairs at home, I realized how badly that hurt! Unless absolutely necessary, I stayed on one floor. Also, I thought I should be able to go back to normal quickly. My endurance was next to nil. I wore out easily, which meant I needed a daily nap. It seemed ridiculous, but the doctor was right. I needed to learn just how fragile my body could be and how to take proper care of it in its new condition.
The third lesson I learned: never underestimate God’s hand in events like this one. God used this cardiac event to keep me from rescuing my daughter and grandkids when they left an abusive situation. I was stuck in a hospital bed when my daughter called to tell me she and the kids ran from domestic violence. I was caught by surprise because she covered up the violence she and the kids endured. I was absolutely helpless to go to her aid. Instead, God had her learn the governmental support system where she lived and to learn about living independently. He provided the right people at the right time for her. In those moments, God revealed Himself to her in a big way. I had to give them and this challenging situation over to God. I did go see her and my grandkids to help them as best later. God always works things together for our good for those called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28 ).
Yes, our bodies are much more fragile than we care to admit. I felt pretty invincible into my 50’s until then. Figuring it all out was quite a balancing act of acceptance, becoming dependent upon God in my weakness, and still caring for my family. Your body is also fragile, so taking care of yourself is important to be able to do the things you need and love to do.
Although it might seem self-indlugent, we aren't talking about the world's view of self-care which puts you first above all else. You are important, and your needs matter to God. Good self-care from a Christian viewpoint is critical to living a healthy lifestyle and to be available for our families, friends, communities, and churches. A few considerations about godly self-care:
1. You don’t need to wear a superhero cape. The Holy Spirit already has this covered. Let God guide you when you should set someone else’s needs above your own and when you need to care for yourself first. (2 Corinthians 12:10) I always learned as a lifeguard that one drowning person cannot save another.
2. Get adequate sleep. It’s amazing how much better you can function when you are well-rested. You can think more clearly, have greater energy, and better focus.
3. Get adequate healthy nutrition and exercise. When your body is properly fueled and strengthened, you can help your neighbors and church family easier. You will also be able to work, take care of your family, and many other tasks each day.
4. Stay well-connected to God. He will give you the discernment to know who, what, when, and how to help. You can say, “No,” to things, that although good, might not be yours to do. You can concentrate on what is truly important for you to take care of, working within your gifts and talents. (1 Corinthians 12:28-30)
5. Never underestimate God’s ability to select others for a task instead of you. The body of Christ has all parts working together. You are only one part of the body. Be the best nose, pinky finger, or earlobe you can be. (https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Corinthians+12%3A12&version=NIV" target="_blank">1 Corinthians 12:12)
6. Keep your family relationships healthy. Loving, respectful attitudes at home are supportive, not demanding. Your family is there for you when you need them, and you will be there for them when they need you. (Ephesians 6:1-4, 1 Peter 3:1-7)
7. If you have chronic health conditions, properly caring for your body in it’s new normal is critical. It puts you in a better position to minister to others and serve God within the context of your disease. (1 Timothy 5:23)
When you take care of yourself within the context of Christian faith, you are better able to serve God and others more effectively. (https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Ephesians+2%3A10&version=NIV" target="_blank">Ephesians 2:10).
For discussion: What will you do to make godly self-care more of a priority in your life?
May God bless you!