I don’t feel well. I don’t feel well in the perpetual-brain-fog-every-joint-in-my-body-aches-I-don’t-remember-what-it-feels-like-to-be-human kind of way. It’s been a year. Here’s what I’ve learned.
6. My hope is displaced
If hope is in the right place, it always produces something. If hope is in the wrong place, it’s a gamble – you might get what you want or you might not.
I hoped I’d be healed. I expected healing as a result of my many efforts. Up until now I’ve stuck to a restrictive leafy diet, been to doctors, spent thousands of dollars, been poked and prodded, I’ve taken weird tests, weirder advice, and umpteen pills. I still feel awful.
The panic I get when I don’t feel improvement at the end of a supplement regiment is overpowering. I took a gamble by trusting that I knew best and I lost. I lost healing and gained fear, hastiness, and folly. Hope in myself did not work.
Spoiler alert: I think the Bible is pretty solid. It says God is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we can ask or imagine. Had my hope been in God at the very sight of trouble, I could have dodged fear and a profound distain for my primary doctor. She sucks (Google review available upon request).
To place all my bets on that type of God means there are no two ways about it. He will do more for me than I can dream. It might be healing in the form of directing me to the right medical resources, it might be instantaneous healing, or it might not be healing at all. Perhaps He will use this to make me less of a jerk or to help someone. In any case, I know it will blow my mind.
I’ve failed myself long enough to know hope in the right place does not disappoint.
ephesians 3:20; romans 5:5
5. I’m depressed
And that’s ok. Everything hurts from the top of my head to the bottoms of my feet, my hormones are having a field day, and my future looks bleak. It’s difficult to find reasons to face another day. That’s ok!
Our culture finds ways to shame us when we allow ourselves to feel the weight of a situation. It tells us to be positive and grateful. Cool. Those are good things, but people are multifaceted and sometimes people are sad too. My sadness will pass, but for now, just let me go through it!
I’d like to take this opportunity to illustrate a hypothetical situation for the next man who tells me to smile while I’m choosing my over-priced coffee in a Starbucks line. Per his request I will smile. Then turn him around, punch him in the adrenals and say, “Great, now you try!”
Is there anything more irritating than someone telling you your feelings are unacceptable? No. Ok, fitted bed sheets but other than that nothing.
ecclesiastes 3:4; psalm 42
4. My identity is gone
I’m not enough in any capacity. I was a lively person jumping from activity to activity with no problem. Now most of my energy is spent trying to appear as if I feel ok. At the end of a bad feeling day, it takes all my will power to get up the stairs to my apartment. On a good day, if i can manage to get through a workout class or a night of dancing, I can expect to be laid up for at least a week. What I used to do without thinking, I now have to methodically plan for and leave time to re-cooperate after.
Most of my out going text messages look like this, ” Sounds great! Sorry, I can’t make it.” I have energy to either return a phone call or do the dishes and sometimes I choose dishes. People get tired of this and I totally get that. I wouldn’t know how to be a friend to someone who couldn’t do anything either. The most painful transition has been losing most of my friendships. Slowly but surely people stopped contacting me. There are a few beautiful souls who haven’t cut me off and are as empathetic as anything. They’ll get Christmas presents.
I don’t dream or plan my future because there doesn’t seem to be one outside of health and just getting through each day. I don’t seek personal development. The only things I set out to accomplish each day are: 1) Honor God with the strength I have left 2) Try not to be a schmuck. Even that’s real hard.
I can’t be active, I can’t keep up with friends, I can’t feed the homeless, I can’t control how I look, I can’t perform well at my job, I can’t explain myself, I can’t keep a clean apartment, I can’t think clearly, I can’t make plans, I can’t be anything that matters.
This sickness has stripped me of everything I liked about myself. One thing is still the same: I permanently belong to God. I’m his child. Maybe that’s all I need to be. Maybe that’s enough.
p.s. I REALLY wish I could have learned this lesson an easier way.
3. Don’t sweat it
“Seriously though. What worse could thing could happen? You loose your health, most of your friends, and can’t spend time with your family? Too late. Who cares if you look like a fool. Publicly pray for the cashier in Target. It doesn’t matter what people think of you. You’re just ashes.” – a letter from me to me.
2. My outward appearance is googlygop
I’ve spent most of my life obsessed with my weight and how I look in general. There’s value in looking nice, but I believe there are better things to shift my time and attention toward. Don’t get me wrong- I love sun dresses, purple mascara, and skinny days. But my physical appearance doesn’t consume my thoughts like it used to. Because sometimes my face is gaunt and pale and sometimes it’s red and swollen; my hair is starting to fall out in piles and my enflamed eyes reject contact lenses. I have no control over any of it. So I let it go and obsess over things that last forever.
2 corinthians 4:16
1. It’s all good
Suffering pisses me off. I understand pain is the means by which we learn and it produces good stuff. I even understand that agony will end before we know it. And that it will be traded in for something profoundly beautiful. I don’t understand why – if He could help it – God made us subject to a system that includes suffering in the first place.
As far as the goodness of God, I have as many questions as I have doubts. My distrust is so loud that I hardly hear any assurance. Then there’s a small voice my accusations can’t silence. It says this is the best way. That I’m not forgotten and I won’t be disappointed if I keep going. Because the dissonance between my own logic and that voice is so great, I believe the thoughts in favor of God’s goodness aren’t my own. So I believe He is good.
This trial sucks. But it’s yielded some really positive changes:
– I’m forced to slow down. Since I can’t go out much anymore, I do things like pray for people while I’m folding laundry. Praying for someone is the greatest service I can offer. It will help them more than my rushing around doing favors can.
– I notice the beauty in simple moments. The sun feels so good on my face when I can take a walk. I notice birds singing and the clapping of the palm branches. Sometimes I catch myself getting so happy when I look down at my coffee mug because it has a cute pattern and I have something to warm my hands for a while. Just things I was too distracted to notice before.
– I’m more present. When someone is talking to me, I listen now. Like, really listen. I only have energy to concentrate on one thing so why not the person in front of me? More than ever, I’m acutely aware that nothing is more important than the people God purposed into existence. I’m less irritable and that’s a freaking miracle in itself.
I know not everyone is an idiot like me. It wouldn’t take getting a chronic illness for most people to appreciate life. But that’s what it took for me. It’s making me better and hopefully making my God look like the brilliant, good, sweet savior He is. If anything, I’m finally beginning to understand what this means:
“And we know that God works all things together for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose.”
romans 8:28; psalm 39:5