I don’t know why, I wish I did. But for some reason for the whole month of March, my body didn’t want to give me a break.
Some family and friends could hear it in my voice or read it on my face: I was in a full out boxing match with Cerebral Palsy for an entire month, and it was trying to take me out.
This has always been my life. Some weeks are better than others with my pain. Sometimes, those few hard, painful weeks quickly turn into a full month. Sometimes there’s a concrete cause for why my pain dial has suddenly cranked up that I can change or fix, sometimes there’s not.
March was a double whammy. It was a few random painful weeks that turned into a full month of pain that had no concrete cause that I could think of.
I remember realizing probably the second Sunday that I was in for it.
Tears burned as I was just trying to load my clothes into the washer. I remember limping back to my room, hopping on my bed and for the 30 minutes my stuff was in the washer, just lying there, not moving and doing my best not to cry too much.
I called my dad and told him that this was one of the worse spells of pain I could ever remember and that it felt debilitating.
He knows my pain tolerance is very high, so the fact I described it as “debilitating,” I knew would worry him. But the tone in his “I’m sorry Scooter,” told me that he knew I was crying even though I was trying to hide that fact.
I knew to some extent that this was just a side effect of being a CP kid and living completely on my own in college. And as I’ve discovered, college pace is fast and full, and CP and I don’t always keep up with it that well.
But what frustrated me was that while it was a busy week, it really wasn’t much different than previous weeks. What frustrated me was that I knew that it wasn’t anything that I did or was specifically doing that caused the pain. It was simply just my handicap body saying: “Jordan, I’m done.”
So, there was nothing I could do to help the pain stop. All I could do was lay on my bed. Fighting it mentally.
I’ve always said that as a physically disabled kid, the mental fight is actually harder than anything I face physically. Anger is easy to turn to, the “why” questions like to hide around almost every corner.
I knew that I couldn’t do that this time. And frankly, I was way too tired to be mad and scream at God.
Sitting in the middle of March, something in me told me this wasn’t going to let up, so I needed to buckle up.
I knew I was I going deep into a CP-pain-driven-valley. But on that Sunday, I made the choice not to be mad this time.
My prayer was simply for God to meet me there. To me meet me there and help me keep pushing. To help me keep smiling a smile that wasn’t through gritted teeth, trying to not let anyone know that my insides were screaming. A smile that was genuine. A smile that was strong, channeling the Jordan who somehow walked on a broken femur this summer, a day after surgery.
I prayed for that Jordan to show up and for the crying Jordan to leave.
And y’all, the main point to this post is this: when you ask him to, like really actually ask him to, God shows up.
Through my tears, I was begging him to. And boy, did he.
The back half of March was just as painful. I woke up every morning, and my shoulders screamed, my back cracked, and it felt like my legs said: “Sorry J, not doing today,” everyday.
But here’s the catch: I was happy because I was dependent on God. I was tired, but okay.
God placed thing after thing and friend after friend in my life to distract me from the fact that it felt like my body was shutting down. The happiness due to dependency showed up in my social life and school.
I hung out with more people than I probably ever have because I learned that it’s sometimes better to fight the pain off in the moment and just cry about it later instead of skipping things, just so I could be alone.
The week of a Macro exam would’ve had the old me spiraling out of control and stressing. Because I suck at Macro, and heightened pain only makes studying harder.
But I just buckled up. I put in my best. Early mornings with lots of coffee, and late nights sometimes with ice packs on everything that hurt.
And God met me there. Coffee, ice packs and all. I did better on that Macro exam than I initially thought I did. And I fully believe it’s because I decided not to stress, because I knew that if I gave my best, God would meet me there.
My point is not that you can now be aware of my chronic pain. Because the name “chronic pain” tells you all you need to know.
My point is not to show you that CP kids have a high pain tolerance. Because that’s not always true.
My point is that God is bigger than my pain and my pain tolerance.
And that he can use that to teach me things.
He can use the pain to make me stronger. Physically and spiritually.
My point is that even in your lowest of lows, God can meet you there and he will meet you there, in the smack dab middle of your deepest valley.
And that’s something to celebrate.
I’ll close with one of my signature lines that will hopefully put a smile on your face: the small able-bodied Jordan inside me is doing kart wheels right now she’s so happy.
Fighting pain with a smile, and a Jesus dependency.
This post is the second in my blog series, Truthful Identity. If you want to check out the first one, click here.
Ask anyone in my family. Actually, just ask anyone who remotely knows me well. They’ll probably tell you the same thing.
I stress easy.
I overthink everything.
I can spin something that is a really great thing into a really bad thing. Just because it stresses me out.
I build stories in my head about things that haven’t even happened yet.
