(Guest Blogger Jodi Creager)
“You should just kill yourself!” ….. I was shocked by what my friend was telling me. I felt hurt and confused. “If I was in that much pain I’d do it!”, she exclaimed, using a “matter-of-factly, tone. I was caught off guard and I stood speechless. She was attacking my faith as a Christian. I tried explaining to her that I respected her beliefs, but I expected her to respect mine. I felt further betrayal when other “so-called friends” not only agreed with her, but sided with her disrespect. She knew, as per my faith and my oath as a therapist, I was bound to suicide prevention.
I returned to my office and hung my head down. Then I heard a little voice asked me what was bothering me. It was a new intern that I was mentoring. I simply explained that I was upset at a friend who attacked my beliefs. I tried to brush it off and not burden her. Yet she was very kind and intuitive. “You’ve just got the love of Jesus in your heart,” she said. How wise and uplifting it was to hear those words ringing truthfully in my ears. She was right. My love for Jesus and His love for me blossomed in my soul. That love, that assurance carries me through these difficult years of much pain and many sorrows. “Give up?” No, I couldn’t, because God has never given up on me.
The lessons learned, through my experience, have expanded my empathy for others in all types of trials and suffering. The pain that I have faced has singed me both physically and emotionally. However, the pain has helped me to gain a more complex understanding for others in trouble. And when I say trouble I mean fibromyalgia with a capital “T”. It’s hard to explain the toll it takes on me, year after year, day to day. The just downright exhaustion and the susceptibility to other diseases (such as irritable bowel syndrome). Then there’s the depression, anxiety and grief. When your body is working against you, there are a million losses, both big and small. I’ve lost friends who couldn’t understand why I canceled plans due to not feeling well. I lost mobility and now must use a cane and electronic wheelchairs. I have lost hope at times. I have garnered much criticism, even from doctors, who minimize the severity of fibromyalgia. This is the stigma of having a so-called “invisible” illness. In fact, you may be among people who don’t understand, or even believe that fibromyalgia is real. If that is so, I must say that I am happy that you are blessed enough not to know how it feels. It’s rather easy to talk about chronic pain, but truly grasping what a person who is diagnosed goes through is difficult to grasp.
Perhaps you or someone you love has been affected by fibromyalgia. Either way stick with me, I’ll do my best to elaborate and explain what my daily life looks like.
As if the persistent buzz of strains isn’t enough, there are also flare-ups. The flare-ups I experience make my body feel like it is revolting. My nerves are then saturated with increased pain. This causes me to sleep long days (if I can fall asleep at all). Then there are aching and burning pressure points, followed by tears exploding from my eyes. My mindset is no longer, “What can I get done today?” Instead it is, “Can I do anything at all?” It’s the loss and fear of being too sick to even do bare necessities, let alone something fun. I plan out my days as best as I can, spreading my energy while, always running somewhere with my tank sitting on empty. Imagine your car always needing gas. Every day you hop in it, and no matter how much you think could be in there, it’s always dried up…… Don’t forget our “not-so- friendly” flare up…. Can a gas tank run below empty? Yes, it can, but at a great cost that is experienced for the next few days.
I have my moments that I tear up in prayer. I beg God to lift my burdens away, and I know he can. At the same time, I remember that the bible tells me that I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. And yes, sometimes I get angry at myself for being so strong, and for re-engaging with the “why me” feelings. It’s then that I remember the words of my favorite hymn, “I cannot bear the loads of life unaided. I need thy strength to lean myself upon.”…. And boy do I lean, and with joy this time. I now cry again, in prayer, thanking God for it is His strength that pulls me through. He is the one who holds my hand as other diagnosis get added to the ones that I have. He is the one who comforts me when I don’t know how to cope.
I’m continually building up my support system. I desire to be surrounded by positive individuals. I do question why all this would happen to one person. I do have very weak moments. I do make mistakes. I do eat the wrong things, forget my meds, lose track of important things; such as appointments. However, this forgetfulness is all courtesy of fibro-fog and added lack of concentration from depression.
Sometimes I am angry at this disease and how it slowed my life down. I want to have more and I simply don’t. But, on a positive note, slowing down has afforded me the ability to prioritize. Time is precious to me and I literally don’t have the health to do much. I celebrate little steps and victories. “Yay! I was writhing in bed all night, but I didn’t stay in bed.” I’m always reminded of Maya Angelou’s words, “Still I rise!”
Here I am, struggling, but choosing to live the best life that I can, despite my circumstances. Here I am, grateful for everyone, and everything, that I do have. I am appreciative of the many, many blessings provided just for me. I’m blessed with a family who cares for me. I’m blessed with friendships and cherished memories. I’m blessed to not have other diseases that are just as painful or even worse. I’m even blessed for things that may seem small to others (like my hair finally growing out). I have a blessed life. If that former friend in stood before me today, instead of crying, I’d loudly share my blessings. Why? Because despite everything, I am not defeated. God’s grace takes care of me.
Jodi Creager is a licensed therapist and writer. She authored the mystery novel The Old Mill and the poetry book And the Light Blinks Farewell available on Amazon and Kindle.