night light

July 21, 2013

Friday night, we were sprawled out over couches, watching old episodes of 24 (the third season, the first with Chloe), lemonade spread across the room, laughter spilled out – and it felt normal.

It was normal until the shocks started. When the first one came, I doubled over in the kitchen and held onto the counter and gripped it until it stopped. My eyes blurred, and I stood back up, not expecting the same pain to seize again, contractions on the left side of my head that continued to pulse off and on in clusters the rest of the evening.

When I went upstairs, my brother rubbed his thumb at the base of my neck and pushed hard, and I thought that if we continued to press into the pain, it would go away. I climbed into bed and shoved my head hard under the pillow, and when I woke up and felt nothing, I thought we had won.

The episodes returned Saturday morning and took the energy out of me, and as they moved closer and closer together, I called my mom and called the doctor. I dialed his office and held my breath as the automated service asked if I needed a prescription refill, an appointment scheduled, a consultation, until one option remained: press two if you have an emergency.

I set down the phone and watched it until it rang.

The caller ID was slow to process the number, and I waited until the third ring to decide if I really wanted to know what was wrong. The doctor recognized my voice and didn’t wait more than a minute before he told me to grab oxygen, call him Monday, leave an update with the nurse.

Oxygen? I was surprised, and I told him so.

He reminded me oxygen only works on cluster headaches. I knew that. That was my point.

He hung up, and I grabbed my tank and dragged it across the tile in our living room, and it was heavier than I remembered. The clanking became so overwhelmingly loud that I picked it up and carried it to the stairs and strapped on the mask and sat on a step. As the air brought the bolts behind my left eye to a complete stop, I started to sob.

The sheer realization of what was happening became a weight so heavy I couldn’t breathe, a burden too heavy to withstand. I went back to my room and turned off the lights. The disappointment was so deep, the darkness so thick, that glass-half-full didn’t seem like it would ever be an option again. Hope turned to heartache after 7 months without episodes, and I was discouraged and drained. Empty.

The words hurt to pray, I can’t do this anymore.

Three o’clock this morning, pain pierced the darkness and stole sleep as hour after hour sneaked past. I sat on my bedroom floor and looked at the pile of homework, stressed at the thought of finishing the summer semester bleary-eyed and nocturnal. 

A notification from Twitter lit up my phone; someone had retweeted a post from May, “God DOES give us more than we can handle,” accompanied by fragments of the verse,

And there, in the quiet dark, my need for Jesus was illuminated. The shadows have returned, but they've come with the reminder: no disappointment is too deep for Christ; His grace is deeper still. The pitfalls, this persistent pain - they are no match for the comfort of my Savior and the strength He delivers in love. 

I dread the suffering that will probably wake me up tonight, 
but I am so grateful that in the stillness, mercy speaks.

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