Diseased Before It Was Cool

I think it was a Thursday. I was driving home from a gruling day of advertising, transitioning into single-motherhood. The pain overtook me as I reached the gas station less than a mile away from my office. With tears in my eyes, I pulled over to breathe through the pain rushing through my arms into my hands.

I decided it was time to go to the doctor. I was 24, and raising babies, and WebMD had yet to be invented. So I made an appointment. The first doctor said, you need to find a new doctor. The next doctor said I had rheumatoid arthritis. Nine vials of blood later, the tests showed it was not arthritis.

So I went to a new doctor, who asked me if cancer ran in my family and then informed me that it was very likely I had cancer. When that biopsy and those blood tests came back negative, I was told my pain was all in my head.

Months and months of blaming myself turned into more pain, more mornings I couldn’t get out of bed and more tear-filled drives home. After much encouragement from family, I decided to try one more doctor. In less than 2 minutes the rheumatologist looked at me with deep compassion and said, “you are in lots of pain, aren’t you?” To which I emphatically, and tearfully answered, “yes.”

“You have fibromyagia.”

Relief. Somebody understood me. I wasn’t a “faker”. Somebody believed me.

I was diagnosed when Fibromyaliga wasn’t recognized as a “real disease.” Medicine had not been developed, most doctors weren’t convinced. It has just been in the last five years that any other doctor has taken me seriously about having Fibromyalgia. I had the disease before it was a commercial, before disability paid money for it, before it was cool.

For over ten years I have struggled with severe body pain, lack of sleep and energy and head fuzziness. It robs me of whole days out of my week, and sometimes weeks out of my month. It makes me hate my body, and sometimes hate my lot in life.

We all have our “thing” we battle. Some of us have our marriages to wounded warriors, or our addictions to wine or food. Some of us have our own illnesses–physically or emotionally. You might not get out of bed because your depression takes a hold of you. You might not get out of bed because the voices tell you that you are not worth it.

One piece of wisdom I have gained through all of this is to extend myself the grace I need to get through everyday. More often than I care to admit, I beat myself up about not doing enough, not accomplish what I should, not being enough. You probably do, too. Pridefully I feel like I shouldn’t allow this “thorn in my side” stop me.

And Jesus gently reminds me … “my grace is enough. It is my strength you need, not your own. It is not really about you, it is all really about me.”

So today I don’t ask for your pity, or even your comforting words, I simply want to encourage you to lay down all the guilt you hold fast to because you know in your heart you are capable of more. I encourage you to allow the grace of Jesus to wash over you, and His strength to be the strength you depend on in your moments of weakness. Even on the days you feel the most worthless and incapable, He can use you in the greatest ways if you let him.

Jesus’ allowance of your shortcomings and imperfections is all the love you need today, and tomorrow and everyday for the rest of your life.

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