Sunday, January 6, 2008

waking up: my scenic route to God~PART FOUR

I'm a nurse (or at least I used to be) so if you've never had surgery you're going to have to believe me on this: coming out of anesthesia is hell and it happens in lurching stops and starts. I react especially badly to the stuff. Many years ago I had a minor surgical procedure that should have been a breeze (that was the evil propaganda they fed me), but it turns out that I don't transition well from "under" to "awake". First I heard far away voices trying to annoy me back to the world, and then I vomited and passed out. It was pretty much down hill from there. Imagine trying to swim with ankle weights in the middle of ten foot waves: lots of gulping and sputtering and sinking to the murky bottom. Eventually they gave me some kind of injection to force the issue and my heart beat a crazy jungle rhythm outside my body. I followed the sound back to the recovery room and they ushered me out the door.

This is what it was like for me to come out of my frozen soul-sleep. When I spoke my name in the fifth grade I really did wake up, but this consciousness came at a price. I started to notice the pain...really vivid, screaming pain. If you've ever been in this kind of pain, you can understand the urge to go back to sleep. Periodically, when the nausea and pain became overwhelming, I would kind of slip away from my life into the murky, dreamless depths. I would pop the lovely narcotics of avoidance and dissociation and drift far, far away. I would hear God's voice through thick velvet stage curtains trying to annoy me back to the classroom, telling those terrible jokes, "What do you say when a dog runs away?...Dog-gone!" But sometimes it just hurt too much to be present so I would decide to be absent even when I was sitting at my desk. Exit, stage left. Dog-gone.

So waking up wasn't quite as smooth as I was making it sound. I'm still a little bit of a dissociation junkie. And I'm still trying to follow my heart's crazy jungle rhythm back to the world and to my life. But that's OK. God's pretty dang patient and he's got a ton of jokes up his sleeve.


  1. "Wake up my sweet!"

    I'm thankful God doesn't "bait and switch" when waking us.

  2. Disassociation...
    So that thing has a name, huh?

  3. Dissociation has woven its way into my life, beginning as an infant.
    It is a compassionate love offering, our minds doing what they know to protect.
    And then bit by bit we come to know and live that the pain though fierce, will not destroy us anymore.
    To be born we go through labor. And it hurts like hell.

  4. Marcia: i'm trying, i really am. it's just that sometimes it really sucks to be awake. :)

    Dave: yes has a name. does that make you feel better or a little more scared?

    Bella: i thought i recognized a fellow sleepwalker. it does hurt doesn't it? but i'm awake more today than i was yesterday and it seems like you are too. thanks for the validation.

  5. Terri, you are such a masterful storyteller. I mean what I said in my comment on your last installment about feeling like I am reading a bona fide book when I read your story here. The way you opened this piece with the anesthesia drill and the image of churning through ten-foot waves with ankle weights dragging you down set the stage so perfectly; I was right there with you, with all of my senses alert and alive.

    It hurt my heart to hear about the ways you ducked out of that year once you could feel the pain. Coming alive hurt too much, and you wanted to go back underground to deaden it all. I felt such a pang of pain for you because of the joy I had felt at the contrast in your last installment: the joy of laughter and comfort and freedom in that classroom, the startling joy of finding your own name. And then this. Oh, it hurt me for you.

    I love what Bella said about disassociation being our mind's compassionate offering to protect what is precious: our hearts. Wow. I'd never thought of it that way before. Thanks, Bella, for that perspective.

  6. Terri:
    I guess I did not know that enough other people lived there that it got a name. If you go far enough away, you don't get a chance to ask about such things. And quite frankly I did not care what you were going through.

    But then I learned that the The Hound stayed right there behind me, no matter where or how far I went. I am really grateful for that.

  7. Dave: oh dear...i thought you were my husband. i hardly ever make that mistake. :) sorry i went and called you darling.

    Christianne: i kind of felt bad about dragging people back down but it was really the only way i could move my story forward with any integrity. and i totally agree with bella that this is a mercy. minds are pretty resourceful when things get unbearable.

    you know, i kind of feel like i'm reading a book too. i have no idea where this is going in some respects. i'm asking the question of God "where were you?" when i sit down to write and he shows me. it feels like a discovery. and because it's real, it's not all happy and roses. and because i'm real i will probably let you down and reveal some not-so-nice aspects of who i am. i'm trusting that you're human enough to like me anyway when it's all said and done.

  8. Terri:
    Here in South Carolina, it is not uncommon to be called Honey or Sweetie, or Darlin' by ladies in serving jobs, so I just "figgered you was local."

