Thursday, February 26, 2015

Attitude Is Everything When Living With Chronic Illness

Sometimes I wake up and I feel like I've been kicked by a horse and more than one time. Maybe even trampled would be a better word. Chronic illness stinks. I think the worst part of my journey is that most people have no idea. I look fine therefore there's nothing wrong with me. If she looks that good she can't feel too bad. Really? Yes, those are the words I have grown to dislike very much. We never know the journey of another unless we are able to walk inch by inch with them and let's face it, that isn't happening. No journey is the same. 

I feel like these illnesses are now challenges for me. Challenges to overcome. Challenges to learn vast life lessons. I didn't always think that. Over the years I've had a pity party or two. More like a hundred or so. I've asked, "Why me, Lord? Why do I have to face this?" Now I go with the attitude of, why not me? Really, why not? Would it be better if someone else carried such pain? Not at all. Paul carried a thorn in his side for much of his life. We aren't privy to what that thorn is, but we just imagine because we can relate. 

Migraines can torment a person straight into the dark places no one wants to venture to. The longest cluster I've had lasted about eight weeks. I've had my share of visits to the ER with migraines and panic attacks. They came at the same time about twelve years ago now. I literally thought I was going crazy. Had no idea what was happening to me. I even had a doctor tell me there was nothing wrong with me and I needed to see a psychiatrist. That was heartbreaking. I knew what I was facing was real. It was dark and scary. Finally a specialist who totally understood and helped me. I have migraines today and usually a day doesn't go by without one and panic attacks still hit me, but I am much better. 

Fibromyalgia hit too. I had to have my thyroid removed ten years ago after an infection attacked my thyroid and well, let's just say it wasn't good. I was a mess. I'm still a mess, but a mess with grace and a new strength combined with a attitude that no longer keeps me in the dark. 

I changed my diet and everything changed for me. No more dairy or sugar. No bread. I should say for the most part I have cut out all of those. Every once in a while I can't pass up bread and a fountain soda just calls my name and I answer with a nice slurp of the straw. But when you learn your body you learn so much about what works and what doesn't. Yoga was a big part of my healing journey. 

I've had surgeries and illnesses that have challenged me greatly. I could say that each day is a journey. I wake up not knowing what to expect. I make plans with my hubs, children, or grands and have to cancel because my body is just saying, "There is no way that's happening today". Sometimes I can push myself and I overcome. Others, I spend days in bed with crocheting, books, paper and pens, and my Bible. This is where my journey has taken a whole new vision. I've learned to see the sunshine beyond the cloud cover. Sometimes you just have to look past your pain, past your circumstances and see blessings in disguise. God brings us treasures in the most unexpected places and many of those blessings I'd have missed if I'd not changed my focus off my self pity and unto the Lord. 

We are never going to blossom if we can't see past our circumstances. Part of our growing into who God has called us to be is seeing that it isn't always about us. It's looking past ourselves and realizing that with God there's always a way. He always has something for us to see, to learn, to carry for the journey ahead. And you know what? Don't let anyone tell you that your crazy! You keep visiting doctors until you find the one who is willing to go the extra mile and figure you out. I have been so blessed with wonderful doctors who truly cared. It just took me a while to find them. 

I am blessed to have a husband who understands. He has been with me. He knows. He's seen me at my worst and best. Not everyone understands. But I've learned I can't tear myself up about that. If people love me they understand and they will be there for me. I can't beat myself up because I can't go somewhere or do something I've had planned for weeks. I'm broken when I wake up and realize it just isn't going to happen. But I've come to learn that God has other plans for me and if I open my eyes, ears, and most of all my heart, I'm going to be blessed beyond measure. 

Sometimes realizing that we all have limits gives us great clarity. What I can't do, the Lord will work out. And I have to learn to depend upon Him and Him alone to carry me and set me above the pain and illness. 

A few weeks ago I had the worst asthma attack I've ever had. It lasted about an hour and half. My inhaler just wasn't doing it's job. This just happens to be a winter where I have battled sickness for most of it. My hubs sat next to me, never leaving my side. Hubs was ready to get me to the ER, but it passed. Praise Jesus! I've learned not to rush and give myself time to overcome. That has been a huge lesson for me. We often want quick results and it just doesn't always happen that way. 

Attitude is everything. I could list all of my ailments and share that each day something new comes, but what is better is that I share with you that life is more than the chronic illness. I am not defined by my illnesses. If my attitude is God centered no matter what I'm doing the best I can and I know and trust He is going to get me through. If I'm self centered all I can see is the pain and nothing but ugly comes from that. I remind myself that even on my worst of days it is another's best of days. Another huge lesson. 

We are all broken in some way. Some ways we can see and others we can't. But something we can do is share. We can be honest in our struggles and allow other people to know they aren't the only one facing issues that no one wants to admit. We all like to share we are strong and we overcome, but let's just be honest. Some days just suck. They just do and if we don't have people surrounding us who encourage and inspire us we can end up in places that are dark and alone. If anything has come of my chronic illnesses it's that I've grown more compassionate and grace-filled toward others. I'm a huge mercy, but struggling with illness has brought me even closer to a place of love and sharing. 

Friends, don't beat yourself up. Life does that enough. Make sure you surround yourself with positive and loving people who will support you. And be there for others when you can. When we can't venture out and actually do things, we can do something even more powerful. We can broaden our prayer life and pray for those who we know are struggling. We can send cards and texts. Call people and just give an encouraging word. 

When we open ourselves up to others and we walk honestly we become light-bearers to the world. When we are weak we can find our strength in Jesus. He is the Healer, the great Physician. 

"Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. and not only that. bit we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance, and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us." Romans 5:1-5

"And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong." 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

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