From brain surgery to a Home for the mentally ill? Huh!?? Are you sure God?
It is not what it sounds like, but kinda. In January of this year, I had brain surgery at Stanford University's Hospital in Palo, Alto California. Because COVID rates were still high in California, my husband was not allowed to go in with me, at all. He dropped me off on the 11th of January, and picked my up on the 12th. Yes, I had brain surgery an only stayed about 30 hours. I did exceptionally well and was safer under my husbands care, at our rental than in a hospital where COVID rates were on the incline again.
I don't remember much about the first month after surgery, except that my husband took excellent care of me and was constantly feeding me, washing my hair, helping me walk to and from the bathroom to the bedroom or living room. I remember thinking that I was so lucky, to have come out with out any serious side effects. Some people come out blind, double vision, deaf, constant ringing in the ears, partial paralyzation, bells palsy, etc etc....
What I was not prepared for was the post surgery intense emotional and intellectual swings. I started to experience severe anxiety, low tolerance for noises, foreboding sadness, fear that the surgery didn't work, an inability to concentrate which made me more fearful, that I would never have clarity of mind again. I also suffered from horrible dreams, night sweats, night terrors, seeing things in my room that weren't there, spontaneous leg and arm movements, and the sense that something was crawling in my head around my internal incision. I began to think very scary thoughts and I always wanted to be alone. I knew a lot of this was the attack of the enemy. I'm so grateful to have known this, otherwise it might have been unbearable.
The good news was for the most part I was BRAIN PAIN FREE. Which was AMAZING. What I wasn't expecting was the left leg atrophy and intense pain I experienced just walking up the stairs or to the mailbox.
So unsure of what to do, I applied the principles of faith. I battled through each and every situation as it came, confident that whatever the days ahead looked like, I wouldn't be alone and God would supply the grace I needed to endure and be victorious. I prayed a lot. I listened to sermons a lot, on low volume, worship songs too. I couldn't read much, as my eyes didn't focus for very long. I also started chiro-care to see if that would help with the leg, but we'd lost our health insurance so it was self pay and expensive!
I didn't go into detail with anyone on this because most people have the attention span of a gnat, LOL! Just kidding. I just didn't. I knew this was mostly between me and God. The few times I tried to speak about it, I just grew frustrated with the comments "Well the brain pain is gone right?" or "Praise God the brain pain is gone" How often do we ignore the right now sufferings of others, by pointing out what is right! You know the "it could be worse" comments? Gotta be careful there. Anyway, I did reach out to my support group. These are people who were or are afflicted with the same brain diseases and have also had the same surgery. While everyone is different post surgery, knowing they understood was so helpful, and removed some of the feelings of isolation.
Time flew by and it came time to return to work. It was the last thing I wanted or felt ready to do. But I did want some normalcy and believed it would help. I'd already weened off the high doses of anti-seizure, so I didn't have the medicine fog, like before. I was just in my house too long, only going out 4 times since January 11, 2021, was super unusual for me, the walls were closing in and the previous months in 2020 didn't help either.
But I was so weak, tiring easily, I never ventured far or for long.
After less than a month back on the job, I started experiencing moderate face (brain) pain again. There was A LOT of stress. My bosses encouraged mostly remote work and I was grateful to have the freedom. But, I began to sense a desire to leave that position, and it wasn't a reaction as much as a release from God. It wouldn't be long before that would come to pass.
So, to lay out the timing for you; I returned in mid February, (with a resignation letter prepared) and then left the job in March. I clearly was not ready to return and I did not have the energy for what needed to be done at work. It was anything but smooth sailing and I was already sea sick! LOL. I needed more time to heal. I wasn't going to muscle or even serve my way through this. I needed to Be Still. I needed God to finish the work he started.
