Good intentioned people often ask me “What is the pain of neuropathy like?” It is such a strange and unseen condition that folks can’t relate to it. So, their curiosity prompts them to ask. I answer them by saying it is a lot like being hugged by an invisible cactus all over your body. That usually paints a vivid picture of the pain one endures with this terrible condition. Sometimes that answer just doesn’t do it for them. They need a little more relatable explanation. Then, I usually tell them the story below that takes place almost every night.
Startled, I throw off the covers in a sweat. Pain…a jabbing, needle-like pain is poking me viciously behind my eyes; in my toes also. Not ready at all, I am ill prepared for this onslaught of neuropathy at 3am. So waylaid by being assailed in my slumber, I sucked in a quick breath as a sharp pinch in the chest hit without warning. Now that the cobwebs have been fully cleared from my head, I make my way to the end of the bed.
On the edge of my place of rest, I thought about what it like when this neuropathy started three and half years back and how I was unready for this big change in my form. Another lovely curse from the terrible disease of Diabetes was starting to make its indelible mark.
Small changes started to happen all throughout my body. My fingers on my left hand would go strangely and unexplainably numb for an hour. The middle toe on my right foot would start to itch and appeared slightly swollen. Later, the itching and the numbness increased in frequency and duration. Then, these effects would travel to other places upon my body; my arms, legs, eyes, groin and back of the throat; until I was sitting on the couch one night during a hockey game and received the shock of my life.
“Arrrghh….Ouch…expletive”…I screamed out like an insane person from inside my make-shift man cave. Before I could keep the unintelligible words from escaping my mouth, I discovered I had yelled aloud because something had caught me off guard. The most intense, quick, needle-like jab had just poked me under my arm. My hands quickly searched the area on my body that the pain had come from sweeping up and down the spot. I was expecting to see blood on the hand I was using to search the area the poke had come from; for I thought I might have been stabbed. As crazy as that sounds, and I know how wacky it does, I didn’t find any blood.
This obviously required an appointment with my doctor and that’s where I discovered what was causing all of this pain and confusion: Diabetic Neuropathy. Well, after having been educated on the subject, it left me with not such a bright and shining future for my latter years.
So, in the beginning, I would massage the space where the pokes would occur with worry etched on my face. I became very wrapped up in its effects and would allow it to stop the momentum of my day, as I was truly afraid of the damage this was causing within my body. Until…I found a wonderful scripture verse to hold onto.
Here’s what God wanted me to grasp within my spirit: “For he will not much remember the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with joy in his heart.-Ecclesiastes 5:20(ESV)
Something changed when I read this verse. God spoke to me about my future. I was to trust that it would be good, it would be prosperous. No longer did I worry about the future effects of the many ailments of my body; my heart was going to be occupied by joy. Joy? Yes… yes indeed. I could definitely do that. Will I face challenges? Yes. Will I have to shed a few tears now and then? Probably. But the sum total of my life was not going to be the management of pain; I am going to be pre-occupied by and engrossed in joy.
Now, while I am dangling my feet off the end of my bed, my thoughts come full circle as I realized how I handle this pain today. No longer do I rub my hands together in fretful worry. Neither do I allow a gut-wrenching fear to grip my heart. I run to Jesus. As the pin pricks commit their assault over my entire body, I am reminded by the verse in James 1:2-4; you know, the “consider it joy” verse. Therefore, as the battle for my body rises and swells, I thank God for this pain; what it’s proving in my life, how it is fashioning steadfastness within me. Then, I ask for victory over the pain at that moment and the strength from the Father to endure what He needs me to.
Since I have let go of that worry, I have experienced such joy, peace, and a mission from God(pun intended. lol). When I made the decision to not let the management of pain dictate the direction of my life, the joy came flooding in; every crack and space of my heart.
The next time the invisible cactus tries to give me a hug, I will calmly fix my gaze upon Jesus and receive the strength and peace that He has for us all!
If you are struggling with chronic pain, please let me know so I can pray for you. You are not alone and God sees your tears and pain. I hope this post tugged at your heart to hold on a little while longer and encourages you to be more than a manager of pain.
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The Great Plains Poet
Please enjoy the poem below
A Hug From An Invisible Cactus
by Chris T.
No rest tonight,
For fear tries to take hold,
Attempting to send my spirit into fright,
And the prick of the needle feels quite cold.
Worry could cascade over top,
And wash me out to sea,
If I listen to the crash of waves that chop,
As a riptide of pain carries away the thoughts of me.
And as the assault will continue to rise,
I will shake off its sting,
Of jabs, pokes and tries,
Turning to the Savior of which I cling.
Throughout the years, as they pass by,
Each might bring turmoil, some might bring lies,
I’ll be engrossed in thoughts of joy sublime,
Making it worth all the shouts, tears and cries.
So when the invisible cactus attempts to give me a hug,
With all of its pin pricks, stabs of pain,
I’ll shake off the effects with a shrug,
Looking to a Savior who will always reign.