Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Life with Chronic Illness

I've been wanting to write this for a little while now {but thought saving it for this special week would be fitting} after a blogging-friend, not yet in-real-life friend, has developed some health problems that make them wonder if it'll end up being a chronic illness. She's been tested like crazy, delivered her baby, and is still really sick every day. The hope was after the baby she'd be normal again, but sadly, that's just not been the case.

I hope and pray for her sake that she doesn't have a chronic illness. Because that means life for her will be very different.


I don't think you ever really get used to life with chronic illness.

You adjust, sure.

It's your new normal, yes.

But I don't think it's ever something you fully get used to. Living life with chronic illness is very, very hard. It's a tough reality. I hope and pray something very different for this friend.

Is it good to have a diagnosis? Yes. Is it good to have doctors, medicine, the Internet where there are people you can find to relate to, etc? Absolutely.

But it doesn't make the day-in and day-out of this life any easier.

I don't think we are meant to get used to it though. I think that just like life with other types of trials, we don't want to settle.

We're meant for something more. Something bigger.

We're meant for heaven. Eternity with God.

This life is just a blip on the radar. And as we live this life in its vast array of trials, we share our stories with other people.

My story includes Fibromyalgia. But it doesn't define who I am. And it doesn't matter if everyone understands it. It doesn't matter if people judge me. That stuff hurts - I want people to understand and not judge.

But the reality is only God ultimately matters. Only his glory is what I want to live for.

I love Jesus. I want to shine for him. And if that means my life here on earth will forever include Fibromyalgia, so be it. That's my story.

And yes, friends, it took me years to come to a point where I could say that and honestly mean it. That doesn't mean I don't still have hard days or really wish it would go away. But overall, I've learned to be thankful for it and see the beauty in the midst of the pain. 

I hope and pray for this friend that it's different than that for her. That her story gets written differently than mine. That it's beyond chronic illness, that it's something that can be treated and soon go away. I have hope that this is just a small timeframe in her life where God is teaching her to trust, wait, hope, and pray, but that in the end, she'll be free of the illness without having it chronically.

I feel for her. It's an unsettling time right now, a time where there aren't answers, just a lot of unending questions.

It's super scary to think of living with an illness the rest of your life. 

I mean, really. Sit and think about that for a minute. Think about having Fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, chronic migraines, lupus, Lyme disease, any of the ridiculous number of autoimmune diseases out there, or so on. Pick one. Think about what your life would be like if you had it. Really stop and think. Process what your life would look like. Keep thinking on that for a bit....

And if you came here already having it, then you know of what I speak. You know how hard this road is and how you wouldn't wish it on anyone.

I remember my first days, weeks, and months all too well. They were deep, dark, dangerous. It was so scary. It's easy for us to say "I'll pray for you - hopefully it's something that can be easily and quickly treated."

It's another to say "We know. We get it. We hope for more for you, but if it becomes a part of your story, don't hesitate to reach out. It's in the reaching out to others who understand where you will find refreshment. A reminder that despite the hard stuff, it really isn't the end of the world. God will carry you to the other side of this valley. Give yourself time and space to adjust, to be real, to be angry, to share your heart and cry out to God, allow yourself to grieve the old you and understand who you now are in Christ, with chronic illness, and may God really use it to grow you into who he wants you to be. We truly hope that's not the case, but if it is, fight to not lose heart. Be your own advocate. Fight for good medical care, don't just always take the first answer. Don't be afraid to stand up for your right for more and better answers when it's called for. God is good, all the time. And we're here, understanding and waiting, whenever you need to talk or a shoulder to cry on."

Life doesn't end with a chronic illness.

Like many other trials you may find yourself in throughout life, it really is the start of a new beginning.

A new chance to see God in a whole new way, to see his mercies and goodness in ways you've never experienced before; to serve, love, be compassionate and generous in ways you didn't know were somewhere deep inside of you; to understand the true meaning of life in ways you never could have imagined on your own, and a chance to be refined into gold.

Now stop imagining you have the chronic illness I asked you to above. Let's all take a deep breath and thank God that you don't have one of those illnesses. Be soooo thankful that you get to live life, at least for now, without this worry. Without this lonely ache inside of you that you're misunderstood, forgotten, and tired of being sick all the time. And may it make you ever mindful of the needs of others, and remind you to pray for, reach out to, and love on those who do have chronic illnesses around you.

[If you read between the above paragraph where I asked you to imagine you have a chronic illness to this point and didn't imagine it, then go back and do it again... please]. 

They say not to take our lives for granted. I want to really encourage you to soak that in today, that every breath you breathe is special and blessed.

Really, really take time to understand. To appreciate. To respect those who do battle it in and out every moment of every day.

And for those of you who are here because you have a chronic illness, be encouraged that you aren't alone. We understand. We are here with you. Hoping. Praying. Researching. Fighting for good medical care. Holding your electronic hand. And refusing to give up, because life is worth every breath, every step, and every moment.

I recently told my friend the below, as she admitted to trying hard to be okay with all of this, with God's plan for her. I leave you with it now and hope you find it helpful too.
Getting to a place where you're okay being broken so that God may fix you is really hard. But surrendering fully to His plan for you, while tough, yields incredible fruit when he mends you. I trust by faith that as you seek Him with all your heart, as you doubt, question, cry out to Him, and long for answers...He will surprise you. That in yielding your plans to His while not understanding why, He will show you unimaginable beauty inside the pain...and that someday you'll look back on this frustrating trial as one of the best things that ever happened to you & you'll be thankful for it - because it shaped who you became and who God wanted you to be. -- Keep pressing on my friend. You'll get there, and God won't let go of you the entire ride.

1 comment:

Monica Gee said...

Absolutely. I totally agree with everything you said. What good words of encouragement for our mutual friend and for anyone else facing this for the first time. As much as I can relate to a lot of chronic stuff (since it was a part of my story for so long), the one thing I can't relate to is the beginning of it. The first realizations that life may be different now. I was born with my problems, so it was something I always accepted. Thanks for the reminder, friend.