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It's important to not let an illness or disease define you. Perhaps I have taken this to the extreme so some don't even know my story with pain and its ever-presence. It's not that I'm ashamed. It's not that I'm humble. It's certainly not because I don't like being vulnerable or saying something like it is. I just refuse to let a physical condition define or describe me. It's just not about WHO we are; it's about WHOSE we are. Nonetheless, I have been looking into support groups and some are asking me to share. So here's the short version. I was in a (not-too-serious) car accident in September of 2009. I was 23. My first and favorite car was totalled. His name was Tahoma, meaning "Mountain" in the native Puyallup tribe language. I miss that car every day. My first and favorite Volkswsagen.
The accident was my fault; the other truck and driver were fine. Volkswagen Tahoma, being a "mountain" for me, took the brunt of the crash...with only one exception: My wrist and thumb were damaged – a sprain. It seemed to heal fine in the normal time of a few weeks. I was asymptomatic for nearly a year and then WHAM. Pain, all the time, radiating from my thumb to hand, wrist, up to my shoulder and occasionally my pectoral region. Firey. Stabbing. Burning. I went through all the testing I'd done a year earlier at the time of the accident... AGAIN: X-rays, MRI, blood tests, bonescan, PT, OT, tests for arthritis, TOS, and other inflammatory diseases, etc... and there seemed to be no reason for my pain. I am perfectly healthy in every regard -- according to the tests.
I was diagnosed with Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome and put into the Pain Management program at Kaiser. After another year (and my continual refusal to get a nerve block which involves needles in muscles and/or spinal cords), they said good luck and I'm now just seen by my pain doc for meds refills. I used to take Gapapentin for nerve pain but it didn't seem to help, so I stopped. I used to take a lot of things at the same time (I'm also Bipolar type II which is another long story), but nothing seemed to help. I figured pumping my body full of crap wasn't worth it simply on the off chance I'd a few good days a month. OTC meds are a waste of time and money, but I take 50mg of Tramodol PRN 4-6hrs on bad days.
There are more of those lately... I have really good days and really bad days (surprise, surprise) though I am emotionally in a much better place than just 2 years ago... There was a lot of grieving early on. My careers have been severely affected by this illness and I wonder what my life would look like if I had 100% capability and 100% motivation.
As a professional pianist, massage therapist, and video editor (using the computer for hours daily) you can perhaps imagine the emotional and physical strain this condition has had... also factoring in that it's my right, dominant hand, the devastation often hurts more than my hand (though I try dreadfully hard to stay out the "poor me!" state of mind.) On the plus side, I now consider myself ambidextrous (which isn't so hard with a few years of practice.) I am still working in all of those professions (and have added a few like: photographer, website designer), though sometimes wonder why God would take the ease of my abilities away. . . He gives and takes away I suppose. I'm still quite glad He's God and I'm not.
I've learned a lot of things about trust and taking things as they come. I've been broken now, I've been saved. I've learned to cry, and I've learned how to pray. I'm learning even I can be changed. I've learned a lot about identity and how you're screwed if you believe your value is determined by how efficiently you can keep your messy crap together or how "good "you are at it. All is grace. All of it. Why I continue to flounder about, trying to act a certain way, talk a certain way, be a certain way, accomplish enough... well, it's silliness. So I lean on the "everlasting arms" and let His grace wash over this beat-up, bedraggled ragamuffin who He calls His own. These have been the positive results of my condition.
My very first tattoo was the Greek word "sozo" on my left wrist. After a history with cutting, eating disorder, depression and the like, it seemed the most fitting place. The word "sozo" means to deliver, to make whole, to save, to redeem, and to HEAL. It is grace that has done this most for me. I did not grow up knowing it's true meaning and once I experienced it in spirit and in truth for myself, (primarily after reading Brennan Manning's, The Ragamuffin Gospel) my life was entirely changed. The tattoo on my right wrist says "grace" in a drippy-like font (for grace is free but was costly), completing a story that says "Healing Grace."
Thanks for reading.
The greatest influences in my life have been Rich Mullins and Brennan Manning, both of whom are Home with the Lord. The following is ones of Rich's songs that I quoted above. Each year I release a volume of his songs (my arrangements) in his honor on his birthday. Volume 5's first track is available for free when you sign up for my mailing list and volumes 1-4 are available on iTunes. See the Portfolio section.