  9. oh minnesota we're very conservative about those kinds of things. one time my husband and a friend of his were sitting on a couch with their feet on an ottoman and i was sitting on the floor and i mistakenly started to massage his friend's feet. that's practically foot-adultery around these parts. (just kidding...we got a huge laugh out of it.)

  10. Terri, I just want you to know that I would never read your story and feel like you let me down for something you said. Your story is yours, and it is real and it is true. It is a sacred thing. I totally and completely respect that. When I shared that my heart sank, it was simply out of pain for your pain.

  11. i know need to clarify. (remember: i apologize for everything.)

    by the way, i really like your smile.

  12. Aww . . . you made me blush! (Really.) Thank you.

  13. I normally read Greg Boyd's blogs. I found a link to your blog page from there.

    Just want to say that you seem very authentic. I appreciate that.

  14. Terri,

    I too found your blog from Greg's.

    I don't know if I will be able to continue reading your blog. I have been crying since your first words.

    Thanks for authentic transparency coupled with award-winning literary talent.

  15. Christianne, I bet that blush makes your smile even prettier.

    Nathan, thanks so much for popping by and for the compliment. I hope you'll stick around.

    David, I promise I won't always make you cry. Sometimes you might even get a good belly laugh. Thanks too for the kind words.

  16. I've had nasty emergences from anesthesia too...on behalf of my profession, I apologize for all the evil propaganda you've been fed :)

    thanks for continuing the story.

  17. Terri,

    I plan on sticking around. It just feels good to find other Christians that keep it real. I have pretty much given up on church. I know that’s not right. I feel paralyzed with depression and completely estranged from God these days. I need Him to come get me, because I’m not sure I am even able to move in His direction anymore. Your personal disclosures encourage me though. I wasn’t always this way. I used to have a vibrant relationship with Jesus. Maybe you can discern that if you follow the progressions of my blogs, although I’ve taken down many of the most personal ones. I know you probably have more than enough to keep you busy forever in terms of things to read, but if you ever find the time, it would mean a lot to me for you to take a glance at my page: It would mean a lot because I can tell you’re a Christian and you’ve come through some things. Thanks. Looking forward to reading more of your thoughts soon.

  18. Nathan:
    You said,"I need Him to come get me,"
    Good News! You just moved His direction. Now He cannot help but draw nigh unto you.

  19. Hey Nathan, I left a comment over on your blog. I think one of the things that I've learned through the process of looking back on my story is that God was showing up all over the place. He's just not terribly conventional and it's usually not a disembodied voice from heaven. He'll show up for you.

  20. This was brilliant Terri. I truly understand dissociation. Sometimes I wonder if I’ve ever actually had a past. You’re so right about the pain involved in waking up. I continue to experience this in spurts as the process unfolds. I agree with Bella. Our sweet slumber offered us protection when we most needed it, but eventually many of us reach a point where it no longer serves us. It’s a struggle to keep our eyes open, but it’s so worth it.

  21. I understand dissociation too, which I talked about pretty recently on Clouds: making myself numb. But when you start to feel again, you start feeling it all. It's like when your hand or foot falls asleep. Feeling coming back is a sharp, uncomfortable, & sometimes painful process.

    You show that so masterfully with your story here, so very authentically.

    I'm so sorry you had to walk through this, but so glad that now I'm meeting a woman who has really been through stuff, who is neither flowery or shallow about things of faith, who doesn't gloss things over. I think this is what testimonies/stories should be all about. This is how my life points to Christ.

    And it is pointing, Terri. It's pointing smack at the face of God.

    Love & blessings to you ...

  22. Terri,

    Appreciated your comments. Thanks.

  23. It is really worth it Chloe, and I'm so happy that you're awake and speaking and writing. And as far as your past, it'll come. (sometimes it will come whether you want it to or not, but you already know all about that.)

    Kirsten, thank you, thank you, thank you! And your face really is point right smack at God because it's helping me to see him more clearly every time I encounter you.

    Nathan...the cat's out of the bag dude. You're a preacher. I was just over at your blog. thanks for that.

  24. Wow. What in the world is going on here. I think you said it on Christianne's blog ... a lot of us seem to be thinking along similar lines lately, walking parallel paths, wading through the same swamps. How apropos that God should cause all our crazy over the whole freaking map paths & somehow cause them to intersect.

    Thanks for saying about pointing to God. I cannot think of a higher compliment. I just want to keep pointing, because I just feel like all this insanely good stuff started happening when I just got out of His way, you know? Crazy.

    BTW ... having read just a few of your husband's comments, I really think you might have the best husband ever ... seriously ... though from what bits Christianne his shared, I think her hubby & yours might at least have to tie for first. :o)

  25. Terri,

    I'm not a preacher. But who knows what God can do?