At certain points in my life, my anxiety has controlled my actions and decisions.
Anxiety can and has controlled my life. And it stems from one thing: I hate the unknown, and I want control.
But as I’ve gone through this journey of facing the lies I believe about myself, I’ve come to the root of the things that stress me out to figure out what they are, and why I let them do what they do to me.
As I dug deep and compared different situations in my life, I came to a really strange realization about the things that I let stress me out.
I took two consistent scenarios in my life and put them side by side. I took all the times I’ve laid on an O.R. table and my school career and looked at them both.
And I can honestly say that I can pinpoint certain times when the stress of school took me to my absolute lowest point, causing freak outs and anxiety galore.
But I couldn’t pinpoint a surgery that ever made me breakdown like my school career has even though I was staring the biggest unknown in its face.
I, for some reason, remember more about my surgeries than I probably should. I remember up to the point when I fall asleep vividly for most of my more recent surgeries. My Grandma, who’s a nurse, says everyone’s different but it could be because of the fact that I’ve gone through so many.
I can remember each of those moments. I remember laying on a table, staring at that big light before they put me asleep. However, I never remembered feeling anxious. I remember feeling sadness and fear as tears leaked down my cheeks but never anxious like I have over schoolwork.
In fact, I remember one time telling some doctors as they walked me through how they were putting me asleep, “This ain’t my first rodeo,” they laughed, and put me asleep.
Last time, I vividly remember crying as I answered the anesthesiologist questions about UF that were an attempt to distract me. But once I was in there and saw Dr. Miller and returned his thumbs up, I was okay.
But why is that? Why is it that I sometimes let something as simple as homework take me to a breaking point, but if you throw me on an O.R. table after a few deep breaths and maybe a thumbs up, I’m okay?
As I thought about it, it baffled me. Surgery is far more significant than an exam or homework assignment. Yet, schoolwork has taken me down more times than a medical challenge.
But as I thought about it more, I figured it out.
On an O.R. table, I’m completely vulnerable. At that point, there is nothing I can do about the situation and I know that. It’s completely in God’s hand; no matter how hard I yank his arm, he can’t and won’t give the situation to me. I also usually have pretty significant prayer support around that moment.
I feel small on an O.R. table, and my only choice is to surrender.
But in school, I feel big. I feel like I can control it. If I spend one more hour studying or one more day looking over this assignment, I can make it better. I don’t need God in my small homework assignment, I’ve got it.
But before I know it, I have raised an exam above everything else in my life, including God. I take school, and map out my own plan and look at my plan like I’ve got it all by myself. And that’s where I lose it.
On an O.R. table, I realize a reality I should realize every day of my life: I am small and I need God. And that’s why I think an O.R. table is a place where I’ve found the most peace in my life.
Because I learned how to surrender there.
But in my everyday life, I’m too worried about my grades, what people will think of me and making sure things going according to my plan.
I put my value in my grades, so I don’t want to give them up to God.
I worry about what people think, so I don’t want God to have control. I want control.
I let myself feel bigger than I am, and my human nature doesn’t feel the need to and frankly, doesn’t want to surrender.
In The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness Tim Keller writes: “But Paul is saying that in Christianity, the verdict leads to performance. It is not the performance that leads to the verdict…In Christianity, the moment we believe, God imputes Christ’s perfect performance to us as if it were our own, and adopts us into his family.”
I think in my daily life I do two things:
I believe that my performance leads to my verdict. Because I define my “verdict” as what others think of me. The reality check here is: only God’s opinion matters, and my verdict was determined the day he hung from that cross.
And I give myself too much credit. I think I can control things that I can’t, just because their “smaller” than a surgery. Sure, I can try my best at an exam or an assignment. But when I turn it in, it’s out of my hands. Ultimately, I can’t control it.
At the start of this semester, I told myself to live with more perspective and surrender. Perspective that I am a sinner and I am small. I can’t live up to my expectations or anyone else’s, so I need to live only for God’s opinion of me and God’s opinion is already formed.
Surrender in the fact that my plan is already mapped out for me.
But perspective in that surrendering doesn’t mean I don’t try.
This first week already, I have found so much freedom in just doing my best and not stressing, because I know God’s got the plan mapped out.
I heard it all the time. I don’t know if they meant for me to hear it, but I did.
I heard it in the hallways, and I felt their stares.
The first week of high school, barely anyone knew my name. But I quickly got a label.
“That kid in the walker.”
As I heard it over and over, felt more and more stares and answered the “what’s wrong with you?” question again and again, I began to believe that when people saw me, all they saw was my walker and later, my crutches.
