Darci’s written story is below:
When my daughters were born in 1995 and 1998, I was so excited to have kids my heart would not stop racing. My doctor diagnosed me with “post-partum elation.” Every day was an adventure going to the zoo, library, park, aquarium, and sports camps. The girls and I loved to cuddle, make forts, and eat hot dogs in igloos we created in the Colorado snow. My most cherished desire in life with my husband Mark was children. Our dreams had come true.
THE YEAR 2000
“Mommy, are you okay?” five-year-old Jenny asked sweetly, standing above me while I lay stunned on the floor. Two-and-a-half-year-old Nicole came and plopped down beside me. My fall happened so fast. I ran up the stairs to get a CD, but as I turned to run back down, I slipped on a piece of paper, began tumbling, and couldn’t regain my footing. By the time I reached the lower steps, I was upright again, so I hurdled (and almost hurled) over the baby gate set up across the bottom step. I slammed into the wall, which tossed and twisted me in the opposite direction where I face-planted onto the floor. The baby-gate remained fully intact. However, my body did not.
I didn’t know it then, but my back injury from the fall would land me a two-year, full-time job in bed. While confined to bed, I developed a nerve pain disorder called Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, or CRPS. Most people who develop CRPS never heal from it—it is complex and excruciatingly painful. The syndrome is uncommon and usually initiated by an injury. The pain from CRPS is out of proportion to the injury. In other words, my injured nerves sent signals to my brain that made me extremely sensitive to pain, unlike what a person without the syndrome would feel. My pain spiraled out of control, rendering me unable to function normally. Depression was my next malady.
THE YEAR 2002
As I lay on my side in bed, I listen to my sweet family eat dinner downstairs. I hear the gentle clanking of forks against porcelain plates while Mark and the girls enjoy a meal together. I gently pull my knees to my chest and lay in the fetal position. Tears flow onto my pillow, dampening the left side of my face. “Where are you, God? I don’t feel you. Do you see me? How did my life get to this place?”
My pain is unbearable even on OxyContin and a myriad of other medications. As I lay there, I stare at the array of orange medicine bottles on the nightstand. I want to die as much as I want to live. I have always been intensely in love with my husband and little girls; I love our life, but I don’t know how to keep enduring this agony day after day, year after year. “If you can do anything, God, why won’t you heal me?” It’s not just the physical torment I feel, but the gut-wrenching heartache. I yearn to hold the girls tight, go to their soccer games, and push them on swings at the park.
I weigh a hundred pounds. Muscles throughout my body are atrophied, including my cheeks and I cannot even smile. However, I can wrap my middle finger and thumb around my lower leg and upper arms. My bone mass is minimal—I have osteopenia. Pain depletes hunger and the thought of food makes me sick, sick, sick.
Mark comes up the stairs to run the bathwater, and the girls hop in the tub with their little plastic sea creatures. Their laughter lightens my spirit, but the burden of not being with them drowns out the positivity. There is nothing I want more than to participate in life with my family.
As the water drains from the tub, my little girls, wrapped in their purple dinosaur towels, run to the side of the bed to kiss me goodnight. Not one kiss is taken for granted. Oh, how I miss holding and embracing them. The girls race back downstairs to watch The Lion King while their daddy carefully combs their long blonde hair. I always wanted little girls so I could comb, braid, and do umpteen things with their hair.
The circle of dampness grows larger and deeper into my pillow. I’m cold, but blankets hurt me. I can’t bear the weight of a sheet, typical for CRPS patients. The sun has set, and the only light in the bedroom reflects in from the hallway. I can’t raise myself to reach for the lamp, so I lay in the darkness until Mark comes to help me after he tucks the girls into bed.
Little feet pitter-patter back up the stairs. They run into their bedroom, and I hear Jenny climb the ladder to the bed’s top bunk and picture Nicole climbing in under her purple Barney comforter on the lower bunk. The bedtime routine of songs begins, and I weep quietly so they don’t hear me. “I love you, you love me, we’re best friends like friends should be, with a great big HUG and a kiss from me to you, won’t you say you love me too.”1 I covet to also give the Barney song hugs and kisses that make them giggle.
