Further Down The Road

Hello to my invisible and chronic illness community, it has been a long time since my last blog post. It seems that there are fewer needs for words when suffering eases up. There is something about deep physical and emotional suffering that brings forth an outpouring of the agony of a soul, to be spilled upon the page.

My greatest inspirations for writing in my blog have always come from a deep place of suffering, and from that place a longing to be heard and to help others, as well as seek a higher purpose and find a calling in my words. It seems that this fact in and of itself shines a great light on the purpose of pain, and the reason for “senseless” trials and tribulations in this life. I know I’ve touched on the subject before, but how often do we relate to the story of another who has walked in our shoes and suffered the same as we have, in a way we could never relate to the kind words and comfort of someone who has no idea what we are experiencing? We are touched by those who overcome and find peace and joy not when suffering ends, but in the midst of it and despite of it.

This week I finished a short five day devotional called Finding God Faithful. It focused on the story of Joseph; we know the story so well, I feel to the point of not actually experiencing it anymore. Much like the mindlessness of repeating a memorized verse or song, that has lost any spark of meaning due to it’s familiarity. And yet, I found a new message in the story of Joseph that I feel relates specifically to not only God’s relentless and unending faithfulness to us, but how we experience Him in trials and suffering.

Part of the verse that was emphasized in this short devotional (that was repeated in several places) was “God was with Joseph”.

So simple, and yet so profound. Because did God initially show up and rescue Joseph from the pit or being sold into slavery? Did God for many many years rescue Joseph from prison or change his circumstance? No he didn’t, at least not for a long time. So where was Joseph’s comfort? How was God with Joseph this whole time? And on the flipside, how was Joseph unwavering in his faith? It certainly was not in seeing God change his circumstances, or end his suffering. The answer is in abiding in him, and holding fast not onto how God would work, but onto the person and character of God himself and having unshakable faith in a faithful and unchanging God.

It is easy to think we have faith in God when in fact without always realizing it, often we fall into having faith in how we want Him to work, what we think He will do, how we believe He will make us feel, how He will change someone….

When our faith is placed in the “what, when, where and how”, this is where we are sometimes disappointed, and our faith is shaken.

When our faith however truly rests in the “Who”, we shall never be disappointed; for our focus is on the unchanging character and nature of God and His promises to us, that are not always about our comfort, but about our good and His glory.

“”Can a woman forget her nursing child And have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you. “Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; Your walls are continually before Me.”

Isaiah 49:15-16

“and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”

Romans 8:27-28

“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.”

John 10:27-29

(Also see the entire chapter Psalm 139).

To those with chronic illness that betrays them on a daily basis in their physical bodies and even in their minds and emotions; I know the agony of hopelessness, I know the pain and despair of seeing no end to suffering. Some of us will get well. Some of us will receive partial healing. Some of us will see the path of suffering go on to the horizon with no end in sight. We do not always know the answers, sometimes God is gracious to show us the reasons in this life, like he did to Joseph. And for some of us the answers may not come. It is here that our faith rests that God is relentlessly intentional to us, and the promise we rest on is that everything works together for our good and his glory. Disappointment comes when that good and glory doesn’t look the way we think it will look or want it to look.

I am in a season where so much has changed for the better, yes there are still struggles with chronic symptoms including unexplainable fatigue that hits me from time to time, seasons of brain fog, the relentlessness of inflammation and autoimmune reactivity…. But I am grateful that the last couple years has brought me to a place of peace with where I am in my life and with the Lord.

I am in another season of a faith journey which is stretching me, but which I face with equal appreciation as I do struggle.

The reason being is that there is a very sweet spot that you find with the Lord and a reliance on him during times that your faith is being stretched, that you cannot experience in any other way. Right now I find myself in a beautiful place of abiding, in a place of praying without ceasing; which is less about actual prayer than it is a constant commune with the Lord and an acknowledgment of Him in every thought I think, everything I do, in every waking moment of the day where He is my director, my comforter, my shield, my guide, my peace.

In the past I have given over more years than I can count to darkness and being in a place of mourning over things lost, and suffering that robbed me of so much life. I told God recently that I have spent too much of my life in a dark hallway grieving over closed doors. It is with extreme gratitude that several years back I had a friend challenge me out of that place, that I was to give my grief as an offering to the Lord and let him exchange it for a different vision, and He was faithful to do so.

So today, I have less to say about the particulars of the symptoms and sufferings of chronic Lyme disease along with its coinfection’s and complications, and less about the emotional place of agony we find ourselves in chronic illness.

