When I got married, my head was full of dreams and wishes! I was blissfully in love and ready to take on the world with my husband. I was not naive in thinking life would never be hard— it knew it would be — but I felt we were strong enough to handle whatever came our way. I imagined us holding hands and pushing against a powerful storm together, but that soon changed. Very early on, I realized the trial was in me; I was the storm — I was the trial. As my storm enveloped me, I negatively influenced every moment and situation around me, at least that’s how it felt.
Weeks after we were married, I began to have some health challenges. I remember just feeling lightheaded all the time, and I started to pass out. It was sporadic at first, but then it started happening every day! The frequency kept me from recovering from one episode before another happened. I felt so tired, lethargic, and lightheaded that my brain felt like it couldn’t even think straight.
The situation quickly started to affect us. My husband was in the middle of an internship, and the best solution was for me to quit my job and sit in our apartment all day so he could focus on finishing. Every time I stood up, I was a liability — so there I sat.
Not Our Timetable
The days passed, weeks passed, and soon months passed, and I was still not getting better. We moved closer to friends and family, which helped a lot. We figured out how to manage our lives with this mystery health condition the best we could. When my husband had to go out of town for work — I needed a babysitter! (Well it was a family member staying at the house, but we both knew what they were there for). We developed a code where I would squeeze his leg if I felt the symptoms coming on—it was quicker than trying to explain.
But do you want to know the worst part? It’s how this trial affected us behind closed doors. People were kind and told us we were strong, but I don’t know if they knew how emotionally and physically drained we were. We shed more tears than anyone ever knew.
My symptoms would act up and affect everything, and Logan was left to fix it all. He was the caretaker, taking on a role neither of us ever imagined. He held my back as I crawled up the stairs in our townhome because I usually couldn’t go on my own. If it was a chore where I might need to exert energy or stand for an extended period, Logan was in charge. Things like grocery shopping, cooking, washing dishes were all more than I could manage. Somehow the life we both thought we would share was gone, and Logan got to carry it all.
For the first time in my life, my body began letting me down. I saw myself as “broken.” Watching what I was doing to my husband, and how my inability to function affected every situation left me feeling helpless. I just wanted to be “me” again. But I didn’t know if that girl was ever coming back.
For 22 months this continued, for 22 months we silently suffered, experiencing only what unanswered questions can bring. “Will this ever get better?” Will I ever stop passing out? Will I ever be able to walk instead of crawl up a flight of stairs? Will I ever feel like myself again? Will Logan be able to be just my husband instead of my caretaker? And lastly, will my body ever be strong enough to do what it used to do?
I had almost come to terms with the possibility of never having kids. Not because my body couldn’t make them, but because I couldn’t hold them. My reoccurring nightmare was being at the mailbox getting the mail, and dropping the baby because my arms didn’t have the strength to carry them. How could I bring a baby into this world if I knew I could hurt the one thing I’d love so much. I couldn’t do that to a precious baby.
Dreams slipped away it seemed. I wasn’t sure if I “should” have kids, and Logan wasn’t sure what he could do for work while supporting me and the demands my body was making. Without a diagnosis, we felt our hope for the future slowly slipping away.
Then as quickly as the darkness of the trial came, we felt the light shining in our faces. After seeing a cardiologist, neurologist, and an endocrinologist, we were finally accepted to be seen at the Mayo Clinic.
They did a week’s worth of testing before they finally diagnosed me with a medical condition called Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS). My blood vessels had been de-conditioned; they tended to get lazy and fail at doing what they are supposed to do. My recovery? I was told to work out every day for 45 minutes. I had to manually help remind my body how to pump blood correctly every day by working out.
When they told me this, I was so overwhelmed. Up to this point, I had been taking 26 pills a day. Everyone was trying to figure out what would work, which meant multiple drugs in high dosages. And I was so so weak!
The game plan was to work up to a 45-minute workout slowly. It was carefully mapped out. I was to push myself to work out harder, so I would get stronger. I still felt buried in a hole, but now I had a plan to climb out.
Learning I was Strong Enough
I remember the first work out they gave me: Drive to the gym, park in the parking lot, walk inside, touch the bike, walk outside, and drive home. Crazy right? But for me, it was a workout. And I was exhausted. After five days of doing this simple routine, it started feeling not so bad. Eventually, I worked up to sitting on the bike. Then for three days, I rode for three minutes, then at five days I rode five minutes, then ten. I could only do ten minutes for about a month, but I eventually was able to increase my time. Suddenly I was feeling better and working harder.
I became stronger! How strong? STRONG ENOUGH. Strong enough to have my daughter. Strong enough to hold her safe.
I don’t have all the answers, and sometimes, life is still hard living with this condition. But Heavenly Father reached out and touched this broken body of mine and helped make it better. Christ never left us but instead experienced it all with us! And we are better people because of this trial.
If I think about the attributes of Christ, one specifically comes to mind — “empathetic.” Christ KNOWS us because he KNOWS our joy and suffering. He truly knows every emotion we feel, and because of this, he knows how to succor us individually. He has been there; he has experienced it, he gets it!
I have often thought suffering is a part of life because it helps us to become like Christ.
Joy and Suffering
I think part of this life truly comes with a spectrum of joy and suffering, and it is God’s will for us to experience all of it. If we didn’t, how could we ever truly love our neighbor? How could we ever put ourselves in someone’s shoes sufficiently enough to be the Lord’s hands if we didn’t recognize pain in others because we have felt it ourselves?
Yes, suffering is the absolute worst. And I don’t think God condemns us to pain. I think he stays his hand just long enough to let us truly feel it, and the moment, the very moment we understand he is there to catch us.
Because of this trial, Logan and I understand the pain of waiting. We get the pain of not knowing. And we know what it’s like to feel overwhelmed and disappointed. We’ve also felt the peace from prayer, the goodness of God, and the enabling power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ that can always make you “strong enough.”
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2 thoughts on “How I Learned What “Strong Enough” Really Means”
Leah, you have always been the shining example of being positive, happy, cheerful and always with a big smile. I am amazed at the challenge you and Logan faced, and with the strength and determination you continued to show. Your faith and realization that Jesus Christ was walking this journey with you, and how you sought to learn from this experience is inspiring and incredible. Love to you and your family.
You have always been amazing, Leah. So glad we got to work together in the best work next to raising a family there is.