“Why am I still here, God? What’s the point? I don’t get to be the wife or mom I want to be or that Mark and the kids need me to be. Why don’t you take me? Please take me, God. I will not take my life, but I’m asking you to. Please take me. I can’t bear this pain another moment.”
But I have dichotomous feelings and also pray, “Don’t let me die, God. Please, please spare me so I can be with Mark and watch our kids grow. Somehow, please heal me. I want to have what we had before.”
My eyes swell from the crying. I squint at my medicine bottles again. I am too in love with my family to give up. I will wake tomorrow morning and endure this nightmare all over again until either God takes me or gives me a miracle.
Mark comes in to check on me and sees my tears. He kneels on the floor beside me and strokes my hair. Looking into my eyes, he says, “I know this is hard, but we will get through this together. God will help us.” We pray again for trust and healing. We have not lost hope.
The next day our neighbor came over to help carry me down the stairs so Mark could take me to a warm water therapy pool. We went week after week, and one day, I put one foot in front of the other. My first step in two years! It felt amazing, but I could only do one. My brain had to be retrained how to walk. As I spent time in the water, I became stronger, and endorphins began firing to my brain.
I gained enough strength to sit up for five minutes, then ten, then twenty. As I sat, I read about nutrition to try to heal myself. I had enrolled in a program a few years prior and begun reading for my first class. Now I was motivated to learn nutritional remedies that could help me get better. Mark bought ingredients for a protein shake, which he began making daily for me. The amino acids were good for my brain and muscles, and I wasn’t turning away these shakes like other foods. Drinking calories was easier than eating them. I managed to gain a couple of pounds—and some hope.
A FEW MONTHS LATER
While little four-year-old Nicole and I sat at the kitchen table playing with her barn animals, she said, “Mommy, you’re getting better! Look!” She pointed to the muscle between my thumb and forefinger. Before it was sunken; now there was somewhat of a bulge. How on earth did she notice that little muscle? But she was right, my muscles were growing! At first, my smile was quivery, but after practice, my cheek muscles returned. I smiled back at my little girl as she smiled at me.
My favorite nutrition subject became amino acids because it was the protein I noticed making the most significant difference in my healing. I submitted my first test for my master’s program. I was three years behind in a four-year curriculum, but my program was already making a difference in my health. Thanks to pool therapy and healthy foods, I was able to take a few steps on land now.
One morning, I hobbled from the car, over the grass, and to the side of a soccer field. I was finally able to attend a game. The parents cheered for me as if I had scored a hat trick! That night, after the kids’ bath time, I hobbled again from my bed to tuck the girls into theirs. We sang the Barney song, and this time the kids cried. We gave each other “… a great big HUG and a kiss from me to you.” It did matter I was still here. God was graciously giving me back what he had given me before.
THE YEAR 2004
I got into the car, the driver’s seat this time, and drove the girls to soccer practice. It was my first drive in four years. I was doing mom stuff again. Studying in the van while the kids were at soccer practice worked perfectly because it didn’t take time away from “us.”
When we got home, Mark and I walked holding hands down the sidewalk to the end of the block. Eventually, we made love again. It had been years. I held the girls close and cuddled with them in the recliner. My nerve pain was miraculously dissipating. I wrote papers for school about my physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual improvements. Implementing nutritional remedies and pool therapy was healing my body, mood, and spirit. Given the circumstances, my college granted an extension for my program. It took six years, but in 2007, I finally received my Master of Science degree in Holistic Nutrition.
