I met Angie Dee several years ago. We communicated via email in regards to an article I wrote about Audience of One Productions for a local magazine. Angie serves as the director of the local theatre company. In April of this year, I met her in person at callback auditions for AOO’s production of “Grease”. I had a callback for Sandy, the lead, three months postpartum. It was clear upon arriving at auditions that I simply did not have the stamina to keep up with the high school and college aged kids in the room, especially after having a baby and major abdominal surgery. However, Angie still gave me an opportunity to try. Though I didn’t make the show, my encounter with her was just beginning.
Angie mentioned at auditions that she was a neuromuscular therapist and that I should come see her sometime. She knew the recent trauma my body had experienced and offered to see me, though her schedule was quite full. The thought kind of terrified me to be honest. I knew it would likely help my incision..Dr. Nick had even mentioned the importance of breaking up the scar tissue…but I really didn’t like the idea of anyone touching my scar. It was very tight, very sensitive, and often burned in ways that nerve pain usually does. My instinct was to protect it, so that the pain, when triggered, was minimal. That meant recoiling from anything that might cause that familiar pain to flare up..especially the touch of someone else.
Several weeks after auditions the nerve pain in my abdomen started to get pretty bad. I woke up in the night several times hurting and burning with little to no relief. I decided, after not sleeping for several nights, to reach out to Angie and make an appointment. She wasn’t and isn’t seeing new patients….but she worked me in. I didn’t have a babysitter so I took Banks with me. I was intimidated, nervous, and dreading the whole thing. I didn’t want Banks to cry the whole time, I didn’t want to look weak and incapable in front of a director I really respected, and I didn’t want to be in pain. But I was desperate for some relief. So I packed the diaper bag, and drove to meet her.
Angie greeted me warmly and helped to settle Banks. She was kind and gentle and helped me prepare for my session. I laid on the table, not really knowing what to expect. She came into the room, and began to work, pressing and pulling on my incision. As she worked, we talked. We shared our stories. We shared our mutual love of Jesus. And we both shared a bond I can’t quite describe. Maybe it was our mutual interests. Or maybe it was the fact we both had experiences where we saw the love of Jesus in real time. As we talked, it felt like we both knew a secret about Jesus that nobody else in the world knew, and I knew, she too, had been to that secret place with Him and longed to stay there just like I do.
As we talked, Angie worked. There were moments during our conversation where the pain was intense enough it made me pause and take a deep breath. But for the most part, though SUPER uncomfortable at times, the pain was tolerable. And the conversation was distracting. When she finished, and left the room, I sat up in the bed and looked at my stomach. It not only felt better than it ever had, it looked SO much better. Angie explained how the scar would heal even more over time-hopefully one day, appearing to be nothing more than a scratch.
As I stared at myself in the mirror, I began to cry. Angie walked back into the room and I hugged her tightly and cried. Who would have thought that healing would come simply by pressing into such a sensitive place?
Angie explained that the scar tissue resembled a chain link fence and in my case, had become wrinkled up because my body naturally overcompensated to protect it. By pressing and pulling the scar tissue, it stretched back out flat and released, causing a dramatic decrease in pain and tightness. It also REALLY helped the look of the whole thing. Angie knowingly smiled and told me I was ready for the healing to start and that my body was very receptive to all of the work it needed to do.
I got in my car and left, never, ever to be the same.
Ms. Peggy, my counselor, has mentioned more than once that now that I have gone through what I have, I can never go back. And she’s right. It’s both a precious and terrifying thought. Recently, several really cool opportunities have arose in response to simply being willing to share what God has done for me. I didn’t ask for them, but they kind of fell in my lap. And yet, I’ve felt guilty about pursuing them…or taking initiative with my blog…or being ambitious. Moreso even than guilt, I have felt confusion, not knowing how to take all of the attention after being so vulnerable, and not knowing what to do with it next.
Throughout the course of our conversation, as we were trying to get to the root of why I felt all of this guilt and confusion, a pain point from my past arose. I blurted out a piece of it haphazardly in front of Ms. Peggy who I hoped wouldn’t pick up on it. She did. And she leaned into it. I recoiled assuring her that we didn’t need to-and I didn’t want to-open up that Pandora’s Box of shame. So instead of prying, she asked if I would keep it to myself, close my eyes, and invite Jesus in instead.
I did as she instructed. A knot formed in my throat. My heart started to beat really fast and I was overcome with shame and regret at a piece of my past that I so desperately wanted to change. This was something I have prayed over for TEN YEARS to forget or move past or justify or change and none of those things ever happened. Every time I go back there, I get stuck. I get nauseous. And I become paranoid that even though I’m not the same person I was then, if people knew all of the mistakes I had made, they would think I was one big fraud. A mediocre Christian at BEST but one who wasn’t worth trusting. And “good riddance” to all that had happened to me. If I recounted the events to you that made me feel this way, you probably would giggle. Looking back, I know that what I felt so much shame over wasn’t as bad as I made it out to be in my head. But in the dark, as I ashamedly kept it just to myself, it grew. And it was eating me alive, year after year.
Regardless, the acts in and of themselves were wrong. What I knowingly did was straight up sin. And I was the participant. The guilty. And the very, very ashamed.
Ms. Peggy began to pray for me in that place. I saw my 17 year old self. And I leaned into her. I talked out loud, eyes still closed, about really hard days and really big feelings and really hurtful things that others had said to me, and that I had said about myself. I realized that I had been carrying those things around with me in every single aspect of my life for the past ten years. And they were at the point now that they were weighing me down. The scar tissue from really bad days had grown wrinkled and stiff. I simply couldn’t move forward into the opportunities ahead, until I allowed Jesus to press into the scars of my really messy past.
Much like my session with Angie, it hurt. It wasn’t comfortable facing those memories. It wasn’t fun walking the halls again following words that stung and threats that stuck. Who knew a 17 year old could pack so many heavy things to carry with her through life? I grieved the decisions I made and the opportunities I turned down because of the shame I felt from those decisions.
Then my mind shifted. I thought of my surgery. And my doctors. And my anesthesia team. And all of the people that prayed for me and thought my life not only worth saving, but worth celebrating. I thought of how a good portion of everyone at St. Thomas Mid-Town Hospital has seen me totally naked and vulnerable-inside and out-at this point, and yet they still celebrated the fact I am here for another day. They all but sing over me when they see me. And they took no inventory of my past behavior before they decided I was worth it.
Jesus didn’t take inventory before he decided to die for me either. He also never took inventory of my “faith” vs “fail” scale before showing up in the OR. If he had, I guarantee you I would’ve never scored high enough to be here typing this right now. And y’all, me living is not the miracle. Me choosing to LIVE is the miracle. My scar healing over time isn’t the miracle; choosing to love my really beat up but totally capable body is the miracle. Getting a callback for Sandy isn’t the miracle; me choosing to SING 3 months after being intubated-is the miracle. Me choosing to go and get that 17 year old girl, and choosing again and again to FORGIVE her, is the miracle. Me choosing to allow healing to press into the most painful areas of my life….that’s the biggest miracle of all.