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Suffering in Silence

It’s time to take better care of ourselves and overcome procrastination

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Bishop BonnarThere is a certain introspection that comes with the season of Lent. In that spirit, I want to make a confession that hopefully will help you. On Jan. 1, 2020, I was walking on a trail and fell on the ice. I landed on my right shoulder, and even though it was broad daylight, I could see the stars. I picked myself up and continued to walk, however, I was stunned. I returned home and did my best, the amateur M.D. that I am, to treat the pain. In spite of my best efforts, I could not find comfort.

You might be reading this and wondering, “So what is the big deal?” The big deal is that I carried this pain with me for months and did nothing about it. As they say, “I suffered in silence.” Well, maybe I wasn’t that silent. Nevertheless, I am embarrassed to say that I never went to the doctor or sought an X-ray. I talked about going but did not do anything except administer Icy Hot, take Advil and complain at times.

In October, I reached a point where the pain was unbearable. I sought out my doctor who ordered an X-ray. Sad to say, it took me 10 months to seek medical treatment.

Looking back, I confess that I procrastinated. I am told that procrastination is a form of anxiety. I do not consider myself a procrastinator, but, in this case, I clearly waited too long. Busyness should never preclude one from self-care. But it was more than busyness.

As human beings, we can tend to put off doing things because we may fear doing them or, worse yet, dread the outcome. In my case, I dreaded the results. I feared that I had blown out my shoulder and would need surgery.

It has been said that much of what we worry about never comes to fruition. In this case, we can be our own worst enemy. It turns out that my worry was useless and unwarranted. I was diagnosed with bone spurs and arthritis. For treatment, I was given a cortisone shot and told to periodically ice the shoulder. I do not consider myself healed, however, my shoulder feels better. Hopefully, the two shots I have had will improve my golf game.

Lent is an opportune time for us to look deeply within, not only at our souls but our bodies. The People of God desire to have healthy and holy clergy who take care of themselves. I know that the rigors of ministry often make self-care challenging and seemingly impossible. What is more, our procrastination can hinder us greatly in this regard.

Perhaps when we began this new year we resolved to take better care of ourselves. We envisioned exercising more and eating healthy. We may also have decided to make those necessary annual checkups with our primary care physician, dentist, optometrist, dermatologist and podiatrist. Let us not forget perhaps the thought we had of getting that colonoscopy that we keep putting off.

I did not get that first colonoscopy until I was 55. I put it off for years. I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis and, as a result, had three colonoscopies in the span of a year and a half.

Ideas of self-care without action are empty. They are intentions that never become realized. When it comes to our health, there is great danger when we do not follow through. Sometimes, it can be a matter of life or death. Procrastination and inactivity of personal wellness and health care can be detrimental not only to our own health but to the spiritual well-being of the faithful. The faithful need not only holy priests, but healthy ones too. We owe it to them and to ourselves to take better care of ourselves. But we also owe it to God because our body is a gift from him.

St. Paul states, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?” (1 Cor 6:19). In this Lenten season, let us pledge to be more intentional with self-care and resist the temptation to procrastinate.

BISHOP DAVID J. BONNAR, editor of The Priest, is bishop of the Diocese of Youngstown.

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