Back on September 6, I was shocked in the pulpit (literally), when my defibrillator fired during the closing hymn. After a serious increase in medication dosage, my ventricular tachycardia seems to be under control. However, the medication does have side effects with which I am learning to cope.
One side effect I did not expect has occurred when I have been in the pulpit since that event. Each time, I have endured 5-10 minutes of cold sweats, high anxiety, and fear that my device was going to be set off once again. I have fought through each instance with deep breathing, some water, and focus.
After sharing my experiences with a colleague and expressing the fear I was feeling about my ability to continue pursuing a life in the pulpit, she suggested that I had in fact suffered a trauma. She offered some ideas about reclaiming my sacred space and regaining some equilibrium in my life.
I found this suggestion incredibly wise and wondered why I had not thought of it myself. Of course, that is perhaps the first quality of trauma – that we can see it in others but rarely in ourselves. Ironically, I have been leading Building Your Own Theology sessions, where we have discussed definitions of words like sin as separation, and evil as that which prevents creativity from occurring. Anyone who has taken Suzy Pangerl’s course in “Evil, Trauma and Ambiguity” at Meadville Lombard Theological School can certainly relate.
A valuable lesson for me in this ordeal has been the reminder of the delicate connection between body and mind, between physical and mental health. I’m not sure all the pills in the world will help me reclaim my pulpit, and spiritual practice alone will not cure the electrical failings of my heart. Like many things in life, I must find a balance if I am to achieve an equilibrium that will sustain my prophetic voice and my passion for ministry.
Trauma comes in many guises in our lives. If you are suffering and pills provide no relief, perhaps this perspective will be useful. And remember that life is too short to let guilt, shame, or inertia prevent you from seeking the happiness and fulfillment you deserve.