I began to believe that Cerebral Palsy was all that other people saw, and then slowly without me really realizing, I began to only see that about myself.
My many scars looked larger in every mirror, my noisy feet were the loudest thing in any room, there was nothing I hated more than my crooked leg.
I saw me, and I saw CP.
My thoughts continued to silently morph. And it felt like all there was to me was my limp, noisy feet, cramping hands and scars.
When I met new people, most of the time my CP was the first thing I mentioned. Partly just to get it out of the way, partly because I assumed that’s all they were seeing.
I got to college and followed a similar pattern.
While I didn’t hear the whispers because college is a more accepting environment, I still had the idea in my head that when people saw me, they saw CP.
In college, this idea that all that there is to me is my CP became completely consuming because my future was racing towards me -- scenario after scenario, short-term and long-term, staring me in the face.
On a short-term basis, I run through a list of daily questions all day, every day: when I walk into this next class, will there be a seat I can get to easily? Will I spill my drink or food today when I try to carry my lunch in Reitz? Will I fall in class today? Will I be able to get this door open if the button doesn’t work? How many stares will I feel today? When I walk into this social situation, will I even be able to do the things everyone else is doing?
On a long-term basis, I wrestle with these things: will I get whatever job I end up really wanting after college, or will employers not be able to see past my crutches? What if I get my dream job and have to go on business trips, how will I get through an airport by myself? Will my pain get worse as I get older? What if I end up in a different state than my parents, who’s going to help me when I need it? Will I have to move to a new place all alone? Will I be alone in my life because no one else will be able to see past my crutches?
With this idea, that CP was all that I am, came lie after lie each day. I lived in this state of lies and flawed identity.
I tell myself almost every day that because of my CP, I am a burden to people.
I’ve told myself in social situations that because of my CP, I’m unlikeable and undeserving.
I tell myself that I have to hide it the best I can from everyone else so I don’t create any problems for them.
I silently but viciously learned how to tear myself apart.
I’ll spare you the details, but a few weeks ago I hit rock bottom. These thoughts consumed me and instead of going to Jacksonville with friends like I planned, I didn’t and let the lies not only win, but also take me to some of the darkest places I’ve ever been to.
I went home that weekend and fell into my parents for support and help. I processed a lot with my parents then came back to Gainesville silently hoping nobody would ask me why I didn’t go to Jax so I could hide from my issues a little longer.
But I am so thankful for the people at UF God has placed in my life because they don’t let me run from my problems.
That Monday night, I met with my Bible study. And with hesitation as they asked me questions, I opened up to them about what happened that weekend.
I didn’t spare them details and told them all I was struggling with. The lies I internally fight.
The girls in my Bible study have become some of the best friends I’ve ever had. I think that’s because of how honest my friendships are with each one of them.
Since that weekend, I’ve been walking through a book with my Bible study leader, that’s all about the Core Lies we believe about ourselves.
When she first came to me with this, I was terrified because I knew doing this meant brutal honesty and no hiding places. But I was excited because I knew I needed to do it.
As I’ve been going through this with her, it’s been one of the most convicting things I’ve ever gone through as I realized how flawed my view is of not only myself, but of God and other people.
This is where I realized how much I let CP define my life and myself.
I realized I was finding my identity in it. I blamed my problems on it when in fact, some of them are Jordan’s fault, not CP’s fault.
I realized that my view of God’s character was so flawed. I realized that my words and actions don’t always match up. I say I trust God but then I let my fear of my future consume me.
I realized I had a serious identity problem on my hands.
Writing is how I process the stuff in my life. This blog is full of a lot of processing and internal conversations I’ve had with myself.
As I put my story out there and hear from others, I realize that I’m not the only one that struggles with a lot of these things.
And I learned a long time ago that in order to faithfully follow God and share my faith, I have to share everything; not just the things I want people to see.
So, out of me processing through the lies I continually believe about myself and my conviction that my story on this blog can’t just be the good, happy stuff I want people to see, I’m kicking off this blog series.
Because I believe I’m not the only disabled kid out there that struggles with defining themselves by their disability.
Because I believe lies and identity are two things that are so easy for everyone to struggle with.
In this series of posts, I can’t promise you a set schedule (because #college and #finalsweek is approaching), but I can promise honesty. I can’t promise these will be easy to write (in fact I know they won’t be), but I can promise they’ll be purposeful in learning to define myself in Jesus and give Him all the credit.
I promise to believe the statement: I’ve done nothing, He’s done everything.
Surrendering is hard for me but writing is my greatest outlet.
Through writing, I hope to find surrender and to be fully used by the Lord.
The hard stuff is the good stuff, right?
Welcome to From 3West’s first blog series: Truthful Identity.
“For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin…”