Saturday, October 27, 2012

It's no laughing matter.

Prepare yourself for another long-winded  story that somehow has a significant theological/life point at the end.  I call it the Bethany special.

I've been thinking about gas a lot lately.

Not that type of gas. Laughing gas; nitrous oxide, aka the stuff they give you in the dental chair to relax you.

Two weeks ago today I had my wisdom teeth removed. Frankly, I was terrified going in. Not because of the pain and recovery time, not because of all of the adverse side effects of the medications I was under. Not because I was going to swell up like a chipmunk (which thankfully did not happen). I was terrified of the actual process, namely the drugs.

It's almost ironic, given that my job often involves coaching kids through consciously sedated procedures, or reassuring them prior to general anesthesia; that I myself have never been sedated. Perhaps it is that exact exposure that was haunting me. Memories of laughing with parents at the ridiculous thing their children were saying. Having discussions with patients that they had no recollection of later. The idea of having no control or memory of my faculties for a period of time scared me more than I could say. However, on the other side of things, I had heard horror stories from people who were not sedated during their procedures. Was told that the sound of the tooth cracking haunted them to this day.

What to do?

Luckily, my absolutely amazing oral surgeon was very responsive to my concerns and offered up his solution to the problem: a combination of low dose valium taken the night before and morning of my procedure to relax me, followed by an administration of nitrous oxide that would further calm me for the procedure, with no lasting side effects. (All, of course, administered with the actual numbing agent). With his confidence in mind, I agreed to the  proposed plan, still skeptical.

With good reason, as I later found out.

As I took that first valium the night before my procedure, I was surprised to find no change in mental capacity. In fact, if anything, I became more anxious with worry that our proposed plan was going to have no effect. The next morning I took both the prescribed dosage along with the extra "if you need it to relax" pill, hoping the double dose would have an effect. Next thing I knew, I was incredibly jittery. Maybe it was the Valium... maybe my nerves just got the best of me, but either way the medication did not have the desired effect.

Fastforward a bit of time including a drive to the office, a wait in the office, an extended wait in the pre-room where I was informed that my dad had in fact made it to the hospital in time, and a tense waiting period until he got up to hug me briefly before I was taken into the procedure room. The assistants did a great job of helping me get comfortable, they strapped on the gas mask, and the doctor began the numbing process and turned the laughing gas on.

I still do not have the right words to describe my experience, but essentially what began as a nice 'buzz' feeling, quickly spiraled into a complete panic attack. As one part of my mind began to relax and 'float', another significant part was still vitally aware of the gradual loss of control. Almost as if I were commentating to myself the experience:
Hmm... this isnt so bad, I guess he turned the gas on and I feel kind of fuzzy. Almost like Ive had a few drinks. Like last weekend in Orlando, that was a fun weekend, I should call- ok wait... now the feeling is a bit stronger, this is very strange, shouldn't I be more relaxed and not so vitally aware of everything that is going on, this is starting to remind me of the stories my patients have told about being sedated and not having control of their own bodies but still knowing everything that is going on, crap wow, now Im really feeling foggy and can't communicate which is bad because my chest is feeling heavy and Im having a panic attack. SHIT I'm having a panic attack and I can't even tell them because the stupid other part of me is floating on a cloud...I feel like my own thoughts are crashing in around me and Im drowning in a sea of my own lack of control
Luckily this was about the point that the oral surgeon very kindly told me he noticed that I was starting to hyperventilate and lowered the concentration of the gas. Hallelujah, considering the feeling of drowning within myself was not very enjoyable.

Long story short, we got through the procedure with few complications (apparently my one impacted tooth had a 'lovely' surprise of three roots instead of two. That sucker had no intention of going anywhere...). However, at the end of procedure, the overwhelmingly suffocating feeling began to creep back in and they removed the gas component entirely for the final stitches. My dr later informed me he suspected my very fast metabolism had contributed to the odd reactions to both Valium and Nitrous Oxide. Uncommon, but luckily the procedure itself had been low in complications so it all worked out in the end.

So what's my take away point?

I have a very stubborn mind. Ive known this for years, and that experience just confirmed what Ive always suspected. I've attempted to learn to still my mind on many occasions. Meditation, guided imagery, relaxation, you name it, I've tried it. With no success, I might add. I have a seriously difficult time letting go, part of my mind is always fiercely grabbing hold to the present. Even during some of the best times of my life, a part of me can't continue to live in the moment and instead is busy crunching numbers and running data analysis. This is a trait that has also served me well; my ability to truly multi-task is unparalleled, which I in part attribute to my budding OCD (a topic for another post). I turn what could be a tragic flaw into a vital and integral part of my personality. No wonder Im accused of being high maintenance at times! (I prefer the term 'vibrant personality', p.s.).

So anyways, hard time relaxing, that's me. Hard time letting go, right here. Difficulty not dwelling and moving on... absolutely, partially because I am perfectly capable of dwelling AND moving on at the same time. Split track mind.

I have some things going on right now that I can't actually write about for a variety of reasons. Potentially great things, potentially scary things, definitely overwhelming, and causing me to trust and rely on God in a way that I haven't truly leaned on him for almost two years.

But why is it so hard to truly let go of my problems and trust that God is going to handle them?

Is it because I don't believe he can? Absolutely not, my past experiences have taught me that God has a knack for swooping down in the knick of time. If the balls up in the air are the ones he's planned, they will certainly stay up there with little effort on my part.

Is it because I don't think he will? Maybe... what I've learned is that while God CAN come in and save the day, sometimes he  doesn't. And I think he doesn't for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it's because what we think is his 'plan' isn't.  I've been guilty of assuming God has ordained things and not going back to check with him. Or, if I AM in his plan, I've decided how he's going to work things out, and he doesn't always work that way. But sometimes... bad things happens, and we have no control over it, and I don't know that God always does either. If we truly subscribe to the value of free will, then the repercussion is I can act the way I want and God can't interfere without infringing on my free will. If I decide I want to go out and murder someone... at a certain point God can't stop me without disturbing the balance of order he created. The same way he puts the laws of science in motion... which can then present as hurricanes, or cancer,or  rabid lion attacks. Sure, God can, and does, speak into our life to gently nudge us to take a different route to work to avoid the fatal car crash, but sometimes he doesn't. So even if these plans Im facing are God's... that doesn't mean they are guaranteed to happen.

I've learned that a lot this year. Sometimes God might plan things, and then we, as humans, screw it up. Guilty right here.

So these thoughts take up a lot of brainspace (although luckily I can multi task and play solitaire at the same time. Yes, obviously in my mind. What? You mean you don't do that too....?) And Im struggling with the balance.

I think there is some benefit to being concerned. It keeps me focused on God. My urge to get on my knees physically and pray has been so strong in the last month.  Yet, as my post a few weeks ago suggests, needless worry becomes a sickness. At some point I have to surrender control and tell God it's in his hands and Im done trying to 'make' things happens. Because, for me, not having control is the one thing that will reassure me in the long run that I am really in his will.

So in addition to making my daily thanks list (which sometimes makes its way on here), I'm also reminding myself of the ways God has answered prayers in the past. In the ways I had thought, in the ways I hadn't wanted, and in the ways that absolutely have blown my minds.

I'm on the precipice of having my mind blown again, or having my heart broken. Part of the excitement is the unknown. And frankly, what fun is life without that element of intensity? Either way, the only control I have is choosing to ask God to guide me and help me through whatever comes my way.

But keep your fingers crossed... please. And thank you.

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