I’ve been wanting to write a post on my invisible illness for such a long time but never found the perfect time to actually write it. You guys have been asking for it, so here it is!
First of all, I need to clear the air and say I am in no way shape or form writing about this for pity or to make you feel sorry for me. That’s the opposite of my heart. I’m writing this to raise awareness and educate my (lovely) readers on the genuine depth of what it’s like to live with an invisible illness.
I so vividly remember being around 15 years old and my stomach would hurt constantly, sometimes to the point of tears, sometimes even to the point of screams. The most excruciating and uncomfortable pain I’ve ever felt.
I got tested for nearly everything a stomach could be tested for. These ongoing tests lasted a good four years and for those four years, no doctor that I visited could figure out what the heck was wrong with me. It was such a frustrating and discouraging time of my life because I was in all this pain with absolutely no answer. Here and there I got little answers such as “oh, you just have gastritis, it’ll go away in a couple weeks” or “your spleen is chronically enlarged.” Those were true, yes, but neither one of those could possibly put me in the consistent pain and discomfort I feel. I knew there was something deeper. Something a “bandaid” or medication couldn’t fix. I got put on more than a half a dozen different medications throughout the years in hopes of finding healing, or if not healing, at least a minimization of the pain. Both of those failed.
I’m exactly not at a place yet where I feel comfortable announcing exactly what my illness is, but just for a visual, basically, my large intestine doesn’t work properly (my brain doesn’t send the right/efficient signals to it) and it doesn’t digest properly. When something starts to irritate it like stress or certain foods, it’ll spasm which is what causes (some of) the pain, nausea, lightheadedness, etc. Some days are worse than others. Some days, the only hope I have to feeling better is to stay in bed with a heating pad and anti-spasmatic medication to hopefully get me through the day.
Some days are genuinely so rough. I become so fearful. Nobody on earth understands the genuine depth of my illness besides me, and it’s scary to have it minimized by people who don’t understand. I feel myself getting tougher each day, but some days I genuinely just want to bundle up in my bed in fetal position and just cry at the fact that it’s such a lonely thing to have to deal with. Some days, I just want to be understood. Although it does make me physically weak, I want to be seen as spiritually and emotionally strong in the midst of the trial. I want others who battle with the same thing as me to look to me in wonder of how I stand so firm in who I am in Christ amidst the heavy burden. If not another single soul on earth understands what I go through, I stand firm knowing that my God always will, and that alone is enough.
Something I really struggle with is eating out in public places. Yesterday, I went out to eat at my favorite cafe with my mom for Mother’s Day and didn’t think twice about the nachos I ordered. I started to feel extremely dizzy and got so nauseous to the point where I had to basically run to the bathroom so I didn’t throw up on the table. Acid reflux is not my friend when it comes to eating in public places. I always find myself wondering when I can finally eat like a “normal” person again.
Yesterday marks such an important day for me, though, because it was the first time in these four years I didn’t feel publicly ashamed of my illness. I didn’t want to hide in the stall and never come out. I felt okay knowing I might be judged. They don’t understand the depth to what I battle with daily, so why the heck should I care? I felt so victorious. Although I physically didn’t feel good, I emotionally felt wonderful.
Just like most things, it’s a process. It’s a processing knowing that I will not stand defeated but will continue to walk in the victory that is already mine. It’s a constant reminder that God never uses anything against us, only for us. In the midst of the what seems unending pain, the cross is still greater. God is still better.
So as I continue on this journey He is taking me down, I will trust and know that He is good. Not because my circumstance is good, but simply because He is God and He is such a good God. Christ defeated death and the grave so I don’t have to walk in defeat but in utmost victory.
I feel weak, but that’s when God reminds me He chooses the weakest people to stand the tallest.
“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” // Romans 8:18
My doctor tells me this is an illness I will have to deal with for the rest of my life, but she limits the healing power of my risen King. I stand tall knowing and believing in the healing that is yet to come. My confidence will not be shaken because of my physical limitations. I will still stand as a woman of God, praying without ceasing and desperate to be on my hands and knees in worship of the deserving One. This illness came to defeat me not knowing that one day, it will be defeated.
Someday, I’ll be able to eat normal.
Someday, I won’t become lightheaded and dizzy because of normal foods I put in my body.
Someday, I’ll be able to rest at night knowing I won’t be burdened with pain the next day.
Someday, I will use my invisible illness as a testimony of my invisible God.
Someday, I’ll be able to look back and fully recognize why God allowed this in my life.
Someday, I won’t have to anxiety about eating because I know my stomach will react properly.
Someday, restoration will take its place in my body.
Someday, I will hear my Lord say “well done, my good and faithful servant” because I refused to let this illness draw me away from Him but allowed it to cling to Him, during the good days and the rough.
But for now, I will continue to use this illness as a tool to expand my desperation to seek the Lord not only in the midst of the burden, but on top of the mountain.
I will continue to stand undefeated by what the enemy meant for my defeat. I will watch as the Lord turns these ashes to beauty. This weakness to strength. My mourning to joy.
I will continue to put on the full armor of God, ready for battle when the enemy attacks. I will not be shaken and I will stand firm knowing that this is temporary, and I serve an eternal God. Never for a second do I doubt the future that the Lord is preparing me for and knowing He will let nothing, not even a physical illness, come in the way of me and that future.
I’m reminded of a song by Tenth Avenue North that says “sparks will fly as grace collides with the dark inside of us.” That. That is my hope. That the moment grace collides with this darkness inside of me, sparks will fly. The darkness will flee as His light clings. Light always outshines the dark. Always. That is the hope that I have. The hope that is found in nothing and no one but my rock, my firm foundation, Christ Jesus.
“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” // 1 Peter 5:10