So after I left my position of Executive Director of a local Habitat for Humanity, I thought I was supposed to not work until the end of the year. I spent time with my family, we travelled on 3 or 4 vacations, I can't even remember, because the boys were at home, and my hubby was laid off, just two weeks after I left my position. Talk about a lot of change in a short period of time. We enjoyed the summer as much as we could.
Lets travel back a little bit, to 2017. In the Spring of 2017 a recruiter reached out to me through Linkedin, asking if would be interested in a Executive Director position for a Faith Based 501(c)3 that served those with mental illness and/or I/DD needs. I politely said no, conversation over. There was NOTHING about that company or job that I wanted. I was just starting to make some headway at my then current job and starting to see some of the impact the Lord brought me there to achieve, so it was the worst time to leave anyway.
Fast forward to May 2021, 60 days later, same company, same recruiter. When something comes up two or three times, I pay attention, to see if God is trying to get my attention.
Indeed, HE was. I began the process of exploring the position, the organization, etc,etc. As I took each step God would tell me to take the next. I was not pleased at all! What in the world did I want to do with this place. I wasn't in healthcare. I have never run a personal care home. I don' t even know anything about mental health except bits and pieces from childhood, my own life and some in ministry helping others, but not directly.
Come the end of August 2021, I had an offer in hand. Confused, I kept recalling the comments of one of the residents saying something like - I used to be ashamed of who I was before I came here, now I am not.
That stuck with me. But that was all I had and the sense from God, that I was to take this position. I accepted the position and worked out a schedule whereby remote work and lots of flexibility, whatever I needed to heal, was offered.
Then came the start date of September 20, 2021. I started my first day, in daily devotions with the staff at 9:45 am. Once done, I wandered through the Villa and was warmly and cheerfully greeted by friendly faces. Funny enough the first person, told me I was fat. I laughed so hard, I thought for sure, I'd split my side. Comical exchanges continued, and as I was walking, I sensed the Lord speaking to me " Tammi this is Holy Ground and this is sacred work I have called you to" I was flooded with joy and a deep resolve. Resolve to do whatever was possible to make the lives of these residents as amazing as possible.
I knew I was right where I belonged and it continues to be confirmed every day since. That was 4 weeks ago. I resisted God but obeyed God. Ultimately, I came to praise God for the honor of being chosen to serve at this amazing place. There is lots of work to do, and I mean a lot. But I know this is God's call and he will provide, leading me the entire time.
The residents are called Family Members and most of them are very poor and cannot afford much for expenses, so our ministry charges them very little to stay at the Villa and care for them. Some are not on SSI and therefore aren't as badly off. The diagnosis's range from Schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, Bi-Polar, manic depression, etc. Many also have co-occuring I/DD needs. For the most part they are happy and living in peaceful community with one another. There are 74 of them in total. But there is so much more we can do. So much more we need to do. God is slowly depositing "vision" in me as I interact with them and learn more from my team. I can't hardly wait to see how this unfolds.
I'm still tired. I still get mentally over stimulated some days and have to shut it down. My leg isn't 100% yet, but better. The tormenting stuff has stopped and I'm much more active and restful in a good way. The face pain comes back from time to time, but 100% relief was never promised by the surgeon, so it's 1 million times better than before, so I'll continue to Praise God as I wait for him to heal it all, here or thereafter, HIS WILL- NOT MINE BE DONE.
I never really faced the "mental illness" part of my upbringing and never really saw the "stigma" in my heart, until I went through the interviewing process, and one by one God slowly tore down each vain imagination, hurt, wall and lie. Christians often call mental illness, poor or weak character, all demonic and must be driven out. Well friends, I was never of that camp, while it can be true for some, for many it's simply a brain operational thing.
The brain is an ORGAN, period. It can be healthy or sick and it can change, as demonstrated by my story above. We need to take care of it. Shame and accusations aren't healthy of life giving. I'm grateful to be at a place, with people who see me, and accept me and where I know I belong.
If the Israelites could march around the Walls of Jericho, seven times, I can take a job I'm not sure I want. I'm so glad I did.