THE YEAR 2005
My family and I moved into a house with a main-floor master bedroom for wheelchair access. I liked that our new neighbors and the parents of our kids’ new friends didn’t know everything about my disabled life. It was a welcomed fresh start. I began running errands, attending school functions, and going on dates with my hubby. Oh yeah, and I opened my nutrition counseling practice in 2008. I guess you could say I was my first client. And you know what? After a couple more years, I had no pain and the CRPS completely disappeared. This is almost unheard of! With my counselor’s help, over time, I also weaned off my medications, including the hazardous opioid OxyContin my body and brain had become addicted to.
THE YEAR 2010
I practiced sports nutrition with my teen and tween daughters, and the area high school hired me to teach sports nutrition to their athletes. My nutritional opus was an all-day event walking in heels again—demonstrating how eating healthy foods can heal the body. I taught the teen athletes how to eat to gain a competitive edge in their sport.
God gave me my miracle. Not only did he physically heal me, but he gave me back the ability to care for my family, as well as an unexpected, exciting new career.
Those years of painful torment I endured were some of the best years of my life. Yes, best. Not at the time, but after the sculpting. Best because without sculpting, I wouldn’t value my current life the way I do. God’s molding of me helped me understand hope comes from his goodness. If we trust in God’s goodness, we can hope for good things during suffering, especially the gift of knowing him in deeper ways. He always gives us reasons to hope because he wants what is best for us. I don’t know what my current life would be like had I not gone through that horrific tragedy, but I don’t believe it would be as enriched. Everything is more exciting, colorful, exhilarating, precious, sensory, and alive.
However, just because we go through tragedy once, doesn’t mean we are exempt from experiencing tragedy again. I am learning I can survive my worst fears. Even twice. I have been unable to walk again for three years and counting.
I have not given up hope. I remember being grateful, in hindsight, for the ways God revealed his goodness to me during my first disability. I am learning to sit in fear and not be afraid because I know God’s plans for me are always good. He showed me that before. I believe gifts in suffering are most often given in hindsight so we can grow in trust during its ravages. When I suffer, I am called to a place of discomfort, a place I do not want to be, but a place where God chooses to grow me. It’s a place where I must turn around to face him so he can lead in the direction of his choosing. I am not in control. But that’s a good thing!
I don’t believe we can understand hope without suffering, and that’s why he allows it. “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Heb. 11:1). We can be certain of God working on our behalf because he is good. We can’t see how, because he works in ways we don’t understand, but he meets us in our suffering, so we don’t have to fear. “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isa. 41:10).
God is here with me. Not in my imagination, but in presence. He and I are together as I struggle to understand why he would heal me, then allow me to be disabled again. I do not know whether I will ever walk more than a few steps again. Suffering in our lives often doesn’t make sense, but God always has a purpose for it, always for our benefit. Jesus dying on the cross didn’t make sense, but God had an immense purpose for it—the salvation of our souls. He is our ultimate hope. His plans are better than ours, so we have reason to hope even though we don’t understand his allowance of our troubles. Faith is being sure of what we hope for.
The cross I am carrying, and thorns I bear, are paving the way toward receiving a heavenly crown. “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12).
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Darci has Nominated (N) or Introduced (I) and if they Shared (S) their story:
God uses pain to change us. When you are suffering, remember, in hindsight you will see more clearly how God was forming you to become more like him. Pain and suffering contain gifts if we keep holding on to God, letting him guide the way. He knows where he's taking us. He sees the whole picture, we see only a small puzzle piece—our own.
My business card
Darci J. Steiner, Author
I focus on the gifts God gives us while we are suffering, and in hindsight. As a disabled writer, I am still in
the fire, and yet I feel hope, joy, love and other paradoxical gifts in suffering.
I am also currently still meeting with nutrition clients part time while transitioning into full-time writing.
My typical customer
Because none of us is exempt from suffering, my upcoming book, Beauty Beyond the Thorns: Discovering Gifts in Suffering, can help anyone find hope, joy, peace, and other beautiful gifts beyond the thorns of life. The book is expected to be released at the end of August or beginning of September.
Visit my website: https://www.darcijsteiner.com/