Tuesday, May 5, 2009

A Do-er Who Lost Her Sense of Self Worth and Then Found It Again

I am a "do-er". Any "do-er"s in the house? I feel a great sense of accomplishment and satisfaction when I have done something, whether it be doing the laundry, emptying the dishwasher, cooking a meal, grocery shopping, etc. I am one of those odd people who actually like to clean. And when I worked, I simply loved doing my job. (Perhaps I'm forgetting the stressful parts.)

And if I happen to do any of those things well? Well, then, I am even more satisfied. Old habits die hard and the perfectionist in me still creeps up now and again.

Migraine disease and New Daily Persistent Headache came into the picture, my life was happily progressing: Do. Do. Do. Do. Do. My beloved checklists were fulfilled. Check. Check. Check. Check. Check.

Enter stage right Migraines and New Daily Persistent Headache.

Silence. No more doing. Just being.

Okay, well let me clarify, a silence of doing entered my life, but I was not silent. I was very vocal about what I thought of this new life of quiet and I was not happy about it. My job was silenced; my volunteer opportunities were silenced; many friendships were silenced (or turned down to just above a mute).

When one of my Migraines are in progress,
I cannot tolerate light or sound or smell or movement or touch. Therefore, with my "black out" curtains drawn and people banished from my presence, I find myself curled in a ball in my cave alone. Migraine pins me to my bed with fatigue and dizziness. My thought processes are often disrupted. Finding the words I want to say can be very difficult. Nausea keeps the constant feeling of vomiting close at hand. And if my Migraine is accompanied by a headache...the pain is blinding.

No light. No noise. No people. No ability to do.

However, my thoughts were certainly working overtime. In the time between the shows I watched on television for distraction, I weaved a dangerous web in my mind. Because I was not able to do, even the simplest of things, I felt I had no worth. I felt like a burden to my husband. He was not only working at his job and doing all of the household tasks that I could not do, but he was also taking care of me, comforting me, and spending hard earned cash on me. My thoughts spiraled in a devastating direction. I felt worthless. And no convincing from my husband or anyone else could change how I felt. I felt, in the depths of my heart, I was worth more dead than alive.

That is until my counselor came for a home-visit. "You are Loved," she said. "You are loved just as you are...not doing stuff, not taking care of household chores, not volunteering, not working. You, very simply, are Loved."

Hmm. She did not try to convince me of anything. She just told me what she believed. But, I was not sure how being "Loved" meant that I was any less of a burden or had any more worth. I wanted to do some of my own investigation. So, I picked up a book with "loved" in the title: Life of the Beloved by Henri Nouwen. It is a book he wrote to a non-Christian friend about spiritual living. His words were like a balm for my soul. I drank in every word. It is a short book, about 150 pages. But, there is so much information jam packed into it, it took me a while to navigate through.
It was as if I kept refusing to hear the voice that speaks from the very depth of my being and says: "You are my Beloved, on you my favor rests." That voice has always been there, but it seems that I was much more eager to listen to the other, louder voices saying: "Prove that you are worth something; do something relevant, spectacular, or powerful and then you will earn the love you so desire." pg 34
I grew up in a household where my parents, lovingly, praised my actions. And I connected the two in my mind: doing stuff well = love. But, I couldn't do stuff well in the midst of my illness. As I mentioned before, there have been times where I plain could not do anything, much less do it well!

"Failure! Failure! Failure!" My insides scream. "Worthless failure!"

Through reading Henri Nouwen's book, God brought me back to seeing the truth about myself and the truth about how He sees me. He sees me with Love. That is the part and the whole. Everything.
We are the Beloved. We are intimately loved long before our parents, teachers, spouses, children and friends loved or wounded us. That's the truth of our lives. That's the truth I want you to claim for yourself. That's the truth spoken by the voice that says, "You are the Beloved." pg 36
Knowing that God loves me just how I am is infinitely comforting. Knowing that who I am is enough. I don't have to do anything. He loves me for me. And with my abilities and my inabilities, God is present and sees me as valuable and worthy and beautiful.

Pre-Migraine disease and NDPH, I worked as a speech language pathologist with children with disabilities, sometimes severe/profound. I cherished my time with them. Some of the could not speak, could not walk, could not eat without assistance, could not dress themselves. But
, I never questioned their worth. In fact, I thought they were worth devoting my life's work to. The author of Life of the Beloved, Henri Nouwen, lived in a community for those with special needs and he brought this to my attention when speaking of a member of his community that was totally dependent on others to take care of him. Sometimes, I am as dependent as children who I loved to work with. And I am just as Loved. I am just as worthy.

Seeing myself through God's eyes has been a gift. Although I still struggle with the days where all I can do is lay in my cave. I have desires to go and to do and to be. But, I can rest in knowing no matter what, I am Loved. And, need I say, so are you.


  1. Beautiful post. Thank you so much for sharing. From one previous doer and know one who has found my self worth in Christ. God bless you.

  2. Kelly I can identify with you so much. I am a do-er too! What you shared about being and loving is priceless. Remember also that you have a very important job to "do" every day which is to heal yourself so that all the people who love you can have you in their lives! And so you can share and contribute to others just like this.

  3. I love the idea of my identity being "the Beloved of God." And this is just beautiful; you wrote: "a silence of doing." That is such a poetical description of what the chronically ill live with. Thank you for writing this!
    God Nuggets Blog

  4. Michele, Megan and Cyndi,

    Thank you so much for your comments! It means so much to hear your input.