Today rather I try and speak from a different place in the journey, a place further up the road, which is more a spiritual place than a physical one. There’s still so much in life that has not yet happened for me, that I have not experienced, that I have not reclaimed from the lost years of the past… and yet, God is with me.

When the Media Actually Hurts The Chronic Illness Community

I encourage everyone to read the article below posted by an editor on The Mighty.

As you may know The Mighty is the leading site for various chronic illnesses and an advocate for that community.

Beware of Afflicted

For Your Consideration… What to say when you are put down for “being your illness”

So I have been experiencing a lot of activity on one of my latest blog posts and I have also been reposting some others that are relevant to the struggle.

I have been getting saturated with great comments on those so grateful that someone is voicing their experience and giving credence to their experiences to their friends and family.

That said of course I get negativity once and a while (as we all do); but what really hurts is when it comes from someone within the chronic illness community. 

I see it too often (mostly on the Facebook feeds of others) attacking because someone’s experience is different than their’s, or they think the person is too vocal, or whatever….

Why do we do this? Why do we hurt each other? Why are we so narcissistic that we seem to think how we think or feel or our experiences has to universal and be exactly what everyone else’s experiences should be that has difficulty and is sick? Apparently this is a mindset that allows for zero tolerance or understanding that diseases manifest differently in different people and affect our minds, bodies and chemistry differently. Wow, what a concept!
So I offer up to you the following comment left on one of my posts (that was written to try and raise awareness and understanding),  and my re-buttal to this comment. I also want to ask you; the chronic illness community to join the conversation and share your experiences. I will ask that there be no attacks, swearing, name calling or ugliness, rather let us use this as an opportunity and platform to further raise awareness and keep the conversation and testimonies going.

Here we go..

Negative Blog Commentor:

“I have what is considered an invisible illness (a pretty freaky one), and honestly, at the end of the day, I can choose to live a normal, productive life. Are there challenges? Sure. But we all face challenges. ALL of us. Some are physical. Some are emotional. Some are psychological, financial, relational, career-centered, social… you name it. 
I’m uncertain as to why so many sufferers from invisible or even visible illnesses choose to be victims daily. It’s a choice to keep life in perspective, to keep moving, and to realize we’re not special because we suffer. Who doesn’t suffer? Did you know that the average person in the western world has, on average, 5 things going on with their body that could be/are serious? Illness doesn’t excuse us from life, so live it fully. 
Maybe you’re not datable because you insist on BEING your illness, 24/7. Is it all you talk about? Post about? Think about? Is there nothing more of you than your illness? Who wants to date someone who finds their identity in being sick? Do you bring your illness up every time you meet someone? Talk on the phone? Go anywhere? If you know to converse about nothing else, then you’ll stay single. 
Stop being your illness. It doesn’t make you special. It makes you common. Be the best parts of YOU… because you are not your Lyme, fibromyalgia, diabetes, epilepsy, MS, lupus, or any other invisible condition. You are YOU. Offer YOU. Potential mates don’t want to hear about nothing but your illness any more than you want to hear about all their exes, money issues, terrible living arrangements, bad pizza, or abysmal grades if you’re in school. Be you… stop being a victim.”
My rebuttal: 

“(Person’s name), I had to pause, think, stop and pray before responding because my immediate (fleshly) reaction was anger; anger that you have projected your own experience onto others without understanding that even though we all suffer chronic illness, the nuances, experiences, manifestations, brain chemistries, how we are individually effected, where the diseases have most effected us, our life paradigms, backgrounds… and SO much more differ radically! I cannot say this with enough emphasis. 
So first I want to praise you for your outlook and that you are “not your disease” (none of us truly are) and that you have the ability and will to live and thrive by fighting through. Not everyone is you. 
May I offer up to you for consideration that most of us want that very same thing. Who “chooses” to be a victim? Far fewer than you obviously think.

Maybe (just for the sake of argument) a very small minority that already have psychological issues or have an abusive background or “—–” might in fact use illness to further that inner victim mentally and to feed that need to get attention.

BUT! Most of those I have come across (by a landslide majority) who are suffering from chronic illness that has re-shaped their lives and the very essence of who they are… are desperate to be normal, to simply live and not be encumbered and isolated and in pain, fatigued beyond functionality….and missing out on life. 
I also want to let you know that having been chronically ill now for decades, and having experienced all the facets and manifestations (highs, lows and everything in between) I KNOW what it is like to be so physically and mentally (by this I don’t just mean mindset, but literal bacteria that has crossed the blood brain barrier affecting my mind in ways I had ZERO control of) sick that I was incapable of just “being me” or even having access to parts of my own mind or personality. 

I do understand that if you have not experienced this kind of illness you will have no comprehension, and I am honestly glad that you haven’t.

Consider yourself lucky, blessed, fortunate… there are many who are not.
I also want to add that no, in fact for the most part in my personal life I do not go around talking about my illness all the time. It is not the first thing I mention when I meet new people, it is almost never talked about among my coworkers, even with my closest friends we focus on other things, because I wouldn’t want to hear it all the time, why would they?

Again I also want to add that like I mentioned before my health goes up and down, I have about 2/3 of the year accumulatively that I am really struggling, and it’s in those times that I tend to write more about said struggle. But, I have good months where I feel much better and… guess what? I use it to my full advantage snd be as active as I can and as social as I can and LIVE and be me. I jump at the opportunity when my brain and body allow. And I am not alone. In fact it is pretty common for chronically ill people to overdue and set themselves back when they are feeling better because this is what they do desperately want. Because they know they are “not their disease”. 
So instead of judging others harshly, accusing, condemning, bad-mouthing and making great big assumptions that EVERYONE is exactly like you and your experience with a chronic illness, (because after all according to you everyone has a clear head, full access to their faculties, and an iron will to overcome anything and can’t possibly be so sick that they can’t just get out there and live) and should just pick up their bootstraps and “not be their illness”. 

Maybe do some reading and research, especially on neurological effects of Lyme and other illnesses that can cross the blood-brain barrier and/or mess with your hormones and other functionalities that make you “you” so that you can have a small piece of empathy for those that are less fortunate than you and desperately want to thrive instead of just exist.
*also I might add that I blog not to whine or “be my illness” but because I have deep empathy for the suffering and wish to give a voice and some comfort to those that have none. ”

Out Of Touch (Interactive Post!)

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Has anyone else found that longs years of illness have left them out of touch with reality? I have been giving this a lot of thought as of late (but not for the first time over the years) how illness leads to isolation and isolation changes how you go about doing things and how you go about doing things changes how you think of things and how you think of things changes your perception…….

I am doing my best to articulate all this but I am not sure I am doing a very good job. I think there is a separation between the chronic illness sufferer and the rest of the world that creeps in over time. It is like a slow ebbing away that you do not notice until it is huge, and you wonder how you got so out of touch. I have observed that is why there are so many female Lyme bloggers, they are trying to reach out using their words. I also think that they are all articulate well spoken women who have learned to use their words to convey all their thoughts and emotions. (We all seem to be pretty open about what we are going through, thinking and feeling). I know I find that it is through writing that I express myself most easily… I know at least part of this is because when the brain fog comes I can pause and think (lol).

What has started scaring me is that everything always sounds right in my head…I know what I mean but I am frightened I no longer know how to “get it out” right. Does that make sense? I have a hard time feeling worthy of being around people and that I am viewed differently than all the “normal” people. So just when I have been feeling a bit better physically I just want to crawl back in my hole like a little ground hog and hide again. I know that fear isn’t right and feeling demoralized isn’t right…. I think part of this apprehension is just spiritually oppression to keep me bound in fear and away from people. That part I need to pray through. I am going to commit to fighting this feeling though and do a better job of reaching out. I know that feeling sick or not I could have done a much better job over the years of not letting myself disappear.

For those reading this on the My Color Is Lyme Facebook page (and those here on WordPress) could you help me out and let me know about your experiences with isolation and social fears and negativity? What about any backlash for sharing too much on your blogs?

Herxing. The Hardest Concept of Explaining Lyme Treatment

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Do you ever find that you are trying to explain again and again why you feel worse during Lyme treatment when people think you should be feeling better? I know I do, and I tend to get a lot of resistance to the idea that Lyme treatment can make you feel worse, of course I am talking about a Herx reaction.
People seem to have no trouble comprehending chemo and radiation making a cancer patient sicker, but for some reason (for some) it can be hard to grasp that there is no quick and easy cure for Lyme.
Here is a link to a pretty good article on what a Herx is, and how best to deal with it.

http://www.lemonandlyme.com/Articles/Expect/Herx.php

Good Days and Bad Days, The Ups and Downs of Lyme Treatment

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This site continues to post incredible articles. This one very articulately shares the extreme highs and lows of Lyme disease, especially when you are in treatment.

” You’ll be symptom free, full of energy and ready to carry on with life but this is biggest deception you could fall for because soon enough you’ll be hit with a bad day.  The bad days are the days where you learn to understand that treatment is actually worse than doing nothing to combat your symptoms in the first place.  Bad days will lead you to question your own sanity” 

(full article below)

http://www.tiredoflyme.com/good-days-and-bad-days.html#.UhJBsj9OeSp